It’s June, which as you probably know is Pride Month, which can be a liberating but also anxiety-inducing time for members of the LGBTQ+ community, particularly those that are also part of a faith community with a tenuous (at best) relationship to their sexual orientation. So, let’s chat a bit about Queer Mormons and Pride and what that means for you, dear reader.
Mormons seem to be remarkably reticent to see the value in Pride (this could be because of the entrenched political conservatism of Mormonism, the theological thorniness surrounding homosexuality, the link many Mormons and others have between Pride and sexual promiscuity, alcohol, drugs, & other “counter-culture” elements, or perhaps it’s a combination of all of these and Ezra Taft Benson’s famous denunciation of pride from the pulpit in General Conference that led to many Mormons even refusing to say that they were “proud of their children” because of the taboo of pride it created). Pride for LGBTQ+ Mormons can be a powerfully positive experience that they don’t find at church—acceptance for and a celebration of their queerness.
I understand the difficulty for many Mormons in extending that acceptance and celebrating their queer brothers’ and sisters’ queerness, but hopefully I can present things in a way that sheds some light on why we must do this and to do less is to deny the wholeness of our queer sisters and brothers. I think I have a useful vantage point here as an ace Mormon, who is married and is straight-passing (meaning my marriage looks like a normal, everyday heterosexual marriage).
Someone’s sexuality is a vital part of their identity and cannot be ignored without ignoring a piece of them. Just as my Mormon-ness influences how I interact with essentially everything, so does my asexuality and being the oldest child and now being married and being born in the 90s. All these pieces of my identity are intertwined and it is impossible to extract my sexuality from who I am and how I interact with the world.
Many LGBTQ+ Mormons feel that that’s exactly what they must do—extract their sexuality from themselves or bury so deep that no one knows but themselves. This is wrong. It’s impossible and incredibly psychologically damaging to repress aspects of your identity—you need to accept who you are and then move forward with what you plan to do. This is true for all of us, not just LGBTQ+ Mormons, but that’s where my focus is today.
This acceptance needs to be a self-acceptance. It does not require coming out publicly or to anyone else, though both were incredibly validating for me as I was striving to accept being ace and what that meant for me. Accepting and embracing your sexuality doesn’t mandate any particular set of behaviors—priests and nuns who choose celibacy likely know about their own sexuality, but have chosen to not engage in sexual relationships.
God made us Queer. I and my fellow Queer Saints are made in the image of God, just like you. To deny me this is to deny my existence—denying the queerness of our sisters and brothers in Christ is to deny them, I’m not me if I’m not queer, just like I’m not me if I’m not Mormon or the oldest sibling or a skinny, white dude or any other piece of my identity. My queerness is a Grace, it was freely given by God, I did not ask for it, but if it is from God then I should celebrate it. We should celebrate it.
What should this celebration look like? That’s an individual choice and different people probably want to be celebrated and accepted in different ways. Something we can all do is to use LGBTQ+ inclusive language at Church, particularly when talking about marriage and families, given the current Church position on same-sex relationships and marriages. We can stop the lie that the Law of Chastity is asking the same thing of our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers as it is of the straight ones. We can admit that we don’t know what God plans for our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers in the eternities. We can stop telling people that they will only be queer until they die because that implicitly tells them that they are better off dead and we need them here with us, however they feel they can belong.
If someone in your ward or family or a friend is out (to you or publicly), talk to them about their LGBTQ+ identity. Not in a prying, invasive way, but it’s weird if you know, but never ever talk about it. They are still the same person, so don’t treat them differently, but bring it up every now and then. If they got a new job, you’d ask them about that and being queer is a much bigger deal than that, so talk about it. Again, different people will want different things, but at least try.
Perhaps the biggest thing that needs to happen for us to fully accept our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers is to recognize that the journey they are on is their own and that only they can receive personal revelation about what God wants them to do. There are a variety of options and those options are all valid and all come with great blessings and severe drawbacks. If you learn about someone’s LGBTQ+ identity, do not tell them you love them but hope they just stay in the Church because you have just made your love conditional on their religious status, which last time I checked was not a part of Christ’s second great commandment to love others as we love ourselves. Love them. Include them. If one of our LGBTQ+ brothers or sisters chooses to leave the Church, LOVE THEM. Talk to them, ask how they’re doing, about dating if they’re in that scene, other aspects of their life, etc. (That We May Be One by Tom Christofferson has some beautiful examples of how to do this.)
Basically, let’s love each other, whatever is happening. You might view someone’s queerness, or the way they are choosing to live because of that as a problem, if that’s the case remember the words of Pres. Thomas S. Monson, “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.”
God loves me.
God loves you.
My queerness is a grace and may God’s grace be with you.