not in Primary anymore

dear John Dehlin

Dear John Dehlin,

 

I am very sorry you have been excommunicated. I was not there during the trial, and I haven’t talked to you about it. I don’t know what is in your heart, nor do I know what is in the Church’s mind right now. I hope you and your family are able to find strength and joy along the journey of this life, whether you’re in the Church or not.

There are many things you have been to many people.

You have been a friend to others.

You have been a starter for important conversations.

You have been a tutor and mentor to many.

You have been a counselor to many.

You have been a father, a husband, and a follower of what you believe to be right.

 

Indeed, you have been many wonderful things. However, there are some things you are not.

 

You are NOT a martyr for the LGBTQ cause.

And as of right now, you are NOT a good ally to the LGBTQ community.

 

How could it be? You and others might ask. People might say “but he did that one study’ or “he has helped many LGBTQ people before.” Well, it is possible to do all those things and still behave in ways that are problematic.

 

Allyship is based on one simple principle: it is NOT about the ally.

 

Allyship can be compared to interpreting a conversation between two people who speak different languages. Sometimes, individuals in the LGBTQ community do not speak the same language as cis-het individuals, especially those with a Christian background. In those situations, an ally can facilitate the conversation, but the ally needs to keep in mind that this is not their conversation to have. It is not their message that is being delivered, and it especially is not a conversation between the ally and the cis-het individual.

 

Allyship should also not be paraded or celebrated as if it were some grandiose accomplishment. You’re a decent human being! Good job, you! Allies receiving prizes, honors, and celebrations for their allyship are a determent to the LGBTQ cause, especially when the attention that allies receive drowns out attention for LGBTQ folks. These actions further silence the LGBTQ community and turn the equality conversation into one that, again, is between two cis-het individuals.

 

Your excommunication process has involved claims about your allyship to the LGBTQ community, especially around same-sex marriage. Even if this has not been your intention, you have allowed the media to portray an image of you that is problematic to the LGBTQ community and does us a disservice. It has become clear that your work/support of the LGBTQ cause has not been the main cause for your excommunication, but rather topics related to doctrinal issues. However, you continue to appeal to “human rights” and talk about your allyship as if you are wearing the LGBTQ community to defend yourself. Indeed, you have taken it to a point to which my Facebook timeline is filled with people lamenting the “cost” of your “allyship” to the LGBTQ community.

 

We are not accessories.

We are not shields.

We are not objects you can appeal to.

We are not your flag.

 

We do not need you to save us.

We do not need you to start or sustain conversations regarding LGBTQ issues.

We do not need you to parade us around major media outlets.

We do not need you to be our patron saint nor our martyr.

 

Where are those candlelight vigils for LGBTQ members who were excommunicated for choosing to change their gender expression to one that fit their gender identity?

Where are the candlelight vigils for LGBTQ members who were excommunicated for loving someone?

Where are those candlelight vigils for BYU students who got kicked out of the university for requesting to start an LGBTQ group before 2005?

Where are the candlelight vigils for those teen LDS LGBTQ individuals who have committed suicide because of societal and family pressures?

Where are the candlelight vigils for rights other than marriage? Why do you keep insisting on talking about marriage when many queer individuals are desperate for medical resources, housing and employment?

Where are those candlelight vigils?

 

Moving forward, you will need to stop using the LGBTQ community as a prop and start actually being an ally. I hope that as you go through these post-excommunication months, you reanalyze your allyship to the LGBTQ community. In doing so, you must change the attitudes you hold, because they are not appropriate.

 

John, I am sorry for what you are going through, and I hope that you take this message to heart.

 

Best,

A gay, queer, homoromantic, bisexual, man.

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29 Responses to “dear John Dehlin”

  1. Jewelfox

    I feel that your distress is both warranted and genuine, and I wish that the culture and church which is so scandalized by the thought of us marrying was as horrified at our mortality rate. And what was causing it.

    After watching John Dehlin’s TEDx talk, though, I feel all these issues are really important to him, and he has tried to raise them and explore them on the Mormon Stories podcast including at least one episode that I watched.

