2010 LGBT issues in the Church: optimism or pessimism?

I’m taking this topic from Joanna Brooks and John-Charles Duffy at Religion Dispatches who are optimistic and pessimistic respectively about what 2010 said about LGBT issues in the Church.

To summarize briefly, Duffy says that the Church’s movement toward accepting “sexual orientation” (a phrase it was not averse to using in 2010) due to scientific discourse and national dialogue means little if Mormons still think that God says “acting on your homosexual attractions” is wrong.

Brooks says that the wrangling of the grizzly bear known as Boyd Packer in October was a sign that the Church is moving away from its Prop 8 days and toward pluralist surrender that “sexual orientation” is here to stay — implying that the Church might be more open in the future to what others say about “sexual orientation.”

What I think is missing from this discussion, however, is the fact that the attraction/behavior distinction that the Church currently operates under intrinsically fails when people don’t accept sexual orientation, because without it, they’re liable to think of “attractions” (or same-sex thoughts) as “actions” that are sinful. Thus, the Church could be moving toward “sexual orientation” as normative as an internal anti-bullying mechanism, aside from scientific discourse and national dialogue.

The question for the coming years would be whether making a same-sex orientation normative would eventually render obvious the double-standard of no same-sex intimacy. I think the answer to this question is yes — regardless of all those gay Mormons willingly entering mixed-orientation marriages. But as I’ve said before, there will be more fine-tuning of the funnel before the funnel is discarded as broken. Personally, I think of the funnel as the “sexual orientation classification system,” but you can call it “heterosexuality only” if you want. Anyway, there’s the grizzly issue of “eternal gender” in the mix, too…

7 thoughts on “2010 LGBT issues in the Church: optimism or pessimism?

  1. I just read the John-Charles Duffy piece:

    The inborn/celibacy position doesnt require the church to stand at odds with science.

    OK.

    And if people with same-gender attractions will submit in faith to Gods law of chastity, refraining from sexual relationships outside of heterosexual marriage, they may be assured that in the world to come, a loving God will make it possible for them to receive the blessings of marriage and family that were denied them in this world. The church makes a similar promise to its lifelong straight singles.

    Theres no way to argue against that position except to challenge the authority of the leaders who claim to be its revelatorswhich is a rhetorical battle you cant win within the LDS church.

    I disagree with his point that there’s no way to argue against that position except to challenge the[ir] authority. You can absolutely argue that the requirement of lifelong celibacy is grautitously cruel. Especially considering the second-class-bordering-on-pariah-class status the CoJCoL-dS grants to celibate homosexuals.

    IMHO, being at odds with justice and love is a far more serious problem for a religion than being at odds with science.

  2. Chanson, I think you’re absolutely right. The second-class-bordering-on-pariah-class status for celibate homosexuals when juxtaposed to the let’s-invite-Dustin-Lance-Black-to-the-Tabernacle-this-year, reads to me as indicating an eventual change in policy. You can’t create continued stigma for those under your own roof and then “reward” those outside your home who don’t adhere to your stigma without eventually seeing some dissonance in the different ways you are treating people. Maybe some in the Quorum already see the dissonance, but can’t be vocal about it because of the conservativeness of the membership. Who knows.

  3. I think I’ve said before in response to one of Alan’s posts that as I see it, recent softening of the LDS position has been more about dealing with the concerns of straight members than those of gay ones. This was inevitable given the absolute unwillingness, or perhaps very recently just great reluctance, to hear anything gay people have to say about their own experience.

    In that context, I find the recent popularity of “no different than straight singles” dismaying. Of course it manages to miss the point (yet again) from a gay perspective, but the implications for straight singles are very unfortunate, too. It seems to me that a member clinging to this comparison as a cognitive anchor risks taking on board some unstated implicit assumptions, including that (1) the present treatment and status of singles is not a problem for the church; (2) disagreement with point (1) must arise from wanting the church to “abandon the law of chastity”; (3) being an older single is in some sense equivalent to being gay; and therefore possibly also (4) in some sense equivalent to marriage-preventing handicaps like mental retardation. It is unfortunate that in the real world of Mormonism and the larger culture, it won’t do straight singles any good to be more closely associated with the stigmatized groups in (3) and (4).

    Then to add insult to injury, a very common objection to the comparison teaches us that (5) point (3) is incorrect because straight singles have “hope”, a hugely valuable asset that makes celibacy much less burdensome for them than for gay members. And that’s not all: additional important differences include a license to hold hands in sacrament meeting. See point (1).

    I wonder how LDS singles are feeling about this.

  4. Badger — I agree that the recent softening of the LDS position has been more about dealing with the concerns of straight members than those of gay ones — and it’s important to keep that in mind when analyzing the church’s position. Your analysis of the no different than straight singles meme is very insightful.

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