Sunday, January 12, 2014

What's wrong with the LDS Church's statement on same-sex marriage?

Hello again Blogosphere. I've had some time off to work on school and personal issues. I am excited to make a new post for the new year.

Plus, same-sex marriage in Utah? How can I keep away?

The LDS Church came out with a statement in response to the recent events. The most relevant portion, I think is this:

 " As we face this and other issues of our time, we encourage all to bear in mind our Heavenly Father’s purposes in creating the earth and providing for our mortal birth and experience here as His children. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:27–28). “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Marriage between a man and a woman was instituted by God and is central to His plan for His children and for the well-being of society. Strong families, guided by a loving mother and father, serve as the fundamental institution for nurturing children, instilling faith, and transmitting to future generations the moral strengths and values that are important to civilization and crucial to eternal salvation.

There are immediately problems, however, with using these scriptures as justification for the church's position on gay marriage. If you are against gay marriage because we are commanded to "multiply and replenish the earth," what about those who can't have children? Are they suddenly unable to keep one of God's commandments? Is their union any less valid? Any Mormon would say, of course not. There's no sin in that. In fact, marriage between two people who can't have children is a good things for many other reasons.

So how then is it any different for gay couples? Shouldn't they have the same right to marriage as everyone else who can or can't have children? Not to mention the fact that gay couples can and do have children, whether through adoption, surrogacy, or other means.

The second scripture is even more problematic. It's a command for a man to "cleave unto his wife, and none else." In order to keep this commandment, everyone must marry and that marriage should be between a man and a woman? So a gay Man is supposed to marry a woman? This contradicts the church's position that marriage should not be used as a therapeutic step for homosexuality. And, from personal experience, I can tell you that marriage with a woman does not lead to long term happiness. Am I breaking God's commandments by being unable to fulfill them? What happened to God not giving us a commandment that we are unable to keep?

It seems much more likely to me, that a loving God, would ask us to adapt the commandments to individual circumstances, such as sexual orientation. What this means for individuals will differ.

The problem is assuming that we are all the same. We aren't. There is diversity, and that's ok. It's ok that humans have different sexual orientations. For those of you who don't understand what that is, I recommend this link.  And it's ok that some of us have green eyes, and some have blue eyes, that we have different colors of skin. It's not ok to say that one way of being is higher or better than another. Unfortunately, people who are gay or bisexual have frequently been thought of as lesser. It's the same as racism. And it isn't ok. It's time for the LDS Church to embrace difference instead of running from it. That means confronting past and present homophobia. And it means that rather than making a contradictory statement that on the one hand asks us to all live according to one set of commandments while proscribing special commandments (such as celibacy) for gay members, the LDS Church should make policies and statements that reflect that diversity.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Same-sex marriage

I wasn't going to post about marriage. First of all I can't tell you all what it means to see all of those equal signs on facebook. It's awesome to know that I have that kind of support.

To my cousin and sister-in-law and all the people who "click" like on the post "disagreement is not hate. High time we realise honouring man-woman marriage is not bigoted." I agree it isn't hateful to think that marriage should be between a man and a woman. However, many of the people who hold this view do so for bigoted reasons.

Disagreeing with my views is one thing. Depriving me of federal benefits, legal protections, visitation rights, property/inheritance rights, custody rights is quite another. You may believe that I should receive some of these rights. You may think that I only deserve these rights if I'm married.

We can only disagree if we have a conversation. We live in a civil society, and thinking that I civilly shouldn't be married is quite different from believing that I shouldn't be married in a religious institution. Or specifically, your institution, since there are many churches who do want to recognize same-sex marriages.

If you want me to "respect" your rights to worship (which I do), please respect mine. I'm not getting married anytime soon, but I do have a partner, whom I love, and who I would like to be ok if anything were to happen to me. You may not agree with me or my choices. I'm not asking you too.

I'm just asking you to respect my civil rights.

