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.

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55 Responses

  1. Holly says:

    I agree with this, although I wouldnt use the word blame.

    I wouldn’t use the word “blame” either, left to my druthers, but it’s the word Alan has used, so I did the same.

    Also, although I see Alans point about the church teaching people not to formulate an identity that includes the concept I am gay, I dont think theres a bright, shiny, exculpatory line between Im gay and I have same-gender attraction. There are a lot of shadings, nuances, and mitigating circumstances involved in all this, but I still see a bottom-line ethical obligation to share relevant personal information with (potential) spouses.

    I agree.

  2. Alan says:

    I have to admit that I find it a little odd that you have never found it relevant to discuss your own privilege.

    I happen to believe that this stuff doesn’t have to do with “credentials” or writing bulleted lists about “privilege,” and more about life experience and the communities we’re part of. As Holly mentions, I’ve divulged plenty of details about my personal life. But it doesn’t seem to do any good in bringing more understanding to my positions and it’s considered acceptable to use these details as ammunition against me.

    And that involved standing in opposition to half a dozen WOMEN who were critiquing your approach

    I see. So when a half a dozen WHITE women overrule one ASIAN woman, then the ASIAN woman loses validity.

    That makes you pretty much primary, and me secondary, baby.

    Plenty of themes had already emerged in the thread at the time she commented. But if you want to ignore all that, and just make it about her disagreeing with you and supporting me, then well, there’s nothing I can do about that.

  3. Holly says:

    I happen to believe that this stuff doesnt have to do with credentials or writing bulleted lists about privilege, and more about life experience and the communities were part of.

    No one is asking for bulleted lists. A narrative–even a brief one–would do just fine.

    Reflecting on your life experiences and your roles in the communities you’re part of and how these experiences and communities reinforce not just your victimhood but your privilege is what we’re asking for, and would be an excellent means of establishing your credentials.

    I see. So when a half a dozen WHITE women overrule one ASIAN woman, then the ASIAN woman loses validity.

    The white women in that conversation offered to take on the critcism of racism if you would confront the criticism of misogny. You refused.

    The offer still stands, btw. You take a good, hard look at that way you respond to women here in various threads, I’ll take a good, hard look at how I responded to Pinay.

    But if you want to ignore all that, and just make it about her disagreeing with you and supporting me, then well, theres nothing I can do about that.

    Actually, I already acknowledged that she chastised you for presuming to speak for lesbians as well. So it wasn’t just about her supporting you.

    And there’s nothing you can do about many things, Alan.

  4. Alan says:

    Holly, can you repost the link to your article that mentioned Ben Christiansen? I’m working on a short piece now, and I want to cite you.

  5. Alan says:

    A recent PhD diss on mixed orientation marriages. A lot of good info.

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