Masks: Lesbians and Landing Gay Side Up
This post features a Mormon lesbian’s “struggle to be free” and a discussion of Orson Scott Card’s comments on homosexuality. Both accounts originated in comments left on a MetaFilter post.
For the last couple of days, I have written about how pleased I was to discover that some of my blog posts about mixed orientation marriages (MoMs) had jumped the Mormon firewall to a world outside the (current/post/active/nonbelieving/liberal/somewhere over the rainbow) Mormon community and had generated a discussion on the subjects of MoMs, homosexuality and religious beliefs in general.
This phenomenon occurred because someone had posted a front-page MetaFilter post about several of my blog posts, generating a huge increase in the number of page views of my blog as well as a number of very interesting comments. I have posted some of these comments in the last couple of posts. Today, I want to share a couple more lengthy comments because of what I believe these stories and viewpoints bring to our discussion on this side of the firewall.
A Lesbians Struggle to be Free
An anonymous commenter wrote the following about her experience of discovering that she was a lesbian:
Where I grew up in Utah, I only knew a handful of people who weren’t Mormon and they were to be avoided. I didn’t know any LGBTQ people, and I had always been taught that they had been deceived by the devil. I was a very good Mormon girl, so there was no chance that I could be a lesbian. I still remember when my mom and dad went on a date night to see “Boys on the Side” and they came home early — they walked out due to there being lesbian content.
The only boy I was remotely attracted to in high school looked more like Legolas than anything, long hair and feminine features. That should have been a clue.
I got a full scholarship to the University of Utah and left home. But after my first year, I had fallen in love with my best friend, who was who I had been told to be waiting for my entire life. Return missionary, worthy priesthood holder. At 19, I dropped out of college, gave up my scholarship and married him in the temple. I moved to California to start my own new happy Mormon family.
It was[nt] until our wedding night that I realized how much trouble I was in. We had remained “chaste” until that night, and when I was in that intimate position, I felt zero attraction. Horror sunk in. I was “married for eternity” and there was zero sexual desire. I gave it my best shot for a while, but no matter how much I followed the “gospel” or what I tried, it just wasn’t working. I fell into a deep depression, wondering how heavenly father could leave me in such a position after I had been so faithful and given up my home, my scholarship, what felt like everything, for what he wanted. And then I felt guilty for doubting “his plan.”
Eventually I fought my way out of the depression, found a job and got back my independence. The internet helped me fact-check the claims of the church and I realized it couldn’t possibly be true. My mind was free. I learned what a double-bind was and how duped I had been for all of my life. My husband left the church with me. I sent my parents a letter telling them that I had left the church. When my mom found out, it was non-stop crying, calling and emailing me begging to reconsider, begging me to not leave their eternal family. It went on for months and months without stop.
I realized that friendship was not enough for me to stay in a marriage. I decided to get a divorce and try to figure out my sexuality. I found a job in a different city and moved. I didn’t give my family my new address or phone number to get some rest from the constant harassment for my “soul.”
After about 6 months, I let them start writing me letters. Years later, we now talk on the phone every few weeks. If they start talking about my soul, or the times they’ve seen angels, I keep my boundaries and end the call. But I’m still scared to death to tell them that I’m a lesbian. I have a partner of 3.5 years that they know nothing about. I’m scared to tell them because I know in their minds it will be confirmation that because I’ve left the church, Satan is corrupting my life and leading me further down the path of sin. And that breaks my heart. No matter what I do, I can never escape the dogma. Although I have my own life, and have created my own family with fantastic friends, there’s still a part of me that the Mormon Church latches on to, that I struggle to be free.
The Danger (or lack thereof) of Landing Gay Side Up
The last comment that I wanted to include is the following one by Orthogonality that picks up on a thread of comments about some things that Orson Scott Card (a noted author who happens to be Mormon and who is known for his pronounced anti-gay views) has written.
In other Orson Scott Card essays I’ve read, there’s been this implication that gee, we better make being gay difficult, or else everyone will go gay!
Now, maybe if you’re a Mormon kid and you can’t have a girlfriend, can’t even have the compensations of porn and masturbation. Maybe then the uninformed stereotype that gay life is 100% Fire Island Fuck Fest sounds intriguing.
But I suspect that for the gay lifestyle to sound at all fun, you have to be a somewhat attracted to men. For me, and I think for most heterosexual men, going gay is never a real alternative, because for us, sex necessarily involves a woman.
But for many anti-gay crusaders, like Card, the attractiveness of “going gay” is obvious, and is what makes out gays [to be] so threatening. They viscerally believe that to see a happy gay man is to desire to be a happy gay man, and thus the only safety lies in making sure no one sees a happy gay man
I, a heterosexual, look at a happy gay man’s sex life, and think, yeah, it looks like he’s having fun, and I wish hook-ups came as easily for me but — he’s hooking up with guys, and well, that really defeats the whole purpose. I’m glad it works for him, but really, what’s the fucking point of that?
I have gay friends, I’ve been to gay parties, I’ve had drinks and good conversations with gay dudes. Not once have I been on the verge of falling into homosexual behavior. Not once have I accidentally tripped and landed gay side up. I don’t need to keep those feelings at bay because those feelings never occur to me.
Because homosexuality isn’t something you choose. It’s a lifestyle, but it isn’t an “alternative lifestyle” in the sense that driving a Prius is an “alternative to” driving an SUV.
Now isn’t it odd that Orson Scott Card and these supporters of beards think that homosexuality is so alluring, that so much willpower or force of law is needed to avoid its temptations? Because I think that if you’re secure in your own heterosexuality, that temptation never arises, never even occurs to you.
BTW, we had an interesting discussion about Orson Scott Card a few months ago here, and came to some of the same conclusions as your commenter.
And Boyd K. Packer too. Whenever I see something like this that he’s said:
I always sense an underlying preface: “This is how I’ve lived my entire adult life.”
When I look at him that way, suddenly it makes a lot of sense that he is unable to get in line with the church’s evolving position on homosexuality, and that he seems so threatened by the idea that being gay is OK. Because if it is OK, what has been the point of his lifetime of striving and suppression and suffering?
Kuri – I think this is a very valid point, and that there is a lot of actual truth in this, i.e., he really is a “hardliner”. Several people who are in a position to comment intelligently on the subject have told me that they expect to see further evolution in the doctrine re homosexuality once President Packer has passed on.
Meanwhile, if you haven’t been following it, you might be interested in the string of comments on Tuesday’s post about Packer’s talk, “To the One,” from which you quoted.
I’ve been following all the posts. I haven’t commented since everything is pretty much outside my (straight male) experience, but I’ve been learning a lot from the discussions.