The Benefits of Having a Big Asterisk

By: Rebbie Groesbeck //

Two years ago, I packed up and left my home state of Utah for the city of angels. My Mormonism has astounded and confused people since the day I got here.

On the outside, I am a typical career woman working in Los Angeles. Blonde hair. Brown eyes. Average height. Love handles.

On the inside I am an alcohol-void, prayer-minded Mormon girl who loves what she does but would secretly maybe rather settle down with a handsome man and have babies.

While I’ve met some good friends here, it’s tough to ever feel like I completely click with anyone outside my Mormon circle. People are cool to me. They like me. But I’m never just Rebbie. I’m Rebbie, the Mormon. It’s like there’s an asterisk floating perpetually above my head.

As a copywriter at an advertising agency, I work in a partnership with an Art Director (If you watch Mad Men, you get what I’m talking about). You spend all day every day with your partner. You go to lunch and brainstorm. You spend hours waiting for feedback. You spend nights iChatting from home about ideas that are due the next morning. Love or hate each other, you will be spending every waking hour together.

In March, I got assigned a new partner. My new partner is a lesbian.

Nine words I never thought I’d say: I’m a Mormon. And I have a lesbian partner. 

So what’s the big deal, you ask? If you know much of anything about the Mormon Church and the gay community, let’s just say we have a bit of a history—one that’s unfortunately been a little rough for both parties. When Kim told me she was gay, I geared up for the worst. I pictured my asterisk swelling to death star proportions. It’s not that I’m homophobic. It’s just that when my religion had sometimes felt like a bit of a barrier between me and my other co-workers, I could only imagine that it would be the Berlin Wall between she and I.

Happily, I was dead wrong. Kim and I clicked better and more instantly than any partner I’ve worked with. After three days of working together, we sold a campaign for a TV commercial to a new client. Three weeks later we were in Austin on a shoot.

kim & rebbie go helicoptering

By some mistake we found ourselves in a helicopter. Hence the Christmas-face.

At the end of ten 15-hour shoot days we discovered the reason why two women with seemingly opposing lifestyles had developed such an effortless friendship: We both have big asterisks.

We both have to deal with “coming out” to everyone we meet.

We both have awkwardly small dating pools.

We both have had to get used to the fact that some people will never understand or accept us.

I won’t pretend we don’t sometimes wish our asterisks were a little smaller. Neither of us could tell you it isn’t frustrating to have to earn your way out from underneath a label. But it also makes it easier to not care about stuff that doesn’t matter. Because when “fitting in” isn’t an option, you quit wasting your effort trying to.

kim & rebbie mess around on set

Sometimes we mess around with set props

I think people often assume that my religion will make me closed minded or unable to relate to people who are different than me. But as a Mormon you constantly feel different. Different is all we know. I see no reason why your different and my different should mean we can’t get along. And the fact that Kim has become one of my most trusted friends is proof.

We help each other survive the rollercoaster that is our job. We text each other pictures from the Target dressing room seeking fashion advice. We may or may not have written a jingle for ourselves. We’re like a modern remake of the Fox and the Hound, only with a happier ending.

Schwiiiiing!!!!

As Garth & Wayne for our work Halloween party

Kim and I have different beliefs, and we live different lifestyles. Lifestyles neither of us plan on changing. But our experience of being “different” has been the same. It’s allowed us the ability to overlook any judgment or assumptions we might have had, and to treat each other as what we really are—two women who are passionate about what we do, care deeply about being forces for good, and believe we can change the world, even if it’s just a tiny bit.

The truth is, everyone has an asterisk. Some of ours are just a little bigger than others. It took me a while to learn that while mine sticks out like a sore thumb, it makes me uniquely able to empathize with all the asterisks around me. It also took me a few tries to learn that saying the words “my partner is a lesbian” will confuse your friends and scare your mother.

Yes, my asterisk has cost me lots of cool factor. (Something you can only understand if you’ve said the words, “I’ll take a Shirley Temple” at age 25.) But it’s also allowed a friendship that has made the last ten months the absolute best of my very illustrious, two-and-a-half year career. It’s reminded me why I’m happy with me. I don’t care to be anyone’s version of cool but my own. And for that, I love my big asterisk.

Two Amigos

Messing around with set props part 2. For the record, these are the only four selfies we’ve ever taken.

52 comments

  • Bravo, Rebbie. As a Mormon father of two gay sons, whom I love deeply, I sometimes struggle with the perception that we (the Mormons) hate gays. I know the Church’s position is anti gay marriage, but it is not because we hate gays. Thanks for a well-written article.

  • Way to hit the nail on the head. I’m currently living in Dallas (where I am now dubbed “BYU Brittany”) and I’ve had very similar experiences with one of my roommates, who’s a lesbian. Thank you for communicating this so clearly!