The beautiful thing is, if things go the right way, it doesn't matter at all what you think. Justice will be done.

And if not, we will continue to fight until it is.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gays and Mormons.com

Last week's release of the new website, mormonsandgays.org, was met with a variety of reactions, ranging from positive spin to a visceral attack on the church and the people still loyal to it. These reactions are telling of the anxiety and interest in homosexuality in the church.

In the virtual realm of the web, there are various competing positions, some complementary, some diametrically opposed, as to how one is to be "Mormon and gay." There are lots of Mormon and gay.coms, facebook groups, blogs, all representing their various takes on the seemingly impossible and insolvable problem. Speaking from my own position, I can say that I first reacted emotionally to an official church website. "The church is finally welcoming gays!" "It's accepting that I'm gay."

For various months of my life, I stood immobilized by a triangle relationship of being Mormon, gay, and married. There was no resolution to all three; something had to give. After unsuccessfully trying to erase being gay through therapy, prayer, fasting, Evergreen, and marriage (and failing), I realized I had to renegotiate this conflict on new terms; I had to accept that I was gay and that wasn't going to change. 

The new website offers, I think, a more acceptable position. Accepting (finally) scientific consensus on the immutability of homosexuality, the church instead simply maintains a moral position that behavior and not being is wrong. This is progress. It sets a new baseline from which to talk about homosexuality in the church. It prevents destructive behavior like SOCE (sexual orientation conversion efforts aka reparative therapy) and discourages MOM's (Mixed-Orientation Marriages). Quick caveat, I'm not saying that all these marriages are doomed, I'm just saying it's a risky undertaking given the high divorce rate of such couples (and my own experience).

But though the position the website takes is more acceptable, it is ultimately untenable. How can you separate doing and being in a culture where you are constantly taught you are what you do ("By their fruits ye shall know them")? How can you be gay but not do "gay things"? For my grandpa, I wasn't gay if I didn't "act" on it. But I was gay before any action on my part. That message is you can be born gay, and even if you can't change, you're still suppose to fit and and try to be as straight as possible. Or at least not "act" gay. 

The problem with the website, which became clear to me after my initial excitement faded, is that the church's acceptance is conditional. You can only be part of the club if you come in on our terms, which are celibacy and a commitment to upholding our heterocentric view of the universe.

I for one refuse to be partially accepted for who I am. And now that I've had some time and I'm in a relationship, I know that much of the information I was fed about promiscuity, AIDS, etc. was distorted or just plain wrong.  From this position, it's hard to look at the website as much progress. The central problem remains, that gays (and other LGBTQ's ) are relegated to a sub category, where we aren't accepted for who we are but for who we can theoretically be; straight members just like everyone else in the next life.

I know that this position will be appealing to many gay Mormons. I know at some point I believed this, and even desired it with all my heart. I wanted to be like everyone else, to be accepted by my family. But you can't compromise yourself to be what other people want you to be. At some point, you have to get over the fact that you've been shamed into submission to a heteronormative universe, that worse, is extremely patriarchal, and openly and proudly so.

Mormon culture makes it hard to be gay. It's hard enough to be gay even if you aren't Mormon, though the doctrinal and cultural forces that pressure you to fit a norm make difference that much more difficult. As more and more people open up about their experiences it becomes clearer and clearer the anguish people have gone through trying to come to terms being Mormon and gay. A lot of us end up becoming healthy well-adjusted individuals. But others turn to excessive drinking, risky sexual behaviors, and dangerous drug use. I want to be clear that this isn't because they're gay. They're trying to cope with the shame they've been made to feel for being different, and rather than facing their demons, try to escape that pain and shame through these behaviors.

In other words, we need support. Many of us need the church, but the church doesn't offer us what we need. I had to come to this realization the hard way. The church offers you some of what you need. And the gay community may not provide you all you need. A partner, or a wife, will never provide you all you need. The only way to get what you need is by taking care of yourself, and being willing to go and look places you've never been before to meet those needs. I think we all have a different path to do that, but looking for the church to change and provide what we need through a new website is naive.

