Natasha, I’m curious. Josh Weed’s story is similar to what the new TLC show “My Husband’s Gay” is portraying. Do you feel like Josh and Lolly’s decisions are a mistake or is there room for each gay LDS person to choose the kind of life and relationship they feel brings them the most happiness? In pushing back regarding the recent Huffington Post article by Mitch Mayne, are the issues more about dishonesty than homosexuality?
I respect Mitch Mayne tremendously and support the article he wrote for the Huffington Post. I have been working with LGBTQ members of our church for almost 20 years now, and the dynamics Mitch speaks of are common in my practice. Tragically common. Even though the current position of the church no longer encourages gay and lesbian members to marry heterosexually, this was absolutely the advice most of them received as little as 10-15 years ago. I know that in my generation at BYU-Provo, this was most definitely the case. And even though the church has recently taken a different position on this, doesn’t mean that it has trickled down to all of the local ecclesiastical leaders continuing to counsel with homosexual members (for example, it never ceases to amaze me how many active members, including local leadership, know nothing of the mormonsandgays website). Therefore, many current LGBTQ members in their 40’s and older (and even younger) find themselves in mixed-orientation marriages.
To say that the issues that arise for Mormon LGBTQ members is one of “dishonesty” ignores the current church policies and overall Mormon culture that these members have been trying to survive and navigate since our church was founded (of course, we are not the only religious community that has been difficult for LGBTQ members to survive). For example, our church still encourages the use of “same-sex attraction” language instead of the terms homosexual, gay, lesbian, etc. This implies that sexual orientation is something that is temporary, is something you have or can overcome like diabetes, can possibly be changed (although the church has backed away from this as well, at least in this mortal existence) instead of an integral piece of your individuality and self-identity. How can we expect our members to be honest with themselves and others about who they are, when we offer no appropriate education on the matter and in fact, encourage them to precisely not identify as homosexual to begin with? And what about the tremendous costs our current culture/policies inflict on those who do want to be honest and live authentically? Excommunication, disfellowshipment, church disciplinary courts, cultural shunning, loss of social/familial status, inability to serve or participate in church activities/rituals, not being allowed to serve with the children of the church (i.e. treated like a pedophile), being kicked out of your parent’s home, financial repercussions either via familial support or job loss, etc., etc. And I can tell you that each one of these things have happened to clients of mine who were not even “living the lifestyle” (another offensive term we regularly throw around) or even members who are not homosexual themselves but support LGBTQ civil rights. It of course gets much worse for those who want to be authentically partnered, even in ways that would follow the law of chastity (i.e. sex after marriage, MARRIAGE, adoption of children, etc.).
I completely respect the decisions people make to partner in mixed-orientation marriages (when both partners are informed of the marriage being mixed, of course). People get married and choose companionship for a variety of complex reasons that are not for us to judge. I can completely understand why this would be a viable choice within our current culture and for some, they can absolutely make it work. I even understand and empathize when the homosexual partner did not tell their spouse up front (this was actually ecclesiastical advice given back in the day as well) or when an unknowing partner finds out and still wants to try and make the marriage work. But we can’t ignore that these types of marriages happen within the context of a church culture where the only current viable “righteous” decisions include lifelong celibacy (unhealthy and unnatural for social creatures such as ourselves) or mixed-orientation marriage. We also can’t ignore that for many, many people, these marriages have not survived (50%-85% compared to 25% of first marriages), and that being bisexual helps exponentially when they do. To try and separate our combined responsibility from members living out these realities, as to why these types of decisions are being made to begin with, is disingenuous and disrespectful to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, the spouses who may or may not have been given a chance to truly choose a mixed-orientation marriage (and even if they did, are usually ill-equipped to know what this even means or implies for their future) and the children born into such unions. I, like Mitch, am concerned that shows like these will give false hope or expectation to families and individuals who are needing to deal with the reality that someone in their family system is homosexual. And to be willing to do so in the healthiest ways possible. Even Josh and Lolly have been very vocal that their choice is not “the” choice – it is their choice. And to be quite blunt – NO, I do not believe there is room in our current church for each gay LDS person to choose the kind of life and relationship they feel brings them the most happiness. Absolutely not! They are continually put into positions where there are impossible choices and catch 22s. We have much work to do in this area. We need much prayer, much fasting, much continuing revelation, much willingness to confront our own discomfort, much reaching out to suicidal teens and others, much, much, much…. I hope we are all willing to put our shoulders to the wheel on this one.
Gay, Mormon and Happily Married with Children – ABC story on Josh and Lolly Weed
Family Acceptance Project for LDS families