  • YES!! I love this so much. I have friends from all different backgrounds, and I’ve never understood how we can’t all just get along…be friends not despite of our differences but BECAUSE of them! Well said! :)

  • Rebb, WHO ARE YOU?! This is such a fabulous article!! I love this connection you guys have made. We are all weird & different. This is honestly such a great post!

    • Reb you never cease to amaze me with your talent for writing! You always draw up the perfect picture and say it just right. This is something I have learned with close family around me, we all have our own asterisk some are just more obvious than others. Thanks for sharing!

  • There is a difference. Your partner’s lesbianism is not a choice. But being part of a religious group founded by a con man, an institution that has systematically worked to crush the rights of the LGBT community, is a choice. Being in advertising dovetails well with Mormonism, a religious order that uses marketing to spread its ridiculous belief system throughout the world. Perhaps at some point you will grow beyond its confines.

    • I like how you put an asterisk (choice vs not) on her asterisk, man. It’s so meta. An asterisk for an asterisk. This is blowin my mind. It’s like, yo, one asterisk isn’t enough, man. So I’ve gotta put on asterisk on your asterisk, so you remember how you’re different.

      This is heavy stuff.

      And there’s an asterisk that says my name is required to post this comment, yo? Cray.

      I love asterisks almost as much as you, Maxamillion.

    • Max, you really need to get a life. Your invective against Mormons reveals a life-experience challenged person who has one or two talking points but doesn’t really understand others. If any belief is ridiculous it is your belief that you can make a good impression by dissing other people and their beliefs.

    • Max, I don’t know if you’re a horrible person, but this is a horrible post. This type of behavior is what is wrong with this world. After reading a great post about love and tolerance all you can think to do is tear her down for it. Awesome. I’ll bet you preach acceptance of others yet you certainly don’t accept Rebbie or her right to her own beliefs. Maybe you should try to educate yourself on what Mormons actually believe rather than listening to people who hate the church and will say anything to discredit it.

    • Don’t forget that Mormons have a traumatic history of persecution and torment that drove the early members to leave behind their homes and possessions to travel out west with handcarts, and then face further persecution by the law for years to come.

      The Mormon asterisk has quite a bit in common with the LGBT asterisk in this way…

      And although the church has taken a stand to preserve traditional marriage, the universal sentiment has always been, “Remember, the Lord loves the homosexual person as he does all of his other children.” – Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, 1969.

    • Thank you for you wonderful and constructive addition to this thread. You know, bigotry comes in all shapes and colors; perhaps you ought to stop and examine your own small-mindedness and wonder who is truly causing more damage, this wonderful girl who makes an effort to be a force for good in society who just happens to be mormon or you a loudmouthed bigot with an obvious agenda against a minority group.

    • Precious. There’s a great article on tolerance… ya know what, tolerance isn’t the right word. There’s a great article on love and acceptance right above what you just posted and instead of building on it, you spread the hate. Wake up Max. You’re not heralding a good cause here, you’re just spreading the hate; the cancer that will get us nowhere.

      Maybe we should work on what we have in common rather than what is different about us. Perhaps that would pose a better starting point than a hateful one.

    • I guess you guys can complain all you want about Max’s poor attitude, approach, delivery, etc., but at the end of the day he has a valid point. Homosexuality is not a choice; Mormonism is. This fundamental difference overshadows the commonality being lauded by this entry’s author. It’s wonderful that they can be friends and find common ground, but they’re coming from two VERY different worlds.

  • As a Mormon who writes a bitter blog, I get how feeling like an outsider feels too. I agree with you on all points, but there is one big difference WE have that I don’t know if I can reconcile. You are on Blogspot and I’m on WordPress. How am I supposed to follow your blog when you are on Blogspot? Maybe somehow we can bring those two asterisks together and form a nice blog friendship…?

    • I had no idea that Bitter Ben is a Mormon. It means absolutely nothing to me other than I now have to rethink who my favorite Mormon is. I guess since the top two are a man and a woman, I’ll just make two categories.

      This post did rock though.

    • Thank you, downtown dave. Good reminder to strenghten my relationship with Him by going to the Temple and reading the Book of Mormon.

  • Nicely put Rebbie. I am in the same boat. My husband was raised in southern orange county and even though I have known his friends for more than 4 years, they still make mormon jokes every time I see them. Not just small remarks, but offensive jokes that I am supposed to laugh off, every weekend. It gets old. Not only do I deal with these jokes but I am always introduced as Katie, the mormon. I find it funny because I wouldn’t introduce them as Jonny, the atheist or Aubrey, the vegan. it really does help me to empathize with people who are different in their views and the way they were raised.

