What Gay Mormons Need
“I believe that gay politics will be one of the main forces in near-future years that will weed out the goats from the sheep within Mormonism—not just those who allow themselves to become gay, but also those who sympathize with their politics.”
I became saddened this week while reading some Mormon blogs that were discussing California’s same-sex marriage situation right now. My issue wasn’t over the fact that they were opposing same-sex marriage, but that it was obvious that some of the people writing the blogs have never met a gay Mormon in their life. At least, I hope they haven’t because if they have and still maintain their antiquated views, I’m concerned by the lack of charity among the membership.
Last week, I sent an email to my family telling them about my “situation”. The response was almost completely positive. It was obvious that one of my sisters was unsure what it all meant, but she still made it clear that she loved me. I got several “we feel sorry you’ve dealt with this for so long without us”-type responses and, to be honest, I was mildly annoyed by that. I knew what they meant, but in actuality, telling them is going to be a lot of work on my part because for several of them, I’m basically going to have to “train” them on how to deal with me.
In the past, if you found yourself gay and in the church, you buried it, married some unsuspecting woman, and white-knuckled your way though life. Unfortunately, repression like that has side effects. If you are trying to bury gayness, the guilt and shame guarantees that sexuality is going to rule your life. It messes with your head. When you are constantly trying to force the thought of men from your mind, you are constantly thinking about the men around you…every man around you. Your sexuality becomes an emotional problem that you self-medicate with pornography and other sexual addictions. That is what homosexuality used to be.
But times are changing. I’m not saying that the gay community doesn’t have its “dirty little secrets”, because it certainly does, but as homosexuality and gay marriage enters more and more in the mainstream (which it will), it is going to become more of an appealing option for those who find themselves struggling over which path to follow.
I’m not suggesting the church change doctrine, but as society forces guys to face their sexuality earlier and earlier, the church is going to lose even more gay guys to the world than they are now (and trust me, it’s already losing more than it is retaining). Most teenagers don’t have the firm testimony necessary for seeing them through a crisis of sexuality and while in times past, sheltered upbringings (like mine) allowed guys to “put off” issues of sexuality until later, that is going to become less common. In order for these guys to grow and gain the testimony that they are going to need to see them through the rough times ahead, they are going to need to feel that the Church is a safe place for them to figure all that stuff out.
And right now, it’s not.
The current attitude among members, which is reminiscent of “don’t ask, don’t tell”, just gives the message that this is something that we need to hide and that it is something that we should be ashamed of. Policies like, for example, counseling that we shouldn’t maintain close relationships of the same sex just gives the message that, because you are gay, you can’t control yourself and are naturally predisposed to sin. Such attitudes don’t foster a safe environment that is needed to foster faith and testimony.
Faced with that atmosphere, guys are going to look at the message that the world offers that with gay marriage they, too, can have loving families (which is what we want, hard as it may be to believe). Then they are going to leave.
Here is what we need in order for the Church to be a safe environment for gay members:
- We need to feel accepted for who we are.
Feeling that being gay is something that you never want us to talk about with makes us assume that you will only tolerate us if we don’t “go there”.
- We need it to not be assumed that we are participating in grievous sin simply because we are gay.
The general attitude in the church seems to be that you assume worthiness unless proven otherwise. This should apply to us, too.
- We need to feel needed.
We have talents, just like everyone else and we want to serve. We don’t want to be the ones you “just don’t know what to do with”.
- We need to not feel pressured to enter into heterosexual relationships.
The Church is getting better about this, but a lot of bishops still maintain the attitude that if you haven’t acted out on your feelings you aren’t completely gay and you can still be swayed back to heterosexuality by dating and marriage. Also, alluding to number 2, don’t assume that we don’t want to get married because we don’t feel like we could control ourselves. I don’t forsee getting married not because I worry that I will start toe-tapping Senators in bathrooms, but because romantic relationships with women don’t feel normal, natural, and above all, honest to me (this is even assuming the woman knows that I’m gay).
- We need you not to criticize us if we decide to date and marry.
Some guys feel that they can enter into a marriage and make it work. Their marriage will have enough hurdles without everyone assuming that it is some sort of sham.
- We need to stop hearing hate-filled statements at Church about gay people.
When you talk about how “gross”, “unnatural”, and “weird” gays are, you are saying the same thing about me sitting next to you in Elder’s Quorum. Taking a stand against immorality is hating the sin. Talking about how you would rather your son be dead than gay is hating the sinner.
It seems to be a popular thought that the issue of same-sex marriage is going to separate the Church from the world and I agree. Some even forsee a wave of persecution aimed at the Church for our stance on the issue. What I’m worried about is that in their zeal to separate themselves from the world, the members of the Church harden their hearts to the faithful gay members doing our best to live the commandments. Living the Gospel can be hard enough (for everyone). The last thing we need is to make it harder for each other.
Also “those who allow themselves to become gay” is one of the most ignorant things I’ve heard in a while.