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Friday, October 24, 2008

Gay Mormon: The Ultimate Oxymormon

Today's letter to one of my beloved advice columnists, Dear Margo, is written by a gay Mormon who is struggling to come to terms with his sexual identity within a religion that is not accepting of gays, but that he still believes to be true. Sadly (or maybe comfortingly), he is not alone in this struggle. Here's the letter:

10/24/2008 – DEAR MARGO: I am 18 years old and have recently come to terms with the fact that I am gay. The enormous issue with this comes from the fact that I am of the Mormon faith, which famously takes a strict stance on homosexuality. I attend a church school in Utah, and living in a hostile, homophobic environment is taking its toll on me. I am trapped in feelings of self-loathing and doubt, and I wish for nothing more than to have heterosexual feelings. On the one hand, I do believe in the religion and know it has done great things for me, but I also feel like I can't stay a member of the church being who I am. I am afraid that if I live as a gay person, I will be sent to hell in the afterlife, but if I remain celibate in the church, I will be completely miserable. This issue has caused intense bouts of anxiety and depression. I feel trapped with nowhere to turn.

--- BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

DEAR BE: This is just a guess, as I am no statistician, but there have got to be more gay Mormons than just you. I would posit that you could find a liberal Mormon psychologist who might be helpful to you. It would be a shame to give up a religion you feel has done a great deal for you, but conversely, you are who you are, and it is my understanding that one's religion should not cause him pain, anxiety and guilt. As for wishing to miraculously have heterosexual feelings, you might as well wish for eyes of a different color than you were born with: It's not going to happen. Granted, no one has yet come back to report, but I am highly skeptical that gay people go to hell as a group. I hope you find either a religious or secular counselor who can help you and the Mormons coexist. You might try this site, as well: http://www.affirmation.org/about/.

--- MARGO, FAITHFULLY

Poor guy. But he's not alone; there are actually quite a few gays out there who still identify as Mormons. In fact, one of my good friends from high school is a transgendered lesbian Mormon. I never had a problem accepting her sexual and gender identities (in truth she makes a lot more sense this way), but I never could understand why she remains faithful in a church that thinks the very core of her identity is sinful. She once explained to me that to her the core teachings of the Mormon church are true, but that the church is run by imperfect people who bring to it their imperfect prejudices. I believe the words she chose were, "I LOVE Mormonism; HATE Mormons." Good for her that she has found a way to reconcile the divide that to me is just too stark to ignore.

I believe, as Sov has recently opined, that eventually, maybe in a few decades, as gays become more and more accepted as normal in widespread culture, there will come a Mormon "revelation" that being gay is not a sin.

Until that day, I don't think I'll ever understand gays who choose to be Mormons.



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17 comments:

Sovknight said...

"My love is unconditional, and I doth love all my children equally." -God

"I gave the ultimate blood atonement. They nailed me to a freaking cross and I suffered and died to atone for all sins of man, in case you missed the point. The slate is clean." -Jesus H Christ

"All men are created equal." -United States government

"I can't believe people buy this shit! I'm gonna be rich!" -Organized religion

Claire said...

I can understand, I think. I certainly kept the core of my faith even when I abandoned my religion...after all, what's important to me is my faith and relationship with God, not the terrestrial trappings and accoutrement designed to systematize said faith.

That said, I've known other people in the LGBT community who have established significant relationships with people within their religious community, and maintain their participation in the religion not only out of personal desire, but to maintain those relationships (which, one may argue, are the true purpose of any religion, cf. "Whenever two or more of you are gathered in My name," etc).

It has to be difficult...I know I took the "easy" way out by deciding to make my relationship with God an entirely personal one, but trying to reconcile the church's stance with what I know to be true is a tall order, and one I didn't feel necessary for my life to be complete. I applaud anyone who can continue to extract the benefits of their religious experiences while struggling to overcome such adversity.

Oh, and totally off that topic, how on EARTH did you ever resist titling this "The Ultimate OxyMormon?" I know I'm a sucker for a cheap joke, but come ON! :)

Claire said...

Aww, crap, you did. I read it THREE times to be sure before I added that line, and STILL missed it. What the hell?

