I decided, as I sometimes do, to go on a long Twitter thread to talk about Latter-day Saint theology and its intersection with queerness. Here is it in its entirety.
The Long Thread
Long thread here. For Mr. Kevin Hathaway and Mr. Dallin Oaks and all the leaders/teachers in the Church. Re: This article: https://www.idahostatejournal.com/news/local/lds-president-oaks-speaks-to-parents-about-being-united-in/article_f476dd3b-5d09-5cff-8bb4-5c58c004193f.html?fbclid=IwAR2qgIn_dc9UUpDBTq1okK-03T5_xaop8ShfrL5eHvl_Ewz7XfYxfuVd5JA
First: “While we recognize what LGBT means, we do not use those labels when we talk about people. We don’t say, for example, that person is gay. We say that person struggles with same gender attraction.”
1) You do not recognize—nor can you recognize—what LGBT means when you completely disregard what an identity is and what it means to people and to a community. They are “labels” as you say, sure, but they’re also biological. Communal. Psychological. Emotional. Spiritual…
as much as saying someone “is Latter-day Saint” or “is a child of God” or, prophet forbid, “is Mormon” or “is American” or “is human.” These are complex, and by simply calling LGBT just a “label” you lose all ethical, moral & intellectual foundation upon which to make an argument
If you don’t do the research and show that you know all sides of the argument, you cannot make a strong argument—if any argument at all. I learned that at BYU. You should have learned that at least in college too. If not in your illustrious career that has led to being tasked as a pastor to a large flock.
2) Attraction is complicated. Just by calling it same gender attraction, you show your ineptitude for even attempting to understand anything when it comes to the complexities of gender, sexuality, and sex.
Here’s a reminder:
Sex — An assignment to someone according to the shape of their genitalia.
Sexuality — How someone’s genitalia react to other things.
Gender — How someone expresses themselves to the world, in general based on the sex of the person.
There is a lot of nuance in this—nuance that, clearly, you have given absolutely no time to discuss with someone who actually understands. If you wish to, my phone number and email, which you can access via LDS Tools, is always open.
- Actually, I want to point out some of the nuance for those reading this … bare with me, please.
- Nuance 1: Sex, sexuality, and gender are words that describe bodily/societal/psychological/emotional etc. functions. They cannot, and will never, encapsulate the entirety of someone’s identity. The words are used so we can converse about things and find community around them.
- Nuance 1a: Identity is a complicated mess, as each person can attest to. That’s why I am hesitant and always attempt to describe and use the terms “in general”—everything cannot, and will never, be set in stone for humanity.
- Nuance 2: Let me explain why sexuality is complex in a heterosexual frame. Heterosexual refers to someone who is attracted to the gender performance AND/OR genitalia AND/OR sex that has been historically considered opposite to the gender performance AND/OR genitalia AND/OR sex of the one being attracted.
- N2a: A heterosexual is not attracted to every single being who fits those parameters. Nor do they enjoy ever sexual or romantic act with that person. For example, some couples only like missionary position, others spruce it up a little.
- N2b: Just as heterosexuality is complex and experienced differently for each person, so is homosexuality/asexuality/bisexuality/all the other sexualities. That’s the point I’m attempting to make here: IT IS COMPLEX.
- Nuance 3: Identity and using identity “labels” becomes even more complex. For example, let’s take Fictitious Bobby, a trans man who is attracted to women. By trans man, I mean that Fictitious Bobby was born with female genitalia but has come out as a man, throwing off the boundaries that the genitalia of birth assigned to FB’s body.
- N3a: Fictitious Bobby, before coming out, was still attracted to women. So, how do we describe Fictious Bobby’s sexuality? Lesbian? Heterosexual? A new term entirely? This is why nuance is the most important thing when discussing gender, sexuality, and sex.
- N3b: Some would say that Fictitious Bobby’s sexuality is based on the genitalia—or even from the epigenetic happenings in the womb. Others would state that it’s how Fictitious Bobby wants to identify, while others would place it on Fictitious Bobby’s gender.
- N3c: The point of the matter is, it’s 1) very intrusive for us to want to categorize Fictitious Bobby and know all things about his “private parts”; 2) it’s complicated; 3) terms don’t apply to everyone; and 4) NUANCE.
- N3d: I swear, I’m going to become like Mad-Eye Moody and perseverance. “Class, IT’S NUANCE.”
Back to the point: In declaring that you only use same gender attraction to explain gay, you mock gender, sex, and sexuality. You mock it and the complexity of God’s creation.
In mocking it, you mock yourself. Because the study of sex, sexuality, and gender helps not only those labeled, as you say, “LGBT”—it helps ALL of us understand the beautiful things that are our individual sexes, genders, and sexualities. And you also mock God, the Creator.
3) Since you say that we struggle with same gender attraction, can I say you struggle with opposite gender attraction? That’s the amazing and terrifying thing about attraction—we all struggle with it.
Whether you’re attracted to the same sex, the opposite sex, multiple sexes, or if sex doesn’t matter in the equation—you struggle. So, saying “we don’t say gay, we say struggle,” you should begin to use that for all discussions on sexualities. Which you don’t.
