19 September 2012

THT: Dangers of the Gay Mormon Movement

I've been reading a book called "Victory" by Linda Hirshman which has been a very interesting and worthwhile read so far. And while the title makes it seem as if the fight is over, we all know that the fight is far from over- whether it is the fight within our own lives as we continue to struggle with apparent paradoxes of who we are and what we believe or whether it is the fight we have yet to win to gain full equality. But the book has made me ponder the current issues the gay Mormon community currently faces. I wanted to share these insights.

There are several points it brings up as it compares the gay movement to previous civil rights movements. The book suggests that certain things hurt the movements of the past and other things helped. Some examples of things that hurt were thing like trying to act or pretend like the people of interest are the same as the powerful majority, dilution, and separatism. It suggests that the three core principles of a successful movement are : admit you're different, demand respect, and take care of your own interests first.

The gay movement has two choices:

1. They could ask society to ignore or tolerate their behavior, immoral or not, in the interest of higher values like freedom or privacy.

2. They could argue that their sexual practices were not wrong- Gay is Good.

But the dangers that are tempting are:

1. Separatism (by checking out of the social and political movement)

2. Dilution (by taking up every progressive cause)

There are several groups that have popped up recently among the MoHo community that I personally feel damage the movement as a whole. I won't name them, but these groups encourage a sense of commonality and orthodoxy and discourage any voice which demands equality and respect. They encourage people to lay down their quest for equality in an attempt to gain listening ears and distinguish hostility. As they do this, the movement as a whole loses its core purpose- to be equal and free in every way that a human in this country is guaranteed.

There has been a dilution in purpose. No longer do we demand respect and equality, now we only ask for understanding (which has no concrete methods of measurement). There is no voice that argues that homosexuals are good and their relationships and love are Godly. These groups stifle and dismiss voices that argue that Mormondom should tolerate gay relationships.

What has been the result? Silence from leaders. Leaders of the church are smart. Here are these groups that are touting all the understanding and love that is found within Mormonism as it pertains to gays. These stories enjoy wide circulation. Videos are made by people who have themselves been rejected by the Church and its entities but which are credited by the media to be production of the Mormon establishment. Uninformed people begin to think Mormons are progressive on the subject of gays due to the media attention these gay Mormon misfits receive as they try and earn understanding and artificial love. Meanwhile, nothing has actually changed.

We have opened the door to story after story of good gay Mormons who conform to orthodoxy and reaffirm in the minds of Mormons everywhere that a righteous gay will marry a woman like they are supposed to and that God will fix us in the end. This is what happens when you stop taking a stand. If we act like we are content, the establishment will take the lead. And since we have silenced our voices to whispers of mutual understanding and love, the voice of the establishment gets free airtime. Meanwhile, they are painted as the unheard voices of reason and truth- when in reality, this is the only voice that has been heard for decades. The world already knows about this "fix." It has been offered as the cured for years and years. Are we going to let it become the dominate message that the gay youth of our community hear once again? Haven't we learned that it isn't right?

In my opinion, love and respect and understanding will result in equal treatment. If someone truly understands me, they will support me in my relationship and encourage a strong marriage bond and happy family. If they truly respect me, they will stand up for what is right, even in the face of leaders who might teach otherwise. If they truly love me, they will not patronize me with their words of regret and uncomfortable words of encouragement... they will stand with me in my demand for equality. They will be like the couple that offers the first dance at their wedding to the gay couples in attendance who are banned from marriage or the football player who speaks out for equality in the face of a heterosexually dominated profession.

We live in a democracy, not a theocracy. We have every right to demand equality from our government and call out those who would fight against it. It is written in our constitution. It is a guarantee to us. It is ours to claim. We Are Equal. This is our purpose. This is the movement. Once we achieve this, the neigh-Sayers will follow. Once we are free, those that would bind us will have no power. Our equal-ness will become self-evident. Why are we opening up the option for an institution to simply SEE us rather than to ACCEPT us? Are we THAT DEFICIENT of self-respect? Are we THAT DEPENDENT on our mother's milk? Are we SO AFRAID that our voices may be sharp? And are we THAT HESITANT to accept the full love and approval of God?


