The Son of a Gay Man Weighs In on Josh Weed and the Mormon Gay Movement

gay mormon josh weed BMM

Well, it is the month of rainbows, banana hammocks, and PRIDE parades, a month where anything can happen: where straight-living gay men come out of the closet and where Mormons group together to march for acceptance. If you like to dabble around in the blogosphere surrounding mormonism you’ve probably come across these two sources of discussion, and as the son of a gay man I thought I’d weigh in on what these things mean to me. No, you didn’t ask for them, but here they are anyways. My thoughts may be unexpected to people on both sides of this issue.

josh weed and homosexuality in the mormon LDS church

First of all – Josh Weed’s “coming out” article. This thing has spread across Mormon social media like wildfire; but if you’re still in the dark, here’s a brief background. Josh has been married for 10 years, has three children, is an active member of the LDS church . . . and he is gay. Well, he was born gay and is gay in his sexual orientation but he lives happily in a straight relationship and doesn’t act on his homosexuality at all. His article is extremely well thought out, sincere, and meaningful, and the response he’s received has been wholly unexpected and mostly positive. If you haven’t read it, take a moment and do so by clicking here. Yes, it is quite long, but worth the time and something I hope many more people will read.

The reason it has spread so quickly, however, is something that troubles me quite a bit. I sincerely hope I’m wrong. I think most people are missing out on the power and significance of what Josh is saying. Here are the things I hope everyone will take away from what he wrote:

  • Homosexuality is real, first of all. The feelings and attraction Josh had for other men, and the absence of sexual attraction towards women, were not his choice.

I am sexually attracted to men. I am not sexually attracted to women. It is very simple. I have many, many years of experience which confirm this to be true, but it’s really as simple as what a girl asked me in junior high—and I’m sorry if this is a little blunt, but I’ve never found a question that cuts to the heart of the matter more effectively— “so, if everyone in this room took off their clothes, would you be turned on by the girls or the guys?” My answer, which I didn’t say out loud, was unquestionably the guys. And it was unquestionably not the girls. And that still is my answer. It’s really not very complicated. Most people just don’t think about their sexual orientation because they don’t have any reason to.

  • He first knew he was gay when he was 12 – when he hit puberty.
  • He had extremely supportive family and a supportive and nonjudgmental friend (now wife).
  • He does not claim that what he did will work for everyone. That’s important. Let’s use his words here:

I want to make it very clear that while I have found a path that brings me profound joy and that is the right path for me, I don’t endorse this as the only path for somebody who is gay and religious. I will never, ever judge somebody else’s path as being “incorrect” and I know many people who have chosen different paths than myself.

  • He then follows with two recommendations:

1) If you know someone who is gay your job is to love. That’s all. Don’t correct them, don’t control them, just love and support them and respect them for whatever choice they make. 2) If you are gay and religious, look into the mirror and completely accept yourself for who you are.

That said, I do have some concerns about Josh’s thinking and, more specifically, how it is being received by the religious community.

1) I think a lot of people see this post and hear, “Hey, its possible! See?!? See?!?”  Yes, it is; but please don’t latch on to that idea without listening to the rest of what Josh says. It worked for Josh. I’ll accept that and respect him enough to believe that he is truly happy and doesn’t feel he’s “denying himself” by not acting on his sexual orientation. That does NOT mean (and Josh said this too) that it will work for everyone. Case in point – my own family. I come from a generation where gay men were taught to get married and their problems would go away. That is, in most cases, a terrible suggestion. There are different levels of sexual orientation, different intensities of attraction, and what works for some people would never work for someone else. As much as the religious world would like to understand homosexuality and other sexual orientations in a black-and-white, “this-is-wrong and this-is-right” kind of way, it simply doesn’t work that way. Sexual identity is complex. Each person is different. Josh is no more the authority on gay people than I am the authority on straight people. I’m just one dude. My attraction, relationships, and sexual life are completely different than that of other straight people. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is critical and incredibly important to to learn about homosexuality from someone who is actually gay; however, it is essential to talk to a variety of different people and not come to conclusions after the first person you talk to or hear. There are a vast amount of gay people who have tried what Josh is talking about and have had it fail miserably. He knows that, I just hope you do as well.

