I am writing from a place of privilege. I am straight. I am male. I am happily married. I have a good job. I have healthy children. For all intents and purposes, I am white.
I am not writing this so as to say, “It’s so hard as a white, straight male. Woe is me.” No one wants to read that.
I am not writing this so as to receive accolades from my friends who are LGBTQ, or people of color, or female. That is exhausting work for an oppressed person to do.
I am writing this to my white, male, straight, married, privileged friends.
I was home sick from church a few weeks ago. I had a computer in front of me and was examining some of my privileges.
I have many friends and some family members that have left the Church for various and very valid reasons. Sometimes the reasons have to do with the treatment of gays, the institutional racism, the institutional gender inequality. I think all those observations are true.
I live in a conservative part of Oregon. Most people that live outside of Oregon view the North West as a liberal haven. This is not true. Most of the population of Oregon lives within what is called the Willamette Valley. It is a narrow strip that runs from Portland down to Eugene. This part of Oregon is liberal and controls most of the politics of Oregon. Outside of that, the state politics are different. Specifically here in Southern Oregon, where I live, the politics are conservative, with the exception of Ashland, which is a wonderfully odd liberal haven.
I also work in a surgical speciality that is male dominant. It’s work that is physically demanding and intellectually demanding. Because of the culture of orthopedic surgery, there just aren’t many women. Because of that, things can be a bit sexist. I have sat with non-LDS surgeons that are quick to point out the patriarchy of my LDS tradition, but lack the ability to see their own sexism. It surprises me.
Over the past five years I’ve began to realize that I have white, male, straight privilege (along with other privileges). This realization has come, not despite be being Mormon, but because I am Mormon.
My work with deconstructing my many privileges has come because my Mormonism has demanded that I look at my Church and then also look at American culture in general. I’m privileged because of the structure of the Church and of American society in general. It is because my studying LDS history and seeing that things can change, and by listening to the painful stories of many Mormon women, that I’ve realized, I need to work to elevate the voices of women – not speak for them – but to elevate them. Mormonism has caused me to examine my own sexism. My wife, my daughters, and my Church demand this. This would not have come if I was not Mormon.
Racism. There are very few black people in Southern Oregon. Doing the painful work of looking at my own racism would not have come if I was not Mormon. My deepest friendships with black people, have come by way of my black Mormon friends. As I’ve sat and listened and tried and failed over and over again to be a better ally, this has caused some slow and painful growth. It’s hard work. I’m not going to lie. I have so many blind spots, but I have good black friends that point those out to me in a constructive way. They push me. This growth has come because I am Mormon, not despite it. I have a lot of work to do still.
Homosexuality. I don’t think I work with any people from the LGBTQ community. I definitely don’t have any LGBTQ friends that live close by. Reexamining my prejudices against those who are LGBTQ would not have come unless I was Mormon. I now have gay friends that have changed my perspective. They are Mormon or former-Mormon. I have friends like Jerilyn Pool who have been doing the hard work of allyship for a long time. If the Church leaders tell me that I must love my LGBTQ brothers and sisters, what does that love look like? Does that mean waving and smiling at a transgender person in the community? Does it mean inviting a gay person, along with their spouse, over to eat at my home? What does that love look like?
I have two gay sisters that have caused me to reexamine by previous biases. It is my Mormonism and its beautiful doctrine of the eternal nature of families that pushed me to begin to form a relationship with my sisters that I never had; it’s still fresh and new and can easily be injured. It is my Mormonism that has led me to hear the stories of gay teen suicides within our faith community. It is my Mormonism, that led me to march in a Gay Pride Parade last year. I have a lot of work to do, but it is because I am Mormon, not despite it, that I am doing the work.
I sometimes think that discussing gender inequality, patriarchy, sexism, racism, homophobia are easiest when we are able to point at the LDS Church and its sins. I am convinced that it is more painful to take that finger and point it at myself. I am also convinced that the work of recognizing my own privileges and changing my perspective is just as difficult, and maybe more difficult, than changing the institutional racism, sexism, and homophobia.
I am Mormon. I am doing the hard work because of, not despite, my Mormonism.
What does your Mormonism demand of you?