I sat on an ottoman wedged in the corner of the wine bar. It was after hours and I was providing support to one of our directors as he shot a focus group for a local ad agency. The shoot pretty much ran itself so my support ended up being more of the moral variety. It was a multi-night job and I spent most of the time surfing the internet and writing on my laptop. The groups, which consisted of African-American women of different age ranges were interesting to listen to…at first. The uncomfortable ottoman mixed with my own natural predisposition for boredom set me off in search of websites that featured shiny new gadgets of the plug-in variety.
When the moderator asked the women what an Obama victory would mean to them, I looked up from my screen. I was curious to hear the opinion of the election from the perspective of a Southern middle-class African-American woman. Many of the answers I anticipated. Words like, “empowerment”, “hope”, and “affirmation” were said. One unexpected word I heard was “anxiety”. The moderator asked the woman to clarify her statement, she continued to say, “Barack Obama is our chance to prove ourselves. If he is elected and fails, it will be devastating for African-Americans and who knows when we will get another shot?”
I knew what I was getting into with this blog. I fully intended to be an example of someone who was living as an active member of the church, but I have a very uncomfortable, shifting-my-chair feeling when people look to me as a “poster boy” for gay Mormons. Because, quite simply:
What if I fail?
What if, after a couple years of writing on this blog, I put up the post “It’s been a great ride, but I’m leaving the church”? What if it gets to a point where I feel like I have to hide my shortcomings in order to publicly maintain the image of, “Yes, you too can be gay and Mormon. Ask me how!” What if I meet some guy named Jason and move to Canada to get married? What then? Wouldn’t it negate everything that I have said?
When I think about it, I started this blog with the intention of letting straight Mormons know what it was like to be a gay Mormon. If I end up failing (in the sense that I leave behind my membership in the church), I believe it is important to record that as well. Sometimes gay Mormons leave the church, it is a part of the issue that we can’t ignore. The story of the ones who leave is as important as the story of the ones who stay.
Okay, take a deep breath. Don’t read too much into this; I’m not going anywhere and still believe the church is true like I always have. Bosom burning and all. But my point is, I am an example of gay Mormons only as much as you are an example of straight Mormons. We’re all flawed. I sometimes forget to pray at night, my home teaching frequency could be better (much better), and I could probably stand to be more reverent in Elder’s Quorum. Flawed. If we look to anyone other than the Savior for an example of perfection, we will be sorely disappointed. Every single time. I’m positive there have been less than charitable moments even in the Monson household.
I guess this is my Charles Barkley moment. “I am not a role-model!” and all that.
Okay, now this is the part where I put my ego in check. In the past several months at least four or five authors of the moho blogs I follow have publicly come out of the closet and stayed in the church. I didn’t start the trend; I just jumped on it. If any gay Mormon can be identified as starting the ball rolling towards an open dialog on homosexuality and Mormonism, it would arguably be Ty Mansfield (who I have never met, but like to refer to as the Mormon “Grand High Gay”) when he co-authored the book In Quiet Desperation. I haven’t read it (still), but the fact that it existed and some guy put his real name on it helped me in the process of my own coming out. In turn, I don’t look to him as a role model, but I do respect the courage he has demonstrated. In short, I realize that I am only one voice in a growing number of publicly gay Mormons and am excited at the prospect of an openness in the church when it comes the issue of sexuality and what happens when it is of the “homo” variety.
What if we fail?
What if we succeed?
Can you imagine an environment where a parent’s worst fear isn’t that “my child will be gay”? Where a teenager doesn’t fear the reaction of his Priest’s quorum to the news that he isn’t really into the new Laurel that moved in? Where the single gay adult feels his talents and perspectives are wanted, even needed, by the families in his ward? Where no one feels like they need to hide who they are in order to feel loved by their fellow Saints?
We’ve come a long ways towards this (a long ways) but we have quite a ways to go. There will be some casualties. Some of us will fall by the wayside. Some of us will leave the church and become bitter and angry. Some of us will leave the church and become happy. Some of us will stay. Whatever the risks, this current “fad” of openness is one band(covered)wagon that I want to be on.