You’re the star of your adventure now, Lolly Weed!

For me, giving my whole heart to Josh while knowing that he did not love me the way a man loves a woman has always been devastating. We were best friends, but he never desired me, he never adored me, he never longed for me.

[…]

No matter how much I knew “why” he couldn’t respond to me in the ways a lover responds to a partner, it wears a person down, as if you’re not “good enough” to be loved “in that way.” And what I didn’t realize is that as human beings, we actually need to feel loved in that way with our partners.

This deficit started to mess with my self-esteem. […] No matter how clear I was on the technicalities of this reality, it was impossible not to internalize his complete lack of attraction toward me. Subconsciously, it was a constant message. You aren’t attractive. You aren’t wanted. You aren’t beautiful. You aren’t a good enough woman.

It was making me unhealthy. I gained a lot of weight. My self-concept was diminishing over time.

That’s Lolly Weed, writing a segment in Josh Weed’s heartfelt piece describing the end of their high-profile mixed-orientation marriage.

Early in the piece, Josh recounted the “three currents” that led to the demise of their marriage:

First: Love for the LGBTQ population

Second: Love of self as a gay person

Now, if you have read the above-linked piece, and if you’re like me, you probably anticipated #3:

Third: The realization that this marriage is slowly crushing Lolly’s soul, and that her happiness also matters.

But, if (like me!) you guessed that, then (like me!) you guessed wrong!!

Nope, it was:

Third: the death of [Josh’s] mom.

Ummm, Okaaaaaay… So your realization that the marriage was hurting Lolly (as described above) didn’t even come in fourth or something…?

The other disturbing bit is the following, (again quoting Lolly):

Almost everyone has said to me, with an air of protective emphasis, “Oh, but Lolly, you deserve to be loved that way! You will find someone else who can love you like that. You deserve to love and be loved in that way!” And I agree with them. The thing that I find interesting is that these are all straight people looking at me, another straight person, and being able to see the injustice of me not experiencing true love.

[…]

I mean, isn’t the same true for LGBT people? Shouldn’t we feel the exact same intuitive injustice at the thought of them deserving to be “loved like that”?

Yes, of course we should (and many do). But here’s the problem: This is a personal piece about your feelings about your marriage. Your marriage contains exactly zero (0) gay people who have never been “loved like that.” Josh obviously faced a number of profound challenges in your marriage, but failure to be the object of true romantic love isn’t one of them.

Lolly, if you are reading this, I find it disheartening that — the one part of this story that’s about you — you can’t just let it be about you. You have to immediately pivot to concern about other people’s needs. It’s as if you’ve been profoundly conditioned to believe that your needs always have to take a backseat to everyone else’s needs; that you think you fundamentally don’t matter.

Lolly, I hope you find the love you deserve. You are probably well aware that unfortunately — as a Mormon single mom — your chances of finding your new soul-mate are a lot lower than Josh’s. But you know what? Even if you never find true love, you’re still better off getting out of the situation you described: the marriage that is strangling your spirit.

Josh’s whole post describes a path of learning a truly beautiful love and empathy for LGBTQIA people. You both have developed a great understanding of the beauty and humanity of queer folks. Which is why the treatment of Lolly’s experience in the piece is so jarring.

Well, Lolly — you’re not the co-star of Josh’s adventure anymore. You’re the star of your own adventure now. Let me help you get started:

The 8 things I’d like to ask

I know…I have resigned my membership. So why do I care about the new Mormon church policy update that impacts LGBT Mormons? Why bother stressing about it if I don’t even belong or believe?

Because this was my faith community for 46 years. Because it was how I was raised. Because I have active believing children (and now grandchildren), parents, a sister, extended family and friends that do continue to believe and participate. Because the Mormon church continues to impact those relationships. I have a gay brother whose married to a wonderful man and they’ve been together for a lot of years. During my faith transition, I reached out and made many friends online and became aware of their struggles and pain. I’m a Mama Dragon, even if I don’t have any gay children myself, because LGBT issues have impacted my life. I’ve received private messages over the past couple of years about what it means to be gay in the Mormon church. I have listened to stories of unimaginable pain and anguish. And the most basic reason is because I’m human and I care about people.

So I’ve examined this policy, as currently written (with no clarification issued yet), and engaged in a lot of discussions. While doing this, I’ve compiled a list of questions – questions that the video the church released with Elder Christofferson left unanswered. Here they are:

#1 – Since the primary reason for the policy given by Elder Christofferson was to protect the children from mixed messages, how does this policy accomplish that when it only bans them from saving ordinances while allowing/encouraging them to attend church? If this is the primary concern, why not ban them from attending our church services all-together until they’re 18? How does the church reconcile the mixed messaging happening for children in other families that are living in situations where parents are living in ways that don’t align with church doctrines/policies? Like non-members, those engaged in sexual activity outside of marriage, those with addiction issues, those living with partners but unmarried, those that have left the church, apostates, etc. If the church is trying to prevent mixed messaging or family conflict, why aren’t these same rules applicable for all children under age 18? Are they still working on policy updates for those children/families as well? Because there are many children currently participating in the church the hear messages that conflict with what they hear and see at home.

# 2 – Does the church anticipate that the children of gay parents will still attend church with these new rules? Do they hope that grandparents, family members and friends will continue to bring these children to primary, church and youth activities? Will the church be encouraging that? If so, how does the church envision this experience working for both those children and the adults teaching primary/YM/YW? Because the messaging will be the same. And they won’t be able to fully participate in some things (baptism, blessing/passing the sacrament, temple trips, ordinations). Does the church plan on altering the manuals to help teachers and leaders prepare for these situations and how to make the children feel truly involved/included?

# 3 - Since baby blessings are not a saving ordinance, and viewed as a celebration of a child’s birth, and are done for children whose parents are inactive/non-members, why is this different for children with gay parents? The reason given, during the video, was it creates a membership record and starts ward responsibilities for that child. But that happens with other children, as well, whose parents may not even be attending or believe (and living in situations where mixed messaging will happen). Is the church concerned about having the gay couples names on the certificate of blessing? Or in the church system listed as a family unit?  If so, why? Wouldn’t the church want primary/ward leaders and members to reach out to these children, just like they do for inactive families?