Matthew Lane said...

Here here. This is why Mitch Mayne's celebrity is so frustrating to me. He's doing very little for the cause of gay rights and marriage equality within the Mormon church. If fact, I feel he's holding it back.

INSIDE said...

I have two points of your post which I would like to comment on.

1- You state that groups who ask for feelings commonality and orthodoxy have produced a result where, "nothing has actually changed". I challenge that. Look at the evolution of the Honor Code at BYU. Look at the change of wording in Elder Packers talk in the print edition. Look at the changing of official policy, rules and instruction within the Church Handbook of Instruction. One is hard pressed not to see a changing (slow as it may be) in the church. Slow—but there. Compare 1970's church thought and rules to 2012's church thought and rules. There has been a big change!

2- Yes we live in a democracy as a nation. but the church is not, never has been and never will be a democracy. I think you are confusing these two structures of governance in your desire for change. Your talk of demanding equality within the church must be in the confines of a theocracy. However your last paragraph is a call out to the virtues of a democracy structure. I think you're cross wiring the two in your argument. Change and evolution in a theocracy is very different than change in a democracy.

Jonathan Adamson said...

INSIDE- You misunderstand me, so let me clarify. I am fully aware that the Church is not a democracy. I was not arguing that the church has to grant these rights based on constitutional protections. What I was arguing was that by focusing on the rights that we are promised to us by our government (secular society), religious societies will follow suit.

Evidence of this is as you mention in your first point. This change you speak of is not due to forward thinking or "seeing the light." Before the Church granted blacks equal standing, it was being pressured by a society that had already moved on. Sports teams from other universities started refusing to play BYU for the Church's stance on blacks for example. It was social pressure that created change.

The policies that have changed regarding homosexuality in the church are the same. For example, there are now laws that are being made to make it illegal to offer reparative therapy to minors. There are also whole boards of professionals that have discounted the things that used to be said of gay people. If the church did continue to proscribe marriage or reparative therapy, or teach the awful things it did- it would become more and more isolated from society.

If the change in Packer's talk was actually what leaders felt were right and necessary, the president of the church would have made corrections right then to ensure that the truth was told. Instead, immediate uproar from the gay community and secular society as a whole, as well as suggestions from the image-sensitive PR department of the church is what prompted the quick slight of hand changes that appeared in print.

Again, these changes have been the result of social pressure and progress in combination with the sensitivity the Church has as it pertains to their image.

Therefore, if you want to spark change in the Church- the kind where gays are equal, make that the standard of society and the Church will change. But, accept every small concession (for example- "well, they stopped calling us perverts at least!") and celebrate meaningless memos (like, "they said God loves ALL his children... isn't that so progressive to include gays like that!") and you will find that we have made a space for complacency for the church and the issue of homosexuality.

Notice how the church was saying a whole lot about homosexuality just a few years ago (prop 8, etc). But now, they are silent. Why? Because they know that when they speak, they receive backlash and criticism from society. But they have found that if they remain silent and simply do nothing, there is a whole group of gay Mormons ready to tell the world how great the LDS church is for gay people. Free positive press- simply by staying silent. And we are rewarding them for doing nothing.

Mark Walker said...

Point of order...the church changed its doctrine and abolished polygamy when the u.s. government mafe it illegal...so the church may not be a democracy...but they have set the precedent to change church doctrine to changes in governmental laws!

Mark Walker said...

My second point is although the LDS church bore the brunt of the critics over prop 8 only about 15% of the money given was Mormon and nearly none by the wards...but by private Mormon citizens...the rest was donated by various religious groups including the SF CATHOLIC DIOCESE which gave millions...and the NAACP which encour s ged it's number to vote in favor which 70% did...

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