Sunday, July 12, 2015

Evaluating identities: beyond Jenner and Dolezal.

In contemporary American society, few concepts are as central as “identity” to how we understand what it means to be human. The relationship between personal and social identity--not only what it is, but what it should be--is often hotly contested. The Internet exploded last month with two high-profile examples: Caitlyn Jenner, a celebrity transgender woman, and Rachel Dolezal, a now-infamous woman who identifies as Black despite a personal history and genetic background that ordinarily marks one as White in the racial categories of the United States. With varying levels of sincerity and understanding of the issues involved, many people are asking, "Why is it okay for a man to become a woman, but not for a White person to become Black? Where does it all end? Do you have to respect someone's self-identification as a cat?"

Before I give my own take on it, I need to take care of a few preliminaries. First, here is a very short list of highly recommended reading:

Desmond-Harris, Jenée. "How to make sense of Rachel Dolezal, the NAACP official accused of passing for black." 
St. James, James. "6 Reasons Why Being Called a Cis Person Is Not Oppressive."
Read, Max. "From Otherkin to Transethnicity: Your Field Guide to the Weird World of Tumblr Identity Politics."

I suggest reading them before moving on with the rest of my blog post, but if you're impatient or don't want to take my word for it, reading them afterwards works too. Just: read them, if you haven't before.

Second, this blog post isn't an academic research paper. I'm not providing a literature review. I wouldn't be qualified to provide a lit review. I provide some representative citations and links to support some of my claims (and some of them have lit reviews), but they are meant to say, "here is the kind of evidence that has led me to my conclusions," not, "aha! here is the proof!" I'm always in favor of people doing their own research and drawing their own conclusions about what subject matter experts are thinking, or not thinking.

Finally, in the time-honored tradition of locating oneself in one's own identities before talking about identity in general, I can tell you that I am a cisgender White man. (I'm also polyamorous and bisexual and Christian and married-but-not-legally and lots of other identifiers, but gender and race seem the most salient to mention here.) I don't take it on myself to make declarations about what it means to be a woman or to be Black or what have you. I am taking it on myself to speak up out of personal loyalty to people with great integrity who are dear to me, out of respect for the women and people of color I have learned so much from through reading and conversation, and out of my vested interest in supporting a particular method in evaluating identities (for when the talk does turn to polyamorous bisexuals). I'm not talking as an ally--a problematic label that I rarely aspire to--but as someone with a conscience that's been tugging at me.

Okay then, with the preliminaries out of the way...

There are a bewildering number of identities people are claiming these days. Along with the ones already mentioned above, there is demisexual, demigender, agender, genderqueer, asexual, aromantic, aracial, biracial, multiracial, transabled, transpecies and many more. I don't have any particular links that I can recommend over others. Google can easily get you the gist of the claims and counterclaims. My point in listing them is that, even if one feels philosophically or ethically constrained to respect any and all self-identifications an individual may disclose, there comes a point where one just can't. One can be polite to the person standing in front of you, but one can't buy into the story they're telling. Different people have different breaking points. Being a stubbornly empirical sort, I have four questions that I have found to be useful in drawing my own conclusions.


1. Is the identity cross-culturally attested? 

I'll be blunt: I'm dubious about any core identity that is only claimed within a particular geographical region or by people who fit a particular demographic profile. Transgender folks are found all around the world. Transgender folks belong to all races and ethnicities. (In the United States, trans women of color are especially at risk for violent assault.) There are trans men and trans women. (And even people who identify as both trans and non-binary, which is outside of the scope of this blog post.) In contrast, I haven't been able to find documented cases of people claiming a transracial identity outside of the American context, and those Americans are White.


2. Is expression of the identity documented to occur in some cases at an early age?

I am cautious about the "born this way" narrative for legitimizing LGBT+ folks, for a lot of reasons (one example). However, it is true that the example of people who show early awareness of their belonging to a gender or sexual minority provide support for the claim that it's not a conscious choice or the result of a process of psychological development extending into adulthood, i.e., it's not a matter of pretense or habituation.  Parents have reported children expressing transgender identities as young as age 3 [2], and many transgender young people have reported that their first awareness of their identity came at age 11 or younger [3]. (See also the Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline for transgender folks for more background info.) It is significant that Rachel Dolezal soon claimed that she "was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon” when she was five years old--she has to know that it is a narrative that could give her legitimacy if accepted by society.

