Monday, August 20, 2012

This Anti-Gay Culture Has To Stop!

Sorry I haven't written in a while.  I've been busy with acting projects and some freelance writing I've been doing for an online marketing company.  I guess that's a good thing that I am busy and working, but I just have been too exhausted to blog.

My current acting gig ends in three weeks (and, yes, I am counting the days) which means I will soon get too weeks with Jonah, after which I have another six week gig.  It's great to be working, but I sure miss my husband, which is why I actually decided not to audition for any Christmas shows so that I can actually spend the holidays with Jonah for a change.  We'll both be unemployed, but I really feel it's what I need to do, and I'm keeping faith that we'll be covered financially

What I really want to talk about today is this culture that leads people to believe it's wrong or a bad thing to be gay and the damage that it does.  This week I found out something about a friend of mine that I went to high school with.  When we went to school together and I was deeply, so very deeply, in the closet, I always thought my friend seemed gay.

We lost touch after high school, and years later when I worked as a substitute teacher I reconnected with him when I substitute taught for him.  He was, by all accounts, a very popular and well-loved teacher.  He still seemed very gay to me, so I was kind of (sad?) to discover a photo of him and his wife and kids.  He'd followed the traditional Mormon path, and I wondered if he was happy and fulfilled, but I shrugged it off.

This week I discovered that after 12 years of teaching at the same school, he'd resigned a few months ago after the police questioned him about some inappropriate texts he'd exchanged to a male student soliciting sex.  The police also discovered pornography unrelated to the texts on his school computer.  The pornography in and of itself was not illegal, but because it was on school property, it was.

I have little doubt my friend is guilty of the charges.  Interestingly enough, I also have a friend who's in my current show who was once my other friend's student, and he said he, himself, after he had graduated, was a recipient of an inappropriate text from the teacher asking my friend to perform a sex act on him.

My actor friend, who's straight, but who liked and admired my teacher friend very much, was not offended by the text, but was concerned that my teacher friend was acting out in an unhealthy and potentially damaging way, and when he text back telling my teacher friend that he should talk to somebody about his sexual inclinations, my teacher friend wrote back and tried to dismiss the whole thing as a joke or a misunderstanding.

My actor friend also said he was not surprised by the allegations concerning my teacher friend, saying that my teacher friend had always been maybe a little too chummy with some of his male students.

That being said, I don't think my teacher friend has ever crossed the line beyond innuendo or inappropriate communications with his students.  I mean to say that, as far as I know, he's never had a sexual relationship with any of his students.  Still, as a teacher, he should have known better than to even send inappropriate messages to any of his students.

But I guess my point is that it makes me sad that my friend has risked his career, his reputation, and his family because of his actions, and I wonder if being gay was considered a normal, acceptable life in LDS culture if my friend would have felt the need to marry his wife at all or to seek out ways of satisfying his same-sex cravings.

This week I also came across a fellow gay Mormon blogger who wrote of possibly committing suicide, and a day later another gay friend of mine who grew up Mormon posted similar thoughts on his Facebook status.  At this time, I don't know how either of them are or if they are alive and well.  And I am worried. 

Jonah was worried enough about the blogger that he felt inspired to write Josh Weed, who I have talked about before, and Josh wrote a very heartfelt plea to the blogger and many of Josh's readers have sent words of encouragement as well.  Hopefully, our blogger friend is okay and will find the help he needs.

My Facebook friend has had a history of drug problems and has had a difficult relationship with his mother and, like I said, I don't even know if he's still alive.  I wonder if all these issues could be avoided if there wasn't such a stigma in LDS culture (as well as other religious cultures) over being gay or acting on gay feelings.

Another dear friend of mine was telling me a story the other day about a gay friend of hers who went to Seven Peaks water park with some friends simply to have a good time.  Instead they were bullied by some homophobic guys who called them names and physically threatened them.  My friend was so upset by this, and while she wasn't blaming the LDS Church for what these homophobic guys did, the incident did make her tired of being so passive about defending gay rights and made her second-guess her membership in a church culture that creates antagonism against gay people.

My friend hasn't been active in some time, and gay rights issues has been a large reason why, but now she is considering formally resigning from the Church, and I feel sad that the Church loses a lot of good people because of this issue.  My friend even expressed anger that the Church had excommunicated someone like me.  She said, "You're somebody who actually makes Mormonism look good to me still, and yet they kicked you out, and that pisses me off."  I know Jonah feels the same way.

