Jonah is not much of an activist. He’s not particularly political. Although he has written his share of letters to city officials or businesses, he only does it when really moved to do so. It’s rare to see Jonah commenting on a blog or an online forum. He doesn’t get riled up about things very easily.
I, on the other hand, am always writing letters to the editor and commenting on blogs and getting involved in Facebook discussions about politics or social issues. Sometimes it gets me in trouble. Jonah is always telling me that I need to be very careful what I say on Facebook because once it’s out there, it’s out there, and actions have consequences.
Jonah doesn’t have much on his Facebook wall. He doesn’t tend to get involved in Facebook discussions. To the best of my knowledge, he’s never commented once on this blog.
Josh Weed, however, has Jonah all riled up now. I talked about my feelings on the Josh Weed blog post here. While I’ve kind of had a “live-and-let-live” attitude about Josh while still being worried about the unintended consequences of people misusing Josh and Lolly’s story to further their own agendas, something about Josh Weed’s post really got under Jonah’s skin, and it’s rare that a day has gone by since then that Jonah and I don’t have a discussion about it and about the fallout, both good and bad, that has resulted.
Jonah is pretty passionate guy, but it’s rarely about social issues. It’s usually about art or flowers or me. But Jonah has gotten way passionate about Josh Weed’s story and his (Jonah’s) worries that it has and will cause people to hold up Josh’s standard as the only one or the best one, and thus cause a lot of heartbreak and frustration for those who can’t achieve that “ideal” or for those whose loved ones can’t or have no desire to achieve that “ideal.”
It’s actually been kind of amusing to see Jonah get so worked up about it. I don’t really think Josh Weed made Jonah go crazy; I just thought that would be a funny title. (Well, maybe a little crazy - Jonah is on fire about it.) It’s really been interesting to see how fanatic he’s gotten about it. I’ve joked to Jonah that he’s so obsessed with Josh, he must secretly be in love with him.
The more I talked with Jonah about Josh Weed’s story, however, I began to realize that the reason he has gotten so passionate and worked up about it is because it really does relate to his passion and his love for me.
Jonah, who did not grow up Mormon, by the way, thinks it unfair that Josh is being held up as if his story is the standard or ideal in Mormonism while people like me are basically cast out. In Jonah’s words (and I freely admit to paraphrasing everything in quotes below, but which Jonah has read and agreed that it's the basic gist of what he's said), “You’re a good person, [Cody]. You’re not a murderer. You and so many like you tried your hardest to do everything the LDS Church ever asked you to do. You gave everything you had to the Church. You sacrificed the very essence of who you are to stay true to the doctrine of the Church, and it only made you unhappy and unfulfilled. You did the best you could, and it made your life feel empty.
“Then you met me, and your life turned around. You became happier and fulfilled, and your supposed sin was falling in love with me and choosing to be with me, and for that, your church carried out what I feel is the outdated and outmoded practice of excommunicating you. They have taken away your ability to participate in a church you still very much love. You can’t comment or bear testimony or pray or pay tithes or hold a calling, and it seems in doing so they push you away rather than embrace you.
“As someone who grew up in a different religion, we have nothing like excommunication in my church. While my religion also believes homosexuality is a sin, I could still go in there today and participate. I could testify or sing or pray and contribute, and there would be no penalty for it. I would still be welcomed.
“But you can’t, and I just think it’s wrong. And even though you don’t admit it or try to show it, I know your excommunication was hard for you and I know you still feel pain from it. Even though individual members still treat you in a welcoming fashion, I know it’s still hard for you to attend a church that doesn’t give you full membership. I know that it hurts you when you can’t participate in your niece’s baby blessing or your niece’s baptism or bear your testimony or comment in Sunday School. I know that even though you love your religion, you still feel pain from it. All you want is your basic membership rights that all other members have, and not just attendance.
