Thursday, October 4, 2007

Barrier of silence

I watched the YouTube video titled Spirituality of the Rising LDS Generation Pt1: "Flexibility" - an interview of BYU senior John Kovalenko. In the interview, John said that he hates labels; so, I'll just say that he is 'in the family' (or, in other words, he's one of 'us'). Much can be said about the things in this interview; however, one thing, in particular, stuck with me - he talked about the barrier of silence.

A lot has been written about the recent pamphlet God Loveth His Children (including in my blog). Overall, I think the pamphlet is a good evolutionary step towards where the church needs to be in regards to ministering to the saints who happen to be attracted to other saints of the same gender. But, the underlying message I get when I read the pamphlet is that it’s OK to be gay as long as we: don’t have gay sex, don’t think about gay sex or have other gay thoughts, don’t act gay or exhibit gay attributes, and don’t have gay friends. (Although not explicitly stated in the pamphlet, others would add - and don't use words like 'gay'.) These words may seem familiar because I used them in a comment in Beck's blog and they were further elaborated on in Foxx's blog.

When I heard 'barrier of silence', these words of mine came rushing back - that is the barrier of silence John Kovalenko refers to. In his commentary, Foxx asked the poignant question: Well, if I can’t have sex with a man, can’t think homosexual thoughts, can’t act gay, and can’t have gay friends, what is there left that’s gay about me? Perhaps that is the intent - we are to purge ourselves of every visage of 'gay' from our very being. Recent statements by church authorities have said that the church does not advocate any particular form of therapy. However, isn't this 'purging the gay out of ourselves' essentially the treatment advocated by ex-gay groups like Exodus International?

Some have asked "Short of changing it's doctrine, what else would you have the church do?" I agree that changing the doctrine is an unreasonable expectation; however, questions like these carry with them an underlying arrogance implying that the church has already done everything it can for it's gay members short of changing it's doctrine; so, we should just shut up and live out our lives in silence - and alone.

Mormonism is as much of a culture as it is a religion. What I believe we are witnessing is the dark side of Mormon culture. The, so called, 'gay problem' is viewed as a threat to the Mormon culture - so the mormono-fascists lash out. They tell is that we should avoid the very appearance of evil; and, since 'gay' is evil then we should have nothing to do with it. They tell us we have become ensnared in the devils trap, Some have even suggested that by merely questioning, we are lying in our temple recommend interview when we say that we support our church leaders.

Mormon culture expects us all to fit into a certain mold - when some of us do not fit then we are rebuked to be silent, vilified, even ostracized if we fail to conform. And, it's not just gay Mormon's who feel the wrath of the mormono-fascists. Watch how some members react if a person walks into church with long hair, tattoos covering their arms, and wearing jeans. Anyone who does not make an attempt to fit into that 'perfect Mormon' mold is inherently evil.

The church needs more people John Kovalenko. People unafraid to say "I'm attracted to guys - and that's OK." Unfortunately, some of us are so deeply entrenched in our closets that our cries are too muffled to be heard. It may be up to the rising generation to tear down the barrier of silence that is so deeply ingrained in our Mormon culture and to silence the mormono-fascists. And maybe, just maybe, one day those of us trapped in our closets may feel safe to come out.


MoHoHawaii said...

I really do think Mormon culture follows American culture with about a 20 year lag. (Remember the old joke: "Welcome to Utah, set your watches back 20 years.")

Actually, make that about 35 years. The kinds of discussions we are having now are the same as were had in the mainstream culture in the early 1970s.

Mormon culture will catch up. I wish there were something we could do to hurry it along.

Beck said...

I was very encouraged by this video. I felt John was very self-aware and self-assured. Some may find him naive, but I found him hopeful. There is a difference.

Entrenched cave-dwellers with cave-dwelling companions must rely on the hopefulness of the rising generation willing to live in the light of day!

playasinmar said...

We could always hurry it along by getting older faster and seizing the reigns of power sooner.

Forester said...

