A Critique of Recent Posts by Believing Gay Mormons and the Mormons who are Now Using Those Posts as Proof that the Church’s SSM Policy Changes are Helpful
In the days following the policy change to Handbook 1 and as a result of my public critique of those changes, I experienced social media ‘silence.’ Only a few family members engaged in (fairly) polite discussions about my frustration with the changes to Handbook 1. Others were not so polite. For example, a former mission companion accused me of being an apostate by quoting the writings of Brigham Young who warned of ‘false teachers’ and ‘false prophets.’ Brigham’s accusations will never hurt me (I have no respect for him). How can I respect a man who ‘lied for the Lord’ and supported Joseph Smith’s marriages to teenage girls and the wives of some of the men he had sent away on missions? One friend expressed her love for me and gave me a Facebook hug ((hugs!)). That made my day since I know that she had likely spent a lot of time contemplating and grappling with the Church’s policy change (perhaps even weeping, I don’t know, but I feel for her and her family since it directly impacts their lives).
Suddenly, out of the silence of my friends and family Facebook feeds, I began to see a common trend. My True Blue Mormon [TBM] Facebook friends began sharing blogs and articles written by believing LGBT Mormons or believing children of LGBT relationships intended to show that the Church’s change in policy was legitimate and helpful.
Some of these friends were the same who have shown disregard and in some cases, hate and contempt, toward LGBT Mormons (believing or unbelieving) and those that support the fight for gender and LGBT equality in the LDS Church. However, when their purposes were best served, they were more than willing to use the words of those they have marginalized to their advantage.
I want to address two problems I see with this trend. First, I want to engage with the problems presented by two specific posts that have been shared on my Facebook news feed. The first is a blog post by (Gay) Mormon Guy titled “Waiting on the Lord (Same-Sex Adoption. Families, etc.)” (available here ) and the second is a post by Brandi Walton titled “I am the Daughter of Lesbians, and I am a Mormon.” (available here).
Second, after addressing the problems with the above articles, I want to point out the problems that I have with TBMs who use the textual products (blogs, articles, social media posts, etc.) of those they marginalize as a way of legitimizing their own positions.
First things first. How are supporters of gender and sexual-orientation equality in LDS Church to deal with and engage with believing LGBT members? Addressing and critiquing believing LDS LGBT members is something that I approach with much trepidation. However, given TBM’s use of believing LGBT writings as proof that church policies are fair and acceptable to faithful LGBT members of the Church, it is an issue that must be addressed.
When I began looking for other examples of the marginalization of ‘the believing (or loyal) marginalized insider’ my mind immediately went to examples of African-Americans who at times agreed with and even defended the practice of slavery. There are also many stories of women (cross-culturally and cross-temporally) who have defended the very male-centered institutions that enslaved them, marginalized them, and devalued them. In these examples, those who were marginalized came to accept their unequal status by means of a variety of ideological claims made by the institutions that marginalized them. They were told that their lower status was divinely appointed; they were told that authoritative texts have authorized their lower social status; they were told that their status was legitimized by law; they were told that religious and communal leaders authorized their unequal treatment; they were subjected to institutional myths that explained how and why the social order that marginalized them was authoritatively enacted (e.g., Eve as the mother of sin, Sodom and Gomorrah as a city of homosexuals destroyed by God, etc.). Those who are socially marginalized experience a barrage of explanations from the institutions that marginalize them and, in many cases, the marginalized are convinced of the correctness of their low status and are silenced by the institutions that marginalize them unless their voices support the social practices of the institution in power.
Sexual Practice in the LDS Church: Heterosexual and Same-Sex Perspectives
Think about this for a minute. Millions of heterosexual members of the LDS church, from the age of 16 (and often earlier), are in fact encouraged to act on their sexual desires. At first, the church places clear boundaries on this sexual exploration by encouraging dating (at age 16), then, as a partner is chosen and a couple is married, there are no limits placed (generally) on the married couple’s sexual union. Additionally, throughout the early stages of this process, a variety of sexual experiences are bound to take place. Though the church gives careful instruction about how to control sexual desire and avoid what the church would define as sexual sin, these experiences (dating, kissing, holding hands, appropriate touching) are all encouraged. Yet, LGBT members of the LDS church are discouraged, even forbidden from engaging in these formative sexual experiences.
