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Black Sheep Mormon

Last week I was sitting in a Gospel Principles Sunday School meeting. An investigator was there sitting between two missionaries, and I saw him whisper something to one of the missionaries. The missionary sort of nudged him and said, “Ask it. Church is for asking questions and learning.” Somewhat hesitantly, the young man asked his question, prefacing it with “I don’t want to seem combative, but I was wondering…”

It was a sincere question about something he didn’t understand. He didn’t sound combative at all. After several responses and insights from other members of the class, he announced that his mind had been blown. The experience was a positive one, not only for him but, I believe, for everyone in the room.

I liked what the missionary said. Church is for asking questions and learning. As a teacher in a university setting, I can say that in a typical 50-minute class period, I spend anywhere from 5-15 minutes responding to student questions. I answer many more questions via email and office hours. Questions are essential for learning.

Unfortunately, as a gospel student, I’m not good at asking questions. I’m reluctant to do anything that makes me feel like a Bad Mormon™. I want everyone to think I’m a Good Mormon™ who definitely has everything figured out and never has doubts about anything ever.

Some years ago, I was in a Sunday School class that was a decidedly less good experience than the one mentioned above. It was at a time when I was struggling a lot with depression. I don’t remember what the topic was, but I remember one girl making a comment to the effect of “I just feel bad because I’m not doing enough family history work!”

I remember sitting there and thinking “Family history work? I’m in the middle of a complete crisis and you’re worried about family history? Excuse me, but I have real problems! Really Big Bad Problems!”

It was the first time in my life I had ever felt out of place at church.

The depression eventually ended, but the feeling of not fitting in at church came and went. Sometimes it still does. The reasons for feeling this way change depending on the day: I’m too liberal, too feminist, too single, too focused on my career, too fond of swear words, etc. etc. etc.

At the end of the day, though, I love being Mormon. I love learning about Christ and trying to be more like Him. I like the peace, hope, and comfort faith brings. I like serving others and learning to love them the way God does. I wouldn’t give that up for anything.

The Gospel is for me. The church is for me. Sometimes I still feel like a black sheep. But I’m not at church to impress the other sheep. I’m there because I love The Shepherd.

Church is for imperfect people. Because it’s nice that Christ can save people who are good. But the fact that Christ can save people with Really Big Bad Problems? Now that’s a real miracle.

So I stay. I keep learning. I keep growing. I keep trying my best to love those around me. And as I do, I find that I’m not the only person struggling.

If, like me, you sometimes feel a little (or even a lot) out of place, just know that I want you there. You can come sit by me.



“Not all men” is still too many men

I was fourteen the first time I was sexually harassed. I was standing outside the high school, waiting for my school bus. Before that incident I believed that harassment was something that could be more or less easily avoided.

The inevitability of harassment was something I’d learn more than once after repeated experiences of being harassed walking down the street in the middle of the day. It’s a sentiment that I think is shared by the millions of women who posted under the #MeToo hashtag.

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The scope of the #MeToo movement has certainly been impressive. It has been successful in a way that previous campaigns have not been. Why? Because it focuses on the victims rather than the abusers.

Previous campaigns tend to result in a chorus of “Not all men!” By shifting the focus, we’ve managed to find a way to talk about sexual harassment that doesn’t make men feel attacked.

Here’s the thing, though. The #MeToo movement isn’t fair to women. It requires us to relive experiences that range from unpleasant to traumatic. Women are not primarily responsible for sexual harassment, but we are the ones expected to fix the problem.

As powerful as the #MeToo movement is, it’s entirely unfair to women that they have to choose between remaining silent, exposing their own experiences, or not being listened to at all. I’m tired of coddling men at the expense of women. So here’s some truths about the Not All Men mentality.

This shouldn’t need to be said: NOBODY EVER MEANT ALL MEN. Yeah, we know that there are great guys out there. We have men in our lives who we love and respect and trust. That doesn’t negate the fact that some men, that too many men, are harassers and abusers.

And if you’re a woman, you’ll spend your whole life trying to figure out which men aren’t good. You’ll devote unmeasurable energy to trying to guess which men are going to hurt you. It will interfere with your ability to live life normally because when you leave the house you’ll have to carry pepper spray with you. You’ll constantly be looking over your shoulder while walking to your car. You won’t even be able to post a selfie without worrying what harassment you might experience there.

Saying that not all men are harassers prevents the men who actually are harassers from being exposed. Sexual harassment impacts us in very real ways, and it’s frustrating to have our attempts to discuss harassment shut down by “Not all men!” arguments.