    I think the reason that he keeps bringing up this reason for his church discipline is because he is trying to send the message to the wider world that the LDS church’s leadership is bigoted and intolerant, using their opposition to marriage and gender equality as evidence. I also think that the fact that their PR department is trying so hard, and “protesting too much,” against this accusation is because it impacts their tithing, membership, and public image, all of which I feel are good outcomes since those are resources it uses to harm queer people.

    Finally, there is the fact that in the transcript of the August interview with Dehlin’s Stake President which Dehlin has posted, about the reasons why he was facing impending church discipline, the Stake President did in fact cite his support for marriage equality specifically. The fact that he did not cite other queer issues as reason for Dehlin’s excommunication does not mean that he would not be facing trouble for the others as well; it’s just that marriage equality is the one that they’ve spent the most resources trying to deprive us of.

    It’s the hill that they’ve chosen to (metaphorically) die on, and Dehlin wants everyone to know that.

    Reply
  2. Jewelfox

    Also: In my understanding, the reason that there was a candlelight vigil outside of Dehlin’s “court of love” is because of the work that he’s done, to raise awareness of queer and questioning Mormon issues and to allow both kinds of Mormons (and those who love them) to publicly share their stories.

    Also of Mormon feminism. IIRC, when there was discussion of why he was allowed to stay in the church (last year) and Kate Kelly wasn’t, he linked to her blog post about how that was because of gender inequality (he is a man and she isn’t).

    If Dehlin were trying to use his excommunication for self-aggrandizement, IMO, he wouldn’t keep trying to shift the focus onto queers and women, or be so insistent about correcting the LDS church’s dishonest denials. It would be enough that he’s getting attention for going against them. Instead, he’s using even this personal attack against him to remind everyone of who the real victims are.

    Reply
  3. Lorian

    I agree with what Jewelfox has to say. I hear your pain, guest writer, and agree with you about much of what you say in a general sense. But I am absolutely grateful for the sacrifices made by LGBTQ allies. Their loss is our loss, and pain inflicted on them because of their work on our behalf is no less real than our own. We do ourselves a disservice when we allow an ally to be mistreated and consider their mistreatment less hurtful than when an LGBTQ person is mistreated.

    Does there need to be more attention paid in and out of the church to the sufferings and mistreatment and deaths of LGBTQ people? Absolutely. I won’t argue with you for a single moment that we need to be holding candlelight vigils for the terrible and tragic loss of LGBTQ youth due to the church’s mistreatment and the mistreatment the church has encouraged among its membership.

    But I’m also very grateful for John’s work in documenting and making these losses concrete and verifiable, as I have too many times argued with folks who blithely claim that suicide among LGBTQ youth in the church is not a big deal and certainly cannot be laid at the door of church teachings.

    I worked with John in helping to organize the Mormons for Marriage Equality groups and movement. I wish I could have done more, but I’m truly grateful for his ideas and momentum and hard work in helping to launch that work. He has done a great deal for this community, and for increasing awareness of injustice and civil rights infringement against LGBTQ people in the LDS church. And to the degree that his excommunication involves his work in that area, I am deeply grateful for his sacrifices, and absolutely willing to acknowledge his pain and loss as part of that tremendous body of pain, loss and suffering which is felt by the LGBTQ community at the hands of religious conservatives.

    Bless you and thank you, John Dehlin.

    Reply
  4. Martin

    I have no dog in this fight, but this seems, at best, like a failure to differentiate friend from foe and at worst a juvenile attempt to say “look at us too!”

    Reply
    • Jewelfox

      Given that John Dehlin has kept bringing up the LDS church’s mistreatment of women and queers, and interviewed people who share their experiences with that mistreatment, I’m pretty sure he would agree with the “look at us too!” message.

      I feel that the author jumped to conclusions about John Dehlin and did, in fact, fail to differentiate friend from foe. But I do not blame him for doing so, and I don’t feel that asking for more effort to be given to helping a marginalized population is in any way “juvenile.” He’s right that not nearly enough time and energy has been spent addressing the needs of the queer population, especially in Utah where they are at extreme risk of homelessness, joblessness, and suicide.

      Reply
    • Jewelfox

      I don’t think it’s unreasonable for someone who has probably lost friends to suicide to look at Dehlin’s small army of supporters, and wish that some of those people had been there for them when they needed it.

