Monday, April 25, 2011

"it's not a sin to have feelings" (Gay Mormons?)

i told you in an earlier post that i was reading this, and that i would tell you more about it soon. today is "soon." the book, Gay Mormons?, is now available and so, now seems like a good time to talk about it.

brent kerby's book is a collection of over 30 different personal stories of latter-day-saints (nicknamed "mormon") and their experiences with same-sex-attraction (ssa). the contributors speak of how they came to realize they were not heterosexual, they speak of their fears and feelings of guilt, but they also speak of their hopes and wishes. they are sons, daughters, parents, girl/boyfriends, spouses with partners of the other or the same gender.

each story is different, yet there are some recurring themes, the strongest of which has to be the common desire for a meaningful, trusting relationship with another person - something pretty much every human being experiences, no matter what their orientation. this collection makes it very clear that those who feel attracted only or mainly to their own gender do not do so simply out of lust,  and that a homosexual relationship can be (and often is) based on love just as much as any heterosexual relationship.

another commonality is having to deal with the conflict between the teachings they grew up with and the feelings and experiences they are having. what do you do when the religion, the community you trust in and live with every day of your life tells you that what you are feeling is not right? some contributors tell of their failed attempts at reconciling their faith and their orientation, others tell of success, while others again are still trying to figure things out for themselves.

since the family unit of husband, wife and children is an important focal point in the church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints (as in many other churches), and many lessons in sunday school and other meetings center around this configuration, it is not easy for church members who know that they will / can never form such a family to feel included. much like single working moms, they may feel judged by others for the way they lead their lives, - others who do not understand their situation. the idea that ssa is a "choice", a more or less conscious decision that can be reversed if one simply wants it enough is still wide-spread.

some homosexual church members may enter into a heterosexual marriage in an attempt to "do what's right", some choose to never marry, live in a celibate relationship, or stay alone. others may turn away from the church community. some people may find the conflict irreconcilable and go into a deep depression or even try to take their own lives.

the book aims at giving people who experience ssa a voice, sharing the ideas, worries, and hopes others might otherwise not be aware of. as the editor of this work, brent kerby has done his homework: he has researched the church's official position on this topic and provides quotes and also a list of resources for those who want to read further. he has also paid much attention to keeping the tone in these stories helpful, - honest and straightforward, and free of anger or personal accusation.

these are real stories, from the lives of real people, most of whom were happy to see them printed under their real name. only a few contributors opted for a pseudonym. i think this book will be interesting to anyone who wants to know about mormons and ssa, to understand their experience. it will be particularly interesting to those latter-day-saints who experience ssa or have a friend, family member, spouse, or other acquaintance who does.

in the introduction one general authority of the church is quoted as saying that we (here: the members of the church, but i think it goes for all of us really) need to be more loving and more tolerant of those around us. we need to re-examine our own ideas and preconceptions. we need to see beyond theoretical rules, the letter of the law, and make sure we look at the person, their heart, their desires, their hopes.

the book is now available at amazon:

1 comment: