Mormon Culture: “Mormons and Gays” to “Mormon and Gay”
What’s the difference between saying “Mormons and Gays” and “Mormon and Gay”? Actually, quite a lot. It’s a shift from “us” and “them” language to “us” language.
In 2012, the LDS church launched a website called Mormons and Gays (this link will take you to the old website). In October 2016, the LDS Church changed their site to Mormon and Gay. An article from the Mormon Newsroom says, “The new appellation, ‘Mormon and Gay,’ reflects the reality that a person doesn’t need to choose between these two identities — one can, in fact, be gay and live faithful to the teachings of Christ.”
This is a mentality that has changed over time. Back in the day, people used to hear that someone was gay, and that person’s membership status would be reevaluated. But today, the cultural meaning of the term “gay” is different. The term “gay” is a sexual orientation term.
Here’s what the current website says about the terminology:
“Same-sex attraction (SSA) refers to emotional, physical, romantic, or sexual attraction to a person of the same gender. If you experience same-sex attraction, you may or may not choose to use a sexual orientation label to describe yourself. Either way, same-sex attraction is a technical term describing the experience without imposing a label. This website uses this term to be inclusive of people who are not comfortable using a label, not to deny the existence of a gay, lesbian, or bisexual identity.”
We can see that the language is shifting. And Elder Holland in the October 2015 session of General Conference talked about a young man with same-sex attraction.
If you are a member of the church, and probably if you’re not a member of church, you probably know there’s still a stigma associated with being LGBTQ+ and being Mormon.
Sociologist Ryan Cragun said the following are stigmatized in the church: being gender queer (the idea that people aren’t just female/feminine or male/masculine), being lesbian/gay/bisexual, advocating gender equality in the LDS church.
He said he thinks that the church has changed the way they talk about gays because of a “combination of internal and external pressures.”
How society talks about gays has changed over time. Cragun said “gays were heavily criticized and demonized” in the 1950s, but that has since changed and “being gay/lesbian has become normalized outside the church,” which he said has “led to external pressure for the Church leaders to tone down their rhetoric against gays and lesbians.”
Cragun said nowadays, many members have family who are gay, which is contributing to the change in the ways people talk about gays. “It is much harder to be critical and to demonize family than it is anonymous others,” Cragun said. Because there is “increased contact,” Cragun said it is “forcing many Mormons to reconsider their prejudices.”
educate yourself and stop judging
I’ve grown up with some close family friends who are LGBTQ+, which has often made me question a lot of what people in the church say regarding LBGTQ+ issues. I remember people saying that people aren’t really gay, that they pretend. And since I’ve talked to people about their experiences being LGBTQ+, I’ve realized that I have not had the experiences that they’ve had and there are things I won’t be able to understand. So my first piece of advice is that you should talk to someone who’s LGBTQ+ before you decide to judge them.
Cragun also said it’s important for people to learn about what it means to be LGBTQ+ so they can have an understanding of how common gender and sexual minorities are.
put yourself in their shoes and love them
When you talk to people who identify as LGBTQ+ and hear their stories, really listen. But then put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself how they feel to be Mormon and gay. Have compassion and love people.
I can’t begin to understand what people who identify as LGBTQ+ in the church feel or go through. But what I do know is that I love them for the wonderful people they are.
questions to consider
- Have you ever talked to an LGBTQ+ individual about their experience being LGBTQ+ and coming out?
- Have you ever imagined what it would be like to feel like your religion is at odds with automatics feelings you have?
- Have you ever imagined what it would feel like to not be able to feel true to yourself?
- Do you judge other people for being LGBTQ+? Do you like it when people judge you?