Why? First of all, for many members of the LDS Church, being LGBT is considered a choice, regardless of the growing body of scientific literature that argues that sexual preference is the result of a variety of factors: genetics, socialization, etc. Second, because the LDS Church argues that same-sex sexual union is a sin, even though those attracted sexually to members of the same-sex didn’t choose to be gay. Furthermore, the marginalized status of LDS LGBT members continues to be reinforced when the LDS Church and its members use language like ‘those who experience same-sex attraction’ or ‘those who suffer from same-sex attraction’ as if LGBT members are ‘experiencing’ or ‘suffering from’ a temporary sickness that will eventually just go away. The marginalizing language is clear, the LDS Church thinks sexual preference is something that LDS LGBT members ‘experience’ (i.e., temporary – especially in the ‘grand scheme of things’) and make no mistake, the Church hopes that what LGBT members are ‘experiencing’ will go away. However, sexual preference and sexual desire are not ‘fleeting.’ As privileged heterosexual partners should know, sexual preference and sexual desire are an essential part of human experience and identity. They are powerful. They are personal. They are yours. I am providing this background to contextualize the writings of believing LGBT members of the Church so as to argue what will be/has been a painful realization for many believing LGBT members: the LDS Church expects you to live a life of celibacy. You are forbidden from engaging in one of the most satisfying and fulfilling activities humans can experience – sexual union with a loving and devoted sexual partner of your own choosing.
(Gay) Mormon Guy and “Waiting on the Lord”
In his blog post titled “Waiting on the Lord” (Gay) Mormon Guy attempts to provide insight into the Church’s policy changes by enumerating his experiences with LDS converts who were baptized later in their lives for various reasons. First, I want to make an important point about the legitimacy of (Gay) Mormon Guy’s perspective and this point is directly intended for my TBM family and friends: just because (Gay) Mormon Guy is homosexual and in support of the LDS Church’s policy changes doesn’t mean his voice is authoritative in any way regarding this issue. His is a unique voice? Certainly. Should it be heard? Absolutely. Since he is gay and a believing Mormon, his perspective is more valid than other’s perspectives? Not a chance!
As I stated above, believing LGBT members of the Church, whether they like it or not, are a marginalized minority in the Church. Furthermore, as is the case with other marginalized groups, believing LGBT members of the Church can and will use language that that supports and legitimizes their own marginalization (and the marginalization of others) within that institution. The article title supports the overall discourse of the church toward its LGBT members: be patient, God will ‘fix’ you in the end, ‘Wait on the Lord.’ Interestingly, the phrase “Wait on the Lord” is the locus of a host of other marginalizing social practices aimed at controlling the homosexual body, the so-called same-sex ‘sinners’ are coerced into celibacy (Yes, I said coerced and I meant it!). Thus, the blog title is clear evidence that (Gay) Mormon Guy has paid his ‘fire-insurance’ bill (tithing) and is drinking the Kool-Aid provided to him by the Church. At this point, (Gay) Mormon Guy has crossed into the world of LGBT LDS apologetics: he has become a defender of the institution that marginalizes him. To be sure, he has every right to do so just like I have the right to point out the apologetic nature of his post.
Finally, in light of the overwhelming confusion and/or outrage that initially followed the Church’s announcement of its new policy, it is clear that (Gay) Mormon Guy’s perspective is not representative of the LDS LGBT experience overall. The actual content of (Gay) Mormon Guy’s post misses an important point. Several of the examples he provides involve parents and children making choices about baptism of their own accord. As such, these examples are irrelevant to the matter at hand. The LDS Church has rejected LGBT parent’s and their children’s supposed ‘God given right’ to choose baptism at the age of 8. I have discussed this further here.
“I am the Daughter of Lesbians” – Excellent! But Irrelevant!
