Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's All About Image (What A Double Standard)

On October 1st the following article appeared in The Salt Lake Tribune:

Deseret News pulls ad for gay suicide memorial by Rosemary Winters

In addition to irreverent coffee pitches and same-sex wedding announcements, a plug for a memorial for gay Mormon suicide victims can be added to the list of ads the LDS Church-owned Deseret News won't run.

MediaOne, which handles advertising for both the News and The Salt Lake Tribune , accepted payment from the nonprofit Foundation for Reconciliation to run an ad, announcing a memorial service this Sunday, in both papers. But on Wednesday, a MediaOne employee told the group's Cheryl Nunn that the ad had been rejected by the News.

"Anything that's related to the church we have been asked to present that to [the Deseret News ] and then they decide," said MediaOne President Brent Low. "This one was directly talking about the church and sexual orientation."

Without receiving the discount offered from advertising in both papers, the group asked to pull the blurb from the Tribune , as well, and received a full refund, Low said.

In August, the News declined to run a wedding announcement for a gay couple wed in San Francisco. In 2007, it rejected a coffee shop ad that showed the store's owners wearing Mormon missionary uniforms -- but the News has a policy that bans all ads for coffee. Same goes for alcohol, tobacco, tea and adult entertainment.

The foundation's memorial, "From Despair to Hope," honors lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) suicide victims as well as "those who have successfully overcome conflicts involving their sexual orientation and the LDS Church," the ad states. The event features a video appearance by actor Will Swenson, known for his roles in Mormon-themed films "Sons of Provo" and "The Singles Ward."

Peter Danzig, a Salt Lake City spokesman for the foundation, called the newspaper ad "innocuous."

"There's nothing anti-Mormon," he said. "We tried to create an event that would be welcoming to everyone on either side of the issue."

Danzig hopes remembering the "suffering" of those who have taken their own lives because of despair felt from conflict arising between their sexual orientations and Mormon faith and families will "compel" attendees "to create hope for other people."
The service is Sunday at 7 p.m. at First Unitarian Church, 569 S. 1300 East, Salt Lake City.

When I read that MediaOne and The Deseret News wouldn’t run an ad for this memorial, it upset me; not because they chose not to run an ad that might be seen as contrary to what they represent (heck, The Deseret News can run whatever they want to run), but because it makes me wonder what they do represent.

If you’ll recall, in February of this year MediaOne and The Deseret News (and, to be fair, The Salt Lake Tribune) chose to run an ad by an organization called America Forever. You can read my comments about that here. If you want to read about what this moronic organization stands for, their website is here.

Let’s do a side-by-side comparison of the two ads in question.

The ad The Deseret News chose to print contains the following quotes:

“Stand up on stop the homosexual movement.”
“Gays will have more rights than anybody else.”
“If a hooker displays her conduct, a druggie displays his conduct and a homosexual displays his conduct, it is our right to not have them part of our lives…”
“No one loses their job for just being gay….”
This is what [gays] want: to use the law to Force good willed responsible citizens to accept their sexual conduct as Natural behavior; to force an entire society to endorse, promote, and tamper with our children’s identity.”
“DO NOT BE FOOLED BY The Common Ground Initiative. It is not just about a few people here in Utah, it is part of a well-engineered movement, targeted to VALIDATE HOMOSEXUALITY TO THE CHILDREN.”
“Overwhelmingly, the gay agenda is liberal, godless, and very outspoken…Moreover, they are intolerant and do not emulate any Christian ethics.”
“Shame on UTAH GAYS For using the LDS Church to promote the Homosexual Movement.”
They also quote a piece that was printed as satire, but make it sound like it is a legitimate “Homosexual Declaration of War”, quoting, “we will sodomize your children. All churches who condemn us will be closed. The family unit eliminated…”

The ad The Deseret News chose not to print says, in part:

“The Foundation for Reconciliation…presents a Memorial Service, honoring LGBT suicide victims as well as those who have successfully overcome conflicts involving their sexual orientation and the LDS Church. Join us for an evening of music and the spoken word…”