Of course, her family of origin disputes that claim, and we don't hear in the media about parents freaking out over such behavior. Since freaking out by some American parents over every given little thing is one of the most reliable and predictable contemporary phenomena, its absence in this case speaks volumes.


3. Is expression of the identity persistent?

The less said about conversion therapy the better, okay? It's depressing and it doesn't work. Not for queer folks, and not for transgender folks either [2].  The number of older adults transitioning as social condemnation lessens is another sign that transgender folks don't "grow out of it" or "snap out of it." (It does appear to be true that a majority of children presenting with gender dysphoria do not end up as transgender adults, but feeling uncomfortable in one's body is emphatically not the same as being trans.) I can't really say anything about the apparent persistence, or lack thereof, of transracial identity. It doesn't happen enough to study in any systematic way.


4. Is there a plausible mechanism or marker for how the identity develops?

Not all identities are claims about the type of body one has (or should have), of course. When I had my born-again experience as a Christian, society didn't expect me to look or sound or smell different. When talking about gender and race, though, we are in fact talking about bodies, and therefore at least in part about the science of biology. Even when we are talking about personality and self-perception and affinities, we are talking about phenomena that are biologically mediated.

Although there is no evidence that it leads to behavioral or intelligence or skill differences, decades of neuroscience supports the idea that, on average, it is possible to identify structural differences between male and female brains. Some researchers have further found differences in brain structures in transgender folks that "did not differ significantly from controls sharing their gender identity but were different from those sharing their biological gender" [4], e.g., those structures in trans women were similar to those structures in cis women but different from those structures in trans men. One possible explanation is that it "might be the result of the fact that the development of the sexual organs in the fetal life occurs well before the sexual differentiation of the brain" [4],  with prenatal hormones playing a major role in "feminization" or "masculinization" of the developing brain.

Of course, the concept of biological gender is itself very hard to pin down, since neither chromosomes nor hormone levels nor any specified set of anatomical features are shared by all men or all women: "Humans like their sex categories neat, but nature doesn't care. Nature doesn't actually have a line between the sexes. If we want a line, we have to draw it on nature" [1].  About 1 in 5000 female babies is born with an under-developed or absent uterus and vaginal canal, which are frequently pointed to as the gold standard for womanhood because of their critical role in pregnancy and childbirth. Some women are born with testes. Given the empirical reality of human physical sexual diversity, it doesn't make sense to either reject the legitimacy of trans women's (or trans men's) identities or to accept their legitimacy but insist they aren't "real" women (or men), especially after the initiation of hormone replacement therapy. The natural variability of human bodies is also the reason it makes no sense to question the sincerity of those trans folks who decide against radical surgical alterations of the bodies they were born with. (One of the most moving statements I ever heard a trans person make was, "I wasn't born in the wrong body. This body is awesome!")

I am unaware of any genetic, hormonal or anatomical marker that can be definitively linked exclusively to one race or another. Skin color, facial features and hair texture are the most common points of reference, but the Desmond-Harris article cited above does a good job of explaining why they are unreliable. Certainly there aren't observed brain structure differences between races as there are between genders. I also have not seen a plausible mechanism proposed for how one could develop a transracial identity outside of a conscious choice or the result of a process of psychological development extending into adulthood.

In case it isn't obvious from my post so far, I fully affirm the gender identities of trans folks but feel no obligation to validate the racial identity of someone who considers themself to be transracial. I don't think that intellectual assent (or dissent) should be the end of the conversation, though. Identities aren't passports or club cards, and the point of identification isn't to merely keep the social bureaucracy running smoothly. Anyone who claims a particular identity takes on a large number of obligations along with any real or perceived benefits.

