Friday, August 27, 2010

The Gay Mormon Organizations

Right now there are three major organizations for GLBT Mormons. The first, historically, to come into existence was Affirmation (in the 1970s). About a decade later Evergreen came along. Most recently, there's Northstar (Ty Mansfield's brainchild). These three organizations -- obviously -- have fundamentally different approaches to how to solve the dilemmas faced by GLBT Saints. But none of these organizations satisfactorily does what it has set out to do, because the task is extremely complicated. The approaches are bifurcated because the Church's views on homosexuality bifurcate us -- because the Church essentially forces us to choose between our sexuality and our spirituality, a choice that we as physical-spiritual beings naturally recoil from. To force us to choose between whether we are permitted to establish loving and intimate relationships with the person of our choice, or whether we are permitted to have a full life in spiritual community where other Saints nurture us in our efforts to become more Christ-like, is to force us to make a choice that one way or the other does violence to our souls.

I do not feel that any of these three organizations provide the kinds of support I need as a fully human, fully physical, fully spiritual being. And let me stress here, this is not their fault as organizations. Each does the best it can in its own way to provide support to GLBT Saints. But the nature of the dilemma faced means that it's easier for an organization to focus on one side or the other of the equation. So Affirmation does a great job -- better than the other two -- of affirming us as physical/sexual beings, and exploring and understanding what it means to be gay. But in order to do that, it has had to take positions that have put it at odds with the mainstream LDS Church.

Evergreen came into existence a few years after Affirmation, and Northstar has, of course, come into existence only in the last few years as a third "middle path" between Affirmation and Evergreen. If Evergreen and Northstar exist at all, it is because they were trying to support GLBT Saints in what Affirmation could not. GLBT Saints turned to them, because they also hungered for spiritual connection within the spiritual community of our choice -- the Church -- and we were willing to do almost anything for that connection, even try to stifle a side of ourselves that ultimately cannot and should not be stifled. And these two organizations have done a better job of affirming faith. But they have done it, by and large, at the expense of our physical/sexual sides.

Whole human beings need both. Both physical and spiritual. As Latter-day Saints, we understand that this is the sum and purpose of our existence on earth in the first place. To bring together, to fully integrate, those two things.

Of the three organizations, the one I feel at some gut level the most affinity to has been Northstar. Northstar has moved toward integration in a way that the other two organizations have not. (Dare I say, because of their histories, could not?) Northstar acknowledges the reality of the physical/sexual side of the equation. It has at least acknowledged that our "gay side" doesn't just go away -- in this life any way. It's worked to be a little bit more open to that side of us. And it has held up as all important the preservation of faith-based covenants and community. And it has been working very hard to educate straight Saints about some of the dilemmas faced by gay Saints, to help ensure that wards and stakes in the Church can start to become more nurturing places (and because of the way it has positioned itself, stands a better chance of succeeding in those educational efforts).

I felt like a door was open there to me for a while... But I've felt that door slowly closing. After several years of hanging on the fringes of the Northstar community, I realize that Northstar won't really go the distance with me. I don't think this is the fault of any individual in the Northstar organization. I love and have profound admiration for Ty and for Bravone, who are the two folks with Northstar that I've had the closest relationships with. But I'm aware of an invisible barrier there. The organization could more fully embrace me if only I demolished my family. That's the bottom line. And they didn't draw that line... It exists whether they like it or not. They just have to try to cope with it.

I could try to form a fourth organization, one that's a bit to the left of Northstar and somewhere to the right of Affirmation. But why? An organization in which I would feel fully embraced and comfortable would still have the problem of not being able to fully integrate us as physical/sexual beings into the spiritual life of the Church. That's what I hunger for. That's what I desire more than anything else. I could not form an organization that would meet my needs. So I think I'm destined to be a lone pilgrim in the desert of physical/sexual vs. spiritual alienation.

I will continue to participate as actively as I can both in Affirmation and, if permitted, Northstar. But if what I really needed in a gay Mormon organization could exist, then we probably wouldn't need any organization at all, other than the Church.