2) There is absolutely nothing wrong with being homosexual and acting on it.  Nothing.  No sin whatsoever.  It is natural, it is normal, it is scientifically understood (to a very large degree), and it is fine.  So, I cringe a little when I hear his reasoning for wanting to be in a heterosexual relationship.  I don’t necessarily think he’s denying himself (that’s for him to decide and say, and I’ll believe him and respect his answer), but his decision was based (in large part) on the idea that it is wrong to act on being gay. As a gay person, he said, you give something up no matter which path you choose:

If you are Mormon and you choose to live your religion, you are sacrificing the ability to have a romantic relationship with a same-sex partner. If you choose a same-sex partner, you are sacrificing the ability to have a biological family with the one you love. And so on. No matter what path you choose, if you are gay you are giving up something basic, and sometimes various things that are very basic. I chose not to “live the gay lifestyle,” as it were, because I found that what I would have to give up to do so wasn’t worth the sacrifice for me.

While I want to be sensitive to Josh on this statement and would never stretch to say “I understand” completely (or even partially) about the terribly difficult choices a gay person has to make I also have to be true to my own reaction. I value and respect his decision but don’t accept the idea that he gained more by choosing heterosexuality than he would have by choosing to live in homosexuality. That is, mostly, because I don’t believe there is a god saying it is wrong to be gay, that the society that condemns homosexuality deserves his friendship, or that adoption isn’t a viable alternative to natural-born children (If the woman I love can’t have children it would be very difficult, to be sure, but we’d still find a great future with adopted children). The large champion he has in his corner (on the side of heterosexuality) is god, a god who either doesn’t exist or is a hateful and spiteful being I wouldn’t like believing in anyways. You have to sanitize a lot of scripture to live a gay lifestyle and still believe in the Bible . . . I tried to understand my dad in the context of Christianity for a long time (somehow all “you are an abomination” stuff doesn’t leave much room for acceptance and respect). That doesn’t mean it is impossible to believe in god and be gay at the same time – obviously that isn’t true. It does mean that someone has to look at the scriptures with a liberal dose of selective reading. All those “god loves us” scriptures are great!

3) Unless, of course, you accept the idea that god hates the sin but not the sinner. The message of the LDS church, of groups like Mormons Building Bridges (as I understand it), and the message Josh bought in to (although he thankfully doesn’t prescribe it for everyone), is that it is not OK to act on your homosexuality. It is not a sin to be tempted, that is something you are born with, but it is a sin to act on that temptation. Josh may not be prescribing straight marriage to every gay man out there, but he did prescribe it to himself.

First of all . . . we’ve come a long way in 30 years and I’m extremely happy to see the progress. Here are 3 snippets from our beautiful history . . . .

  • Electro-shock therapy was studied at BYU. It involved attaching electrodes to the gay patient, flashing pornographic pictures in front of him, and shocking him whenever a picture of a nude male was shown. Some had a device attached to their penis to detect arousal and would “pass” when they were aroused by visualizing intimacy with women. Insane. Young college students who confided in their bishops were given the advice of entering this program. Here was something, they were told, that would cure them of their homosexuality! They trusted their leaders and entered the program, and the results were terrible. The participants of that study suffered extreme psychological damage and the vast majority of them committed suicide. This wasn’t just the Mormons, there were a couple of other universities who also took part in this study, but that does not lessen the deep disdain I have for BYU and ecclesiastical leaders for allowing this.
  • My brother and I were taught about the “pathway to homosexuality.” Basically, naked women porn => soft core porn => hardcore porn => abusive porn => child porn => homosexual porn => homosexual acts like group masturbation => and finally . . . homosexuality. In the least, most people thought of homosexuality as a choice akin to other sexual sins like adultery, molestation, and necrophilia . . .
  • My dad’s generation of gay men were taught to fast and pray the gay out of them, be obedient (perfect the gay out of them), and get married (uh . . . procreate the gay out of them? I’m trying to be delicate here . . . ). Do these things, he was told, and the problem would eventually go away. Or if it didn’t? “Well, we all have our temptations, yours is just different than mine!” That’s nice . . . “Look, we’re the same! I can’t sleep with whichever women I want and you? Well, you can’t, uh, ever have a romantic relationship with a man.”

mormons building bridges  gay lds movement

So to hear and see this new approach of love and quasi-acceptance is fantastic and I applaud the LDS for their development as a church and a community. Many people online aren’t satisfied with the church’s (and people like Josh and other Mormon groups) modern prescription for homosexuality because they’re not complete or quite accepting enough. I agree that there is still room to improve; but these groups and people like Josh Weed play an extremely crucial role in the lives of struggling gay Mormons, giving them a forum to be heard, respected, understood, and to meet people who struggle with the same issues (what I’m calling an “issue” here isn’t homosexuality, it is the social response to their homosexuality). In a society of perfectionism, conservative politics, strict commandments, and constant talk about marriage and family, these people have been misunderstood and isolated for far too long. The atmosphere of support surrounding them has changed drastically over the last 30 years, and for that I’m happy. I do, however, hope and expect that these groups will be more of a stepping stone to greater self-acceptance than a final resting place for many.

