Monday, December 10, 2012

An exercise in empathy (guest post from a friend)

The following was written by a friend of mine as a response to the church's new website.

From Esteban (a gay ex-Mormon)

"As a heterosexual, you've never had to even think about it. Because heterosexuality has never been deemed sinful in your life, you simply have always had the freedom to express yourself through touch, feel, affection, and sexual expression with anyone of the opposite sex. You've only had to stop yourself from full sexual realization until you were married, assuming you were actually able to do that. In other words, your sexual orientation was never in play as a possible threat to God, only your possible breach of sexual activity outside of marriage.

If your own desire for women/men was deemed a sin, you might begin to empathize with what it's like to be gay. Without telling yourself the story as to why gays are wrong per God's command to multiply and replenish the earth, imagine for just a moment if your desire right now inside you for women/men was sinful. Not just sinful outside of marriage, but sinful all the time, every minute of your life. Imagine that your deep core gender attraction itself was deemed an abomination.

Let's take this empathy exercise even further: Imagine for a moment that you were told that God only saw homosexual relationships as righteous and worthy. I know, it's hard, just try it for a moment. You wanted to please God, your parents, everyone around you. And you were told you could change your sexual orientation to be homosexual even though you're skeptical and know somehow that it might be impossible. But you know to be saved and to follow God's Plan, you must. And so you launch in to trying to like women/men with a reverent, God-centered mission. You even marry a person of the same sex and everything, but deep down you know you're kidding yourself and you start to want a person of the opposite sex, because let's face it, you're wired that way.

OK, back to your own life. That is never going to be your fight, but would you compare that empathy exercise of being attracted to the wrong gender the same as being addicted to drugs or alcohol? No, of course not, because love isn't a substance like drugs or alcohol. Your sexual attractions are hard-wired and you cannot change that.

Up until a few days ago, the Mormon Church told you that you were NOT born that way. That you were choosing somehow to be homosexual/heterosexual. But look now! The church is saying that you ARE born that way! Woah! That seems like a big change! That seems like it might be the answer to a lot of frustration and angst! So if you are a gay Mormon and you're now born that way, what changes for you?

Besides now being on the side of Lady Gaga, nothing changes for you. But wait! Why not? You were just told that you were born that way! That's freaking awesome, isn't it??? Well, lets examine it a bit closer:

So even IF you're born gay, the church still believes that ACTING on your core, born-with sexual orientation is still sinful. That hasn't changed. So if that hasn't changed, what has? Nothing has changed. You see, telling gay people they're born that way and still maintaining that homosexuality is sinful as an action hasn't changed at all.

Gay Mormons weren't waiting to be told they were born that way, gay Mormons were waiting to be told they're just as in un-sinful, valid, and valuable in God's eyes as heterosexuals are, even if they can't multiply and replenish the earth. You see, your sexual attraction to women/men was never about having babies in the first place, it was about being able to freely touch, feel, express, and fully sexualize your domestic relationship with your chosen partner. That whole "having babies" thing is superfluous to love, to loving the way you need it.

And so sadly, the new website, the new big change really isn't any change at all. When Lady Gaga sings about being born that way, she then goes on to sing about loving that way, too.

And so gay Mormons are just as stuck as they were before. The new big change is just a tragic sadness. It's a fa├žade. It's a new smile on the same old doctrine of pain and suffering. Can gay Mormons now go to church and hold hands with their domestic partners, their husbands, wives, and loving spouses? Can they hold them, kiss them, express to them how much they love them like all the other heterosexual couples God loves unconditionally? No.

As a matter of fact, IF a gay Mormon, whom are all now born that way according to Mormon leadership, actually try to love their partners, dates, spouses like those same Mormon leaders do, they'll be sinning. And not just sin because they're doing it outside of marriage, but because they can NEVER touch, feel, show affection, or have any sexual contact with them ever. Ever as in forever.

And not only that, but the Mormon Church believes that homosexuals will be corrected as part of the resurrection process to become a perfect heterosexual person. So what they're really telling you is to never have a relationship at all because you cannot ever love them eternally, even if you feel like you love someone that strongly. Even if you feel in love, a love as strongly as those Mormon leaders love their spouses.