One of those obligations is to respect one's metaphorical elders and the struggles of one's peers. I can't summarize all the different negative reactions to Dolezal's inistence that she identifies as Black, and I wouldn't try, even if I thought I could pull it off. But one recurring complaint is that she didn't grow up personally experiencing all the crap (and joy!) that comes from being Black in the United States. On the one hand, I don't think experience alone defines identity. A typical Nigerian immigrant fresh off the airplane has little to no experience being Black in this country, or as a racial minority more generally, but they're very obviously Black here (though not ethnically African American as usually conceptualized). On the other hand, that hypothetical Nigerian immigrant should also hesitate before jumping into a leadership role in an organization dedicated to protecting and advancing Black lives in the American context unless nurtured for that role by African Americans who respected their perspective as a West African immigrant.

Dolezal could have been a great NAACP president for her local chapter as a White person with close ties to the African American community. Theoretically, she also potentially could have been a great NAACP president as a self-identified transracial Black person after thoroughly vetting that identity and its origins with the demographic group she claims to be a member of. (MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry showed what the start of that vetting could theoretically look like.) Taking that position of leadership and others without directly addressing questions of authenticity, passing and skin-color privilege--when she has to know the urgency of those questions for generations among African Americans--undercuts her claim to be Black and is suggestive of ambivalence in her own mind. If Tiger Woods, Barack Obama,  Zoe Saldana and Touré can openly face that tension within their community, so can Dolezal.

For some transgender folks (and their allies), the closest analogous behavior is things like the uproar over the "Night of a Thousand Vaginas" fundraiser for abortion funds in Texas last year and the public statement accompanying the decision of a Mount Holyoke College student group to cancel a performance of The Vagina Monologues earlier this year, specifically on the grounds that the work excludes the experiences of trans women. It is certainly true that not all women have vaginas, as discussed above. Nor do only women have vaginas, as many trans men will quickly and rightly point out. And trans folks pay real costs--social, medical, financial and even physical safety costs--when they are constantly excluded by cis folks as not being "real" women or men. But women have fought for generations for the right to control, admire and accurately describe their own bodies. And the great, great majority of those bodies have had and continue to have vaginas. Meanwhile, less than five years ago, lawmakers in Michigan and Florida had fits that the words "vagina" and "uterus" were uttered on the floor of their chambers. When the bodies of women are still under attack--successfully, in far too many cases!--solidarity should mean not publicly undermining some of the strongest defenses against those attacks.

Not everyone agrees with me, and solidarity with them means I don't, say, go around on social media shaming them for their disagreement. But I do feel I put my metaphorical money where my mouth is, on this principle. As the movement for marriage equality has snowballed over the past few years, I have gotten to listen to a constant stream of "couples language." It is undeniably exclusionary, and the erasure of polyamorous families from the conversation has tangible negative effects on the health and well-being of families like mine. All the same, my queer community has sought marriage equality since at least 1968, a little less than a year before the Stonewall riots. I am not going to drag down same-sex couples in the United States by declaring that cause illegitimate, just because it doesn't yet explicitly address my more narrow interests. That's what it means to claim an identity as part of a community.


JOURNAL ARTICLES CITED

1. Dreger, Alice. "Sex Typing for Sport." Hastings Center Report 40, no. 2 (March 2010): 22-24. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed June 19, 2015). 
2. Mallon, Gerald P., and Teresa DeCrescenzo. "Transgender Children and Youth: A Child Welfare Practice Perspective." Child Welfare 85, no. 2 (March 2006): 215-241. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed June 20, 2015). 
3. Reisner, Sari L., et al. "Monitoring the health of transgender and other gender minority populations: Validity of natal sex and gender identity survey items in a U.S. national cohort of young adults." BMC Public Health 14, no. 1 (December 2014): 1-19. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed June 20, 2015). 
4. Simon, Lajos, et al. "Regional Grey Matter Structure Differences between Transsexuals and Healthy Controls—A Voxel Based Morphometry Study." Plos ONE 8, no. 12 (December 2013): 1-10. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed June 19, 2015).


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Friday, May 1, 2015

The weight of resurrection.


