Toward a Mormon Lesbian Theology

Citing a Feminist Mormon Housewives conversation, Mohohawaii recently wrote about how LDS women are made responsible for LDS mens sexuality. The Mormon woman is expected not to inflame male passions by underdressing or being overly flirtatious. Female modesty he writes, affirms the existence of male sexuality only. He quotes a Mormon women who felt guilty for simply wanting an orgasm during a faithful marriage of 20 years.

At the end of Mohohawaiis post, he notes that this is one of the ways that patriarchal nature of LDS culture oppresses women and gay people. That is, it takes their sexuality away from them. It doesnt allow a gay person to be a gay person (insofar as sexuality is a determinant of a gay person) or a woman to be a woman (insofar as her sexuality is determinant of her).

However, I would argue that it is not patriarchy, per se, that does this at least, the gay part. The ancient Greeks were a very patriarchal culture, and yet they were quite gay. Mens sexuality in ancient Greece was supreme, but womens sexuality was still rather oppressed. So, I would say that the problem in the Church is actually one of heteropatriarchy, and not just patriarchy alone.

The logic of male passions in the Church actually does carry over into queer sexuality for men. Whenever Church leaders talk about same-gender attraction, they always talk about men, boys, males. Its the consideration of a son who should keep his “passions” in check (his “natural man”); occasionally, but not often, also a father or husband: whether we’re talking about pornography or adultery. There is some consideration of the mans wife: the mixed-orientation marriage, but only as she relates to the man.

For instance, in a 2006 interview, Dallin Oaks noted that Hinckleys statement in the late 1980s that marriage should not be thought about as a cure for same-gender attraction was for the purposes of not putting at risk daughters of God who would enter into such marriages under false pretenses or under a cloud unknown to them. Part of this, I would assume, had to do with Carol Lynn Pearsons 1986 book Goodbye I Love You which made clear that HIV could get into LDS marriages as a result of selfish male passions (I say “selfish” here, because that’s how it ultimately got interpreted by church leaders). I would hope that the other part had to do with Church leaders acknowledging that a heterosexual LDS woman ought to enter a marriage with a knowledge that her husband will want to have sex with her not just to reproduce, but to have passionate, orgasm-inducing heterosexual sex (for both partners). The 1990s did, if we remember, see an addition to the Handbook of Instructions that sex includes the purposes of “strengthening the bond of marriage.” But clearly, there’s still a long way to go in terms of freeing women’s passions.

Obviously in this discourse, the Mormon lesbian is absent. The Mormon lesbian (or lesbianism…however you want to think about it) continues to be subjugated under the auspices of “female modesty.” Whereas the same-sex attracted male is expected to keep his “passions” in check, the lesbian is written out of existence. Insofar as she does exist, she is made invisible, more than her heterosexual sisters. Thus I think a Mormon lesbian theology is important to unravel the problems going on here.

Let’s consider Boyd Packers idea in the 1970s that homosexuality is caused by a subtle form of selfishness. This notion might seem obsolete, but actually many, many Mormons would still argue that acting on ones attractions outside of marriage is, in fact, selfish (regardless of one’s sexuality). Packers logic thrives.

In the 1990s, however, the public began to see lesbian mothers. Lesbians as mothers who are not selfish. (I think some 35% of lesbian couples are raising kids.)

Church leaders don’t know how to talk about lesbianism, because they don’t know how to talk about female sexuality. But to simply recognize the lesbian household as a family worthy of church membership would automatically open the door to reconsiderations of the following:

(1) the relationship of an LDS woman’s sexuality to that of an LDS man’s (ie., female modesty vs. male passions),

(2) the homosex as selfish thing, and

(3) female ordination.

Or I guess the Church can continue to be heteropatriarchal — but eventually this will lead to an implosion is my guess.

 

Extra notes:

– This “female modesty” vs “male passions” thing gets used to explain promiscuity in gay men. In one of Dean Byrd’s books, he argues that gay men are promiscuous because there are no women present to tame them. He leaves out the fact that a lot of men (gay or otherwise) are monogamously-minded and that a lot of women (gay or otherwise) are promiscuous.

– A Mormon lesbian on YouTube notes that the nature of lesbianism is pretty simple to understand. During her mission she found herself at a lesbian household. On their wall, was this picture. She thought: “Oh, I’m a lesbian.” And that was that. =D

96 thoughts on “Toward a Mormon Lesbian Theology

  1. @Holly: I don’t recall Alan mentioning his mother? And why would he apologize if he did “invoke” his mother? Still, even if he did mention his mother, it doesn’t mean you should make fun of it. That seems like something a bitter person will do.

    Also, you are right when you said that you never claimed that you don’t have room for a different way of going about things in your methods. You just gave the impression that you don’t…with dizzyingly condescending remarks.

  2. I dont recall Alan mentioning his mother?

    I’m sure you don’t. Doesn’t change the fact that he did, in the comments to another thread.

    And why would he apologize if he did invoke his mother?

    because saying, as he did, “If my mom were here, she wouldn’t like what you’re saying, so you better not say it any more” is not cool.

    Talk about not allowing for alternate approaches…. I’ve encountered plenty of ways in which people say, “I want the discourse to go like this,” but I’ll admit, Alan’s mommy-thing was quite a doozy and really something new.

  3. There seems to be a cult of niceness that pervades Mormonism. If you’re a Mormon women and want to speak with success, then learn Reliefsocietese.
    I don’t get rebuking someone because they didn’t show proper respect and reverence to authority in general, and more specifically, male authority.
    Personally, as long as it’s not directed at me, I find Holly’s tone refreshing.