Because IF you remain a celibate gay Mormon in love in this life with the person you wish to eternally love, your core being will be changed to heterosexual and you will not be able to love them anyway because they still believe homosexuality is a sinful abomination that must be changed.

You are born doomed. Forever doomed now that you're born that way. You see? Nothing has changed at all. Gay Mormons are just as doomed now as they were before this latest big change that hasn't changed a thing."


  1. Okay, let's look at some of my innate desires that are not necessary(eating, sleeping, breathing). Sex is one, touching people in general is one, making people smile, exerting control in at least some form, not being made the fool. These are things that throughout my entire life(for sex, since slightly before puberty 9 or 10ish)With no teachings, these things are just part of who I am without a doubt.

    Sex in my current state is a sin, touching people is frowned upon, exerting control is seen as somewhere between abusive and being a good leader, and the anxiety and obsessiveness contributed to the desire to not be made the fool is what drives my every day life.

    Here's the things though, all of these things combined into one ARE SINS. Things that they can make me want to do are sinful.. IF I ACT UPON THEM. Is my inborn desire to see what it would be like to take someone and completely assert my physical, mental, or sexual will upon them exactly okay? No, but I don't act upon them. These things would make my life feel better. Sincerely and honestly, no consequences whether earthly or celestial I WOULD do these things.

    You tell me to change the world in my head, which honestly is a switch in my brain to step into a new reality. I do it every night. I would live a celibate life because I am very much NOT attracted to men. Seeing as how it has never been a sin, though admittedly in Happy Valley Utah looked down upon to remain single your whole life, I may have happily or unhappily remained that way. I don't know, I can't tell you with complete confidence either way. I can't tell you that if I marry in the temple to a woman whether or not I'll be happy or unhappy.

    Here's where my biggest issue falls though, in the assumption that sex is required to fully realize love. I'm never gonna have sex with God. That's a fact. At this point in life I can say with confidence the greatest love I have ever felt in my life was from my heavenly father. So you say to me, I'll never be as happy because I won't be able to physically show my love. Why is that necessary? IS it nice? Yes. Am I told it's pleasant? By most parties.

    Do I believe I will be a different person after I'm resurrected? Not at all, if you become in this life someone that is so attached to their sexuality, it will go with you. There is nothing magic about the resurrection to make you a different person. God will provide a way for you to be the happiest you can be with who you are.

    I take offense to the fact that you assume god loves anyone conditionally. God may have chosen to give you a hardship, but because one's life is hard does not make him not love you. Job's life was a living hell, did God not love him? I quote scripture because I believe God provided the scripture, the same God follows the same logic and rules.

    I cannot share all of God's plans because I don't know them, I believe you will remain who you are. If you are a person in this life so fixated on your sexuality being an important part of this life then it will remain with you. If you spend this life fixated on being greedy, malicious, kind, giving, humble, or cruel these things will remain a part of you. I think the best way to remain Mormon and homosexual is to find something to love, to support, to improve. Just as if you were straight and Mormon.

    1. It's not "just as if you were straight and Mormon," because you can have a romantic partner and family to join you on that journey. A homosexual Mormon cannot.

      The Book of Alma says that people will not be restored "from a natural to an unnatural state," in the resurrection. However, the official church website strongly implies (without saying outright) that homosexual persons will be given heterosexual attractions in the next life.

      It is not okay to compare consensual sex acts with trying to control another person's life, because the latter overrides that person's consent and the former does not.

      Choosing to allow one person to have a romantic partner and children, and forbidding another from doing so when there's nothing preventing them physically or emotionally, is indistinguishable from "conditional love." Your choosing to take offense at a person expressing that opinion, after they described the hurt which that "love" has caused them, is extremely selfish and un-classy.

      Your comment is meandering and incoherent, and offensive in the way that it mocks a person who's hurting and trivializes their pain. You are grasping at straws (while trying to sound authoritative) to justify a prejudice you've rarely had challenged, especially by one of the persons it hurts. You should listen to more people's stories before writing anything else in response.