Malack the lizardman vampire cleric: "Sadly, three days in the grave is time we do not have, refreshing though it is."
Detail from Order of the Stick #878 by Rich Burlew

Easter is my favorite holiday, by far. It has been for as long as I can remember. As a kid, it had the happiness of candy and a couple small gifts without the anxiety of waiting a month for it to finally come. (I like Christmas a LOT more now that I experience it as "the end of Advent" instead of "the day I get mine.") As an adult, it has the theological weight of a major Christian holiday without nearly as much secular static around it. And, hey, every once in a while, it happens on my birthday.

Each year, I think I appreciate Easter all the more because I am taking Lent more seriously. I said something on Facebook this year about Lent being the Christian season of contemplating exactly how f'ed up the world actually is and which parts we most directly share responsibility for. Since I possess just about every privilege there is--excepting only my unconventional family, my lack of inherited wealth, and my sub-standard neurotransmitters--while living in the most privileged society on the face of the Earth, I have a lot to contemplate. Easter comes as a blessed joy. God has promised me a place in a world where all meaningful differences of power and worth will be stripped away, and not even death itself--let alone my own privileged stumbles into complacency--can stop that world from coming!

And Lent for me and my family, this year, was particularly Lent-y. My aunt died after a brief and unexpected illness. Some things with our son's biological mother we thought were settled got suddenly flipped over. And probably most dramatically, Amy's parents, who had completely rejected our unconventional family for many years, nearly died in a terrible car accident that did kill one other person. In the aftermath, I suppose one could say we've reconciled. I and our son are no longer They Who Must Not Be Named. We've been invited to "pick a day" and all come visit them at their home on the Oregon coast. They haven't apologized or otherwise shown any sign that they think they've been anything but reasonable and righteous, but they accept that their daughter has six other people in her family instead of four, and that's positive.

My reaction to their change of heart is mostly celebration. I've always longed for them to acknowledge me and let me love them. But my celebration is private, and jealous. When other people express their own relief and hope, I feel anger. I want them to have my back. "These people hurt me," I want to say. "They hurt Dave, they crushed Amy, they did harm to our children! Why are you so ready for me to embrace them?" I want them to insist on the rightness of repentance and the wrongness of entitled grace.

Forgiveness is a central Christian doctrine. It is arguably the central Christian doctrine. Although I fail again and again to act out of true love for all my neighbors--and, by extension and less importantly, to love God--still my God is always ready to embrace me. And Christians are called to conform to the image of God within all of us, which we can best understand by studying the life and ministry of Jesus. And Jesus, famously, forgives all kinds of people who never do anything to make up for the harm they have caused.

However, the call to forgiveness has also famously enabled ongoing bullying, abuse and other forms of physical and spiritual violence. (Feminist and liberation theologians have provided the most insightful and detailed critiques; this essay by Rachel Held Evans hits the high points well.) Since the Easter promise has no room for such injustices, it's worth looking a little closer at what the New Testament says about Jesus and forgiveness.

First, yes, Jesus did command his disciples to go above and beyond the contemporary expectations for forgiveness:

Then Peter came and said to him, "Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times." Matthew 18:21-22 (NRSV)

But Jesus also included the idea that someone seeking forgiveness should also show repentance:
"If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, 'I repent,' you must forgive." Luke 17:3-4 (NRSV)


These days, people have a tendency to define repentance as "feeling really really sorry." If there is no opportunity or ability for someone to offer reparation to the people they've wronged, then that subjective feeling of regret has to be enough. If someone can make reparation, though, they are expected to, as in the story of the repentant self-serving tax collector:

Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." Then Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house." Luke 19:8-9 (NRSV)
(It is also interesting to compare the story of Zacchaeus with the story of the rich young man, to whom Jesus made the more demanding recommendation that he should sell all of his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor. Maybe we need different lessons about attachment than we do about repentance. But I digress.)

For better or worse, the story of forgiveness that is probably told most frequently is Jesus' forgiveness of Peter's desertion after his arrest , with a touching reunion scene on a Galilean beach:
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs." A second time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go." (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, "Follow me." John 21:15-19 (NRSV)

Jesus forgives Peter, yes, but more importantly, he gives him a job. Do you love me? Aw, you feel bad about denying that you knew me? Fine, then: show me. Take care of my children. Even though it's going to get you killed one day.

