Serena Freewomyn

Gay Mormons Say "Please Stop The Hate"

Filed By Serena Freewomyn | November 17, 2008 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: gay protests, Latter Day Saints, LDS Church, marriage equality, Mormon, Prop 8, same-sex marriage

The past two weeks have been very difficult for me. I've been emotionally hurt by two communities that mean a lot to me - the Mormon Church, and the LGBTQ community. I never thought I would have to out myself as a gay Mormon. And I never thought that I would ever feel ashamed of the LGBTQ community. But so much anger and hate speech has been directed towards Mormons from the queer community that I can't stay quiet any more.

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I attended the national protest against Prop 8 on Saturday, along with my partner and some of my chosen family. That's us in the photo. I was really nervous about going, because I knew there would probably be a lot of people with anti-Mormon signs. That's why I decided to out myself at the march and here on TBP as a gay Mormon. Since I was inspired by Keith Olbermann last week, I just want to say that I'm Pro-Love.

If anyone understands the anger about the Mormon Church's involvement in the passage of Prop 8, Prop 102, and Amendment 2, it would be gay Mormons. I include myself in this group, even though I haven't been an active church member for 10 years. Gay Mormons are uniquely hurt in this situation because they're getting negative messages no matter where they turn. Your church community is supposed to be a source of solace and emotional support. And yet many of us have family members and close friends who funded and voted for these laws. The logical solution for gay Mormons would be to seek refuge in the gay community. But the gay community has abandoned us, too, by making fun of a religion that is very important to us. I didn't leave the church because I stopped believing. I left because the church didn't have a place for me as a lesbian. You can say that a church has no business funding an election. But do you really need to poke fun at the church's core beliefs by mocking their religious ceremonies or the church's historical practice of polygamy?

I've written several pieces for TBP about gay Mormons (the links are at the bottom), because I think a lot of people are ignorant about us. The American culture at large views Mormons as a cult and has a lot of hurtful stereotypes about us. People assume that every Mormon male has multiple wives and a passel of children. While it's true that most Mormons have polygamists only two or three generations back in our family tree, the Mormon Church today does not endorse the practice of polygamy. Warren Jeffs and the fundamentalist splinter groups that still practice polygamy are not representative of the Mormon Church writ large.

You cannot divorce religious practices from their historical context. The Mormon Church was not founded to practice polygamy. Polygamy started as a response to a pressing social problem. The Mormons were driven out of New York, Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois before they wound up in Utah. The governor of Missouri actually issued an extermination order against Mormons, and many Mormon men were killed during this period. While the Mormons were going across the plains on foot, a lot of people died. When they finally got to Utah, many of the remaining men were sent off to fight in the Mexican-American war in order to prove their loyalty to the US government. This left a lot of women and children without a male head of household to provide for them. Say what you like about patriarchal social structures and antiquated gender roles. But this is the 1800's we're talking about, and everyone in American held the belief that men were the providers for the family, not just Mormons. Men were asked to support multiple households, and that's why there is a history of polygamy in the Mormon Church. The practice officially ended in 1890.

I've seen pictures of protesters outside of Mormon temples holding signs mocking Mormons and their "special underpants." If 10,000 people showed up outside of a synagogue with signs mocking a Jewish belief, such as wearing a yarmulke or a prayer shawl, people would label that as anti-Semitic. The Mormon temple is a place of worship that is just as sacred to them as a synagogue is to a Jew or a mosque is to a Muslim. Mocking something that is a core belief of someone's religion is not just ignorant, it's hateful. I would think that after we've been on the butt end of so many jokes and stereotypes, the gay community would try to find a place of compassion for others who are viewed as different.

The Mormon temples are staffed by volunteers, most of them retirees. If 10,000 people rolled up at your grandmother's house on a Friday night when she was saying her Sabbath prayers, how would that make you feel? I know these protests are about the right to get married, but if you were in the middle of your marriage ceremony and 10,000 protesters showed up, how would that make you feel? How are these protests any different than Fred Phelps and his minions showing up at the funerals of AIDS victims and disrupting people in their time of mourning?

Collin Powell's statement about Muslims is apropos here. Mormons are good people. They work hard, they love their kids, and they are actively engaged in their communities (as Prop 8 proves). Mormons as a group try to live within their means, they don't do drugs or alcohol, and they send humanitarian aid when people are in need. Mormons genuinely believe that they are fighting to protect their way of life right now. And if you ask any Mormon to tell you about their family's history, most of them (myself included) will have stories of ancestors who gave up everything for their religious beliefs. We're proud of our ancestors for what they gave up for their faith, and it's this pride that is causing Mormons to dig in for a fight.

With the history of suffering and government abuse, Mormons and gays make strange bedfellows indeed. But I think that we all have a lot more in common than either side is willing to acknowledge. We need to find a space of forgiveness right now. We don't need to be projecting anger. As one speaker at the San Francisco rally for human rights challenged on Saturday:

"We need to be our best selves," said the Rev. G. Penny Nixon, a gay pastor from San Mateo, Calif., who warned the San Francisco crowd against blaming "certain communities" for the election loss. "This is a movement based on love."
(emphasis mine)

Just in case you think I'm advocating that the LDS Church as an organization should be let off the hook for its involvement in the election, I'm not. I was one of the first writers on TBP to advocate back in September that the LDS Church should have its 501c3 status revoked. But this is a move that happens at the government level, not at the Mormon temple. The LDS Church as an institution will never change its doctrine on this point. (Check out my story "What Mormons Really Say About Gays" for a lengthy explanation.) However, individual church members do have the potential to change their own minds. Mocking someone's core beliefs does not elevate the level of discourse or open the possibility for a compromise to be found. It has taken 10 years of constant work for me to change my family's hearts. This is not going to be an easy or a fast process. But if we expect individual Mormons to accept us for who we are, then we have to accept them just as they are. Otherwise, this is a situation that will never be resolved.

