Showing posts with label Mormons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mormons. Show all posts

May 14, 2018

Being A Mormon I Elected to be But Being Gay was Elected for Me







This story is part of a series called Craigslist Confessional. Writer Helena Bala started meeting people via Craigslist in 2014 and has been documenting their stories ever since. Each story is written as it was told to her. Bala says that by listening to their stories, she hopes to bear witness to her subjects’ lives, providing them with an outlet, a judgment-free ear, and a sense of catharsis. By sharing them, she hopes to facilitate acceptance and understanding of issues that are seldom publicly discussed, at the risk of fear, stigma, and ostracism. To share your story with Helena, email her at craigslistconfessionalqz@gmail.com. Read more here. Names and locations have been changed to protect her subjects’ anonymity. 
Gordon, 40s  
We were in his father’s tool shed, in the backyard. The door was closed. I was probably 6. He was 9 or 10. We’d been doing this for a while—a few months, maybe almost a year.
My mom came in, and then his mom, and I remember a lot of commotion and shouting as they jumped on us and pulled us apart. My mom rushed me back home and she told my dad. I don’t know how he took it, but I was never allowed to go back and my friendship ended. I had no idea that what I was doing—and whom I was doing it with—was a problem. It wasn’t until I witnessed my mother’s reaction, and then it was impressed upon me by my religion—the Mormon faith—that this was a sin, an abomination, that I realized I had done something bad and that I should be ashamed of myself.
I was so traumatized by what happened that I didn’t do anything again until I was about 11 or 12. This time, it was with another childhood friend and it brought my sexuality back to the forefront. At age fourteen, I lost my virginity; I was in a steady sexual relationship with him for two years, and all of these experiences, all together, were positive reinforcements that I was, in fact, gay. But counteracting this period of self-exploration was also a tremendous amount of guilt, shame, and remorse. I was often in tears because I couldn’t understand my feelings and to a certain extent, because homosexuality was shunned in the Church and in our community, I felt like I was the only one experiencing them. I was too petrified to talk to anyone else.
In my experience, the Mormon Church has a really effective way of reinforcing their core beliefs. Starting at age twelve, I had to sit in front of a Church authority figure we called “the Bishop” and he would ask me a list of questions. I remember he asked me if I had impure thoughts and if I masturbated. And I had to tell him the things I’d done and the things I’d thought and I remember being so worried that he’d tell my parents or other members of the Church, and so I learned to lie to his face.
At age 19, I went on a two-year Church mission. I was in constant fear of acting out my feelings and the consequences that would follow, so I stayed completely celibate. I had thought that because I was “good,” that I would be “normal” when I got back. In an attempt to cure myself—I had read online that there were people who could do this—I contacted a therapist. Thankfully, she basically said—“Look, this is who you are. There’s nothing wrong with you. You need to start learning to accept yourself.”
It was a long road to acceptance. When I felt ready to tell my family, my father tragically and unexpectedly passed away. As the oldest of the kids, I was suddenly thrust into this position of having to be the “man of the house.” It just didn’t feel like a good time to tell everyone.
Three years after his death, I came out to my sister. She was very kind and accepting, and she helped me tell the rest of the family. My mother cried. I have close to 100 cousins alone on my dad’s side of the family. None of them talks to me anymore. But I have a lot of family who cares for me and whose opinion of me hasn’t changed. I think my father would have been one of them—so I feel a lot of sadness that I never got to tell him.
This past November, I married a wonderful man. If there’s an aspect of my Mormon religion that has stuck with me, it’s the importance of family—and I look forward to building one with him. I am lucky in many ways because I made it through the hard times, but I know there are a lot of kids out there who are struggling and who think they are alone. I remember being them, and I remember how much I needed someone to tell me that there was nothing wrong with me—that I was not a sin, or an abomination, or a shameful person—and so I guess I just want them to know that it will be okay.
Quartz

February 5, 2018

Dan Reynolds Critical of a Church With a Scary Number of Teenage Suicides



Dan Reynolds addresses the crowd at the 2017 LoveLoud Festival in Orem, Utah. The Imagine Dragons frontman helped organize the event to benefit LGBTQ rights organizations.
Courtesy of HBO
Dan Reynolds is known to millions of fans around the world as the lead singer of the popular band, Imagine Dragons, because of hits like "Radioactive," "Thunder," and last year's chart-topper, "Believer."
The spiritual questions at the core of "Believer" are unmistakable, but also deeply personal. Now, though, Reynolds has taken those questions to new, more public terrain — the treatment of LGBTQ members of the church of Reynold's upbringing, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon Church.
Reynolds wrestles with the church's stance on same-sex relationships in a new documentary, also called Believer. It recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, which wrapped up last weekend in Park City, Utah. The documentary follows Reynolds' journey, from Mormon missionary to international rock star to LGBTQ advocate. 
Reynolds spoke with NPR's Michel Martin about growing up Mormon, how his view of the church has evolved and why he decided to become an advocate for Mormon LGBTQ youth. 

 Interview Highlights
On how he began to question the Mormon Church's stance on same-sex relationships 
When I was 18, I applied to go to BYU like my six brothers ahead of me — I have eight boys and one girl in my family. All of them went on Mormon missions, all of them went to BYU, and I was the first one in my family who was really on the brink of not getting into BYU. My grades weren't quite as good as my brothers' so I did a lot of after school and I got in by the skin of my teeth.
Then, one week before I was supposed to go, I met with a bishop and told him I had sex with my girlfriend of four years, and got kicked out of BYU — and that was a trigger point in my life. It was the first time that I kind of spiraled into depression. I was told that I had to stay home and all my friends went off to college and my roommate had to find someone else and I felt like a whole community was judging me.
I also felt like God saw me as this dirty kid who was sinful. And I think that was the first time that I started to think, you know, something's not right about this — telling a child that something that is innate, that is natural, that is beautiful, is sinful. And that was really destructive to me, and it's taken me years to see that and a lot of therapy and that's a small level of what LGBT Mormons go through — which is feeling guilt or shame about something that is innate, that should be celebrated, that is their sexuality, that is unchangeable.
Now that I've done the research and seen the suicide rate in Utah being the number one reason of death among teenagers, and LGBT youth are eight times more likely to take their lives if they're not accepted in their home or community, it's kind of been bubbling up for a long time for me. 
On putting together the LoveLoud concert to support the LGBTQ community
You know, I think the first knee-jerk reaction that I hear from most people that are not raised within religion or got out of religion, they say, 'Well, if it's such a dangerous place, leave religion. Leave Mormonism.' Or, 'Just tell these kids to leave Mormonism.' But it's not that simple because you're actually putting kids in a more dangerous position, a lot of times. If you just tell them, 'Hey, leave Mormonism' that could be leaving their home — getting kicked out of their home and putting them in, you know, a place of even higher chance of suicide, depression, anxiety and so, it's not that simple.
The question is how do we provide a safer place for them within the walls of religion until they get to a point where they can make a decision that's safe for them; you know, to either stay within their religious upbringing or leave. And so that's what LoveLoud Festival is about, is bridging the gap between religious communities — specifically Mormonism — and the LGBTQ community. But also, we wanted to do it right in Utah, right next to the church, right next to BYU, which is where I got kicked out of college so that the church has to see this.
On the backlash, he's received after the film 
You know, I had this conversation with my wife before we really stepped into this journey and we both kind of got to this point where we said, you know what, enough is enough and we have to follow our truth and follow our heart. You know, I've spent a lifetime trying not to offend people — that's one thing that Mormons are really good at is smiling and shaking your hand and doing everything they can to not offend you. And I have gotten to this point in life where I don't want to live that way anymore.
At the end of the day there are going to be people who look at this and say, "You're not Mormon enough," and then there are going to be people on the other side that are going to say, "You're not coming down hard enough on the Mormon church" and "You should leave," so I'm kind of riding this middle ground that I know is going to be offensive to people. All I can do is just be myself and follow my heart, and this is my path. 
On his family's reaction 
That's been the hard part. If I were, to be honest with you, the comments, all those things, I can let those things go. I've been in a band for years now that some people love and some people love to hate, I'm used to letting those things slide. But my family — that's hard. And my whole family is super Orthodox Mormon. And so none of them are particularly happy with me going down this road.
I sat down with my family member, who I'm not going to name, but they, you know, they said to me, "What if you get to Heaven and God says, 'Look at all these people you led astray and you made it sound like it was OK to be gay, and that's sinful.' " And so we obviously have pretty big ideological differences and theological differences at this point but, you know, my mom and dad came to the premiere and that meant a lot to me.
It's been a strange journey and me kind of try to put the family stuff out of sight and mind. The family is everything to me, and so having kind of a strained relationship with my family in this way is definitely the hardest part.
NPR's Isabel Dobrin produced this story for the web.