4) In wanting to police gender and sexuality into the boxes of male/female, masculine/feminine, and heterosexual-only, you propagate and reinforce what Satan wanted to do. Define the terms. Determine the way. Force people to follow the way.
You would think that for a theology that believes so much in agency and God’s creation, you would spend some time actually seeing how God’s creation acts. Not everyone can be placed into the boxes of male/female, masculine/feminine, and heterosexual. And I don’t think God wanted it that way.
Sure, God started out with a male and a female. But that’s because God and Goddess probably couldn’t handle more than two kids in that Garden and so they didn’t spend the time to make all the other various sexualities and genders into human beings.
Alternatively, maybe some patriarchal asshole from 3rd century removed that from the Bible.
My. Point. Is. That. You. Are. Not. Taking. The. Time. To. Understand. And. Grasp. How. Actual. Children. Of. God. Live. And. Have. Lived. On. Earth. Since. Adam. And. Eve.
Second: “…whenever we place a label or allow a label to be placed upon us. Then we also – a lot of times – by default, accept that lifestyle that comes with that.”
1) I am not allowing the label of “gay” to be just placed on me. How DARE you take away my agency to identify. How DARE you take away my God-given ability to determine how I am called by simply explaining it away as if it is being “placed upon” me.
I proudly use that identification to find community with others who experience life in a similar fashion to me.
I proudly use the term “gay” to explain to others what I’m looking for in life. Do NOT say I am placing that label. I am claiming it and all the greatness that comes with it.
For being a Latter-day Saint, you seem to not completely understand the importance of projecting identity onto the world in order to stand up for who and what you are. I refer you, dear sir, to the words of your prophet and what he has taught about the Latter-day Saint identity.
2) Let’s follow your logic here, if we may. You state that labels are placed upon people—by people or by a community. The Latter-day Saint label is, then, placed upon children who are raised in the Church.
So, by default, they accept that lifestyle that comes with the label “Latter-day Saint.”
What you’re saying here is that your own flock, the members of your church, aren’t utilizing their God-given agency to be members of the Church. They are simply accepting the lifestyle that comes with the label that was placed on them since birth.
Does that work into your cosmology and theology? Wasn’t there a big war in heaven over whether people would be given the ability to choose and thus improve themselves, or have to follow Lucifer’s every command, thus rendering agency null and void?
You cannot, on the one hand, have agency and herald that as one of God’s gifts and then, on the other hand, mock people’s agency when it comes to identifying with others. That’s just sad. And shows that you have no respect for your own doctrine. You just want to control people.
I don’t say that lightly. Because I believe that the ability to choose is a powerful and wonderful thing, and I want to hope that a church that has agency so entwined into its theology would protect that for everyone.
But, as it stands here, you, Mr. Hathaway, are teaching apostate things by denying agency when it comes to labels and sexuality.
I hope the leaders of the Church pay attention to your apostasy, like they paid attention to those who just wanted to actually help the church, like Kate Kelly, John Dehlin, and Sam Young.
Also, a few more thoughts from the article, not just the words of Mr. Hathaway.
The article states that “The Mormon church has been unbudging about its opposition to gay marriage and same-sex intimacy, making the LGBTQ community feel unwelcome.”
Let me STRESS here that it is more than the “unbudging…opposition to gay marraige and same-sex intimacy” that makes folx in the LGBTQ community feel unwelcome.
It is that, but it’s also other things. Like . . .
Not using people’s pronouns in a respectful manner.
Not supporting asexual and aromantic lives.
Not encouraging people to be themselves—children of God—in whatever capacity that is.
Threatening excommunication (or kicking someone out of BYU) when a trans person wants to get top surgery.
Not discussing full heartedly the complexity of gender and sexuality that is present THROUGHOUT human history.
Forcing people to conform to a heteropatriarchy.
Not helping out the marginalized within the Latter-day Saint community.
Encouraging love on one hand and then encouraging hate on the other.
Not apologizing for the harm caused to minority groups throughout Mormon history.
Encouraging people for part of its history to bottle up their sexuality.
Not protecting children from sexually explicitly questioning.
Being part of a cause for the high suicide rates in Utah, especially among LGBT teens.
Controlling the Utah government and not listening to the will of the people there.
Legally engaging with a political process on human rights when they consider it a “moral” issue.
Need I go on? There is a LOT in the Church that causes those in the LGBTQ+ community to feel VERY unwelcome.
Secondly, they go into Ed Smart’s personal coming out letter that was unethically and immorally shared with the news. They quote his letter that states that “it is not my responsibility to tell the Church, its members or its leadership what to believe about the rightness or wrongness of being LGBTQ.”
Yes, it’s not Ed Smart’s responsibility. Wanna know whose responsibility it is? The members who are active. The members who can make a difference. The men in power who are married faithfully in a temple and have callings with authority in the organizational structure in the church. If you are an active member of the Church, it is your responsibility to reform the Church.
Church reform happens from the ground up. Look into Mormon history. If you want to make your church more open to LGBTQ+ people, observe, then serve. Learn. Love. Do your part, like you did your part in the war in heaven.