# 4 - Why is the church just now enacting these changes when same-sex marriage has been legal in roughly 20 other countries for anywhere between 1 year and more than 10 years? The total church membership in those countries is about 2.5 million. The church has said this is to protect children and families. Was the church concerned about the children and families in these other countries as well? And, if so, why did they wait until marriage laws changed in the U.S. when this is a global church?

# 5 –  How does the church view support of same-sex marriage for members now? In this interview with Elder Christofferson in March 2015, he stated:

“Our approach in all of this, as (Mormon founder) Joseph Smith said, is persuasion. You can’t use the priesthood and the authority of the church to dictate. You can’t compel, you can’t coerce. It has to be persuasion, gentleness and love unfeigned, as the words in the scripture.”
There hasn’t been any litmus test or standard imposed that you couldn’t support that if you want to support it, if that’s your belief and you think it’s right,” Christofferson said after a Jan. 27 news conference.

We have individual members in the church with a variety of different opinions, beliefs and positions on these issues and other issues,” Christofferson said. ” … In our view, it doesn’t really become a problem unless someone is out attacking the church and its leaders — if that’s a deliberate and persistent effort and trying to get others to follow them, trying to draw others away, trying to pull people, if you will, out of the church or away from its teachings and doctrines.

The current policy update states that children with gay parents, in a same-sex marriage, will need to disavow this practice in order to be baptized or serve a mission. Does that mean regular members can support it, but children with gay parents can’t? What about after they are baptized and 18 years old? Or after they return home from their mission? At that point are they allowed to support it like the rest of the members?

# 6 – Now that the church has included same-sex married couples in the definition of apostasy/apostates, are the temple recommend questions going to be altered to reflect this? Especially the question that asks:

“Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” 

Does this mean belonging to a group like Mama Dragons is a violation of this? Since they support their children and others that live with their partners or get married? What about parents who support their gay children that are doing this? What about being a member of a LGBT support group that supports these as valid options like Affirmation?

# 7 – We’ve heard rumblings that there will be some clarification or additional training coming forth to help expand on this written policy. If this is the case, and the church was planning on doing this from the start, why didn’t Elder Christofferson mention this during the video? The video was released late the following evening and the media and online discussions had been happening for 24 hours. Many people were upset, confused, surprised and honestly shocked at this update and wording. The church would have been well aware of this by the time they began filming the video. Wouldn’t it have been good timing for the church to reassure the members that further clarifications would be forthcoming? And that the church recognized there were a myriad of individual circumstances that would need to be taken into account? That the church was aware of the pain and anguish this policy was resulting in, and that they would work hard to expand on the language to help local leadership understand how to implement this? The policy change became public on November 5, the video was released on Nov 6, and it is now November 12. There has been no clarification. If the church had these exceptions/clarifications prepared, why is it taking so long to release them? Or is this delay due to not anticipating the need for these?

# 8 – If the church provides additional clarification, and allows exceptions for children who have divorced parents (mixed-orientation marriage), how will these exceptions work? Will it be based on specific percentage requirements for the amount of time they can live in the home of the parent that is cohabiting or in a same-sex marriage? After they turn 18, does this requirement end (say, for instance, a student at BYU that lives with a gay parent during a term break)?

OK so perhaps it was more like 8 groups of questions I’d like to ask!

Should “My Husband’s Not Gay” Air?

The president of GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), Sarah Kate Ellis, has argued that the new TLC show “My Husband’s Not Gay” should not air. She says

This show is downright irresponsible. No one can change who they love, and, more importantly, no one should have to.

A petition to end it before it begins presently has almost 85,000 over 91,000 signatures.

Folks are saying that broadcasting the notion that you can live a “straight life for your faith community” continues to be dangerous, and that the network is airing this for pure entertainment value.

Of course, counterpoints are that of religious liberty, cultural pluralism, or even freedom of speech.

Myself, I’m torn. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been annoyed at situations like conservative Mormons marching in Pride parades, because the politics becomes too fuzzy… but on the other hand, the obviously(?) thin veneer of happiness for most mixed-orientation marriages on the screen might be just what people need.

Opinions?

It Even Gets Better for Straight Spouses

Here’s an “It Gets Better” video made by a group of straight spouses in MOMs:

OK, I can’t make the embed code work, so here’s the link to the youtube page: http://youtu.be/xkKoD1uVbrE

The “about” page of the website of the group that produced the video, Straight Spouses, states

We started as an informal group of LDS women with children, on a journey to find peace with our religion and our lives, the center of which seemed to always be the fact we are or once were married to a gay or bisexual spouse. Soon our group began to grow, including men and people from other religious (primarily Christian) backgrounds.

I find it interesting that a couple of spouses claim that divorce actually saved their relationships with their (former) spouses and their families.

 

 

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Gay parents edition!!!

This past week, a new study hit the press, showing that the children of failed mixed-orientation-marriages are at risk (compared to kids whose parents are in a stable relationship):

It’s about current adults who grew up in mostly dysfunctional homes, where one of the parents may have had a homosexual affair, or is leading a double life, or is self-medicating to cope with being gay while acting straight. In so far as the study reflects the difficulties for children growing up in such unstable homes, it is surely making the case for stable civil marriage as a critical institution for the rearing of children.

This comes on the heels of Josh Weed’s coming out that-wentviral, and several people with experience in mixed-orientation-marriage have responded to stress that the Weeds’ example doesn’t necessarily generalize:

There is a temptation among active Latter-day Saints to point to stories like this one and say See? Its possible (with the impliedbut hopefully unspokenand if you cant do this, you just arent trying hard enough, arent faithful enough, etc.)

Please dont.??

