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.”

external

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.”

internal

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.”

possible solutions

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?

Love Is The Stories That Will Be Told

“Once you get to know someone, you’ll love them.” That’s what my friend Sammi says, and she’s right.

Homophobia is a real thing, and it’s not okay. Last weekend, 49 people were killed in a gay bar in Orlando, Florida. And it was really upsetting. So I asked myself, what can I do to make a difference?

Last semester for a journalism research course I did, I interviewed 16 people about various topics related to the LGBT community. What really got to me was the stories of people who had experiences that I’d never had. It’s easy to categorize someone or assume that they are a certain way when we don’t know them, and we don’t know their stories. So I want to share the words of some LGBT individuals with you. Once you get to know them, you’ll love them.

IMG_2199  Laurie:

  • I teach at a community college. I always end up coming out to my classes because a boy committed suicide because his family didn’t accept him. It’s hard for me almost every time. I always fear that someone will judge me or dislike me. It brings up lots of fear of rejection.
  • I didn’t ever say anything or act on it [attraction to women] because it didn’t fit into the [context in which I was raised].
  • I wanted my mom to accept me and my other relatives.
  • When gay marriage was legalized nationally, it had a positive emotional effect on me. It gave me affirmation as a human being. We were so excited to be validated…You feel like you’re validated as a human.
  • I grew up feeling like the way I was wasn’t okay… I felt like I needed to hide. I lived pretending for so long.

IMG_2200  Cate:

  • [In reference to the legalization of gay marriage] It helped with partner benefits. 9/11, for instance, partners getting zero recognition for anything…Now, if I were to be sick, I’m confident they would consult with Laurie. In other states they wouldn’t have.
  • I just started an LGBT group…I work in a fairly open company. They’re still in the closet. But they do not want to come out publicly…We have to BCC them on emails…There’s still trauma about that.
  • We just wanted to make a point [referring to getting married in 2013], and we did. When it happened federally, I was surprised. I didn’t think that would ever happen in my lifetime…It was a lot of joy when it came.

IMG_2203  Caden:

  • I didn’t know anything about the LGBT community because I didn’t want to be connected to the stigma.
  • I felt like I owed it to people to dress femininely.
  • I separated myself on purpose because I didn’t want to be an outsider.

IMG_2206  Gina:

  • I think generally that when people talk about LGBTQ people in general their minds tend to go straight to sex, which is frustrating, obviously. I feel like it’s a form of objectification. I really think that if my attraction to women was just about sex, it wouldn’t be an issue in my life at all. I could happily marry a man if that were the case. I really feel that for me, and for most people, it’s really more about love. More about romantic love and the type of person you relate to in that way and form attachments to.

IMG_2204  Anthony:

  • [Referring to having to resign from his position in the navy in order to keep his credentials that he received from the first Gulf War) I was forced out because of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
  • When I was a kid, I was not out because it was such a hard environment—very homophobic. I couldn’t be out.
  • I had small periods of homelessness because I was underage, and it was hard to find a safe environment because I was gay.

FullSizeRender-3  Terry:

  • [Speaking of a therapy class in which one spouse had same-gender attraction] I saw many gays and lesbians there. They were so hurt and put themselves there in the name of religion…[In reference to the spouses feeling hurt] I wanted to say to them, “Just because your spouse has this same-sex tendency, it doesn’t mean their love for you is any less.”
  • Homosexual is not something that special. We come in different terms, but there are construction workers, bus drivers, the fashionista.
  • We ran into all these judges that were so supportive of it [legalization of gay marriage]. The justice came to our wedding last night. The justice was so nice. She wrote against gay marriage ten years ago. Then she got to know my husband, and she changed.
  • We are all the same. When we die we become bones. You cannot tell—white, black, gay, straight.

I hope that you’ve learned something, and you’ll reach out in love more often than not.

Here’s a video of those who were killed in the Orlando shooting. They are more important than the story of the shooter. Don’t let the shooter have the publicity that he wanted.