not in Primary anymore

queerness: a lot of questions and very few answers

Hello, all. My name is Dani. I am 22. I am in the final year of my Literature and Gender Studies degree at UVU. I was born and raised in the Church, and in Utah County. I like to bake, dye my hair various shades of purple/red, and skim newspapers for typos. I plan on going to graduate school and getting a Doctorate in Social Justice. I want to be a professor, when I grow up.

I am queer.

Every time I say that, it sounds like I’m at a twelve-step meeting. “Hi. My name is Dani and I…I am queer.” Like it is something to be ashamed of. Sometimes it is hard to transcend what you have been taught.

See, I was taught that we love the sinner, but hate the sin. That what I AM is not problematic, but what I DO might be. What I do is my choice. I can choose to do something other than what I am. And that is the right choice.

The right, exhausting, devastating choice.

In March, I attended a lecture entitled “Understanding Same-Gender Attraction.” There were two speakers: a person who identifies as “having struggled with SGA” and a psychiatrist who treats many people in the Mormon community who “experience SGA.” It was an adventure, I tell you. The first speaker told us about their struggles with chastity and their eventual decision to live a celibate life so that s/he can maintain full-access membership within the Church. I do not envy this person one bit.

I had – have – a problem, though, with the idea that this person is the poster-child for being queer in the Church.

It is not very often that I hear queer voices speak from within the Church membership. I do not mean to speak for all queerfolk within the Church. I speak only for myself, but with the perspective of a queer person.

The options available to me? They suck. I can choose to ignore my queerness and pass as straight. I can choose to be single and celibate for the rest of my life. I can choose to lie to my leaders about my lifestyle. Or I can choose exile.

In its simplest form, I can either choose to be me, or I can choose to be part of the system in which I was raised. I do not get to choose both without sacrificing parts of myself.

I don’t think that this is an issue the Brethren have thought about. See. From a straight eye, it may appear that queerfolk’s queerness only pertains to matters of sex, dating, and relationships. This is not the case. My queerness tints the way in which I see the world. Every interaction I have, all that I experience, I experience as a queer person. There is not a switch labeled “Turn Queer On/Off” that I flip on when dating and off when doing everything else. But that seems to be the way in which queerness is presented from the more authoritative Church perspective.

Think about it this way. If you, gentle reader, are straight, are you only straight when you are dating, or are you always straight? Straight people experience everything from a straight perspective. Queer people experience everything from a queer perspective. Straight people just have the privilege of their view being reinforced by the power structure. Straight people take for granted that their view is normalized and seen as the “right” way, while anything else is considered deviant. Abnormal. Queer.

Which is how we end up with such terrible options for queer people in the Church. When you have the privilege of seeing your perspective reinforced everywhere you look, you don’t have to think about what it is like to see through a different lens.

Example: As a queer person, I am in good standing with the Church insofar as I don’t engage in any homosexual activity. But, what does that mean? Does that only pertain to sex? What about dating? Can I kiss another self-identified woman and still maintain good standing? What about non-sexual but romantic relationships? What if I find a woman I want to spend the rest of my life with? What if we don’t have sex before we get married, and then are faithful to each other for the rest of our lives? I know that queer people cannot get married in the temple, and I am not asking for that to change. But, as a legitimate question, will I be welcome in my ward if I attend Sunday services with my wife and kids?

This brings me to the big question about queerfolk: what happens if we can get married?

The Church has invested a lot of time and money in anti-same-sex-marriage campaigning. Why, Dear Brethren, are same-sex marriages such a big deal to you? And don’t feed me this nonsense about queerfolk destroying the sanctity of marriage. The LDS Church believes that sanctified marriage is something very different than just a heterosexual partnership. The LDS Church believes that sanctified marriage is only entered into within the walls of the temple, and all other partnerships, however legally binding, are inferior. So why all this hullabaloo about the “homosexual agenda?” Are queer marriages not equally as temporal as heterosexual non-temple marriages? Is there any place within the Scriptures where you can cite the latter as being superior to the former?
I would think that the Church’s stance on same-sex marriages should be thus:

We counsel all our members to only pursue sexual relations within the bonds of marriage, and remind the membership that only a temple marriage is recognized in the eyes of the Lord as a covenant. No temporal marriage contract is equal to the temple sealing, in the eyes of the Lord. We support all people in their quest for happiness, but maintain that true happiness can only be found through following the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Isn’t that better than stating that queerfolk are on Satan’s errand, or some equivalent thereof? Yes, within the Church, our ultimate goal is to have every member attend the temple. Even more so, our goal is to be married in the temple, and remain worthy of holding a temple recommend. But, the membership of the Church is not comprised solely of temple-going-folk. The Church is comprised of all sorts of people, and some of them are queer. They are no more Satanic than their straight counterparts. The current dialogue on queer people within the Church makes it seem like queerfolk are only welcome insofar as they are willing to commit to a lifetime of celibacy and singleness. We do not welcome straight people with the same disclaimer.

It doesn’t add up.

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20 Responses to “queerness: a lot of questions and very few answers”

  1. Jacob H.

    I wouldn’t mind the church emphasizing the doctrinal position that any sexual relationship outside of temple sealing is adulterous and equally sinful. Only, married people who are not sealed constitute a big enough portion of our population that we choose not to alienate them like that… though we really should, if we want to be consistent.

    Reply
    • Dani

      The doctrinal position isn’t that sexual activity outside of temple marriage is sinful…just, simply, marriage. The problem is creating a hierarchy of temporal marriages.

      Reply
      • Jacob H.

        I’m coming from the point of view that what legitimized plural marriage in the first place and especially Joseph’s taking married women as wives, was that no marriage granted by any state had any force or authority to Joseph. You can see the same perspective in cases like when Parley P. Pratt married Eleanor McLean even though she never legally divorced her prior husband.

        So I don’t mean the apparent current doctrinal position you’re dealing with, but the doctrinal position of the early church (at least to “inner circle” members before 1852). It may not be the best way to go about it, but I like to frame current issues by thinking about past frameworks. And I guess what I meant here is I wouldn’t mind the church going back to an earlier framework for defining when sexual behavior is sinful. And I hope that readers realize how insincere I am in advocating that we count only certain forms of temple-sealed sexuality as pure, while at the same time realizing that moving away from that position to some other position has no doctrinal basis and is therefore arbitrary. Including the position you claim is “the” doctrinal position, and which you clearly have problems with.

        Which I hoped would be helpful. But maybe not?

      • Dani

        I get where you’re headed, now. Apologies for the initial confusion. I disagree with returning to the definitions you’ve provided, but agree that they are interesting to think about. And, yes, a change would probably be arbitrary. But no more arbitrary than framing queerness in the way the Church currently frames it. I think the Church does a lot of arbitrary things that aren’t reconciled in a doctrinal base.

      • Jacob H.

        =) It is definitely one of my laments that we have no systematic theology in our church. That would require an official “intellectual” class, where issues could be argued and updated with fewer headaches for the church at large.

  2. Nick Lindsey

    ” My queerness tints the way in which I see the world. Every interaction I have, all that I experience, I experience as a queer person.” BINGO! Great post—thanks for your words Dani!

    Reply
  3. tycobeans

    I agree, it seems a no-brainer that if a gay couple was married (temporally), problem solved. A good friend told me that if same-sex (& BTW, shouldn’t it be phrased “same-gender”??) couple could marry, that the church could be forced (at the threat of lawsuits) to conduct these marriages.

    Reply
    • Dani

      First amendment prohibits the government from requiring churches to perform same-sex marriages if they don’t want to. People could sue, and then it might change. For the time-being, the Church is safe.

      As for gender vs. sex, your biological sex can differ from your gender. The government (and the Church) cares significantly less about your gender performativity than about making sure you don’t marry someone whose parts are the same as yours. While people are oftentimes more concerned about gender performativity than biological sex, in terms of finding a partner, the legal usage of “sex” is deliberate — and isn’t intended to be interchangeable with “gender.” Does that make sense?