When you use “Not all men” to distract from a conversation about harassment and abuse, you prioritize protecting men who haven’t been accused of anything over protecting women who have actually been harmed.

In the future let’s focus our discussions of sexual harassment around actually protecting women. We shouldn’t have to wave our trauma like a banner in order to be believed.

Break Me Like a Promise


break me like a promise

There is a girl.

There is a boy.

She has eyes that sparkle with optimism. He has a eyes that she could get lost in. She would move mountains for him.

He tells her that he loves her. He is the first boy to say those words to her. She believes he does love her. He probably believes it too.

She doesn’t know yet that loving anyone, for any reason, makes a person vulnerable in ways she never thought possible.

The boy and the girl talk for hours on end. His words cast a spell on her. She breathes them in like air to her lungs.

One day he tells her she is not good enough.

Those are not the words he uses, but they mean the same thing. The girl begins to learn that there are many ways to tell somebody they are not good enough without using those exact words.

You chase people away with your negative attitude.

You aren’t spiritual enough.

You’re clingy and needy.

You’d be happier if you lost weight.

You’d be prettier if you wore make up.

Not good enough, not good enough, not good enough.

She believes him when he says she’s not good enough. Why wouldn’t she? She has always believed everything he says.

She spends hours convincing herself that it is fine. That she is fine.

The girl doesn’t even notice the cracks have begun to appear.



There is a girl.

She has never been good at fighting. Not at fighting for herself, anyway.

One day she works up the courage to ask the boy not to say the things that hurt her. He tells her to grow a spine.

This is a dance they repeat. Her begging him to understand, to stop breaking her. Him asking her why she isn’t stronger, why she isn’t better.

Over time, she does grow a spine, just not in the way the boy expects.

They are caught in the middle of their dance. Back and forth, back and forth. Until one day the girl stops dancing. The boy finds another partner. It doesn’t take him long.

The dance has made her feet strong. She runs. She soaks in the freedom. She feels unbreakable.

She runs and runs and runs. She cannot outrun her own mind. She cannot outrun the cracks that are already there.

She shatters.


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The is a girl.

Or at least, what’s left of her. Most days it doesn’t feel like much.

Her mind resonates with the echoes of what she is not. She still hears all her inadequacies spoken in the boy’s voice.

It is too exhausting to try to be more than she is. She wishes she could fade to nothing.

Time slows to an agonizing pace. She is caught in her own head, suffocated by the ghosts of what she cannot outrun.

She leaves the pieces of herself scattered because she was never satisfied with what they were whole.

She feels nothing. No sadness. No anger. No happiness. She is nothing—her body a vessel carrying an empty soul.

One day she feels fear. It is a relief, almost. To feel something after having not for so long. She never knew she would be grateful for fear.

She fears herself. She fears what she has become.

The fear makes her stand. It makes her move. She cannot run the way she used to. But she can walk.

So she walks. One foot in front of the other. It’s something.


brave women

There is a girl.

She once thought she was unbreakable. She was wrong.

Once she thought she was not good enough, but she was wrong about that too.

Some nights, the ghosts still haunt her. Perhaps they always will. They no longer scare her, though. Not most days, anyway. They are simply a part of her.

The girl learns to look up, learns to love living again.

She takes deep breaths.

She tries to help other broken people. She finds them everywhere.

She finds her voice. She learns to fight for herself. She learns to fight for others.

She spends a lot of time trying to make sense of it all. She writes in third person, as if the distance could protect her.

She feels everything. Mostly, she feels hope. She is not the girl she was before in some ways. But they have a lot in common. They are both strong. They both have faith. They both believe things get better.

There is a girl.

She is not unbreakable. She is not invincible.

She is a survivor.

Dear 2011 Kyra

Dear 2011 Kyra,

Take a deep breath. It’s going to be a big year for you.

You’ve just experienced your first real heartbreak. You’ve been blindsided by it. You’re not sure how you’ll trust the next boy who comes along, but you will. More easily than you’d expect.

Man, does it sting, though. It’s the first thing to break in a long line of things you thought were unbreakable.

You’re also about to fall super duper just-like-a-fairy-tale in love. It doesn’t work out.

Actually, most of the things you try to do over the next few years won’t work out for you. Except for school. You’ve got that one covered.

You’re about to lose your best friend. You’ll wait for her to come back, but she won’t.

You’ll have somebody you thought was your friend tell you’re not good enough. He won’t be the last one to do so.

You’re going to be angry. More angry than you knew was possible.

You’ll have your first brush with depression. You’ll call it “a serious funk.”

You’re going to feel like your friends are leaving you in the dust. You’re going to feel like something’s wrong with you because you’re not going on enough dates. You’ll feel so lonely.

