Saturday, August 23, 2008

Condoning a Gay Relationship?

A thought occurred to me the other day while discussing same-gender attraction (SSA) with someone who has faced it. While I don't think a gay couple should come to church expecting to be accepted with open arms and administered the sacrament in their sinful union, I do think there are times when I could support someone in their gay relationship, even if I couldn't condone giving them official marriage status.

For instance, I would rather see the gay people of the world who don't know any better (at least in Mormon terms) living in a monogamous gay relationship than be promiscuous. I used to live on Boston’s Newbury Street, where my then-wife was a hairdresser. As you can imagine if you know Boston, she had lots of gay coworkers and clients, and we became friends with one of her clients in particular, a very successful, professional, charismatic guy who really had his act together, much more so in many areas than I ever have or will.

We would exchange dinner invitations, and it was fascinating to spend time with him and his partner in his lovely South End apartment, where they seemed to be successfully playing house. When this partner abandoned him, we were able to offer commiseration and support (our friend had been playing sugar daddy to a younger guy). I enjoyed enough good rapport with this fellow that, when he was getting ready to treat himself to a post-breakup bacchanalia on Fire Island, I was able to look him in the eye and half-teasingly say, “Now, you packed plenty of protection, right?” And I think he actually appreciated the concern.

Even for LDS SSA people, I would rather see them in monogamous sodomy than otherwise, if that's really only the best they can manage at that point in their lives. I could even go so far as to say that some people may need to go through a homosexual relationship in order to learn what's right, as long as they ultimately repent of it and move on—of course, the danger is that they may never break free of it.

After all, I've gone through similar lessons myself that I don't think I could have learned any other way except by actually experiencing the sin and tasting its bitter fruits. (I'll tell you what, after smoking pot every day for two years, I'd hesitate to touch that mind-numbing, sleep-inducing, munchie-causing stuff again even if the church OKed it.)

I think anyone facing self-loathing because of unwanted SSA should really just be loved and supported and helped as much as humanly possible, but not if they're trying to justify themselves in giving in to the gay lifestyle—then they need arm's-length sternness and a dose of theological and spiritual reality, lest we enable them in their sin. Either that or they should just give it a rest on Mormonism for a season, unless and until they're ready to try it again on the Lord's terms, not their own.

11 comments:

David T. said...

Chris,

Like you, I have a number of gay friends through my wife (interior designer) with whom we socialize, and we have a few clandestinely gay members in our ward whom we embrace with a "dont-ask-don't-tell" kind of attitude. Also like you, I have no problem with my gay friends' monogamous relationships. They're delightful couples and I enjoy their company.

In fact, I'd have to say, you had me nodding along throughout your whole entry until I came to this:

I could even go so far as to say that some people may need to go through a homosexual relationship in order to learn what's right, as long as they ultimately repent of it and move on—of course, the danger is that they may never break free of it.

Sorry, brother, but this isn't anywhere near the same galaxy as partaking the doob-- and look how detouring that was. I do appreciate the analogy and (here comes Hypocrite Dave) I'd even go so far as agree with you if it concerned heterosexual pre-marital sex. But getting a taste of sodomy... I fear the danger of giving in to such an appetite would forge shackles a lot more difficult to break than putting down a joint, and make the may back a lot murkier.

So I vote nyet on the "getting it out of your system" approach.

David T. said...

Ack!

"...and make the way back a lot murkier."

Christopher Bigelow said...

Yes, David T., you're probably right. Sodomy is probably way harder to overcome even than heterosexual fornication, which, after all, can be--and often is--repented of with God-sanctioned marriage. But how do you turn sodomy into something good? The only way is to turn away from it completely, which may be near impossible once you're into it, or at least very difficult, more like heroin than marijuana.

Here's something else I've been trying to come to terms with: That SSA person with whom I spoke recently told me that when he was young, he had a nonsexual but emotionally passionate relationship with a same-gender friend, which he believes helped prepare him for eventual heterosexual marriage. He said, however, that if it weren't for the church's influence, he would have gone the gay route as an adult.

JennVan said...