      Reply
  4. Kathryn

    Thank you Dani! As a queer woman myself, I’ve been making this same argument for a while. It doesn’t usually go over very well. It is very difficult to get people to understand that this is a part of my identity and sense of self, and the way I see the world. Everyone reduces being gay to sex, to “same-sex attraction” and that’s incredibly problematic. It ignores the fact that it is not only physical attraction to the same sex, not something that that can be ignored or switched off, but affects me in so many more subtle ways. The church presents it as a trial to overcome, a mortal “illness” essentially. I fully believe that I will continue to be queer when I am dead–if I fall in love, the thought that I would suddenly have that very real love switch to purely platonic feelings after death is absurd.

    Reply
  5. VK

    This has been a very hard topic for me to wrap my head around. For a while I wondered why the church would fight against same-sex marriage so much, when they want everyone to find true happiness. But then I realized something. The church very clearly teaches that what we believe to be true happiness often times ISN’T. What we learn over and over again is that God knows better than we do.

    That in mind, my point is this: The church does not teach how to get to the Telestial or Terrestrial Kingdoms–even though there are many people who will end up there, both inside and outside the church–because that is not want people to aspire to. They want people to apply themselves to be the best that they can, and hopefully gain all that God has to offer them.

    The Doctrine and Covenants teach: “In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage; And if he does not, he cannot obtain it. He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase” (D&C 131:1-4).
    Here, when they speak of “the new and everlasting covenant of marriage,” they are speaking specifically of temple marriage.

    What I’m getting at is that in these verses, we learn that there are 2 other degrees, but the church (or the scriptures) doesn’t teach how to attain the Celestial Kingdom without getting to the highest degree. Why? I think it is because that is now how Christ taught. Christ taught us to “be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect”(Ne. 12:48). Obviously none of us will be perfect, but he still asked us to try. And the Church follows suit. It does not tell us, “Just be as good as you want to be. If you’re shooting for Terrestrial, lower your standards a bit. Because, really, the Terrestrial Kingdom is going to be a great place!”

    So while I understand that you’re frustrated, hurting, feeling alone and misunderstood and confused about what to do at this point in life, I don’t think it is about the church changing its expectations or teachings. I too struggle with my own issues. I too realize that some of the things I do make me less than perfect. However, I don’t want the church to tell me that’s okay. I don’t want them to tell me, “Just get married. That is good enough. Temple marriage is great, but if you would like to shoot for lower that’s up to you.” I want them to remind me of all of the great things that life with my Heavenly Father consisted of, so that I OVERCOME my struggles and put God FIRST.

    I’m not claiming to know how you or other “queers,” as you have designated yourself, feel. I can’t begin to imagine it. All I do know is that God has given us plan and designated the rules for attaining all that He has. We may not understand at this point why it is the way that it is. But what I do know is, it is not simply the church’s plan. It is not the church leadership who are laying out the rules or telling us what we need to do to get there. Blaming them is what gets us all mixed up. Trusting in God is what gives us hope and direction. And I truly do believe that, with God all things are possible. We just need to ask him how.

    So, I do think that many church members (and even church leadership) believe and support your proposed statement that, “We support all people in their quest for happiness, but maintain that true happiness can only be found through following the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” They will just never teach that you should shoot for less than exaltation, because that is not why Christ died. He did that all men could become exalted. This is what I aspire to, even if, in the end, I don’t quite meet the requirements.

    Reply
    • VK

      And I just realized that I have a number of typos. I’m embarrassed now that I know you go searching for them. 😉

      Reply
    • Jacob H.

      VK, a couple of thoughts.

      First, I speculate that Joseph Smith was using common vernacular in D&C 131:1, so the 3 degrees of the celestial glory he referred to are what we today call “celestial”, “terrestial”, and “telestial”. A whole lot of weird ideas have grown out of it since then. But I could be wrong.

