How to Get Those Darn Gay People to Stop Being So Obsessed With Their Gay Identities

One of the complaints I’ve heard numerous times from Latter-day Saints is that we gay people are way too obsessed with our gayness, that we get caught up in some outlandish homosexual identity (which might eventually lead to the dreaded “gay lifestyle”), and that we need to just stop thinking about sexual orientation as being that big of a part of who we are. We’re discouraged from even using the word “gay,” because it might swallow up our identities and make us think that there’s nothing else to us. Mormons who claim to be especially enlightened have informed me that they just don’t think about people in those terms, that they’ve transcended even being aware of such details about a person, and then complained about gay people who “force” their orientation on others by talking excessively about it, and thereby making everyone feel unnecessarily awkward and uncomfortable. Others have objected to an idea put forth by some church members that gay Mormons have a particularly challenging trial, pointing out that everyone has difficulties in life, and asking, when did we decide that gay people should get all this special attention?

Perhaps the most prominent member of the church to take a view along these lines is David Bednar, who (in)famously explained, “There are no homosexual members of the Church. We are not defined by sexual attraction. We are not defined by sexual behavior. We are sons and daughters of God and all of us have different challenges in the flesh. There are many different types of challenges.” And you know, I’m actually okay with suggesting that it might be spiritually helpful for people to see their most core identity as that of being a child of God. But in addition to being troubled by the move to tell a group of people that they literally do not exist, I see a fundamental contradiction between the church narrative in which gay people are exactly the same as everyone else, and the reality of church practice which makes clear that gay people are definitely not the same. I mean, what sense does it make to say, in essence, “Don’t think of yourself as gay. Think of yourself as a child of God who, like any other child of God, will get excommunicated if you get married to someone to whom you’re attracted.”

This isn’t just hypothetical for me. One of the things that has struck me in attending a church which is explicitly LGBT affirming is that I’m actually less conscious of myself as gay. Because it really doesn’t matter. There aren’t different rules for me. If I want to get married, that’s a possibility. Far from disciplining me for it, my parish would undoubtedly be willing to host the ceremony. If I had kids, they could get baptized, the same as anyone else’s kids. So while once in a while I might mention the subject in passing, in general it feels like mentioning that I have green eyes. People don’t seem to give it much thought. No one is giving sermons about the need to treat people like me with extra kindness and love because we bear such a terrible burden. (Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate that LDS leaders have called for kindness and love. Nonetheless, I think it’s worth asking about the institutional practices that are creating a particular need for that.) Definitely no one is talking about Defending the Family, and how that’s kind of the point of life. I go to church and feel like—get this—a child of God. And I find myself more able to do what I’ve been told to do all these years, to not worry overly about my sexual orientation, and devote my time at church to focusing on what it means to be a Christian. If that’s what it means to be less hung up on having a gay identity, I’ll take it.

5 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I love that your new church does such a good job of not making your sexual orientation an issue, Lynnette. It’s great that it’s such a welcoming place!

    A point that occurs to me about gay identity (and I’m maybe just restating what you said) is that the LDS church is so awash in pushing heterosexual marriage that we bring the friction with gay people’s identities on us. I mean, you can hardly have a YW lesson (from what I’ve heard) without at least some part discussing the importance of one’s future marriage (to a man, of course). And of course if anything, these messages ratchet up in intensity when teens become single adults. If Mormonism didn’t push the straight norm so hard, gay people wouldn’t have their gay identities be such an issue. It’s like you said. It might be like having green eyes versus some other color. Interesting, but not central.

  2. I have found that the people complaining about gays making a big deal of their sexual identity want those people go shut up and go away. They don’t mean, “you should think of yourself as a child of God, as more important than anything else about you. But it is loser to, “if you realized you are a child of God then you would repent of the sin of being gay.” Their thinking goes more like, “I think of myself as a child of God and I happen to be straight, so maybe if you change to thinking of yourself as a child of God, then you will be just like me and be straight.” And they add to themselves, “in the meantime, shut up, because you make me uncomfortable.” It isn’t about gays at all, but about their own homophobia.

  3. Mormons are kind of obsessed with hetero sex. ^^; They objectify women just as much as “the world” does, and their focus on men obtaining “posterity” is really just a more pretentious way of “keeping score.” You don’t really have the choice to consent or not, either. Even if you’re gay, theologically speaking you have to look forward to having child-bearing sex in the eternities.

    It’s so ironic to me that discarding my “morals” has led to me spending less time obsessing and fretting about sex, and more time being with people I care about. I feel so much better about being a girl, and having sexual feelings, when my body is my property and not someone else’s.


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