Quiet Song said...

I also found Northstar THE SINGLE MOST HELPFUL RESOURCE in our family's journey.

John, some of us are outliers, our experiences so unique that it is difficult for others to relate to us. Your story and experience is so powerful, yet it engenders confusion in the hearts of those who cannot tolerate ambiguity in the least degree. You are doing what you know to be right for you. I think it is very difficult for some people to accept that you were told to distance yourself from the church by resigning. You are where you are now, a resigned member, doing the very best he can with the opportunities currently available to him. And, admirably so, with the information I have access to.

Your testimony and the witness of the spirit that goes with it disturbs these individuals for the very fact that it exists.

I suspect that "they" in my little corner of Northstar also find my existence somewhat uncomfortable and I'm ok with that. I know what I've experienced as a parent of of a gay or "questioning" child who has also personally experienced atraction to both sexes on occasion, is also difficult for some of the stakeholders of Northstar to hear at times. But it is what it is, and I had to acknowledge it.

I don't think another organization is necessary. I do think it is important for you to keep speaking and to continue being part of the "discussion." I've found that blogging really helps in this department for me. I don't feel much a part of the discussion at northstar but I occassionaly check in nevertheless.

Sean said...

first let me say that i love the word "bifurcated". its such a cool word :)
which is why i would rather wear kilts than pants :O

ok, got that outta my system.

i've wondered if the general mormon concept of the separation of spirituality/sexuality doesn't have more existence from our protestant beginnings? personally I've always believed Spirituality and Sexuality along with all the other "ity"s out there were interrelated. Aren't we taught that all truth is circumscribed into one great whole??

as always, a very insightful post.

Abelard Enigma said...

I've always admired the Gay Christian Network for how they are able to integrate these two seemingly opposing points of view (what GCN calls Side-A & Side-B with the former accepting of gay relationships and the latter believing that God has called gay Christians to celibacy).

Perhaps there is a place for a 4th organization - one modeled after the Gay Christian Network - the Gay Mormon Network, if you will. An organization that is accepting of all homosexual Mormon's - be they sexually active or celibate. I know the other 3 organizations express varying levels of words of support for such, but by their actions they fall short. But, the Gay Christian Network proves it is possible.

J G-W said...

Quiet Song - Thanks for so gently putting words to some of the pain I feel. "Outlier" I guess captures as good as any word why I don't seem to fit anywhere.

I really, really, really, REALLY wanted Northstar to be a good fit for me. But it's not, for reasons, as I said, that are not the fault of anyone at Northstar. But to be honest, I sometimes have this feeling of being regarded as radioactive or toxic over there... And because of the one thing in my life that brings me greater joy than anything else in the world... My family! I used to participate much more actively in the discussions over at Northern Lights, but it's been a very, very long time indeed since there's really been a discussion over there I felt I could participate in. As it was, there was a lot of drama (I won't get into) even just to get my blog listed on the community blogs over there... (It looks like they've discretely removed that feature completely anyway...)

I suspect that the disconnect at Northstar for you is slightly less profound than it is for me as a gay man married to a man. I wish it could a resource to my family. I have major faith-related issues that I struggle with being a gay dad, with a husband and son who are totally alienated from organized religion of any sort right now. That's a big issue for me.

NO organization is willing to help me with that. In Affirmation, I frequently encounter criticism for wanting anything to do with the Church. And as far as Evergreen and Northstar are concerned, I'm not even supposed to have the family I have, much less be concerned about their spiritual well being, or how to help them cope with the profound gap between everything religious and everything gay in this country...

From that point of view (i.e. support for my family), I think I would benefit from another organization.

Sean - Yes, it's my absolute bedrock confidence that ALL truth will eventually come together that gives me hope. Yes, I am what I am. I know what I know. I'm OK, so is my husband, and so is our relationship. I know this as I live and breathe. And I also have a testimony of the gospel. So these truths HAVE to fit together somehow. Am I the only one in the world to feel that in my bones? To know it?

