Thursday, September 20, 2007

How to stir up the quiet closet?


This tender experience from last Sunday has given me a great sense of hope and peace. I've been thinking a lot about it. I am grateful that if such a discussion and open expression of love occurred because I needed to hear it at that particular time in this particular situation - then all the more do I feel an incredible indebtedness and sense of love for my Father who sees what each of us needs as we are prepared to receive it.


But now, my thoughts have migrated to the thought that I need to be more outspoken and not so hidden - I need to be seen as who I am and not be so concerned about what others think of me, including my fellow priesthood brethren. I need to be a face of a gay man, who believes fully in the Gospel, who is a faithful husband and father - and still very much gay.


I ended up having a subsequent conversation with one of my quorum brothers. He had recently become familiar with the current changes of the attitudes of the Brethren and we continued a dialogue on how things are changing and that soon there may be an asterisk or clarification note on the Miracle of Forgiveness that confirms the current teachings of the Brethren regarding SSA and the distinction of attraction and temptation verses sinful behavior as noted by Pres. Kimball. Just to have such a conversation with a normal straight ward member was very refreshing. I got a bit passionate in our conversation and when we finished, I wondered what he thought of me - meaning - did I get too vocal that he's questioning why I'm so "interested" in the topic?
In the end, I'm back inside myself. It is very, very quiet and lonely in this closet. I can't be seen or heard as I dwell here. I can't help the perception of my other fellow MOHOs as I stay in here.


So, question of the day: Short of passing out the new pamphlet at the chapel door, how can someone like me, from my quiet closet, do more to increase the understanding and love and decrease the prejudice and shunning influence and disdain of the church status quo membership of the Wasatch Front for their fellow brothers and sisters who very much deal with SSA and are striving to do so the best ways they know how?

16 comments:

Abelard Enigma said...

how can someone like me ... do more to increase the understanding and love and decrease the prejudice and shunning influence and disdain of the church status quo membership ...?

That is a very good question. God Loveth His Children basically tells us it's OK to be gay as long as we: don't have gay sex, don't think about gay sex or have other gay thoughts, don't act gay or exhibit gay attributes, and don't have gay friends. So, by remaining quiet in your closet you are doing what the pamphlet is telling you to do.

But, I know what you are saying - I'm starting to feel like I'm just cowering in my closet, afraid of what the world will think of me if I were to step out. But, the gay voices that people hear do not represent us. Somehow, we need to make our voice be heard. But, I don't think that is possible from the safety of our closets.

J G-W said...

My perception is that it would actually be far, far easier for you to be out of the closet right now than for me, for instance. Because in your case, you are living the way you are "supposed" to. You are married, you are faithful to your wife, you are faithful and active in the Church...

All the latest progressive statements about homosexuality are tailor-made just for folks in your position. It's hard for me to imagine folks not responding with heart-felt support to your situation, especially if they have heard, read and thought about the recent statements of Church leaders.

I, on the other hand, am an unrepentant sinner. I hope these statements can increase understanding of my situation, but the desired outcome in my situation, I suppose, would be for me to abandon my partner. Since I will not do that, I will always face a certain ambivalence, if not outright hostility.

Kengo Biddles said...

It's difficult to say how best to improve things. Some part of me wants to believe it's sharing with those around us who can then testify; another part of me wants to get up and announce to the ward, "Hi. I'm Kengo Biddles and I'm a happily straight-married gay."

This latter would be less effective, as I'm sure there would be a percentage of the ward that would recoil from such an announcement. But I think approaching certain members of your EQ as you feel so inclined might not be a bad idea.

Look at how the openness of his grandsons changed the older brother in the ward? You might be the same for others in your quorum.

playasinmar said...

"So, by remaining quiet in your closet you are doing what the pamphlet is telling you to do." -Abelard

To which I respond, "AAAAAAAAARGH!"
But it's the unavoidable truth. The church would rather not know about you.

"...there may be an asterisk or clarification note on the Miracle of Forgiveness that confirms the current teachings of the Brethren regarding SSA..." -Beck

Finally, a footnote that says, "Not all gay men are selfish, sex-crazed beastialists."

We, the normal gays, have finally made footnote status.

Beck said...

Abe said: "So, by remaining quiet in your closet you are doing what the pamphlet is telling you to do."

So, you're telling me the church would be just happy to have me say nothing... that that would be the right and honorable thing to do?

Okay, so that argues that I shouldn't talk to anyone about this. But I do have gay thoughts, and I do have gay friends (you being one), and I have a gay blog... I guess I'm not doing what the church would want me to do.

I know your a bit facetious here, but isn't that a bit pathetic?

Beck said...