    2. Families are not dependent upon romantic relationships, the family I have leaned most on during stretches of my life are not those I'm related to by blood, are not those that I have romantic interests in or have ever had romantic interests in. I apologize for coming off as callous when I say "Just as if you were straight and Mormon" That is what I meant.

      I'm incredibly confused by your statement: "Allowing one person to have a romantic partner and children, and forbidding another from doing so when there's nothing preventing them physically or emotionally, is indistinguishable from 'conditional love.'" Forbidding something from your child so that they can learn something, is that conditional love? Or does the mean we as adults have learned things in our lives and don't want children to make mistakes? I admit, they are different circumstances, but it was the best analogy I could think of. The mere act of forbidding does not define love in any way. It is true though, that I chose the wrong word using the word "offense" I hurt and feel sorrow for you because you feel that way.

      Here's the thing, I know God loves you, Esteban and I the same. If I were an abusive person, he would love me. If I were homosexual, he would love me. If I were a condescending asshole that thinks he knows everything, he would love me. There is no condition on God's love. If I appear "selfish or un-classy," it is because I see no fathomable way to comprehend God's love as conditional. Post life rewards ARE conditional, that's true; never his love though.

    3. Continued from earlier post
      I can say I feel for Esteban, and throughout my life I will try and love him no matter who he is. How he feels, whether his opinions are the complete opposite of mine or whether we somehow magically fall in line in all aspects of life. Why would it matter if I feel that he is married with a man or a woman? If he is a good person, I would want him in my life; if he is not a good person I would respectfully avoid him.

      I truly do apologize if I appeared to be mocking or to be trivializing. I did not mean to be, I did write some out of anger at Jen's previous post, I did write out of anxiety, I was not in the clearest state of mind. I apologize. I truly DO seek understanding. I am confused why sex has so much importance to be truly happy in this life. In my mind there is much emphasis being placed on sexual activities, and I don't understand. I'll be honest, maybe it's because I'm a virgin, it's possible. I say these things though, because despite the fact that I am a single virgin I DO hold hands with other men because I love them. I hold hands with my female friends because I love them. I hug my family, I do seek physical comfort but I have no romantic partner and yet I still have my sources. If I had a close personal friend that was gay and he just needed comfort I would hold him. There is love to be found whether or not it's romantic or sexual. These are where my confusions come from. I admit, my life is blessed with incredible people who love me deeply. I understand that this is probably much more rare than I realize.

      Once again, I I apologize if I demeaned, I was in a negative place when I wrote this. I apologize for causing pain, I recognize that people need love, it pains me for you to feel that God's love is conditional because I know it's not. Know that I will do what is in my power for you to feel loved. I ask patience because I don't know everything, despite that fact that I come off like I do. I ask you to recognize that we are all human, we have the same innate desires and fears. Know that the people facing you from the other side of the fence fear as you do. Desire the things you desire for yourself. Find common grounds to and we can come together slowly rather than viciously attack each other. Once again I feel it is needed for me to apologize because I feel I did attack when I know that is not what is needed nor what I truly wanted or meant to do. In my life I strive to understand, but I am not perfect. I hope that I can have the patience that I need to come to understand, and I apologize for my outburst when I was in a state of anger.

    4. "I am confused why sex has so much importance to be truly happy in this life."

      That is because you weren't told you have to completely avoid sex, for your whole life, in order to get the same eternal reward your parents and siblings will get in addition to sex and family relationships. You weren't told that if you ever come home with a partner you love, it will the last time you see your family. You weren't asked to leave a place you hold sacred because your love makes you "unworthy," while others' are good and natural. And you weren't kicked out on the street at 18 just for saying that you want to marry a woman.

      It's not just "sex." It's having the family your parents promised you since you were born. It's having to choose between that, and the family and church you were born with, and being torn apart either way. It's the height of self-righteousness and arrogance for you to dismiss this as all about "sex," as though that weren't important itself. And if your god has "unconditional love" for both you and gay people who kill themselves, you have no right to blame them for not seeing that. All you do is show that you've closed your ears that you may not hear, and your eyes that you may not see, and your heart that you may not understand.

