Monday, February 24, 2014

"Voices of Hope" + Flawed Logic = No Win

First, I want to state that I don't believe the creators of "Voices of Hope" intended this resource to be used in the way it was in the Deseret News article yesterday on same-sex marriage. Northstar seeks to provide resources to individuals with same-sex attraction who wish to live according to the established standards of the LDS Church. I don't believe it is their purpose or intention to criticize or attack or undermine others' choices, especially when those choices are made after much personal wrestling and in good conscience. Yet, that is how the resource "Voices of Hope" was being used yesterday, the same weekend that members of Northstar were, ironically enough, engaging in constructive dialogue at the Circling the Wagons conference in Salt Lake City with individuals in same-sex relationships and marriages.

Here' a link to the Deseret News article. I will try to summarize the article here in my own words as fairly as I can.

The article began by quoting one of the individuals who is featured in "Voices of Hope." This person made a sweeping statement about supporters of same-sex marriage, suggesting that "they" were forcing a false, dichotomized choice between being out, proud, and in a same-sex marriage, or being closeted, alone and miserable. This false dichotomy was supposedly being used as the primary argument in support of legal same-sex marriage. "Voices of Hope" was presented as proof that gay people can be happy within opposite-sex marriages. Although it was acknowledged that "not all" gay people can make opposite-sex marriages work, the article implied that opposition to same-sex marriage was justified because opposite-sex marriage was a viable option for individuals whose happy marriages were documented in "Voices of Hope."

The main flaw in this article is that the argument in support of same-sex marriage simply does not speak to the situation of individuals, whatever orientation they consider themselves, who are happily making opposite-sex marriage work. Same-sex marriage is needed as a legal, viable option precisely for those individuals who cannot make opposite-sex marriage work, who have decided that their happiness, security, and well-being are best found in a loving, committed relationship with another person of the same sex. People in opposite-sex marriages, whatever their orientation, are already protected under the law. Legal reform is needed for those who are not protected.

For what it's worth, the kind of flawed logic presented in this article is precisely the kind of logic that is consistently being rejected by courts that are, one after another, striking down laws that prohibit recognition of same-sex marriage. Those who lean on this kind of logic will likely continue to be disappointed as the legal system works its way through a constitutional resolution of this difficult issue.

At issue here is a deeper problem. Our lives and our stories are sacred. Our stories deserve to be shared and listened to with empathy. Our lives deserve to be respected and protected. This is true of all people, whether you are in an opposite-sex marriage, a same-sex marriage, or single. Individuals' stories should never be used as ammunition to criticize others, and should never be used to undermine the credibility of other people's stories. To do so cheapens them and all of us.

My personal story of struggle to understand and know myself as a gay man, my near suicide as a young adult, and my ultimate decision to find happiness in my 21+ years long marriage to my husband, should never be used to imply that nobody with same-sex attraction could be happy in an opposite-sex marriage. Similarly, I believe it is immoral to use the story of an individual with same-sex attraction who has been happily married in an opposite-sex relationship, for however long, to deprive me and my husband of legal protections that we need and deserve. 

Let's keep talking about this, folks.


Duck said...

Thank you for this post, John. I felt so frustrated after reading the article in the Deseret News. It felt like North Star had purposely pushed an agenda in the article. And, it angered me. If North Star did not mean to come off sounding like they did in the article, then I can take a deep breath and give them another chance.

I loved that you wrote that our lives are sacred. Yes, each life is sacred. And, each journey is sacred. People need to be given love and space to find their peace.

I am so glad you are a voice of reason. However I found your blog, you, all those years ago, I do not even remember, but I am so grateful- you thoughtfully think about the issues. I am grateful for your resolve to do all things in love. Thank you for your sweet example.

I love you. I am sorry your trip to Utah was so horrendous. But, I am so glad you came. And, I hope you have made it home safely and that your trip back was a little better than the one you had coming here. :) Happy night! Duck

Anonymous said...

Have you read this article? Wondering what your comments/reaction to it would be... The author was interviewed by John Dehlin at

John Gustav-Wrathall said...

Duck, thank you so much. I so value your friendship as well.

The trip to Utah was an ordeal, but what a blessing my time there was!

Trev said...

Ugh, "yes"es to your whole post, of course...

The thing that _really_ gets me about that Deseret news article is this, which you paraphrased:

"'Either jump out of the closet, join the celebration, make being gay or lesbian the dominant characteristic of your life and the sole foundation of your identity, and join the same-sex marriage lobby — or remain "closeted," deny yourself, choose a false identity, become depressed, and risk suicide.'

"This same false dichotomy is presented to the public..."

I want to shout, "NO!!!" That dichotomy is not what is being fed to "the public"; rather, that dichotomy is what I feel THE PUBLIC (particularly the Church culture) has fed ME my entire life. That is precisely the perceived dichotomy that drives gay people themselves through internal torture before they can come to grips with their situation and accept the reality of it and their own narrative--_whatever_ it be, of course.

That part just seemed to be the author cluelessly keying into a fraction of my personal pain and then saying "Ow, this hurts me. Why are YOU making ME feel this." Urgh... Boo hoo, I'm SO sorry all these _awful people_ are SHOVING this stuff down down your throat.


John Gustav-Wrathall said...

Trev - I agree with your analysis. It's way too simplistic to suggest that it's the evil gays who are pushing this dichotomous thinking.

It certainly hasn't been me! Not on this blog!!

In defense of the guy quoted in the DN article, a lot of people in the LGBT community are extremely skeptical of and hostile toward same-sex attracted individuals in opposite-sex marriages. I can understand how folks in this situation feel: they really WANT to make their opposite-sex marriages work; that's hard enough, without having to encounter constant skepticism everywhere they turn; and they probably do feel underrepresented or misrepresented in the media (despite the very recent media circus around a certain gay Mormon guy in a "mixed orientation marriage").

Ironically, however, using their personal stories to launch a broad-side against same-sex marriage is likely to produce the opposite of what they want. Instead of understanding, empathy and support, they are provoking more skepticism and hostility. Because the LGBT community is understandably skeptical and hostile when the stories of SSA folks in OS marriages are used to attack our relationships.

It's ironic and heart-breaking... But to me it proves why the work we were trying to do at CTW is SO IMPORTANT. One of the things we were trying to achieve is a commonly accepted code of ethics -- accepted by ALL sides of this debate. That code of ethics would include, for instance, NOT projecting our personal stories on others, not comparing our lives to others, not using our stories to undermine and discredit others.