For one thing, for every story like this there are ten stories like mine. And for every story like mine (in which my ex and I have been able to remain friends, remain supportive, continue to co-parent the kids, etc.) there are a hundred stories that ended in bitterness, venom, drawn out custody battles, and a great deal of misery.

Andrew has written a couple of good link roundup and analysis posts, and Dad’s Primal Scream has taken it as an opportunity to examine his own confirmation bias. Are people of faith coming around to the realization that marriage equality really is the pro-family position? Indications look very good!! 😀

In Theology and gospel, Oxymormon Girl found an interesting analogy about correlation as deletion of anything that might offend and Tired Road Warrior provided an example. Here’s a taste of what the gospel used to look like. Steve Wells succeeded in finding a positive role model for fathers in the Bible, and No Cool Name Tom wrapped up his Sunday-School teaching experience. Also, Bruce Nielson has written a very interesting series on theism and atheism — you might want to go join in the discussion!

There were a number of interesting stories this week about mixed-belief personal relationships: how it feels to be a convert who can’t have an “eternal family” with parents who won’t convert, dealing with a spouse whose Mormon beliefs cause him profound pain, how to support a sibling on her first trip to the temple, and writing a letter to someone whose faith journey you once dismissed.

Romney’s keeping the “Mormon Moment” alive, with typical Mormon discussion points getting reported in major newspapers:

Eventually, Christianity grew up and conceded that it wasnt authentic Judaism. Lo and behold, once it had given up its claim to Judaism, it became a state religion […] Eventually, Mormonism will grow up. Maybe a Mormon in the White House will hasten that moment when Mormonism will no longer plead through billboards and sappy radio ads to be liked,

If Mitt’s religion leaves you confused, why not read this new book about it? In other books, have a look at this give-away, this book plan, and this book-signing.

On the lighter side, we have apps about the dangers of coffehouses. What to do with all those Books-of-Mormon…? Some lucky folks have taken some beautiful trips (that last one was right after visiting me). Plus some funny lesser-known editing and proofreading marks.

Happy reading, and have a great week!!

Gay Mormon Fatherhood

A week ago, I wrote a post on my blog about coming out as a gay father. I mentioned strands of Mormon thinking which, I had come to realize, were woven throughout my psyche as a gay father, along with the strands of general homophobia, shame and self-loathing that are endemic to gays and lesbians everywhere, particularly those who came of age a generation ago. I wrote that I had been going through a process in which I became aware of these strands and aware that they were unconsciously affecting me and my relationships with my children.

I was going to expound a bit in this post on these strands, but as I sat down to write a follow-up post for my blog, something different evolved. I had planned to only briefly discuss another aspect of coming out as a gay father, particularly in the Mormon world, but these other thoughts sort of took over where I had planned to go.

I want to preface my comments by saying that I in no way want to minimize the difficulty that young (single) Mormon men experience in coming to accept their sexuality and all that this means within a Mormon context, including how they reconcile their sexuality with their faith. I know this process can be, and often is, excruciatingly difficult and has on more than one occasion resulted in suicide.

That being said, however, I think it bears pointing out that the coming out process for men who were married, had children and were active in the LDS Church is uniquely challenging.* Not only must such men come to terms with their true innate sexuality, but they must also if they make the decision to come out, or if it is somehow made for them go through a process of coming out as a gay father.

They must reconcile the Plan of Happiness (i.e., the Church’s plan for a happy and fulfilling life, involving heterosexual marriage, children, church activity, etc.) which they have tried to live for years or even decades with who they really are.

They must find meaning in having lived what in most instances amounted (to one degree or another) to a lie however well-intentioned to themselves and/or to their spouse and their children.

They quite often find that the belief system that framed their entire existence during their marriage – and provided a purpose to life – is no longer valid.

They discover that their role as a father was so tightly entwined with LDS teachings, Church activities and Church culture that, once they have either chosen or been forced to leave the Church, that role must to one degree or another be reinvented.

They find themselves ostracized not only as a gay man but also as a gay father. They are often accused of choosing to abandon their wife and children just so they can go out and have gay sex or live a gay lifestyle. In the process, they are frequently demonized and dehumanized, their most inner selves laid bare to assault and ridicule.

They are faced with helping their children cope with a situation that not only (usually) results in/contributes to divorce, but also in trying to help them get to know a man they thought they knew, but who in reality was largely a shell, a false persona, an actor on a stage who was trying as best he knew how to play his part.

They are faced with efforts by others to shame them, to deny or erase their existence, to cover-up who they are, to make excuses for them, and to deny access to their children.

Quite often these efforts to shame succeed at least temporarily aided and abetted by our own internalized homophobia. I was reminded of this as I recently read about efforts by the so-called Million Moms to force Toys-R-Us to remove an Archie comic book from its stores because the cover of the comic featured two men (of different races, no less) getting married. I read about this on Box Turtle Bulletin, and Id like to quote some passages from their blog post in order to make a point about the experience of gay Mormon (i.e., who either were or are members of the LDS Church) fathers.

Anti-gays have an immense sense of entitlement, wrote Timothy Kincaid. They should not ever have to be confronted with the fact that gay people exist, and especially not at a family venue like Disneyland, a park, [or] a toy store Because the mere existence of a gay person will have catastrophic results to the psyche of children who will be forced to ask questions far beyond their age appropriateness [These people believe] its best if gay people are invisible where children might be present. Or so the AFAs Million Moms have decided.

Kincaid then quoted from the Million Moms website, the salient part of which follows:

Unfortunately, children are now being exposed to same-sex marriage in a toy store. This is the last place a parent would expect to be confronted with questions from their children on topics that are too complicated for them to understand. Issues of this nature are being introduced too early and too soon, which is becoming extremely common and unnecessary. A trip to the toy store turns into a premature discussion on sexual orientation and is completely uncalled for.

As I read this, I couldnt help but think what many gay Mormon fathers have faced with their families and/or in a predominantly Mormon culture. We are not supposed to exist. Our mere existence, who we are, is treated as an affront that could have catastrophic results to the psyche of [OUR OWN] children who will be forced to ask questions far beyond their age appropriateness.

