Sunday, June 3, 2007

Guidelines for Gay Mormons

There is an idea that has been brewing in the MoHo community for the past week or so. It started out in private chats, and became public in -L-'s blog; that is, the need for something like a "For the Strength of Gay Youth" pamphlet to help people with SSA understand what is OK and what is not in their unique situation. This has generated a whole lot of discussion over on -L-'s blog (here and here), with several interesting, and at times odd, tangents.

The idea started out as guidelines for gay youth; however, I personally feel it needs to be more inclusive to be applicable to everyone of all ages. Someone also pointed out that if you are producing something targeted at people under 18 then that opens up a whole can of worms that we probably don't want to get into.

Personally, I feel we need something that is produced by those of us who live with this every day. There are many questions we've all asked ourselves. For someone who is just starting down this path, what is it we want them to know so that they can learn from our experience?

In an effort to get this discussion back on track and to move forward, it was suggested that we first need a list of potential topics. So, I want to throw out a few.
  • Acceptance
OK, you have finally accepted that you are gay. Now what?
  • Reconciliation with church doctrine
How does one reconcile being gay with church doctrine?
  • Activity in the church
How does a gay person remain active in the church?
  • In or out of the closet?
There is no one size fits all answer to this question as everyone's specific situation is unique. However, I do think that a discussion of things to be considered when making such a decision would be helpful. Also, a discussion of who you should come out to and when is the best time to do so:
  • Parents/Spouse
  • Brothers & sisters/Children
  • Extended family members
  • Friends
  • Acquaintances
  • Anybody you meet on the street
Related to this topic, how do you respond to people whom you do not want to reveal that you're gay but who ask questions and/or make comments?
  • Are you dating? Do you have a girlfriend? Let me introduce you to this girl I know.
  • You're so domestic, you'd make a good wife (I've gotten this before)
  • Homosexuals are just a bunch of selfish perverts
  • "that's so gay"
  • ... and the list goes on and on
  • Acceptable relationships with other people of the same gender (gay or straight)
Often, a gay person feels a need to bond with members of their same gender in some way.
  • How does you find someone to be a companion?
  • How much should be revealed to a close friend?
  • How much touching (hugs, pats, etc.) is acceptable?
  • What are some good activities to engage in?
  • What are warning signs that things are going too far?
  • If the friend is straight, how do you make sure they don't get freaked out?
  • Heterosexual marriage
A lot of gay men (and women) are, or have been, married. Some are successful, but many end in divorce. What considerations are there for a gay person contemplating marriage?
  • What needs to be disclosed? And what is best left secret?
  • What should be disclosed before marriage?
  • What should be disclosed to parents and/or family members?
  • Intimacy between a husband and wife when one of them is gay
  • Children
  • Divorce
Sometimes a marriage just isn't working and a divorce is the best option for all concerned. What considerations are there for someone who finds themselves in such a situation. How can such a separation be amicable? If there are children involved then how can both parents remain involved in the lives of their children?
  • Dating
Is it possible for two gay people of the same gender to be 'boyfriends' or 'girlfriends' while maintaining a platonic relationship? Personally I believe it is. The problem arises when it is viewed as unacceptable in the environment where they live. This forces them to seek out companionship in secret which invites temptation. A heterosexual couple would face similar temptations if they were forced to keep their relationship secret.
If we accept the premise that a platonic dating relationship can be acceptable then what are the boundaries? Can it include things like:
  • Hand holding
  • Hugging
  • Cuddling
  • Kissing
  • Sleep overs

That should be enough to get this ball rolling.


iwonder said...

There is much I could comment on, but there is one thing in particular that piqued my interest.

I have also thought long and hard about the last thing you discussed, namely, non-sexual but intimate same-sex relationships. In my frame of thinking, such a relationship would do much to alleviate the loneliness many of us feel; especially those of us not married or otherwise in a hetero- relationship.

Though it may be difficult to keep such relationships from becoming sexual, I know that such a relationship is something I desire to have.

I think that for some, such a relationship would help that person to be more inclined to stay in the church if such a person were able to find a level of love and intimacy that would be within the bounds of the commandments.

I am such a person.

Gimple said...

This was such a great outline. This is exactly what I was thinking of when I read -L-'s post. You should probably send it on to President Hinckley or one of the General Authorities. It is exactly what all of us need!

I can feel for iwonder, also. I have the same problem. Relationships with women usually don't turn out well for me and they just end up being my friends and most of my friends are women...

-L- said...

Yeah, I think you've got enough topics here to blog about for the next 40 years.

Regarding "platonic" romantic relationships, that's not an idea I can get behind. Especially when you call it a boyfriend and there's the implication that there is a special exclusive status in that relationship. I'm all for deep friendships, though--lots of them.

MoHoHawaii said...

I think things would have been better for me if I had had some positive material like this to refer to when I was a young person.

There can be an almost crushing sense of isolation.

This reminds me of a headline in the Onion newspaper: "Local 15 Year Old Still the World's Only Homosexual."

Abelard Enigma said...

that's not an idea I can get behind.

It's not unusual to see women (including married women) hug, hold hands, even kiss (nothing hot and heavy, more of a peck on the cheek). They may even refer to "going out with their girlfriends." Could gay men have this same sort of relationship? Could gay men (including married gay men) go out with their boyfriends to do [whatever] and, hug, hold hands, even kiss (similar to what women experience)?

Note, I'm not saying whether I'm for or against this. I'm just trying to generate some discussion.

playasinmar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
playasinmar said...

Sleepovers are definitely "in."

Yeah, I went there.

Brady said...

Now we're talking.

