Monday, July 28, 2008

Church musings...

I was very uncomfortable with some comments made in Priesthood Meeting yesterday. The lesson was on "the eternal nature of the family" and very quickly the topic changed to the deviants that are trying to destroy the family, and the idiocy of the Supreme Courts of Massachusetts and California trying to redefine definitions of the family. Though the word "gay" and "gay marriage" were never mentioned, everyone knew who the 'deviants' were.

I was squirming but I didn't say anything. I wanted to. I wanted to think of a rebuttal, but I couldn't articulate it in my head and I was afraid that my emotions would get the better of me as my heart was racing, and I couldn't loosen my tongue. The subject changed a bit and the opportunity to make an impact passed and so I hung my head in shame and silence.


I've been connecting with a couple of new "brethren" of the queerosphere and really have enjoyed the additions of SILVER and DICHOTOMY.
The warmth I've felt from Silver is real and passionate. And the discussions I've been having with Dichotomy have really resonated with me... to the point that I am coming to terms with a new reality - that is: How in the world am I permitting myself to be angry and frustrated with the attitudes of my fellow quorum members when I will not give "voice" or provide the "face" for then to see how hurtful and unintelligent their comments are? How do I expect any tolerance or understanding or decreased oppression toward me and my fellow gay saints if I do not help them to see a REAL person they know and love who fits the category of their disdain?

It is really easy to despise and dismiss a group of people when we disassociate ourselves from them, or when we think we have nothing to do with them, or know of no one personally in that situation so we are at liberty to dismiss them. If I could have thought to reverse the conversation and say: "What if it were your son who came to you and said he was "gay" - would you react the same way by telling him that his family doesn't include him, or that he's a deviant, or is unable to ever know or experience love and affection?" How many of these brothers have gay sons or daughters, gay friends, gay associates? I would submit very few if any have any relations or know of no one personally who is gay... but, in reality, they know me! They just don't know it. And who's fault is that? Is it their fault that they don't know me? How could it be? I'm the one hiding - even if it is partly because of their intolerance. How would their attitudes change if they did know this about ME? How would they soften their harsh rhetoric knowing me as I know me?

How can I ask for increased tolerance if I stay quiet and tolerate their intolerance? How can I ask for leaders of the Church to be more tolerant and less oppressive of people like me, when people like me are "normalized" into the fold and just need to stay quiet (don't ask / don't tell)? How am I to help those to follow me when I stay quiet? Isn't that what got me in this position in the first place - that those in front of me (married gay Mormons remaining active in the church and faithful to their spouses) who remained quiet and endured the oppression and the ignorant beliefs - leading me nowhere but where I find myself today?

I've got so many questions racing in my head... I never felt a need to speak out before... I'm not an activist! Yes, I kick against those pesky pricks, but I don't want a fight, I like my anonymity. I like flying below the radar, I enjoy trying to have my cake and eat it too! It was a private matter and nobody else's business. Now, after some thought and contemplation from some discussions with Dichotomy, I find myself seeing the day when I should speak up for "righteousness sake", for giving face and voice in the lives of sheltered people into seeing a real live, walking and talking, loving and hugging (and kissing) gay Mormon who lives in their neighborhood and associates with them each week in quorum meetings...

I don't know where this is leading. But the thought process is invigorating and liberating.


Abelard Enigma said...

Closet getting a bit stuffy? I know that feeling.

However, for us, the decision is not ours alone. We dragged our wives into our closets, and the decision to come out has to be mutual.

Beck said...

I agree and know full well that this is not my choice alone.

All I'm trying to articulate is a realization that "being quiet" has not served the better cause of educating the masses, including church leadership and prevailing opinions that statements of disdain and oppression are self-righteous and dangerous and counter-productive... Giving a face and a voice of what a "gay Mormon" is in their midst may do much, may do little. But, "being quiet" gives me no place to blame them for their hurtful speech and hateful rhetoric, for "they know not what they say". I can't help but believe (as my mind is opening to the thought for the first time) that they would soften the blow if they really "knew" someone in their midst who was gay... a son, a brother, a quorum leader?

Abe, I'm not rushing to the pulpit to become that poster child and give the "face" of all MOMs - I'm way too timid to do that (just yet), but I am expressing the illuminating thought (I know I'm slow and it takes me a while for some things to settle in and connect the dots) that I am partially to blame for perpetuating the darkness and oppression when I stay silent, and I'm not helping the cause of those to come behind me just as those silent brothers didn't help my cause in providing a road map for me.

Personally, I'm happy to stay in the closet... it's not stuffy at all. My wife and I are very comfortable herein, but, if I stay in and keep cloaked, then I have no reason to grumble or complain or be angry about other brethren who spout their bigoted statements with understandable ignorance, having never experienced or thought that someone like I were even possible to exist in their midst.

Does any of this make sense?

Dichotomy said...

For me, it's not so much a matter of the intolerance and bigotry that I might silently endure. If I could be 100% certain that I am the only gay person in the ward, I would have no problem ignoring ignorant remarks with no ill feelings toward the person making them. I'm at peace with who I am.