  4. Pinay,

    It’s quite interesting that if you agree with the word, ‘wow’ as expressing a demeaning position, you’ll want to go back to August of 2010 when Alan started one of his comments with the exact same word after a woman called Leah expressed her point of view that the opposite of love was not hate, but indifference. It rolls both ways, methinks. Aside from that, I wouldn’t mind people reacting to my writing in that way; it’s better than being ignored! Holly accepted that perhaps her initial post set Alan off and made him deaf to her ‘real’ critique of his writing/logic. I saw his point, too, but his logic is flawed and he only redefined his terms AFTER he was called to the carpet over the difference between lesbian/queer female voice. The only reason I mention this is that Alan’s initial defense was to try and shout louder about what he had read and how Holly might be stuck in the second wave of feminism, whereas he was thinking of it from a third-wave of more humble feminists from Asia – god, I’ve definitely been accused of not being humble enough! But, we’re not in Asia and I doubt that the women in Asia would want me to try and speak about their experience and struggle and not use any academic work that they had written in my defense of their position. I will say that I am not privy to any theological or spiritual base that originated in Asia – at least not any that I would probably recognise, but I do remember Mormonism. I know it as an American-created phenomenon and I believe that Mormonism’s lack of lesbian voices has to do with Mormonism’s ardent rejection of anything feminist, namely its active pursuit to kill the Equal Rights Amendment, back in the 1970s. It was the Prop 8 of its day.

    Alongside that, there was the desire to suppress equality of blacks by denying black men the priesthood. It wasn’t that there was a lack of voices, it was that there was an active suppression of voice and power as a way of differentiating itself from Protestant churches who were beginning to accept women as clergy. The second wave of feminism is responsible for the third wave of feminism in the same way that my reality as a lesbian was influenced (directly or indirectly) by the Stonewall riots, Harvey Milk and Mary Daly. Some queers may not want to think they owe a bunch of drag queens, effeminate and mouthy gay politician and a cranky (trust me, I met her once) butch feminist lesbian their third wave politics, but they do. They do, otherwise they all fall over the abyss of irrelevance, just like the racist, sexist, misogynistic meatheads whose ideas they were trying to overturn.

    Holly, I think you’re right that Mormon Lesbian Theology should not really use Heavenly Mother as a role model – she never speaks, her presence is token and invisible; it’s always the male god who does the talking to the prophets. At least in Catholicism, the cult of Mary allows for people to pray to her to intercede on their behalf. As far as I could ever imagine, Heavenly Mother was busy washing dishes or watching Oprah up in the celestial mansion when I got down on my knees to pray.

    I was interested that the women founders (Felt and May) of the Primary programme were together and that one of the women encouraged her husband to marry plurally so that she could hook up with the women she fancied. By now, they should both be in some position to be deified, so maybe practicing lesbian Mormons can use the lives of Srs. Felt and May to justify their own practice in the church.

    Do lesbian Mormons get disfellowshipped/ex’d for having a stable relationship and trying to maintain activity in the church?

  5. Interesting question from someone who has produced, in a very short time, quite a few rambling paragraphs some of which she acknowledges others would do just as well to ignore.

    @Holly: Well, it’s good to know that when I try to explain to you a different point of view that you just see that as “ramblings.” I think you’ve already established your power here by your inability to see “the other side” of the argument. Can I ask a personal question? You don’t have to answer it. Are you a Mormon Lesbian?

  6. Its quite interesting that if you agree with the word, wow as expressing a demeaning position, youll want to go back to August of 2010 when Alan started one of his comments with the exact same word

    It does rolls both ways. But then again, I am just a sensitive person =P

    But, were not in Asia and I doubt that the women in Asia would want me to try and speak about their experience and struggle and not use any academic work that they had written in my defense of their position.

    I think that goes for women all over the world and not just in Asia. I still think that that was not what transpired here. Yes, Alan did only quote men in his post. But, yes, he did explain why. I honestly do understand that that’s a tricky line to walk on, but it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to walk that line with grace and success.

    Oh, and one more thing that bothered me with this sentence: So what happens for an Asian woman like me, who lives here here in America, and “thinks like an Asian feminist?” This sounds like I have to adapt to the “American” feminist ideas to be able to be considered a feminist here in America. If y’all think that it’s hard to be a lesbian AND a Mormon, try being a woman of color, a lesbian AND a Mormon. Everyday, I deal with women like Holly. I try to tell them an idea or a concept that is different from what is considered “norm” and they just think that I am rambling. I am more than willing to say that I, sometimes, deliberately neglect to pay tribute to the great women who have paved the way, but that doesn’t mean that I am unaware of them. My way or Alan’s way, might not work for some, but it doesn’t mean it deserves to be shut down and viewed as irrelevant.

    So, someone please clarify as to why Alan’s suggestion on how to dissect the issue of the suppression of lesbians in the Church not possible? From what I understand, it’s because he didn’t quote any lesbians who have done their research and studies in the area? And even after the explanation as to why this was so, why is his explanation and my contribution to his idea, not valid? Even after telling my story, as proof–that sometimes, it is easier to work with the absence of a presence, than to discombobulate a message by filling the presence with more presence–my personal experience is still apparently not considered valid because it doesn’t fit the mold that some people have in here.

    I am going to assume that if I have posted the same post, since I am Asian, and thinks like an Asian feminist, then my way could not possibly translate to the “American” way.

  7. @Pinay

    Well, its good to know that when I try to explain to you a different point of view that you just see that as ramblings. I think youve already established your power here by your inability to see the other side of the argument.

    there is a “side” in an argument, and then there is the way it is expressed. However much I do or don’t agree with your position, I certainly notice certain, uh, elements of your prose style.

  8. interesting as well, Pinay, that you respond to someone pointing out that you’re guilty of an offense you accuse others of by saying, “Oh, you just don’t see my point of view.”

  9. So, someone please clarify as to why Alans suggestion on how to dissect the issue of the suppression of lesbians in the Church not possible?

    Because it is not useful or helpful to point out that lesbians are invisible and women’s voices excluded from the church, and then exclude women’s voices from a discussion of female sexuality. It reinforces the idea that women cannot talk directly about their sexuality but must let men do it for them, men being better able to articulate, control and regulate female sexuality in the first place.

    And even after the explanation as to why this was so, why is his explanation and my contribution to his idea, not valid?

    I’ve explained why i don’t find Alan’s explanation convincing. I don’t find yours convincing either. But you don’t find my explanations above convincing. Are you telling me that I MUST accept your opinion as valid instead of my own? If so, why? If not, how not? Are you letting me know that you see no valid way of approaching things but your own? If so, why? If not, how not?

  10. I love this paragraph, leftofcentre, from @54:

    Holly, I think youre right that Mormon Lesbian Theology should not really use Heavenly Mother as a role model she never speaks, her presence is token and invisible; its always the male god who does the talking to the prophets. At least in Catholicism, the cult of Mary allows for people to pray to her to intercede on their behalf. As far as I could ever imagine, Heavenly Mother was busy washing dishes or watching Oprah up in the celestial mansion when I got down on my knees to pray.