      Reply
  5. Juliette

    What a group of arrogant, hetero-hating negative Nancys the YMF site has become. What a bunch of whining, stuck-up trolls. I used to support this site but you are easily the most negative, elitist-attitude complainers I’ve ever met in the Church and I honestly can’t stand your stupid posts anymore. You insist everyone coddle your precious feel-goods and no one should dare say a word that could possibly offend you, yet you insult everyone else and you all boast about how. “We aren’t nice. We don’t coddle blah blah blah”. I’ve heard better logic from toddlers throwing tantrums than the inane blustering you guys write on this blog. I’m a proud ally of human rights but I won’t listen to you whiners try to insult, deride, and condescend to allies while you all hold your offended noses in the air. Grow some ovary-balls and get a life. Oh, did that offend you? Too bad. People who behave like you are the reason people distance themselves from the progressive movement. Ya’all make it look bad. And this site has just lost another reader. You’re incessant, no-action bitching is old, boring, and unproductive at best. Bye bye!

    Reply
    • Jewelfox

      Your comment was abusive, and should have been moderated.

      I feel that the author of this essay jumped to conclusions, but I do not blame him for feeling upset by the conclusions he jumped to, or for voicing that distress. I do not think that it is unreasonable for him to ask for more thought and effort to be given helping the persons who are actually in danger here.

      I also do not feel that he’s asking to never be challenged about anything. Given his status as a visible minority, I feel that the very suggestion that he would say that is dishonest and insulting.

      The point of any struggle for rights is not to make allies look or feel good, it is to restore equality and alleviate suffering. This is messy and painful work sometimes, because it involves dealing with broken people. Kicking them while they are down does not make you look good, and I don’t feel that Dehlin would have done so. His podcast has helped give a voice to people who are hurting.

      Reply
    • Anonymous

      Assuming you are the same person that has been trolling past posts with unproductive comments and name-calling, I’m at least glad you’ve taken so much valuable time out of your life to read all of these posts. You are very much entitled to your own opinion, as the authors on this blog are. This particular author is voicing frustration in regards to an ally (J.D.) who gained significant prominence as the seeming spokesperson for “Mormon LGBT” issues. I’m indeed grateful for the advocacy work that J.D. has done for the LGBTQIA community, but I also fully understand that J.D. is NOT the LGBTQIA community. If we want to look at this from another perspective, if a white upper-middle class man were campaigning for the rights of working-class women of color, I would be respectful of the work he’s doing, but also honestly wonder why deference isn’t being given to actual working-class women of color who are/have been campaigning for their own rights. Allies are awesome and wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but let’s not shift the real focus from actual marginalized groups of people and the reality they live every day (vs. what allies can only empathize with.) Excommunication is a sad and painful event, and my heart goes out to J.D. and his family. On the other hand, I know of individuals in the LGBTQIA community that have experienced non-publicized excommunications, and my heart aches for actual marginalized voices that are further ignored.

      Reply
      • D R (Donnie) Hosie

        I think Juliette takes particular umbrage with the fact that John Dehlin has probably been a more constant, and well-intentioned, ally of the LGBTQ / alternative community, than this writer has been willing to reciprocate. Who would rather use this moment of personal crisis, as excuse for launching into an expression of ingratitude at those things he apparently failed to do – or accomplish – on his behalf. That the writer clearly confuses Johns agenda, with his own, it would seem to bely a sense of entitled helplessness. (An attitude one’s not completely surprised encounter, in a cripple.)
        JMHO

    • Jackalope

      ovary balls sounds painful. I’ll just stick with my plain ol’ ovaries thanks.

      Reply
    • P1

      I am amused that Juliette thought I would be offended by her lexically-challenged rant. Or that she thought I would care about her not gracing us with her presence on this blog anymore. Keep at it, YMF. You fill a gaping hole in the Bloggernacle. You say the hard things about Mormon liberalism that need to be said. You’re the only ones interrupting the endless back-slapping that goes on among liberal Mormons who believe they’re enlightened because they don’t think LGBTQ people are an abomination. We need you.

