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?
Fair questions. I started to reply in a comment; but, I decided to blog about it as my comment was getting quite lengthy.
Why is it that we want so much from the church?
This question carries with it an assumption that suggests the church has already done a lot for us and that we still want it to do more (perhaps, even, more than is reasonable). So, what exactly has the church done for us? In the last five years we have seen
- An article titled "My Battle with Same-Sex Attraction" by an anonymous author in the August 2002 Ensign
- An article titled "Compassion for Those Who Struggle" by an anonymous author in the September 2004 Ensign
- A pamphlet titled "God Loveth His Children" released April 2007
- An article titled "Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction" By Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in the October 2007 Ensign
This isn't counting the occasional reference to homosexuality in a talk on some other topic; nor responses to questions asked by the media, nor does it include the change to the BYU Provo honor code (which only affects a small subset - and then only while they are at BYU).
Is this a lot? Is it so unreasonable to expect more?
The single members of 'the family' who truly feel that marriage cannot be in their future are told that they must live out their lives in celibacy; all while enduring continuing talks and council about why marriage is so important. They are counseled that any sort of intimacy with a member of their same gender, however platonic, is strictly forbidden. Therefore, their only choice is to live a life of solitude and loneliness.
The members of 'the family' who are in, or are considering, a mixed orientation marriage are told that they must forever ignore their natural attractions. While celibacy is not required, they are taken to the fountain of sexual fulfillment but only allowed to take small sips, never allowed to quench their thirst.
In light of such strong demands, is it selfish to want a little more comfort and encouragement in return?
Why do we want so much from the church? Isn't the church asking a lot of us? In addition to everything that the church asks of all of its members (attend to family responsibilities, keep the commandments, pray, read the scriptures, attend church, magnify our callings, do our home/visiting teaching, be member missionaries, food storage, family history, render service, yada, yada, yada), they are also demanding that we put our natural proclivities on hold with a vague promise that, if faithful, we will no longer have those inclinations in the next life (a point that I'm not 100% convinced is even true, see Eternally gay?). Is it really so unreasonable to want more guidance and encouragement to do the things we are expected to do?
What is it that we really want?
My employer has the following nondiscrimination policy:
Business activities such as hiring, training, compensation, promotions, transfers, terminations and [business]-sponsored social and recreational activities are conducted without discrimination based on race, color, genetics, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, age or status as a special disabled veteran or other veteran covered by the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Act of 1974, as amended. Is it really so unreasonable to expect at least as much from my church? As I stated in my previous post, when I read God Loveth His Children, what I get out of the pamphlet is
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 (and don't use words like 'gay', although not explicitly stated in the pamphlet).To further summarize, it's OK to be gay as long as we're not gay. Or, in other words, as long as we don't do anything to suggest to others that we're different - as long as we can pretend to be a typical straight Mormon then everything is hunky doorey.
I'm OK with the no gay sex prohibition - I really am. But, why do I need to suppress everything gay about me in order to be considered a good Mormon? I've been doing that my entire life, and I've paid a stiff price in terms of depression, anxiety, feelings of unworth - and I cannot continue down that path; to do so will only lead to my early demise (in a very literal sense).
Do we want Acceptance?
No gay sex - we get it! Now, can you please accept us for who we are and not demand that we pretend to be something else? Why must being gay be so shameful? Why must it be considered so abhorrent that we are not even supposed to call it by it's common name? Why is being gay 'that which shall not be named?'
Do we want more attention?
When sufficient numbers exist, the church often makes special provisions for members who are single, speak a different primary language than the surrounding community at large, have special needs, etc. Would it be so terrible to make special provisions for gay members? Why can't there be a gay ward in Salt Lake City? What would be wrong with a gay Mormon tabernacle choir? Rather than discourage, why not encourage platonic same sex relationships? We have marriage relations and family relations sunday school classes, why not a mixed orientation marriage relations class? Or a gay couple relations sunday school class that focuses on how to make a platonic relationship work? Instead of a pamphlet that tells us that God loves us as long as we don't do anything that makes the straight membership uncomfortable, why not a "For the Strength of Gay Members" pamphlet that focuses more on the do's and less on the don'ts (we got those already - you really don't need to keep hammering them into us).
Do we want more discussion?
We all know the do's and don'ts. What we need is more discussion on 'how'. How can we make a life of celibacy be meaningful? How can we build a strong relationship with our spouse when we are not sexually attracted to them? We need more frank discussion with the general membership to educate them that the, so called, 'gay lifestyle' is not as the media portrays it (anymore than the 'straight lifestyle' being as the media portrays it). We are not a bunch of perverted monsters out to corrupt their children with our evil ways. We need to teach tolerance for those who have different views than us - even if those views are diametrically opposed to our beliefs. The 11th article of faith says "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may." - it doesn't say "except if you're gay."
We know that gay sex is wrong, so where do we go from here?
Exactly! No gay sex - we get it! Many of us are not having gay sex. Some have tasted of the forbidden fruit and have gone through the repentance process. Now what? Is that is? Is that all we get? A pat on the head while saying "no gay sex, good boy."
I'm sorry if this is all coming across so negative. I love the church - I really do. I love being a Mormon. I have a testimony. But, I'm frustrated. I'm frustrated with being that which shall not be named. I'm frustrated that I can't just be myself - having to constantly be on guard with everything I say or do, every little mannerism. But, most of all, I'm frustrated with myself for cowering in my closet.
One of the purposes of the church is to help "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). However, if we consider the retention rate of the gay membership - we ain't doing so good.