Abe - I think we already do have something on a par with the Gay Christian Network, just informally. You've done a lot to make that happen by putting things together like the Moho directory. We can and do interact across those lines. As I said, the problem is not at the individual level, in terms of relationships we can establish here in the Moho Queerosphere.

I'm curious... Does the GCN actually do anything more than just talk on the Internet? Or do they actually cooperate on some joint ventures?

For instance, I can really see the need for ALL the Gay Mormon organizations across the spectrum to find some way to work together to address the problem of gay Mormon suicide. That would be a powerful thing if these organizations could say, "Hey, you know what? We have profound ideological/theological differences. But we need to create a united front to give people hope when it comes to this, because the suicide just MUST stop."

Would that even be possible? Could we ever have a room where members of Evergreen and Affirmation could sit at the same time and start asking these kinds of questions and try working on solutions together?

Abelard Enigma said...

I agree that we accomplish much of what we are talking about within the MoHosphere; however, I do sometimes wonder if there might be a place for a more formal organization to bridge the gaps left by the other 3 organizations.

Does the GCN actually do anything more than just talk on the Internet?

GCN sponsors a number of forums on a wide variety of topics. There are also geographic and age specific forums. The forums are all moderated and inappropriate posts deleted. Threads are locked when discussions start to get too heated. The forums are safe in the sense that you do not have to worry about inappropriate pictures popping up and/or inappropriate discussions taking place.

It's also a safe environment in the sense that you are not allowed to publish personal contact info (email, phone, blog); so, you don't have to worry about unsolicited contacts. They have their own messaging system so that you can contact other members privately; however, people over 18 cannot message people under 18 and vice versa in order to keep it a safe environment for the teens.

They sponsor annual conferences. At one such conference, they produced a musical satire of ex-gay groups titled Straight to Heaven which is a 'must see'. There are also smaller regional conferences held periodically.

They also produced the documentary Through My Eyes

alan said...

I wouldn't say that Northstar came around as a "middle ground" between Affirmation and Evergreen. Rather, if you look at the dates of the births of each organization--Affirmation (1976), Evergreen (1989), Northstar (2006)--they pretty much correlate with the positions the Church has taken on the question of homosexuality over the years. In the 60s-70s, homosexuality was evil, so gay people had to get their spiritual/physical elsewhere. In the 80s-90s, homosexual feelings were temptations toward evil so people should try to fix the "root" of the problem; gays held onto the idea of physical change that never came, but at least they held onto something and felt somewhat welcomed spiritually. In the 00s-10s, homosexual behavior is still wrong, but about the root of the feelings, church leaders admit unknowingness. This means that gay people can exist freely in the Church as individuals because the question of the physical is left open to interpretation. Of course, all the while, marriages and babies are made. But we've entered an era where being gay doesn't necessarily stop one from getting married and having babies with the partner of one's choice.

What I see here are 3 generations of thought, an evolution of positions. So, perhaps by 2020 we'll see hints of real incorporation of the physical/spiritual. Church leaders being unknowing on such a divisive matter is not tenable. Soon enough, they'll figure out that there is no root to being gay and the last 60 years have been a kind of bungle in the framing of this issue.

J G-W said...

Alan - I know something about the birth of Northstar... I was there, and had a number of conversations with Ty as he and others were working to make it a reality.

You make it sound as if Northstar (or Evergreen, for that matter) were creations of they Church. They were/are not. Their founders have deliberately sought to align themselves with the Church's position on the topic of homosexuality, but both have also found themselves in the role of having to educate about the nature of homosexuality. They've had to work and lobby for support within the Church hierarchy.

Based on my conversations with Ty, I very much had the sense that he saw Northstar as embodying some kind of middle ground. My sense was, he was trying to create an organization that would meet his needs. The greater openness of the Church to more moderate views of homosexuality opened up an opportunity for Northstar to get support from Church leaders than a similar organization would have twenty years ago, to be sure.