    And this:

    The second wave of feminism is responsible for the third wave of feminism in the same way that my reality as a lesbian was influenced (directly or indirectly) by the Stonewall riots, Harvey Milk and Mary Daly. Some queers may not want to think they owe a bunch of drag queens, effeminate and mouthy gay politician and a cranky (trust me, I met her once) butch feminist lesbian their third wave politics, but they do. They do, otherwise they all fall over the abyss of irrelevance, just like the racist, sexist, misogynistic meatheads whose ideas they were trying to overturn.

    I’ve been reading Mary Daly lately. Sometimes hard to take, but always thought-provoking. And yes, we all owe her a lot.

    @53

    There seems to be a cult of niceness that pervades Mormonism. If youre a Mormon women and want to speak with success, then learn Reliefsocietese.
    I dont get rebuking someone because they didnt show proper respect and reverence to authority in general, and more specifically, male authority.
    Personally, as long as its not directed at me, I find Hollys tone refreshing.

    I’ll try to keep it that way, Suzanne. :-)

    I readily admit I’m more willing to take a certain tone with men, especially Mormon men, than I am with women.

  11. I didn’t know we are basing the validity of things on someone’s “prose style.” I admit, Holly, that I am not as smart as you, not accomplished as you and (thank Heavens) not as condescending as you. I would rather have a conversation with someone with a “prose style” than someone who thinks that they are above me in all areas. I get your point of view, Holly. I am, after all, a lesbian who is still clinging to the good side of the Church, but also struggles to get my voice heard amidst the juggernauts. I would tell you stories about my own experiences and my lesbian friends but I will not bore you with our “common” stories because you’ll just think that I am not quoting someone in the higher echelon (perhaps, like yourself). There are times when quoting someone who does walk the walk to solidify your point and ultimately get some kind of validation for it. However, there are other times too, when you don’t have to. I think we both agree that quoting someone all the time is redundant. With that said, I will leave it to the “intellectuals,” such as yourself, to talk about this issue as a commoner like me can’t possibly comprehend the different “sides” being thrown around here unless I totally agree with your point of view.

  12. I don’t really understand this entire discussion either. I just wanted to clarify that we aren’t getting into identity politics here. Is that what we’re discussing?

    I think strict identity politics can be very limiting. By that I mean, suggesting that someone who is “mormon” is the only person who can discuss mormonism (whatever being “mormon” means). Or, only a woman can discuss issues impacting women, etc. From my limited understanding of the comments, no one is suggesting this. There is a suggestion that multiple viewpoints and perspectives should be included.

    With that said, I’ve had many discussions with former mormon men over the years. One of the thing that I have found is that many mormon men realize how bad things are/were for women, but there is a portion that is not able to be understood or communicated easily. Women also don’t understand everything about what being male and mormon means either. Many men are attempting that communication.

    I’ve said it before, people don’t think twice about the fact that men and adults stay in the chapel the entire typical Sunday meeting, while women and everyone else is dismissed to side rooms. Just as a simple example. Why do the women have to leave? The chapel is the most central, spiritual, important part of the building (presumably).

    There are a host of other examples, just like this, throughout the typical mormon experience. Women are constantly marginalized. And if the gender of the General Authorities doesn’t matter (the GAs are de-gendered) – why not have a female general authority? Like the Community of Christ does?

  13. Pinay @61

    Holly, that I am not as smart as you, not accomplished as you and (thank Heavens) not as condescending as you.

    True. Though it’s obvious you’re doing as well as your abilities will allow with the condescension, and that when asked to defend your position in any detail, you’re unable to do so.

    Aerin @62

    I think strict identity politics can be very limiting. By that I mean, suggesting that someone who is mormon is the only person who can discuss mormonism (whatever being mormon means). Or, only a woman can discuss issues impacting women, etc. From my limited understanding of the comments, no one is suggesting this. There is a suggestion that multiple viewpoints and perspectives should be included.

    I’m not advocating a strict identity politics. I think people can and should discuss other subject positions than their own. I am, however, pointing out that Alan replicate in his post the same erasure of women and lesbians, the same failure to see them with complexity and fullness, the same inability to talk successfully about female sexuality, that he decries.

    And if the gender of the General Authorities doesnt matter (the GAs are de-gendered) why not have a female general authority? Like the Community of Christ does?

    Exactly. Try to imagine one of them in a dress and you’ll realize how ludicrous is the claim that they’re degendered.

    it’s age, not their position as leaders, that mitigates their masculinity, if mitigation happens. And that’s a very different proposition.

  14. Pinay, thank you so much for your comments here. I hope there are more to come. You are loved. And no, Holly, you don’t see her side, but I have every confidence that she sees yours.

    The point is that if someone is claiming, as Alan does @3, that he wants to make womens voices paramount, he ought to walk his own walk, and not focus primarily on what men say, particularly on a topic like female sexuality.

    Holly, this whole thread, what you have labeled as my “sexism” and “patriarchy” is just a different feminism than you’re used to, and Pinay’s comments should have made this perfectly clear by now. But I can see they haven’t.

    Let’s go back to the invocation of my mother. When I invoked her, it was because I basically was asking you, “What do you hope to accomplish from disrespect?” In that case, disrespect of Mormon women who are happy with the lot Mormon patriarchy gives them.

    Your interpretation seemed to be “Oh, silly boy. You’re being sexist because you’re limiting the way feminism might be expressed, my feminism to be specific, and in doing so, you’re creating a kind of comfortableness for a status quo for all women, which perpetuates sexism. Moreover, you’re using your own poor mother to frame the discussion in such a masculinist way. Tsk.”

    And my response to you is: “What do you hope to accomplish from disrespect?”

    There is a Vietnamese Buddhist nun named Chn Khng who was asked in the late 90s why she continues to observe male-created precepts when she can see the way they are used to subjugate her. Her answer was: “I can accept them just to give joy to the monks who practice in the traditional way. If I can give them joy, I will have a chance to share my insights about women with them, and then they will be unblocked in their understanding.

