Homosexual, Not Homogenous

Rebecca Moore is a writer and NASA enthusiast. She has a personal website here. She is also quite tall. We’re grateful that she sent us this guest post.

Some are lost because they are different. They feel as though they don’t belong. Perhaps because they are different, they find themselves slipping away from the flock. They may look, act, think, and speak differently than those around them and that sometimes causes them to assume they don’t fit in. They conclude that they are not needed.

Tied to this misconception is the erroneous belief that all members of the Church should look, talk, and be alike. The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world.

This weekend, as I sat at my ward retreat listening to a few people make homophobic remarks, I thought to myself, “Do I want to get into this right now?”

Navigating LDS circles as a queer person is tricky. For one, even if you’re like me and have taken that proverbial step out of the closet, you’re never really “out.” Unless you’re wearing a rainbow sticker that says, “I’M NOT STRAIGHT,” on your forehead, there will always be those who are unaware of your sexual preferences. It’s a side effect of a heteronormative society.

Most people are not total jerks, and will likely not make disparaging remarks in your presence if they are aware, however, as I experienced on my ward’s annual attempt to get people to go on more dates (kidding, I actually really like my ward retreat), some people will be unaware and say things that they probably wouldn’t have, lest they had known one of The Gays was among them.

And now we’ve arrived back to my initial, “Do I want to get into this right now?” You might assume that I would be making this judgment based on whether or not I was afraid this person would be mean to me were I to reveal myself, but in all reality, I couldn’t care less. The real question would be, “Will this person use me as a prop for their homophobia?”

Let me elaborate. I may be queer, but I am also an active, endowed, temple worthy member. I believe in agency, and this is how I have decided to exercise mine. However, I am not interested in becoming a poster child on how all LGBT members should behave. It’s the Josh Weed effect. In coming out while maintaining your religion, you open yourself up to people looking for proof that clearly their child/brother/guy in their elders quorum really just needs to be more faithful. They say, “Here look at this one person! They are happy! You should be too, if you just become more like them.”

The problem with that mentality, the idea that there are some active LGBT members, so therefore all members who have sexual or gender identities outside of what is considered “normal” can and should be like them, shows a profoundly unchristlike attitude. It assumes that all of us are essentially one homogeneous blob. It does not take the time to know the one.

I come from an incredibly privileged place. While I don’t wish to downplay the seriousness of my choice, I do know I have things that others simply do not. For one, I still experience attraction to men. While I know I will deal with erasure [1] most of my life, I still have the knowledge that I have the option to marry someone I am both romantically and sexually attracted to in the temple, if I so desire. It may not happen, and to be honest I often wonder if it will. After all, I’m not sure how many of those lists we all used to make describing our future spouses had, “queer feminist” on them, but that is probably another article all together.

But beyond that, I also had a supportive family. I had older family members who had already come out. I had a wonderful group of friends who I knew would always stand by me. And I knew that other people, even ones I wasn’t close with, would never give me flack. I am extroverted, funny, attractive, and “large in stature” as our friend Nephi likes to say. I am a unique blend of likable and intimidating. Other than a few comments from strangers on the internet, people are simple not mean to me. Do I think this is fair? No. There are wonderful people who are shy, or slightly socially awkward that are not given the same respect I am for really no good reason. But I am aware of what I am, and that, more than anything, is why I could come out with little fear.

Not all of your brothers and sisters are me. Some of them have cruel communities. Some of them have devious friends. Some of them experience gender dysphoria. Some have faced rejection and unkindness all their lives, at the hand of the very church many so adamantly insist that if they were just more active in, they would be happy. Some of them simply have different feelings than myself. I do not believe it is our place to decide what another’s limits may be, nor how that person should go about finding God.

It is our place to mourn with those who mourn, and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. It is our place to know those who may be lost and lonely as a person, not a project. All deserve to know the love of our Savior, and blessed are those who help them do so.

