25 November 2010

Why Is It A Gift?

On Thanksgiving Day before putting the turkey in the oven I want to respond to Invictus Pilgrim's question about how one could be grateful for being gay. He quotes another blogger whose perspectives I don't share, but the questions are worthwhile. I'll answer the questions and then share some of my own thoughts.

1.   Warren’s first statement presupposes that God “makes” some of his sons and daughters attracted to people of the same gender as they.  To paraphrase an infamous question recently posed in General Conference, “Why would Heavenly Father do that?”

In this question we hear the voice of Boyd Packer jousting with the Calvinistic theory that certain people are predestined to certain fates. It assumes what's been called "the magical Mormon world view," a relentless habit of ascribing everything in life, no matter how small or detailed, to divine intent, design or intervention. I think the LDS scriptures themselves belie that notion, particularly Doc. & Cov. with its statements that we are supposed to act for ourselves and that "it mattere[d] not" to the Lord whether early Church leaders did one thing or another.

The question also assumes God could but never would do "such a thing" because it's intrinsically evil and wrong. Apparently those who say this never stop to examine the bases for their premise or wonder whether God might have more to say on the matter. Never mind about the 9th Article of Faith.

I don't think it matters whether God "did such a thing" or not. Evidence is overwhelming that, whatever the reason, being gay is an intrinsic part of one's nature that can't be eradicated (to me, that suggests it is a natural and morally neutral phenomenon, but that's a topic for another time). The only question then is how one can best deal with it. Asphyxiate, stifle, deny, endure, tolerate, accept, value, embrace?

2.    Warren’s second statement goes further, and presupposes that, not only does God “make” certain of his children gay, but that gayness is a “gift,” implying, as Warren so states, that SSA is not a curse, but rather a gift.  How does one come to make such a statement?

I don't accept the premise here. But I do believe one can choose to embrace being gay as a benefit, even a blessing. That too is a long discussion for another time. But I know from my own experience that it's possible. Once I embraced that part of myself, the whole world lit up in glorious technicolor that drowned out all the drab of before. How could that not be a gift?

 3.    If one accepts the fact, which I do, that one is born gay, how does one (particularly he who is steeped in the Mormon faith and culture) come to celebrate his gayness rather than to feel shamed and cursed by it?  Specific instructions would be appreciated.

(a) Stop thinking of it as something shameful. This is a process and will probably require you to reject much cultural Mormon programming as false (which it is).

(b) List all the things that make you happy when you are conscious of the gay part of yourself. Imagine how your life would be without them.

(c) List the ways you think you are a better, kinder, more understanding, intuitive, loving, caring person as a result of being gay.

(d) Think of all the ways you're happier since you started coming out. Of all the art, music, creativity, the beautiful things in life you appreciate more than straight guys might.

(e) Think of all the friends you've made since you started the journey and how they may have enriched your life.

(f) You never could have made your own movie list if you hadn't started coming out.

4.    Moving beyond question #3, how does one come to view it as a gift from God? 

A gift is what we make of it. You have this characteristic as part of you. You can make it into something beautiful and wonderful and fulfilling, or you can make it a source of frustration, stagnation, and unhappiness. How you come to view this characteristic will depend on which of these paths you choose.

5.    I am perplexed by Warren’s statements because he is an active member of the Church who currently serves in a bishopric.  (My intention is not to “pick” on Warren, but simply to use him and his statements as a basis of discussion.)  He “honors” his priesthood and lives his life as a heterosexual priesthood holder living “the plan of happiness.”

Therefore, if gayness truly is something to be grateful for and a gift from God, how does he/one reconcile the dichotomy between living what one truly believes one to be by divine grace [Oxford: “the unmerited favor of God”] versus living the “priesthood path” (straight, married, father, church service, etc., etc.) as taught by the Church?

Within the way the LDS Church has currently framed this issue, no such reconciliation is possible. One must give way to the other eventually. The choice depends on one's priorities, one's trust in the LDS Church as an institution, one's trust in one's own heart and ability to discern personal inspiration.