    There are many, many women who approach feminist interventions this way, including a lot of Mormon women. In Western-American feminism (which is what your preference is, Holly, very obviously), the response to female egolessness or invisibility as caused by patriarchy is a resounding: “Women need more ego! So when I talk about invisibility as possibly as good space, or as Pinay so eloquently put it “to work with the absence of a presence,” you’re like, “Omigod. No.”

    But a Buddhist feminist response is that codependence (on the man) and self-aggrandizement (of the woman) are equal in bringing upon suffering. One does not need to first build up ego to reach egolessness. Now, of course male chauvinistic Buddhists can still simply ignore Buddhist feminism and women’s worlds, but in reality Buddhist patriarchy itself is eventually inadmissible on the very terms of the faith. And there is evidence of extremely important movement on this front, but I won’t get into that here.

    The question is, does Mormonism work the same way? Does the faith have a built-in respect for women that must ultimately come to pass? I don’t know the answer to that question. I would agree that “Heavenly Mother” as She is currently imagined doesn’t help that much. But I doubt we can even begin to talk about Her here, because you, Holly, are not particularly open to feminisms other than your own. You squoosh possible growing flowers as if they were weeds. And when I try to move your foot, you stomp on my hand. Again I ask, what do you hope to accomplish from disrespect?

    Oh, and on the “degendered” thing… think about the title of, say, this made-up essay: “Degendering the Problem, Gendering the Blame: LDS Discourses on Women’s Sexuality.” Degendered and hypermasculinity mean the same thing here, but since you aren’t comfortable with the absence of a presence, you might never have recognized this unless I told you.

  15. and that when asked to defend your position in any detail, youre unable to do so

    You chose to ignore my position, Holly. This is from you:

    I dont find yours convincing either

    So, me trying to further explain myself is moot. You’ve already made up your mind that a simpleton lesbian woman of color like myself doesn’t fit your spectrum. And for you to claim…

    But you dont find my explanations above convincing. Are you telling me that I MUST accept your opinion as valid instead of my own? If so, why? If not, how not? Are you letting me know that you see no valid way of approaching things but your own? If so, why? If not, how not?

    …is just plain ignorant on your part. Ignorant because you simply ignore the fact that I did conceded by saying that I agree with you that you have to be able to quote people of their work, specially when the issue that you are talking about is about them. You also ignored why I think the other point of view has its space in this discussion. But like what you said, you don’t find my explanation convincing. So, again, I am going to concede on your tunnel way of thinking just to please you.

    Oh, and by the way, when you said:

    I readily admit Im more willing to take a certain tone with men, especially Mormon men, than I am with women

    that really explains a lot, so thanks for the clarification. You can sleep tonight knowing that you are one of the oppressors of lesbian women in the Church.

  16. Hey Aerin,

    I think you’re right that non-Mormons can speak about Mormon issues, but if you want to write a piece about the Mormon experience I think you do have to interview Mormons, at some stage and quote them in your writing.

    I think it’s fantastic that ex-Mo men realise the problems with sexist practices and dogma within the church. Sexism affects them, directly and indirectly, too.

    Pinay,

    As for my suggestion that Asian Mormon women cannot speak about an American religion, that’s less the case than American Mormon women not being able to speak about Asian experiences – for one, there has not been a non-Western proselytising culture in recent times. That may not always be the case, but you said, yourself, that it was really difficult being an Asian Mormon Lesbian in America, and the place you are told to occupy in the Western hierarchy of things is probably to blame for most of that. Mormonism and its male-centred voice is a huge proponent of maintaining that Western hierarchy, under the guise that eternal families and god-families are male/female partnerships where the male is king and the female is silent and invisible. To do that in real politics they support anti-queer, anti-equality measures that serve to keep people down and delay social justice for everyone.
    Seems to me that’s still a reason to fight for a voice. I don’t think it’s time to sit down at the table and make nice-nice, yet.

  17. What do you hope to accomplish from disrespect?

    a lack of respect for ideas that don’t deserve it.

    Think Stonewall Riot. Disrespect can get a lot of good done.

    So when I talk about invisibility as possibly as good space, or as Pinay so eloquently put it to work with the absence of a presence, youre like, Omigod. No.

    You are right about one thing: when YOU talk about the invisibility of WOMEN as a good space, I am like, “Omigod. No.”

    You want to prove that invisibility is so great, then go be invisible yourself.

    I’m willing to have a discussion about absence as a presence. Just wrote an essay on it, in fact.

    Degendered and hypermasculinity mean the same thing

    No, they don’t. Not in their roots, not in their usages.

  18. So, me trying to further explain myself is moot.

    If that’s true, why are you still doing it?

    You chose to ignore my position, Holly. This is from you:

    I dont find yours convincing either

    The fact that I don’t find your argument convincing doesn’t mean I have ignored it.

  19. @leftofcentre: I was a Mormon well before I came here. Mormonism is not a new idea in the Philippines. In fact, in recent years, it has gained a lot of grounds in the Philippines. It’s true, that there aren’t a lot of non-Western proselytising culture in recent times but it’s not unheard of. One of the problem is that when a non-Western idea is being introduced or brought up in conversations like we are having here, it’s easy for that non-Western idea to flourish because it doesn’t even get to see the light of day (for reasons that can be observed by some comments here). When a non-white Mormon who is trying to bring up an idea into a conversation in a space like this is a dangerous act, just think of the repercussions this would have when it happens in an actual public space. It’s hard to enough to get my voice across the field of white men in the Church but to get the same kind of push from the women in the church, is debilitating and discouraging. This is even more true here in America. I remember in the Philippines, that it was easier for a woman to be recognized in their own church. For lesbian women–while they might not be as lucky as the heterosexual women–it was still a lot easier for “us” to be heard. The way that we did our “church politics” in the Philippines is that lesbians who are in the Church, stayed in the background most of the time. We worked within our boundaries, quietly but effectively. While this might seem like a “cowardly” thing to do, it worked in our advantage. We know who the “strong” lesbians are in our community and we acknowledge them rightfully and yes, we DO know the men in our community whom we can rely on to speak for us to the higher-ups and we acknowledge those men more than rightfully. This doesn’t mean, however, that we lesbian women are timid and perpetuating the male domination/female oppression dynamic in the Church, we just recognize that the boundaries that were predetermined for us by “the guys above” can be easily used to work in our favor. We used the shadows in our advantage…we grew in size and eventually the shadow can no longer be called a shadow for it started to overcome the person casting it. Our influence grew. Silently but methodologically and overwhelmingly.