My advice to you today is not only something to remember when interacting with members outside of the heterosexual cisgender [2] group, but really with all of God’s children. Take the time to get to know a person. Practice empathy, not just sympathy. Seek to understand who they are as an individual, as opposed to just sticking them in a preconceived box.

All of Heavenly Father’s children are different in some degree, yet each has his own beautiful sound that adds depth and richness to the whole.
This variety of creation itself is a testament of how the Lord values all His children. He does not esteem one flesh above another, but He ‘inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; … all are alike unto God.’
– Joseph B. Wirthlin

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[1] The feeling or experience of one who is attracted to multiple genders being invisible due to the appearance of a heterosexual or homosexual relationship. (i.e. Bisexual or sexually fluid individuals that are assumed straight/gay depending on the gender of their partner)

[2] Cisgender- where individuals’ experiences of their own gender agree with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Comments

  1. I would say, “Goodness, doesn’t anyone who actually reads the news know what ‘cisgender’ means in late 2015?”, but then I remember that there are people in my ward with “I DON’T BELIEVE THE LIBERAL MEDIA” bumper stickers.

  2. First, I commend you for your actions and faith.

    But should we comfort those that mourn as a result of sinful actions by telling them their actions aren’t sinful or their desires and/or inclination can’t lead to sin in the first place?

    Can we ever bring back the lost one if we don’t acknowledge their actions and thoughts about their desires are making them lost?

    Would the Lord tell the one found in adultery to go and sin no more, but by all means continue to identify yourself as an adulterer because of your desires? If homosexual relationships are sinful, identifying oneself as a homosexual should be negatively viewed. I don’t entertain thoughts of adultery by telling myself I’m promiscuous by nature.

    ABT, having never heard of the term cisgender, which apparently Oxford only recently added to the dictionary, and being pretty well read in the news, I could probably label your comment a micro aggression if I put stock in such nonsense. I further think the concept of cisgender is not only nonsense, but a further act of aggression against traditionalists in society by not only literally reframing the debate but denying the legitimacy of a debate at all through control of the language rather than persuasion.

    If you feel you are trapped in the wrong body, you are only human afterall, but to insist on the moral correctness of that feeling does not deserve approval. An thought it desire that some, or even all, have does not add legitimacy to the thought. We all suffer from varying disorders after all. And at a bare minimum, homosexuality represents a type of disorder*. It’s contrary to the way of both God (our faith) and natural evolution of humanity (secularism). The question continues to be, how do we approach this particular disorder (we all suffer from varying disorders, why homosexuality is more privileged probably has to do with our societal misunderstanding about and obsession with recreational sex). We not only tell people their disorder doesn’t matter because we don’t have to answer to the concept of evolution on the individual level of our actions, but we rewrite reality by denying the disorder from nature to begin with. From a secular perspective we owe nothing to implementing evolutionary directives after all. But it is a rejection of science to understand the way humanity came to be on one hand and pretend that homosexuality isn’t a rejection of that process at a marginal, micro level.

    Or do we tell people from a religious perspective we should not adhere to God’s laws as revealed to his authorized servants?

    I’m not convinced that from either view homosexuality does not represent some kind of disorder from nature and/or God, and labeling me as a homophobe doesn’t change it.

    * that the debate over this disorder has been successfully reframed, again through denying the legitimacy of even viewing it as such, does not change the reality of God’s laws, nor of nature. It has proven to be successful. The post-modern deconstructionists are indeed “winning” by changing the way the world sees things through language, which sparked my cisgender commentary in the first place.

  3. Fortunately Tiljack in all his certainty and ignorance does not speak for the Church. A comment like that is about what we expect in a forum like Meridian Magazine, so it’s good by contrast to realize that we now rarely ever hear that kind of agressive misrepresentation of the lives of the LGBT children and adults in our community from our general leaders.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    Thank you for the enlightening post, Rebecca.

