We’re full of them. From conflating queer identity with gender confusion to stigmatizing outre music tastes, the deep-rooted homogeneity of Utah Mormon culture paves the way for a social structure in which any deviation from the norm has to be outed to be acknowledged. This is a little awkward for those of us who don’t hail from the Beehive state and are bewildered by the idea that a passion for Keira Knightley passes for eccentricity upon moving to the heart of Mormondom.
- The Closet: We were playing a get-to-know-you game during freshman housing orientation at church-owned Brigham Young University (BYU). The premise of the game, in itself highly problematic, was to put our fellow residents, most of whom we hadn’t even met yet, into superlative categories–for example, “most likely to get the highest GPA”. As the RA read the category “most likely to have a Pinterest,” one of the members of our all-male group scoffed and said “you mean, most likely to come out” to general laughter. This is just of countless examples. The attitude is “well, of course we’ll accept someone if they tell us they’re gay,” with no attempt to destigmatize homosexuality or eradicate the institution of the closet.
- Feminism: When I came out as a feminist to my mom over the summer…. Wait, what’s this you say? Breaking the news of ideological conviction isn’t equivalent to a revelation of one’s sexual identity? Actually, especially for a Church that had a prominent leader link gays and feminists (and intellectuals) together as greatest challenges`, it is. Both are supposedly incompatible with the church and both can supposedly be changed.* Further, I had two (male) professors instantly cool off quite close professional relationships when I disclosed my ardent feminism, one of which clarified in an email that it was fine if I didn’t “identify with my gender” (?!?).
- Liberal/Democrat: In another one of those wonderful get-to-know-you activities at BYU, I was perforce obliged to publicly declare my support for free healthcare, by standing, ironically, on the right side of a room. A close relative relayed to me a common view that supporting any pro-choice political party (let alone being pro-choice!) disqualified one (namely, me) from the temple. Especially in the context of the 2012 US presidential election, supporting any candidate over Mormon Mitt Romney, the Republican, is toxic.
- Lady Gaga: Okay, maybe I’m grasping at straws here, but I’ve had two separate groups of Mormon boys and one girl tell me to cool my passion for the Mother Monster. It was “just weird,” in one view. “I wouldn’t admit that,” said another, explicitly suggesting that the preference ought to be closeted, even as he proclaimed his love of country music!
What are some other Mormon closets? And what can be done to combat the mentality? Or am I just making this all up in my head? Feel free to drop a comment.
`The letter, by apostle Boyd K. Packer, is almost twenty years old and at no time represented the official position of the Church, although it continues to influence the beliefs of some of its members.
*Once again, this belief, though surprisingly and tragically common among members in my experience, does not represent the position of the Church.