I like to blame the fact that I avoid conflict on the fact I am from Canada. I mean we waited 100 years to ask to become a country, and even then it was basically like we moved out of our parents house and into the house right next door. Whatever the reason, I don’t like conflict. I hate Facebook arguments. As a result, I tend to delete people instead of engaging in a debate. The hide button is a wonderful invention. Since the Supreme Court decision on Friday, I have said a quiet goodbye to many efy and girls camp acquaintances. However, there are people who I am too close with to delete or hide. And too many people saying things to ignore them all. But I still hate conflict, so I have written a list of things I would say to them were I born south of the border.
- Your religious freedoms aren’t being threatened. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Canada for 10 years. It is legal in more that 15 other countries. Many of which (including Canada) have Temples and far weaker protections for religious freedom. And yet, not once has the LDS church been sued, much less forced, to perform a same-sex marriage. It is not going to happen. If it were even a possibility the church would change its policies to only perform religious and not civil sealings in temples, as they have done in South America and Europe. But still, it is not a possibility.
- Being called homophobic is not the same as being called a slur. As a queer Mormon, I have at different times felt attacked for my religious beliefs and my sexuality. And while neither is fun, they are not comparable. I promise you it is not the same. Remember that you can control and change whether you offend someone, but sexuality is not a choice. If someone calls you out for offending them, considered the oft cited talk, and don’t choose to be offended. Instead, take the time to consider why that person was hurt by your remarks.
- If you aren’t planning on entering a same-sex marriage, don’t experience same-sex attraction, and you aren’t being forced to perform one (see #1), consider why you feel the need to share your opinion on this topic. There are a lot of political issues, or things common in society that are rarely ever discussed by Mormons despite being against doctrine. I understand you might feel like you need to be as loud as the voices celebrating the SCOTUS decision. Maybe you hope to keep someone from choosing a path you feel is wrong. Or maybe you feel the need to make sure that people know where you stand. Here is the thing though. I can promise you, as a queer Mormon at BYU, I know where you stand. I have sat through the same conference talks, the same lessons on the Proclamation to the World, the same Sunday school discussions. If I know you are straight and Mormon, I am going to assume your beliefs echo the ones I have been taught my whole life. Using the very problematic phrase, I know you hate the sin, but what I don’t know is if you love the sinner. Queer people know the church’s stance, and most likely know you support it. What they need to know is whether you support them.
- Saying you love us, and that you don’t mean to offend, isn’t enough. So many of the posts that have bothered me the most begin with a phrase like, “I hope all my friends who struggle with same-sex attraction know that I love them.” If the only time you ever talk about homosexuality or LGBTQ issues is arguing against same-sex marriage then I am going to guess that those friends don’t feel loved by you. I am not saying that you can’t affirm the LDS position on marriage and show love to queer saints, I am saying that it is going to take a little more work. Here’s what you can do:
- Read our stories. If all of your “research” on the question of marriage equality comes from straight white men, and that one article by a gay man who opposes same-sex marriage, then I suggest reading some more. Read stories of hope of faithful same-sex attracted Mormons living the church commandments in Northstar. Read the heartbreaking letter of a Gay Mormon who was excommunicated for marrying the love of his life. Learn from organizations like USGA and Affirmation, about the wonderful diversity of experiences, beliefs, and identities, within the queer Mormon community and the struggles and triumphs they have. The internet makes reading these stories so easy. Listen before you talk, learn before you try to teach.
- Educate yourselves on other issues. Believe it or not, marriage equality is not the only goal of the LGBT movement. If you feel like you are unable to support that cause consider others you could. Many states do not protect individuals from discrimination in housing or employment based on their sexuality. This contributes to high rates of homelessness in LGBT youth. Depression and suicide are major problems with queer LDS youth and adults–These are things we can agree on. These are ways you can show your love for same-sex attracted brothers and sisters.
- Be empathetic. Consider that no matter how long you have thought about this issue, queer Mormons have thought about it more. Think about what matters most to you, an integral part of your identity, your religion maybe, or maybe your family heritage. Now think about a person you love. Consider that maybe how you feel about those things, the people you love and the identity you claim for yourself, is how queer individuals feel about their sexuality and the ones they love. It is not a temptation or an affliction. Being queer has taught me about love and service, it has helped me understand and learn from the struggles of others. It has made me more Christ like and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Don’t suggest we won’t feel this way in the next life. Don’t call it a struggle. When you do that you are attacking an integral part of a person’s identify. Try and understand that and remember the things you love and care about as you discuss this complicated topic.
I might not know how to engage in Facebook debates, but I do know that the way this issue is being talked about hurts me and people I care about. I also know that that is not the goal of the LDS faith or its members. I know that despite the sometimes impossibly wide gulf between those celebrating and those mourning this Supreme Court decision, we are a lot more similar than we are different (just like Canada and the United States) and we are all trying our best (just like the Canadian Women’s soccer team). Even if this decision means that the political relevance of the same-sex marriage debate is drawing to a close, this is a conversation we need to keep having, and we need to get better at having it. For the strength of our future queer youth.