Hailey, a social worker who lives in Anaheim, agrees. "These protests need to be directed at the courthouse or city hall," says Hailey. "You're only causing Mormons to become more insular by directing the protests at the temples. And think of the position this puts gay Mormons in, especially if they're still active in the church. They're going to choose church over the gay community. And then you've lost their support, and their votes."

Please stop your ignorant attacks on Mormons and their religious beliefs. If not for yourselves, please think of your gay Mormon brothers and sisters who have no community that accepts them right now. Because everyone needs to belong to something. I am very, very hurt by what happened in the election. But I want to love my family. I don't hate them. If I can forgive them, why can't you?

For more information about gay Mormons, check out these profiles I did last year:
Gay Mormons: Not an Oxymoron
Gay Mormon Women: How Oppressed Can You Get?
When Faith Dies: My Reflections on Leaving the Mormon Church

You can also get more info about gay Mormons at Affirmation.org.


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I wanted to be convinced by this. I wanted to read some new, compelling argument for pulling back on the ridicule which is part of the current movement, because it makes me uncomfortable, too.

However, it's not here. Mocking core religious beliefs? How about demonizing me because of the very nature of who I am?

Is making fun of underwear on par with creating $20 million ad campaigns which clearly portray gays as people who shouldn't be allowed around children? Is carrying a sign which is in bad taste equivalent to leading a charge to deprive a segment of our society of its human rights?

My answer is no. And when the Mormon church backs away from its disgusting positions, then I will consider being upset about some signs which aren't nice. Gays may be saying mean things, but Mormons are fighting to make gays inferior in the eyes of the government.

I will not apologize for my mean signs. Had the Mormon church not taken the actions it did to help Prop 8, I would have never made signs, and your column would not have been necessary.

Don't put this situation on me.

Christian, I understand your anger. My point is not to defend the LDS Church as an institution. My point is to ask you to see things from the perspective of gay Mormons (and there are a lot of us). If the purpose of your protest is to express your anger, then fine. You've done that. But if you're hoping to change people's opinions about the gay community, then perhaps you need to think about a way to find some common ground with individual members of the LDS Church. Gay Mormons are the logical place to start here. It might not seem logical to you that they would choose church over the gay community. But you've said that the church has attacked your identity. For Mormons, the church is just as much a part of their identity as being gay or straight. We do have the potential to reach out to gay Mormons, as well as many liberal members of the Mormon Church. But that outreach has to begin from a place of compassion and understanding. And when you lash out in anger, you've eliminated the possibility of finding common ground.

So yeah . . . if all you want to do is display your anger, fine. Mission accomplished. We get that you're angry. But if your goal is to move this community forward, then I think we need to be thinking of a more persuasive rhetorical tactic. Prop 8 passed by a very narrow margin. It's time to keep moving the ball forward. And we won't do that by discounting an entire group of people simply based on their religious beliefs.

My intent was not only to express my anger, though that is part of it. My intent was also to point out the hypocrisy of a religious group which, after being denied its freedom and chased across the country, now seeks to deny the freedom of another minority group. I don't hate any Mormon person. I respect their freedom to practice their religion as they choose, within the law. Unfortunately, they do not honor me with the same respect.

As kathygnome says, your argument would hold some weight with me if the Mormon church hadn't started this. Their support of Prop 8 went far beyond mere hateful or mocking speech. They were the ones who took action before making an attempt to find common ground and understand who gays are.

Is the mocking and negative speech which many gays are using "right"? No. I am a peaceful person and I would prefer not to need to say these things.

Do I regret that there are some gay Mormons out there who might be hurt by my signs? Yes, absolutely. But this is a battle for human rights we are fighting, and I would ask those gay Mormons, who admit that their religion is wrong on this issue, to understand that we tried it the quiet and polite way. It didn't work.

Gay marriage was not a threat to the Mormon church or any kind of an attack on their lifestyle or rights. Theirs was the attack which started this battle. Aim your pleas for understanding at them, not us.

How are these protests any different than Fred Phelps and his minions showing up at the funerals of AIDS victims and disrupting people in their time of mourning?

Because we didn't start it, the LDS Church Inc. did. There is a categorical difference between a reaction and an unprovoked attack.

Making people choose between the gay community and the LDS Church Inc. is a problem? Isn't the essence of morality making choices between right and wrong? Nobody said moral choices were easy, but in this case I would say they are rather clear. This is what religious and spiritual beliefs are fundamentally about. If the presence of 10,000 people demanding their justice and condemning an oppressor makes people uncomfortable about the choices they are making, then those 10,000 people are not only doing their job well, they are also doing the Gods work.

Since you live in Arizona, then you know of the sect of Mormons in Northern Arizona who do indeed practice polygamy. In all the years I lived in Arizona and in all the stories I have seen of this group, I have not once seen any story of the Mormon Church stepping in and putting presure on them to stop the practice.

Also, I grew up a Catholic, and they get the same amount of crap from other so-called Christian religions as the Mormons do. They have also been called a cult. But, I have long since stopped looking toward the church as a place of comfort. This was decades before I began living as Monica. The reason was how poorly they treat women, which, if I'm not mistaken, the Mormon church is not any better at.

Now that I'm trans and a lesbian, I have more reasons to want to stay away from the Catholic church. Yes, there are gay Catholics, just like there are gay Mormons and gay Republicans. Each try to justify why then believe in what they believe in. Some don't do a good job at it. For me, I'll stay away from religions or policital parties that don't have my best interest at heart, no matter what my history is with them.

Hi Monica, I totally agree with you. I am just as surprised as anyone else that I find myself in a position defending Mormonism when I haven't been active in the church for over a decade. In fact, I'm more of a Wiccan than anything else these days. So if the hate speech bothers me, think of how this affects people who are still totally into their religious beliefs.

When I left the church, it was the hardest thing I have had to do. I was super churchy back in the day. It's easy for people who have already reconciled their spirituality and their sexuality/gender identity to say "just chuck the church." I think we forget how difficult that path is because we've been walking it for such a long time that we've grown accustomed to it. It takes a lot of strength to do what you and I have done Monica. And all I'm asking is that we lend a supportive arm to people who are still struggling. Alienating people from the LGBTQ community by mocking their religion is not the way to help them come to peace with themselves.