I KNEW I should've learned to read. Stupid Brown Reading Group, making us learn in the dark boiler room.

Sra said...

Sov: Loves it!

Claire: It's ok, I can't read sometimes either ;) I almost resisted the Oxymormon joke, but really how can you? It's too good.

I just marvel at people who are able to compartmentalize or overlook things that don't jibe with some part of their beliefs or identity.

I totally understand the social aspect of religion. During my Mormon days, I really did enjoy feeling like I belonged to a group (although I always did feel a bit different). Maybe feeling accepted is a better way to put it. But can you really feel accepted as a gay in the LDS faith? I'm not so sure. So I marvel at the gays who try to make it work. That takes some serious chutzpah.

sovknight said...

Peoples religious beliefs are a product of their culture and their environment. It's hard to break out of that, and for most people, impossible. If you're a Mormon, and you happen to be gay, you can't just say, "well, I guess since I'm gay I better leave the church." It doesn't work that way. The belief is SO ingrained into your psyche that it's almost literally impossible for you to challenge it. There are rare exceptions, but most people simply can't look beyond what they've been taught their entire lives to be true (whether it is or not) and use logic and reason. They'll always fall back to what they've been taught to believe.

The first thing this person needs to do is put away all those preconceived notions of "hell". They also need to step back and take a good look at what they believe within themselves, and how it relates to what they've been taught. Hell is going to be going through life pretending to be something they are not, or subjecting themselves to criticism from an entity that has no true authority in the matter. This person needs to realize that they are already "burning in hell", and perhaps that will give them the incentive to search the truth for themselves.

Karen said...

The sad fact is that this person does not still feel LOVED by the church, despite the difference of opinion and lifestyle. We are COMMANDED TO LOVE, no matter what.

Alas, this is the part where many churches do it wrong.

Trovan said...

I guess I'll represent the Mormon POV on the issue.

First of all, the church is against Homosexuality, not homosexuals. There are some church sponsored groups to help people that 'are struggling with same sex attraction'. They are treated lovingly and respectfully.

It is, as already stated, the members that are the real problem. Many of the treat people of other persuasions with ridicule and scorn. Those individuals do not actually live fully what they profess to, since the official church stance is to love and accept everyone, no matter what.

But, this is not only a Mormon issue. Many other Christian religions are the same way. Some Muslims as well. Some Atheists even.

I like to think that such small minded individuals are the exception and it is more a case of the minority giving the majority a bad rap.

Here is a link to a Q&A with Dallin H. Oaks (a General Authority) that explains it a bit better, if you care to read it.

http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/public-issues/same-gender-attraction

Sra said...

I've heard the defense "We love the sinner, but hate the sin" before. I can respect this position for certain "sins", but not others. Take petty theft, for instance. If someone shoplifts, that doesn't necessarily make them a bad person. They have made bad choices, but that doesn't necessarily mean they oughtn't be given some compassion and understanding, even while being reprimanded. So for something like that, I can understand people who love the sinner but hate the sin.

As for sexuality, that is not a choice, it is innate. You can't just hate the homosexuality without hating the homosexual, because that is a part of who the homosexual is. A gay person can't change his/her sexual nature anymore than a straight person can. The sexuality reformation programs sponsored by the Mormon church -- and those sponsored by any other organization -- don't work.

A great movie that deals with homosexuality, religion, and acceptance (amidst a Juno-esque plot) is Saved!

sovknight said...

I've found with religions, and this is pretty much all religions, is that the "official" policy and the practiced policy are two different things. Yes, religion preaches love thy neighbor and accept them, but what they practice is anything but.

Again, not because I want to bash Mormons specifically(I'm against all organized religions), but you say the church preaches tolerance and acceptance, then they proceed to, through their membership and influence, donate MILLIONS of dollars to a campaign whose sole purpose is to deny equal rights to individuals based on nothing more than their sexual orientation. And it's not just the money either. They go door-to-door, make phone calls, hold protests, and advertise. I'm sorry, but this is not tolerance or acceptance in any way, shape, or form. So while I agree that acceptance and tolerance is what the church may stand for, acceptance and tolerance is not what it does.