  5. Rebecca, this is a wonderful, thoughtful, faith-affirming piece of writing. Your discussion of privilege is both honest and realistic, without being ostentatious. You have real talent as a writer, and I hope you can find a way to keep it up.

    Tiljack, I don’t think you need to feel oppressed, as I think you can safely assume that a large majority of the American Mormon population (to say nothing of the general church leadership) basically agrees with your assessment of “disorderedness,” etc. It’s mostly just online, and maybe in the occasional ward here and there, where people like Rebecca have shared their testimonies and struggled to make a place for themselves, where your comments might be seen as out of line. I don’t deny that I look forward to such communities spreading in the church, as more and more people (like I did, several years ago) go through the process of re-evaluating what we thought we were taught about people like Rebecca, and making spiritual sense of the new environment which their efforts have helped to make. But I’m pretty confident that you’ll be able to find many places within the church where you’ll be able to voice your opinion without fear of being labeled homophobic by those sitting beside you in the pews for many years to come.

  6. Rebecca, thank you. I really appreciate the clarity and light you shine here. It helps me not only to see others more clearly, but to examine my own privilege and actions as well.

  7. I am heartily grateful for this post. Thank you!

  8. Rebecca, what a good way to start my day. Thank you for your honesty and ability to write and speak in a way that is so self-aware and gentle to so many. I love your notion that being Christlike means allowing people to function in the way that makes most sense to them. I feel like if we could all take more time to give that kindness to each other, so many members of our community would be at peace.

  9. Sounds like the same rule applies to all people. You can’t assume to cure for what ails them is more activity in the church.

  10. Thanks for hanging out with us, Rebecca!

  11. I think it’s really easy when dealing with people who seem foreign to you to lump them all into one category. That is how our brains naturally process things. It takes effort to try to overcome those stereotypes and allow each person to be an individual.
    It took me a long time to realize that God doesn’t give everyone the same answer to some questions. I think it is an important factor of being Christlike to believe people when they say they are living how God would want them to. There is always the possibility that they are lying, but we are only responsible to follow the answers God has given us and to treat others with love and forgiveness.
    Being Christlike isn’t always the same as doing exactly what Christ would do. Christ had the ultimate stewardship. He knew all that His Father did. It is important for us to realize that any answers we’ve been given “of a surety” only apply to ourselves and perhaps our families. Any revelation I’ve received from God does not apply to anyone else on this thread. Likewise, no one on this thread has received revelation for my life or for Rebecca’s.

  12. EBK: I had a dream last night in which I was given specific spiritual guidance for you. DM me for details. UNRELATED: do you own any ceremonial daggers?

  13. So how do we mourn with those that mourn?

    Here are a few things you can do.

    1. Don’t mention that homosexuality is a sin. Ever.
    2. Accept homosexual children and their partners into your home. Never reject them or any of their friends. Do not impose rules saying they can’t sleep in the same room.
    3. Agitate or at least hope that the church accept homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle so that someday homosexuals can marry in the temple.
    4. Attend a pride parade, it will be a very spiritual experience.

  14. I really appreciate this post. One of the things I found the most stressful about coming out was the possibility that everything I then opted to do would be interpreted in a political way. Stay in the church? I must think that that’s the right path for everyone LGBT. Date? I must be making a statement about what gay people should do and think less of those who choose otherwise. I’m still figuring out my way, and I desperately want the freedom to simply choose what’s right for me without people reading a metamessage into it.

  15. Raber, I’m not sure what your list intends (as I’m not sure if it’s literally intended or sarcastically), but none of those are mourning actions

    Mourning does not require acceptance. “mourn with those that mourn” does not require “change your beliefs to match what they believe”.

  16. To the OP – brilliant. This is something that everyone should read and take to heart, as we never know the hidden attributes of those we are speaking with, even here.

    Our decisions, beliefs, and rationales are our own, not a monolithic “them” to be used as a bludgeon for someone else’s argument.

