Sunday, March 25, 2012

Testimony

The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus recently made an "It Gets Better" video, with original music ("Testimony") by Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz. The music distinguishes this effort from other such videos, as does its unusually frank treatment of the subject of youth suicide. It's definitely worth watching.



I can relate to the pain portrayed in this video. This was me some 30 years ago. As an adolescent and young adult I had done everything I was supposed to and after my mission found myself at the brink of despair. It’s not sexual frustration or a desire to sin that makes so many young gay Mormons take their own lives. "Testimony" gets close to the reality of the experience.

I look back on that despairing returned missionary with compassion and would tell him that things did indeed get better, unimaginably so. I only wish I could say that it happened with the love and support of my Mormon tribe. It didn't, and that's a shame. The wagons were circled, to use Carol Lynn Pearson's metaphor, but they were circled with me on the outside.

Honestly, it's their loss. : -)

Of course, one would like to think that times have changed in the intervening three decades since my own time of youthful crisis. I've certainly seen a big change in social attitudes of acceptance for sexual minorities in society generally in this period, and I think the attitude of young, well-educated Mormons has changed dramatically. In fact I think we are now at a point where there is a significant divergence of views between these young, educated Mormons and the general leadership of the Church.

I noticed, for example, that the April 2012 edition of the New Era magazine contains a harshly worded article by Boyd K. Packer that calls gay people "the enemy." (This in a magazine meant for readers as young as twelve years old!) Packer's words focus exclusively on sexual acts and deny the compelling effects of sexual orientation (gay or straight) on the dynamics of human pair bonds. His view is out of touch, and it's harmful to gay youth.

Here's a reaction of another blogger to the New Era article:

It’s all a little confusing. And it’s all a little silly. But it’s just religion, right? It’s not really “real.” It doesn’t really matter that much.

Until I think about a 11-year-old boy, old enough to know he’s different than other boys, crying himself to sleep, wondering “who made me?” Convinced, of course, that God wouldn’t have created a perversion. Or of a grown man, doing his best to talk between sobs, telling us how years ago his bishop had promised him that if he married a young woman he was dating, God would lift the burden of being gay. He did–but God didn’t. I try not to think of what it must be like to believe that an intrinsic part of who you are is a “temptation that must be resisted.” I can’t imagine what it must be like to look into a future with no possibility of sanctioned companionship or intimacy. How much do you have to pray before you get calluses on your knees? How much “love the sinner, but hate the sin” can a person take? When does it all become too much?

But it’s just religion. It’s supposed to be simple and neat and tidy. Theology isn’t about complexity or exceptions. It’s about grand statements. It’s about truth with a capital T. So what if things don’t match up perfectly? So what if a few people fall into the cracks?

I put down The New Era. I log into Facebook. The first link I see is to an obituary of a young man.

He was Mormon, and he was gay. And he killed himself yesterday.


Where are the LDS-produced films, training materials for leaders or public service advertisements that deal compassionately with the issues faced by gay youth? It's crickets chirping, folks. What the LDS hierarchy likes to call "local members" are far ahead of the Church itself.

Via: Mormon Mentality

6 comments:

Trev said...

"Crickets chirping," ha ha, that is absolutely right. I can't help but think that *must* be reflective of a lack of unanimity over how to address the issue at the top level of Church governance. Just consider the ambiguity of the phrasing of "official" statements like in "God Loveth His Children": so ambiguous and front- and then back-pedaling that someone could think it's a sign of change and someone else could use it to support his antiquated views of the mutability of homosexuality.

It really is ridiculous that there is such lack of direction here.

C. L. Hanson said...

Wow, that's amazingly beautiful and touching!

J G-W said...

The GMC performance is very powerful... I found myself feeling a bit uncomfortable in the first part, if only because it hits so close to home.

MoHoHawaii said...

Hi Trev,

The point is that when the membership is without consensus on a topic, the messages from the Brethren on that topic must necessarily be unclear and contradictory. A good example is the Church's unbelievably tortured stance on patriarchy.

Hi CLH,

I'm glad you liked it!

Hi J G-W,

I know what you mean about that first part. Those of us-- you, me and others-- who almost didn't make it know what it's like. It's a far too common experience for gay LDS youth. Videos like this can help. If I had seen this when I was young, it would have made a difference.

Andy said...

What is sad in all of this, is that 30 or 35 years ago much less was understood about homosexuality and the church was still hell bent on changing us. Now, so many decades later a young man with so much going for him, is still pulled down to the point he couldn't see his way out. Why can't the church just not say anything? Why not just retire Pres. Packer and those hateful statements that keep the wounds raw.

$wag$wagMormons#hmu said...

The blogger says that it is hard to believe that an essential part of our character is a “temptation that must be resisted.” But isn't that exactly the point? First of all, our character is determined by how we react to our temptations, not the temptations themselves. Second, everyone has temptations of all different forms; that's the point of mortality. It makes sense that we all have temptations deep down that we want to "act on" (forgive me for using this over-used, cliché phrase), but that mortality is for the purpose of setting ourselves aside and having faith in God's plan. I am gay and this is what I believe.