      Reply
  6. Connell O'Donovan

    Thank you for an interesting and provocative post. I have my issues with Dehlin’s allyship with the Queer community and was once again disheartened that in his post-excommunication press release, he reduced our (LGBT) struggle to marriage equality.

    Reply
  7. Anonymous

    So John can’t draw attention to a very significant reason for his excommunication, but you can use his personal tragedy to push your opinion? It hasn’t even been a day since what I’m sure was a very difficult time for John and his family, something a good ‘ally’ should be sensitive too. Or is being an ally a strictly one-way relationship?

    “Where are those candlelight vigils?” How is it John’s fault that the mormon culture isn’t supportive of the LGBT community?

    “We are not shields.” But you sign your insult, not with your name, but with the labels John isn’t allowed to use.

    Reply
  8. Derek Edwards (@terminallysilly)

    Doesn’t seem like now is the most politically expedient time to dissent with Dehlin; he’s making the right sort of waves like few before.

    Dehlin’s importance isn’t about LGBTQ+ allyship, it’s about exposing in a very public way conflicting messages the Church has been sending. He can do this because of his public position, earned not through a sexual orientation or relationship to others’ orientations, but through intelligent communication with the public for many years about many different issues.

    John didn’t call for that candlelight vigil. People gathered because they care about what happens to him for reasons that aren’t exclusionary to mourning lost LGBT youth. Supporting Dehlin doesn’t mean that other candlelight vigils for other causes can’t be held; that implication is absurd.

    Maybe he could be a better ally. Maybe MLK could have been a better husband. Regardless, they gained leadership positions in their respective intra-institutional fights because of their effectiveness. Solidarity does matter when traction starts being gained, and Dehlin is a realpolitik force for positive change in the LDS community.

    I doubt that anon rant posts on YMF are.

    Reply
  9. Anonymous

    This post and its tone are nothing new. After following YMF for a few months now, it has become clear to me that YMF’s authors are in a race to the bottom of who can be the biggest victim. Being the biggest victim is now a part of their identity.

    That is why they will not let anyone else be perceived as being victimized. If someone else is a victim, they may lose their identity. Thus, their only choice is to out-victimize everyone else, even if it means kicking others while they are down.

    I hope the authors on this site can one day see yourselves as so much more than just another victim.

    Reply
  10. P1

    Thanks for this post. Apparently the commenters so far missed the point. LGBTQ people ARE the victims of church policies and doctrine. Allies aren’t. If it’s a race to be the biggest victim, LGBTQ people have already won by a long shot. LGBTQ people, not John Dehlin, are the victims of LGBTQ discrimination. You would think this would be a simple point to understand, but maybe not.

    Reply
  11. Juliette's sister

    For what it’s worth, which I know may not be much to you, I agree with Juliette. Though some of her word choices were harsh, I think she was only responding “in kind.” I have followed YMF quietly for a while, hoping to find other like-minded people. At first, it was a calming breath of fresh air. It gave me some solace from watching (and reading) women in the church practically rip each other’s hair out over who was more faithful, righteous, etc. I was deeply unsettled by the way members were talking to other members when it came to discussing misgivings and doubts or the ordination of women. It seemed that there was no careful, thoughtful dialogue. There was only hate from both sides and I struggled to understand how God-fearing people could be so cruel to each other, regardless of their unique experiences or struggles or level of activity in the LDS church. YMF was a thoughtful corner of the Internet where people were having a dialogue. The posts gave me something to think about and helped me consider more deeply the experiences of others.

    I am liberal in most of my political views and I strongly believe that the church needs to make some changes to be more accepting of all who are different in some way. If the “table” is the work of God, there must be room for all of us. Because the change is so slow, I’ve slipped into inactivity almost against my will. I feel deeply about these issues.

    But, reading the recent posts here has driven me away. I see the same deep anger, and, quite honestly, hatred between members that drove me to seek you out in the first place. There is finger pointing and constant snaps of, “Go ahead. Leave. We don’t need you.” But you do need them. And me. We all need each other if this thing is going to get better.