      Because of that, I am aware that you don't know everything. makes it clear that your church doesn't claim to know everything. I am also aware that you've chosen to take offense, and lecture from a place of ignorance, and attack people who are hurting and not having basic sexual, social, romantic, and familial needs met, rather than ask what it is you don't know. There are people literally dying to tell you, and it behooves you to shut up and sit down and listen before another one does.

      Finally, I am not human, and I did not say I was an adult. It is speciesist and ageist for you to assume that I am either just because I can communicate with you in a way you can understand.

    5. Incidentally, I am also a virgin, and the significant other I live with is asexual. You don't have to have had a sexual encounter with another person to see how people going through what I (and they) have described are in pain. And your lack of sexual experience is not an excuse for choosing to belittle people who are hurting.

    6. I'm sorry that your family has treated you that way. Once again, I only seek to understand and am not looking to cause pain and hurt nor am I seeking to belittle or demean your life experiences. I apologize for the misunderstanding of your words that to me implied sex as an important part of it. That was clearly a misunderstanding on your part.

      You're right though, I have not ever been explicitly told that were I to come home with a partner that I love that I would not be accepted in my house. I have however had situations in my life where I completely expected to me thrown out of my house and my family's lives just because of a belief, something that I feel is and I need to continue to be a part of me. I'm terribly sorry that you were thrown out(which it seems you are implying) I hope you were strong enough on your own or that you had people who loved you outside of your family to help take care of you until you were strong enough.

      You're right, the news that you won't have the family that you feel you've been promised is a terrible one, you're not the only people to have that experience. My brother was born sterile he wasn't given the family he felt he was promised. He did not have to make the choice between church and family, but nevertheless, does he not feel pain and anger?

      I cannot honestly say whether or not sex is important; I do know though that I have had incredible relationships in my life that have had nothing to do with sex. I know that love can be felt without sex or even physical contact. Does a mere hug from someone I care about do amazing things for me? Of course it does; but I have had incredible relationships with zero physical contact so you talk of it's importance and dismiss me for saying it's not important. This is why I feel the way I do. Do not attack me for feeling differently than you.

      I did not mean to place any blame on anyone. I am sorry that anybody that chooses to take their life has not felt the love of those around them. I have had only one experience of someone I know committing suicide, and that was the hardest thing for me because I took it as a failure on my part. So I say, so that you may finally understand. I seek to know what is you have to say, I seek to understand your life so I can see it from your perspective. I ask you to take a piece of your own wisdom and listen to those who think differently than you. You do not read what I say, you pick through it and attack me for specific words without trying to understand that I am trying to love and understand you.

      Okay, then I assume that you are a fox(based upon your name and the link you provided me). But do we not have common desires? From your posts I assume that you seek comfort and love. I assume you have fears of losing those you love. I assume that you speak of stories as an 18 year old and that you live in this society that you would in the very least be accepted as an adult whether or not you choose to assume that role. It appeared to me that you were, so take it as a compliment.

    7. Justin, you are lecturing a person who is hurting terribly, on the grounds that she needs to accept the people who are hurting her.

      You have confused the feeling of love with the act of actually loving, you want full credit for the former without having to do the latter, and you want to "understand" so that you can tell me to accept that what I dream of is impossible. That it doesn't matter how many people have married their partners, changed their genders, or otherwise found happiness and fulfillment, because I'm not supposed to do any of that and it just has to be that way and you and your church don't even have to explain why. You can even admit you don't know why, and that doesn't change what I'm supposed to do.

      All the burden is on me to be a person you approve of, no matter how much it hurts. You don't have to do anything except say how much you "love" me.

      You are a terrible, terrible person, and proof that being human doesn't make one self-aware. May God have mercy on your soul.

    8. Taryn - I understand you are angry and hurting, and personal attacks are not okay here. Calling someone a terrible person is a personal attack. Please don't.

    9. Here's the deal, I won't take your abuse of me. I do mean the best for you, I hope you DO find happiness. Just because you're hurting does not mean you give you the right to attack. I am done, I wish you the best in this life and any that follow after it. Do what it is that you need to do to have happiness in this life. If it is cursing my name on a daily basis because you feel I'm a terrible person, do it.