    Here in America it is harder to do that because there are a lot of lesbian women or women in general who are feminists and in the Church who cannot see “our” way as even an option. It is, as Alan say, always “MORE EGO.” There are advantages in doing it that way, but if people can’t adapt and adopt to other people’s way (specifically Asian Feminist Women) then we ended up being oppressed all over again…by women who claim to be feminists themselves.

  20. its easy for that non-Western idea to flourish because it doesnt even get to see the light of day

    I meant to say “it’s not easy”

  21. Pinay,
    Maybe the reasons you find it so difficult to be recognized, here, are the same reasons why white lesbian voices also find it difficult to be recognized. It’s not all about women who fill the void with ego and shout the loudest, but that is a common argument that white male voices raise when they come across a woman (any woman, of any culture or ethnicity) who: a) may have a strong opinion that is different from theirs, and b) dares to challenge patriarchal position and privilege.
    The shadow of nothing that becomes so large as to become a legitimate presence has its place – Alan’s point of view about how lesbian theology might look will have its place. However, to deny any other lesbian or feminist Mormon writers/artists/academics/poets/musicians who have actually paid a great price by standing up to Mormon patriarchy a teeny, tiny mention in hopes that the presence of male voices will accentuate the shadow/absence of the female queer voice and desire is, in my opinion, just folly. Third wave feminism dictates that Alan might have to concede a point because we all DO come from very different places. The lack of inclusion of historical context and historical voices – the feminists who fought for women’s right to vote, the feminists who fought for equal pay and funding for women, the feminists who fought for contraception rights and the rights for women not to be raped by their husbands – means that it felt that Alan skirted around all the women who, in America, have been banging their heads against a brick wall cos the shadow of egolessness doesn’t knock American shit down.

  22. Alan
    So if workers show proper deference to management, they will get big raises and good benefits?
    When I look at the Big Strike and Bloody Thursday, I’m impressed with the willingness of the west coast labor movement to show disrespect to authority.

    It is my opinion that if respect is required, then it isn’t deserved.
    If the peasant has to abase herself and grovel, what she really thinks is invisible and unexpressed will end with her. Maybe she’s suppose to be grateful for the privilege of prostrating herself.
    Personally, I think the peasants should unionize and grab their pitchforks

    It was the crushed insurrections and suppressed rebellions that kept alive the idea of freedom.
    I’ll take the Rosa Parks model of refusing to sit in the back of the bus, then respectfully sitting there hoping that one day my deference will impress those in authority and they’ll let me move up a couple rows (and then I’ll call it a big accomplishment.)

    And I’ll take that Drag Queen at Compton’s who threw the cup of coffee in a police officials face. It changed San Fransisco for the better.

  23. Alan:

    Someone who wishes to address a group as an outsider must show great tact and sensitivity, and must earn the trust of the insiders, in order to speak effectively.

    You are an outsider when it comes to the topic of female sexuality, and you lack tact and sensitivity, and you refuse to engage in behaviors that would earn you trust.

    You do not have the trust of the majority of the women in this conversation. You demand our respect, but refuse to show respect in many ways. This is of particular concern since YOU started the conversation about female sexuality.

    Your insistence that what you are doing is just fine and we should be OK with it because other are OK with it when we are telling you we aren’t is analogous to someone saying,”Hey, what you’re doing to me HURTS and violates a bunch of my boundaries” and getting the reply, “No, what I’m doing to you feels good and it doesn’t violate your boundaries and I know that because it doesn’t violate the boundaries of these other people I do it to, who like it a lot.”

    Maybe you have done things to earn their trust, so that your status as outsider doesn’t matter so much to them. But it matters to us. You have not earned the right to speak to us as you do as on the topic of female sexuality, and it is WE and not YOU who determines that.

    You need to stop. You must stop. If you ever had any credibility or authority on this topic with this audience, you have lost it now. And continuing to insist that you SHOULD have credibility and authority won’t get it for you. The only way to get it is to acknowledge and respect our statements about why you have failed.

    Because you have failed.

    Attribute that failure in your own mind to any flaw in us you want. But stop trying to convince us that you have not failed, and that we’re just too whatever to realize that what you are doing actually feels good instead of hurting.

  24. Pinay

    When a non-white Mormon who is trying to bring up an idea into a conversation in a space like this is a dangerous act

    this is a disingenuous statement, since your first comment here was comprised mainly of your “not-so-constructive criticism” which you suggested we not read, and your second comment was a snarky insult to the blog founder. You did what you could to make sure that the environment was dangerous before offering your idea, so it’s no surprise that things turned out just as you arranged them.

    If you can’t handle the danger, don’t create it. That’s just a passive-aggressive way of having “MORE EGO,” not less.

  25. Maybe the reasons you find it so difficult to be recognized, here, are the same reasons why white lesbian voices also find it difficult to be recognized.

    I only speak for me and other lesbians in my community when I say that white lesbians are, more often than not, the reason why non-white lesbian Mormons are feeling ostracized from the Church even more. If it is hard for us non-white lesbians to be heard among the white Mormon male leaders, it is even a harder battle with the white lesbians who claim to be feminists. There’s obviously a cultural wall the divides us here.

    However, to deny any other lesbian or feminist Mormon writers/artists/academics/poets/musicians who have actually paid a great price by standing up to Mormon patriarchy a teeny, tiny mention in hopes that the presence of male voices will accentuate the shadow/absence of the female queer voice and desire is, in my opinion, just folly.

    It is a bit folly to not mention those great lesbians and feminists who have their share to the betterment of women across the board. I realize that. I do, realize too that the essence of Alan’s point remains misunderstood. A great example is the thread that his post created. Lesbians of all walks are voicing out. Alan’s way did affect readers here both women and men (well, maybe just one man so far…my brother). I think that as a member of a community it is in everyone’s best interest if you know that members of your community as a whole. It is our duty to know those people who have helped with the feminist movement and with the LGBT movement. It is our duty to know our history and the people of our past who created a better future for us. With that said, is it possible for us to have a discussion that moves the foundation upward and not downward without having to cite and pay tribute to all of those great women and men? If people readily shut down an idea because that person has a different way of starting the conversation then we’ll only create a straight line that doesn’t adapt to the diversity of our community.

    egolessness doesnt knock American shit down.