The sad thing is, we gay Mormon fathers often accept this state of affairs, whether consciously or subconsciously, in our dealings with our children and former spouse. We may subconsciously try to fit within the Mormon construct insofar as our dealings with our children are concerned. We may feel without really being conscious of it that we must not only bow to the Mormon worldview but support it by refraining from doing anything to upset or contradict it (which our mere presence has a tendency to do).

But we do not have to do this. There is an alternative. In a future post, I hope to discuss this alternative and reflect upon how the challenges I have described above can be used to make us even better fathers and healthier persons than we were before coming out.

I certainly believe this is possible. Im counting on it.

Invictus Pilgrim blogs at MoHo Sapiens.

* There will no doubt be some who read this who will say, But what about the wives? What about what they have gone through? I have written extensively on this subject in my former blog and acknowledge the very real pain that the wives in mixed-orientation marriages go through when reality finally trumps pretense. But in this post, I am a gay man, writing about gay fathers, and though I in no way want to diminish what wives go through I would hope that this would be understood.

 

Mormon Beards redux

There was a heated discussion here a few months ago about mixed-orientation marriages.

What doesn’t feel resolved for me is how to assess the patriarchy gay Mormon men engage in when they marry women. A couple aspects that seem obvious are

  • the fact that the power of the priesthood runs through men only, so that a gay man might try to be straight, or get heterosexually-married, to retain his privilege.
  • the fact that usually LDS men court LDS women, rather than vice versa, and how a gay man might actively [try to] “hide,” or lie about his gayness during courting in an interest (either conscious or subconscious) of retaining the abovementioned privilege.

A suggestion was made that gay Mormon men (or men with “same-sex attraction” or however they view themselves) should work out questions of their own salvation before marrying. The man should inform the person he’s courting about his gayness — rather than try to resolve it secretly in some fashion within the marriage at the expense of his wife (and himself). Obviously, from the perspective of many [non-Mormons], the best case scenario is that the man not marry a woman at all, but perhaps another man. Coming out beforehand may not do a bit of difference in terms of the failure rate of mixed-orientation marriages — though, of course the Church will want extensive proof of this.

Coming out before marriage is precisely what Church leaders started to suggest (unevenly) in 1987 when Hinckley said marriage is not a “cure” for gayness. According to Dallin Oaks, gay men should consider how “daughters of God” shouldn’t have to enter marriages “under false pretenses or under a cloud unknown to them.”

So, here is an Apostle, a man with a lot of power, telling gay Mormon men, “If you want to marry a woman, you can — but just tell her about your ‘struggle’ ahead of time. Oh, and make sure you really like her, too.”

In essence, the patriarchy is still on the table even with these “we-both-knew-about-it-beforehand” marriages. The only difference is that both parties can now make a somewhat more informed decision (to the extent that young people can make informed decisions).

I can see how it might seem clear that there is patriarchy involved when a “secret” is hidden from a woman so that male privilege may be retained. But often nowadays the “secret” is not hidden so that the same privilege may be retained (that is, “coming out” is put in service of keeping the patriarchy afloat — a new way of sequestering the homosexual “problem”). This raises a question of what the “secret” has to do with patriarchy exactly, if no matter what is done with it, the same privilege remains.

To imagine the gay man as receiving power from the patriarchal structure of the Church, you have to imagine him without a public male partner. You basically have to heterosexualize him, asexualize/celibatize him, or give him a double-life. This is not to say that gay men outside the Church can’t be patriarchal to LDS women. But it just seems like an odd bit of heterosexism has to come onto stage in order to situate patriarchy within the gay Mormon man’s response to the heterosexism of his culture.

To the One: Suppression and Undeviating Determination

This post is a companion piece to Mondays essay, To Young Men Only: The Gay Version. I had intended to write this back in January, but it never happened. I think it is appropriate to insert it here in this series of posts as a follow-on to last Fridays post about Mormon doctrine concerning homosexuality.

I dont particularly enjoy writing about Elder Packer, by the way. Id much rather write about other things, such as how I felt last night while (finally) watching Prayers for Bobby, how the movie transported me back to my youth, and how I felt anew and afresh the pain of non-acceptance, of confusion, of self-doubt, self-hatred and condemnation. But instead, I have chosen to write about the type of teachings that were contemporary to Bobby Griffith and helped drive him to his death.

Elder Boyd K. Packer gave two very influential talks in the late 1970s that had a profound affect on Mormon men who came of age not only during that time but also in the next several decades.

The talks are directly relevant to the subject matter of this series of posts in that they shaped generations of young Mormon men who struggled with same-sex attraction. They influenced and created their attitudes. They led to the creation of many mixed-orientation marriages. They describe what the policies, beliefs and doctrine of the LDS Church were a mere 33 years ago. There are elements in the Church and in the gay Mormon community who would like to whitewash this history, to make it disappear (see, e.g., below), to claim that the doctrine of the Church regarding homosexuality has not changed. This, too, is why I believe these talks are important.

The first was entitled To Young Men Only. I wrote about it yesterday. The second talk, To the One, was given on March 5, 1978 at a 12-stake fireside at Brigham Young University, where Elder Packer was specifically asked by President Kimball to address the local problem of homosexuality and offer solutions. [1] The text of this fireside address is difficult to locate, so I have also posted it on my blog here . I have done so because I believe this speech is an important historical event. I am not claiming that the speech represents the Churchs current views on homosexuality. This is not the point. The point is that this speech shaped a generation or more of Mormon young men and shaped Mormon thought concerning homosexuality for a number of years. That is why it is important.

The background of the events leading up to the talk was described in an article by Ben Williams in QSaltLake published last December and available here. The genesis was a lecture given in the spring of 1977 at BYU, as the article explains:

In spring of 1977 Dr. Reed Payne, a psychology professor at Brigham Young University, presented anti-gay views on homosexuality in a lecture to his beginning psychology class. His comments werent well-received by some closeted gay students who were present. Soon after this lecture, BYU student Cloy Jenkins and BYU instructor Lee Williams authored a 52-page rebuttal to Dr. Paynes assertion that homosexuality was a pathological condition. The crux of these writings became a pamphlet simply called The Payne Papers, which called for a well-reasoned dialogue on the issue of homosexuals and the LDS Church.