Understanding that the LDS Church is against homosexuality, I still contend that the second ad holds closer to the values I feel I was raised with as a Mormon than the first one does. The first ad is full of lies, misconceptions, ignorance, generalizations, and, frankly, hate (isn't the LDS Church about truth?). The second ad, whether one agrees with homosexuality or not, at least contains some compassion. It does not vilify the LDS Church. The only mention it makes is that these people it wants to honor have overcome their conflicts with homosexuality and the LDS Church, but in no way do I see it as anti-LDS Church. I have great love for the LDS Church and still attend it regularly even though I am not even a member by name. I feel I have come to a place in my life where I have resolved my conflicts between my sexuality and the LDS Church, but in no way would I consider myself anti-LDS.

The first ad does vilify gay people. It is anti-gay. It would have you believe that gays are “godless,” that we don’t have “Christian ethics,” that our sole aim is to corrupt your children. These things are simply not true, certainly not of myself, my partner, or any of the gay people I know or associate with. It’s offensive to me, much as I’m sure gay behavior is offensive to some people out there, including those who belong to America Forever. And yet, that ad is okay to print, but the other isn’t. Why?

I wrote a letter to the editor of The Deseret News on October 2. It said,

So let me get this straight. An ad for a memorial honoring gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual suicide victims and those who have "overcome conflicts involving their sexual orientation and the LDS Church" (quote from the ad) was rejected because it's "directly talking about the [LDS C]hurch and sexual orientation." (quote from MediaOne President Brent Low, "Deseret News pulls ad for gay suicide memorial," Salt Lake Tribune, Oct. 1, 2009); yet MediaOne had no problem printing an ad by the group America Forever back in February of this year which was full of lies and misrepresentations, compared gay people to prostitutes and drug addicts, accused gay people of preying on children, and said gay people were "godless" and had no "Christian ethics."

That ad contained the headline, "Shame on Utah gays for using the LDS Church to promote the homosexual movement" and had an entire paragraph devoted to the LDS Church and gay activist groups. I realize America Forever is not an LDS organization, but I would think that the hate and ignorance in that ad would have been far more contrary to the values of the LDS Church, MediaOne, and The Deseret News than the ad for the memorial that Foundation for Reconciliation is holding.

As Peter Danzig, spokesman for the foundation, says "There's nothing anti-Mormon" in the memorial ad, yet there is plenty that is anti-gay in the America Forever ad, and I venture to say that if the same ad had been run about black people or Jewish people, MediaOne wouldn't have dared to print it.

Is this really the image that MediaOne, the LDS Church, and The Deseret News want to project? Sounds like a major double standard to me, and it is shameful.

By the way, I don't really care if you print my letter. I just hope whoever reads this really thinks about the kind of values they claim to have.

As I said, I really didn’t care if they printed the letter (and, no surprise, they didn’t); I just wanted somebody over there to think about what they are doing and what image they are trying to project.

I know I am biased. Of course I am! I’m gay! I know this issue isn’t important to everybody, and that there are those who can’t see my side of the issue (and I admit that my bias probably prevents me from seeing their side in an objective way, too), but I find it disturbing.

Here is a sampling of letters to the editor The Deseret News did choose to print:

Chase Kirkham, (Readers' Forum, Oct. 8) misses the comic strip Lio. That should not be hard to remedy. Just get a copy or two and read one daily. His theme is very consistent. The only variable seems to be his gruesome characters.
John Sorenson

My wife and I are avid fans of "American Idol," "America's Got Talent" and "Dancing With the Stars." The judges on all three shows have the background and expertise to recognize talent when they see it. The one thing we abhor is the way Simon Cowell ("American Idol"), Piers Morgan ("America's Got Talent") and Len Goodman ("Dancing With the Stars") criticize performers they feel are not up to par. The other judges let the performers save face.
Stan Jacobson

I cannot believe that Dane Henderson (Readers' Forum, Oct. 10) and Brian Mott (Readers' Forum, Oct. 9) call Glenn Beck a "mad man." I watch him every day, and he makes me laugh and at other times makes me cry.
He gives us true facts about government issues. He backs up everything he says with video and investigation. If you would watch him, you'd understand what I'm saying. Duly watch with ears to hear and eyes to see and hearts to understand.
Connie Rigby

I guess my concerns are not as valid as a yanked comic strip (of which many letters were written), TV reality show judges, or the rantings of a crazy guy (see, I told you I was biased). That’s fine. Whatever.