So – those are my main three beefs. I don’t expect most of my extended family or Utah friends to agree with all of the three points I listed, and that’s fine. What I hope is that you’ll listen to what Josh is actually saying about what it was like for him, realize that the struggle is real, and be open to the concept that not everyone should do what Josh has done.

I want to end by reminding you that I am the son of a homosexual who tried the church’s prescription. He was married for 10 years, had 5 kids, and couldn’t live dishonestly with himself anymore and chose to leave. I love and respect my father, and while my family’s history is difficult and complex, I can say that I and other people in my family are deeply grateful to have our father in our lives. Having someone so close do something society condemned helped me look more deeply into the issues surrounding homosexuality and eventually conclude society is very far off the mark.

Sexual orientation is a serious issue. I have met with many people over the years who have been affected by it. I have met with a Mormon mother of 5 who’s husband of 15 years finally admitted he was transgender, changed his name, and moved out. I had a friend in High School who struggled with being “bipolar” . . . constantly on the brink of suicide, and actually he was just gay and unable to admit it to himself and his family. Josh and these other Mormons represent an important movement towards acceptance, respect, and inclusion of faithful gay members of their communities, and I hope those of you who don’t fully accept homosexual people will take a deeper look at this issue and prepare for an intense change in perspective.

*If you agree with something I said here, or think the perspective needs to be seen elsewhere, please click the “follow” button and link this wherever you think it appropriate! 🙂 And please – share your thoughts below.

** Also, read this post: snippets from my past about feeling like I needed to save my dad.  (This one is short, I promise . . . 😛  )

*** And, here some other posts I’ve found that I think are fantastic and should be read by more people!

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26 thoughts on “The Son of a Gay Man Weighs In on Josh Weed and the Mormon Gay Movement

  1. Love reading your stuff, Jeff! I, too, worry that people will take his story as “proof” that living the gay lifestyle or being gay is a choice. They will say this Josh guy was strong enough and had enough FAITH in God to not give into his temptations and anyone that lives as a homosexual is weak and took the easy route. I don’t think that he really would have had to give up the future possibility of marriage, kids, and religion, had he chosen to live as a homosexual. There are obviously plenty of options! If he is truly happy, then that’s great, but I do not think this story will be the norm for people struggling with this situation. I think it will be the miniscule, tiny, probably won’t ever happen again exception to the rule!

    • Ya – I think the important thing for readers to remember is that there have been TENS OF THOUSANDS before him. Josh is great – he’s a healthy, happy, outgoing, funny, and good writer and person. People are attracted to that and to the fact that he is a “success” story for “dealing” with homosexuality. I think Josh’s story is fantastic and his message important, but I don’t know if everyone is accepting the full brunt of what he’s saying.

    • I have to be honest. My feeling when reading Josh’s story was just profound sadness. I know they say they’re happy and yet I can’t believe that they don’t know deep inside that they’ve settled for something less. I can’t imagine having sex with a man for years, knowing he is not at all attracted to me. I don’t begrudge them their choices – it’s their life, not mine – and I genuinely hope they are happy (and I didn’t reply to THEM with this opinion). I just don’t think it’s a choice they should ever have been faced with in the first place.

      • Agreed. Thanks for reading and feeling free to put your thoughts here, Debbie. Its not, like you said, something you HOPE . . . but I think almost all people who try to live in a hetero relationship as a gay person have to feel some intense contradiction. I, like you, hope they ARE happy. I know many of them aren’t.

  2. A friend of mine linked to your blog thinking I might appreciate your viewpoint and I have to say, she was right! I so appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this issue, Jefferson. I am also the product of a Mormon mixed orientation marriage and it’s been hard to see this and the Ty Mansfield article spread around the Internet by members of the church saying, “see, it can be done!” when I have been a victim and front row witness to the pain and devastation these types of marriages cause. In my case, my parents are still married and I didn’t find out my dad was gay until I was an adult–but I always knew there was something deeply wrong with my parents’ relationship and like your mom said, it was the trauma that kept on giving even though I didn’t know how to articulate what it was. I actually wrote about my experience here: http://www.the-exponent.com/what-the-heart-wants/

    Anyway, I completely agree with your take on the Josh Weed post and while I honor the choice he and his wife have made, I wish other members of the church would take it as the experience of this one couple only. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and experiences!