You’re going to start feeling like your life is spiraling out of control. That feeling will stick around for awhile.

To be honest, rereading the journal entries you write in 2011 is making me cry.

Buckle up, girl. It’s going to be a rough road.

Years later, when you look back and try to decide when your life started to unravel, you’ll think maybe it was 2011. But you’ll also look back on it as the year your life really started.

Here’s the thing about you. You’re an enteral optimist. You believe in magic and heroes and love and all manner of impossible things. The one thing you don’t believe in is yourself. But that will change.

Because as you’re realizing that so often the world is less than you think it should be, you’ll also start realizing you’re more than you thought you could be.

The truth is that you are simply remarkable.

Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and warn you about everything that’s going to happen. But you’ve done pretty okay for yourself anyway.

You’re Girl Wonder, and you’ve got this.


2017 Kyra

super kyra

Why defending “white culture” is a garbage concept

Once, as a child I asked my mom why there was no such holiday as Kid’s Day, given that there were such holidays as Father’s Day and Mother’s Day. My mom told me that everyday of the year was kid’s day. I had one day a year that I celebrated my mom. She dedicated every day of the year to me.

I didn’t need a special day devoted to me. Our household already revolved around me and my siblings.

The same logic can be applied for why we don’t need special “white pride” privileges. White normativity is everywhere. It’s EVERYWHERE.

Think about the media you consume. When was the last time you watched a movie with a person of color in the lead role? How many books in the past year have you read that were written by people of color? Do the television shows you watch cast people of color based on stereotypes?

Only 19% of television programs in 2015 had casts that reflected the racial diversity of America. A mere 7% of films accurately depicted racial diversity. Only 22% of children’s books featured people of color as main characters, and only 12.5% of children’s books were written by people of color.

Our study of the humanities is also dominated by whiteness. Most Americans can recognize white creators and historical figures such as Mark Twain, Leonardo Da Vinci, Beethoven, and William the Conqueror. Most have never heard of Wu Cheng’en, Wole Soyinka, Hokusai, Ravi Shankar, or Shah Jahan (all of whom were incredibly influential in their respective cultures).

So forgive me for thinking that any fears of “white culture” dying are baseless.

Our screens are filled with whiteness. Our literature is filled with whiteness. Our museums are filled with whiteness. Our history is filled with whiteness. We don’t need to celebrate whiteness. It’s state of predominance is more than enough celebration.

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And for the record, don’t expect me to believe any claims that promoting “white culture” is about honoring your heritage and not about race. If you think being white is the most important part of your cultural identity, then you’re not appreciating the real depth that a culture has to offer.

If you, as a white person, want to honor your heritage, find out where your ancestors came from. Research their life stories. Maybe learn the language of their homeland. Try some of the recipes they may have eaten. Visit the countries your family immigrated from. Study the history of those countries. Learn about the holidays and traditions your ancestors would have participated in.

I promise, time spent on these activities will be far more effective in preserving cultural heritage than waving a flag and telling the world how great white people are.

Resist the urge to feel threatened by other racial groups taking their turns at center stage. Take it as an opportunity to expand your worldview and grow more empathetic.

I shouldn’t have to say it, but you don’t have to make everything about you. And when you say things like “If we have a Black History Month we should have a White History Month!” you’re a) seriously misunderstanding the reason for Black History Month b) probably not making an effort to understand the reason for it and c) detracting from the voices of people of color.

Don’t silence people of color because every now and again something is about them and not you.

The world is a big place. We can afford to share it.

Wonder Woman matters

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I’ve liked superheroes as long as I could remember. As a child I watched the ultra campy 1970s Super Friends tv show. By the time I hit high school, I had run out of super hero cartoons to watch and since I didn’t have access to the comic books, I spent hours on Wikipedia reading about characters and plot lines, just trying to satisfy my craving for capes. In college I wrote about superheroes in my persuasive writing course and got the paper published in a campus journal.

But despite my devotion, I always felt sort of like an outsider in the fandom. Sure, I loved superheroes, but they weren’t for me. I was always felt myself outside the target audience. Like superheroes were made for the boys and I should feel lucky that I got to tag along.

There were a lot of things that made me feel this way. Male fans who felt the need to quiz me and make sure I was a real fan. Comments about how I probably only wanted to watch the Marvel movies to see the abs of some Chris. But more than anything it was that the stories were not women’s stories.

There were female characters. But there weren’t as many and they weren’t as important to the plot and they usually didn’t have fleshed out personalities and they were often wearing ridiculous outfits and they frequently were fridged and pretty much always they were over sexualized.