It is a hard journey for people to take. As a former Catholic and you as a "former" Mormon, we know how strong each church's indoctrination is, so leaving them can be more difficult than a divorce. Then, factor in the family members who remain faithful to the church, and you have a recipe for a lot more frustration.

For me, I get it from 3 sides. My mother is Catholic, my sister is married to a Mormon and my brother is a Born-Again Christian. Basically, I've been condemned to Hell in three different religions. (I understand that because of the rules, I'm going to have to serve three back-to-back eternities in Hell.)

There is a way to "protest" the Mormon Church in ways that has nothing to do with returning the hate, but many are not trained in being able to do that.

Monica, absolutely. I think that petitioning the government to revoke the LDS Church's 501c3 status, and the 501c3 status of any organization that overstepped its bounds in the election for that matter, is absolutely appropriate. But the LDS Church cannot grant or revoke this status. This is something that will be done at the government level. And it's not going to happen overnight.

In the mean time, I think we need to remember that it takes a long time to make a mental and emotional break from the church you grew up in. The foundation of Christianity (whatever form it takes) and I would say most religions is about finding compassion and treating others how you would like to be treated. I hear what Kathy and Christian are saying. But why stoop to that level? If this is a movement about love, then let's show a little love here for people in our community who are really struggling right now.

Here's a question for Kathy and Christian: lots of black churches supported Prop 8. There have been many well reasoned articles on TBP and other LGBTQ sites urging our community not to lash out at the black community. Why are those pleas being better received?

I'll give you my answer, But I would love to hear Monica Roberts chime in.

Because, racism comes into play here. Making unintentional racist remarks, or remarks that can be perceived as racist is too easy of a line to cross. Many people cannot get their point across in that discussion without crossing that line.

I would think that gay African Americans need to be the ones addressing this issue, and many are. In the case of the Mormon church, it centers around religion only and the remarks are not crossing any other lines, except those of good taste.

Monica, I think this is much more than a question of good or bad taste. For a Jewish person, their religion is a central part of their identity. Much like for a Muslim, their religion is a central part of their identity. Mormons are no different. Mocking someone's religion is more than just impolite. It's hate speech. Perhaps our country has evolved a little further on issues of hate speech that center around race than it has on issues of religion. But hate is hate no matter what way you slice it.

First, there's money. From what I've read, Mormon dollars were the bulk of the Yes on 8 funding. Many other groups were involved, but as with many things, Mormons stuck their heads up higher above the crowd and they're paying for it.

Second, "black churches" is a much more nebulous group than the LDS Church. There is no national target.

Third, while discrimination advocated from the pulpit of a "black church" is no less offensive than that advocated by Mormons, it is difficult to only protest the discrimination without seeming to hold negative views about an appropriately-protected minority group. In other words, carrying a "this church preaches hate" sign in front of a "black church" risks sending the message that I have a problem with African-Americans, which of course I do not. Racism is wrong, wrong, wrong. And preaching homophobia is also wrong, wrong, wrong, wherever it is done. So yeah, religious denominations with a large percentage of African-American members may benefit more from the pleas not to lash out because of this circumstantial twist.

Finally regarding religion: unlike being black or being gay, religion is a choice. Yes, there are all kinds of considerations when it comes to how one is raised which can complicate the decision. I grew up with a melange of the Catholic and pentecostal flavors of Christianity. I know the pressures one's family can bring to bear. Still, the final responsibility to be a thinking adult lies with me. I choose now not to partake in those religions, partly because of their stance on gays.

And thank goodness we have that choice! It must be protected! But freedom of religion is also freedom FROM religion. I respect the right of Mormons and other Christians to practice their faith. They should respect my right to practice no faith and my demand that the tenets of their faiths not be any basis of or in any way influence the government in this country.

Dear Serena,

Coming our (again?) as a gay Mormon is a brave thing, especially in the current environment. It is not how we act when times are good that mark the content of our character, it is in times of peril that marks the measure of a person.

We speak of love. Talk is cheap, we need to act out of love. Heaven knows we have the role models Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Ghandi, and the 14th Dalai Lama come quickly to mind.

I am sorry you are in pain. I'm sorry that it is coming from your own. If we want to lay claim to the high moral ground we can't stoop to the level of our opponents.

We can't demand dignity for ourselves when we refuse to extend it to others.

My heart truly goes out to all Mormons who have or are denouncing their Mormon faith because of the actions/measures their church took in helping to pass prop 8. I will gladly stand along side any and all of those gay/supportive Mormons who would like to protest with me.
To date, hundreds of Mormons have visited signingforsomething.org and by either signing the petition or resigning from the church they have validated our protest. We can not stand by and allow this to happen. We must mind our manners, repress our hurt and send a clear message.
I recently, carried a sign in a protest that said "My first lesbian girlfriend was a Mormon". This statement is autobiographical. It was not meant to demean anyone. Rather, it was meant to draw awareness to the support we have inside the Mormon church. This is where we can begin to make a difference. Reach out to those who stand against you with compassion, honesty and sincerity. This is not a war and we should not attack our neighbors for their beliefs.

Mocking other people's religious beliefs is practically an American pastime. It doesn't mean that gay and lesbian people want to take away Mormons' freedom of religion (as Mormons have been instrumental in taking away our right to marry). The freedom to practice a religion is inseparable from the freedom to mock it.

However, if LDS members are finding themselves ostracized from polite society for supporting Prop 8, or find themselves publicly breaking from the positions of church hierarchy in their opposition to 8, that's hardly a bad thing. Under the right conditions -- which I suspect we now have -- fear of social repercussions can be even more effective than new legislation in stifling the public expression of bigotry. One can hardly expect social change without social pressure.

Living in a free society requires a thick skin and a strong stomach. Prop 8 made us all a little less free. But you may thank the god or gods of your choice that gay and lesbian people can still make nasty wisecracks at our opponents' expense.