I am not a biblical scholar, so I won't belabor the point at the risk of overstating it. I won't even get into comparing and contrasting where the Greek "charizomai" gets translated as "forgiveness" versus the more common "aphiémi" in the New Testament. Even though it's really, really fun! Ahem. What matters is that forgiveness is generally portrayed as the proper response to a genuine attempt to fully repair a strained or broken relationship.

What I am really looking for from other people, then, is permission to still grieve the parts of the relationship that remain unrepaired. I can't deny the power of a good resurrection story, so I understand why people might want to look at Amy's parents and us and say, hallelujah, it is risen--and might expect me to reply yes, it is risen indeed. This expectation is a weight.

Westley from The Princess Bride: "My brains, his steel, and your strength against sixty men, and you think a little head-jiggle is supposed to make me happy? Hmm?"
Image and quoted words from The Princess Bride

In contemporary American society, we frequently drop the weight of resurrection on people individually and communities collectively. Ever more mainline Protestant denominations embrace the cause of marriage equality, and queer folk are expected to rejoice at the seismic social and theological shift while politely brushing off the damage that these exact same institutions, at every level, have exposed them to for decades. Jim Crow and other official legal discrimination against African Americans no longer exists--we even have a Black president!--and African Americans are expected to praise American progress and move past the empirical reality of generations of mistreatment by law enforcement, banks, schools and other institutions dominated by and historically intended to primarily benefit white Americans. Native Americans...well, okay, almost everybody admits the United States is still a horrible deal for them.

What burdens do these communities shoulder when they are asked to celebrate progress standing next to the people who have thwarted it for so long? Is there room for their pain, anger and reasonable expectation for some kind of reparation from the institutions that have failed them? If not, then we are not talking about seeking forgiveness from them, but submission. Of course, a sadly large number of people don't think our shared institutions have done anything that needs forgiving in the first place. The Gospels have something to say about them as well. 

As for my own situation...I guess I am forgiving without expecting repentance. (What, should they join us for four times the number of holiday dinners we missed out on or something?) It is my choice, though, and not my obligation. It is an important distinction.


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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Book review: Becoming Sister Wives.

Brown, Kody. Becoming Sister Wives: The Story of an Unconventional Marriage. New York: Gallery Books, 2012.

I have never watched a single episode of the Sister Wives TV show. I never had any desire to, and I have even less desire after reading this memoir by Kody Brown and his wives Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn--not because I was repelled by what I read, but because I don't want to see what "reality TV" editing does to these people I came to sympathize with.

Yes, that's right, my primary reaction to these fringe Mormon polygamists was sympathy, and more than a little identification. I don't see myself in the "polyamory canon" books like The Ethical Slut. I do see myself in these deeply religious people who are dedicated to their family. They stick together through some seriously rough patches, united in their commitment to their children and their children's well-being. This commitment gives them a solid basis for maintaining friendships and seeking compromise during the times when some of the individuals find it harder to experience deeper, more transcendent feelings of romance or sisterhood with each other. With three of the marriages now past their 20th year--Robyn, who married Kody in 2010, is very much the newcomer, relatively speaking--these kinds of ups and downs are not surprising for contemporary American society. It's all very Redbook Magazine, really.

Of course, there is one obvious way that I don't see myself in the Browns. They are very strict about "the principle" of one husband, multiple wives. Heterosexual polygyny, to be technical about it. My family of one wife with two husbands does not fit into their worldview. Kody is upfront about this lack of symmetry in one of his earliest sections:

"Perhaps there are people out there for who taking plural husbands is a viable lifestyle. Perhaps there is a religion where this is a sacred way of life. But this is not our faith." (6)

Now, it is possible that this expression of tolerance is not entirely sincere. It is possible that it is calculated to discourage any readers' assumptions about him being a patriarchal dinosaur. I am still grateful. It is more than I have ever seen from any writer in a mainline Protestant context, let alone evangelical or Catholic. (Or Orthodox or Pentecostal, but I don't read as widely in those traditions.) I could give Kody Brown a big hug and a kiss! Except I wouldn't, because I acknowledge his heterosexual polygynous convictions.