The rebuttal was later made into a pamphlet which was mailed to all general authorities, to TV and radio stations and many BYU faculty members. Then, in the fall of 1977, Salt Lake Citys gay publication, The Open Door, began the serialization of what became known as the Payne Papers. As if that wasnt bad enough, The Advocate, the national gay magazine, announced in early 1978 that it planned to publish the papers. It was in response to this announcement, according to Williams, that President Kimball dispatched Elder Packer to BYU. (The Payne Papers are available here .)

The title of the talk To the One and the manner in which it was presented appear to have been designed to isolate and marginalize those who suffered from the disease of homosexuality. What I say in this presentation, Elder Packer began, will be serious and solemn. I will not speak to everyone. I ask the indulgence of the “ninety and nine,” while I speak to “the one.”

After commenting about how grievous his assignment is, he comes to the subject of his address: And so, now to the subject, to introduce it I must use a word. I will use it one time only. Please notice that I use it as an adjective, not as a noun; I reject it as a noun. I speak to those few, those very few, who may be subject to homosexual temptation. I repeat, I accept that word as an adjective to describe a temporary condition. I reject it as a noun naming a permanent one [emphasis added].

So, in these opening remarks, Elder Packer makes it clear that he does not believe in the concept of homosexuality (a noun), in the possibility of a man being gay or, apparently, or in the concept of sexual orientation. For him, homosexual is an adjective that describes a temporary condition that involves temptation. True to his word, he never mentions the term again in his talk, but uses words like it or this subject or sexual perversion.

Is sexual perversion wrong?

He doesnt waste much time coming to the heart of the matter:

I have had on my mind three general questions concerning this subject.

First: Is sexual perversion wrong? There appears to be a consensus in the world that it is natural, to one degree or another, for a percentage of the population. Therefore, we must accept it as all right …

The answer: It is not all right. It is wrong! It is not desirable; it is unnatural; it is abnormal; it is an affliction. When practiced, it is immoral. It is a transgression Do not be misled by those who whisper that it is part of your nature and therefore right for you. That is false doctrine!

Note well that Elder Packer differentiates between the existence of the homosexual condition (note that condition is his word; it is the it he refers to) and practicing such condition. If one substitutes the words same sex attraction in place of the word it in the third paragraph, Packers comments read as follows:

Same-sex attraction is not all right. Same-sex attraction is wrong! Same-sex attraction is not desirable; same-sex attraction is unnatural; same-sex attraction is abnormal; same-sex attraction is an affliction. When practiced, same-sex attraction is immoral [and] is a transgression. Do not be misled by those who whisper that same-sex attraction is part of your nature

In todays lingo, Elder Packer was distinguishing between having same-sex attractions and acting on those attractions. To merely have those attractions he labeled wrong, not desirable, unnatural, abnormal and an affliction. Of course, Elder Packer didnt believe in the concept of orientation; its not, as some have claimed, that he didnt know what that concept was; he rejected it as nonexistent.

Is this tendency impossible to change?

Packer then moves on to his second question: Is this tendency impossible to change? Is it preset at the time of birth and locked in? Do you just have to live with it? After citing the example of a faulty camera whose shutter needs to be recalibrated, he asks, Is perversion like that? The answer is a conclusive no! It is not like that. Note that Packer is not referring to acts, but a tendency.

Some so-called experts, he continues, and many of those who have yielded to the practice, teach that it is congenital and incurable and that one just has to learn to live with it I reject that conclusion out of hand. It is not unchangeable. It is not locked in. In other words, it i.e., the condition of same-sex attraction can be changed.

In the next few paragraphs, Elder Packer reveals some of what lies behind much of what he was saying, that has much more to do with his own and societys attitudes than it does with doctrine. If a condition that draws both men and women into one of the ugliest and most debased of all physical performances is set and cannot be overcome, it would be a glaring exception to all moral law, he states. Some who become tangled up in this disorder [note well the use of this word his first in the talk] become predators. They proselyte the young or the inexperienced.

Overcoming Selfishness: How it Can Be Corrected

Packer then moves on to his third question: The third question is a very logical extension of the other two: If it is wrong, and if it is not incurable, how can it be corrected? This is the longest part of his talk, which he starts off by talking about how good procreation and marriage are, then how bad perversion is.

During the rest of his address, Elder Packer uses the following words with reference to homosexuality: unnatural (2 times); confusion; deviant physical contact or interaction (2 times); disorder (3 times); perversion (11 times), and very sick.

Then, he comes to his conclusion: the root cause of this condition is selfishness which he claims is a spiritual condition requiring a spiritual cure. This is why, he says, psychotherapists have not been successful in curing the condition, i.e., because it is not a mental health issue, but a spiritual health issue.

I realize I may not be the brightest light bulb in the box, but I cannot determine where or how Elder Packer actually provided reasoning for his conclusion. Id welcome help here, but it sure seems to me he simply states that homosexuality is caused by selfishness. Period. End of story.

This was the interpretation of a father who wrote Elder Packer a well-known letter in 1999 concerning his son. David Eccles Hardy wrote:

Perhaps the most hurtful aspect of To the One is your revelation that the fundamental reason why my son has not been “cured” is because of his selfishness. When I inform other people that this is actually what you preach in To the One, they are incredulous (members included). They respond Obviously you have misread or misconstrued what Elder Packer said. You are well aware that this is precisely what is said. As one who knows my son and his heart better than you, your doctrine that my son’s selfishness is at the core of his ability or inability to be cured of his homosexuality is offensive in the extreme, and evidences the lack of any meaningful inquiry into this issue beyond the application of pure dogma. In saying this it is not my intent to offend you. It is, simply, incredible that you could hit upon anything quite so insensitive and ignorant of the facts.