    And Egofulness might knock “American shit down” but is sure does knock actual people down.

    It is my opinion that if respect is required, then it isnt deserved.

    @Suzanne Neilsen: Don’t we all require respect? So does that mean that we don’t deserve the respect if we require it? That’s kind of like saying to a poor man that since they require food and shelter, that they don’t deserve it. I am really confused by this statement. Maybe I am misinterpreting it. Perhaps it’s the language barrier at fault here.

    If the peasant has to abase herself and grovel, what she really thinks is invisible and unexpressed will end with her. Maybe shes suppose to be grateful for the privilege of prostrating herself.

    I am going to apply this statement to the point I am trying to make. So if I don’t shout and yell and riot and throw things at my Bishop to get my voice heard, then it is my fault that voice is not heard? Again, there are different ways of tackling an issue. Your way works for you, okay. But it doesn’t mean that it works for everyone. I do admit that sometimes women have to do just that to get their point across, but let us not chastise women who have a different way of getting their voice out there. Their way shouldn’t be tagged as demeaning and degrading. To also say that it is a privilege to be prostrated just because they are quite and humble is hurtful.

    It was the crushed insurrections and suppressed rebellions that kept alive the idea of freedom

    Very true. And if you think of it, it is the lack of the mention of prominent lesbians, feminists and both that kept this thread going. We do know that there are women out there who want their voices heard. So, really, Alan’s lack of quotes is doing what he intended for it to do…which is to have a different affect to women and men alike and have a different way to discuss the issues he brought up. But, since the lot of you still insists that we need to quote, quote, quote to pay respect to those who have done their work, for a discussion to be valid, then this forum is not a place for a more radical thinking…or at least a non-Western way of thinking.

    @Alan: I appreciate your contributions to this platform, specially this one. I do come here and read the posts once in a while. I don’t usually actually post or comment but I still appreciate all comments and ideas. If we can keep talking about the issues that are important to us, then there’s a way for those issues surface and become a national discussion. I had to comment on your post because it spoke to me of the issues I have with the women in my Church. Particularly white women and more specifically white feminist women.

    I can agree to disagree with a certain someone on here and I will just leave it at that. I would rather actually take this conversation outside of this forum and bring it up to the attention of my community. I think I would have better luck with getting this conversation going forward rather than a power-trip struggle on here. Perhaps that certain someone can come visit our community and see how this “other” side of the argument is just as valid as her side. Don’t get me wrong, “Certain Someone,” we have tried the aggressive way and you are right, it does work. But you are also wrong to claim that it works all the time, for all types of people.

  26. Pinay:

    If we can keep talking about the issues that are important to us

    If YOU can keep talking about issues that are important to you, then YOU are neither voiceless nor invisible nor an absence in presence in the way you or Alan suggest is a good space.

    Dont get me wrong, Certain Someone, we have tried the aggressive way and you are right, it does work. But you are also wrong to claim that it works all the time, for all types of people.

    Assuming you are referring to me, I must ask: Where do I claim that? Where, in this forum, or anywhere else for that matter, do I claim that?

  27. So, chanson, why even mentioned that you personally invited Alan?

    Because your comment seemed to imply that I was somehow preventing Alan from expressing himself. In fact, exactly the opposite is true. I actually read Alan’s novel and spent a good deal of my time analyzing Alan’s novel and discussing and promoting is. Which is why I don’t appreciate the vaguely accusing tone.

    For a minute there I was actually worried that I will get banned from here because of my response.

    Pinay, you’ve picked a very unfortunate thread as your introduction to the Main Street Plaza community. I would really appreciate it if you’re read our welcome page (and perhaps peruse some of our other discussions) to get a feel for this place before.

    And to everybody:

    Good morning from Switzerland! I went to bed last night absolutely dreading what I’d find on this thread in the morning, and I see that my dread was not entirely misplaced (but fortunately it was at least partly misplaced).

    Folks, I try to make an effort to remain neutral and encourage everyone to keep their comments calm and constructive. I did a poor job of that yesterday, and hence exacerbated the drama. For this I would like to apologize to the whole community. I hope that people come here to MSP for rational, reasonable discussion. From earlier discussion, I understand that most people here don’t want the attraction to be drama. All efforts to keep this discussion civil are heartily appreciated.

  28. Oh, and this:

    And if you think of it, it is the lack of the mention of prominent lesbians, feminists and both that kept this thread going.

    This is very true, but it doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. Frankly it’s analogous to the fact that it was the continued exclusion of black people from certain places that kept the civil rights movement going. I am sure that future exclusions of lesbians, women and feminists will likewise contribute to the need to point out why such exclusion should end.

    Once such obvious exclusion does end, the conversation can of course move on to something else.

  29. pinay
    I’m white woman who claims to be a feminist. I’m also a white lesbian, so I guess that makes me someone who is oppressing you. I wasn’t aware I was chastising you. From my perspective, it seems chastising to is a gift you have. So I think I’ll emulate you.

    What is hurtful is requiring people to prostrate themselves. Good way to keep them quiet and humble and grateful they have a foot on their back. Obeisance is not respect.
    I think groveling is degrading. If you want to grovel to your superiors, you don’t need my permission.
    I think the word respect doesn’t have much meaning. The imperial wizard demands respect, but his very actions determine that he doesn’t deserve it. I’ve seen violent young punks saying –you dissing me. So I say–you’re not worth dissing.
    So eff respect.
    I’m not saying you have to throw things at your bishop, throw up on him, or throw him out the window. But this Mormon lesbian and white feminist(that’s me) doesn’t do supplication. We are all children of God and I don’t need a intercessor. That’s my theology.
    I speak only for myself.

  30. took all night to think about things.

    Here’s what’s going on.

    Alan is showing up and writing long, loud, arrogant, condescending posts, advocating humility, invisibility, absence, silence.

    Hmm.

    Pinay is shwoing up and writing long, loud, snotty posts, advocating silence, absence, deference.

    Hmm.

    Hard to see how their actions reflect what their advocating.

    But wait!

    Alan is a MAN who shows up and writes long, loud, condescending, arrogant posts, advocating humility, invisibility, absence, silence as good for WOMEN.

    OK. Makes more sense.