But I disagree with a view of this that doesn't acknowledge that different individuals are wrestling with how to make sexuality and spirituality fit for gay folks. Folks in Evergreen and Northstar aren't just puppets, fulfilling some pre-mandated Church agenda. They are genuinely trying to incorporate faith into their lives and make sense of same-sex sexuality within that framework.

The problem for all of us, on all ends of this spectrum, is the current position of the Church makes such reconciling work extremely challenging.

I guess what I would like acknowledged is that -- as different as their approaches are -- Affirmation, Evergreen, Northstar (and other groups, for that matter, like LDS Resources or Reconciliation) are all working to try to solve the same problem.

It's like the blind men and the elephant analogy... Affirmation has the tale, so to speak, and Evergreen has the trunk, and Northstar has the belly...

MoHoHawaii said...

I have three thoughts.

When I look at organizations like these I tend to evaluate them primarily on how well they succeed at preventing suicide in vulnerable LDS youth. I'm guessing that Affirmation does quite a bit better at this than North Star, and that Evergreen probably contributes to the problem rather than helping it. I'd be interested in your evaluation.

Your blog is an organization unto itself. You may underestimate its impact, even on people like me who are ostensibly out of the faith.

I think the problem is that there are few (none that I know, actually) who are following the same path as you. You have integrated yourself back into a faith community that has officially expelled you. Even someone with your abundant spiritual gifts and spiritual aptitude finds the resulting contradictions to be challenging at times. It's not a path that many ordinary folks, those without your particular gifts, can follow.

I think the organization you want isn't a gay one. It's Sunstone and the Bloggernacle. There are many active LDS people, especially women, who would be willing to engage with you on matters of faith without flinching or denying the revelations you have received. I have never seen you participate in discussions in that community's blogs. I wonder if you might find something of value there. You'll certainly find people who are committed to the Church and its teachings and who are realistic about gay issues.

J G-W said...

Mohohawaii - If any index should be used to determine the usefulness of a gay Mormon organization, the ability to prevent suicide would be high on my list of valuable indexes as well.

I have no data -- and it's difficult for me to imagine what kind of data would illuminate this!! -- to prove or disprove your thesis about the relative strengths of these three organizations in dealing with this problem.

Based on anecdotal evidence I am aware of, I think there are ways in which all three of these organizations are ineffective.

To the average gay Mormon teen/early twenty-something, Affirmation looks scary and radical. It's not an organization they are likely to feel comfortable reaching out to at first... Until maybe after they get over the suicide hump and decide life is worth living. THEN and only then is Affirmation likely to become a resource to them in sorting out what life looks like with gayness in the mix.

I'm also aware of the fact that some gay suicides (Todd Ransom maybe a recent case in point) occur even with Affirmation-like views on one's own sexuality. The problem is, for some faithful Mormons, life without faith is difficult to stomach. We can still wrestle with guilt/self doubt/isolation even after being in a relationship, if we can't sort out the religious issues.

And I don't want to make it sound like I'm dumping on Affirmation... I'm NOT! Because the whole point of this essay is that this problem is bigger than any one organization seems to be able to cope with. But I do not think Affirmation is very effective in addressing the faith issues. It's better at integrating folks into a post-Mormon acceptance of gayness than into a gay Mormon faith.

Yes, I think Evergreen probably was causing a lot of suicides at a certain stage, especially the ones that came as a result of disappointment that -- after being promised change would occur -- change never materialized.

Northstar hasn't been around long enough for me to judge whether its effect will be positive or negative on this score. I have to say, though, that I have found it disheartening when the few discussions I've seen at Northern Lights about this topic elicited flat out denial that gay suicide was even a problem at all, and a tendency to blame the victims for lack of faithfulness (i.e., people commit suicide because they lose faith).

There's some truth in this... It was a factor in my own almost suicide. My desire to end my life came from despair at feeling that -- being gay -- it was inevitable that I would lose everything I valued spiritually. So, yes, loss of faith can be linked to suicide.