January 7, 2015

“My Husband’s Not Gay” is Causing Uproar (82K signatures against it)




TLC husband not gay
As of Tuesday afternoon a petition calling for the cancellation of the special had gotten over 82,000 signatures.

TLC's upcoming one-hour special "My Husband's Not Gay" has caused an uproar before it has even aired.

The special -- which spotlights a group of married Mormon men who are attracted to other men but don't identify as gay -- has caused outrage from organizations like GLAAD who find the themes of the show to be dangerous.  
"This show is downright irresponsible," said GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement. "No one can change who they love, and, more importantly, no one should have to." 
The cable network has responded to the criticism surrounding the special saying that it follows TLC's tradition of telling fascinating and true life stories. 
"TLC has long shared compelling stories about real people and different ways of life, without judgment," the network said in a statement. "The individuals featured in this one-hour special reveal the decisions they have made, and speak only for themselves." 
A Change.org petition has also been started that asks for TLC to cancel the special before it ever hits the airwaves. 
As of Tuesday afternoon the petition had over 82,000 signatures. 
"TLC is presenting victims' lives as entertainment, while sending the message that being gay is something that can and ought to be changed," the petition reads. "This message is harmful to both LGBT people and communities of faith." 
On Tuesday's "Good Morning America," host Robin Roberts (who in 2013 publicly acknowledged that she was gay) also spoke out about the show.
"To even give the idea that it is a choice can be very dangerous," Roberts said. "Especially for young people who are dealing with their sexuality and trying to figure things out." 
“My Husband's Not Gay" is scheduled to air January 11 on TLC.  
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) 

October 8, 2014

Church of JC of Latter Day Saints Says Gay Marriage is Settled Law


                                                                            

