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.
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.