But that begs the question: Why does a bright, return-missionary, Kimball Scholar with a burning testimony and a love for the Church lose faith when he discovers something about himself that he is not to blame for and that he can't change?? So the comments at Northstar, I think, totally missed the point, and showed a stunning lack of compassion about this issue.

So, bottom line, my evaluation of the suicide index parallels my evaluation over all. I think each organization has a piece of the puzzle, and has resources to help prevent suicide. But they also have significant built-in limits on how effectively they can do that...

J G-W said...

Mohohawaii - I'm having to respond to your comment with two comments, because there was too much for me to address in just one.

To address point 3 first... Yes, I'm aware that I long for a level of discussion/connection about faith issues that it might be easier for me to find in the bloggernacle.

I followed the bloggernacle for a while (and I occasionally get involved), but the few times I have, I have had to deal with some pretty gnarly homophobia as well. Staying in the gay Mormon blogs has just been, well, safer. And, my heart is really more into helping to build a safe blogging space for gay Mormons of all perspectives, than in sparring with homophobic heteros... Or, for that matter, preaching to the choir, among the more liberal folks.

Sunstone has much the same problem that Affirmation does. There's a lot of "post-Mormonism" there, which is not really what I'm looking for. Sunstone does, however, have the advantage of basically being a free market of Mormonism. So there's a place for me there, even though I'm an oddity.

Which I guess brings me to point 2... I admit to being an oddity (or "outlier," as Quiet Song put it). But I don't think I should be. The urge to integrate is universal in the gay Mormon blogs. It's what we're all trying to do in one way or another.

I think I have come to a place (and this was the point of the final paragraph of this post) that I believe the arena to wrestle with spirituality and sexuality is rightfully the Church, and not in para-Church organizations. Church is the only place this works for me. Church is where I actually have to wrestle most intently with both the sexuality part and the spirituality part -- because I bring the whole me to God and to the community.

Maybe there is a need for a fourth organization whose focus is to maximize the spiritual and communal resources that can help us to do that. To go to Church.

(It shouldn't be this hard, should it?)

J G-W said...

Abe - In other words, GCN does apparently focus mainly on dialogue.

That's not a bad thing... Again, we have low-level dialogue on individual blogs, but no real organization that specifically promotes safe dialogue between Mormons who disagree about the relationship between spirituality and sexuality.

For some time, I've been trying to create some of this kind of dialogue. I had hoped Northstar would be able to be a forum for something like that, but it simply hasn't materialized.

So, again, maybe there is a need for a fourth organization. I can see three very clear possible mission points for such an organization:

1) Try to bring gay Mormons of all faith perspectives together to wrestle with and prevent the problem of gay suicide;

2) Provide a forum for gay Mormons of differing theological perspectives to dialog respectfully;

3) Provide resources for those who would like to incorporate faith into their lives, but who are excluded from the Church and from gay Mormon organizations like Evergreen or Northstar because of their relationship status.

Beck said...

I echo that your blog IS the 4th organization. You bring all the pieces together.

And if not you, then this informal conglomeration of people who continue to follow each other with acceptance.

I have not found a home in any of the organizations. I feel an "outlier" to them all. Maybe I don't feel the need as great to be part of an organization (as I'm still a church "inlier" who hasn't yet been discovered and pushed out), but I do feel lost as I'm not able to fully connect there either as I come to embrace who I am and what I sexually want. Yes, spiritually, I am locked in.

So, where that puts me is continuing to blog. At times it is a lifeline. The advice, care, deep concern, and friendship from otherwise complete strangers, is still mind-boggling, and spirit-strengthening. It is blogs like yours that give me hope, that keep me going.

J G-W said...

Beck - If you feel at home in none of these organizations, that only proves my point. You are fully compliant with the demands of the Church. Yet, you still feel out of place because there's no logical place for your experience of your gayness to fit in the spectrum of responses.

