Mormonism, disability, same-gender attraction
From Alma 34:
40 And now my beloved brethren, I would exhort you to have patience, and that ye bear with all manner of afflictions; that ye do not revile against those who do cast you out because of your exceeding poverty, lest ye become sinners like unto them;
41 But that ye have patience, and bear with those afflictions, with a firm hope that ye shall one day rest from all your afflictions.
At one point, my mother was married to a disabled man. Even though my mother is LDS and I’m gay, we occasionally talk about sex. I was curious about my mother’s sex life at the time of her marriage to this man. When I asked her about it, she smiled and said that she looks forward to when her husband will have a “perfect body.” This statement really bothered me.
There is a way in which believing that a disabled body will be “repaired” in Heaven maintains ableist thinking. It reduces the disabled body to a position of being lesser than. Certainly, if one’s hearing or sight gets worse as one ages, it might be nice to think that in Heaven one will have perfect hearing and sight rather than have to wear a hearing aid or have contact lenses. But this is using the able body as a point of reference. As a teaching aid, one might ask a question of, “Are there eyeglasses in Heaven?” — which can help LDS children think about ableism in their culture — but adults should be more critical. Consider the person born deaf, who learns sign language as a child, is involved in deaf culture throughout her life, and has no desire to be hearing after death. Is it appropriate to assume this person will be hearing in Heaven? The answer: No, it is not.
In Mormonism, considerations of disability have carried over to the question of “same-gender attraction.” In the last decade or so, there has been a rise of church leaders comparing “same-gender attraction” to disability, as something that will be “repaired” in Heaven (before this, there was a focus on “cure.”) In the Church, disabled people are pitted against gays as a way to instill humility. For example, in a 2006 interview with Dalin Oaks, Lance Wickman spoke of his disabled daughter who
stand[s] at the window of my office which overlooks the Salt Lake Temple and look[s] at the brides and their new husbands as theyre having their pictures taken. . . . [S]hes at once captivated . . . and saddened.
Her image served as a call for humility among those whose “differences” do not place them beyond the realm of marriageability in this life. From Wickman’s perspective, his daughter won’t have to be saddened in the afterlife because there she will be “repaired” and will marry (and even have children). What I see happening here is ableism being put in the service of heterosexism. It’s pretty awful.
There is a way in which LGBT politics often intentionally divorces itself from disability politics, because of (1) ableism in the gay community, and (2) gays want to move as far away from the idea of “homosexuality as a disability” given a very hurtful history of attempted “curing” and being considered lesser than. But what Mormonism makes clear is that even if a culture largely ceases trying to “cure” homosexuality, it can still maintain “same-gender attraction” as lesser than, a “disabling” factor to be “repaired” later. LGBT and disability politics have to join forces to address this.