JOHN: There's got to be some irony here where it should be far easier for me to be out and be accepted by the fellow saints and yet I'm not; while it should be much harder for you to be out and accepted, and yet you are!

I guess this just goes to show who the coward is and who the courageous one is...

"I will always face a certain ambivalence, if not outright hostility." Not here, my friend, not in my corner of the universe!

Beck said...

KENGO: I am "out" to one member of the ward, other than my wife. It's been good to have someone who "knows". And yet, he doesn't understand me as I thought he would, though he respects me, and I feel vulnerable and even worse now that he does know. *sigh*

PLAYA: A footnote that distinguishes me from the "selfish, sex-crazed beastialists - though so little so late, is still a footnote... someday we may become a buried article in the D section of the newspaper!

Beck said...

NO ONE IS STILL GIVING ME AN ANSWER TO THE 'HOW' PART OF THE QUESTION!

J G-W said...

Beck, you're not a coward.

How...? OK, I'll take a crack at it.

Actually, at my talk at Sunstone I kind of answered this question. This woman asked me, "What can we do to make the Church a better place?" And I essentially told her: Go to Church. Be faithful. Pray. Love unconditionally.

I know some folks might think this is a cop-out. (In fact, somebody came up to me afterwards and told me saying this was a cop out.) But I honestly believe that the only way forward is to do what we can to make the Church work the way it's supposed to work, and that is to increase love and decrease judgment.

And I believe that if we truly focus on just being more faithful and loving and prayerful, we will make ourselves available to the Spirit, so that when the moment comes -- like it did in your High Priests' group -- when something you say or do can make a difference, you will say and do exactly what needs to be done.

You don't have to come out of the closet to make a difference in that way. And I honestly believe that way is the most direct way forward.

And here's something else to chew on... If we focus on making the Church a better place for gay men and lesbians, we might accomplish that or we might not. But then we would mainly benefit gay men and lesbians. If we focus on making the Church truer to its mission and more loving to all, then we benefit everyone.

Abelard Enigma said...

NO ONE IS STILL GIVING ME AN ANSWER TO THE 'HOW' PART OF THE QUESTION!

Sheesh, you don't have to yell.

how can someone like me, from my quiet closet, do more to increase the understanding and love and decrease the prejudice and shunning influence and disdain of the church status quo membership ...?

Perhaps the reason nobody is giving you any solid answers is because those answers don't exist. You're stuck between a rock and a hard place. There is really nothing you can do from inside of your closet that you haven't already been doing. Isn't that the whole point of the closet - that we don't say or do anything that might cause others to suspect that we might swing the other way?

What if you were to come out of your closet so that you could speak freely without worrying about what others might start believing about you? I was being a bit facetious when I said that by staying in your closet you are doing what God Loveth His Children tells you to do. But, I was also being a bit realistic. On p.9 the pamphlet says

It is not helpful to flaunt homosexual tendencies or make them the subject of unnecessary observation or discussion

If you were to come out of the closet and make your orientation known to those around you then wouldn't you be making your homosexual tendencies the subject of unnecessary observation or discussion? Some might even argue that by simply making your orientation known that you would be flaunting your homosexual tendencies. If several of us came forward and made our orientation known then we might all be guilty of the grievous sin of choosing friends who publicly display their homosexual feelings.

Seriously, what do you think the counsel of your Bishop would be were you to ask him about coming out of your closet so that you could help educate ward members that you, like most of those like you, are not a bunch of selfish sex-crazed pedophiliac poop eating beastialists? I strongly suspect he (as with most Bishops) would counsel you to just keep quiet - the unsaid counsel being to suffer alone in silence.

I'm sorry I'm being so negative - perhaps it's just my sour mood of late. But, in a sense, God Loveth His Children is the churches way of slamming down its fist and saying "OK, you're not a sinner for being attracted to guys. now just go away, suffer in silence, pray that God will help you overcome this, and if you have to talk to someone about it then talk to your bishop." We aren't going to see gay wards. We aren't going to hear talks in Stake Conference "I'm gay, I'm celibate, and this is how I deal with it."

OK, I'll just crawl back into my hole now and glower.

J G-W said...

"It is not helpful to flaunt homosexual tendencies or make them the subject of unnecessary observation or discussion"

I guess it depends how you define the term "unnecessary."

playasinmar said...

I guess it depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is.

Ron Schow said...

I think we should try not to overstate the position of the Church. They are not really saying to totally be quiet about this issue. After all, Elder Holland's October Ensign article speaks about two different men who come to him to discuss their feelings. He reacts very warmly to both. To one he says "Thank you for wanting to deal with this," and "It takes courage to talk about it..."