      Second, the “new and everlasting covenant” throughout the 19th century meant plural marriage, not celestial marriage. So if you really want to be a stickler for what the Doctrine and Covenants teach, you ought to point out the original interpretation of the verse as far as you can figure it out, rather than pretend it’s always meant what you think it means today.

      Third, according to Hugh B. Brown of the First Presidency in October of 1969, “it is a moral evil for any person or group of persons to deny any human being the right to gainful employment, to full education opportunity, and to every privilege of citizenship, just as it is a moral evil to deny him the right to worship according to the dictates of his own conscience”. I would argue that the right of of an adult to marry a consenting adult whom they choose is a privilege of citizenship and a fundamental human right not to be denied without being morally evil.

      Fourth, you might recognize that our church has no theology for its homosexual members. Now in my view race was important in the early church, and we didn’t have a clear theology for the so-called black race, and then implemented the wrong policies that lasted 131 years rather than seek the Lord’s will. Now the church along with everyone was thrown into the civil rights era and again has implemented bad policies. They’ve become better since the 1960’s and 1970’s, but they’re not right yet and the will of the Lord has NOT been sought yet. A theology incorporating gay members is yet to come.

      At least that’s what I sincerely believe, and your position doesn’t convince me whatsoever. It seems vary naive about our church’s history.

      Reply
      • VK

        My thoughts were not meant to convince anyone. I simply wanted to give another point of view–one that I sincerely believe. All I as trying to say is that there are other ways to view it than merely persecution.

        Also, the church is not denying anyone the right to get married. The church doesn’t even have that ability. That is up to government and state law. As I said before, the church merely teaches the way to attain the fulness of God’s glory. Anything that is not in line with that is neither taught nor encouraged.

        I do understand church history, and I don’t feel naive about what happened over time. I know that things change and further revelation is received on a regular basis. That is why I believe in a true and living prophet. I simply think that there is always precedent for the things our leaders teach. God knows how to make us perfect, and sometimes we just have to trust that it may not happen the way that we think, want, or hope.

        This was never supposed to be a debate. I simply wanted to share my perspective, because I feel like a lot of people take the defense before understanding how others really feel about it.

      • Jacob H.

        Sounds good, I guess…. So the following isn’t meant to argue with you, but to point out where you seem inconsistent and where maybe you could clarify for me. Maybe I’m missing something here.

        In supporting legislation against gay marriage, I don’t see how “the church is not denying anyone the right to get married”. I thought you yourself “wondered why the church would fight against same-sex marriage so much”. Those two statements seem to be in contradiction with each other.

        And I don’t see why seeking such legislation would help people “find true happiness”. Why aren’t we then seeking legislation against war, poverty, drug abuse, gambling (haha), or anything else important for happiness with such intensity? Also, last I checked, the breakdown of the traditional family (or at least the rise in divorce rates which is used as evidence) is directly linked to the rise of no-fault divorce laws. I don’t remember the church ever urging us to have our senates repeal those laws.

        I really want your sincere belief and insight to be logically consistent. Remember what Joseph Smith said in July 1839 — “lt is the privilege of the Children of God to come to God & get Revelation”. I sincerely believe you can do better, reach higher, get a glimpse of how much broader God’s plan is than we yet realize — without harming, only enriching, your faith. But of course it won’t come from me.

    • Thomas

      Thank you for sharing what you believe in a way that reflects what you believe. That was well put and with respect.

      Reply
  6. Becca

    I would love to hear more about how being gay impacts every part of your life, every interaction, etc. I am of the privileged class whose bias is confirmed by society, so i have a heard time imagining anything else. please help me understand this more.

    Reply
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  7. Ziff

    Great points, Dani. Although I doubt they’ve articulated it this way, I get the sense that GAs kind of think that if they can stop same-sex marriage, that queer people will magically become straight. If only being queer could be made difficult enough, nobody would choose it anymore.

    Even if they don’t explicitly say so, I don’t think they’ve given up the idea that people choose their sexual orientation, and queer people have just made a bad choice.

    Reply

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