“And I know in an ideal world, you would like for both of us to attend church together and be full participants. But let’s be honest – if you and I were to sit in a Mormon Sacrament Meeting as a gay couple with kids and show the same kind of affection a straight Mormon couple shows each other in a church meeting, it would make people uncomfortable. It doesn’t matter how progressive or welcoming people tried to be, our family would not be recognized in the same way a straight family would be. The Church is still not willing to recognize a gay couple as a legitimate family.
“And yet, here is this guy, Josh Weed, who is living in this marriage, and although he and his wife may be very happy together, the fact is it is also his Mormonism that has driven him to make the decisions he has made. He flat out asserts that he is not physically attracted to women the way he is men; that men turn him on more than women. If that is the case, would he have chosen to marry a woman if his religious beliefs didn’t convince him that a relationship with a man is wrong? Would Lolly have chosen to marry him if Josh thought it was permissible to have a relationship with a man?
“Mormonism has conditioned gay people to doubt their self-worth as gay individuals; to choose to enter into straight relationships and marriages because it is supposedly the ‘right’ thing to do even though the majority of mixed-orientation marriages seem to lack the fulfillment that both the gay and straight partners desire. Gay people in the church are brought up to believe that marrying is the right and good thing to do, and yet you and I have both seen examples of the consequences of that mindset.
“We’ve seen marriages fall apart because neither spouse was getting what they really wanted in a relationship; we’ve seen gay men cheat on their wives in an effort to fulfill their homosexual desires; we’ve seen them engage in behavior that is destructive to themselves, their wives, and their families; we’ve seen couples living in unfulfilled and empty marriages out of a sense of duty and obedience, but longing for something more and living lives of regret; we’ve seen gay kids striving for the ideal of falling in love with a woman and marrying, but constantly beating themselves up because it isn’t what they really want and feeling shame because what they really do want is termed ‘sinful.’ And couldn’t all this be avoided if people didn’t have this mindset that homosexual relationships are wrong?
“There is this idea in your church that all will be worked out in the afterlife; that people’s homosexual feelings will be taken away in the afterlife; that although one must endure the ‘trial’ of homosexuality in this life, if you live ‘faithfully’ you can still be with a woman in the next. If you were to tell me that you and I wouldn’t be together in the next life because you wanted to do the ‘right’ thing and seek out a woman, that would hurt me deeply. Who would want to hear that; that their marriage on earth is only temporary one; that our relationship would be nonexistent or invalid or not recognized in the afterlife; that we would never be together again; that you would leave me for a woman? Who would want to hear that?
“And if you and I hadn’t met, [Cody], where do you think you’d be? Would you be alone and depressed, but trying to live according to your church’s teachings? Or would you have convinced yourself that marriage was the right option and be making yourself and some poor woman miserable while longing for a relationship with a man? Or would you have completely abandoned hope of a happy life and ended your own in desperation? Because that’s exactly what so many of God’s gay Mormon children are doing, and Josh Weed’s story, although perhaps not intended that way, is not helping matters any.
“And yet there will be people (there already are) who hold his story up as the words of a prophet and who will use it to try to convince their loved ones who are gay that if Josh can do it, so can they. There will be gay people struggling to reconcile their sexuality with their religious belief who will see Josh’s example and believe they can do what he has done, too. There will be straight woman who will marry gay men thinking that what Josh and Lolly have done will work for them. There will be people who criticize their gay loved ones, saying, “Well, Josh did it. You must not be trying hard enough.” And that’s dangerous.
“This isn’t to criticize Josh and Lolly or any other gay-straight couple who is trying to make a mixed-orientation marriage work. But for every Josh and Lolly, it seems there are hundreds of mixed-orientation marriages that aren’t successful, and I worry about the young, naïve kids who think they will walk into a Josh/Lolly marriage only to find something completely different which may lead to a lot of unnecessary heartache and pain.
“There are many of us that would love to stand in church and testify of our unique family like Josh Weed does, but we can't because the LDS Church teachings do not allow it. The church does not recognize our divine worth as a gay couple. They would rather have us sit there in silence as if our journey really has no connection to God, our Creator. Clearly we are also being true to ourselves by saying we are gay or by being in gay committed marriages but, oh wait, we can't say ‘marriage’ because the church won't recognize that either.
