Being gay/same sex attracted in the LDS church just got real...and that is saying a lot because it has been incredibly real for a long time...so what I’m really trying to say is that it just got real all over again because the same already extremely taut tensions around this complex experience just got wound a little tighter.
And so I am writing to my entire LDS community; hoping that no matter where each of us ideologically lands on the human experience of homosexuality, you might be willing to take a moment to pause and consider the big picture of what it's presently like to be a gay/ssa Mormon, and what role straight members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints might play at our sides. Here are some quick facts/statistics to start with so we have at least a rough sketch of the landscape -- or perhaps better stated -- the unfortunate land mines:
1) If a gay/ssa Mormon marries a person of the opposite sex, we are statistically at least twice as likely as our peers to divorce.
2) If a gay/ssa Mormon marries someone of the same sex, we are now officially identified in LDS policy as an apostate of The Church of Jesus Christ and all that comes with it.
3) If we remain single and celibate, the largest study of LGBT/Same sex attracted Mormons found that on average, we have the same life quality scores as someone with the chronic autoimmune disease, lupus.
So summarizing that all together we get: Divorce, Apostate, Lupus — That is what gay/ssa Mormons are presently up against and obviously it's discouraging to say the least.
But are there exceptions to these outcomes?
You can bet that every single LGBTQ/Same sex attracted Mormon is gallantly trying their level best to be the exception. Spend some time around the block with LGBTQ/SSA Mormons making various life choices and you will find some of the most admirably persistent human beings trying to sort out how to do this; running a gamut that may include all kinds of self intervention, coping mechanisms, advocacy, social support and other various attempts to balance both spiritual and sexual identities, and their related needs, in a plethora of creative ways. In other instances, you may also find some of us who have certainly found ourselves caught in self destructive/ high risk choices, as we’ve painfully twisted down this inherently conflicting and even traumatic road. But whether self destructive or self affirming, most of us have not escaped times of deep anxiety, depression and loss; because ultimately, we each have or will have to give up something; some part of ourselves that feels both persistent and fundamental to our being.
Me: Ahem, excuse me, can I ask you a question?
Me: Which of your limbs would you be willing to cut off?
You: None, thank you very much
Me: My apologies, but that is not an option
You: This is a not a great question
Me: I understand where you are coming from. It is a totally horrible question for anyone to be faced with. But I pose it because it is the best analogy I can come up with to somehow portray what it has felt like to me to be a gay/ssa Mormon. I ultimately had to cut something off; something I experience as vital; with ramifications that effect me throughout my life.
The title of this blog is “stars in the ocean,” a reference to sea stars/starfish, who unlike most creatures, have a rare ability: if one of their arms happens to get cut off, they’re actually able to regenerate an entire new limb. It's pretty amazing...and it is with this as a metaphor in mind, that I want to talk directly to Latter-day Saints:
For gay/ssa Mormons who give up ever having a same sex partner and marry someone of the opposite sex, we need more than ever Latter-day Saints who are able to meet us in deep and honest connections -- particularly with people of the same gender -- that we still sincerely long for.
For gay/ssa Mormons who give up membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and marry someone of the same gender, we need more than ever Latter-day Saints who will reach out with love and welcome us with sincere fellowship when we bravely endeavor to still join you in the pews to worship our God.
And for gay/ssa Mormons who give up having a partner in this life at all, we need more than ever a broad support system of Latter-day Saints who will offer and maintain deep connections and bonds with us that will help sustain us through the ups and downs of life.
I have learned regenerating begins to happen when LGBT/SSA people are able to be vulnerable and real about where we are and what we are going through in our community, and straight Latter-day Saints are willing to listen, ask what we as individuals need and talk honestly and empathetically with us as equals.
These are just small thoughts; an invitation really...to be vulnerable with us and to forge connections.
We’ve each had to give up some hugely significant element of relationship and relationships are therefore a critical part of what we need to regenerate.
For better or worse, it isn't something we can do alone.
Laura Skaggs Dulin
M.S. Marriage & Family Therapy