The church needs to accept, or at the least stop demonizing, those who are openly gay and in relationships of love. That's the only true progress that can be had. And we can help by not demonizing other gay people. If we would reach out to each other, change could happen. But the shame placed upon us by a heteronormative society makes it all that much harder. And feeling like we don't belong in the gay community cuts us off from the support we could receive there. I think that's what's behind all the gay and mormon.coms, finding a space in between.

One might ask what any gay person is doing in such an environment, a criticism popular among those who are "outside" the (LDS) church but still ever commenting on issues pertaining to it. But one can hardly blame them for the criticism or their participation in the debate.  I think their continued participation in various Mormon Stories or Moho or other web communities shows that participation in Mormondom goes far beyond doctrine, practice, or ideology. It's family, it's community, it's politics (especially in Utah). For most people, there is no way to fully get away from it. Thus, while some might tell us to shut up and leave well enough alone, we simply can't. The church affects our lives, and even a conscious decision to resign from the church is evidence of the influence being Mormon had and has over our lives.

And yet their criticism sometimes fails to take into account the complex environment that LGBIT people have in the church, and the intricacies of a personal faith journey to reconcile spiritual witnesses, personal convictions, and family and community realities. For some people, there is no outside the church, and rather than encouraging a one size fits all solution, would better serve by talking about their own experiences and helping people see the various options and paths rather than prescribing a path for other people, (a habit, likely left over from service or experience in the church, where an awful lot of that happens). Though some may object to being included, "big tent" Mormonism has a place and includes many of us on the fringe who never really know where our place is inside or outside the church.  And in this vulnerable, border position, in which many of us find ourselves, let's make sure we make room for other who don't agree with everything we say or do. After all, we're trying to get away from the exclusivity and narrow mindedness that, unfortunately, sometimes exists within the communities we come from.

(Edited and Re-posted 1-15-2013)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Moving (Forward)

What a strange journey it's been these last two years. I went from being married, separated, then divorced, to being in a committed relationship, and am now living with my boyfriend.

For some reason, during the holidays, things get more intense emotionally for me. It brings up a lot of issues that tend to stay tucked away, like my relationship with church, my family, and my ex-wife. It's been hard for me not to look back to a time where I thought I had all the answers, where I thought I knew my plan.

I lived for a time naively, never really questioning the assumptions I'd made that therapy and Evergreen had helped me diminish my same-sex attraction. But then reality hit me. I couldn't hide the fact that I was gay from myself or my wife anymore. We both knew it, but it was something we didn't want to acknowledge.  I've talked a lot about that in this blog, and I'd like to revisit that more sometime with time and perspective. But for now I want to talk about moving forward.

After months of feeling like I was doing nothing to make things better, I finally decided to get out to church today. Not an LDS church. The First Congregational Church. It felt really good, to walk into a place where I'm welcome, affirmed, and celebrated as a human being. To me, that's what Jesus taught, the true message of the gospel, to love and welcome and affirm each other. 

For months I've felt without a home or a center. I think after the pain I've been through, I'm hesitant to recreate that sense of family and home, after trying so hard to do so, only to find out that it was an illusion. Sometimes I've been trying to go it alone. This is somewhat selfish of me, as there are many around me with open welcoming arms ready to embrace me as I am.  I think it's good to develop resilience and independence. But we're social animals, and we need community, support, love, and family.I'm grateful for the people who provide that for me. I need to embrace them, and thank them, and show them how much I appreciate that.

Now I'm in a relationship, and trying to move forward with my life. At times though, I let the past, anniversaries, holidays, all of that, get in the way. Like Lot's wife, I look back, towards "Sodom and Gomorrah", a place where I was unwilling to move in spite of the problems I knew were there, unable or unwilling to acknowledge my doubts and questions about my faith and sexuality because they would force me to do something about them. I have. I've acted. I've left that place and I can't look back now. I don't think I'll be turned into a pillar of salt or anything, but looking back hurts me. It prevents me from living in the present, from going forward; it's a dark depressing place, and not the place for someone given the chances that I have to be happy with a wonderful man and with a wonderful life. 

