Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A great time to come out?

It's a great time to come out, right? After all, church members are being urged like never before to be kind and loving to gays and lesbians. How can my fellow brothers and sisters know that I need their love and support as I deal with SGA while sustaining my MOM relationship--oops--if I'm going to come out, I guess I'll also have to try to stop talking in code. I'll have to say I'm dealing with same gender attraction while sustaining my mixed-orientation marriage, but even then, I'll probably get unknowing stares as people ask themselves "What on earth is he talking about? Is this more of this gay lingo? It used to be out in the world, not it's right here in our neighborhood."

What will coming out do to my affectionate relationships with the guys in my High Priests Group? I like the idea that they're talking with me and even occasionally putting a hand on my shoulder or squeezing my knee just because we're brothers and we feel comfortable touching each other. Would I want them to touch me and talk with me to show me increased love and acceptance because I'm struggling with this "terrible burden of being gay" and Mormon? Hmmm, maybe not so much.

How would I feel if I knew that in Ward Council the Relief Society president was saying, "We've got to reach out to Ned and his wife, especially his wife. Think of what she's be going through all those years being married to a gay man, uh, a SSA man, oh no, SGA, that's what we call it right? We need to be sure she gets visiting taught every month, and what are you High Priests going to do with Ned?"

To which the HP group leader confesses, "Well, I'm sorry to say this but some of our older High Priests feel that Ned's really betrayed them. He's always been so kind and sometimes openly affectionate, but now they think he's been coming on to them all these years. When we thought of Ned as straight, of course we accepted him as one of the group, but now that we know that he's turned gay, uh, or he now thinks that he's SSA or SGA, whatever you want to call it, these guys feel like he's been lying to them about who he really is. They don't trust him. To be honest, I don't think we can keep him as an instructor."

To which the Bishop says, "Well maybe we could lovingly call him to coordinate the Saturday morning cleaning of the building. No, that's not going to work, people aren't going to want to be alone in the church with him. We can put him on the prayer rolls of the Temple and we'll pray about calling another instructor so we can release him. He's a great teacher, but this whole gay thing is really making people uncomfortable. If only Ned had kept this to himself, we wouldn't have to be dealing with all this contention."

What do you think? Am I being too cynical? Or am I just facing the reality that older members of the church, and those who have become leaders because of their orthodox views, aren't really going to be on board with really loving and accepting gays and lesbians?


  1. I've had at least one LDS friend react just like this HP group leader and basically stop all contact with me. Sigh.

  2. Many of the things you suggested probably would happen. They just probably wouldn't be as pervasive as you're portraying them. You'd have a couple of guys who get weird with you. You'd have others thank you for being honest and confessing to you that their brother or son deals with it, too, and they're happy to know there are people inside the church who "get it".

    I guess part of what compelled me towards openness was knowing that others might feel even more betrayed the more time goes by before finding out, and I might deal with a lot of crap, but that crap will only get better for others in the future if someone deals with it now, sort of pioneers it.

    "I never said it would be easy..." ;-)

    That said, maybe the older folks really are mostly too set to adjust, and we just have to wait for the rising generation of leadership, or maybe the burden of bearing the repercussions of coming out rests squarely on the younger generation.

    It's really up to you to decide what you're ready to deal with and whether the probable benefits are worth the possible challenges, for yourself and for others. Maybe the broader "outness" isn't a challenge you have a desire, or maybe the strength or sense of purpose, to take on in your life, and that has to be OK.

  3. I think its very situational. I'm in an area (Bible Belt) where coming out would probably mean a lot of rejection, scorn, persecution and loneliness. My own family is highly prejudiced towards gays, and is fact more "red neck" than I'd care to admit. So it makes no sense for me to come out. It would help no one and hurt me. Remember, once you do it you can never take it back. Make it a matter of prayer and contemplation.

  4. Ever notice that sexual situations are hardly ever talked about openly in church? In reality, I would expect the situation you have portrayed would be handled with a lot less tact, understanding and concern. Folks here where I live have absolutely no tolerance for "perverts". If I came out my life in the church and with my family would be extremely strained. I'm going to remain Forever Silent.

  5. ROB: Thanks for your candor. I'm kind of surprised you didn't balance it with the positives of coming out. But perhaps for one who seeks to remain active in the church, the positives are minimal. Do you agree with the notion that once you come out, there's about a 90 percent chance you'll become inactive or leave the church all together?

    ORIGINA MOHOMIE: Thanks for your support. I agree that there are multiple OK paths. I hear the idea that "The longer you wait to clean out your refrigerator, the worse it's going to be." I also agree that the younger generation has a role in all of this. My daughter loves her gay friend and his partner, but it's one thing to have a gay pal and it's another thing to find out your father is gay and he's been hiding it from you all your life.

    NEAL: Are you a Garth Brooks fan? A lot of his stuff targets the "red neck" like "Friends in Low Places", "Alabama Clay", "The American Honky Tonk Bar Association" but others like "We Shall Be Free", "Face to Face", "If Tomorrow Never Comes" are anything but homophobic. Thanks for your good advice about prayer, contemplation and our inability to un-ring a bell.

    ADON: Thanks for your support, too. I can see that remaining silent has been my dominant path and it has served me pretty well. To the degree that I am out to some family and friends, those blessings have added windows and sky lights as I've remodeled and tried to make my closet more open to sunshine and fresh air.

  6. If you come out:

    You will find that some "friends" no longer wish to associate with you. Their particular reasons for this separation will probably be varied.

    Some will feel like they don't understand your situation and don't know how to be supportive, and will choose to ignore the situation rather than risk saying or doing something that might give offense.