    Alan, what you call another form of feminism is just patriarchy, at least in your hands.

    Pinay is a LESBIAN OF COLOR who show up and writes long, loud, snotty posts, advocating silence, absence, deference by OTHER WOMEN for MEN.

    OK. Makes more sense.

    Pinay, I have no difficulty understanding why the big boys like you just fine, and why you are in conflict with other lesbians.

    Suzanne and I advocate disrespect for bullshit. We produce plenty of that.

    Suzanne, leftofcentre, chanson and I advocate more women’s voices on topics like women’s sexuality. We’re doing our best on that front here.

    Our walk matches our talk.

    Pinay’s and Alan’s doesn’t.

    They go on and on about absence and silence and egolessness, but all you see is their huge egos as they show up and lecture others.

    Piny and Alan, you are both obviously very young, very naive, very inexperienced. I have some curiosity to see how your ideas will change over a couple of decades. As someone who was once but is no longer 27, as someone who has lived in Asia and studied Buddhism, I know that many of one’s ideas about what the world is like will change dramatically by the time one is 47.

    Until then, could you please model what you advocate? Could you please model absence, silence, invisibility, humility, egolessness?

    If you can’t, I’ll know that you don’t really believe any of what you’re saying, that you don’t think the methods you’re talking about are important or successful or viable, and that you are actually more interested in your own egos than in any sort of feminism.

  31. OK, again I apologize for setting the wrong tone near the beginning of this discussion, so perhaps I don’t have a leg to stand on to make this request. But @80 is a little too close to name calling on a thread that already has a lot of drama that it would be nice to stop feeding. Instead, let’s try to go back to the strategy of keeping the criticism civil.

  32. Pinay said @ I only speak for me and other lesbians in my community when I say that white lesbians are, more often than not, the reason why non-white lesbian Mormons are feeling ostracized from the Church even more. If it is hard for us non-white lesbians to be heard among the white Mormon male leaders, it is even a harder battle with the white lesbians who claim to be feminists.

    Yep, you really can only speak for yourself, Pinay. I doubt that you are the spokesperson for the entire non-white Mormon lesbian community, though. Your assumption is that I am white. You do not know my entire history or background and you do not speak for me. You CAN add to the Lesbian Mormon Theological voice, if that is how you identify. I cannot add to the Gay Male Mormon Theological voice, no matter how much gay male porn/romance I watch. I can speculate on that voice all I want to but at the end of the day that is all it is: speculation.

    Alan wanted to be taken seriously as a feminist thinker – IF he had put a disclaimer at the beginning of his piece acknowledging his writing ‘hook’ and the noticeable lack of female/feminist perspective it might have been acceptable and we might have left it alone. As it was, it fell short and he was called on it. Nothing more. I had no axe to grind – I don’t know Alan, but I hate a position being misrepresented, especially under the title, ‘Toward a Mormon Lesbian Theology’. His approach just didn’t work, it’s nothing personal against him, or at least it certainly didn’t start out that way. Unfortunately, I think some of the things you wrote in your initial posts took it into the personal realm.
    The more I think about this the more I am convinced that Alan’s lack of humility and ego in all things, including his manner with you, was nothing more than psychological sabotage. It feels like Alan set you up and maybe fed you some words. The unfortunate thing is that you probably won’t comment much more, Pinay, and if you are who you say you are, you probably have a valuable voice to add to this dialogue – I’d listen to what you had to say about the way you gained acceptance in your church in the Philippines. I would believe that you had a way of doing it that worked for you, in that context and in that country. I will not be told by anyone that silence is the best approach when it comes to men in authority, especially from a man I do not know. I do not know many white Mormon lesbians who still attend church, Pinay. I’m sorry you feel that feminist thinkers are your oppressors – it would be quite unlikely in most circumstances, though not impossible. I am sure that all you would have to do, in any situation, is to say that you felt they were a bit out of line for suggesting that they might not know you or your situation and I am sure that all of them would (at least) seriously consider your point of view…draw your own conclusions about Alan. Good night.

  33. The more I think about this the more I am convinced that Alans lack of humility and ego in all things, including his manner with you, was nothing more than psychological sabotage. It feels like Alan set you up and maybe fed you some words.

    You and Holly are sooooooo intent on maintaining a male/female divide that excludes me from having any validity that you will tell a woman of color that she doesn’t know how to read a white man’s words? Or, in Holly’s case, that a woman of color is “obviously very young naive and inexperienced?” You’ve got to be kidding me.

    Just so you both know, that’s called racism.

    Leftofcentre@54:

    …Stonewall riots, Harvey Milk and Mary Daly. Some queers may not want to think they owe a bunch of drag queens, effeminate and mouthy gay politician and a cranky (trust me, I met her once) butch feminist lesbian their third wave politics, but they do.

    A queer female immigrant owes the Stonewall activists nothing. She can come to pay homage to them, but that is her choice.

    Even a white gay American male such as myself doesn’t necessarily owe the Stonewall activists anything, as it really depends on one’s family and the communities one is part of as to what and who is considered important or influential.

    Have assumptions been made about my home and family life? About the communities I am part of? You are right when you say you do not know me.

    People came here with a sense of ownership over the topic. That’s the problem. And that’s what people can’t get past.

    What I, and later Pinay, have been saying about “silence” has been grotesquely twisted. Untwisting it is more than I have energy for anymore.

    I’m pretty much disinclined to dedicate any more of my energies here. Too much disrespect being shoveled in every direction. Taking an extended break from MSP now.

  34. Alan said: You and Holly are sooooooo intent on maintaining a male/female divide that excludes me from having any validity that you will tell a woman of color that she doesnt know how to read a white mans words?

    That’s not what I meant, at all. Alan, you have misinterpreted every comment made, except for those that echo your position.

    Please, let me reiterate: There will be a male/female divide until laws are changed and intrinsic value of women as people, workers and citizens, is equal to a man’s, until that time you cannot academically speak for the position of Mormon lesbian theology without including some Mormon lesbians in your writing. You didn’t fail to include three separate female sources, plus a reference to your mother, in your piece about Racialized Domestic Servitude and the Perfect Mormon Housewife.