My position on this is well known. Religious communities are much larger than ours, and we will be trumped easily if we are to go head-to-head with them by antagonizing them with protests at their temples.

Sadly, it appears that the gay community's knowledge doesn't extend beyond fashion, entertainment, and the arts. When it comes to concepts not in their cultural experience, they can be just as prejudiced.

And I find myself surprised as much as Serena; for, as my seething hatred of organized religion (being an atheist) may remain strong, I cannot in good conscience emulate the very actions I abhor.

The problem is no particular religion. Yes, it was Mormons in California and Arizona, but they joined many other conservative faiths, and in my part of the country, you can substitute Southern Baptist for Mormon. The difference, politically, is unimportant. The problem is religion in general and its poisonous effect on the political process. The separation of church and faith has been eroding for years, and proceeded rapidly under the Bush reign.

Probably the next activism that needs to be done would be to take steps to force churches and religions to stop their illicit and extraconstitutional political involvements - and that goes for the Mormons, Catholics, Southern Baptists, and right on down to the street-corner inner city Pentecostals. Involve your congregation in politics, whether by endorsing causes or candidates, collecting campaign contributions, or speaking of politics from the pulpit, and you should lose your tax-x status.

If we do not break the grip of conservative organized religion on the political process, we will not be able to pass and keep any laws protecting GLBT people. Yes, there are faiths that welcome us - I'm a lifelong Episcopalian who did not have to lose beliefs when discovering transgender status - but most do not. Now that the California model is present, it will be used nationally. This goes for hate crimes and ENDA, not just marriage.

Polar, that's my point exactly. We have a lot more work to do and it's time to focus on rhetorical strategies that will work for us.

Serena, I hear what you're saying, and would like to lay out my own credentials on this front.

While I was never a Mormon myself, the pioneer branch of my family had long-time connections with the Mormons. My rancher greatgrandfather knew Brigham Young and John Hickman, and did cattle business with that whole bunch of old-time Mormons. A splinter group of Mormons, the Reorganized Latter Day Saints, left Utah and settled in the Deer Lodge Valley of Montana where I grew up. Their tiny temple was one of the many churches in my home town -- they were part of the richly textured religious scenery there. A cousin of mine is married to a broad-minded Mormon lady, with whom I've had conversations about all these issues that concern us today.

My native American relatives are well aware of the Mormons' long-standing feelings of historical and genealogical ties with the First Nations, and their many marriages into the Western tribes during the pioneer days. Today many Mormons with any pioneer roots may well have tribal ancestry.

I think that the U.S. government handled the Mormon Church very roughly in the course of making them give up polygamy. There were some clear violations of constitutional rights and due process. The feds sent in troops and ran the Mormon elders and their families through something like today's Guantanamo -- long imprisonment without being charged or tried, coerced testimony by their wives, etc. It's not one of the most shining chapters of "American justice." Today the feeling that many Mormons have, of being somewhat marginalized in American society, goes back that grim experience.

I agree with you 100 percent that it's wrong to ridicule the Mormon religion...or any religion for that matter.

Though I'm a former Catholic, I would take amiss any ridicule of Catholicism. It's as tempting for some to make fun of a priest's "skirts" (cassock) as it is to make fun of the famous Mormon undergarment. It's always a no-brainer to ridicule something that you don't understand. Many Catholic practices, like honoring the saints and revering Mary, seem ridiculous to Protestants who hate and fear Catholicism. When they ridicule these practices, it reveals not only their hate but also their ignorance. And it's just as easy to ridicule some Protestants for their "bible thumping" or speaking in tongues.

But religions, like governments, can and do get enormous power, and they can abuse that power. They too can violate principles of justice and due process. Pointing out these problems is not ridicule. Intelligent historical or news commentary on church misdeeds DOES NOT constitute expressing hate.

So, as a former Catholic, I do have personal insight and sympathy into the history of why Catholics view the saints and Mary the way they do. But I have no sympathy whatever for the Catholic Church's abuses of power through the ages. I do not excuse the Inquisition, or the long history of religious wars, or the anti-Semitism, or anything else that the Roman Church did in its pursuit of power. It's important to expose these things, and keep them on record.

So -- to get back to your sentiments that are so well put -- LGBT people should not be ridiculing the Mormon Church, or any other religion that supported Prop. 8. Ridicule doesn't accomplish anything, except to show that the person who does the ridiculing is ignorant.

It's also important to point out -- as you do -- that many of these religions have members who actually support our position. We have to distinguish between official church policy and the individual humans who belong to the Church. There are many Mormons, and many Catholics too, both gay and non-gay, who have spoken out within their churches on LGBT issues, often at great cost to themselves. Over the years since I came out in 1974, I have been in touch with Catholics, not only lay people but clergy, monks and nuns who have worked to try and soften the Vatican's policy on us. When gay people unthinkingly ridicule these religions, they break the hearts of our brothers and sisters who are still working in those churches in hopes of bringing about change.

BUT today we LGBT people are well within our rights to point out any abuses of power by any religions that support Prop. 8 or any other measures that target us. The conservative leaders who run these religions already have shown that they will abuse their power in any way they can if that gets them what they want: a denial of marriage rights to us.

Hi Patricia - I totally agree that abuses of power need to be revealed for what they are. But make a good point that there is a big difference between holding an institution accountable for its abuses of power and schoolyard name calling.

Wow. Thanks for this, Serena. Having never been too keen on religion in general, I often forget that intolerance for religion should not be privileged over intolerance by religion based on a haughty moral highground.

I was upset and sad on election night. The specific prohibition of my right to marriage was not what caused these feelings, but more the general indictment of my personhood. I understand the anger and the desire to blame someone, anyone. But the truth is that Prop 8, Prop 102, and Amendment 2 did not succeed because of Black Americans, Latinos, or any specific church group; their passage was due to the continued general discomfort in America with non-heteronormative expressions of sexuality and love.

