Learning Our Stories

Since writing my 'Coming Out' post a couple of weeks ago, I've experienced a great deal of concern and some anger from people I deeply care about. I expected this and although it has felt a bit emotionally overwhelming, I think it's been important for me. If nothing else, it has forced me to really examine why I feel the way I feel and to find better ways to articulate those feelings. I wanted to post an excerpt from an email I sent to a friend recently that better explains why I've chosen to support gay rights.

Excerpt:

"I have a couple of very close friends who are both gay and actively Mormon. I have known them for several years and their experience is quite similar to other gay members of the church in that they feel torn between two identities: being Mormon and being gay. In our church culture, it is very difficult to reconcile the two. Even though we often hear "hate the sin, love the sinner", there is enough "being gay is an abomination" rhetoric among members that these gay men have felt embarrassment and shame about who they are as individuals. Grappling with this self-hatred while feeling rejected by church and family communities often leads to the reckless sexual experimentation and self-destructive behavior (including suicide) that has plagued the gay community for so long. As Mormon poet Carol Lynn Pearson so eloquently put it, "We throw them in the gutter and then shame them for getting dirty."

I know that these feelings my gay friends have run deeper than a mere desire for sex. These are longings for a romantic connection that includes emotional, physical and spiritual union. So even if a gay member of the church chooses to follow the council to remain celibate, there is still a very real and painful void that remains when that person also feels that they can't have any kind of relationship that is emotionally and spiritually fulfilling even if it doesn't involve sex.

There is a great amount of tension that gay members face when trying to be honest about their identity, find loving relationships, and still remain close to the gospel and their LDS family members. It seems to me to be a no win situation. I do believe that the Atonement can cradle and guide them. I also believe that as members of this powerful church community, we can do much better in seeking to understand and support them.

This doesn't entirely address my support of gay marriage other than to say that I feel very strongly that giving all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, the right to join in committed, monogamous relationships is an act of love and dignity. It's also one of the most conservative requests the gay community has ever made--a community that is often stereotyped as being promiscuous and lewd. I suppose the other option is to demand that all gay people the world over remain celibate and alone which doesn't make much sense to me. I understand that the deeper issue is the fact that my stance may be at odds with the prophet's council to only support marriage between a man and a woman, and I suppose that is up to me and the Lord to reconcile."

So there we are. I think most of all we, as human beings, in all of our frail, brave, cruel and glorious states, just want to be understood. We want our stories to be heard and our longings to be respected. In supporting the gay community, I am trying to be one more person who stops to listen.