  17. Thanks for your post, Rebecca. I enjoyed and learned a lot from reading your perspective. I hope we hear from you again!

  18. Steve,
    The dream must be from God because I happen to collect ceremonial daggers.

  19. Frank: ““mourn with those that mourn” does not require “change your beliefs to match what they believe”.”

    That is a really interesting point, but I am not sure you are right. Compassion — real compassion — does, I think, require expanding our hearts and beliefs (or at least putting some more proximate but less important controversies on hold). I’m sure that mourning with someone who is homosexual does not mean you must become homosexual. But if you’re going to truly emphasize and be there for someone, I think it does entail a certain level of AT LEAST putting a subset of your own beliefs and prejudices on hold.

  20. Rob Osborn says:

    It’s definitely a sticky situation anymore because of political correctness. As a youth leader I think about these things and how to approach the subject with my youth. Answers to my prayers are too remember to be compassionate towards all, humble in my approach yet strong and faithful in teaching correct principles. So, I can still be compassionate with feeling towards homosexuals while still condemning the practice.

  21. I agree with Raber and Steve. The phrase “mourn with those who mourn” is incompatible with the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin”. The former emphasizes “with”, or trying to see another’s point of view. The latter attaches a label and rationalizes judgment. If I want to be compassionate toward someone who feels marginalized at church, I have to walk away from condemnation.

  22. Interesting, isn’t it, that the first sentiment is scriptural; the second cultural, and particularly associated with evangelical Christian denominations.

  23. I think there must be some halfway point. It’s wholly possible to mourn with someone in prison without accepting that what they did was acceptable. You can mourn with someone who believes they will never marry without losing your faith that everyone will be able to have someone. You can mourn with someone who has lost a close family member without ever having experienced it yourself and having faith in families being forever.

    Other actions (like attending a pride parade or agitating church change) are not part of mourning. There is rarely a “quick fix” that will stop mourning. Even if there is an apparent “fix”, that’s not what is needed when someone is mourning. (Mentioning a “fix” could even drive more mourning. “It’ll be fixed in the afterlife” makes mourning worse, not better.) Mourning is compassion, bringing yourself to feel their pain because you care about them and cant help but show your love for them. Jesus wept when He heard Lazarus died, mourning with those that mourned even though He would bring Lazarus back and could have used His power so Lazarus would not have died at all (so no mourning would have happened).

    This is a delicate subject, and I hope I’m making some sense. Sorry to tangent the post so much.

  24. “So, I can still be compassionate with feeling towards homosexuals while still condemning the practice.”

    I’m not sure how that works. My gut tells me that you’re holding back true love. You cannot be convincing telling homosexuals that you love them while working tirelessly to defeat them in every aspect of society. It’s just not credible. Nobody believes that’s real love.

  25. it's a series of tubes says:

    Steve and others in this thread, I’m struggling to square this circle in my mind. How do I reconcile (i) the concept that God is perfectly loving and compassionate, with (ii) the concept that God (presuming LDS teachings are accurate) views homosexual behavior as sinful? Is there a way to do so, or do I have to throw out, limit, or qualify one side or the other?

  26. ” The phrase “mourn with those who mourn” is incompatible with the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin”.”

    I have to disagree with this. I have my own predilections towards sin. I can empathize with those who struggle (and fall) to those sins, because I know all too well what they’re feeling. That also gives me a capacity to sympathize with those who struggle with other temptations to which I’m not really subject, because in many ways our struggles must be similar. Nevertheless, the Lord can’t look upon sin with the least degree of allowance and we’re instructed to “tremble and repent of [our] sins”. Just like God doesn’t strike us down or withhold His love when we sin, and just He gives us space to repent, we must love the sinner and give them space as well. But we must absolutely hate sin. Hating sin is not the same as condemning the sinner, and loving the sinner in no way suggests we go wishy-washy on sin.