“How can a gay Mormon adhere to a religion that obviously fills him or her with joy, but then says it will only accept you if you choose celibacy by not acting on your homosexual feelings or if you choose to marry a woman even though you’re gay? We are not ashamed of our gayness, so why is the church? We have chosen to build a life of fidelity with each other as two men, but the church will only love us, but not recognize our unique families.
“Is there anything wrong with us wanting the same rights that Josh and his wife are afforded in the church and in society? Is there? Would it be wrong of us to have the rights to share our love and unique family in a testimony meeting?
“Sadly the church uses its outdated practice of excommunication to try and keep people like you silent. Many end up abandoning the Church (and sometimes God) in the process, but there are also those like you who walk BRAVELY into church every Sunday, who sit there in silence but have even stronger testimonies then ever before, whose faith was never taken away, and who's connection to God is even stronger.
“I want Josh Weed’s story to inspire people, but I also pray that Josh and his family’s story opens up more communication to the fact that a heterosexual marriage doesn't SOLVE the problem or is the KEY to any gay youth that is struggling with their homosexual feelings.
“I love you, [Cody]. I would do anything for you, and when I see this story being held up as the standard when there are so many other stories of people like you or like our gay friends and family members that have grown up in the LDS Church and are being taught that acting on their gay feelings is wicked or that finding a fulfilling, loving relationship with someone of the same sex is wrong or detrimental, it upsets me. And when I see the fallout from that belief – wrecked marriages, homeless kids, suicides, unfulfilled lives, feelings of self-loathing – it upsets me, and I can’t stand by without telling you how I feel about it.”
As for me, I agree with what Jonah is saying. I have to say, I do find the Weeds to be a likeable couple. They seem genuine to me. I’m glad they have found a happiness that works for them. And I do not condemn their relationship or the relationships of those mixed-orientation couples who are trying to make it work. However, I still believe marriages like theirs are the exception and turn out more like this one than Josh and Lolly's, and I also wonder if they could have found equally and fulfilling marriages if there was nothing standing in the way of Josh pursuing his same-sex attractions. That being said, I put no judgment on them for their relationship. I just ask that people do the same with mine and Jonah’s relationship and those like us.
I agree with Jonah that religion (not just Mormonism) is making life a lot harder for those who are gay and for those that love both them and their religion. I am unable to find the “wickedness” in my relationship with Jonah. Anyone who knows me (namely me) will affirm that I much happier in my life with him than I was in my life without him (which is also the time I was trying so hard to do what the LDS Church taught on this matter). We have a good relationship with God and feel very blessed in our lives. The evidence of suppressing and fighting against my same-sex attractions was a lot of misery, angst, unhappiness, confusion, guilt, feelings of unworthiness, repression, stress, and wishing for death. The evidence of pursuing my relationship with Jonah is happiness, fulfillment, freedom, joy, love, an increased closeness to my Father in Heaven and Savior, being able to be who I always felt I was, but was too scared to be, being more at ease and emotionally healthy, and loving who I am. If that’s wrong or wicked, I’ll take it any day over what life was like before.
And maybe that’s the point. So many gay people are letting their religions convince them that being who they are is bad. It causes a lot of psychological, emotional, spiritual, and relationship problems, and I don’t see how that is good. We’re taught that homosexuality is a cross to bear, a trial to be overcome, a state to battle against. I just don’t believe it anymore. Being gay is just a part of who I am, and my love for Jonah and his love for me is just as valid and worthy of upholding as any straight relationship.
People talk about how gay marriage will cause the destruction of marriage and families. It seems straight people are doing a pretty good job of that without our help. I just want to be with the guy I love and have the same legal rights as anyone else. What works for Josh is Josh’s business, but this is what works for me and Jonah and so many others like us. I want that to be recognized, too.