I have another friend who's family kicked him out because he was gay.  He now doesn't even seem to believe in God.  And he's no exception.  I know many friends raised in the Mormon Church who have antagonistic feelings toward their families, religion, and God because of the way they have been treated with regard to the issue of homosexuality.

I have another friend who's active in the Church, but losing faith in it largely because of the homosexual issue.  She's really struggling between wanting to remain an active member and how she feels about gay rights issues.  She is also bothered that her tithing is going towards an organization that actively fights against gay marriage.  Will the Church lose her, too?

Because of this issue, too many good people are losing faith in God and faith in religion.  Too many families are being torn apart.  Too many young people are homeless or taking their own lives.  Too many people are acting out in inappropriate ways - doing drugs, engaging in dangerous or promiscuous sex, drinking too much, viewing pornography, hooking up behind their spouses' backs, etc.  Too many people are entering into marriages hoping it will fix their problems, and then so many of those marriages are left in heartache and destruction.

It has to stop!  I've seen more problems than good result from the Church's stand on this issue, and I fail to understand the "sin" in monogamous gay relationships.  I really don't see it.  Heaven knows every gay person I know, including myself, feels that being gay was never a choice, and that trying to not be gay caused more problems and damage than coming out of the closet and embracing their homosexuality has.  Unfortunately, what has happened is that their experiences within the Church have left the residual consequences of damaged self-esteem, a lack of belief in (and sometimes a hate) for religion and God, depression, family estrangement, and acting out in unhealthy and destructive ways.  Anti-gay people sometimes put the blame on being gay, but I think a lot of it comes from how the gay person's religion and culture has treated them and what they've taken away from it.

I've been lucky in many ways.  I had very good and compassionate religious leaders and a supportive and loving family, but many of my friends have not been so lucky, and while many are happy, religion has left a bad taste in some of their mouths, and I think it's sad that the very people and organization that are supposed to be loving and nurturing them have left them feeling empty and unloved.  And I, too, have certainly had my years of depression, self-loathing, angst, and feelings of suicide.

There is nothing wrong with being gay or two people of the same sex loving one another.  I fail to see the sin.  I don't see how mutual love can be wrong or wicked, and as I've stated many times in my blog, I am much happier where I am now than I was when I was trying to fight against my sexuality.

The sooner we stop believing homosexuality is wrong or evil, I think the healthier gay people and their families and relationships with God and religion will be.


Julia - Finding My Way Softly said...

I hope this does not come across as insensitive, but I truly am curious. What would you see an ideal system for gay members of the church, accepted in civil unions or marriage or some close equivalent, in 50 years? (Hopefully sooner, but 50 is a nice round number, and it seems long enough to be accepted for at least 5-10 years by then.) What would you and Jonah most like to have that you don't now? What would be the first priorities, and what would the long-term ideas or cultural norms that would take longer to change while still being important?

I ask for two reasons, the first is that I have never lived in Utah, and the second "duh" reason is that I am not gay. ;-) I ask because I have some ideas, but I am guessing that you and Jonah will have many thoughts that wouldn't occur to me.

Gay LDS Actor said...

Not insensitive at all.

Ideally, I would hope for a system in which gay members do not feel marginalized. I would certainly wish for unions with the same legal rights as any other marriage. Whether it's actually called marriage is not as important to me as long as I can do it and it is recognized federally.

It would be wonderful if a gay couple could be married for time and all eternity, but I don't know that the LDS Church will ever reach that point.

Certainly, I would love gay members and couples to be treated like any other straight couple. It would be nice to go to church as a committed gay couple and not have anyone think twice about it.

Mostly, I'd like legal rights, tax breaks, and the securities that come with marriage and I would like my marriage to be recognized as normal and good.

At the very least, I would love to fill out a form without having to second-guess whether it is appropriate to check the "single" or "married" box.

Julia - Finding My Way Softly said...

For me, if temple marriage is taken off the table, the rest of the things you are "asking" for seem to be issues of societal norms, rather than gospel. I guess baptism and membership could come in, but since you aren't excommunicated if you marry a nonmember, or a member of another religion, I actually think that excommunication is kind of a stretch for a monogamous, legalized relationship.

I actually think that you and Jonah are a good example of a gay couple who would be pretty similar to a heterosexual mixed religious marriage. So I don't offend Jonah, I will let you be the "wife" in this flight of fancy.