  27. Tubes, that’s an excellent question to submit to I Have A Question.

  28. A while back I had a conversation with an 8 year old. He said that there were bad kids in his class because they were swearing. I asked him if they were bad kids, or if they were kids using bad words. He thought about it for while and concluded that they were just kids. He was able to figure out the distinction between labeling someone as a sinner and seeing the good in others.

    “Love the sinner” is God’s job. My job is to “Love thy neighbor”.

  29. I don’t like how we put love the sinner and hate the sin together. Love the sinner is about loving our neighbor and hating sin is about avoiding it in our own lives. Yes I should hate sin, but only my own sin. It is not my place to hate anyone else’s sin. I need to love everyone no matter what and hate sin in a sense that I avoid doing it myself.

  30. You can’t proclaim repentance if you don’t proclaim sin. Furthermore, you can’t sin in a vacuum. Pretty much anything we do affects someone else.

  31. Turn the other cheek. If I slap someone, I sinned it affects them. Their job is to let me slap them again, not to tell me I sinned.

  32. Declaring repentance is about proclaiming the good tidings of Jesus not going around telling certain kinds of sinners that their sins are the worst kind of sin.

  33. Your food allergy is fake says:

    Steve, is it possible to truly love a pedophile while condemning and working to defeat the practice? How about a drug addict? It may not be easy but I don’t see why these would be mutually exclusive.

  34. YFAIF, a couple of initial responses:

    First, comparing homosexuality to pedophilia and drug addiction is a non-starter that I hope will never repeat itself.

    Second, EBK has it right, I think: our obligation as disciples of Christ is to turn that other cheek and love others. Proclaiming righteousness is impossible if we don’t do that first thing with all purpose of heart. So I’d say, let’s get the love part right first and worry about the declaring repentance part after.

  35. PS I’m pretty sure you weren’t meaning to really compare those things, but still.

  36. Steve, I’m not convinced you mean what you say. I don’t think you’d hesitate for a minute to call people out on certain sins, such as a politician who slanders his opponent, a pimp who recruits clients for his girls, a cop who by most standards uses excessive force. Isn’t there a point where you’re willing to loudly call sin what it is (ie., simply wrong)? Of course there is. I claim you simply think some sins are less significant than others (the metric being how much harm you perceive it causes). I think most people do this. As long as it doesn’t cross a certain threshold, we’re not inclined to speak too loudly about it (I’m okay, you’re okay). Also, I think you’d have little sympathy (or love) for those in my examples, but if you did, would the right thing to do be to simply sit back and love them, or speak up?

    This is all tangential to the post, which I thought was excellent. Let me be clear, I’m not in any way suggesting we need to disparage those who have sex outside of heterosexual marriage or that we should deliberately try to make them uncomfortable at church. Clearly we should deliberately try to make them feel welcome. But we are not obligated to apologize for the doctrine in order to do so.

  37. It is a responsibility of those who represent the Lord to declare not only the need for repentance, but for those behaviors that require repentance. President Monson shrugged his shoulders at those to naively thought “all you need is love”. And yet he’s a greater practioner of loving our neighbor than most of us will ever be in this lifetime. And Martin is right. Many on this site (and elsewhere) probably have more zeal condemning faithful members of the church for being heavy handed at times in their language than they would Bill Clinton’s serial adultery or Mr(s) Jenner’s tragic mutilation of his body.

  38. GY, thanks for making this a transparently political affair.

    Martin, I have no idea what you’re getting at. But thanks for questioning my sincerity!

  39. John Mansfield says:

    What Martin is getting at is that it’s a trivial thing to not express disapproval of things that one does not disapprove. Not expressing disapproval of anything at all is much, much harder. Isn’t it, Steve?

  40. PS I’ll respond more later. Sorry for brevity. I’m not arguing against preventing harm.

  41. Here’s the problem, Martin. Someone who is gay — born gay, as the Church itself says happens — may start to realize it a number of years before he is even old enough for baptism.

