Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Those damn homosexuals

Sunday morning I was in a meeting with the bishop; and, we were chatting a bit while waiting for everyone to arrive. He spoke about some new show that he had read about in the newspaper - "Swingtown" - as an example of how network television has degraded over the years. From there the conversation moved into TV shows in general. As we were ending the casual conversation to start the meeting, he finished, with a tone of utter disgust
"and these days it seems they all have to have a gay character too."
The thing is, until that last statement, I was pretty much in agreement with everything being said - we have a bazillion channels and nothing to watch. About the only thing I watch on network television these days is the local news; most of my TV time is spent with the Food Network and SciFi channel.

So, why does that closing comment bother me?

A couple of years ago, while still in deep denial, I very well could have said something similar myself. But, now that I've accepted my gayness, I am bothered by comments which besmirch fellow members of my gay family. So, I really cannot blame him for his comment - I can only pray that the Lord will forgive him for he knows not what he does.

We have a young man in our ward, who recently received his mission call, come to a ward activity dressed in shorts, knee high striped socks, and bowling shoes. When someone commented that he looked gay, he smiled and said "I can't be gay - I'm going on a mission." I wanted to correct him to say that you can, in fact, be gay and still serve a mission, you just can't act on your gay attractions. But, I didn't, I just sat there in silence, like I always do.

While we are generally not as blatantly homophobic as some other churches, it is part of our Mormon culture to diss homosexuals. But, I find myself wondering how might the saints change their tune if only they could come to know the people I've become acquainted with over the last 18 months here in the Mormon queerosphere (both those who remain active in the church as well as those who have chosen to leave the church behind). It's easy to denigrate homosexuals when they are this amorphous group of people defined by their proclivity for promiscuity and generally hedonistic lifestyle. But, once you put a face to us then you begin to realize that most of us are not like that. We are the person living in your neighborhood, the guy standing behind you in line at the grocery store, the person in the car next to yours at the traffic light, even the person sitting next to you in church. We are real people - real people with real feelings.

When I hear comments by my fellow saints disparaging homosexuals, I don't feel anger; I don't feel resentment. The emotion which best describes my feelings is sadness - I just want to look them straight in the eye and ask "do you really hate me that much?"

I am also saddened when I read comments by visiting general authorities in California saying things like "same gender marriages is one of his [satan] greatest evils." Is same sex marriage really that bad? Is it worse than abortion? More degenerate than child and spousal abuse? More evil than pornography? I'm sorry, but I just can't accept that - so I disregard such statements. What else can I do? Am I supposed to accept, at face value, statements which leave me feeling a stupor of thought? Are our leaders really so out of touch that they don't realize how many of us are sitting in church each Sunday, how many of us are attending stake conferences? Do they not know how much it hurts to hear them say such things - even for those of us who choose to not participate in that part of our gay heritage? Do they not understand how we have to constantly reaffirm to ourselves intellectually that certain things are wrong - knowing that, in our hearts, they don't feel wrong - and that hearing them say such things serves only to weaken our resolve? Or perhaps they do understand ... and losing us is merely collateral damage in the fight against evil.

So, I'm feeling a little melancholy this week. Perhaps it is exasperated by my recent expenditure of hundreds of dollars to fix the A/C in my office, or because my nearly brand new car is in the shop being fixed having been rear-ended by a driver who then fled the scene, or because it's June in Texas and it's just dang hot. But, I'm praying for my fellow saints and for my leaders, that God may touch their hearts so that they can feel a little compassion for the queers in their midst.


MoHoHawaii said...

While we are generally not as blatantly homophobic as some other churches, it is part of our Mormon culture to diss homosexuals.

You are absolutely right. This is part of the current culture of Mormonism (more than the doctrine). The various messages from the leadership to extend love and fellowship haven't made it all the way to the pews.

FWIW, I think things are getting better in the church over time. The question is whether we will live long enough to see all the changes happen. :-)

But, in the meantime, it's really the church's loss. T. and I were in SLC a few weeks ago and went to the Tabernacle Choir's broadcast. The flowers on stage were unbelievably ugly. Orange and hot magenta zinnias are all you get when you're mean to gay people.

Snap, snap, snap. :-)

A.J. said...

I know what you mean about the heat. I love Texas except during June,July and August. I'm sorry your having a hard week. (hugs)-A.J.

cliff said...

I wrote a post a while back talking about this and how it seems to manifest itself with the battle of terminologies with "SSA" vs. "gay".

It's mostly ignorance, to me. Most people who are prejudicial have no real close friends who are gay (that they know of), so they are only influenced by the campy, promiscuous image of gayery that they see in the media. Which is very foreign to me.

The rest seem to be people who appear to take the doctrine surrounding the issue at face value without digging into what the scriptures really say about loving your neighbor, temptation, repentence, etc. Why should they? They are surrounded by people just like them (that they know of). People only seem to explore the meaning of situations that affect them personally. So until they find out that one of their close friends/family/themselves are gay, they go on prejudicial autopilot.

I am the same way. I have no close black friends and no black Mormon friends. I have no real idea what it is like to be black and Mormon and I haven't really delved into the topic and examined the unique challenges that black Mormons face. I've tried to be sensitive and understanding, but in the end, I have no idea what I am talking about when it comes to black Mormons, because, well, I don't have to.

I'm not saying it's right...I'm just sayin'.

MohoInTx said...

I agree with your message as a whole.

When I think back, I remember members talking about how being gay is a trend because so many people are coming out, and it was never like this before. I always had this natural way of thinking that having SSA = bad.

Sometimes I wonder if things would have been different if I would have known about other Mormons struggling with the same thing at a younger age. Maybe I would have pursued a mission. Maybe I wouldn't have hit such deep states of depression and contemplated suicide. SSA is this thing we feel like we have to hide, especially for those that are active.