In short, they were stories with women. But they were rarely stories about women and never stories for women.

Then there was Wonder Woman.

wonder woman

I finally saw a woman on the big screen saving the world. She is strong, brave, powerful, and loving. She isn’t there to be a sex object. She is there to be a hero.

I actually cried. Kind of a lot.

I thought I knew how much it would mean to me to see a woman front and center and kicking trash. I had no idea. I didn’t realize how much I needed a female lead hero until I was sitting in the theater seeing a superhero movie that was actually made for me, one where I wasn’t an outsider. It was like I was finally part of a family I’d been attending reunions for for years.

And apparently I wasn’t alone*. A lot of my friends said the same. It means something to us to see a woman starring in a superhero movie.

One thing is certain. Wonder Woman can’t be the token female film in a genre of male-lead titles. We need more of this.


*This is a really great article. Don’t read the comments unless you need more proof that insecure men have a compulsive need to attack anything that women enjoy.

It’s not about me

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My friend is being harassed online. Earlier, as I was going through the routine of blocking and reporting the harassers (and unfortunately this happens often enough that it is a routine), my science brain kicked on.

I got to thinking that it might be interesting to study the language of online harassers. I’ve already been reading up on online insults in gendered discourse for another paper I’m writing. Heck, maybe I can make a career out of studying this.

I caught myself. What was I thinking? I didn’t decide to get a PhD so that I could read a bunch of comments from internet trolls and say “Yep, they sure are sexist (and racist and homophobic and abelist and anti-Semitic)!” But that’s exactly what I did last semester. I spent hours and hour and hours analyzing sexist YouTube comments.

How did I end up neck deep in this line or research? I didn’t want this. I wanted to study literacy and reading acquisition. I wanted to help create programs that would close education gaps between privileged and underprivileged demographics.

So how in the world did I end up studying feminist language theories?

When I started my study on YouTube comments, a lot of people said they could pretty well guess what I was going to find (though I don’t think anybody, myself included, fully comprehended the extent of the toxicity and awfulness). Sure enough, I now have a lot of numbers to back up what most people already knew; the internet is really super sexist.

Not only am I wading through a field of study I never expected to find myself in, I’m getting results that are really just confirming what people already know.

What’s really sad about this is that the results are still relevant. Because while most people I talked to are aware that the internet is sexist, there are still some people who feel the need to argue why it isn’t sexist or why it isn’t that bad or that actually, men have it bad too. Beyond that, there are a lot of people who are really content to ignore it.

Basically, I’m spending lots of time and energy developing research that demonstrates the existence and prevalence of internet sexism. And I’m doing this because PEOPLE CAN’T BE BOTHERED TO LISTEN WHEN WOMEN SAY THIS IS A PROBLEM. Because the problem isn’t serious enough if we just say it’s an issue; some grad student has to go actually verify what women have already said is a problem. Just to make sure we aren’t overreacting. And I’m the person doing this at the expense of studying what I really want to study.

I guess this is why it baffles me when people say that feminists are out for attention or that we’re looking for reasons to be triggered.

I didn’t want this. I didn’t want any of this. I don’t want to write papers about the horrible things people say to women on the Internet when I could be writing about promoting vocabulary growth instead. I don’t want to get angry over things people post on FaceBook when I could be focusing on my ThrowbackThursdays. I don’t want to write blog posts about feminism when I could be writing about funny dating stories instead.

Every minute I devote to feminism is a minute I could be devoting to something else that I would probably enjoy more.

I don’t want to spend my time doing these things. But more importantly, I don’t want the women in my life to be belittled or harassed. I don’t want the next generation to have to put up with the stuff me and my generation have put up with. I don’t want the little girls I know to be taught to hate themselves. Because honestly, I can’t remember the last time I went a full week without one of my friend’s telling me that they had been harassed.

I’m not doing this for me. I’m not doing this because I need attention.  I’m not doing this because I like to argue. I’m not doing this because I need a hobby. It’s not about me.

I’m doing this for them.

In fact, I’m not even doing this because I think it’s effective. I’m not convinced I’ve ever managed to change anybody’s mind with the things I’ve written. Regardless, I hope when women read what I write they know I’m fighting for them. They know that in a world that’s eager to tear them down, I’ve got their back.

I’ve got YOUR back.

You’re worth the time I spend. You’re worth the energy I spend. You’re worth all of it and more. You’re worth so much more than I could ever give to you.

And I will keep screaming until you can no longer hear those who would hurt you. Because I care about you more than I care about the criticism I receive for taking a stand.

You are worth every bit of it. And I will never let you forget it.