Miss Pants said...

Have you heard of Caroyln Pearson's book, "No More Goodbyes"?

http://nomoregoodbyes.com/

It's about Mormons and other religions and how their rejection of homosexuals. I think you might enjoy it.

Sra said...

I haven't read No More Goodbyes, but I put it on hold at the library and will get to it once it comes in. Thanks for the recommendation!

tauns said...

I think one thing that needs to be noted is the churches belief on intimacy. The religious beliefs of the LDS faith state that you are to be sexually pure before marriage. That doesn't mean everything except actual intercourse. It means: not petting, no porn, no masturbation, no foreplay...no physical intimacy aside from a little kissing. Even make-out sessions are STRONGLY discouraged.

In reality...that is DANG hard to do, but you can do it...I somehow managed to through my horny teenage years, as did Ben. I have an aunt that has never married and probably never will, is a firm follower and believer in the church so she has never had sex or any of the mentioned “no-no” things before marriage. She is 55. In the church, we strongly believed that one must be married in order to experience the sexual pleasures of life, many do follow that…some do not.

Taking this into account, the church can be completely tolerant of someone that is homosexual. What they are not tolerant of is the homosexual act. Someone that is homosexual can still be in great standing with the church; they just have to choose to NOT have sexual relationships. The church has the same rules and tolerance for heterosexual relationships. There is one difference: heterosexuals are allowed to kiss (within reason) and date. Someone that is homosexual wouldn't be able to kiss and date a person of their same gender.

I think what Trovan was saying was the church isn't about changing the homosexual. Overall, how it should be handled and how it is handled depends on the people in the situation (remembering that the church is made up of many different people that handle things in different ways). I think that most of the time the church would like it to be said, "This is who you are, fine...you have to have self control if you want to obtain all the blessings that we (as a church) offer." Meaning, they can have the desires and attractions of homosexuality, the same as a heterosexual does. What they can't do is act upon those desires. It is then that they commit the sin.
There are members of the church that hold temple recommends that would be labeled as "homosexual" but because they choose to NOT act on the sexual desires they can partake of what the church has to offer.
So in a sense, yes I think there are gay Mormons, if your definition of gay is solely, "Attracted to same gender".

Sra said...

Tauns: Alright, but if gays were allowed to marry, then the whole issue of gay sex out of wedlock would be solved as far as the church is concerned, no? So why fight gay marriage, unless you just really have a problem with gay sex?

I still just see this as a paradox. You can't be against the sexual act but ok with the personal who has inclinations toward the sexual act. IMO.

Miss Pants said...

Have you heard of Caroyln Pearson's book, "No More Goodbyes"?

http://nomoregoodbyes.com/

It's about Mormons and other religions and how their rejection of homosexuals. I think you might enjoy it.

Karen said...

The sad fact is that this person does not still feel LOVED by the church, despite the difference of opinion and lifestyle. We are COMMANDED TO LOVE, no matter what.

Alas, this is the part where many churches do it wrong.

Trovan said...

I guess I'll represent the Mormon POV on the issue.

First of all, the church is against Homosexuality, not homosexuals. There are some church sponsored groups to help people that 'are struggling with same sex attraction'. They are treated lovingly and respectfully.

It is, as already stated, the members that are the real problem. Many of the treat people of other persuasions with ridicule and scorn. Those individuals do not actually live fully what they profess to, since the official church stance is to love and accept everyone, no matter what.

But, this is not only a Mormon issue. Many other Christian religions are the same way. Some Muslims as well. Some Atheists even.

I like to think that such small minded individuals are the exception and it is more a case of the minority giving the majority a bad rap.

Here is a link to a Q&A with Dallin H. Oaks (a General Authority) that explains it a bit better, if you care to read it.

http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/public-issues/same-gender-attraction

Sovknight said...

"My love is unconditional, and I doth love all my children equally." -God

"I gave the ultimate blood atonement. They nailed me to a freaking cross and I suffered and died to atone for all sins of man, in case you missed the point. The slate is clean." -Jesus H Christ

"All men are created equal." -United States government

"I can't believe people buy this shit! I'm gonna be rich!" -Organized religion

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