These moments are opportunities for exploring our own roles, responsibilities, and positions within the system that passed these discriminatory bills. Rather than saying "this their fault," say, "what more could I have done?" Maybe there is nothing more that you could have reasonably done; but if you were able to make time for the rally on Saturday, but couldn't make time to phone bank/canvass/donate/do something before the election, take a look within before blaming others.

My own personal feelings of hurt sparked a long-overdue conversation with my brother. I had not previously outed myself to him as a gay man, due to our relative emotional distance and the anxiety of coming out to anyone, at any time. I felt that, at this time, I had an opportunity to begin the conversation. Even though I knew my brother is pretty good about gay rights, after talking to him I hope that the next time he hears an anti-gay remark, he will have a difficult time ignoring it. Hopefully, my conversation with him will spark him in conversation with others.

I feel I may have wandered in my initial purpose in this comment, but I just wanted to say thanks for helping me to pause and take a critical look at my own participation in divisive politics.

Hi Michael - Thanks for sharing your story. And congrats on finally coming out to your brother. I'm glad you opened up a space for the two of you to have a conversation like that. It's never easy, because no matter how liberal or progressive your family member is, there's always a slight risk of rejection.

I'm upset that I'm engaged to my partner and our upcoming marriage means absolutely nothing to anyone but us. But like you say, it's time to start looking what each of us as individuals can do to change the climate in this country. For me it means talking to my family. And unfortunately, that job is 100 times harder when I have to counteract all of the anti-Mormon rhetoric that's coming from the LGBTQ community.

Good luck with your brother, Michael. It sounds like he's a good ally.

"I'm upset that I'm engaged to my partner and our upcoming marriage means absolutely nothing to anyone but us."

Are you referring to emotional and social support as a couple, or the legal benefits derived from marriage? If it's the latter, even in states with same sex marriage, there are still no federal benefits. But your state has never had same sex marriage, so the election didn't alter anything there like in CA.

But I thought I remembered that your partner is FTM. If so, there would be no obstacle to you getting legally married to each other as a heterosexual couple. Of course if I misremembered, then that doesn't do you any good.

Hi Rory - you're right on all counts. AZ didn't allow for same sex marriage. But the city of Tucson recognized domestic partnerships. Now that Prop 102 passed, I'm nor sure that we even get that little sliver of pie. But of course, with the DOMA nothing is recognized at the federal level.

My partner is FTM, but we're still negotiating the paperwork process for getting documents changed, etc. So it's a little more complicated than just getting hitched as a hetero couple.

Allan Brauer | November 17, 2008 4:59 PM

Thanks for sharing, Serena.

But I would prefer to see you direct your lectures at the leadership and compliant members of the church for which you hold such affections.

Motes in the others' eye v. beams in your own, and all that.

Don't want to see the Mormon church attacked? Guide it to stop inviting attacks.

Yes folks dont like being told its time to shutup and move on when there still in IDIOT Mode.When in IDIOT mode folks look to people and groups to hate.Some of these comments I have seen since Prop 8 passed would make the average WPWW fool proud.

Reformed Ascetic | November 17, 2008 10:08 PM

Serena,

I feel that I need to begin this by stating that although I belong to no religion, I have been granted opportunities to participate in rituals or study with leaders/scholars from several religions. I was given these opportunities because I was trusted to respect them in a manner appropriate to each. I also feel the need to add that a portion of my immediate family is Mormon.

More, I want to say that I have been really impressed by how sweet I have seen you be to everyone while I have been a reader here. I keep seeing instances of you going out of your way to celebrate others. That makes it hard to disagree with you on something that appears to be affecting you very personally, but I think the situation is a little more nuanced than it may appear.

I don’t want to defend ugly behavior and there has clearly been some ugly behavior. These, however, are my immediate reactions to your essay:

1. I support your call for respectable behavior. I don’t necessarily agree with you on what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. I too have seen a picture of the sign speaking about “magic underpants.” I didn’t get it. I agree that it is difficult to interpret as anything other than empty ridicule. However when religious leaders of many faiths are trying to promote the meme that “traditional marriage” has remain unchanged for thousands of years and across the world, I think it’s completely reasonable to point out that it isn’t true. Pointing out the history of plural marriage is only one way of arguing against that. Mormons are not distinct in this respect, nor are they being singled out by this argument. You may well have only seen it directed at the LDS church the last few days, but in fact I have seen it directed at several religions. Pointing out another’s lie, or clear mistake, can come across as mean spirited. Trying to make the point in the pithy confines of a picket sign allows more room for interpretation as sarcasm. But that doesn’t make the point invalid or unimportant. The queer community is probably one of the most accepting of poly relationships. When evaluating events we need to try to be fair to both sides.

2. Your argument effectively disallows anyone from protesting any religious establishment ever for any reason for fear of risking disturbing an old lady at prayer. It is not at all uncommon for churches to be protested. Both by those from the outside and those from the inside. Right now a group of Catholic school teachers are protesting their leadership’s decision to remove their right to form a union and to use religion as a reason and defense. Are they obligated to take it quietly so as to avoid the possibility of offending someone? Are religious leaders to be free to act publicly without having to answer for those actions?

3. Inappropriate actions by individuals are not equivalent to cohesive actions by a group. When I see news broadcasts about a Mormon sect accused of abusing women or children, I do not extend that to all LDS people even if it’s proven true. I know that in any group some individuals behave badly. It takes very strict organization and discipline for there not to be some inappropriate behavior at a protest, especially as the size grows. That does not mean that everyone there should be held responsible for that individual’s actions, no matter how ugly. This is very different than a group which expressly came together to act for a nefarious purpose. Did all Mormons support the anti-gay initiatives? No, it has been publicized quite a bit that some publicly opposed them. There are probably more who were on the fence. And I am willing to believe those that say they acted only out of loyalty to the church. But the LDS (other religious groups as well but notably the Mormons) acted in a goal driven cohesive manner to attack others. To impose their beliefs upon others. That is different in kind than some individuals making snide remarks.

4. Extending your logic would make it virtually impossible to ever criticize any religious organization. And that is what they want. They want to be the unquestionable arbiters of God’s will as they force others to conform.