This is also exactly what I was envisioning when we first talked about the idea. These are the very specific and exact goals for a FTSOGY pamphlet. And a lot of things I have questions about. All of this information, addressed frankly and from a gospel perspective would have helped me a ton about a year ago. I think there is a ton that could help me now. And I would imagine there are thousands more out there who would benefit from such information.

Although, from a purely logistical standpoint, this is going to be a difficult compilation(especially to get it semi-official and/or get even minimal consensus within this diverse group).

As for the platonic romantic relationships, I offer my cautionary support for them. My experiences with them have only been positive and rewarding. Yes, they can be dangerous and it would be near impossible to get GA's to approve of this, but my personal humble opinion is that they're okay. More needs to be said about this.

Sean said...

i do believe this is a good list to start with. I read through the larger FSOY pamphlet yestday (it was the first time i had - never worked in the ym/yw prgm before)anyway, i thought it was good for the overall absolute boundaries.

i would suggest that you create a post for each individual topic you list. then each of us can jump in with thoughts and understanding. when it seems to be at the end of the thread. assign topic to one of us who can do a write up of the ideas invovled.

once we go through all the topics then we can post again on each subject with the new write-ups. and go through a 1st draft editing process. possibly two or three people can be assigned to a single topic and they can work collectivly to create each section. maybe a word limit would be good as well.

as for publishing. why not just create the end doc in adobe then have a link in NL and/or Ron Schow's website? thus there are no publication fees or print fees. i realize the distrabution wouldnt be the greatest. but what else is there.

sorry for the long comment Abe

Abelard Enigma said...

I think that's a good idea. Might I point out that if anyone has thoughts on any one of these topics then they could write about them on their own blog. I could add a list on the right had side of my blog where all such discussions are going on.

-L- said...

They may even refer to "going out with their girlfriends." Could gay men have this same sort of relationship? Could gay men (including married gay men) go out with their boyfriends to do [whatever] and, hug, hold hands, even kiss (similar to what women experience)?

I think these are all examples of platonic, non-romantic friendships. I'm okay with that idea--our culture forbidding them has no special true status. It's when you (or Brady) call such relationships "romantic" that I object. I think that's just not a good idea. There's also a danger of violating this advice:

Before marriage, do not do anything to arouse the powerful emotions that must be expressed only in marriage. Do not participate in passionate kissing, lie on top of another person, or touch the private, sacred parts of another person’s body, with or without clothing. Do not allow anyone to do that with you. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body.

...Stay in areas of safety where you can easily control your physical feelings. Do not participate in talk or activities that arouse sexual feelings.

I think there is abundant (and recent) examples of how relationships can easily go where they shouldn't if they are thought of as more than a friendship.

Brady said...

You're right L. I knew I was teetering on the brink of apostasy with my comment. =)

But I would like to sincerely point out that we are addressing our pamphlet specifically to an older audience. The FSOY pamphlet was designed for youth ages 14-18. And we already agreed not to go there with our advice. So I think it's fair to say that some of those things might not be so applicable. There are lots of standards we (members of the church and society) hold youth to that we would not expect of adults.

Maybe I'm just too liberal, but I really don't think the church intends to tell returned missionaries and those who are preparing for marriage, getting engaged, etc. to never passionately kiss or "do anything" that might arouse one or both of them. Do we really expect people who are going to be getting married for eternity to not even passionately kiss before they actually tie the knot? From my experience at BYU I can tell you that most of the guys I know bragged about this after the second or third date. I just think the guidelines we're coming up with might be more liberal for a number of reasons, the most significant being that they are addressed to a different age group.

-L- said...

You are right that different standards apply to different age groups, but you have to look at why. For those who are engaged and preparing for marriage, kissing may get a little randier, sure. But, umm, what similarity does that bear to gay romantic relationships? Such kissing will lead gays to a place they can't or shouldn't go. So, whether it was written for the youth or not, I think the advice applies.

And I don't think you're on the road to apostasy. Sheesh! You young bucks are so... sensitive.

Beck said...

I think you need to retitle the document to FTSOGAYA = For The Strength of Gay American Young Adults".

The issues you are coming up with are specifically addressing issues that are applicable to Young Adults (+18) living in America.

From personal experience, I know there are other cultures (within the Church mind you) that laugh at how uptight we are about such things. Maybe I'll blog about that in a sidebar...

Abelard Enigma said...

Personally, I wish we would get off of the "For the Strength of Youth" focus altogether. I titled this post "Guidelines for Gay Mormons" for a reason. I don't even think we should limit this to young adults. After all, I didn't come to terms with being gay until my children were grown.

Although, I will observe that this question of dating sure seems to have hit a raw nerve.

Sean said...

beck, i agree with you. we have a very "puritian" view on relationships even in the LDS Church.

i do wish we could throw some these negative ideas out for example; handholding = sex, kiss on the cheek = sex.

it would seem that everything in the north american culture (including Canada (atleast the western side)) that everything is seen through the prism of sexuality.

but at the same accord, me must be cautious, as L mentions, it can be very easy where a relationship can enter turbulant waters.

Beck said...

Sorry Abe for confusing your post with L's post... I appreciate your point of view of broadening these to "Guidelines for Gay Mormons". I still say that there is a cultural diversity within our interpretation of what is "appropriate" or "culturally acceptable" in the venue of "touching"... Why, as Mormon Americans (and Americans at large), do we continue to have such a hang up about "touching"? A sidebar question for sure... I'll shut up and go off on my tangent elsewhere... just asking.

I applaud your efforts here and don't mean to distract from your main focus. Thanks for working so hard for the benefit of the whole.