HRC and Mormons speaking past one another?
I could have posted this as a comment in the previous thread about the thousands of gay activists in SLC who are there because of Boyd Packer’s remarks. But what I want to say about the situation, I felt warrants a new post.
Something I want to know is how many of the activists are local, or if HRC put out a bulletin that said “Everyone who can, let’s head to SLC to protest the Mormons again!” I can see HRC’s logic: Mormons contributed to Prop 8, they have the money and organizational power to influence the discourse on this subject in the West, so attack Mormons because they’re the biggest hindrance to gay marriage (which should have happened in California, so that the rest of the country can follow, right?). “Oh, those pesky Mormons. They’re a thorn in the collective gay foot!”
I don’t like it. I don’t believe in a collective gay foot. I don’t think it’s right to filter national concern about gay suicides into a collective campaign against Mormons, based on logic that Mormons (or this particular Mormon leader) are “factually wrong” about “scientific evidence” about homosexuality being “innate.” Which is how HRC frames this.
Perhaps I’m too read in queer theory to know that it’s not about these things. The Andrew Sullivans of the gay community decided in the 90s that this was the logic to use against the forces of “evil” — the logic being that of homosexual immutability — because for a lot folks, including Sullivan, this is itself a theological position: that gays are born that way and homophobia is about not adhering to this theo-biological fact. I just really think it’s awful, mostly because this logic leads people to speak past each other when what we really need is new discourse. When Packer says “Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?” (referring to innate homosexuality) he is both using decades-old rhetoric (to refer to the biblical story that all temptations can be overcome) and he is asking a theological question: “If gays are born that way, then what about the Mormon worldview?” This is a legitimate line of reasoning from a Mormon perspective and Mormons have been asking it for at least twenty years. Part of the reason I think the Heavenly Father question was removed in the published version of Packer’s talk is because it no longer points to the biblical story as much as it points to the incompetence of Mormon leaders to make sense of homosexuality.
Packer’s language at the time of concern over gay suicides does make the Church seem insensitive. Plus his language just really shows he that he is from a different era. But I would also suggest that homosexual immutability is not the way to go on this subject. From my personal queer theological perspective, Mormon thinking on this topic is quite important, even if the current results in the Mormon context are bad. For a couple decades now, the Church has taken an unwavering position that behavior is more important than genes. If you keep arguing “genes,” the Church will keep arguing “behavior.” The importance of arguing behavior over genes is the notion of choice, and as many queer activists have stated: people should be allowed to be gay because of the importance of everyone choosing their romantic and intimate lives, as opposed to having to be with a certain gender because of genes or eternal gender roles. Think of this way: if being gay were genetic, and we live in an era of genetic modification, then unless people are okay with being gay, then people are going to try to get rid of gayness regardless. And Mormons will be the first to donate to the gay-eradicating tech firm unless people find a way to speak to each other. The origin of homosexuality is in its framing as something “different than” or “worse than” its other. HRC gets this when they talk about the APA’s position against reparative therapy, but being against reparative therapy is not the same as being for homosexual immutability.