Okay. So imagine yourself as a freshman at BYU, or perhaps as a recently returned missionary, attending this fireside. Youve known for some time that you have experienced attractions to other guys that you cant really explain. Youve just been reminded that for every person like you, there are 99 normal people. Youve heard your feelings referred to as perverted, sick, confused, unnatural, deviant and to top it all off selfish.

Then comes the coup de grace: Establish a resolute conviction intoned Elder Packer, that you will resist for a lifetime, if necessary, deviate thought or deviate action. Do not respond to those feelings; suppress them You will have to grow away from your problem with undeviating – notice that word – undeviating determination [emphasis added]. Meanwhile, echoing in your mind are comments Elder Packer made earlier in the fireside: In marriage a couple can unselfishly express their love to one another. They reap, as a result, a fulfillment and a completeness and a knowledge of their identity as sons and daughters of God. The power of procreation is good – divinely good – and productive. Pervert it, and it can be bad – devilishly bad – and destructive.

THIS was the environment that existed 30 years ago, and for years afterward. Is it any wonder that LDS men had difficulty recognizing their homosexuality, that they went to great lengths to hide it, and that they married in order to cure it?

Invictus Pilgrim blogs at invictuspilgrim.blogspot.com.

Mormon Beards Exploring the Issues: Patriarchy and Duplicity

This is the fourth in a series of posts addressing issues relating to gay Mormon men marrying heterosexual women. The first post was published on my own blog as well as Main Street Plaza. The next two posts were published only on my blog (here and here), and beginning with this post, the rest of the series will be posted dually on my blog as well as here on MSP.

As I have previously explained, beard (as used here) refers to a slang term for the heterosexual spouse of a gay Mormon who is effectively used to conceal the husbands sexual orientation. In the past two posts, I have discussed my own personal situation regarding my mixed orientation marriage. Id now like to turn to a discussion of why Mormon Mixed-Orientation Marriages [MoMoMs] continue to happen.

So why do guys keep doing it?

Why do gay Mormon men keep marrying Mormon women?

DISCLAIMER: Let me say right here and now that I KNOW there are some MoMoMs that work, where both the husband and wife are happy and fulfilled. HOWEVER, the odds against a successful MoMoMon are extremely high, and information pertaining to the issues and problems endemic to such marriages needs to be made available to help such persons make informed, moral decisions as they contemplate traditional marriage.

Beginning with this post, Id like to take a closer look at the factors that have contributed and continue to contribute generally to the creation of MoMoMs, including Mormon doctrinal background, the Mormon understanding of homosexuality (particularly within that doctrinal context) and Mormon sexual mores generally. My hope is that an examination of these factors will lead to alternative ways of thinking about these factors and, ultimately, in more enlightened, reasoned and responsible choices and actions as gay Mormon men confront the prospect of heterosexual marriage.

Before turning to the other factors mentioned, however, I want to first address one of the key factors that Holly Welker (who originally issued me the challenge to write these posts) believes contributes to MoMoMs: patriarchy. In her Sunstone essay entitled Clean-Shaven: No More Beards Straight Women, Gay Men and Mormonism (located here), she writes:

I know it can take a while to figure out ones sexual identity, and that people who eschew sexual behavior during their teens only to marry in their early twenties might not have a firm handle on their sexual orientation But I also think from observing various marriages and divorces that theres something different happening when men who know ahead of time that they are gay marry women they know are straight, particularly in Mormondom. I submit that patriarchy endows men with a sense of entitlement that blinds them to the real cost of their actions

In a couple of separate comments left on Mondays MSP post, Holly wrote:

What I am actually saying is that Mormon men who know they are gay prior to marriage should be real Christians and put the happiness of any woman they might consider courting above their own. They should work out their ambivalence about the plan of salvation without threatening the happiness and well-being of another. Im saying that men who know about their sexuality at the time theyre courting straight women, and fail to tell those women, are engaging in patriarchy and misogyny.

It seems to me there are (at least) a couple of points to be made about Hollys comments.

First, though I dont know exactly how Holly defines patriarchy, I would agree that the Mormon Church and, by extension, Mormon culture, is patriarchal. Wikipedia, that ever-trusty source, defines patriarchy as a social system in which the role of the male as the primary authority figure is central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children, and property [implying] the institutions of male rule and privilege, and is dependent on female subordination.

I do not personally want to get into an academic discussion of patriarchy (for which I am not qualified or equipped); I do not believe the parameters of the definition are particularly relevant to the ultimate objective of these posts. I do believe, however, that the patriarchy that is reflected in Mormon theology, church administration and culture has historically been and remains an important factor in the creation of MoMoMs, though in ways that are (still) not immediately apparent to most Mormon men, gay or straight.

For this reason, I would personally be interested in Hollys comments (as well as those of others) as to examples of patriarchy in the LDS world and how this patriarchy endows men with a sense of entitlement that blinds them to the real cost of their actions. This is a sincere request. I do think such information would be extremely germane to the overall objective of these posts.

In the mean time, I think Alex, a gay Mormon who recently came out and is now going through a divorce, provided some useful observations in this regard in comments left on Mondays post on my blog:

I’ve seen that even as a gay man, I treated my wife according to family customs and religious practices that were extremely patriarchal I wanted to have kids right away, wanted her to stay home. I expected her to clean while I was at work, cook dinner, etc. We didn’t have kids right away and she worked, which I supported, but I didn’t necessarily pick up the slack. The “perfect Mormon family” image, strict gender roles image was hard to break for me. I did help clean and cook but not to an equal degree as my wife. The fact that I’m gay doesn’t undo these societal values and norms I’ve been instilled with Even if I outwardly disagreed, it takes a lot of work to fully change your attitudes beliefs and behaviors.