Utah’s predominant religion, which has opposed same-sex marriage for decades, now acknowledges the issue is largely settled.
“As far as the civil law is concerned," The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Monday afternoon, "the courts have spoken."
Earlier in the day, the U.S. Supreme Court said it would not take up Utah and other states’ appeals to reinstate their bans on gay marriage.
Some faiths, most notably the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, are not so sure the legal battle is over, while others, supportive of gay marriage, are hoping it is.
The justices’ decision doesn’t do anything, Bishop John C. Wester said in an interview. "It is just keeping us in the same relative position. We don’t know what is going to happen in the future."
Wester, leader of the state’s 300,000 Catholics, is "not a legal expert," he said, "but I don’t see this as a permanent solution."
To Catholics, marriage is "a sacred, sacramental covenant, permanent and open to procreation," he added. "There is no other relationship like it — it’s unique. The state seeking to change that definition is not a good thing for society at large. We respect others’ right to disagree, but we feel we have a right and responsibility to say what we believe marriage is."
The Rev. Jim Harris, pastor of Calvary Chapel in Murray, also wished the high court would have heard the case.
"I would like to have a decision one way or the other," Harris said. "Our church opposes gay marriage. For us, marriage is between a man and a woman. We believe that is a Bible stance. Gays have plenty of benefits through civil unions."
Whether permanent or temporary, the "succession of federal court decisions in recent months, culminating in today’s announcement by the Supreme Court, will have no effect on the doctrinal position or practices of [the LDS Church], which is that only marriage between a man and a woman is acceptable to God," the Salt Lake City-based faith stated on its website. “In prizing freedom of conscience and constitutional guarantees of the free exercise of religion, we will continue to teach that standard and uphold it in our religious practices." The LDS news release also encouraged Mormons "to be persons of goodwill toward all, rejecting persecution of any kind based on race, ethnicity, religious belief or nonbelief, and differences in sexual orientation."
That sentiment echoed one offered this past weekend by LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks during the faith’s General Conference.
"When our positions do not prevail," Oaks said Saturday, "we should accept unfavorable results graciously, and practice civility with our adversaries."
Several other religious and civic figures pointed to Oaks’ remarks as evidence of a welcome sea change in Mormon attitudes and as an appropriate response to Monday’s events.
The Rev. Patty Willis, pastor of the South Valley Unitarian Universalist Society in Cottonwood Heights, cheered the decision as "a modern-day miracle."
The "universe is moving towards justice," said Willis, whose congregation is home to many gay couples. "We are all amazed and thrilled by the news today."
The pastor, a former Mormon, also was touched by Oaks’ comments.
The LDS apostle "has not always been so positive [about gay rights] in the past," she said. “The fact that he was 
calling for more civility — which means more listening to one another — is a step towards more understanding and mutual respect."
The Rev. Jean Schwien, pastor of Salt Lake City’s Christ United Methodist Church, praised Monday’s events as affirming the "dignity and rights of all human beings equally, and, in that light, we celebrate this decision."
Utah Episcopal Bishop Scott B. Hayashi has been a "supporter of my gay and lesbian friends and church members in this," he said, and is "very happy for them and for all of us who have been hoping and praying that they would be able to have their loving relationships legally recognized."
Hayashi, though, recognizes others have been praying for a different outcome.

Utah’s predominant religion, which has opposed same-sex marriage for decades, now acknowledges the issue is largely settled.
“As far as the civil law is concerned," The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Monday afternoon, "the courts have spoken."
Earlier in the day, the U.S. Supreme Court said it would not take up Utah and other states’ appeals to reinstate their bans on gay marriage.
Some faiths, most notably the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, are not so sure the legal battle is over, while others, supportive of gay marriage, are hoping it is.
The justices’ decision doesn’t do anything, Bishop John C. Wester said in an interview. "It is just keeping us in the same relative position. We don’t know what is going to happen in the future."
Wester, leader of the state’s 300,000 Catholics, is "not a legal expert," he said, "but I don’t see this as a permanent solution."
To Catholics, marriage is "a sacred, sacramental covenant, permanent and open to procreation," he added. "There is no other relationship like it — it’s unique. The state seeking to change that definition is not a good thing for society at large. We respect others’ right to disagree, but we feel we have a right and responsibility to say what we believe marriage is."
The Rev. Jim Harris, pastor of Calvary Chapel in Murray, also wished the high court would have heard the case.
"I would like to have a decision one way or the other," Harris said. "Our church opposes gay marriage. For us, marriage is between a man and a woman. We believe that is a Bible stance. Gays have plenty of benefits through civil unions."
Whether permanent or temporary, the "succession of federal court decisions in recent months, culminating in today’s announcement by the Supreme Court, will have no effect on the doctrinal position or practices of [the LDS Church], which is that only marriage between a man and a woman is acceptable to God," the Salt Lake City-based faith stated on its website. “In prizing freedom of conscience and constitutional guarantees of the free exercise of religion, we will continue to teach that standard and uphold it in our religious practices." 
The LDS news release also encouraged Mormons "to be persons of goodwill toward all, rejecting persecution of any kind based on race, ethnicity, religious belief or nonbelief, and differences in sexual orientation."
That sentiment echoed one offered this past weekend by LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks during the faith’s General Conference.
"When our positions do not prevail," Oaks said Saturday, "we should accept unfavorable results graciously, and practice civility with our adversaries."
Several other religious and civic figures pointed to Oaks’ remarks as evidence of a welcome sea change in Mormon attitudes and as an appropriate response to Monday’s events.
The Rev. Patty Willis, pastor of the South Valley Unitarian Universalist Society in Cottonwood Heights, cheered the decision as "a modern-day miracle."
The "universe is moving towards justice," said Willis, whose congregation is home to many gay couples. "We are all amazed and thrilled by the news today."
The pastor, a former Mormon, also was touched by Oaks’ comments.
The LDS apostle "has not always been so positive [about gay rights] in the past," she said. “The fact that he was calling for more civility — which means more listening to one another — is a step towards more understanding and mutual respect."
The Rev. Jean Schwien, pastor of Salt Lake City’s Christ United Methodist Church, praised Monday’s events as affirming the "dignity and rights of all human beings equally, and, in that light, we celebrate this decision."
Utah Episcopal Bishop Scott B. Hayashi has been a "supporter of my gay and lesbian friends and church members in this," he said, and is "very happy for them and for all of us who have been hoping and praying that they would be able to have their loving relationships legally recognized."
Hayashi, though, recognizes others have been praying for a different outcome.
"I consider them to be friends; I am sad for them," the bishop said. "I understand their unhappiness, frustration and loss. When my friends hurt, I hurt, too."