Elder Holland makes suggestions to those who have friends or loved ones with SGA. He says if someone with SGA comes to a Church member for help they should start by "recognizing the courage that brought your son, daughter, sibling or friend to you." "Discussing the issue with someone of trust is a healthy first step to dealing with confused feelings, and it is imperative that these first steps be met with compassion."

Elder Holland is not telling those with SGA to keep this all to themselves. No way.

One major thing I believe you are overlooking, Beck, is the possibility to talk about this issue with others and educate Church members without discussing your personal life. Sure, they may wonder why you care, but does that really matter? You could tell them lots of reasons why you care and never really tell them your own story unless or until you are ready.

Another part of this I find interesting is the growing acceptance that those with SGA can meet together, for example, in a conference sponsored in the J. Smith Building with GAs present and they can all enjoy the fellowship of one another. There is something about that which is pretty healthy and it is a pattern that needs to be emphasized more I think. I believe there should be some more efforts made soon to gather MOHOs and MOhets and family members and find a way to attend some Church services together. Some of us are working on this now and if anyone here has an interest see what John GW says about a gay ward on his blog recently and let me know you want to join with our effort. The new pamphlet says "No one is, or ever could be, excluded from the circle of God's love or the extended arms of his Church, for we are all his beloved sons and daughters." To me this means everyone affected by this, whether living according to Church guidelines or not, is welcome at Church. John GW and many others like him are welcome.
I know many like him, who would like to be in Church. We need to find some gay friendly wards in the Salt Lake Valley and make some efforts, I believe.

santorio said...

we live in a fast lane society. we want these changes and we want them now. but look at those black texan teenagers who are looking at decades in prison. rosa parks refused to give up her seat in 1955; 50 years later black teens in texas suffer from persistent raciall hatred. discrimination against gays will persist in the church for generations. all we can do is once in a while refuse to give up our seats.

several months ago a sunday school teacher asked for examples of answered prayers. a member of the class said she had wondered about the church's position against gay marriage but had prayed and received an answer confirming that position. that's interesting, i said: i prayed and got the opposite answer. the teacher changed the subject.

each time we do a rosa parks, we are helping the forces of change, i just don't expect to be around to see the fruits (pun intended)

Forester said...

I can't even tell my wife about my SGA, let alone other members of the ward. I must be a really bad example of helping to educate others and stand up for those of us with SGA. However, on the opposite side, I would hope that anyone would feel comfortable talking to me about their problems and that I would never judge them. I don't think the subject should be pushed on anyone, but I would hope that it would be received by all with compassion. I don't need others to understand. I just want them to love me in the face of not understanding.

Beck said...

Comments I really like:

JOHN said: "If we focus on making the Church truer to its mission and more loving to all, then we benefit everyone." It sounds too simple, but in my circumstance it is more doable and maybe more effective. I need to ponder this one. Change doesn't always come from mighty outbursts as from quiet, faithful service.

ABELARD said: "I strongly suspect he (as with most Bishops) would counsel you to just keep quiet - the unsaid counsel being to suffer alone in silence." That is why I haven't made it a point to bring him into my silent suffering. If I'm told not to say anything or not to dwell on it, then what's the point of bringing him into the loop? This is why I blog... it gives me an avenue to discuss these feelings without being shut down to suffer in silence.

RON said: "One major thing I believe you are overlooking, Beck, is the possibility to talk about this issue with others and educate Church members without discussing your personal life." I did this with a ward brother last week. I got a bit passionate about things and I had to check myself about how he was perceiving my "passion" on the subject. But, in the end, it was a good dialogue and he appreciated my thoughts and was touched by them in a way that I don't think he interpreted in a manner reflecting my "personal" life. I was excited to have this discussion. It was a good first step. I want to do it again, and soon. But, wouldn't it have been more "honest" and meaningful if I were to have been more personal?

SANTORIO said: "each time we do a rosa parks, we are helping the forces of change, i just don't expect to be around to see the fruits..." I had the Rosa Parks moment in that priesthood meeting. It felt good to refuse to "give up my seat". Change is slow. We'll all be dead before realizing the change that is desired. Yet, when I think where I was hidden deep in the bowels of prejudice in the church some 30 years ago, I'm encouraged to think where things will be some 30 years from now. Like you, I won't be able to partake of the fruit, but hopefully, I'll be able to glory in witnessing those that will partake.

FORESTER said: "I don't need others to understand. I just want them to love me in the face of not understanding." We all just want to be loved and to love. That's what it's all about. You really don't understand me. I really don't understand you. But I can still love you! I love you, Forester. And someday, when it is right, you're going to be able to share these things with your wife and you'll do it in a way that the Spirit will be there to testify to her that even if she doesn't understand, she'll still love you, because you love her!