5. Protests are supposed to be upsetting.

6. The most effective strategy is a variety of communication styles. Yes, some religious people going to be turned off by the protests. Others will find them troubling enough to start thinking about the issues deeper than they have before. Some of those unreachable through protests will/should be reached through other types of activism For instance, outreach from gay church members.

7. The protests are not just aimed at those inside the institutions protested. They are also aimed at people outside of that religion People who are effectively on the line, but have been swayed by public stances of religious leaders. And they are also aimed at energizing the LGBT community.

8. We cannot continue to cede the religious and moral ground to those who abuse it. They should be confronted through a variety of methods, but public protests are a valuable and time-tested tool.

9. We are going to have to have to point out that not all religious people agree with the interpretations of various scriptures being bandied about by conservatives. We are also going to have to be brave enough to point out the inconsistencies in conservative religious leaders own arguments. And yes, some people are going to be offended.

I personally have problems supporting those actions which target individuals for their voting or donation records. On either side. And there have been reports of it going in both directions. I understand not wanting to hand your money over to someone who may well use it against you, but I personally am reluctant to participate. I don’t want to see any more group or personal enmity built up than has to be. But no one would feel justified to demand that I feel calm about being mugged. No one would argue that if the police were abusing citizens we shouldn’t say anything because it might upset them. When religious institutions enter the public sphere they are subject to the same criticisms as any other group. In fact, it could be argued that when they lie and cheat and act hypocritically, they deserve less respect than others.

The LDS church has endured abuse at the hands of the US public and government. But when LDS leaders stand up and say that the Prop 8 protests are just another instance of that abuse, I feel perfectly justified in calling them hypocrites. Some of them undoubtedly believe it. Members of abused groups can develop bunker mentalities. But the reasoning is unsound, the position is false and the objective is deceptive. Failing to publicly denounce that kind of rhetoric is virtually a silent assent.

We all are, or should be, mature enough to know that it is not about being opposed to any religion. But when groups not only refuse to listen to reason, but are prepared to lie and abuse the system to achieve their own ends, effective means to get them to stop and think critically about their actions must be found.

Reformed Ascetic | November 18, 2008 5:01 AM

I wanted to add another example I saw in the news today.

A South Carolina Roman Catholic priest has decided that parishioners who voted for President Obama should abstain from receiving communion because supporting him "constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil" due to his support of abortion rights. That they put their souls at risk if they take communion prior to doing penance for their vote.

In some ways this is a purely internal matter. A matter of internal philosophical interpretation. In others, it certainly has the appearance of an effort to control the political actions of parishioners by withholding the sacrament.

Obviously, since this is on a relatively small scale and such a sticky issue, the general public is not likely to get involved.

So even if we limit it to those directly affected, should they be forced to accept the loss of this intimate sacrament because opposing the priest's decision might be disruptive? What if the parishioners decided that public protest was the only means of redress open to them?

More, remember that the situation with 8 has often been described as the Catholics having invited the Mormons into a coalition of conservative religious groups. Imagine a country where all the conservative religious orgs threatened members with excommunication if they didn't tow the political line. Now imagine the other side being afraid to confront this coalition because it might be perceived as being offensive. No, I don't think it's a reasonable prediction at this time. But I also think it is only different in scale from what actually happened with the anti-gay initiatives rather than in kind.

There clearly has to be ways to hold religious leaders and institutions accountable. For private matters, they will be and should be those methods they have developed to address issues internally. But when they choose to act publicly, they open themselves up to the methods which have been developed in the public sphere.

Hi RA, First of all, thanks for the kind words. And second, I really appreciate a numbered list of arguments. Good stuff!

I agree with all of your points. However, I think that there is one point of difference. Protesters holding signs that say "separate church and state" or "take away the LDS tax exemption" are perfectly fine by me. But if someone is holding a sign that says "stuff your magic underpants," that's where I take issue. If the church involved here was the Jewish faith (I know . . . not a monolithic group) and someone's sign said "we don't need your silly hats," I would also find this offensive. You might not understand why the sign about Mormon garments is offensive, but that's because you're not a part of that faith. To them these are sacred relics, and so it does strike at the core of their beliefs.

Just to be fair, I also disagree with feminists who criticize Muslim cultures where women wear the hajib or the burqua. Yes, we as feminists should be concerned that in many countries women aren't allowed to educate themselves, let alone drive a car. But I don't think it's right to criticize people's cultural practices in an uneducated manner. Chandra Mohanty has a great article called "Under Western Eyes" that lays this argument our pretty clearly. It's in a book called Third World Feminisms.

I bring this example up because I think it is an entirely different circumstance when someone inside of a group initiates the protest. It's not to say that outsiders can't join in the protest or become allies. That would eliminate the possibility for coalition building. But I as an outsider have no business approaching a group and ignorantly criticizing its cultural practices without first trying to understand where that group is coming from. But if Catholic teachers are being denied the right to unionize, or parishioners are being denied the sacrament, then hell yeah they should protest. However, holding up ad hominem signs like "Revered Greg is a stinky pants" or making other personal attacks on the priests in question is probably not going to be a persuasive rhetorical strategy in that situation.

I'm not saying there shouldn't be protests after Prop 8. I'm trying to argue that we need to think about what message we are sending and what our goal is with our protests. If we want the LDS Church to feel the repercussions of getting involved in politics, then the best site for a protest would be outside of the IRS demanding that they have their tax exempt status revoked.

All I'm asking for is a little self reflection on the part of our community. If this is a community and a movement that's based on love, then let's show a little love.

Reformed Ascetic | November 19, 2008 2:42 AM

I completely agree with everything you just said.

When I said I didn't get the sign about the "magic underpants" (I actually dislike even repeating the phrase), I meant I didn't get why someone thought it was pertinent. Why they thought it was appropriate. Why they thought it was part of a mature exchange. Why they thought it was anything other than a cold, childish insult empty of meaning.