      I have never thought to imply that you need my approval, if you feel that you do need my approval then know you have it.

      I am done because everything I say will hurt you, and I'm sorry. I wish you well, I hope you find happiness in your life.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story, Esteban, and for pointing out the obvious.

  3. Because this is still quite a raw experience for me, I find it difficult to keep my emotions in check when I read all this.

    But I guess I just want to say that I don't think Justin is a horrible person. But the things he said were extremely emotionally triggering for me. I don't wish to speak for Taryan Fox, but I get the impression they were extremely triggering for her too.

    I've sacrificed way too much of my life, too much of my happiness, too much of myself, because I was in a place where my value, my feelings, the very nature of who I was, was constantly, questioned and then subsequently dismissed with prejudice. And then whatever I experienced as real for me was blasted, torn down, and labeled as sin, evil, abomination, etc. ad nauseam. Suicide is a very real option when it gets to that point.

    I'm very sensitive to people who, even with good intent, think they can really truly know me and know what's in my heart. And with that, I resent people who believe they have any right to tell me how I should be, how I should think, how I should love. But, I now try to reserve that resentment for the truly horrible people out there.

    In all honestly here, had I read Justin's words a few years ago, I would have said much more horrible things toward Justin than Taryan did. But I'm in a slightly better space now so I only reserve those feelings towards people who are truly willfully trying to harm me. Yes, some of them are still leaders of the LDS church, but most them are not Mormons.

    Justin, just be aware that many of the things you're trying to understand are the very things that have been used to bludgeon us into nonexistence. There just isn't an easy way to have these discussions for anyone.

    1. Thank you, TGD. I'm try to respect that, and sometimes I fail, Taryn certainly feels I did fail. I know what it feels like for your realities' and visions and stories of your life to be torn down and beaten into submission. I guess the triggering thing for me is that I'm scared and feeling trivialized for my hardships. Jen often writes about why she's so passionate about LBGT issues because she wants people to realize they're good, no one is better...yet, I read things that people write and while I feel for them and attempt my best at empathizing there's a part of me that feels like people in all aspects of life from LBGT rights, to feminism movements, to Mormon leadership are all trying to prove their better when I just want everyone to shut up and say we're all good in our own way. We're all special and we all need to be loved. So once again, I apologize that at times I did come off like a jerk, which is someone I don't want to be. So, with patience maybe I can become a person that can truly know you, I'm not there now but know that's something I want because the way my brain works the best way to show love is to show understanding.

      I don't seek to control anyone in how they should live their lives and if I came off as telling you what to do, I apologize. Frankly, my wish for the world is for everyone to find common ground, to love without being a slave to that love. I hope that made sense.

      Also, thank you. I'm terrible at knowing boundaries and where it's acceptable for me to step. My brain works in a sense of all in or all out, so I appreciate you're assistance in helping me figure it out. I'm glad that you're learning in your life to live your own life and love that life(This is the impression that I get). I wish you the best in your life.

      And in a journey for more understanding. Can you clarify you're last paragraph? I do not understand how they have been "used to bludgeon us into nonexistance." I'm sure it is just ignorance on my part, both in I'm probably posting this too late at night and ignorance on history of this subject; but please, if you can, teach me, clarify?

    2. It's an over all statement about the nature our experiences. All through our history, whether it be secular or religious, homosexuality has been debated, dissected, misconstrue, distorted, and turned on it's head. It's a subject that for the most part, society has just wished would go away. And when you add to that, gender dysphoria, and how that and sexual orientation are confused with each other, matters just get ridiculous.

      When negative attitudes prevail about something so innate and important to ones own nature, it stands as an attempt to crush it into nonexistence. Because we turn that social attitude inward which festers into self-hate. We attempt to annihilate the parts we hate, killing ourselves in the process because the two are inseparable. That is just how the process works but this practice of this "bludgeoning", goes back a long way.

      If you're into reading long dry academic history books, there is an excellent book called "Homophobia a history" by Byrne Fone ISBN 0-312-42030-7, which really puts into perspective just how long and to what extent humans have not been dealing well with homosexuality.