In a way, I think it is a good thing that these TV shows like to have a gay character. Sure, they may just reinforce the stereotype of flamboyancy (although some do not), but people need to open their eyes and understand that we are here, especially in the church.

And that TX heat is a killer. We played kickball during work today, and I am exhausted due to the heat. And yes, I was paid to play kickball :)

A.J. said...

Forget same sex marriage being paid to play kickball just ain't right. -A.J.

Leonardo da Vinci said...

A lot of the time I think the Church pretends that we just do not exist. That way, things are not thwarted. The existence of homosexuals does throw off social norms, like the purpose of male and female bathrooms or protocols of the Honor Code.

And then when they think it does not exist, it becomes a perversion of sex where only disgusting or kinky people would participate.

But of course, that's the not the case. And when they meet a gay person, they realize that. So it sets in all that disruption of their perfect life.

Anonymous said...

You took issue with Elder Scott and whether same-sex marriage is the greatest evil or not. Maybe we can argue about the degree of evilness. But is it evil at all?

My understanding (if we got the quote accurately) is that he said the reason it is (so) evil is because it is leading sons and daughters of God to give up on having an eternal family.

I can't help but agree with that. You?

drex said...

The culture will only change if it is willed to do so, and that starts with individuals. Why not comment that it's the actions and not the temptations that would keep one from faithfully serving a mission? At worst they'd probably assume you knew something about one of their number, but I've found that most (even most youth) are receptive to that little clarification. My mother, a YW president in her ward, has made such clarifications with few objections.

As for the leaders of the church, not all are as out of touch as they may seem. I know for sure that members of the Twelve are quite up-to-speed on things and are looking for insights and ways to make things better. Elder Holland told Brother and Sister Matis that within his lifetime the Church's aura of homophobia would drastically improve, but not as fast as the Savior would like.

And as Mr. Anonymous mentioned, you have to look at why such comments might be made. I don't think homosexual marriage outside of the church directly destroys the sanctity of traditional marriage, but that it pulls focus away from the divine structure of the family. If we are striving to live anything other than telestial lives, we should be patterning our relationships after the order of Heaven. That includes families consisting of a father and a mother, working together. Homosexual marriage may or may not be inherently evil (I refuse to pass personal judgment on that), but it certainly doesn't point people heavenward.

Anonymous said...

"it certainly doesn't point people heavenward."

What better definition of evil is there?

Abelard Enigma said...

Anonymous, are you family? In other words, are you attracted to those of your own gender? I'm just curious.

Just so we're clear, I was not editorializing on what Elder Scott said, I was merely stating that his choice of words makes me sad as it only further alienates the church from its gay members. The simple fact of the matter is the church has a dismal record for retention of gay members; and, statements like that certainly don't do anything to reverse that trend and only serves to bolster the homophobia that is so entrenched in Mormon culture.

To draw an analogy, what is going to motivate men to do a better job at home teaching? Telling them how evil they are for not following the prophet and attending to their priesthood duties, or discussing the blessings that come from doing it? Technically both are correct, but one is more sensitive and likely to achieve better results. Why can't we have a little more sensitivity when discussing homosexuality rather than trying to score clever sound bites?

Anonymous said...

Am I 'family'? I am trying to be one of the sealed family of God. I desire to be sealed to Him and have my own eternal family. I am trying to help bring to pass a small part of His work and glory, the immortality and eternal life of one man, as well as others. My Savior has already taken care of the immortality part. I am doing my best to be and remain worthy of the eternal life part. I weep for friends, men whom I dearly love, who have chosen to give up on the possibility of eternal family and eternal life, those who have fallen for Satan's great (and yes, evil) lie that they are better off giving up. But I desire to be part of God's sealed family, recognizing the difficulty of it all due to the very strong attractions I often feel towards other men.

Are you part of a different 'family'?

Silver said...

Abelard, Thank you for expressing so well the feelings of sadness I share for the bigotry and lack of empathy among the "elect" of the church. I speak of specific examples, not generally, as I know people of all casts and characters. It hurts me deeply to have sweeping, condemning remarks made in quorum meetings and church activities that group me and my friends with deviations and perversions of all kinds. Those same prejudices were expressed by my own wife early on as she reacted to her own shock and conditioned fears surrounding her new awareness of my SSA. It hurt most deeply coming from her.

Anonymous, I see your perspective and I understand and agree with your devotion to the "traditional family". I hurt for my own sister who chose an "alternate lifestyle" and forfeited her opportunity to have children. I don't know how the Lord will sort this all out in the next life but, I have faith that healing will somehow resolve many wounds from this veil of tears, including my own.

I don't endorse same sex marriage but, in the same thought, I do not condemn it either. I don't feel sufficiently enlightened to put judgment on the often sincere actions of other well meaning individuals. Their journey is their own and what gives me the right to dictate to them what their choice should be?

I would like all of this world to be in perfect harmony but, it doesn't really run that way does it? I trust the atonement and the gospel will be enough to work it out. I believe that even "those damn gay people" will somehow be acceptable to the God who created them and be worthy of his fellowship. We can often be too brash in our judgments and opinions and attribute to Him our own biases, which I believe denies Him of compassion.

I pray for tolerance and understanding among church members. As Abelard beautifully expresses, you never know who may be sitting next to you and how deeply they are hurt by your lack of comprehension. It just might be me.

Anonymous said...

"I don't endorse same sex marriage but, in the same thought, I do not condemn it either."

I don't think you're going to have the luxury of sitting on that fence for very much longer.

When two men become "married," how do you suppose God reacts? Does He celebrate? Does He grieve? Does He not care?

Since we're trying to become like Him, shouldn't we be reacting the same way?