“Is queerness eternal?” This titular question is a question that is perhaps one of the biggest facing Mormonism today and very close to me personally. I’m ace (if you’re a new reader, repenting lapsed one, or otherwise missed that post in May you can read it here, and again, happy to chat about it if you have questions/concerns/thoughts/whatever) and classify myself under the Queer umbrella. I’m using “queerness” here because I think it is the most inclusive word for the LGBTQIA community and allows for all sorts of identities and individuals to be included in the conversation. It also reflects a fluidity of identity that I think is important and gives individuals a little more flexibility and leeway to express a variety of orientations/feelings/etc. Not to mention the older usage of queer as “weird” or “strange” or “curious” that I dig. And I’m all about reclaiming words that have been used as slurs and making them positive (I am a Mormon, after all). I know not everyone loves the word and so in personal interactions try to be respectful of that.
This question seems key to me because the way we respond to queerness in mortality will shift somewhat depending on whether we believe it is eternal or not. It’s been fairly established recently-ish that homosexuality (and I think, though obviously not necessarily, by extension other varieties of queerness) is not a choice and a somewhat inherent part of some people’s mortal experience. But does this necessarily mean that it is an eternal part of our identity? I’m not sure. It feels as much a part of who I am as any other facet of my identity.
We believe that we existed prior to coming to earth, that some pieces of our identity were formed, that we carried with us some attributes and personality traits. At least, that feels culturally established, I’m not sure if there are clear scriptural or other statements supporting those beliefs. However, we do have the quasi-scriptural “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”, which argues some things about our eternal identity here:
“ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”
I could complicate some of the ideas here, but I think for our purposes today, we can interpret these lines more or less as they are standardly interpreted. Namely that gender is a piece of our identity that was with us before this life, is with us here on earth, and will remain with us after we die (I think this is pretty open for sympathetically responding to trans* individuals, but again, not quite the focus of today). Does this mean that race is an eternal piece of our identity? Sexual orientation? Hair color? Body type? My sense of humor? Taste in movies/food/books/etc.?
I’m not sure what sets something up as an eternal characteristic and what’s just a characteristic. BUT sexual orientation feels eternal to me—that’s not to say that there’s not a fluidity there, but I don’t think that fluidity is going to be more or less than it is here. So take that for what you will. It feels right to me (tastes good to use some of Joseph’s parlance) that sexual orientation is a part of our eternal identity.
All I have to support that is the idea that gender is eternal in some sense and that relationships matter and what I feel about my own identity and what I’ve heard many other queer folk express about themselves. So what does this mean?
This is where things get messy. It seems far more difficult to support the theology of the Church of an exclusively heterosexual heaven, if you embrace eternal, varied sexual orientations. Then not only are you arguing that some people should remain alone and unmarried throughout mortality (which is just a blink of an eye as Alex Boye croons), but that those individuals will remain alone and unmarried throughout eternity (at least unmarried to someone to whom they are sexually attracted). The argument is not just that they should be single throughout this life, but that they should stay that way throughout the eternities—forever separated from a person that they love.
Or in my case, the implication that I will die, have the veil removed, and suddenly have some raging desire for sex is just weird and strange and bizarre. Like doesn’t that seem like a kinda backwards thing to do to someone? “Hey, Conor, let’s not have you feel sexual attraction for your entire mortal experience, which is all about your body and figuring out how all that works, but once you’re dead and don’t have that body anymore, I’ll just give you all that lifetime of missed sexual attraction, ok? That won’t mess with your spirit at all.” Sounds like some extreme, horrific version of puberty.
Not to mention that it feels like I’m broken and missing something and need to be fixed. And none of those are pleasant feelings. And don’t resonate with the spiritual experiences I have had communing with the Divine about being ace. I’ve only felt love and acceptance and an embrace for my better understanding of who I am.
One way out of this mess is believing that there won’t be any sex in Heaven. Like, no one will feel any sort of sexual attraction—not to say that there won’t be love or romance or physical attraction, but that sexual attraction just won’t be a part of the picture because celestial creation is a totally different process and doesn’t require sex. That sounds fine/great to me, but I get that I am probably in a very small minority.
Another is believing that the Church is wrong about some things and that there will be a variety of queer relationships sanctioned by God in the eternities. If queerness is eternal, it seems the only reason this would not be the case is cruelty. Are there any other characteristics that cannot be lived without severe consequences? Regardless, if queerness is eternal we have a lot of work to do in figuring out a theology for these individuals. What is the best an eternally gay man or ace dude can hope for? Eternally being a ministering angel? Be in some sexless, marriage/friendship thing?
I don’t have any answers, but I do have thoughts and feelings. I feel eternally ace, queer forever. And it feels like a violence to me to suggest that I won’t always be this way (tip: probably don’t tell your queer friends that eventually this “trial” or whatever you call it will be taken away and that then they’ll suddenly be straight and happy and all that jazz). It strikes me that most conversations about Queer Mormons depend on answering this question. So let’s chat.