    Many of you are telling my ward member’s child, a child sitting on the next bench at church, one of the young men passing or blessing the sacrament, one of the young women, your Relief Society president’s child, your brother or sister in the gospel, that by simply existing, he or she is a sin. He or she is evil itself. That was told to students repeatedly this past year in a religion class at a church school. (Finally a protest was lodged with the religion department and the problem was explained to the teacher and he apologized to the class, sort of.) That is a ridiculous belief for a Mormon. We don’t believe in original sin. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.

    You, Martin, are not drawing a line between being gay and being promiscuous. Many adults do not understand the difference. You can pretend that you are not disparaging people or making them uncomfortable in church, but you are. What do you expect children and youth to do when they finally understand, based on what you and others are telling them so loudly and repeatedly, that their only option in life is promiscuity and sin, because that’s who gay people are?

    As our society becomes better educated on what it means to be LGBT, hopefully fewer and fewer of our youth and adults will put up with the kind of nonsense you and many others are peddling.

    Fortunately it seems like we as a Church are making the first small steps to understanding each other, and learning that we have failed for so many years and need to understand better what it means that “all are alike unto God.”

  42. Your food allergy is fake says:

    My ràising other sinful things serves more as a contrast from homosexuality than a comparison, to suggest that there are some evils that most would agree should always be denounced even while trying to love those who may struggle with them. Take your pick of heinous evil and insert here. I do agree with Steve’s and others’ emphasis on love first.

  43. Steve, there is certain a lot of politics here, but not in the sense you seem to think. Jenner is a proclaimed conservative and Clinton a liberal. The point has nothing to do with them, but those were just two famous public figures who have committed sexual transgression. It’s a question of societal morals. Many are perfectly willing to condemn those who stand up for the reality of the commandments, in the name of acceptance of xyz.

  44. Got it. Thanks for clarifying your view.

  45. A#4,

    “You, Martin, are not drawing a line between being gay and being promiscuous.”

    Expecting someone who is LGBT to never have sex their whole life is unrealistic and unhelpful to them. According to the Mormon church a promiscuous gay person is someone who has sex once, or gets married and lives monogamously.

    Changing culture to accept gay people who remain celibate is a lot further along than you are admitting (See the OP and the few celibate gays who are trotted out as examples of good). But it’s not good enough. LGBT people need to be accepted in their lifestyle, or at least in a monogamous lifestyle.

  46. I have no idea what the church will do theologically in the next few generations, Raber, but right now, today, it’s important to let people know that our LGBT brothers and sisters are part of our community, part of the body of Christ, are members born in the covenant. They are being wounded constantly by ignorant if well meaning members of the Church who do not realize the import of their words and the enormity of what they are asking these members and their friends and families to do and to endure.

    Let’s start with some basic humanity (and I don’t mean secular humanism; I mean regular, everyday humanity) and stop asking ourselves what would Jerry Falwell do, and start asking ourselves what would Jesus do.

    Then perhaps we can trust our youth and adults to seek inspiration and make the difficult decisions they will need to make throughout their lives.

    Others can play Don Quixote and demand that the Church immediately recognize same-sex marriage, but there is some education that needs to happen right now, today. And it is happening, if slowly. Important conversations are happening privately and publicly. The Deseret News recently ran a positive major feature story on a married gay Utah couple who are adopting foster children, and that’s something that probably wouldn’t have happened even five years ago.

  47. The humanity of Mormon culture is largely irrelevant as long as there in institutional prejudice against those who identify as LGBT. People can be as nice as they want but that doesn’t change the fact that anyone who is LGBT is required to remain celibate their whole lives in order to be considered worthy by the LDS institution.

  48. to: tijack: how do you know that some of these people have sinned. You must have a lot of fun checking the temperature of your ward.