Lets imagine a couple where she is Mormon, and he is not, where they did not have sex before marrying with each other or anyone else. She had been on a mission, so she was endowed, and had struggled with not wanting to marry a Mormon man for cultural reasons.

(All three times I married it was to someone who was not LDS. I can't say I was disappointed when they joined the church, but I would have been okay if it never happened.)

So, if that was the case for a heterosexual couple, they would be allowed to have a civil or religious ceremony, in any place or state, and have their marriage be recognized by the church. The non-LDS member would be welcomed to ward activities and services, and as long as it is tasteful, displays of affection would go unnoticed. The member would be encouraged to stay active, but not to force church issues to an extent that would hurt the marriage. (For example, pay tithing on your entire household income if you can, but if it causes problems, you can still have a temple recommend or be considered a full tithe payer tithing on an amount that the other spouse is comfortable with, even if that amount is nothing.)

I can see the church asking members in a homosexual couple to not discuss their sexual relationship at church, but it isn't like we have in depth discussions on how best to pleasure our heterosexual partners. I guess who owes who sex might be harder to figure out without a gender assigned scape goat. ;-)

I think that most of the things used as excuses for accepting celebate homosexuals, but not ones who are "out" is the assumption that all homosexual relationships are unstable, and that significant parts of a homosexual's life will be spent having sex with multiple partners. As long as there are no civil unions or marriages, and thus no way to track how many people would choose a long term stable relationship, there really is no way to confirm or refute the theory. Everything is anecdotal because there is no way of collecting data and systemically studying the issue. Without benefits, and with the stigma, there is not any reason for homosexual couples who would oftentimes be married by statute (because they have been living together long enough to have it recognized as a marriage) to call attention to themselves. This means that most heterosexuals who do not have homosexual friends, only see the anecdotes that already fit their world view.

I don't know if that makes sense, or if I just ended up rambling a lot. I am so glad you and Jonah will be together for the holidays. If you ever come to Oregon, you have a standing invitation to stay and enjoy the mountain, and as much homemade hot chocolate as you want. :-)

Gay LDS Actor said...

Oh, I agree, most of what I do want is more societal than gospel, although I do wish the love I have for my husband was recognized within the gospel (as taught by the LDS Church) as being good and holy.

Jonah thinks excommunication is a very archaic and out-of-date practice, and he does not understand it at all. I get it in theory, but thinks it's sometimes causes more damage and estrangement than good.

I think it's funny that you didn't want to offend Jonah by calling him the "wife" in your scenario because we sometimes joke that he is my Mormon wife.

But your example hits home a point that I strongly feel: if Jonah were exactly the person he is and if our relationship was the same except that he were in a woman instead of a man, the LDS Church would have no problem welcoming him and approving him as my partner.

We could go to church together and be treated normally by fellow ward members even though he's not a member. And I wouldn't have been excommunicated at all. Our love, the day-to-day activities and life we share would be the same. It's only because of our shared gender that we are not.

I actually think (perhaps wrongly) that more gay people would be more more monogamous and less promiscuous if homosexuality were not considered taboo earlier in life. I think a lot of the unhealthy behaviors that one finds in certain segments of the homosexual population (drug use, promiscuous and unsafe sex, binge drinking, etc.) are precisely because they are trying to fill a void left when they are made to feel badly about who they are as gay individuals by society, their families, their religions, etc. I think if homosexuality and gay relationships were seen as good and normal by all, there would actually be less of that.

Certainly it wouldn't be eliminated entirely just as we see in straight relationships and people, but I do surmise that self-destructive behaviors would be lessened in both groups if they felt more love in their lives and if they were taught more healthy attitudes about sex and love, in general. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's what I believe although there's certainly no way to prove it.

Perhaps I'm rambling as well. I don't know if what I'm saying makes sense or has any correlation, really, with what your comments were, but that is what they sparked.

If we're ever in Oregon, maybe we'll take you up on your offer. I've only been there once (Jonah, never), and I still feel Oregon is one of the prettiest states I've ever been in.

Bryce Thomason said...

No hesitation the plight of homosexuals is on the top of the list of social problems professed in the EU because this week a meeting is taking place in Europe to address the fact that not everyone is getting onboard with the "gay agenda. Homophobia, transphobia and other forms of sexual orientation discrimination is said to still exist in the EU on a larger scale than the Union wants to see.