I loved your comments the other day on gay marriage and this post kind of highlights my other thoughts and problems with the gay argument. Many people say they support gay marriage or at least civil unions because they just want people to be happy, to experience having a close relationship. Here is my issue: I am an older single LDS woman. I've been a "good girl" and not had pre-marital sex or anything related with the men I've dated over the years. I have a hope that someday I will be married but I do realize that there is a chance that I won't be able to have that in this life. How is that any different from requiring a gay person to be celibate? They may have the attraction to those of the same gender but they are still required to be celibate until they are in a God-sanctioned relationship. Just like heterosexuals might work on themselves to figure out why they aren’t married, homosexuals may choose to work on themselves to shun the feelings they have (it works if they are willing, I’ve seen it happen) or they may choose to follow the feelings they have knowing they are not in harmony with God’s commands. Why do gay people want to bend God’s commands to fit them? I don’t get to do that even though our society has embraced fornication and out of wedlock childbearing. If I or someone else chooses to turn from those things God has commanded, we see many problems in our personal lives as well as in our society.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, why should gay people get something special when I don’t? Just because they feel they are born that way doesn’t entitle them to something different. I was born a certain way which may make me less likely to get married, but that doesn’t mean I should get to have different rules than everyone else. So should fat people or disabled people or mentally challenged people or people struggling with anger or abuse or self-esteem problems or commitment problems be allowed to have different relationships and not be held to the same standard as everyone else since their chances of having a entering into marriage are much lower?

JennVan said...

Oh and I really would like comments or thoughts on this theory of mine. :) Just try not to be rude about it.

David T. said...

Chris,

To clarify then, the SSA member you spoke with did get married, or will hopefully eventually?

Being in such a situation must be so difficult-- the struggle between Church and self even more so than the self-discipline. It reminds me of Trevor Southey's story on the PBS documentary. I think I would be happier for members who chose the Gospel over the SSA if I knew they were happier and found joy in their choice.

Christopher Bigelow said...

David T: My SSA friend did get married and has successfully fathered children and stayed married.

Jennvan: I've heard people argue that it's worse for celibate gays than for unmarried singles, because at least the singles know there's potential for them to be married, now or in the eternities, yet gays feel no such hope.

However, I could see where it might be even more painful for someone who could get married if they'd just meet the right person and/or become attractive enough. What's worse: having no carrot dangling within sight at all, or having the carrot dangle forever out of reach?

But I think any SSA person, with enough faith, could either turn hetero enough to marry (with full disclosure to the wife, of course, of the difficulty) or carve out a reasonably happy celibate life. I think LDS gay-identifying people get in trouble with forgetting or denying that God can heal them of the same-gender disorder in the afterlife. I reject that it's an essential part of their eternal identity, as some argue it is.

JennVan said...

Chris, Love your comments as always. I especially like the one about forgetting that God can heal anything. Its also that they have to want to be healed. Just like any priesthood blessing, things are predicated on your faithfulness and desire to be healed. If you don't really want to be healed or don't want to be any different, it won't happen because Heavenly Father isn't going to take your agency away in that.
Like Chris, I have had a few close friends who were gay that were able to turn from those feelings, start dating women and eventually married and had children. They found that the joy of having a family and children outweighed the influence of the gay attractions. Not that they ever "went away" but they could manage it. I liken it sometimes to alcoholism. Just because you have a genetic or environmental predisposition to certain desires (like drinking alcohol) doesn't mean that they are acceptable. They are still arrested if they are caught driving drunk, they still have family problems and physical problems from their use of alcohol. Even after they give up alcohol, they still have "desires" for it throughout the rest of their life. They are always an alcoholic or at least labeled an alcoholic. Why do gay people feel like they are different?
Years and years ago I was in group counseling with a few SSA men who constantly moaned about how their plight was so much worse than everyone else's. The group was quick to remind them that we are all born with "weaknesses" and that our job on this earth is to overcome those, not give into them. We had others in the group who had been incestuously raped, sexually assaulted, had been a sexual perpetrator, had been abused as children and everything in between. They all had things they didn't ask for or desires they didn't want. What makes a gay person's problems any worse than anyone else's?
I guess all I'm trying to say is, don't judge other people's trials. And that goes for gay people just as much as everyone else. We know that we have all been given trials for us personally to overcome in this life and I believe that feelings of SSA are just part of that.

Christopher Bigelow said...

JennVan: Great last comment. I could have written much of it myself.

JennVan said...

Thanks, that is definitely a complement! :)

overthehill said...

I agree with Jennevan. Why should SSAs think they're exempt from celibacy? I'm 68 years old, a widow caregiver of a disabled daughter. She won't get married in this life, and I probably won't again either; I don't think I want. My first "eternal" husband of 18 years left the church to live with his "gay" boyfriend, leaving me four children to finish raising. I married an alcoholic convert to the church who tried but couldn't recover. So. Rough stuff we sometimes have to face. This earth life is a testing ground. Some of us get very difficult trials. I got weary of my first husband's "poor, poor me, why did the gods do this to me?" If you know God, then you know celibacy/abstinence is for everyone unless they're lawfully wedded to the opposite sex. Unfortunately, many in our world don't see it this way. I have known some same sex couples I have liked very much, and some I haven't liked, as people, all of them once members of the church. I have liked them without condoning their sexual relationship. We are to reach out in love to all of our brothers and sisters, but as in anything, we never condone the sin.