To use strict Hassidic Jews as an example: they have many practices I chose not to follow in my own life. Yet I have a tremendous amount of respect for people who can so thoroughly tie their lives to what they believe are God's laws. There are things I disagree with, there are even positions I would even argue against (at least as far as promoting it to being a requirement for everyone) but I am not interested in mocking at all. There is a lot there to respect. I know some women who have recently decided on their own to start wearing the hijab. Their reasons were a mixture of religious rediscovery and group pride. I have a lot of respect for their decision.

You're right that I haven't studied the LDS as an insider or very much as an outsider. I know that there are parts I personally disagree with, and I know that there are parts I admire. The reason I don't belong to any religion myself is because I can say that about all of them. Including the ones I have gotten to study first hand. Whether I personally admire them or not.

I think outsiders should be extremely reluctant to interfere with any church's concerns that are purely internal. I think seeking opportunities for dialog are admirable, but I think outsiders trying to change a church's doctrine approaches being completely forbidden. I leave a little wiggle room because I am sure some necessary historical or theoretical situations could be thought up.

Once they leave the confines of their faith, I am perfectly comfortable using either secular or religious arguments against them. And I think both are useful. But it's no more acceptable to hurl empty insults based on perceptions of religious practices than it is to sling racial or homophobic insults. And I support their right to say or think anything they want about me (with obvious exceptions like libel) even in public discussions. Free speech means free speech.

More, I think it's appropriate to demand that the IRS investigate activities around Prop 8 (and the others) because that is an existing rule pertaining to everyone. Especially as an organized league of conservative churches went public with purposefully violating the rules this election in order to try to get the laws set aside. I think some messages need to be sent. But as long as the investigation proceeds justly, I think we should be prepared to accept the result, whether it's positive or negative.

But as long as it's done appropriately I don't have an issue with picketing churches. I think it can be effective both in speaking to the public and in speaking to the queer community. However, the corollary is that we need to be prepared when some group decides to start picketing gay churches.

Good point, RA. This tax exemption battle cuts both ways. The MCC and other gay-friendly churches need to be prepared for the fall out of this, too.

Reformed Ascetic | November 20, 2008 2:16 AM

Actually that's one of my personal issues with the way the tax laws are currently applied with churches.

My personal experience with gay and liberal churches is that they are meticulously careful not to get directly involved with politics, even in appearance.

I've heard a couple of reasons cited for this. But one is that they are afraid both that local conservative churches will use it against them and that they will get a different type of investigation than a large conservative church.

The churches on our side should also have to follow the law, but all the organizations should be following the same rules.

As a fellow gay Mormon, I share in your emotion about the clamor within the LGBT community directed toward criticizing (unfairly) and ridiculing (inappropriately) the LDS church over its very public support for Proposition 8.

My own parents – who remain religiously devout despite my black (pink?) sheepness – came under overt, undue pressure by the church and church members to support a cause which they knew would place them at odds with me. I am grateful they resisted.

That being said, I do take issue with your apparent defense of LDS marital practices, cautioning that plural marriage cannot be divorced from its historical context. Bullsh--. It is well documented that the practice of taking on more than one wife began long before the LDS began their forced march across the great plains. Indeed, the wealth of historical evidence ties a great deal of the animosity against Joseph Smith to the practice of plural marriage and his large collection of young “spiritual” brides – many of whom he may have married without the advice and consent of Emma Smith.

But regardless of when plural marriage began – and whether an angel really commanded it – the salient point here is that the LDS should have been free to practice it then, and should be free to practice it now. So long as nobody is forced to be in a plural marriage – or a gay marriage – it really should not be the government’s concern.

Although few tenets of the LDS faith resonate with me today, the Eleventh Article of Faith continues to be a central tenet for my life: "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."

It is disheartening that with the LDS' drive to be "mainstream," they have forgotten their origins.

Hi Paul, I'm glad to hear your family resisted the church on the Prop 8 issue. Good for them! I can only imagine how hard that was.

As for the polygamy issue, my point is mainly to provide the point of view of people who are active in the church. Since that is the defense they use, that's the line of reasoning I provided because I was hoping to show things from the LDS point of view.

You're right about the 11th Article of Faith - we should be free to worship how ever we choose. And another lesson that has stuck with me since my church days is that we need to have Christlike love for everyone. It's not easy to put into practice. But it is what I learned in primary.

OH MY.
One of the best posts I've ever read.
I just tried to explain the Prop 8 thing over at my place and it was a big fat FAIL!
Thank you for this. I will be sending dozens, hopefully hundreds your way.

Moosh, I'm glad you found this article useful.

I believe the Mormon "church" and its beliefs deserve ridicule. I believe Bill Maher's saying that "Mormonism is like Scientology but without the celebrities". I have looked at some mormon beliefs - Jesus being Lucifer/Satan's brother, the afterlife on other planets, etc, and I find them to be even more preposterous than basic fundie christian beliefs. I also find the idea that people believe literally in Adam and Eve and a talking snake as well as a man who lived to be 900 years old building an ark that held every species of plant, animal and insect to be totally absurd.
Many gay and non-gay people don't get how anyone in their right mind could believe this crap as literal history. Why shouldn't I express how I feel about religions and the destruction they have wrought? Because it might hurt some gay mormons or christian's feelings?

That is like telling me I have to make nice to a gay Republican. No thanks. My politics go beyond my sexual orientation. It's not just about love - it's about equality and justice for all - concepts that most organized religions have opposed over the centuries.

The Mormon church changed it's doctrine on polygamy only to gain statehood for Utah. It was political expediency - not a "divine revelation". The Mormon church changed it's doctrine and "scriptures" on darker skinned people in 1978 - not through "divine revelation to their prophet" but for political expediency - racial discrimination was no longer p.c. in 1978 and it hampered growing the "church".
I am weary of Mormons that either don't know the history of their church (and its founders) or believe that it is only anti-mormon rhetoric used by people to attack them.
The mormons were also extremely involved in derailing the Equal Rights Amendment a couple decades ago - so they are fair game in every sense. They have a lot to answer for.

