I very much wish I could have attended the Loveloud Festival in person, but instead got a birds eye view from social media. I heard mostly positive feedback… as well as some legitimate concerns. I asked Mindy Gledhill, who was in attendance, to share some of her experience… and she has mindfully taken some time to gather her thoughts that would honor the intention of the event, the people who hosted the event, the people who participated in the event and the people who attended the event… while also making room for the complexities which arise. I would invite specifically those who would identify as somewhere on the LGBTQIA rainbow and who were in attendance at this event to please share some of your thoughts (positive or negative) about what this event meant for you.
Today’s guest post is written by Mindy Gledhill. Opinions shared on guest posts may not completely reflect the positions of the blog’s author.
Mindy Gledhill is an award-winning singer, songwriter and composer. Her music has been featured on prime time television shows, major television ad campaigns and in films. Her most recent project, “Hive Riot,” is an electronic 80’s throwback band whose debut won “Best Pop Album” at the Independent Music Awards in 2016.
During the week that August brought us a total solar eclipse, the world around me seemed to be mirroring back all the inner turmoil that was brewing in my soul. On the Tuesday when the eclipse took place, I was preparing to give a speech at the Loveloud Festival that would take place in Orem, Utah that weekend. Loveloud is the brainchild of Dan Reynolds, lead singer of Imagine Dragons. As a Mormon, he had recently started experiencing severe cognitive dissonance with the beliefs he was taught growing up regarding LGBTQIA individuals. He served an LDS mission and also taught these same beliefs as a missionary. It was something that he would later regret as he experienced his own personal awakening that these beautiful people had been misunderstood and mistreated in so many ways. He set out to do something about it and to raise awareness for the alarming suicide rate among queer youth, especially those who grow up in the LDS faith. Loveloud was to be a festival of music, celebrating these youth, inviting them and their loved ones (LDS or not), to come to the table together and let love be the feast.
As someone with six amazing queer family members, I’ve worked hard in the trenches to defend the LGBTQIA community in Utah and I was elated to be invited to be a part of Loveloud. However, with the event being as large as it was (almost 20,000 attendees!), and with only two months to put it together, there were inevitable setbacks and issues. For me personally, things began to fall apart a few weeks before the concert, and all my personal inner triggers began to surface when LDS Church authorities got involved with a public endorsement of the event, and an augmented presence within the event.
“But isn’t this a good thing?” one might ask.
For me the church’s stances over the years on LGBTQIA issues have been contradictory and confusing. One minute they seem to be softening on those stances, and the next, much more rigid and polarizing. The roller coaster and mental gymnastics can be incredibly exhausting. Sometimes when life overwhelms me, I tend to want to disengage with humanity and preserve my energy as a person. I just didn’t know if I had the fortitude to step into a literal arena where it felt almost impossible for active church members and people who have been deeply hurt by the church to have a meaningful exchange. I tried to back out. I called the event producer, Barb Young, and we had a very cathartic exchange about the frustrations of trying to weave these two worlds together. Then, Barb got Dan Reynolds himself on the call and Dan continued to hash through all the confusion and the challenges with us. Even with as small a part as I had, he made me feel like my voice was important. And really, his vision was for 20,000 people to feel like their voices were important. Remembering that mine was anything but the only valid voice among so many complex lived experiences, I decided to go and add what the universe had been speaking to my soul that whole week.
“This week, we experienced the rare phenomenon of a total eclipse. Humanity from around the world came together to be a part of something larger than all of us — the union of two unlikely lovers in our galaxy, crossing paths and mesmerizing the world with their cosmic kiss. The sun and the moon exist in the same galaxy, serving a similar purpose — to sustain life on earth under the umbrella of their watchful care. Yet, as similar as their purposes are, these intrinsic forces of light exist in completely opposite paradigms. Literally, they are the difference of night and day. Both are essential to our survival. It strikes me as significant that this event occurred in the recent wake of heated racism and rioting; during a time when terrorist attacks around the world seem to be in the news on the regular. A time when the political polarization in our country is palpable. A time when there is much angst at the intersection of our LGBTQ and religious communities. It’s as if the universe itself were belting out a LOUD and POWERFUL song all about the blinding light that has the potential to transform us when we eclipse with our opposites. And the best part is, the sun still gets to be the sun, and the moon still gets to be the moon, each standing in the beauty of their individuality.”
As the evening grew and the stadium filled to maximum capacity, the feeling of emotional intimacy among concert goers did not diminish. Through tears, a friend of mine expressed that he fled Utah 15 years ago when he came out. He needed to feel safe and start his life over. But he was able to return that night for the first time and sing in a choir on stage, with his sister by his side. That meant the world to him. Another friend related that it was incredibly emotional for him to perform as a gay man on stage and see his brother in the crowd, wearing a rainbow shirt in support of him – the same brother who refused to attend his wedding with his husband the year before. While Imagine Dragons gave the most joyful performance I’ve ever seen, I had the chance to dance out in the crowd next to a lovely friend of mine who recently came out as bisexual. I looked over at her amid the confetti and the flashing lights. For a moment, the world stood still as I watched tears stream down her face and I was changed by the beauty of that moment.
I could go on with the stories. And I’ve heard an earful from the concert’s critics. But the chance to eclipse with people in opposite paradigms and realize that we all just want to give light, was a transforming experience for me. May we continue to love loudly as we elevate every person wherever they may be in their respective place in this universe.
Thank you for your beautiful words Mindy.
Natasha Helfer Parker, LCMFT, CST can be reached at natashaparker.org and runs an online practice, Symmetry Solutions, which focuses on helping families and individuals with faith concerns, sexuality and mental health. She hosts the Mormon Mental Health and Mormon Sex Info Podcasts, writes a regular column for Sunstone Magazine and is the current president of the Mormon Mental Health Association. She has over 20 years of experience working with primarily an LDS/Mormon clientele.