But what image is being conveyed when a paper chooses to print an ad full of hate and lies, but not one that wants to do something to honor people (oh, that’s right. Those people are gay! Mustn’t do that.)? It seems such a double standard to me.

I still haven’t quite figured out what people are so scared of. Believe you me, I am not out to corrupt your children or turn them gay. As far as I’m concerned, one is either gay or not; there’s not much I could do to turn someone gay even if I wanted to. I’m not even out to convince people to think that being gay is a good thing (I think it is perfectly lovely, but it’s not my goal to convince anybody else that it is).

I am not trying to destroy your marriage. It seems like there are many heterosexual, married couples who are doing just fine destroying their marriages without my help, even if that were my goal.

I am not out to take away anybody’s religious rights. If you want to teach that being gay is a sin and that we’re all going to hell and deny us the right to get married in your church, fine. That’s your business. It doesn’t sound like a church I want to belong to anyway.

I’m not out to flaunt my sexuality in your face. I don’t like watching anybody snogging in public, gay or straight. Jonah and I don’t tend to engage in public displays of affection, not because we’re worried about offending anybody or scared, but because it’s not our style.

You know what I would like? I would like to know that if Jonah or I were to fall ill or get in an accident or, heaven forbid, die, that we wouldn’t have to worry about the legalities of hospital rights or home rights or property rights or visitation rights or what-have-you. I would love to be able to fill out our federal taxes together instead of separately. I would love when I’m filling out an application of some kind to be able to check the “married” box instead of the “single” one. I would love for people like us to be able to share insurance. I don’t know what this “homosexual movement” or “agenda” is. I guess I must have missed the “Gay-People-Who-Want-to-Corrupt-Your-Children, Destroy-Your-Marriages, and-Take-Away-Your-Rights” meeting where they explained all that. I get the feeling some people think we’re this big union of gay people setting about taking over the world. You know what Jonah and I are? A boring “married” couple. I would just like the same legal rights as other boring, married couples.

When I see newspapers print ignorant, hateful ads over sympathetic ones; when I see security members of a church I have loved and revered my whole life kick a gay couple off their property for kissing (maybe more – I don’t know, I wasn’t there); when I hear a sitting Utah senator make ignorant, biased ant-gay statements and then watch senate leaders “reprimand” him at the same time they defend him and those ignorant statements; when I hear religious leaders make ignorant (and sometimes hateful) remarks about gay people; when I see my own religion pour so much time and energy into defending the institution of marriage from threats I am unable to see myself; when religious teachings or quotes cause people to feel suicidal or hopeless, I just wonder what image is being conveyed.

Regardless of whether one believes homosexuality is wrong and sinful or not, I have to ask myself how Jesus Christ treated people, who he hung around with, what he taught, and how he judged. The Jesus Christ I know and believe in is sometimes very different than the one that I see promoted by certain individuals or entities. It’s disheartening at times. The double standards I sometimes see make me think of the Pharisees of old.


D-Train said...

Great post. I am glad you took the time to compare these two ads.

Allison said...

Hi there. I stumbled across your blog from a post FaithfulDissident made on Feminist Mormon Housewives several months ago and have spent the evening (and a good part of the night) reading your story (I hope you don't mind!) I just wanted to tell you that I am so impressed with your outlook. You have not been dealt an easy hand, but you have such a great attitude. I struggled immensely with Prop 8 (and am incredibly grateful I don't live in California) and have very conflicted feelings in regards to the Church's view on homosexuality, so it's very refreshing to see someone on your side of the fence speak out in such a positive way.

Thank you so much for sharing your story, and all the best to you and Jonah!

Gay LDS Actor said...

Thanks, Allison, for your comment.

Of course I don't mind your reading my story. That's what it's here for.

Thank you for your kind words and thoughts. They are greatly appreciated.