There is another way, perhaps less obvious, that I don't see myself in the Browns. They were not always open about their family structure, and in fact would tell outright lies about a wife other than Meri being a sister or another relation. Their children, already facing some ambiguity in how they were treated at home between whether they have one mother in a family with several wives or whether they have more than one mother, could not be open at school or with friends. My family is deliberately out, and always has been. For me personally, being public about my marriage is an integral part of what makes it a marriage, and we're all in agreement that we could never put our children in a position of feeling responsible for "protecting" our family. We also don't see any way to teach them that they have nothing to be ashamed of while telling them we need a cover story. I respect the rationale Meri gives for her decision to support the filming of the TV show:


"Secrecy breeds evil and unhappiness, and for too long, that is the only thing about polygamy that had been portrayed in the media...Ultimately, I wanted to world to know that what most people think of when they think of polygamy has no place in our family. We are a great family, with the normal disagreements and laughter, heartbreak and happiness of any American household. I guess I started to believe that our story was worth telling." (212)

I also respect that she recognizes that the danger of hearing only one kind of story actually goes both ways. She reports that her biological daughter has expressed a desire to one day be part of a polygamous family herself. In print, at least, Meri neither encourages or discourages her daughter's goal. But she does want it to be an informed decision:

"I believe in order for her to make this decision she needs to feel comfortable in the society of those outside our faith. She needs to have a wealth of experiences before choosing the path for her adult life. I want the world to be a safe and tolerant place for her." (214)

Obviously, she wants the world to be safe and tolerant for polygamous families. I choose to also read that last sentence as a wish for her daughter to not feel forced into a polygamous life because the "normal" world has only shown itself to be cruel and narrow-minded to people she loves. I want my own children to choose celibacy, monogamy or polyamory based on what suits their own temperaments and dreams best. I don't want them to miss out on relationship choices that bring them joy because society chooses to make opposition to their family of origin part of the package of monogamy. I also don't want them to miss out on religious choices that bring them meaning and discipline because faith traditions choose to make opposition to their family of origin part of the package of community membership. Thus, the importance of being not only out, but proudly and self-confidently out.

Each member of the Brown family writes something in Becoming Sister Wives that had me nodding along. Christine confides, "I wanted sister wives as much as I wanted a husband" (48). Robyn bemoans the absence of cultural and media representations of relationships that aren't monogamous: "
We have to navigate our situation blindly, without a map or outside help" (160). Janelle observes the formational effect of their multi-adult family: "We have all contributed something to the way our family runs...By adapting to and adopting one another’s traits, we’ve developed our own culture" (130). By and large, the parts of their stories I rolled my eyes at had nothing to do with their being polygamous, but rather with how completely in line with wide swaths of mainstream American society their expectations about gender roles and behavior were. The man is the head of the family, but he mostly smiles and goes along with how the women want to run a household. The women simmer indulgently about clueless male behavior. If it weren't for the number of adults and the nature of their relationships, I could see Sister Wives as an ABC sitcom instead of a reality drama.



On the whole, then, I recommend this book. Not as an example for polyamorous families to emulate--unless they happen to be Mormon heterosexual polygynous families, in which case I think the Browns aren't bad role models for how to live that life as a supportive framework instead of as a cage--but because their focus is always on something beyond "how can I achieve the most individual fulfillment and growth." They do appear to have learned a lot about themselves and how to be happier, both as individuals and as a family, but they are prouder of their dedication to God, their children and their marriages. I'll let "newcomer" Robyn have the last word:

"When I chose to marry Kody, I wasn’t just choosing him. I wanted a relationship with Meri, Janelle, and Christine...I know Kody loves Meri, Janelle and Christine. I wouldn’t respect him otherwise...All our marriages go through high and low points, but he needs to commit to them and they to him so that together they will work things out." (157-160)


I wish them the best, and many more happy years together.



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