Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Collective Case of the Willies

There's a far side comic, where a man after 20 years of cleaning the snake room in the zoo has "a collective case of the willies." It shows him shivering and freaking out, like it all just hit him at once how creepy it was.

If I find it online, I'll post it later. The point is, that's what happened to me with the church. I read about the experiences of others like Invictus Pilgrim who heard Boyd K. Packer's talk, how something finally snapped, something finally gave.

For me, it was when I watched the video of Steve Lee talking about his experience in the church. And finally I couldn't take it anymore. Something clicked.

I had a collective case of the willies, like it all just dawned on me what I'd been putting myself through. Finally it all hit me, all the insults, all the preaching at the pulpit or conversations about Prop 22 or Prop 8, all the conference talks I've read about same-gender attraction, the evergreen conference, the materials I read, reading the miracle of forgiveness.

And finally I realized, this is homophobia. This is heterosexism. This is predjudice and bigotry.

And I can't unsee it. I go to church and hear it preached every week in lessons, in talks. It isn't any one person's fault. I don't hate either the church or the people. This is my people, my family, my loved ones, my friends, the people I've given my life to serving and helping, my time, my talents, my money to.

And it saddens me in a way that I can't describe that I'm not welcome. Or that I'm only welcome conditionally. Is there room for me, is there a place in the kingdom for someone like me? There's supposed to be. For sinners, saints, for everyone. But I just don't see that. I see the way that even in the highest offices in the church homophobia is expressed and taught.

Does this mean the church isn't true? I don't know. It's similar to blacks and the priesthood. Racism was institutionalized by church practice and defended by church "Doctrine". Statements from Brigham Young onward excluded blacks from not just receiving the priesthood but exaltation. They were not allowed to marry in the temple, or receive their endowments. Inter-racial marriage was strongly discouraged and in fact, you couldn't be sealed if you were in an inter-racial marriage.

So if racism was part of the church, does it surprise you that homophobia is as well? By homophobia, I mean discrimination against lesbian, gays, bisexual, transgendered, questioning, asexual..anything outside of the norm.

I've tried for so long to just reconcile Mormonism and my sexual orientation. I've tried therapy, I've tried Evergreen, I've talked to countless bishops, I've tried prayer and fasting, I've tried blessings, I've tried strict obedience, I've tried marriage (which to be fair, was not taken as a therapeutic step). In one way or another, I've tried to fit myself in the heteronormative doctrine and culture of the church.

But I can't. It's wrong. It's just not true. If I could do it, I would have done it by now! And so would so many other people. So many people suffering, depressed, suicidal, all in the name of trying to be part of the kingdom of God.

It's wrong. It's just wrong. And for some reason, people are blind to it.

I don't know what I believe about the church anymore. I've been through so much with priesthood leaders, LDS therapists, and others in the church. And the argument could be made, yes, those were individuals, not the church. But individuals with the blessing, and the backing of church doctrine and practice. And individuals who misused their position of authority to tell me what I should do, to steer me down a path which has ultimately lead to depression, heartache, pain, sadness and loneliness.

In the end, I realize that I am responsible for choosing to listen to them. But I can see why I did. I was raised and to trust that bishops and other leaders spoke for God.

And while I think that leaders of the church have much to offer in guidance and counsel, perpetuating falsehoods and negative stereotypes is not something that they should be doing. If the church is true, then this is still wrong. This still has to be changed. This has to stop.

Homophobia is not unique to the LDS church. This is a much bigger issue cultural issue. But given the dynamics of change in the church, and the ingrained cultural biases that are so heteronormative, (how many young men's and women's lessons are on temple marriage, or talks in general conference, or single's ward talks/ lessons for that matter?), I suspect it will take decades for change to happen. It's rooted in the institution, the doctrine, the practices, the culture, and the people.

In the meantime, hopefully more members will be like my brother and his wife who do reach out with compassion and love and understanding and tell me they know it isn't right, they have a hard time with the churches stance and political activity as well. There is hope. It might just take the church wandering in the wilderness of intolerance for 40 years before we see the change.