    • Mraynes! For some reason wordpress automatically put your comment in the spam box and I didn’t see it until this morning. I look forward to reading about your experience once I get done with work today – I’ll respond more then!

    • Wow, thanks for linking that article here, Mryanes. Your approach towards talking about this subject in an experiential way is great and is something that obviously a lot of people connect with. When I was still active I started feeling a desire to understand my father better. One of the common thoughts I had, which you also shared, was about what I would teach my children if they turned out to be gay. It was important to me to not give them advice that would hurt them and cause them pain and depression, but something that would help them be healthy and happy individuals. It was also important to me to teach them the “right” thing to do . . . and it was a difficult realization that the “right” thing wasn’t an answer the church would agree with.

      • This was actually an important part of the process of me realising that the LDS church was not ‘rue – that moment where I really acknowledged to myself that ‘the gospel’ did not – in fact, could not – bring happiness to everyone. I had honestly believed that it could if people just followed it properly, but my vision was narrow. And this doesn’t just apply to people who are gay and lesbian. I started talking to people. People who are transgender and whose dysphoria is wildly increased by the Church’s rigid doctrines and policies regarding gender and gender roles. Men and women who feel no desire to have children. The Church doesn’t have a satisfactory answer for when its doctrines don’t match people’s reality and the result of being a square peg trying day after day to fit into the round hole you believe is The Truth is for many people a path to depression, self-loathing (because if you don’t want what God says is right and brings happiness then you must be bad, right?) and despair. I’ve actually been told by members (including ex-members) of the Church that they didn’t know that their happiness was important; that they thought that it was only their obedience that mattered to Heavenly Father. What a tragic outlook on life.

        • Amen, Debbie! The church doesn’t have all the answers for all people–thanks for mentioning the transgender folks, the ones who don’t want kids, even people who are depressed (how many times have I heard I could cure my depression by praying and reading my scriptures more?). I always wonder what The Family: a Proclamation is supposed to say to hermaphrodites…
          I think the church–including its leaders–are imperfect people trying their best to do what is right, and they do get it wrong at times (blacks not holding the priesthood? c’mon!). But I believe the Gospel of Christ *IS* inclusive of everyone, and God’s love is for everyone. And I sincerely hope the church will catch up with the gospel (I hope because I’m still an active member and am not planning on leaving). I believe Heavenly Father deeply cares about our happiness, and I think the church has many times misapplied teachings of the gospel.
          Thank you for sharing, and love to you and anyone else who reads this!

        • YES! I had some of the same realizations. I was never attracted to anyone growing up, but I was always taught that falling in love and being attracted to women or men or whatever was just the most natural effortless thing, eventually I’d feel attraction. When I turned 25 I decided that was probably bogus in my case; I still feel no attraction and I’m not interested in any kind of dating, much less a marital relationship for myself. The idea that I’d need an eternal companion to get into the celestial kingdom sounded like pimping myself out for eternal rewards. The idea disgusted me, it sounded completely immoral and wrong, and it made me see the dilemma early polygamists had in a different light. Many of them expressed how hard it was for them to follow polygamy and how reprehensible they found the whole idea yet submitted to it out of sheer obedience. They were wrong to! (bold statement) Abraham was also wrong to submit to killing Isaac. In doing so they surrendered their own morality and became moral-less agents who allowed their actions to be dictated to them by someone else with no regard for what their own judgement told them. I couldn’t surrender my morality, not even to a god. A friend of mine asked if I’d participate in polygamy if god commanded it again and I confidently said “nope”. I knew I wouldn’t because I wasn’t even willing to participate in monogamy. About 8 months later I was an atheist but hardly for that reason alone. Oh the stories I could tell. Maybe I should start a blog.

  3. I don’t know this couple; I certainly can’t be inside the head of this man. I’ve had many personal reactions to the Weed blog, some positive and hopeful, most rather negative. Like the first one, where I recalled an incident of a very vocal proponent of “curative therapy”, holding himself out as a shining example of success. Well, this shining example shouldn’t have gone bar hopping along P Street in D.C.; he should have known folks have cameras in their phones. You read the correlation into that.

    Second, and obviously, “it’s the religion, stupid.” I won’t begrudge anyone their faith and their culture, but this mixed-orientation arrangement is an alien construct of misplaced faith. In this era, if you factor out the religion, there is absolutely no need for this kind of accommodation.

