PLEASE NOTE: USGA seeks to create a respectful dialogue that encompasses multiple view points on the topics of faith and sexuality. The views and opinions of the following article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect USGA’s official policy or position.
Far too often in our culture we see different sexualities as a curse. “Alas!” we may say. “Because I am queer, I will never get married, never have kids, never be normal!” (*Dramatic sigh*) All joking aside, I know how painful these sorts of thoughts can be, even when they aren’t true. But following the musical injunction to “count your many blessings” (Hymn #241), I made a list of silver linings for LDS people who experience same-sex attraction and want to remain in good standing with the Church.
#1: More Empathy
I was a judgmental jerk in high school. I constantly remonstrated random classmates for swearing, glared at anyone who said anything about sex, and was convinced that everyone who didn’t fit in perfectly with Mormon cultural standards was going to Hell. I’m surprised I had any friends at all. Then puberty hit and my homosexuality kicked in. Suddenly I was the one who didn’t fit into Mormon culture. My circumstances forced me to reevaluate how I treated others, and I realized that God loves all those people whom I was judging before. And once I got to know them, they turned out to be wonderful, great people. Homosexuality taught me to be more loving in general.
#2: No Pressure to Marry
Don’t get me wrong; I really, really want to get married. But non-straight people are among the few in the Church who get a pass on the “Thou shalt marry as soon as possible” commandment. Elder Oaks said in 2006 that before gay men marry, they should “feel a great attraction for a daughter of God,” and I think the same principle can apply to gay women or those who are asexual. And while we can control our actions, we cannot control our attractions. I would in no way object to marrying a woman I’m attracted to, but as a gay man, it is highly unlikely. So while everyone else’s parents and bishops are constantly nagging them to get on with matrimony, I’m honorably excused.
#3: Fewer Gender Role Constraints
When I was in kindergarten, I loved the TV show Sailor Moon, I liked playing with dolls, and I loved pretending to be a fairy and throw glitter around the house (you know, looking back my parents really should have figured it out a lot sooner). But when I told my classmates of my interests, I was mercilessly teased for liking “girl things.” I learned to hide my feminine self for my own protection. Now that I’m out as gay, I can watch all the chick flicks I want and no one cares. I can openly express love of fashion and cars, romantic movies and sports, animals and historical reconstructions of Indo-European vowel shifting into new languages. Really most gendered interests are societal constructs anyway and shouldn’t bind anyone, but for some reason it is more socially acceptable for gay people to do both masculine and feminine things.
#4: More Time
Again, I would love to be dating, but that isn’t happening much at the moment. As a result I have a lot more time on my hands. I can pour a lot of effort into school without any amorous distractions, babysit for friends and get my parenting fix, volunteer at health clinics, write this blog post, learn biblical Hebrew to enhance my scripture study, and anything else I can think of. In practice I usually just binge watch on Netflix, but hey, I’ve got options. A spouse and children are burdens (wonderful, joyful burdens which I would love to have, but burdens nonetheless), and I’m a lot less encumbered and more flexible without them. I have more time for myself and more time to do good for others.
#5: More Money
I have a friend who spends all his money on dates. Seriously, he is always broke. If I continue single into my career, I’m going to make plenty of money with few expenses. Kids are great, but they can cause quite the financial strain. If I don’t need to pay for my own kids’ expenses, I can donate my money to charities, help my nieces and nephews with their missions and college, and maybe take a vacation to Europe.
#6: Better Friendship with my Spouse
Should I one day find a woman to whom I’m attracted and we get married, chances are we’ll have a very strong relationship. Mixed-orientation marriages are usually begun on friendship rather than passion, which means I’ll be starting out with a very solid foundation. Passion is a wonderful thing, but sometimes it gets in the way of open communication. There have been so many times when a roommate has come home exasperated from a date because of how his girlfriend acted. He’ll usually say something along the lines of “I just don’t get women.” Because my initial reaction is to view women as friends rather than potential love interests, I can usually respond “Quit being a dumb male,” and tell him what went wrong. That’s not to say that heterosexual people can’t communicate well in their marriages, but it does seem to come more naturally to me because I don’t have the added intensity of sexual attraction.
#7: Friends with Married People of the Opposite Sex
Have you ever noticed that once people get married they disappear? They can live right next door, but suddenly you never see them again. This is especially true of friends of the opposite sex; everything becomes awkward because in our heteronormative society, members of the opposite sex are always on guard against scandal. But this isn’t the case if you’re gay. I can be as close as I want to married women because I pose as little sexual threat to them as their visiting teachers. In one case I have a friend who has been hurt on multiple occasions by men to the point where she has a deep mistrust of straight guys. Since I lack the potential for sexual attraction towards her, we’ve been able to become very close. Her friendship means the world to me, and I wouldn’t have it if I weren’t gay.
#8: Better Counselor
I had to go through the process of coming out and coming to terms with my sexuality mostly on my own. I didn’t know where to look for help, and when I did talk to my bishop and parents, they were even more baffled than I was. So by necessity I had to think through all these issues, research what Church leaders had said, and come to my own conclusions. But now I can turn around and help others who go through the same thing. If there are queer kids growing up in my ward, they’ll know at least one person they can speak with. Maybe they’ll find my posts on this blog, along with the many posts and resources of others now available on the internet. There’s now a diverse community of LDS queer people, and we’re not going to let our young brothers and sisters endure what we did.
#9: Nearer, my God, to Thee
The trial of reconciling my sexuality and my faith has brought me closer to God. Before, my obedience was almost mindless; I followed the Prophet, kept the commandments, et cetera, but I had only a passing acquaintance with God. He was kind of like my uncle in Los Angeles who sent me a birthday and Christmas present every year. But, oh, how many are the tear-filled, pleading prayers I exchanged with Him in the last ten years. How many are the times I have clung to the peace He sent like a piece of driftwood in a turbulent sea. I still have so few answers, but I know with certainty now that God loves me.
It’s still hard to be queer and LDS most days, but I’m getting better at it. I hope that one day it won’t be an issue anymore, and that future generations won’t have to go through all the trouble I have. But God has been generous now and blessed me even in difficult circumstances. I hope that this blog has cheered you up, dear Reader. Even if you decide to take the difficult route of staying in the Church while being queer, know that your queerness has value and can contribute to your life and the lives of those you love.