I can't say what I should do in the meantime. Do I come out to my ward? Do I limit my participation? Do I stop attending all together? Do I write a letter in protest resigning from the church? Do I look for a new community of faith? I can't get away from the fact that my family and many friends are Mormon, and there's no running from prejudice and homophobia that exists outside the church as well. But when it's at my church, my sanctuary, my place of refuge, why would I continue to go? Because I do feel some connection with God when I go? Because even though so much doesn't ring true there are other things that do?

Gah. I don't know.


  1. Bundle of emotions, eh?

    Many of us have gone thru similar periods. I think everyone has to eventually come to some point of reconcilliation on these matters and the resolution varies, of course. These are very personal decisions.

    Yesterday one of the speakers closed their talk with the phrase "I know the Gospel is true", and it struck me that they did not say "the Church is true". The Church has warts because people run it. People have a talent for screwing up, even when they're running the Church.

    In Sunday School we were reading in the lesson where Paul actually rips Peter a new one for not being more definitive about converts abandoning the practices of the Law of Moses. I see lots of evidence in the scriptures of prophets, apostles and other leaders screwing up, arguing with each other, and making mistakes (and getting punished by God for it). Joseph Smith was no exception - its right in the D&C. So why should it be different now? I try not to let it ruffle me any more. I don't have to answer for their mistakes, only my own. So I'm trying to focus on that aspect of my life. My testimony is not based on the actions of others, but on my own personal experiences and witness. Yes, it bothers me when people say idiotic things about gays or exhibit prejudice and ignorance (and sometimes I do get miffed - see my blog). But that is a small and infrequent part of my experince at Church. I look at the overall and see that I recieve a lot of love, strength and learning from my participation. For me, that makes it worth it.

  2. Hang in there, these are good questions to ask yourself (and others) but you'll find that the answers = different things to different people. I hope you are able to muddle through everything alright. Also if you want to talk to Steve Lee let me know, I talked to him way back when I first came out and he offered to be a listening ear and a mentor. He's great!

  3. Thanks Miguel. I'll keep that in mind.
    Neal, I'm totally a bundle of emotions. I'm trying not to make a rash decision or one out of anger.
    I'll have more to say about that later but I think you have a great perspective and make a lot of really good points. Thanks for the support.

  4. Alex, I just cam across your blog. I have felt many of the same things you are right now. After so many years of being indirectly called names at church, it has created a distance for me. It's as though with a hole in my faith, the rest of it has just begun to fall apart.

    I love the people I go to church with (most of them), but I just don't feel like I'm part of the organization. And I teach Gospel Doctrine of all things. I'm able to keep my own thoughts to myself, but I don't really like it.

    When I came out to my mom last year, she also mentioned that she felt that right now the church was going through its 40 years in the wilderness until they accepted gays. I'm deeply indebted for her unconditional love. It has helped a lot.

    I'm also married and facing large challenges ahead. I did the Evergreen thing for several years, if for nothing else than to be able to say that I tried everything. Not surprisingly, it didn't change my attraction to men.

    At the time of Packer's talk last year, I was the executive secretary. The bishop tried to use his talk for a 4th Sunday lesson, but I was able to derail that one. I asked the 1st counselor which gay members of the ward he wanted to offend.

    But part of all this just makes me angry. I'm fed up listening to what you rightly label homophobia. Tired of feeling like I'm supposed to care about what some person I've never met believes about something he has no comprehension of. Exhausted sitting in church listening to people make uninformed comments about gays and being to afraid to speak up and set them straight because I don't want to out myself.

    I have no answers in all of this. But there's a big part of me that wants to walk away from the church and never look back.

    Anyway, thanks for your thoughts. I look forward to reading your other entries.


  5. What an incredibly honest, heartfelt, and beautifully painful post. Thank you for sharing this!

    I finally walked away from the church, and I'm so much happier than I ever thought possible. I've accepted myself as asexual. I've accepted myself as perfectly me, even if I don't fit in the box others would like me to fit. This was my journey, good luck (or god speed, or prayers go with you) to you on yours.