But statistically, I can be almost certain that I'm not the only gay person in the ward, and that lights a fire under me to do something. The others might still be struggling, and careless comments could push them deeper into the cycle of denial and self-loathing that we all know so well. If I can make it easier for them by letting the ward know that many of their prejudices and fears are misplaced, I feel like I need to do so.

I too have a wife and kids to consider, and the "Fast & Testimony Coming Out" won't happen until I'm sure they all understand the possible consequences and are prepared to deal with whatever backlash might follow, but I'm praying for God to prepare me and my family so that that day can come sooner than later.

Beck said...

DICHOTOMY: Your motives are much more altruistic than mine, and they motivate me to think more of others than myself. The activism that is igniting under you and your wife is inspiring. I see a new generation about to burst forth. Is this just the beginning?

What I'm trying to scold myself, though, is to not be mad or personally hurt by intolerant rhetoric (as I, too, have come to accept who I am and I'm okay with that personally) as long as I don't speak out. My intolerance of their intolerance is hypocritical.

Kengo Biddles said...

it's a tough, tough decision, Beck. You want to stand up and say something, but at the same time, you're afraid of the repercussions.

It absolutely slays me how they have to demonize and dehumanize people so that they feel okay in hating them. Max Power posted about a similar topic. It makes me sad, and I don't know what to do.

Abelard Enigma said...

My intolerance of their intolerance is hypocritical.

I guess I'm not as magnanimous as you. The "God Loveth His Children" pamphlet says:

Some people with same-gender attraction have felt rejected because members of the Church did not always show love. No member of the Church should ever be intolerant.

Intolerance is wrong regardless of who it is directed towards. It seems like we should be able to find a way to say something about love and tolerance without 'outing' ourselves. Particularly for those of us who are married as it's easier for us to hide - there are things that we could say without arousing suspicions about our proclivities that the single brethren might need to be a little more discrete.

I'm sure many, like me, often think of the perfect response - after the fact. Perhaps we should be preemptive and start thinking of situations we may find ourselves in and what an appropriate response might be.

Beck said...

KENGO said: "...dehumanize people so that they feel okay in hating them."

It is easier to hate that which we don't know. It is easier to distance ourselves fo that which we fear.

"Max Power posted about a similar topic."

I know. It was great. At least he's willing to say something to his Bishop about it. I thank my lucky stars that I currently don't live in California...

Beck said...

"No member of the Church should ever be intolerant." Yes, you can say that, and the pamphlet can say that, and the brethren can say it from the pulpit, but typically within our classroom settings we allow it to slip without being stopped and corrected. That's what I'm talking about - allowing it to happen because we don't want to stir the pot.

Sometimes it's appropriate. Certainly, with love and kindness and gentle persuation goes farther than harshness, bitterness and contention. But, I don't even say anything... that's my point!

robert said...

It seems the MOHO community experiences guilt when they have same sex attraction AND guilt when they don't speak out about the intolerance toward people with same sex attraction. That is a lot of guilt to experience. I wonder which is a worse guilt...or is the guilt evenly divided?

Abelard Enigma said...

robert, what you perceive as guilt may actually be frustration.

Beck said...

Robert: I feel guilt all the time. But I must say that I no longer personally feel guilty for being gay. I don't like using SSA or SGA as they make me feel like I have a disease and I don't have any disease.

But, I still feel guilt or shame for being gay (I'm not over that one just yet) when faced with intolerant piers and fellow church members. That's a pretty scary thing and one where standing alone against the wolves is still an unpleasant proposition.

And, I still feel guilt in remaining silent when intolerance is uttered in these settings. I need to learn quick responses in ways to stop the intolerance without necessarily outing myself so that I can overcome one guilt at a time.

Which guilt is greatest? At the moment, remaining silent when I know I should say something is bothering me the most.

Any suggestions?

Philip said...


I use to work with a guy that constantly told jokes including gay ones. Fellow coworkers would gather round and laugh and laugh.

The gay jokes really upset me but I didn't dare say anything for fear of outing myself.

But I had limits so I would refuse to join in on the laughter and instead stood there looking glum eventually walking out on the group.

I remember two incidents that upset me so much I starting crying when I got back to my office. I couldn't get my concentration back to start working. What bothered me the most was not the gay jokes but the shame I felt. I felt like such a coward for staying silent; not speaking out. I knew I could lose my job but it didn't matter. In my mind I was a coward. Both times I ended up telling my boss I was leaving work early because I felt sick which was true.

So I think I understand what you went through.


Beck said...

PHILIP: I'm sorry about your story of the coworkers... It really does relate exactly with what I'm trying to say here. I don't need to be the poster boy of gay rights, but not saying anything seems worse as I allow my shame and confusion and frustration to get the better of me. And when I do, I have no right to complain of others being intolerant.

Thanks for sharing. Thanks for posting on my blog. I really look forward to learning more from you and your experiences!