13 July 2011

Nails It

It's always interesting to read comments to Utah newspaper articles about gay issues. Normally they're the predictable mix of personalities and perspectives, with a shifting cast of characters re-hashing basically the same point-counterpoint. After one reads enough of such stuff, one begins to see the patterns and to draw some conclusions.

And one develops an eye for particularly insightful, perceptive analyses too. I just ran across two such comments in a Salt Lake Tribune article on an upcoming film by Kendall Wilcox about gay Mormons. I think they're spot on, about as insightful as any I've seen, so I thought I'd save all of you the time of hunting through the comments yourself, and share them here.

Comment One:

Many church members don’t understand how the church’s position is homophobic and damaging. I will lay it out for you.

The LDS church’s position is: “same-gender attraction is not a sin, but acting on those feelings is—just as it would be with heterosexual feelings.”- (from Helping those who struggle with same-gender attraction by Jeffery R Holland.)

Holland goes on to say “‘We do not reject you,’ he said. ‘… We cannot reject you, for you are the sons and daughters of God. We will not reject you, because we love you.’”

This is how the members are taught to react to gay loved ones. It is not overtly homophobic, but here’s the catch – while ‘acting on homosexual feelings’ – presumably engaging in homosexual sex – is characterized as no more condemnable than ‘acting on heterosexual feelings,’ straight people are able to, within the doctrinal framework, find suitable life partners, marry, and consummate their marriages with a meaningful sexual bond. No such mechanism exists for gay individuals, and they are relegated to a life of loneliness and insufferable longing.

The church doesn’t just deny them sexuality, it denies them intimacy and companionship – such an integral part to the LDS experience. Additionally, and though the official position is acceptance and understanding, most gay LDS people experience at least a lack of understanding and at worst –and frequently - experience bigotry, vitriolic and callous rhetoric, and a decent amount of institutionalized, or at least institutionally-condoned hate.

Living as a gay person within the framework of LDS-think invariably becomes insufferable. It is quite simply impossible for most individuals. When the circumstances become unbearable, some end their own lives. Others GET OUT. Mr. Wilcox seems part of the latter group, it’s just taking some time.

Comment Two (in response to Comment One):

I think you are right. I don't know if this is correct but I also understand that masturbation is not ok either in the Church so they do not even have that outlet. I have met some who have left for the very reasons that you state. It just became incredibly unbearable for them but many still do believe in God and have faith. They just choose to not be setup for failure anymore. It seems they have opportunity to become more healthy emotionally when they leave and free themselves of all the shaming and setup for failure they experience in the Church. As a parent, I would rather encourage a gay child to be who they are in a responsible and caring manner and do good with their life. It still seems odd to me that all of these men and leaders that are telling them what they must go without to be ok with God are men who have all those things and aren't willing themselves to make those kind of sacrifices to go without all of that. It is like a rich person not sharing with a poor person and telling them they must be poor and should be happy and rejoicing in their poverty. Strange.


MoHoHawaii said...

Hear, hear!

The core of the problem is that in protecting "The Family," an abstract ideal with distinct patriarchal and authoritarian undercurrents, Mormons hurt actual families composed of actual people.

And it's not just gay people. Try being a single LDS woman who, without marriage prospects, eventually decides to adopt a child from the foster-care system. Or grandparents who find themselves raising their own grandchildren. Or a straight couple who decide not to have children. Etc. Etc. Etc. There are so many families that Mormons don't approve of.

El Genio said...

What I find interesting about Kendall's experience is that he says the church has never hurt him. I'm sure he thinks that's true from his perspective - but my definition of hurt is far different. We're talking about a religion that has prevented him from having any form of a meaningful intimate relationship for over 20 years. He can never get that time back.

Beck said...

This is worthy of framing and posting on the wall next to (or on top of) the Proclamation on the Family.

The emphasis on the "sanctity" of the family is an abstract ideal that has become so hurtful to so many. In my ward, there have been four of the last five weeks with such emphasis - to the point that single sisters have been fleeing the church house in tears!

I know of teachers who are beginning to refuse to teach the same subject matter because of its hurtful content.

MOHOH is so correct... there are so many families that the church doesn't approve of.

Alex said...

Beck, spot on. I may not be a single sister, but as a gay, soon to be divorced Mormon, the priesthood lesson on eternal families, the lesson on the law of chastity, the mother's day talks, all are so heteronormative and cookie cutter that I've left church every single week emotional and upset.

Add to that a steady dose of homophobia, whether talking about the "sin of sodom", the talk about prop 8 as christian service from the high councilor, President Hinckley's quote in the manual about "so called gays and lesbians" and I've really had a hard time at church.

So why do I go? Well, I feel God's spirit at church. It's bittersweet though because I also feel rejected, like I don't fit. I want to belong to this community of faith that's an important part of my life. I want to contribute, I want to have fellowship.

But how do you feel part of something that doesn't allow for exceptions?

Some would say there's room for everyone. And I think there is. Or that there should be.

Elder Holland and others condemn violence against gays and lesbians, teasing, but what about the cookie cutter, everyone has to be a certain way doctrine? My bishop and my grandpa actually told me that I need to remarry if I want to be exalted. That's a bitter pill to swallow for me right now. To consider marrying again is hard for any divorced person, but for a gay lds Member? I'm not inventing the pressure I feel to fit into a mold. It's everywhere.

The choice I have is to be ok with not fitting the mold. To be told time and time again that my life and my existence is less than the ideal. It's not an easy choice to stay Mormon and to stay in the church, to confront the conflict every week.