    • I grew up in small town Montana and always had to deal with situations like this. I finally heard/came up with this joke that I will tell them. Feel free to modify in this abbreviated version as you feel fit.

      A guy gets to heaven and is getting a tour from Peter. It is green and beautiful and well, heavenly! The guy notices a trap door on the ground and asks Peter, “What’s down there?” Peter responds, “I think you know what is down there.” “Can I take a peek?” “Sure,” responds Peter, “just don’t get burnt.” The guy cracks the door a little bit and peeks in. Pretty soon he has it wide open looking all around. He looks up and says, “Peter, it’s green and beautiful down there just like it is here!” “Dang, them Mormons! They’ve been down there irrigating again!”

      I would tell them that if that is the kind of people I end up with I’m just fine with that!

  • Thanks Rebbie and how right you are! We are all alike in that we each have “asterisks” about us that make us different from others. It’s amazing how barriers come crashing down when we accept and care for others even when we don’t agree with them or understand their beliefs and/or actions. A very wise man once said, “Sometimes we just have to agree to disagree.” You and Kim are a great example of how two people with completely different beliefs and lifestyles can set the asterisks aside and simply respect and care for one another.

  • I appreaciate the interaction. As a Mormon in California I have found myself often being judged prior to people getting to know me even when I resided in a largely gay community like Cathedral City. There is a difference between my lifestyle and others, but that doesn’t mean mutual respect cannot be part of who we are as a community. Such perception differences will always exist between groups and disagreements as well, this sometimes leads to policy conflicts. We can disagree without lynch mobs, we can disagree without the destruction of one people or another and we can appreciate those wonderful things in all of us that make us unique and beautiful individuals, all loved by a God we believe in.

  • So fantastic. Loved this post. Thank you for sharing. I grew up in So Cal and have several gay and lesbian friends. We are all just people who generally want the same things, no matter our asterisks. Wish the world could just shrug off their differences and get on with it!

  • Rebbie, I am in awe of your intelligence and writing abilities. You write with fluidly and grace. Thank you for sharing your life with all of us.

  • Now it totally makes sense to me why all my favorite people are the ones who are different in one way or another. I’ve lived mostly in TN, UT, and MN. UT was the strangest for me because I was so used to being different and the only one, and suddenly my asterisk was being from TN. I had more culture shock there than when I went to Japan. Loved the article, very well said.

  • Rebbie!
    We are in the Bay Area and a friend posted your article on FB! I’m so glad I got to read this. You are amazing! Not to mention how talented you are in so many ways!!

  • In all honesty, your post is nothing less than inspiring. This is one of the biggest subjects that I have had issue with, yet LOVE being a Mormon. People like you are what give this religion a good name.

    P.S. I was in advertising for 5 years and can SO tell you’re a copywriter. :) That’s a compliment.

  • Giant differences: You got to choose your asterisk and you could, at any time, walk away from yours if you wanted to. Your asterisk doesn’t give people the legal ability to deny you housing, employment, medical care, and basic human rights like choosing who you love and how. But, other than those things, totally samesies.

    • Jodi, people don’t have the “legal ability” to deny housing, employment, or medical care based on gender attraction. They might do it, but it’s illegal because we have discrimination laws in the US. And people who have been discriminated against should seek legal help. And no one can control who loves who or how, because that’s a feeling in your heart and no outside person has control over that. There are laws in some places about marriage, but that is completely different. Marriage is an institution from God, which the state also recognizes because it typically benefits society, but is a primarily religious act. Which means God gets to set the rules about who should be married.

      And as far as choosing her asterisk, Kim could choose to walk away from living a homosexual lifestyle. No one is forcing her to do it. But I bet deep down she would feel wrong because she would always know she was attracted to women. That’s about the same as saying to someone with a conviction of their religion that they could stop being that religion at any time. Yeah, I could stop going to church and living by the principles taught there, but deep down I would feel it was wrong because I feel in my heart that this religion is true and right.

      • No, I’m sorry, you still miss the point. One’s “lifestyle” is not the issue. That’s just you trying to make Kim’s situation seem more volitional. It is her sexual orientation that is relevant in this comparison. Sexual orientation and religious affiliation are entirely different things. One is biological, the other social. One can rationally think oneself out of religion and disaffiliate. Not so for sexual orientation.

        And actually there are plenty of laws and restrictions limiting the rights of homosexual couples compared with their heterosexual counterparts. Fortunately, many of these restrictions are being repealed because our society is collectively progressing. But this progress comes despite, and in resistance to, organizations like the LDS church.

        And your marriage argument about it being from/of God is totally, completely, 100% irrelevant. Fortunately, we do not live in a society where the government has to follow any particular religion’s depiction of god and his wishes.