Referring to Oaks’ comments, Hayashi said, he, too, plans to “practice not only civility but also compassion."


September 15, 2014

A Mormon Spreads Message of Acceptance to Mormons with Gay Children


                                                                              

Late on election night in 2008, Caitlin Ryan sat in her apartment here, cat in her lap, computer at her side, watching the results on television. Sometime after Barack Obama was declared president, briefly lifting her mood, she saw the news she had been dreading: Proposition 8 was going to win, striking down same-sex marriage in California.

Dr. Ryan’s despair came partly from being a lesbian who had been thrilled to see the San Francisco mayor performing gay weddings during the brief window of legality. More so, she was dispirited by the role that the Mormon Church and its members had played in getting Proposition 8 passed — donations, pulpit declarations, phone banks and door-to-door campaigning.

At the time, Dr. Ryan, a clinical social worker with a Ph.D., was writing educational materials to persuade Mormon families to accept their gay children. One of her Mormon allies, a religion professor, Robert Rees, had been temporarily banned from the churches in his region of Northern California for criticizing the official stand on Proposition 8 by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I knew the work would get much harder,” Dr. Ryan, 68, said in a recent email, “and the pain and rancor more bitter.”

Nearly six years later, the same Dr. Rees stood before a classroom at a Christian seminary in Berkeley, the rows and aisles and vestibule filled with Mormon families, maybe 175 people altogether. They were attending a “fireside,” as the open meeting was called, which was sponsored by the Family Acceptance Project, the program that Dr. Ryan was developing that night in 2008.

“This good Catholic sister, who loves us, loves our family, has brought us a great gift,” Dr. Rees said in introducing Dr. Ryan, the project’s director. “I honor her as a true latter-day saint, in the full meaning of the word. We don’t wait until people die. So: St. Cait.”

Applause rose from the audience. Among the crowd was the Searle family, seated eight or nine rows back: the parents, Christy and Greg, and their four sons, including their 15-year-old, Zachary, who is gay. Until the family learned of Dr. Ryan’s program and attended their first fireside, the Searles thought they faced the most harrowing of binary choices. Love their son and lose their church, or love their church and lose their son.