In a comment to the original MSP post, Alex wrote:

I tended to approach my marriage in a very patriarchal way. I wanted to be the one who earned the money so we went with my career. I wanted to be the one to provide for my wife while she stayed home with kids. I always insisted that we should think about having kids soon. Im grateful we didnt. It goes beyond this, but my point is that it can be very difficult to unthink this, forgive the overused term, ideology. The church likes to view itself of being above and outside ideologies. But there is no question that at the very least the institutional practice of running the church is influenced by a heteronormative, patriarchal way of thinking. Gay men marry women because even if the church doesnt counsel anymore to get married as a fix or cure, it is virtually impossible to ignore the culture and ideology that teaches that every man should be married, and be out dating women. Just listen to the last general conference. I couldnt help but feel for the thousands of gay Mormons out there that hear the message that men are not being responsible enough, and will make like I did the unfortunate choice to get married to a woman.

A second set of observations about Hollys comments relates to her references to men who know they are gay while dating or at some point prior to marriage.

This matter of knowledge (i.e., of ones sexuality and what this means) is one of the most complicated aspects of the creation of MoMoMs, and will be addressed separately later. However, I would like to make some comments about men who truly do know they are gay and/or those men who like to tell themselves (i.e., pretend) they are not gay, yet (in the words of one of the introductory quotes from Mondays post) mess around with guys.

I dont know about Hollys use of the term misogyny in connection with such guys. (Again, I havent done enough reading in this area to comment intelligently or even coherently.) I will say, however, that in my view – Mormon men who

  • truly know they are gay gay gay (e.g., theyve had sex with guys, they know what it feels like, they know who theyre attracted to and know they dont just have SGA) and/or Mormon men who tell themselves they arent gay yet go out and mess around (read, have sex, though I realize that, in some circles, there is some dispute as to what the definition of sex is; thus, the use of the more inclusive term, mess around) and who
  • nevertheless in todays world – court, become engaged to and marry women without having disclosed their true sexual orientation to their girlfriends, fiancs or wives,

have a lot to answer for.

Why? Well, to quote from a comment Chanson left on Mondays MSP post:

Young people of my generation [i.e., 30-somethings] (even sheltered Mormons like me) had at least a vague awareness of homosexuality, and hence had more tools for understanding their situation than earlier generations did. Kids today [however,] have to be living in a cave not to be aware of homosexuality, hence are better equipped to analyze their own sexuality (and to reject hateful messages about it) than kids of my generation.

With such knowledge and understanding comes a corresponding requirement to act responsibly and morally in accordance with the knowledge and understanding.

Such men as described above appear, in my view, to be either amoral or immoral. These are not men who are truly, sincerely struggling with, or are functionally ignorant of or blind to, their true sexual orientation. These are not men who are sincerely grappling with issues of faith, obedience and identity. In short, these are not men who are trying to do what is right; they are rather men who are doing what is expedient. I would like to think, and trust, that they constitute a small minority of those gay Mormon men who enter into mixed-orientation marriages today, but I’m not so naive as to think that they don’t exist.

I am reminded of the story a gay friend of mine told me of attending, within the past year or so, a wedding reception in a suburb of Salt Lake. He and his former wife were approaching the newlyweds when he suddenly realized that the groom was someone he recognized from having seen on more than one occasion in a Salt Lake gay bar. The recognition was apparently mutual, for my friend thought the groom seemed extremely uncomfortable as he and his wife approached and greeted the couple.

One wonders if the bride knew that her new husband, fresh from a temple sealing room, had fairly recently frequented gay bars. Ummmm. Somehow, I doubt it (although its possible).

There is to me, and I think to most reasonable people who are to any degree knowledgeable about issues relating to MoMoMs, a vast difference between the young, faithful (read sincere), moral (moral, not necessarily morally clean) Mormon man who is honestly trying to do the right thing and the cynical, immoral (immoral, not just morally unclean) Mormon man who is using his wife as a cover, a way (in Holly Welkers words) to preserve his own respectability and righteousness. Again, I would very much like to think such men are a small minority of those who enter in MoMoMs.

In both these cases, however, it is likely that many of the same factors propel these men to the same temple sealing altar. It is to these factors that I will next turn.

Mormon Beards – Exploring the Issues: The Challenge

So I found out a friend from my freshman ward is doing the “I’m in the closet and I mess around with guys but I’m not gay and I plan on marrying a girl in the temple” thing. I feel really bad for him. Not much I can do, but it’s sad That makes 8 gay guys from that ward. Recent comment on MoHo Facebook Forum

[G]ay men who court and marry straight women have privilege, power and information their wives lack. Gay men who court and marry straight women might have been deceived and victimized by the church, but they subsequently deceive and victimize their wives, and they can and should stop. ~ Holly Welker

This is not a post about the appropriateness of facial hair. It is about gay Mormons men who have married, or perhaps plan or hope to marry, a woman. More to the point, it is ultimately about the women in such marriages: the beards of their gay Mormon husbands (in that they are used as a spouse to conceal the husbands sexual orientation).

The Challenge

I was challenged to write about this topic by a commenter who participated in a long string of comments in response to an essay I published here on Main Street Plaza called Reflections on An Overwhelming Emptiness. The MSP essay (which I had also published on my own blog) consisted of a review of and commentary on comments left on my blog in response to a couple of posts about Mormon mixed-orientation marriages (MoMoMs).

The challenge was framed by the following comments by Holly Welker:

Anyone looking at the images [on your blog] would think that a straight woman/gay man [Mo]MoM is entirely about the man in it and from every gay male MoMoM blog Ive read, that would be a reasonable inference. What could you do to bring more attention to the woman in a/your marriage? Could you have images of women beautiful, broken, defiant, angry, weeping? Could you write posts with titles like Remember: Youre marrying a WOMAN, not an Idea and Whats Going to Happen to Your Wife When it All Falls Apart?

[Y]our marriage is not about only you, and I am suggesting that it might be a good idea to demonstrate in your writing and on your blog more awareness, concern and compassion for what your decisions have cost your wife, because by doing so, you can get single gay men on the verge of repeating your mistake to factor in more accurately and appropriately to their decision what that decision will cost any woman they might marry, and I would hope most devoutly that they would actually care about that.