I remember hearing from you -- and I've heard this more recently from Bravone -- that you don't want your gayness to go away in the next life. I was involved in a conversation at Sunstone of a number of gay men -- including a gay man in his sixties who has been heterosexually married his whole life. This man posed the question: "How many of you want your gayness to go away in the next life?" Nobody -- including the man who asked the question -- raised their hands.

On the other hand, consider me, a gay man in a same-sex relationship living happily outside the Church for almost 20 years. But when all was said and done, my life felt incomplete until I came back to the Church and begin wrestling with the question again.

That speaks to the profundity of the connection between sexuality, spirituality and identity. And there's no place we can go right now that satisfactorily brings all those individual pieces together.

I'd like to think that my blog is a resource to folks who are struggling to do that... I think it is, though not necessarily more than the other Moho blogs. I'd like to hope that collectively we are progressing in this, and maybe playing a role in helping the Church to progress...

All the same, I often yearn for better community. I guess that's what keeps me coming back to Church on Sunday, and what keeps me blogging.

alan said...

Folks in Evergreen and Northstar aren't just puppets, fulfilling some pre-mandated Church agenda.

Of course not. And that's not what I meant in my framing. I know that anything to do with homosexuality has been an "outside" the Church kind of thing, which is why these organizations exist in the first place. But like you said, if the organization is attached to the Church, then it's going to follow some patterns of thought and it's useful to lay out what these are, because aren't they the source of the problem? Anytime you want to change a pattern of bad thought, isn't it helpful to frame what came before it?

The question of suicide is a good example. Hugo (from Affirmation) in a Sunstone presentation about the book In Quiet Desperation said that Mormonism has created itself a culture of "spiritual codependency" where no one can possibly find blame in anyone else when bad things happen (namely, suicides by queer church members); they end up as guiltless tragedies (or, as mentioned, the victim gets blamed). He further stated that because the "theological puzzle of homosexuality" is described as "resolved in the afterlife," Mormonism is leaning toward a "culture of death" for its queer members. In your presentation this year, you talked about the importance of being mature enough to deal with the possibility of communal truth being false. In other words, people gotta break up some of that spiritual codependency because there's some BAAAD ideas floating out there.

Oh, Affirmation posted an interview about my novel. I think I've laid out some useful ideas there, if you're interested.

J G-W said...

You're right. It is important to understand how things are framed.

Actually, that's really kind of the whole point of this essay... Different organizations have each framed the homosexuality/religion issue certain ways. But of course, the reality is much more complex than anybody's particular framing...

I think your interest in framing analysis is helpful. But I don't have the heart to frame things in a way that makes enemies of anybody... Least of all other gay Mormons in organizations like Evergreen or Northstar, who are, after all, just trying to figure out this spirituality/sexuality thing like I am.

Quiet Song said...

JGW said-"I suspect that the disconnect at Northstar for you is slightly less profound than it is for me as a gay man married to a man."

Your comment is absolutely understated, I am certain your situation greatly amplifies my experience, however, I hoped to let you know that I do have an inkling of what you have experienced.

My impression of Northstar, gleaned from participation, donation, and answering surveys, is that it operates on a shoestring budget of money, time and energy. It is heavily dependent on volunteer moderators and dedicated long timers who often come at things from their own personal perspectives of which there is a range of expression, belief and interpretation.

It is a miracle that Northstar has been sustained as long as it has. And, it takes a huge amount of leadership energy to herd cats and keep the hissing down to a soft roar in any "organization." Northstar being a virtual organization is no exception and probably even more susceptibilities and foibles of individuals to exclude, make uncomfortable and or simply freeze out those in a different place.

I would also agree that the family resources on Norhtstar are more geared toward helping the most active LDS families cope with the transitions necessary to reconcile with a gay family member's journey. Right now gay parented families, do not have specialized resources available for their unique situation especially when one or more parents are resigned, excommunicated or marginalized members. It would be interesting to know how many gay parents with an LDS background would want or need resources for spiritual growth within the mainstream LDS Church directed toward their families.