Concluding thoughts:

Since coming out, my life has been transformed. The old grey world is now aglitter with millions of glowing hues. I feel 100 pounds lighter, free to be my real self rather than being ashamed of it, a reluctant actor on a stage every waking moment. That was exhausting! Friendships are deeper, as is faith. My heart is peaceful, my confidence far higher than before. Especially on this Thanksgiving Day, how could I not consider it a gift?


Kiley said...

I always appreciate your posts. This one in particular was fantastic. Thank you.

Much of what was quoted from Warren's post really shows someone still trying to reconcile faith in the church with being gay. Like you I think it is an impossible reconciliation. I don't fault people for trying to make that reconciliation. It is still something that I battle myself in some ways.

I really love what you said about the situation being what we make of it. Being gay can certainly be a gift.

Steven B said...

If our life is a gift from God, then it follows that our sexuality is also a gift. Or to say it another way, our sexuality is an integral part of who we are, yet is primarily biological in origin. If our biological bodies are a gift of God, then our biologically-rooted sexuality is a part of that gift.

Invictus Pilgrim said...

I'm a day late, but I want to express thanks for your responses to my questions. I appreciated your directness, as well as you sharing your own experience. Thanks, too, for the list of specific suggestions.

In the time that has passed since I published my post, I have pondered these questions. Several thoughts have come to me. First of all, I agree with your statement that one must examine premises and how the question is framed. Elementary logic, my dear Watson - but how often are we influenced and (mis)guided because we fail to question a statement's premise or the basis upon which it is framed?

Secondly, I think have realized (this sounds terribly naive) that there is a spectrum of "same sex attraction" among those persons referred to as "MoHos", i.e., Mormons who have acknowledged (at least to themselves) that they experience some degree of attraction to persons of their gender.

I think perhaps this level of attraction can frame how one answers the questions I posed. A MoHo with a "lower" degree of attraction (or perhaps a bisexual person) can, theoretically, have little problem functioning within the church and views their attractions as something ancillary to their main identity.

Others (and I would include myself in this group) identity much more strongly as being gay and recognize such as being a fundamental element of their identity. To such persons, the answers to the questions I posed can be very different.

I guess I am saying that I have already learned a lot, on several levels, from this exercise. Thanks, Rob, for taking the time and making the effort to provide your thoughtful answers to these questions, not only for my benefit, but for the benefit of others who may have silently asked themselves the same questions.

Gay Saint said...

This post reminded me of a quote from Rev. Ed Bacon from the All Saints Church, an Episcopal church in Pasadena, CA:

"Being gay is a gift from God, but our culture doesn’t understand that."

Short, to the point, and true.

Pablo said...

Another wonderful post, my friend.

I had to re-read a few of the Bible verses on gifts after reading this post. Although I'm agnostic now, Christianity (particularly the Mormon variety) is the most familiar expression of spirituality to me. Gifts truly are diverse. It's too bad that some people don't seem to have the gift (or perhaps more accurately, they choose not to develop the gift) of acknowledging and respecting the wide spectrum of the gifts human beings have.

I think a person's sexuality simply IS. It may have causes (both from nature and from nurture) and the way it is expressed spans a range. My take on the "gift issue" is that there are some things each of us experience as a result of our sexuality, and how it expresses itself in each of us, that are gifts that benefit us as well as the people with whom we choose to share them.

Growing up Mormon, we often become fixated on gifts, abilities, strengths, etc. Mormon culture puts a high premium on achieving goals, the ultimate being exaltation. Ironically, that is a gift, but one that is perversely conditioned on our abilities. So, we begin to equate gifts with abilities. That begins to insidiously warp our perceptions and see gifts as things to be earned, rather than things to be graciously accepted, appreciated and shared.

Oh, and I laughed out loud when I read "Boyd Packer jousting with...Calvinistic theory" because the image that popped into my mind was Packer dressed as a Monty Python-esque knight jousting with Calvin from the Calvin and Hobbes cartoons. (Yes, Calvin knocked Packer off his high horse). I could have WAY too much fun with that imagery. So, thank you for yet another gift.