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.