23 December 2010

THT: I Am Not a Deviant

I am reading a book right now on Mormonism and Homosexuality. I guess I've taken that challenge by BYU to be a "lifetime learner," but I'm sure that BYU wouldn't approve that the subject of my continued study is on this topic. The book is entitled, "Conservative Christian identity & same-sex orientation: the case of gay Mormons." I read a lot on this topic. It isn't so that I can somehow find away to "justify" myself because I am already quite comfortable with who I am and feel no need to justify it to myself. I do, however, feel the need to do what I can to clear up misunderstanding and add to the conversation so that I might help others who are and will be going through the awful place where they engaged in a full out war with themselves between their identity and their faith. For this reason, I find it important to find out what has already been said about the issue. Sadly, this blog is far more accessible to people who might benefit from material on this matter than books are. The ones who might benefit most would be too embarrassed to buy a book with such a title, and wouldn't be caught dead reading such a thing. But a blog... well, you can access it from the privacy of your own computer and can even delete it from your browsing history.

Anyway, point is, I like to read, learn, listen and then report on what I have found. At the beginning of the book it stars talking about the label "deviant." Homosexuality was, and still is, considered "deviant" behavior. Who labels it as such? The book calls them "Moral Entrepreneurs." This power to extend the label of "deviant" belongs to powerful people and interest groups who make rules and brand those who break them as deviants in order to further their political aims, protect their power, extend their influence, and enhance their prestige. These Moral Entrepreneurs are kept in business by their vested interests and values.

Now, there is a problem with this labeling system. Just because someone believes that something ought to be a certain way doesn't mean that it is. The other problem is the way individuals react to being labeled as a deviant. According to studies by sociologists, at first, they resist the label. But, "despite their efforts to resist it, they often find that because their opportunities in society are restricted by those who equate them with their label, they are forced into stereotypical behavior." An example that is given of this is the child labeled as "delinquent." The parents of other kids forbid their children from playing with the labeled child and he is forced to associate with the kids given the same label which perpetuates the stereotype of such a child. Think about the things that come to mind when you think about the "gay lifestyle," (a phrase I hate). In time, "individuals bearing the stigmatized label" begin to "incorporate elements of the label into their personality" and they begin to see themselves in terms of the label. This is why some people make radical changes int heir lives after coming out. Since orientation is such an integral part of the person, the status as a deviant becomes the loudest description of who they are. The label through which most people see them and through which they begin to see themselves.

I am not a deviant. Just because I am not what many people feel that I should be doesn't mean that what I am is wrong. Just because my life isn't the one you envisioned for me doesn't mean it is bad. I will not accept that label and will not see myself through those glasses. At least I will try. It is much harder than you can imagine. Let me explain.

After I came out, I started to make a lot of new friends. These friends were primarily gay. Why? Because the only people I felt comfortable with being myself around were other gay people who wouldn't judge me or be disgusted with my orientation. Around them, I don't have to hide any part of who I am. So who do I spend most my time with now? Other gay guys. It doesn't have to be this way. If society didn't label me as a deviant, if the church didn't label me as unnatural, I could feel comfortable among anyone. This is one of the biggest reasons I feel the need to "come out" to my extended family and friends and even to the church. When I feel as though I need to hide a part of me around them, I start to isolate myself from them. I will not be isolated from my family and friends. I will not be isolated from my faith. I will not accept a label that requires me to reinvent my life and make drastic changes to they way I live it.


Trev said...

Actually, I'm sure BYU would be indifferent to your study of this topic. For those there and interested, the locations at the HBLL (BYU's library) of this book follow:

BX 8641.12 .P546c 2005 Regular Shelves
BX 8641.12 .P546c 2005 Americana Collection - 1130 HBLL

Please note that if you get it from Special Collections, you'll have to have a librarian fetch it for you (but I'm sure they won't care--they've probably fetched "worse"), but of course if you just get it off the normal shelf you can even use a machine to check it out and no one will ever know...

Trev said...

This sounds like a good book. I'd like it if you post some good reading material on here with your impressions.

I totally relate with your feelings in the last paragraph! The only thing keeping me from coming or being more out is that I don't want to deal with that labeling. *sigh* It will happen... soon enough. The more open more people are, the quicker those labels will lose their power.

Gay Mormon said...

@Trev- I actually got this book from the BYU library. BYU wouldn't have a problem if I was studying this particular issue, but they wouldn't like the way I am sharing my ideas haha. If they found my blog and knew it was me (even without the hints that I have a boyfriend) I would be required to cease and desist if I wanted to stay in school.

Steven Lester said...

Mr. Gay Mormon - How much control over your diploma and school records do they have once you graduate and leave the place for good? If they find out that it is you (aha!) that is spreading your horrible and malicious lies to the outside world, can they say NO to further inquires from other colleges if or when you decide to attend such for further education, citing deliberate deception in the breaking of the Honor Code as their reason? Or what if you want to return to BYU itself? Would you be able to do so?

Boris said...

@Steven-you always raise some VERY interesting points, but I suspect you already know the answer to this one. The most publicized case of a BYU student denied a degree because of some alleged violation of the BYU honor code, or university “standards,” was the case of the unfortunate soul who created the infamous calendar of shirtless RM’s. I for one will NEVER understand why that “misdeed” should have caused his excommunication from the church, but that it did, and based on his having been excommunicated BEFORE he was to receive his BYU degree, the latter was withheld. Needless to say, there is a lawsuit against BYU on this matter, but as BYU is a private, church-affiliated university, it may be quite difficult for the plaintiff to prevail.

On the other hand, I am not aware of any case where BYU has withheld transcript or certification of degree for any alumnus who subsequently left the church. I, for one, did exactly that, but while at BYU I was still a “virgin”--my greatest sin was to have regularly over-indulged in booze (beer, wine, cognac, whiskey, etc)--something more likely to result in counselling than in expulsion. BYU has always mailed my official transcript to any university or graduate school at my request and on payment of the required fee.

My advice to gay Mormon is quite simple: acknowledge being tempted, or having SGA/SSA, etc, but NEVER admit to being the author of a blog that might be construed as bringing discredit on the church or the university, and NEVER acknowledge having had gay sex while enrolled as a student at BYU. Or at least NOT until you have your degree and multiple official copies of your transcript in hand!

Gay Mormon said...

@Steven- Of course I wouldn't be able to go back. Technically they can do whatever they want... but once I have the paper with my degree and copies of my transcripts, there isn't much they can do.

I haven't been living an "evil" life going around breaking the rules for fun. I did a few things that were against the honor code, but they were not ongoing. I probably was a pretty average to better than average student when it came to the honor code.

bradcarmack said...

Oh, the Honor Code. I may yet get crucified on it- the next four months will tell.

Is the book worth reading, do you think? I'm a bit like you in reading every book out there on this stuff- but I'm wondering if it's a worthwhile addition.

@Trev- thanks for the call number, maybe I'll check it out from the library today.

I see both gay people and apostate people as the unfortunate victims of the some of the "deviant" appellation consequences you illustrate.

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