Imagination & Integration: Reflections on LGBTQ Mormon Trauma & Healing One Year Post Policy

Laura Skaggs Dulin is a regular contributor on the Out in Zion podcast, a co-producer on the Far Between documentary and mental health professional.

Nov 5

“It all begins with make believe
A sudden spark of inspiration
And every note of everything
Started with a dream in some imagination”
-Cy Coleman

In nature, the same gene that is linked to homosexuality in male fruit flies, is also linked to an increased number of offspring when the gene is carried by females of the same species. Observation of same sex pair bonds of male penguins has also found instances of such couples rearing otherwise orphaned members of the group. In these examples, Mother Nature’s integration of homosexuality and same sex pair bonds appears seamless, ongoing and useful; a persistent variation within species that both maintains and strengthens successive generations.

The Place of Integration in Trauma Theory

In psychological trauma theory, which speaks to a broad range of traumatic events and losses, healing from trauma is synonymous with the concept of integration. Unlike first stage coping responses that push uncomfortable/disturbing data and experiences more safely to the back or even outside of our consciousness, healing from trauma involves finally (and most often gradually) facing the thing we fear, coming to understand it and how it has impacted us. Eventually it also means learning to genuinely negotiate its reality moving forward, and reconnecting and rebuilding trust in important relationships that have frequently been damaged or undermined by the initial traumatic blow. Sometimes, new meaningful relationships must be developed in place of former ones, that at the present are found to be irreparable. In the end, reconnecting within solid bonds of mutual safety, trust and openness through this process of integration are the hallmarks of healing from traumatic wounds.

Tension & Trauma within LGBTQ/SSA & Mormon Experiences

As we continue to be a part of a religious community that systematically rejects homosexuality and same sex pair bonds, many are feeling the pain. The constellation of human relational needs amongst LGBTQ members and former members in particular, remains largely stressed and vulnerable to damage. The trauma and pain of never realizing a same sex relationship is felt by many LGBTQ/SSA Mormons who’ve remained in the faith, while conversely, the pursuit of a same sex relationship comes at the traumatic expense of being able to maintain integral religious community ties. The potential for disharmony and distress in family relationships, and for institutional and community conflict and rejection of LGBTQ members, is now more pronounced than ever under the current policy. And thus, an increasing number of straight Latter-day Saints are also experiencing distress as they come to recognize they are directly on the other side of these mutually important relationships that are experiencing so much tension.

In listening to LGBTQ/SSA people who remain in the church, pushing back homo-romantic/sexual needs and seeking to invest in meaningful endeavors and close same sex friendships, is a common strategy to help comfort the inherent pain and challenges of forgoing a same sex pair bond. In listening to LGBTQ Mormons who are either in or pursuing same sex relationships, painfully stepping back from cherished religious community/practice and instead seeking out God and/or spirituality individually, appears to be the most common way forward, in addition to seeking out alternative communities of support. In both general pathways, I hope outside observers can sense the beautiful human spirit of resiliency at work in the face of incredible relational losses. What I also hope comes increasingly into focus is the need for continued imagination and creativity on the part of the LDS community as a whole; to lean further into a process of integration to facilitate greater healing, as opposed to first order coping that pushes things away.

Comments

  1. It sounds like those who choose Mormon and Gay are the new Shakers. The faith exhibited in that nineteenth century American religion is admirable, and their architecture, furniture, and handicrafts are exquisite, but I’m not sure that I could choose that spiritual path.

  2. Anon for this says:

    And for some of us cis-gender heterosexual or bi members, (who may have been holding out hope that there was a way to be both believing and true to the answers we have received about God loving all his children equally) this was the final straw that drove us from a church home that we could no longer accept. Instead I am finding that loving my LGBTQIAA brothers and sisters, and the families they may now legally form, is the only place that I can stand with any integrity.

  3. Thanks for the comment Anon – that is definitely another real and difficult facet of these relational tensions and losses.

  4. Wish I could embed this into the original blog as further food for thought…”This passionate talk from Dr. James O’Keefe MD gives us a deeply personal and fascinating insight into why homosexuality is indeed a necessary and extraordinarily useful cog in nature’s wheel of perfection.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Khn_z9FPmU

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