The second article/blog post that I would like to engage with was written by Brandi Walton titled “I Am the Daughter of Lesbians, and I am a Mormon.” The first thing I would like to point out is a glaring paradox in Walton’s narrative. Even the Baptist church, the model of all that is conservative, was willing to baptize the daughter of a lesbian couple when she was 13 years old! On a more positive note, I agree with Walton that the church has made strides to be more accepting toward homosexuals, which is why the recent policy change was so shocking for many inside and outside the Church.
Those two points aside, the danger with Dalton’s article is that it claims to know first-hand what the children of LDS LGBT couples are going to go through due to the recent policy changes. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Walton never had to experience the confusion of wondering why the LDS church would not allow her to be baptized while other children (including the children of so-called ‘adulterers’ and ‘fornicators’) could be freely admitted into the church. Though Walton states that she denounced homosexual practices in unspecific terms, she never had to do so as a requirement to be admitted into the LDS Church as is now the case due to the policy change.
Walton states “First, it is imperative that a child understand the doctrines of the Church and understand the true meaning of marriage. Being raised in a homosexual household can be very confusing for some children and difficult to reconcile the statutes of Heavenly Father with the example they see at home.” There are two problems here: first, Walton assumes that the LDS Church holds the monopoly on knowledge about ‘the true meaning of marriage’; second, according to the doctrines of the church, a child should know the basic ins-and-outs of LDS theology by the age of 8 (the age of accountability) regardless of the traditional or non-traditional state of the child’s home life. Trying to hide the Church’s discrimination behind the cloak of ‘it’s best for the child’ doesn’t pan out in the argument: the age of accountability according to LDS doctrine is 8, not 18.
Furthermore, the same argument that Walton makes could be applied to any non-traditional LDS home: children of a divorced ‘adulterer’ or ‘fornicator’ who shares custody after divorce while at the same time living with a new sexual partner, children of part-member families, children of apostates (I could go on!). The argument that Walton (and others!) makes doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. The Church has singled out same-sex marriage and the children of those unions so as to marginalize and destroy their families. According to the Church, they are not a family at all. If you think otherwise, then consider the impact of a child’s disavowal of their homosexual parents at the age of 18 and the requirement that the child cannot ever live at home again. The Church has no interest in preserving these same-sex family units. It wants to destroy them. The claim that the Church is concerned for the welfare of the children of same-sex marriages and unions and their family units is a smoke screen.
Convenient Use of the Voices of the Marginalized
The last issue I want to address is the sudden preferential use of believing LGBT blogs by TBMs in an effort by TBMs to legitimize the Church’s new policy. As I have argued elsewhere, there is a direct link between language use and power. That is, those in power, those with privilege, are the very institutions that have the resources and energy to produce authorized texts that in turn legitimize social practices. Occasionally, the textual products (in our case, blogs, articles, etc.) of those who are marginalized align themselves with the ideologies of those in power and in turn, those in power (those with privilege – in our case, sexual privilege) allow the voices of the loyal (i.e., believing) marginalized insiders to be heard when they would otherwise be silenced. In fact, those voices are snatched up by the institution and paraded so as to legitimize the discourses and ideologies of the powerful and the privileged. From this perspective, then, it should not be surprising that TBMs, those who are privileged (sexually) and in power (hold positions of power) in the LDS institution swoop up the textual products (blogs, articles, posts, etc.) of their marginalized yet believing LGBT members opportunistically to serve their own purposes, when, in fact, normally they would have little to do with these marginalized LGBT members. I raise this issue to point out the theoretical aspects of the relationship between language and power in the LDS debate about LGBT issues in the Church. The current debate provides excellent examples of how the voices of marginalized but loyal insiders can and are utilized by TBMs so as to legitimize marginalizing social practices and ‘downplay’ and/or silence voices of opposition. As proponents of LDS LGBT equality issues, we should be aware of this practice and address it head on when it happens. I hope this response makes some headway in this regard. Don’t be afraid to challenge your friends and family when they use the voices of the marginalized to support and legitimize social practices that are harmful.