    I too will bid you farewell until YMF starts making more room at the table. I know you likely won’t care and you will say that my feelings don’t matter because I am not part of the marginalized and victimized LGBTQA LDS population. I totally get that. I’m not trying to distract from the issue you have chosen to focus on lately (isn’t there more to YMF than only the LGBTQA cause? My apologies if the page is now meant for only that discussion.)

    My point is just that if you keep yelling at all the people with the shovels and telling them to go away because you really need a backhoe, the people with the shovels are going to stop showing up, and the backhoe might never come, and you’ll have a lot of dirt to move by yourself. I’m a person with a shovel, and so was Juliette. And we were actually on your side.

    Reply
    • K

      Apparently you didn’t read the post. Part of being a good ally is not making the LGBTQA cause about you and your feelings.

      Reply
  12. M.

    K- if that’s how you choose to respond to someone who was only respectful, you deserve none of the advocacy you’re asking for.

    Everyone’s feelings matter. When you start saying they don’t, you’re no better than the people shutting you down.

    I’m out too. Keep alienating people. This site can become a blog where you and the other posters write angry posts about how no one’s listening. You might as well email each other.

    Reply
  13. curtispenfold

    I don’t know why people are talking as if YMO is a monolithic entity. If there’s a blog posts you want to see, why don’t you write it and send it to the site to publish?

    The main writers here are given no criteria on what to write. We just share whatever we want. And as far as I understand, anybody who’s sent a guestpost to YMF has been published here.

    Reply
    • OldFriend

      Perhaps the response to this post is an indication that some form of moderation on YMF would be prudent?

      Reply
  14. Tom Kimball

    Dear Anonymous,

    John Dehlin put his name out there so that his own reputation would be at stake. I doubt John would consider himself a martyr for anything, that simply isn’t his style. Unlike whomever you are, he has a shred of class.

    You will notice that I’m also not hiding behind anonymity. So YOU, whomever YOU are, YOU will know who is saying that YOU speak for nobody, your opinion isn’t worth anything, simply because it costs you zero.

    But just to be clear, after the public excommunication of Kate Kelly and John Dehlin, and the less than public punishment by the LDS Church of many of their open allies, anonymous criticism like this is outragously cowardly.

    John, if you find this thread, thank you for standing up for my LGBT friends and family, LDS or otherwise. Thank you for your support of the struggle for the equality of women, and your support for free and open discourse. I’m sorry what it cost you.

    Tom Kimball
    835 North, 60 East
    American Fork, Utah, 84003
    tom@signaturebooks.com
    801-835-8742

    Reply
    • curtispenfold

      Straight people telling straight people to not listen to queer people. Beautiful. Oh how I love the circle jerking of Mormon allies, praising each other, comforting each other, doing vigils for each other, while at the same time, avoiding actually spotlighting or even stopping to listen to the queer folks they claim to love so much.

      As for the choice to remain anonymous, many of YMF’s readers and writers are BYU students who can get kicked out of school, their work, and their housing overnight if their bishop doesn’t like them.

      Reply
  15. D R (Donnie) Hosie

    And there’s this:cishet

    An abbreviation of cisgendered (opposite of “transgender”) heterosexual: a person that identifies as the sex they were born as and are attracted to the opposite. Mostly used in social justice circles as an ad hominem attack to people who have to audacity to be born identifying with their birth gender and have an opinion different than theirs/zheirs/xirs.

    Person 1: Here’s what I think…

    Person 2: SHUT CISHET CIS SCUM EXPRESSING YOUR VIEWPOINTS IS TRANSPHOBIC AND OPPRESSING ME! MAH FEELS~!!
    an insult used on tumblr when you can’t accuse someone of doing something wrong.

    Toby disagreed with my opinion so I told him that he was cishet scum.
    An abbreviation of cisgendered or cissexual heterosexual: a person that identifies as the sex they were born as, and are attracted to people of the sex opposite of theirs, who are usually also cisgendered or cissexual. Mostly used in social justice circles to describe people commenting on LGBT+ matters when they probably shouldn’t be.

    Disclaimer: use of labels might be seen as limiting, marginalizing or alienating. Attraction also applies to romantic attraction: heteroromantic, homoromantic, etc.

    Bob identifies as a man and is attracted to women; therefore, he is a cishet.

    Reply

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