I had several knee-jerk reactions to what Holly wrote. My initial reaction was that my blog is written (1) by a gay man, (2) about gay men, (3) to gay men; it is not written by, about or for women. I also frankly resented what to me was the patronizing insinuation that I needed to demonstrate on my blog more awareness, concern and compassion for what my decisions had cost my wife. Furthermore, I am not a woman, and could not, even if I chose to, purport to express a womans feelings, let alone my own wifes feelings.

For these and other reasons, I extended an invitation to Holly to write a guest post for my blog that would bring more attention to the woman in a [MoMoM] and achieve the other goals she described. She declined to do so, however, referring me instead to an article she wrote for Sunstone on the subject (to which I will refer in later posts).

In the weeks since that post on MSP, I have thought about Hollys challenge and about some of the issues raised by commenters to the MSP post. I decided I would try to put together a series of posts on my blog that address these issues albeit probably in a manner different than Holly (or any other woman) would have. This is the first of these posts that will be published in the coming days. I anticipate that there will be at least an additional four, perhaps more (published on my blog), depending on comments received to this and subsequent posts. I am hopeful that these essays will generate a lot of discussion on a subject that desperately needs to be discussed openly.

What Did You Know and When Did You Know It?

This question, a paraphrase of a famous question posed by Senator Howard Baker during the Watergate hearings, is about as good a place as any to start.

In one of her first comments to my MSP post, Holly wrote:
[However,] a major concern in all of this remains the timing of gay mens deep concern about the welfare of the women they marry. I wish it happened sooner as in, before courtship. I cant help feeling that so many MoMoMs happen because the person with the incompatible orientation doesnt think through the anguish theyll be creating for a partner who is deeply in love with a spouse who cant reciprocate.
She was responding to the following comment I had made: Every gay man I have met, either in person or online, is a real man (with reference to [a] term [used by another commenter see below]) who has expressed deep concern for the welfare of his wife, even in the cases where the wife has initiated divorce proceedings. Myreference to the term real man relates to a comment left by Seth a heterosexual married Mormon:

[I]f your marriage is wrecked, divorce if you must. But dont delude yourself into thinking that youre just setting [your wife] free to fly off and find love. For a lot of single moms out there, there is no second shot, and no one else waiting out there. Sure, she may have been miserable WITH you. But that doesnt automatically mean shell be less miserable WITHOUT you. A real man faces that fact, and takes accountability for it. No matter what his sexual preferences [emphasis added].

In a follow-up comment, Seth wrote: I dont really think a gay guy has any better reason for divorcing his wife than your average straight guy who no longer finds his wife sexually attractive, or doesnt love her, etc.

Well, besides the issues I had with Seths tone and choice of words, I was left with the firm impression that Seth has little or no understanding of what it means to be gay or what it feels like to be in a deeply troubled marriage.

But enough about Seth.

Lets get back to the question: For those guys out there with beards, what did you know about your sexuality and when did you know it? And the $64,000 question when did (or have) you disclosed the fact that your gay to your wife? For those gay guys out there who are considering damning the torpedoes and proceeding with a traditional Mormon marriage, in spite of the fact that you know or strongly suspect you are gay gay gay, when do you plan to tell your young lady about it?

I have to admit that my initial reaction to Hollys comments, quoted several paragraphs above, could be characterized as irritation. She certainly seemed to be saying (or implying) that young Mormon men should, prior to even courting a girl, (1) know their sexual orientation, (2) embrace that orientation enough to be able to take responsibility for it, (3) feel comfortable enough about that orientation to be able to come out to a girl, and (4) have resolved any conflicts between their sexual identity and LDS teachings concerning homosexuality, eternal marriage and the entire Plan of Salvation.

The Gameplan

I want to address each of these points in subsequent posts, as well as Hollys statement that so many MoMoMs happen because the person with the incompatible orientation doesnt think through the anguish theyll be creating for a partner who is deeply in love with a spouse who cant reciprocate.

Because I feel I should put some skin in the game and respond to Hollys challenge, to the extent I am able, I will devote a couple of posts to my own experience and marriage (making it clear that I have always been very protective of my wifes privacy and will continue to be so). I will also examine the factors that have resulted and continue to result in MoMoMs, including addressing issues relating to female sexuality in the Church (relying heavily on comments left on the MSP post by Holly and Chanson). I am hopeful as well that I will be able to include remarks by women who are married to gay men.

Though my initial reaction to the implied points listed above and to Hollys comment (about thinking through the anguish created for a beard) was again – one of irritation proceeding from a perceived lack of understanding on Hollys part and the imposition by her of unrealistic expectations on young Mormon men, this reaction has been tempered somewhat by thought and time, and this will be reflected in subsequent points.

I do believe that Hollys main point is valid and true: As difficult and painful as MoMoMs are for gay men, they are likely to be equally, if not ultimately more, painful for the woman involved. And more often than not, she is likely to be ignorant, going into the marriage, of her husbands true orientation. Gay Mormon men have to take responsibility for that ignorance.

As Holly wrote, men have more agency and control in the matter of courtship and they have privilege, power and information their [future] wives lack. As such, it is incumbent on young gay Mormon men in no small part because they have the ability to do so now more than ever before to come to grips with their sexuality prior to any kind of a marriage. Gay men who court and marry straight women might have been deceived and victimized by the church, Holly concedes, but they subsequently deceive and victimize their wives, and they can and should stop.

I would alter Hollys statement to say that gay Mormon men have [not might have] been indoctrinated, deceived and victimized by the Church in a number of ways that I will discuss in subsequent posts. As to the rest of her statement, however, she is absolutely correct. The downstream deception and victimization of women – which is foreshadowed by the other quote at the beginning of this post – needs to stop. And the moral responsibility of the Mormon Church to do something about this situation can no longer be ignored.

Invictus Pilgrim blogs at http://invictuspilgrim.blogspot.com.

The second installment in this series is posted here.

The third installment in this series is posted here.