Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"Homosexual behavior is contrary to the purposes of human sexuality"

As the old guard continues to shout its hypocritical nonsense about how gay people and other godless heathens are trying to impose their values on society and how marriage equality is a war on religion, I'd like to take a moment to remind us of something important.

According to LDS theology and policy, living an open and fulfilling life as a gay person is physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, metaphysically, temporally and eternally WRONG. This belief system has disastrous impacts far beyond the mind of an individual believer or a community of believers. As an American, I will fight to ensure that the rights of religious and non-religious belief and expression are protected. As an American, I likewise will not stand aside while a person or a church hides behind religious piety to shame me for who I am as a gay person. I am more than "just a gay person." But being gay is as integral a part of me as the blood the flows through my body. I am a peaceful person. But, if provoked, I will fight for who I am.

The 2010 LDS Church Handbook of Instructions, Books 1 and 2 state the following:

"Homosexual behavior violates the commandments of God, is contrary to the purposes of human sexuality, and deprives people of the blessings that can be found in family life and in the saving ordinances of the gospel. Those who persist in such behavior or who influence others to do so are subject to Church discipline. Homosexual behavior can be forgiven through sincere repentance."

Really? Contrary to the purposes of human sexuality??? Interesting that there is not a single evolutionary biologist or any other qualified scientist within the LDS church hierarchy that could make such a claim about the purposes of human sexuality with any degree of credibility or expertise. The church can do what it wants internally (although not without real-world impacts on people; more on that later). But the church really needs to get out of the business of making claims that involve science or biology (cf. Lamanite origins).

Yes, the LDS hierarchy has softened their rhetoric a bit. Well, mostly. We'll always have Boyd K. Packer to kick us around. While the LDS church is now stating its views about gay people in nicer terms, its policies and actions are still a load of crap. As I read elsewhere not long ago, it's "a kinder, gentler load of crap." There have also been a few examples of inclusion at the local level. Yay for incremental changes! That is, if you like your life to follow the rhythm of the slow drips of water torture.

Let's be clear. Under the official doctrine, policy and practice of the LDS church, all homosexual behavior is treated as sin. Contact between two straight people that is deemed perfectly appropriate is quite easily deemed inappropriate if it is between two gay people. (See "passionate kissing" by a committed couple. See also a gay couple married in New York who moves to Utah where that marriage is both unrecognized and shamed). The acts of gay people are deemed to deprive themselves and others of the joys of family life. The church will expel those who lead their lives differently.

Sin, either confessed or reported, usually means disciplinary action of some sort. While "repeated homosexuality activity" is no longer a heading under the section listing items that require a disciplinary council, such councils are still regularly held, especially in light of the handbook quote above. A person with creative discrimination could easily label same-sex marriage as apostasy and convene a mandatory council on that basis. Also, nearly every person who has been subjected to LDS church discipline for being gay or having gay sex has an annotation on their church membership record in what is a disturbingly perfect example of a modern-day Scarlet Letter.

This system of fear and subjugation permeates the entire membership of the church at every level. It is the foundation upon which LDS efforts to oppose gay marriage is built. It poisons family relationships. It destroys friendships. It fosters vitriol in social media. Despite platitudes that ostensibly encourage civil discourse, respect for opposing viewpoints and hopes for reconciliation, this system by its existence sends a far more powerful message than press releases or even statements by the former president of the church, Gordon Hinckley that called for compassion and openness. The platitudes are for public consumption only. The message the system sends is for the membership, to let them know how things really are.

This system proclaims that gay people are fundamentally flawed and should be feared as the harbingers of the downfall of civilized society. This system describes happily open gay people as enemies of human biology and sexuality. This system casts gay people as the generals in a make-believe war on religion (read: Christianity). That's quite a lot of power for a historically oppressed minority.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but there were also "enlightened" American slave owners who, within a fundamentally unjust system, treated their slaves with kindness and relative fairness. Others freed their slaves and fought for abolition. Yet the slave system continued for a LONG TIME in this country, accompanied by appeals to scriptural authority and long-standing tradition. And we still live amid its toxic fallout and the powerful sway that inhumanity has upon the minds of so many.

I'm all for civil discourse. I enjoy hearing people articulate opposing viewpoints. I rather like conversations with people whose views aren't exactly like my own. My impression is that most human beings do. For all of our violent past, we do pretty well when we talk with each other. Not at each other or past each other, but with each other.

I really think that's what most of this whole marriage equality thing is about. It's saying: Hey, straight people! Some of us gay people would like to be married like some of you are. Some of us won't get married, just like some of you won't. But we want the option. We want to live in society with you---to make sure it continues and gives people a fair chance at happiness. We want the legal protections along with the love. We want to build families. Some of those families will include kids, just like your families. Yeah, some of you are afraid. But it's gonna be okay. If you get too afraid, we're good at giving comforting hugs. We're used to dealing with fear. And we're pretty forgiving if you give us a chance. If you talk with us, walk with us and listen to our hopes and worries and dreams, you'll find that the purposes of marriage, family life, and yes, human sexuality, are broad enough to include us.

Also, we're just as boring as you are most evenings. Just a little more fabulous, that's all.

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