Why is it that we want so much from the church? And, what is it that we really want? Acceptance? More attention? More discussion? We know that gay sex is wrong, so where do we go from here?

santorio said...

sometimes i ask myself, what would it take for me to come out?

drex said...

Heehee John Kovalenko....

GeckoMan said...

It's just too easy to point the finger at the LDS establishment or the overall Mormon culture and whimper in the closet. I'm not saying the 'barrier of silence' isn't real, it is difficult, but it's also self-imposed--we do not have to wear duck tape over our mouths! We each have opportunities, one by one, to stand for who we are, be real, be loving and faithful, be unashamed, be willing to be scrutinized and come up impressive because we live with honesty and with the Spirit, and people can recognize this.

Why should we not give people the benefit of the doubt, the blessing of changing their opinion, the tender moments of human connection with us? I just experienced this with my cousin, which I recently talked about in my blog. Had I not opened my mouth, used my faith in him and myself to share the deepest parts of my testimony, we would have lacked that moment to love and strengthen one another.

GeckoMan said...

Oh, and while I'm feeling argumentative and self-righteous(!), let me also comment on this statement:
"Anyone who does not make an attempt to fit into that 'perfect Mormon' mold is inherently evil."

Hogwash. Abelard, I'm calling you out on an overgeneralized sensational statement that simply doesn't fit the whole truth. Yes, discrimination surely happens in our squeaky-clean homogenous Mormon culture, and shame on us. But I've also lived in seven wards across the US over the last 20 years and have witnessed plenty of occasions where the saints have embraced those different from themselves and invited them into fellowship, tattoos and all.

We ourselves have a great influence on others to be sure that inclusion happens in our individual wards. The Savior's teachings are very clear in this matter, should any saint need a gentle reminder (see 3 Ne 18:22-25).

Abelard Enigma said...

I'm calling you out on an overgeneralized sensational statement that simply doesn't fit the whole truth.

Perhaps I am guilty of sensationalizing; however, I did say "watch how some members react" - not "all members". You cannot deny that there are some members of the church who are intolerant of anyone who doesn't meet their criteria. What I believe happens sometimes is a mob mentality. While there are certainly many members of the church who are very accepting of others who are different, they often do not speak out in defense of those whom they support - because they fear that expression of support could be construed as acceptance. Thus, the outspoken views of intolerance expressed by a few tends to define the group as a whole.

So, I agree with you - individually, Mormon's are good and loving people. But, I also stand by my statement that "Mormon culture expects us all to fit into a certain mold."

Clumpy said...

I admit that it's valid to recognize that some members might react a certain way toward a certain individual, or that it's a sad part of our culture, but to use terms like "Mormono-fascist" is disingenuous to your argument.

The fact is that the Church as a governing body is ahead of much of modern Christianity in recognizing the necessities of its doctrine while maintaining compassion at an individual level. If certain acts are wrong, particularly if you believe Revelation tells you so, then they are wrong.

Then again, most of us are guilty of some far more serious sins (isn't pride explicitly stated as the worst of all?), so to judge an individual is hypocritical and incomplete. I've had several friends from high school who recently came out of the closet, and me and most of my friends accepted them. How would their decloseting change all of the positive, awesome things we knew about them as people?

Sure, a couple of jerks said hurtful things, or even tried to "fix" them (just what do they think they can do?), but the vast majority of us, even in infamously-conservative Utah County wanted to stuff those hateful morons' heads into very small bags.

Abelard Enigma said...

Sure, a couple of jerks said hurtful things

In my defense, I was referring to these jerks when I used the term "Mormono-fascist" - and, they do exist. These are the people who gasp when they hear you drink Coke or play with face cards. A girl with more than one set of earrings or a boy with earrings is a ticket to hell as far as they are concerned. Anybody who doesn't fit the Molly Mormon / Peter Priesthood image is frowned upon.

But, it is also worth pointing out that this post is a year old - and I've mellowed somewhat since then :)