    Third, I sincerely hope the “correlated” readers of the Weed blog will not blithely skip over the “uncomfortable” parts, the truly honest parts, to focus in on an “a-ha, I told you so!” moment, holding this man out as the ensign atop the hill. He and his wife are what they are, have done what they have done, and I wish them the best. This story, in NO way, should be bandied about as evidence that anyone and everyone can do the same. That would be horribly dangerous…

    • Ya, I guess we’ll see how it plays out. I’ve seen his post on a few websites that lobby to keep marriage pure . . . they’re rallying behind it, apparently doing what you’re saying and avoiding the uncomfortable stuff, or just chalking it up to “Oh well, that’s what god requires.” You’re right – take this family out of a religion where it’s wrong to be gay and there is no need to live heterosexually.

  4. Jefferson, I thought much as you did about Josh Weed’s story, until I found out that his day job is as an “ex-gay therapist” for a company called LifeSTAR Network, which specializes in “treating” people with “unwanted same-sex attraction” and “other sexual addictions.” They are listed as a reference for Evergreen International and North Star, the LDS “ex-gay” groups.

    It rather colored my opinion of Josh Weed’s likely motivations (and those of, possibly his employers and church leaders?) in bringing this story out now, during the raging battle over Washington’s Referendum 74. Having a “professional ex-gay,” as Wayne Besen refers to people who make their living by working for groups like Exodus, or writing books about “how to stop being gay,” or performing “ex-gay therapy,” tell his story in such a disingenuous way, claiming to have no person or political investment, really seriously makes me question his motives and pretty much everything he says in his story.

    Thanks for your thoughtful analysis, and, were this any other mixed-orientation couple with nothing in particular to gain from their “coming-out”, I’d be with you, point-for-point.

    • Thanks for the perspective, Lorian. This post is the first reaction I had upon reading Josh’s article (and for the many people who linked it to me and to my family). There isn’t much I can do about Josh being sincere or not. So I chose to argue on the assumption that he was. I think he is, but you’re right that there is a conflict of interest. Since writing this I’ve read a lot of other articles that made me feel I should have taken a little stronger of a stance. Such is life! All in all, though, I do think hyper religious people can, for the first time, accept some basic facts about homosexuality like that it isn’t something someone chooses. Its a small victory when all it does is move the argument to “Well, just repress it then.” But . . . it’s a step.

      I’ve actually attended NorthStar meeting when I was still Mormon. I was trying to understand my dad and wanted to, for the first time, actually talk to gay people and see it from their perspective. It was . . . earth shattering. It was essential for me on my path to accepting homosexuality fully. That’s what I hope Weed’s article can start for other people. Time will tell.

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

  5. As the sister of a gay man, and mother of a gay son, I have given the Weed article a lot of thought. And as a middle aged, active Mormon woman, I have known many gay men and several women in the church who were able to pull off the mixed orientation marriage unil the kids were mostly grown and gone, and then finally pulled the plug to be able to live authentically. No one really talks about how many of these unions actually go the distance once the responsibility/distraction of raising the kids is over. In my experience, not many.

  6. Thanks for writing this. I think you are helping us Mormons to looks squarely at the feasibilty of the church’s prescription for actually gay people: “live without real intimacy for your whole life” is actually a plan for suicide, as any psych graduate (I am) will tell you.

    I think we are ready to ask Heavenly Father how these children really fit into the great plan of happiness. How are they and their partners tied into the grand plan, so that we all continue forward together? It seems to me to be the real fulfillment of the promise of the sealing power for all.

    I have to tell you, I have always considered that we likely form something like a society rather than shooting pairs off into the furthest recesses of space. So, I would like many gay and lesbian couples in the Kingdom we have. I think they bring an amazing spirit of kindness, compassion and beauty where ever they go.

  7. Pingback: Circling the Wagons | Dad's Primal Scream

  8. I was in a MOM for 10 years, the following would have been my answer before marriage and the remain true to the day my ex decided to leave for someone who could love her in a way I could not.

    “I am sexually attracted to men. I am not sexually attracted to women. It is very simple. I have many, many years of experience which confirm this to be true, but it’s really as simple as what a girl asked me in junior high—and I’m sorry if this is a little blunt, but I’ve never found a question that cuts to the heart of the matter more effectively— “so, if everyone in this room took off their clothes, would you be turned on by the girls or the guys?” My answer, which I didn’t say out loud, was unquestionably the guys. And it was unquestionably not the girls. And that still is my answer….”

    He admits that sexual orientation for most people is immutable. Religious views have been shown to be a voluntary choice. Intimacy does not have to be mechanical, no matter how much one loves so called biological children, companionship and a life together.

    I would argue that some logic is more rational than others. Self flagellation may be a choice, but no longer a rational choice at least for me.

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