As I look to my past, growing up Mormon was in many ways a beautiful thing. My service, my mission, learning Spanish, going to BYU, teaching at the MTC, have all been things that have profoundly influenced my life. But the LDS church is not presently a welcoming place for me or other LGBT people. I appreciate the efforts to make it so. I feel welcome in this in between space that people are trying to create to make church welcoming for all and make our communities more welcoming. But there will always be struggle and conflict and disagreement on this issue. I think that's healthy, because there are a lot of things for the church and it's members to come to terms with on this question. But I don't know that it's a place I can call home anymore.

My family home is still not a place where I am totally welcome and accepted. It's getting better, and I don't mean to discredit the effort or the progress that's been made.  But  there's a reason I didn't go home for Thanksgiving, and Christmas may be difficult. I can't make everyone ok with me being in a relationship, and I can't force my partner to go into an environment where we aren't totally welcome and accepted for who we are. There are people in my family who welcome me, and us, with loving arms. But some people won't change, and likely will not change for years to come. 

And so it's time to create a new home. When the Mormon pioneers felt persecuted, they had to leave their homes in Kirtland, Missouri, and Nauvoo. They fought to create home wherever they were, despite the persecutions they endured for their beliefs and lifestyle. But ultimately, none of those places were safe. They preferred to go West, and create a new home rather than continue to fight and die in their old one.

For a long time, I've been in exile, and I've longed for home. Part of the reason holidays are hard is that longing.  I've been unwilling to find a new home. But after wandering in the desert, it's time to find a new home. That doesn't mean I abandon everyone or everything that made those places home, but it does mean being independent and free to go to new places where I haven't allowed myself to go before. It's time to create home rather than waiting for a home to be created for me. And together with my partner, that's exactly what I need to do. I can't stay stuck in the past forever. It's time to move forward.





Thursday, October 11, 2012

Coming Out Day

One year ago I came out on facebook. It was October 11, national coming out day. I came to a point in my life where I simply could no longer live my life by what other people expected of me.

So I came out. To everyone. A lot of people were extremely supportive.Others were less than excited that I was sharing something so "personal" on facebook. But the important thing isn't what those people think. And so many people were happy to be part of something I was sharing with them about myself.

Coming out isn't about them. It's about you. It's about you being ok with being gay. It's about you being ok with being different.

So much of my life has revolved around that decision. Not the one to post a few words on facebook, but to live my life by what I know to be true instead of letting other people define me.

I've been with my boyfriend for 8 months now. We started living together last month. I'm so happy, it's hard to put in words.

But what I can say is that none of this would have been possible if I let my fears get the best of me. It's not easy, standing up to my family and (though not very many fall in this category) friends who are against my "lifestyle." It hasn't been easy to talk to my parents and have them get used to it.

But things do get better. My Mom invited us to Thanksgiving and Christmas, at home. I know that part of her doesn't accept things, but she's grown so much, and come to love me for who I am rather than who she thought I was or wants me to be. I hope she'll come to love him too, in her way. That might be a longer process. But it's really not possible to have a relationship with my parents that somehow excludes this important part of my life.

 I know there is a lot of hurt in our community, in the gay community (and yes, it exists), in the Mormon community, and especially in the Gay Mormon community. But beneath all that pain, I think most of us love each other, and are trying to sort the rest out. My Mom is the last person I expected to come around to me being gay. But she even apologized for her ignorance, and for what happened. Change has to happen. Things can't continue how they've been. Luckily, things are working out for the best for me. I know some aren't so lucky. But if you aren't so lucky, don't give up. There are so many of us that would love to put our arms around you and help you up, figure out what to do. And if we are going to be serious about preventing suicide, or the even more prevalent depression in our community, then we've got to do that.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Evergreen, Sept. 11th, and SB 1172


Eleven years ago, following the events of September 11th, I attended the Evergreen International Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah with my Dad. As the Evergreen conference approaches again, I feel it appropriate to say that I condemn efforts to change sexual orientation, especially for youth who are in a vulnerable position.