It may take some people awhile to break from their childhood church but I don't get why - others of us started questioning it when we were barely teenagers. If you no longer believe in the absurd doctrines, why would you care if it is ridiculed? I don't spend a lot of time running around making fun of Mormon or Christian beliefs, and my sign at the rallies did not; however, I have no problem with people expressing an opinion that does.

I believe the Mormon church is a threat (just like other fundamentalists) to the separation of church and state. You don't fight that by being nice.

I am a gay ex-mormon and absolutely disagree with you.

1) They politicized the church, and can't then complain when things get political.

2) They came after us in a premeditated way, we respond in a passionate way. Cold is not better than hot, we just act differently. The fact that that they freak at passionate expression isn't my problem.

3) They are hyper organized, we are a individuals acting spontaneously, sometimes among others. They are responsible for the group actions, there is no formal "we" to take responsibility for ours.

4) They came after us with overwhelming force, we react when bullies hit us.

5) They will be back. If we don't make clear there are consequences, some not pretty, they will be back.

... I could go on. They picked this fight. They could focus on changing laws to help the poor or the sick if they chose, but they come after the gays instead. They can't complain of the rage they ignited.

Hi Preston, I'm not saying that there shouldn't be consequences for the church's involvement in politics. I absolutely think that their tax exempt status should be revoked. But we need to make a case for that at the courthouse steps or at the doors of the IRS, and not on the steps of the temple.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | December 23, 2008 10:20 AM

Your response ignores two things, Preston's #1 -- they politicized their own church -- and that the best direct action is that which is most direct, meaning that the temples are absolutely the best targets.

As for the little old lady, if she's doing temple duty, she's tithing and, if she's tithing, she's already contributed to H8 campaign -- in other words, she's no innocent in the equation and, as she presumably has less time on earth to learn the error of her ways before she meets her maker, if anyone needs the more direct confrontation, if only to save her soul, it's her.

Age b

The first ammendment guarantees us freedom of religion and that also means freedom from religion! No one needs religion or the church,I prefer to pray direct. the churches only ask for money so they can pay themselves and the catholics and mormons are the worst, next to the TV evangelicals. These cults are the first to cry "activist judges" legislating from the bench and donating tens of millions of dollars to campaigns, but when asked where the money went and how do you assist others? they always cry "separation of church and state". Nothing here but bigots, afraid of losing their base to get money.

Hmmm....

I'm troubled by this post. You sound like entirely too many gays I have met who argued that gays should get a free pass for transphobia because they have it all hard too, etc. its bad strategy, blah blah blah.

My sympathy for fantasy based abusive people is quite limited tho. So, on being nice to the Mormons, we must part company. I am quite harsh on gays over their moral failings, so it would be quite hypocritical for me to give the Mormons a get out of socially responsible behavior free" card, no?

All the same arguments that the gay transphobes used are here... just change the words.

Merle Shamblin | December 6, 2008 10:22 PM

Hello my name is Merle Dean Shamblin and I would like to be your new friend. I sure could use somebody to chat with. I am a 47 year old long haul truck driver who currently lives in Duncan Oklahoma. Dec 8th 1960 I was born in Fairview Oklahoma. Moved to Caddo and Washita counties where I attended school at Colony Hydro and Weatherford. My parents Malvin and Wanda Shamblin were cotton and peanut farmers. Dad died in 99 from lung cancer. Graduated from SWOSU with a business degree. My two sisters are LaDonna Hubert and Malva Burrahm. Dennis is my brother. I have been a truck driver for 14 years and have driven 2 million paid miles. I have received many safe driving awards over the years. I am single and have never been married. I have a wide range of interests and am pretty much an open book. Currently I drive a 2006 Freightliner for a major carrier. I dont go to Canada very often. I dont have a dedicated route so I run the entire lower 48. I enjoy reading cinema music sports travel etc.

um dude who started the whole thing are you kidding me, are you seriously that fucking retarted, they protested you because you tried to deny them human rights and suceeded, your people beat them sending 3 to the hospital, no gay hurt any mormon, and your accting like your all innocent and nice and there the bad ones, thats so messed up im not sure what else to say, these innocent people attacked both phisically and verbally, just because some old fucked up book hints that homosexuality is bad.

and you claim your the vicim?
unbelievable

My hearts really go out to gay Mormons. It's important to separate the members from the leaders. I have very great admiration for the Mormons that stood with us in the protests against their own church. The choice they were forced to make must have been excruciating.

I work for a wonderful Mormon that owns our company. It think the world of him. From a gay Episcopalian to a gay Mormon, peace. I bid you no ill will. I have serious problems with the leader of your church, but not with anyone else in your spiritual life.

Peace of God be always with you.

Craig

Some will not like what they read here, but I wish to say it.
I accidentally came across this article in a moment of curiosity. I’ve seen how both sides of this issue have been throwing spiteful remarks (Directly and indirectly).
I’ve read the responses to your article from various members of the gay community. Some are angry, some understanding, and some on the fence. They all have reasons based in emotion, morality, or viewpoint and I don’t hold one over the other because they are dear and true to the person giving them.
I am a straight Mormon. In my life I had only a few acquaintances and one gay friend was not the best representative of the homosexual community. So my perspective has been mainly from afar.
I work in law enforcement and in the academy I was taught many principles. One comes to mind right now: No matter the rank of the person that tells you to pull the trigger; you are responsible for the bullet that leaves the chamber. With that said, I voted yes on the AZ Prop 102.
I know I will receive a fair amount of angry voices and curses in my direction but please hear me. I voted in that matter for a reason I call ‘spite’.
I can tell you that if I had seen campaigning done in the well put and thought out manner that I have seen in this article, I guarantee my vote would have been different. Instead I only saw the hurtful videos posted on YouTube. Being a Returned Missionary, I found them hurtful.
I’m not asking for understanding, you have good reason to hate me. I only hope to help bring others to the understanding that I have received today through this article.
Serena, thank you. I see the trial you’re going through with this and I wish you the best of luck. I hope to be considered a friend of this community one day.