However, I did find a very good video resource on Northstar which I used for a family home evening which I blogged about on my two guys and a prom posts. It was wonderful to have a video of such a loving LDS family to use as a role model for teaching our younger child how to view his brother's possible gay sexual orientation. That was a huge milestone for us both as loved ones of a gay or questioning person and as LDS people.

Again, while my experience can only in a small way compare with yours, I do understand what it is like to have a disaffected spouse and a child. Perservere and they will come around at least a little bit. It's a very lonely thing which is even more exacerbated by all the other voices who are more than pleased with themselves to remind you how hard the path is that you are treading.

I personally hope that more people similarly situated to yourself will take up the same path you have and exercise the same kind of faith you have. I believe as these numbers grow, there will be changes, as I have stated before, at least in the hearts of the members of the church. The fact that you have the family you have does not exempt you from being concerned about their spiritual well-being. You know this as would your well intentioned opposition if they ever thought things through before opening their mouths. Am I right to think that if Glen were to accept the gospel, get baptized, desire to serve the Lord, that you would be thrilled, humbled and grateful to a loving father in heaven? Even in spite of the obvious issues which seem irreconcileable?

J G-W said...

Quiet Song - Thanks... I wasn't trying to sing the "woe is me" song...! I'm just pointing out that I think there are faith resources that I and my family could benefit from that we just aren't getting from the organizations that exist.

I could tell stories about both sides of the divide. It's really painful, for example, to be having dinner with a couple of friends from Affirmation with my spouse, and to have the friends berating me for not wanting to drink a beer. Maybe they didn't realize that there was already tension in our relationship over this issue, and they were just giving fodder to my husband for this kind of attitude of "Boy, Mormonism is just stupid, and why are you trying to follow these stupid rules?" I could cite other examples, but it adds up to Affirmation not being as faith-affirming as I need.

On the other hand... The other day, I once again broached the subject of attending Church together. I asked my partner if he would consider attending Church with me in my LDS ward, if I attend the place of worship (Buddhist, Christian or other!) of his choice every other Sunday. He glared at me and pointed out that he had no desire to attend the LDS Church until I could be baptized. He has, on other occasions, pointed out that the last time we attended Church together (in my parents' ward in MA) he held my hand, and it caused a huge ruckus that humiliated my parents. He's pointed out he doesn't want to go to Church with me in a place where a simple gesture of affection could start a firestorm of controversy.

So I'm caught between the proverbial rock and the hard place...

Here's what I honestly wished for from an organization like Northstar (or anybody else, who would dare!!):

To my mind, it's totally OK for an organization to uphold the Church's standards as ideal. I don't have a problem with that. I'm totally OK with Northstar saying, we uphold the standard of no sex outside of heterosexual marriage.

But I wish that it would be possible to include someone in my situation who approaches them and says, OK, I know my situation is not within the standards that you uphold. But I still think your organization has resources that could benefit me, and I would like to belong and participate. If you have a discussion group about family issues, for instance, I'd like to be a part of that discussion group and share some of my struggles and get support and advice. I'd also like to feel like I belong to something; like I'm a valued member of the community.

But essentially what I've been told is I can't belong because the organization has to uphold certain standards. Instead of saying, "OK, we'll take you where you're at and see what we can do to help you grow spiritually within the constraints that you have to deal with," the message is, "We can't be seen to be affiliated with you, because it will send the wrong message."

I agree, I wish more GLBT folks could enter into this kind of middle path. For me, it's about each of us where we're at using our best lights to take a step toward faith. To build faith out of real lives lived, not some ideal that doesn't fit who we are and where we stand. I am convinced that many, many people are hungry, they are starving for a real live faith community that is all about helping them get fed spiritually.

But folks like my husband look on and they say (and it's hard to argue with this) -- If someone like John isn't accepted by an organization like Northstar that is supposedly more open, then what hope is there for me? Why should I even try?

J G-W said...

Quiet Song - There's more stuff I wish I could discuss with you off line... Do you mind emailing me? My email address is available through my profile.

Rob said...