    • I’ve been denied employment based on my religion. Also, housing. I’ve been denied things openly and..discreetly, based on Mormonism. I’ve had people who were really friendly to me suddenly stop taking to me when they find out I’m LDS.

      It’s not the same. Rebbie’s not saying it’s the same. But that definition does change what both groups are offered in society…and many other groups, too. Thinking otherwise is foolishness.

      • If what you say is true, then you have legal recourse. Contact a lawyer and sue the people/organizations who have violated the law.

        Have you ever been denied federal benefits offered in conjunction with your marriage, because of your Mormonism? I didn’t think so. That is just one example of the rights/privileges not offered to homosexual couples that their heterosexual counterparts enjoy.

  • I LOVED this post! I grew up in California and actually thought they were WAY more accepting of my religion than anywhere else I’ve been! (Yes, including Utah.) We are ALL children of God and are all loved by him. We are all brothers and sisters and I don’t know why it is so hard for some people to understand that. Mormons or not!

  • Once I had a mission companion and she didn’t appear to bathe. *Like I’m serious!* She had weird sleeping habits so maybe she did her thing in the middle of the night. For the first few days, I thought she is sooo weird. Then, I decided she was one of the coolest people ever. I don’t know if she bathes or not, but she doesn’t smell so it isn’t my business.

  • December 27, 2013 at 4:48 pm // Reply

    Amazing article Rebbie! Glad you love your asterisk! That’s what this journey is about! I love how you capture how often it is two of the most unforeseen people who become amazing friends, and usually because they both stick out!

    That reminds me of my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE TIA! When I started working at a company before my mission, there was a TON of talk about why I was there. I was the guy who wouldn’t go to “Taco Tuesday” (WHICH BTW, has NOTHING to do with taco’s and often isn’t on Tuesday) or use profanity like everyone else. I was the kid smiling all the time and always in a good mood. I am a convert to the church, so naturally, I loved telling my coworkers why I was there! I am Mormon and need money for a mission! That’s when one co-worker came up to me and introduced herself: “Hi, I’m ______, and I am a 40 year old Mexican Lesbian. Get over it because God says you shouldn’t judge!” I quickly chimed back: “Well I’m a 19 year old Mormon, and I wouldn’t think of judging you, not my job!”

    How could I NOT love some one THAT awesomely open?? Over the next couple weeks (during prop 8 issues) she would make remarks about God not wanting us to judge anyone and that we need to love those around us. That’s all I did with her! We became friends before I left on my mission and grew to love each other.

    After getting back, she and I were best friends. She brought me food all the time, helped me with my workload, and I returned the same favors. We shocked each other when the winds came in and built static, and we constantly laughed and cried together. She became my Tia (aunt).

    I left that company a few months ago and I was sad to say “See ya later” to someone I grew to love so much. She loves Mormons now and I have added to my friend family. Goes to show you, not all us Mormons are what you think we are, we really are just a bunch of “Normans” capable of loving anyone around us if they give us a chance!

    Thanks for the article Rebbie, I think I may start staying “current” with your blogs, they are good stories! Good luck in your career with your “lesbian partner”!

  • I love this blog post. I had no idea you were such a gifted writer. Your experience in LA matches very closely what I experienced in my PhD program in Orange County. I was often put on the spot to explain “The Conservative View” even though I have not a conservative bone in my body, only because I’m a Mormon. For me, being Mormon really is something I was born with. Even if I were to walk away from the faith, I’d still be, culturally, Mormon and different. You can never escape being different, so you may as well embrace it and use it for good. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • This was a great read – thanks for writing Rebbie. And thanks to others for the rest of the *intelligent* comments too!

  • Asterisks over one’s head?
    * I was baptized at age 21 on Long Island,NY
    * Went on mission at age 26
    * Went to BYU at age 28-single-
    * Graduated BYU at age 31–Single
    Asterisks always are in Life. Everyone’s Life especially….
    I learned to simply “let it go” and live Life. In October 2012 I was diagnosed with stage 3 moderate cancer. I swore off alcohol, tobacco use,and any recreational drug use in October 1978 and have been clean ever since. Yet I was a person now fighting cancer. I screamed…cried…asked friends if my sickness was a Divine Mandate from God because I was perhaps “still not a perfect/ good/ stereotypical Mormon”… I learned that being a “Good Mormon” is often a tough subject to embrace. So I accept that it is a work in progress. I also accept that no matter how many “imperfections” I correct I will have others to address and overcome. I also accept the factor that regardless of the number of occasions I declined a beer, passed up cigars, or declined smoking pot with non member friends I deal with Life and the issue of cancer remission as it has been. I also have learned more now than any other point of my Life that there IS a God who hears prayers and answers requests expressed.

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