    The Mormon church believes itself to be responsible for the teaching of people in how to be people, workers and citizens and, so, it is responsible for some of the oppression of women and especially the lesbian – who is a woman and in a non-procreative relationship, to boot. The oppression came through trying to silence them by opposing the ERA, and convincing the women of the church to jump on board with their own oppression. That’s where some of the people who commented on your piece took offence with your position, and quite possibly Pinay’s too.

    It is certainly commendable that you feel strongly about feminist issues, but I think that you are mistaking the universal truth of what all women want/need with some feminist work that has touched your life and spoken to you. It may have wider applications, but that’s for women to decide for themselves. Maybe you hoped that the poetry of working with the presence of absence or vice versa would woo people, but it just feels like the same old message to a few of us: “Sit down and be quiet,” especially when it comes from a man, gay or otherwise. When we tried to express to you how we felt, your response could have been very different. You might have tried to see our different points of view (though there were some common themes running through them), but you just closed your ears, insisting that this third wave of feminism was where you were coming from and, hey, it was time to get on board with that. If you had not tried to argue the toss with Holly you might have had us interested, but Holly’s one very valid point (in her first comment) was lost on you, as were her subsequent attempts for you to see the point she was making in the first place.
    It’s a shame that you are going, healthy debate is a good thing and it wasn’t about ownership of a topic. I certainly still have a lot to learn and I was GENUINELY interested in what a Mormon Lesbian Theology might look like. Seriously, I wanted to have that conversation.
    Right, those final two posts of mine were the two that I missed out on for having been out of town.
    As for the charge of being racist, well…I’ll take that on, Alan, if you agree that you’re a bit sexist.

  35. Leftofcentre, I appreciate you working with me here.

    the universal truth of what all women want/need

    There is no such thing, and the sooner you recognize this, the sooner the conversation can move forward.

    Please reread Pinay @ 56 for more information as to why this is, and why your concerns, although valid, do not hold universal weight for all women.

  36. Alan:

    Or, in Hollys case, that a woman of color is obviously very young naive and inexperienced? Youve got to be kidding me.

    Just so you both know, thats called racism.

    Right. Because people of color are invariably born old, wise and experienced.

    I didn’t presume to lecture her on race or how she should feel about it, which would be analogous to what you’ve done. But as leftofcentre says, as for the charge of being racist, wellIll take that on, Alan, if you agree that you’re an inveterate mansplainer.

    ‘Cause a 20-something guy with a few semesters’ worth of grad school under his belt lecturing women with far more education, age and experience about how they should think about female sexuality is a mansplainer, which is one of the ways patriarchy reproduces and maintains itself.

    But here’s the thing: it’s not just patriarchy; it’s misogyny.

    It’s like you absolutely can’t stop mansplaining. I’ve never seen another man who seems to feel such a profound sense of ownership over the topic of feminism. You simply cannot stop telling women that when it comes to feminism, unless they do it like you, they’re doing it wrong. You claim to advocate humility, but your arrogance knows no bounds. You talk about respect, but you refuse to show it. You’d rather mansplain.

  37. Emancipation would be nice, Alan. It looks different to everyone but it’s essential to everyone. And I know, I know what postmodernism says to universal truths, thanks for that.

    Pinay is your personal friend and, as such, I’m not going to rely on her position to defend yours any longer. Her comments towards Holly went into the personal and you fed Pinay words, though whether you were standing over her shoulder while she was typing them is debateable. There is a definite change in the way she writes from comment to comment and sometimes it’s only slightly altered from how you write. You’ve been rumbled mate and it affects the integrity of everything you say.

    Personally, I don’t know Holly. I don’t know Suzanne. I am happy to defend their ideas because their arguments with your writing (not you, personally) have merit and substance.

    Holly, if you’re still reading this thread, I could really use the Q-tips, cos this is ridiculous.

    BTW, thanks Chino.

  38. hey loc, my comment wasn’t directed at anyone in particular, just noting the topic may have changed but the tone in comments is dj vu all over again.

  39. Holly, if youre still reading this thread, I could really use the Q-tips, cos this is ridiculous.

    I’ll see what I can do, leftofcentre. :-)

  40. OK, so I see the two sides of this debate have gotten in their closing statements summing up their arguments. The positions are quite clear now, and probably don’t require any further clarification. Thanks in advance.

  41. I am a Latter-day Saint and female. I have same-gender attraction. However, I am also attracted to men. My concern is that our leaders seem to brush lesbianism and female sexuality under the rug. Are they too accustomed to not talk about it? Would my bishop think I am a pervert because I am sexually attracted to women? Would he find me a pervert because I am a sensual and erotic woman? I am scared to bring up the topic. I do feel that most of our discussions in the church are geared toward men “overcoming sexual issues” than women. I really see it as a compliment toward women in the church. They think we’re too good to have such thoughts, but also it is a disenchantment with female sexuality. Is it so far fetched that a woman can have an orgasm and that God created us for sexual pleasure with our spouses?

  42. Hi, Ofinsik. When my mother brought up to her bishop the fact that she is highly sexed, he responded that her husband is “lucky” (rather than making her feel bad about being “overly” sensual). What this says to me is that (a) not all men in the Church like their women “modest,” and (b) Mormon men are liable to relate a woman’s sexuality to that of another man’s, in which a woman’s pleasure is thought about in the context of a man’s pleasure. If my mother were to say, “Dear bishop, I like to masturbate everyday, because I’m a sensual woman,” I doubt the bishop would say, “You’re a lucky woman to be so in touch with your sensuality.” So, in a lot of ways, I think even LDS men who are okay with sensual women have expectations in terms of the outlets for this sensuality. Certainly the sensuality is “not allowed” to be directed toward another woman.

    The problem, as I see it, is when a heterosexual man is in charge (particularly one who thinks sexuality is geared for marriage more than individual pleasure), this very much limits the kinds of conversations and viewpoints that will follow. He might call upon someone else to help “deal with” a given issue if he’s not versed enough, but this doesn’t really point to humility in the man, or a community-at-work, so much as it points to a broken organizational structure. A woman has to feel out whether she is comfortable to speak about her sexuality before a potentially ignorant man, as opposed to already being comfortable to speak.

    Now, people don’t necessarily want to be lined up with someone of their own gender when it comes to talking about sexuality. I think this is a very important point that is often neglected. But the point is, there really should be more than just one kind of person behind the desk, and in the Church this just isn’t so.

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