Re "It shouldn't be this hard, should it"

No it shouldn't, IF you believe it's possible to integrate being gay and living in a same-sex marriage with full membership and privileges in the Church. Unfortunately, at present the Church flatly rejects this. So until the Church changes its definitions and theology, you will be seeking to reconcile the irreconcilable. I wish it were otherwise, but that's reality.

I agree with the general assessments of the various advocacy organizations. At first I had some hope that Northstar would be the place for me but after about two minutes on that site the agenda was clear so I shrugged and moved on. Sad, too, because I know that Northstar's original intent was more broad-minded that it's ultimately been in practice. Though it's s not for me, if it helps someone else then I say great, whatever works (and I wish some at Northstar would say the same about those who don't choose the Northstar path).

Quiet Song said...

John, I don't use outlook, so I contacted you via Facebook.

GeckoMan said...

I believe your blog is an 'intersection of hope' for people who feel comfortable with and aspire to both ideals: 1) sincere belief in core LDS doctrines, AND, 2) embrace their whole gay identity, including committed loving sexuality to same gender. My wife Sue and I appreciate your faithfulness, not only to the church, but also to your husband. The fact that you are doing both is material witness that it can be done, and we wish it were more a common practice.

Part of your uniqueness in this arena is your continuing refusal to be pushed out, by either side of the spectrum. Not taking "NO" for an answer is what more believing gay LDS couples need to do--becoming a face to be reckoned with.

And in my case, as an active LDS hetero-married gay man, I duly acknowledge where I'm at with my continuing commitment to love and cherish my wife. Yet, I too can speak out when moved upon to declare my belief that the basic right of all people, straight or gay, to love and cherish family and marriage is a blessing that should not be denied by either churches or governments.

J G-W said...

Geckoman - I'd love to meet your wife Sue some day. She sounds like an extraordinary person.

I think there must be some way, some "higher ground" we can all stand on, that can allow us to support each other in our different journeys and in our different families.

I can't tell you how grateful I am, and how much it means to me, to feel supported by you and others in your situation in my desire to be legally married.

To me, that is the most concrete proof possible that this is not a zero-sum game. My support for you in your desire to enhance and strengthen your marriage with your wife should not detract from my relationship with my husband. Your desire to see me and my husband get some of the basic legal protections that we need in order to take care of one another as a family should not take away from your marriage.

A middle path is possible... I call the middle path "love." It includes my love for you and desire to see you happy, and your love for me and your desire for my happiness. It also includes our familial loves and our aspirations for our respective spouses and kids...

This isn't really that complicated from that perspective...

Bravone said...

I hesitate to comment on your blog John when I haven't even finished our last conversation. My summer has been crazy busy, but I will eventually catch up.

I just want to throw out a little teaser that you will soon be pleasantly surprised at a North Star initiative that is uniquely designed to involve wonderful, sincere, and eager individuals like you in some of the causes you and others have addressed in this post.

MidKnight543 said...

Young Stranger and all:

I too believe that your blog is very effective to many people for many different reasons. As I have said, I am gay, in a long-term monogamous relationship and am religious/spiritual, but am not LDS. I read your blog in many ways to learn more about being Mormon and how to better confront the narrow minded, judgemental Saints that continue to judge me daily in my work place and my neighborhood. So, I would never join or be part of an organization like the 3 being discussed, but I greatly enjoy reading your stories about life and faith and use them to help me become a better person. If it weren't for some LDS friends that I have and your blog, I might quickly become narrow minded myself and begin judging those who so often judge me.

J G-W said...

Bravone - What? You think you can't comment because you might owe me something? Like we're not all debtors? :)

Trust me, I understand what it means to be caught in the flow of events and responsibilities. I can wait patiently for the other conversations to continue.

MidKnight543 - I can't say how grateful I am for that witness.

I also have to admit that because of my special love for the LDS faith, I feel a special onus in regards to religious intolerance by Mormons against non-Mormons, whatever form that takes. It's one of many forms of denial of true faith I feel my journey must be about working against...