Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Victims

In our modern society, it's popular to play the victim when we feel we've been wronged - not only for individuals, but also for organizations. The LDS church PR department has certainly been doing this in the aftermath of proposition 8. But, I think some in the gay mormon community may be just as guilty - myself included.

I know it doesn't come across very well in this blog - but I love the Mormon church, I really do. I was not raised in the church, I joined in college. So, I know what it's like not having the church in my life. And, I sincerely believe that because of the LDS church, I am a much better man than I otherwise would have been had I not made that decision to join the church (more years ago than I care to remember).

That said, there are things about the LDS church that bother me - things where I feel I have legitimate concerns and complaints. And, it's not just all things gay - I've never considered the church or its leaders to be infallible. And, truth is, even its leaders don't claim infallibility - it's the membership that puts them on that pedestal, especially with controversial issues like homosexuality. I think, for some members, they just cannot fathom that the church might be wrong on something so serious as homosexuality - their whole foundation might crumble if they thought, just for a moment, that the church may have made some mistakes.

So, my question: How can I address these concerns and complaints without coming across as a victim - without playing the victim card? I don't feel I've done a very good job of this. Playing the victim is just so easy.

I'm sure there are some who are legitimate victims; but, the truth is, I am not a victim. I've never actually talked to a church leader about my same sex attraction; so, I've never had one tell me that I could overcome my homosexuality. I've had church leaders say hurtful things to me - but not about anything homosexuality related. I've heard members say hurtful things about homosexuals - but those comments were not directed at me personally.

I do feel less connected to my ward membership than I once was. I do feel there is a divide forming between me and the church - but does that make me a victim? Does that make me right and the church wrong? Or do we simply have differing views in certain matters?

The problem with being a victim is that it empowers the oppressor. As a victim, I am admitting that someone (or some institution) has the power to hurt me and that I am powerless to do anything about it.

I don't want to be a victim - but I do believe there are wrongs that need to be righted, there are stories that need to be told. Change does not come from sweeping things under the rug. All that gives you is lumpy rugs.

And, in the LDS church specifically, change is not going to come from the outside. It will only come from within. The restoration didn't begin until Joseph Smith asked a question. I just don't think our current church leaders are asking the right questions about homosexuality.

7 comments:

Philip said...

I don't think it is all that different for gays than it is for other minority groups.

Let me throw out a few thoughts on how to avoid victimhood:

1) Acknowledge that the majority will have an inordinate amount of influence on the minority and educating the majority will be a long and often frustrating process.

(we are in it for the long haul)

2) Don't let the majority stop you from doing what you can.

(no excuses)

3) Live your life with integrity even if others try to bring you down.

(respect others as you would have them respect you)

4) Surround yourself with positive people that belong to both the minority and majority groups.

(the most vehemently anti-minority is often a member of that minority)

5) Be thankful for militant people. They often play an important but thankless role.

6) Understand that mistrust cuts both ways. There will be an interim during which the majority is coming around but the minority stays distrustful.

(individuals in the minority are distrustful because they have been hurt - it will take time and effort on their part to heal)

7) You are there when it is no longer "them" versus "us" and you judge the individual by his character and not by which group he belongs to.

On the closet....

The majority often tries to silence the minority.

Making a minority invisible is often the most effective step to silencing a minority.

Forcing people into the closet is one way that society enforces that invisibility.

Breaking that invisibility then is often the first step to losing that minority status.

Regards,
Philip

Beck said...

PHILIP's comments are superb!

My therapist (yes, I actually have one) is trying to get me to understand my "minority" status. I don't think he's talking about playing the role of a victim, but in taking upon myself that "minority" understanding that is so natural for others (ethnic groups, gender, race, etc.).

In thinking about this, I am a very "unique minority" and so are you!

We are:

1. Members of the Church (a minority in the religious community taken as a whole).

2. homosexual men in that church (definitely a minority within a minority).

3. faithfully married and yet gay (another whole level of minority within a minority within a minority).

4. faithful to the church as gay married Mormon men - (rare and unique indeed).

I think you embrace this and take pride in the great job you are doing and see the uniqueness and wonder that makes you you!

Hugs,

Beck

Quinn said...

In a somewhat related story, the church leadership is also advocating church members to shake their victimization view on the world.

http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/news-releases-stories/apostle-urges-mormons-to-speak-up-avoid-defensiveness

Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

El Genio said...

I've been lucky enough that the church's stance hasn't had a huge negative impact on me. I guess if you consider the dating years I have lost it might be more of a problem, but I really don't feel all that hurt by the church. What really upsets me, is the hurt I see that it has caused others. I may not be a victim, but I will not stand by while so many good & amazing people are harmed.

playasinmar said...

Philip's comments are LONG.

I'll keep this succinct:

"I've heard members say hurtful things about homosexuals - but those comments were not directed at me personally."

Yes, they were. They didn't realize they were but you should.

Abelard Enigma said...

They didn't realize they were but you should.

Point taken - I guess that's why it stings when I hear such comments ...

Scott said...

the truth is, I am not a victim...

Actually, the truth is, you (we) are. Playasinmar has already pointed that out.

That doesn't mean we need to revel in our victimhood, or meekly accept it, or let it define us. But from a purely objective standpoint the very fact that you aren't comfortable being open with your friends and neighbors about who you are indicates that there's at least some level of oppressor/oppressed going on.

I don't think that drawing attention to a wrong automatically qualifies as "playing the victim card"--if nobody points out the mistakes that are being made there will be no motivation to correct them. We just need to be careful to be as objective as possible in our portrayal of the situation--it's when we represent the facts so as to make ourselves look as good as possible and the offending party look as bad as possible that "victimhood" becomes a bad thing.