Sunday, September 16

Coming Out and Staying In

I finally read Joshua Johansen's FAIR address on navigating the labyrinth of homosexual desire. Yeah - I know - for someone involved in the gay Mormon world, I'm a bit late to the game.

But his article, combined with recent questions in my own mind, made me wonder about my place in this discussion. Right now, this blog and this aspect of my life run far below the rest of my priorities. I don't spend huge amounts of time thinking engaged in the conversation - this post even came as an afterthought.

But maybe that should be different.

Right now, in the Mormon Moment, the world is also making decisions that affect me and the rest of us who profess faith along with same-sex attraction. And being silent in that conversation means being regarded as nonexistent. Impossible. Immaterial.

And I find myself wondering what would happen if we were able to switch. If, instead of relegating sinners to the back rooms, we openly embraced their stories of coming to the light. If we created places of refuge where men and women could find solace from their temptations and inspiration on how to conquer the natural man. If the Church became a support group for sinners.

Nothing in the doctrine would have to change. In fact, we preach the imperfection of man each week over the pulpit. We would simply put those preachings to practice outside the walls of ecclesiastical counsels.

I wonder if this - and the term I'm using is "Coming Out and Staying In" - wouldn't be far more effective than what we currently do. Coming out - openly admitting your faults. Staying in - openly committing to the path of faith. What if more of us honestly accepted our failings, put ourselves on an open trajectory to being better, and then shared that vision with the world? For those who smoke or drink or want to change their diets, connecting with those around you is essential. For those who want to change in other ways, it is just as important. And I feel like our current methodology - as part of underlying culture - forces people to try to change on their own... without the support of people who could help them fight the battles they face.

I don't know what it will take. But something inside me makes me wonder. What if?


  1. I'm totally with you on this one, in "coming out and staying in" -- but I believe that the Church is already exactly what you desire "a support group for sinners". We just need to do better at setting aside our own self-righteousness, in order to understand that we are all in need of repentance.

    IMHO, if anyone desires to repent, regardless of what one has done, or struggles with, then the Church is a safe haven, and exactly what it was organized to accomplish -- bring individuals to Christ.

    I hope going forward, as we discuss this issue more openly, understanding with better clarity how the Atonement fits into this journey for those with SSA, we will become much better at opening our arms and offering the much needed support. I believe God expects that of all.

    Thanks for all you do.


    1. I agree that the basic function of the Church is perfect... but I feel like culturally we still encourage people to deal with their problems privately - out of the view of other members and thereby outside of their ability to help. An example: I know there have got to be other guys in my ward and stake who live with same-sex attraction. Maybe even some who are on the edge of their faith because of it. And yet, because culture encourages us to share our deepest struggles only with those closest to us, I have no way of helping. Or of even knowing. And had no way of being helped when I needed it most.

      A bishop is someone we can tell and not be culturally affected. He can help expound doctrine, but sometimes I feel like bishops are like medical specialists - they have the answers, but lack the personal context. And when you're going through a life-changing illness, you want to talk with someone who has been there before. Hence why the Church calls senior couples to run support groups for addiction, abuse, and other issues in life.

      But there isn't a support group for most sins. If I'm an adulterer, there's no place to go to find someone who has already made his way out... even though the guy next to me may have fought and won the same battle. If I'm gay and Mormon, the Church encourages me to not label myself - which is then interpreted to tell no one at Church. So, if I want support from people who understand, I have to go outside the Church. Sometimes LDS Family Services has some options, but only in certain places for certain problems. If I'm a member in China, or Cambodia, or even the northern part of Canada, I end up turning somewhere else for answers. And I don't think I should have to go outside...

    2. This is exactly what I've been wondering recently. Despite being attracted to men, I've been able to get married and live a seemingly normal life. But I remember what it was like to grow up as a young gay Mormon, to be a married gay Mormon, and I don't know what I could do to help someone who is in a similar situation. I certainly don't look from the outside like someone who might understand, because I'm still hidden. I still don't feel comfortable enough with church culture to come out myself. I know I'd love to have someone I could talk to, face to face, who understood what it was like. I can imagine that that need is far greater for some, but I don't know how to help.

    3. I wish I could talk with people, but I'm sorry to say that I've never really trusted most of my priesthood leaders to hear out what I wish to say: I'm abnormal in terms of sexual attraction, not really fitting nor desiring to be fit into any box. I want to remain in the church. I just want to talk with someone. I don't need a cure or a solution or a talking-to. As you describe, bishops aren't often the people to go to to just /talk/.

      I also fear that were I to say anything, then my sexual attraction -which I only see as ancillary to my identity- would suddenly become the only thing about me to which people would pay attention. And /that/ I don't want at all.

  2. Gee, I don't know. Sounds like the kind of church I always imagined Jesus would be running...

  3. I know I'm biased here, but I believe the idea of "coming out and staying in" is certain a good place to be in overall sense of well-being, but I believe it's perhaps the only place to be in terms of having an effect on the larger cultural conversation. As I talked about in my "cloud of witnesses" post on NL, I think the culture of the Church will shift more and more as more and more people "come out and stay in." There's a sprinkling of us now, but I believe that will soon turn to a flow.

  4. I love the idea and I think to be effective it would need to be from the top down for it to work and be effective -bold statements from the GA's and 1st presidency! There are so many stigma's to overcome right now and it will take years, but even the little that is happening is a start.

  5. I agree with you that coming out and staying in is effective, but I think for many people the church culture needs to change first or they won't be strong enough to do it. And I don't mean just the culture in relation to homosexuality; in my experience, the church is full of uncharitable people who make it a dangerous place to be vulnerable (or out).

    I don't trust the people in the church to treat me in a Christlike way if they know I'm attracted to men, partly because I'm oversensitive and scared and partly because I've seen too many members be too uncharitable with others' flaws to want to trust them with my own.

    Being out in that environment takes a lot of self certainty and willingness to be hurt, and I think a lot of people just don't have it. But the more strong ones come out and stay in, the easier it will be for the rest. Eventually there'll be a tipping point, and then we'll get Ty Ray's flow.

  6. As a man with SSA I can relate to most of the comments. I have found get strength in PARG. I also have very supportive Bishop & Stake Pres.

  7. I think it depends on the ward too. I grew up in a small branch that was 85% converts. Everyone was very open about who they'd been and what had changed in their lives. I knew that my father had dealt drugs, that our good family friend had been kicked out of his own home for being a drunk, etc. Testimonies were VERY interesting there. The one thing that it helped me learn early on that the atonement operates amazingly in people's life.

  8. That was a frustrating article to read (the FAIR article). Why is there so much bad info out there?

    1. I think that part of it is our culture of silence. Someday, hopefully, we will have enough of the good information to help people understand reality. And I agree.... there is so much that is false in the world. And it makes me want to shout from the rooftops.

  9. @GMG, I hope for good info as well but maybe not all the same info you're looking for. The FAIR article shared a lot of false information about gay people I found incredibly frustrating to read. Sharing good info starts with building bridges between the gay Mormon community and the gay community. The FAIR article was a step in the wrong direction. We want so many of the same things, why fight over the religious aspects?


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