    Others will be uncomfortable around you because their perceptions of gay people will lead them to see you differently than they did before. They will worry that you are attracted to them, or they will believe that you have "chosen" to be this way (and that you are "perverted" or in some other way "wrong" for having made such a choice).

    You will find that for many, nothing has changed at all. This will especially be the case as time goes on and people recover from the initial shock of the revelation.

    You will likely find a few who actually see their new understanding of you in a positive light--who will seek out opportunities to talk with you and to try to understand the complexities of homosexuality and religion better than they do now, or who will respect and admire you for choosing to be open and honest about who you are.

    Every single one of these people will be changed by your coming out. They will become more understanding and compassionate and tolerant of differences, if they allow themselves to do so. Or they will find (real or imagined) ways to reaffirm to themselves their preconceptions and biases against homosexuality and become even more entrenched in their beliefs. (Thankfully, the former will almost certainly be far more numerous than the latter.)

    You will also be changed by your coming out. You might gain more confidence and an increased ability to be yourself without self-censorship or concern for the thoughts of others. Or you might be hurt by the lessened regard you receive from others and become quicker to take offense or see wrong where none was intended. Possibly both of these things will happen, depending on the circumstances and the individuals you interact with.

    I take exception to Neal's statement that "It makes no sense to come out. It would help no one and hurt me." Whether the "help" was obvious or not, coming out would help others, either by increasing understanding among those who do not currently understand or by providing an example of strength and integrity to those who are still living in a closet of fear themselves.

    But yes, there will likely be some hurt involved too, so the costs must be weighed and for some it might still be too expensive a transaction.

    re: "Do you agree with the notion that once you come out, there's about a 90 percent chance you'll become inactive or leave the church all together?" I'm not sure that one necessarily follows the other. For myself, I believe that my decision to leave the church has less to do with the interactions that resulted from my coming out, and more to do with my examination of my own beliefs and what the church was (vs. what I had always believed it to be)--an examination that could just as easily have taken place if I had remained closeted.

    That said, remaining in the closet about one's homosexuality could impose upon the individual a different sort of closet and make it more difficult to express (or even acknowledge to oneself) doubts and concerns and changes in belief. Denying (at least publicly) one's homosexuality makes it easier to also deny any heterodoxy. Coming out opens the door to being more honest (even with oneself) about said heterodoxy, which might ultimately lead to inactivity or resignation from the church.

  7. Rob: Had those friends who stopped contact with you known you for very long? Because if they had, they should have noticed that nothing changed about you even though you announced something about yourself that they hadn't known before.

    I've been chatting online with Ned about this post, and here's part of what I wrote regarding perceptions in the LDS Church of homosexuality:

    "there are a TON of misconceptions. maybe we need to have some sort of curriculum in the church that helps people come to grips with the reality, throws off the stereotypes, and makes us all more charitable, because of ALL PEOPLE, Latter-day Saints should by nature be the most charitable in my opinion

    i think as well that we're afraid it's 'catching' or that its a temptation that we're not able to bear..."

    There are so many redeeming qualities about homosexuals (trustworthiness, self-sacrifice for others in fields such as medical care, creativity, empathy) that we're really missing something if we don't include in our circles of friends known homosexuals who are just fine being the way the are...and we should be fine with the fact that they are fine with it.

  8. Scott,

    I don't think you can make blanket statements about what would or would not be best for another person on this issue. Only I know my situation and only you know yours. In my case this would not be a good thing, I can assure you.

    Coming out is a personal decision that should be arrived at by a lot of prayer and contemplation. The time may eventually come for me, but it is definitely not now.

  9. Part of my initial "coming out" was forced because i faced a disciplinary council on my way out of the church and another coming back in. In the end, I decided i didn't care what others thought of me. I was comfortable with myself. A few have distanced themselves, but more have expressed gratitude for my openness because they either also know someone who faces some of the same issues, or they appreciate better understanding the many issues homosexual members face.

    As far as church callings go, it's a mixed bag. My bishop didn't think I should serve in a high priest group leadership (lol) but feels I am 'worthy' to teach gospel doctrine to teenagers. Go figure. This may sound bad, but I'm actually kind of glad that I'm likely disqualified from leadership positions. I've had my fill of that, and am quite content teaching Sunday School.

  10. Neal: It wasn't my intention to insist that you should come out. I agree that each person's situation is different (and in fact I even acknowledged that for some the cost might be too high).

    I only intended to address your statement that coming out "would help no one", because I don't believe that's true. It might not help those you wish it would help, and in fact you might not ever know who benefited from it, but it would have a positive effect on someone.

    Whether or not you should come out is indeed entirely your own decision.

  11. Bravone's found the hidden benefit of coming out - no longer needing to worry about leadership positions again! Just teaching SS! That's what I want to do! Now why didn't I think of that? It would have saved me from this current calling position...

  12. Ned,

    Somehow I missed responding to this:

    >>Are you a Garth Brooks fan? A lot of his stuff targets the "red neck" like "Friends in Low Places", "Alabama Clay", "The American Honky Tonk Bar Association" but others like "We Shall Be Free", "Face to Face", "If Tomorrow Never Comes" are anything but homophobic.<<

    I like a variety of music, and it really depends on the song. If I like it, I like it - doesn't matter who sings it or the style.

    I'm somewhat familiar with the music industry, and artists like Brooks work with gay people all the time. The entertainment industry is actually full of gays - we're a talented group! I'd imagine the artists are much more tolerant and accepting than many of their fans. For example, not too long ago homosexuality came up in an informal discussion in my Ward, with various solutions to the "problem of queers" being proposed. The favorite solution was to round up all the homos, lock them in a barn, then set it on fire.

    I'll just stay in the closet, thank you!