The church still believes that homosexual behavior is a sin, but now says that’s because gay marriage is wrong and sex outside of marriage is immoral – not because homosexual feelings and inclinations are in and of themselves sinful. It’s a shift in doctrine, but isn’t functionally any better for LGBT Mormons. The church is now essentially telling LGBT members that they need to choose between going to Heaven while living the rest of their lives in celibacy, or leaving the church and having fulfilling romantic relationships. And the Utah legislature is still trying to keep schools from reaching out to queer kids.
It gets worse, though. Mormon doctrine also makes fairly clear through its emphasis on family that the meaning of life is to get married and have children. In fact, Mormons who do not marry are told they will not attain the highest levels of glory in Heaven. Women are told they are unable to enter Heaven without a husband – a belief that’s not only anti-lesbian, but deeply misogynistic as well.
I want to be clear: many, many individual Mormons are supportive of gay rights. Many Mormons have LGBT friends and family members, and not all of them react badly when they come out. And many Mormons were upset and dismayed to see the money they’d donated to the church they believed in used to fund Proposition 8 and other anti-gay legislation. There are individuals and groups within Utah and the LDS Church – both LGBT and straight allies – who are working for change.
So I don’t want to imply that all Mormons are homophobic. But I do think that the Mormon faith is deeply damaging to queer youth who are raised within it, especially in Utah where it’s so engrained in the local culture. I don’t think it’s wise or safe to raise children who may grow up to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, asexual, or anything other than conservative, vanilla, and straight in the Mormon faith. Not when the official Church doctrine on such matters boils down to these options:
My mother and father chose that last option when they realized, for personal reasons and for my sake, that they couldn’t stay in the church any longer. (And a good thing, too, since 4 out 5 of their kids have turned out to be some variety of queer.) It had a price – my mother was never able to reconcile with my grandmother before her death.
The rifts within our extended family have healed some with time, but to some extent they will always remain. It’s difficult to explain why I can never come back to someone who’s never struggled with questions of sexual orientation or gender identity. Why I keep my distance. Why I don’t visit. Why I can’t talk about it.
How can I talk to relatives who insist that gay marriage is an abomination, that my lesbian cousin is “going through a phase,” that homosexuality is caused by overbearing mothers or absent fathers? Where do I begin? What do I even say?
Mostly, I don’t say anything. Those I’m on good terms with I don’t really talk about LGBT issues with. Those I know would mercilessly berate me for expressing any mildly liberal opinion, I don’t talk to at all. Had I been closer to most of them when I was younger, perhaps my life and experiences could serve as a teachable moment. As it is, I know I’m not in any position to actively change anyone’s opinion if they’re not already receptive to it.
I hope that as more Mormons and ex-Mormons speak out about gay rights, things will begin to change within the church, even if it’s just a matter of individual members becoming more accepting. The number of resources which have become available for queer youth in Utah since I was young is encouraging. I believe that Mormons are increasingly becoming aware of, and speaking out against, homophobia.
But it isn’t enough. Not yet. And I’m not sure that it will be enough for many years to come.
Read more: bisexuality, church of latter day saints, gay teen suicides, homophobia, IDAHOT, IDAHOT 2012, International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia 2012, lds church, mormon church, mormons, proposition 8, suicide
Photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr
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