A few weeks ago, I volunteered to speak with Equality California to lend my support to the law, SB 1172, that would make sexual orientation conversion therapy illegal. Here is a video of that interview:



All of us have to come to terms with being gay, or gay and Mormon, or gay, Mormon, and married in our own way. There's isn't one way to "be gay," there is no one size fits all "homosexual lifestyle" and no one is forced to do anything they are uncomfortable with. But whatever choices we make, trying to pretend like our attractions, desires, feelings, will go away, or that they are wrong, is unhealthy, harmful, and dangerous. Everybody deserves a chance to make choices, have agency, rather than be coerced or manipulated into therapy or a path that they wouldn't have chosen had they had that freedom.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Chickens and Weeds

So a lot has happened since I last posted. Our president has come out in support of gay marriage. DOMA is on the rocks after a lot of court challenges. Also a gay married man has compared himself to a unicorn and a chicken sandwich has been vilified as the ultimate symbol of bigotry-(or sign of free speech, depending on who you talk to).

While I have reservations about Chick-fil-a association with the Family Research Council and Exodus, the fact that a bigoted man made some off the cuff remarks about gay people is no shocker to me. Especially since he made them to an audience he thought he could safely say it to, the Baptist Press. 

But somehow these controversies have overshadowed the significant legal and cultural progress towards equality. So a CEO made an idiot of himself and simultaneously became a beacon for religious freedom. 

Another important matter, which has become an obsession both for the Moho community and the nation at large (or at least it feels that way on facebook) is one Mr. Josh Weed.

While undoubtedly his relationship with his wife is unique and special, the circumstances are not. How many of us have read blogs of married gay men or now divorced gay men? How many of us have been married gay men at one point?

He loves his wife. He's already incredibly aware that he's gay. He's a therapist and seems to understand what sexual orientation is. And for this, I commend him. He is educating people who otherwise wouldn't listen that homosexuality exists, that there is something called sexual orientation, and that it matters. In many ways I see him as an ally, though I'm sure the personal attacks against him and his wife make him more reticent to come to terms with "the gay community."

I do however, have a beef (no pun intended) with Mr. Weed's presentation and characterization of homosexuality. He continually refers to in his posts to a "homosexual lifestyle." I know what he means. He means men having intimate sexual relations with other men, or women with women (although it seems he's mostly referring to men). While he may intend no harm, his words connote a of dismissal of that lifestyle as somehow inferior.

Being gay isn't a lifestyle. There are lot's of "heterosexual lifestyles" and it's the same with "homosexual" or "bisexual" or "asexual" ones as well. My lifestyle really isn't that different from other people. Ok, being a grad student and spending hours reading Latin American literature for a career could be called an "alternative lifestyle" but the fact that I'm gay isn't that different. The fact that I have a boyfriend, that we go to movies, go out to eat, talk to each other on the phone, and yes, sleep in the same bed, does not really qualify as anything extraordinary. It isn't all that "queer" or strange to do any of those things. 

In his 6000+ word post, he says that every choice he makes is couched in loss. And this is what makes me saddest about Josh's post. He doesn't seem to see the validity or possibility of any other choice. Not truly. I'm fine if he, and his wife, choose to be married, have kids, be open about their relationship. But I'm not ok with the way his example is being used to push gay men into marriage or the way it is being used to somehow invalidate these relationships of love that exist between two people, who happen to be of the same gender. There is so much to be gained by this choice. And that's what he doesn't seem to get about my "homosexual lifestyle."