“When Zachary first came out, I prayed for a miracle, that he would be changed,” said Ms. Searle, 43, a medical assistant. “Then the miracle happened that my heart changed, and I saw my son was loved by God. And my prayer is that the church receives that revelation. The gay kids deserve all the same blessing as all the other Mormon kids.”

If such change does come — and there are intriguing signs in that direction — then some part of the credit will surely belong to Dr. Ryan. Her efforts, in turn, have unexpectedly benefited from the Proposition 8 battle. In its wake, the Mormon Church received a backlash of criticism and faced the widespread perception that it was intolerant.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
While Mormon doctrine continues to view “homosexual behavior” as contrary to “God’s law,” the institutional church has been striving for a more moderate tone. It introduced the website mormonsandgays.org two years ago. “There is no change in the church’s position of what is morally right,” a statement on the site reads. “But what is changing — and what needs to change — is to help church members respond sensitively and thoughtfully when they encounter same-sex attraction in their own families, among other church members, or elsewhere.” (Asked about Dr. Ryan’s project, a church spokesman made a similar point.)

The effect of such words has been mixed. A nationwide poll conducted late last year by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 53 percent of respondents considered the Mormon Church “unfriendly to L.G.B.T. people.” (Among religious denominations, only the Roman Catholic Church, at 58 percent, fared worse.) Yet even the gay magazine The Advocate has hailed a “minor revolution” of “more humane treatment of L.G.B.T.s” in Mormon communities.

Dr. Ryan’s mission to the Mormons began in her Irish Catholic household, where she was reared on stories of the Easter Rebellion and imbued with the belief that God acted on behalf of the oppressed. From her own coming-out in the 1970s, however, she also learned firsthand the anguish of a family’s rejection in the name of religion.

Having studied gay and lesbian health issues as she began her social work career, Dr. Ryan became involved with AIDS patients in the Atlanta area during the first years of the epidemic. Many of them were from deeply conservative, evangelical Christian homes; many had left or been expelled solely because they were gay. And as Dr. Ryan looked on, these young men, on their deathbeds, and their parents struggled to reconcile.

“I saw something very few people saw,” Dr. Ryan recalled. “This deep, profound connection that superseded dogma and doctrine. I saw the language of the heart.”

Right then, she recognized her calling: to enable those reconciliations during life rather than at the portal of death. As Dr. Ryan received her validation the way scholars do — publication in peer-reviewed journals, six-figure grants as a principal investigator on research projects, a faculty position at San Francisco State University — she conducted extensive field work among homeless gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teenagers in the Bay Area, as well as with parents of gay children. She and her academic colleagues documented a strong correlation between rejection by families and such dangerous youthful behaviors as drug abuse, unprotected sex and suicide attempts.

Along the way, Dr. Ryan also discovered her way into the Mormon world. For all of the church’s longtime, outspoken opposition to homosexuality, Mormons also put a tremendous theological emphasis on family, so much so that they believe a family can be “sealed” together in the afterlife.

What, Dr. Ryan asked herself, if that value system could be used to encourage parents to affirm their gay children? What if Mormon parents could be reassured that even their missteps with those children — believing that being gay was just teenage confusion or could be changed with reparative therapy or was the devil’s work — were acts of love rather than hate? Wouldn’t a loving parent want a gay child to live rather than to die, to be at home instead of on the street?

In Dr. Ryan’s form of evangelism, the gospel consists of data, which wields the calm logic of statistics to show better outcomes for gay children who are embraced rather than excluded. The Family Assistance Project has expounded that message through films, handbooks, research papers and firesides, like the one the Searle family attended last week in Berkeley.

“I’m still a Catholic schoolgirl,” said Dr. Ryan, who regularly attends church to this day. “Modesty and humility were values that were instilled in me. I don’t feel right taking credit. It’s not my work. It’s a spiritual practice and a sacred trust.”



A version of this article appears in print on September 13, 2014, on page A17 of the New York edition with the headline: Social Worker Spreads a Message of Acceptance to Mormons With Gay Children.  

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