Thursday, April 26, 2012

expanding on perplexity

"I remember being surprised by the discovery that attraction isn't necessarily a linear experience, but instead a fluid one, that comes and goes, that takes forms and shapes you can't always control.  I never examined my sexuality--which way it leaned--because it just came to me and I let it in, and when it grew heavy, I let it out, like it was the most natural thing in the world."

That is an excerpt from a post on C. Jane Kendrick's blog.  Go read the post if you haven't already.  Read it because it's really lovely for several reasons, and also because my post will make a lot more sense if you do.  One reason her post is lovely is this.  I often hear people say that of course sexuality is experienced on a spectrum.  People aren't either 100% gay or 100% straight.  If you listen to the way we talk about homosexuality though, you'd think only very few people actually believe that's true.  C. Jane's post, however, allows some space for the different ways people experience their attractions. 

It would be easy for C. Jane to impose her narrative onto that of her leader.  C. Jane felt some level of attraction for her, but ended up moving on to a male high school sweetheart.  She could expect that because that's how it happened for her, the same should be able to happen with her leader.  Of course, when they met up later in life, her leader could also try to convince C. Jane that she was living a lie being married to a man. 

The thing about being human is that we like to hijack other people's stories and see them through our own lens, or present them in a way that furthers our own agenda.  The result?  Lots of people walk around telling themselves and others half truths about themselves.  We leave out the parts that we fear might confirm the experience of someone with whom we might disagree.  We fear that others might hijack our story and twist it to fit their own needs.  Or maybe we don't tell our full truth because we aren't even really aware of what it is.  The shadow is a scary part of self to meet face to face. 

To put it in more concrete and specific terms, if someone has ever expressed any kind of attraction toward anyone of the same gender but ends up marrying someone of the opposite gender, lots of people are quick to assume that person is only deluding him/herself.  Or, that person who has some attraction to the same gender but ends up marrying someone of the oppostie gender might insist that his/her path is possible for everyone. 

To be sure, lots of people probably are only deluding themselves.  I just have to assume that any given person is better suited to know what's best for him/her than I am, even though I might feel very strongly that I do indeed know better.  My hope is that allowing others the space and respect to create their own life path will lead to others affording me the same space and respect. 

Compare C. Jane's post to this post by Kathryn at  AWell-Behaved Mormon Woman.  Kathryn is obviously trying to reach out to and understand the experience of the gay Mormon.  She contacts and has a very civil exchange with one of the students involved in the BYU It Gets Better video and shares that email exchange in the post with his permission.  I think it's fantastic that she seeking to reach out and have a conversation.  It's also fairly evident though, that she's more comfortable talking about it using terms that fit her view of the world.  Lots of people in the church prefer gay members to see it as a "struggle with same gender attraction".  This might not be the message that is intended, but the message often feels like it is expected that homosexual members be constantly struggling and fighting against what feels natural to them, instead of arriving at a place of peace and confidence with who they are and how they experience their sexuality.  

In many ways, the discussions about this seem to be emerging as a tug-of-war over how the narrative of a gay Mormon should be defined and shaped and experienced, instead of giving people the tools and space to discover, define, shape and experience their own narratives in a way that best meets their own individual emotional and spiritual needs. 

Devastating things can happen when a person doesn't feel any control over his/her own narrative.  There is a lack of trust in self, and as a result a lack of connection to God and spirit.  A person's very personal spiritual journey becomes a political football and when that happens, the conversations become more about the politics than about needs of a suffering individual.  The result is that the suffering individual feels a complete lack of control over and understanding of their situation.  This leads to a loss of hope and a lot of pain, that unfortunately too many choose to end by doing what seems like the only way to take back control, and end their own life.  

On the contrary, amazing things can happen when you gain control over your own narrative.  I experienced more confidence, love of self and others, peace, direction, connection to God and the Spirit.  I believe it was in large part due to people in my life who loved me enough to let me define and create my own path, even if making some mistakes was part of that path and even if certain aspects of the path made them uncomfortable.

I believe that it's through blessing each other with that space that will end untold amounts of suffering, whatever issue we might be facing. 


  1. Jon this is such a beautiful, wise complement to C. Jane's blog post. Really, how did you get to be so wise? I just adore you and your good heart.

  2. Yes! You are absolutely right about this. The realization of how narratives are unfeelingly imposed on gay (and non-gay) Mormons about homosexuality has actually been torturing me for the last few months. I think the only antidote to this is just to talk talk talk and talk about these things as much as we can; you're blog post and the ones you link to are all helping to move the conversation forward and making people think.

    It will be such a relief when we don't feel this need to deny each others' narratives anymore. May that day come quickly!

  3. i was literally just thinking about this today, how sexuality is a spectrum but we talk about it like its binary.

  4. "Lots of people in the church prefer gay members to see it as a "struggle with same gender attraction". This might not be the message that is intended..." I think this is entirely what is intended. For the majority of church members, gay people don't fit into the "plan" nice and neat, therefore being attracted to ones own gender is seen as an earthly trial, not a god given trait that is good in and of itself. (My perspective of course).

    Great post, and thanks for the link to Kendrick's blog. I found it facinating.

  5. Yeah, as much as I'd like to believe it's not true, there are many who would prefer gay members to see it as a struggle with same sex attraction. People are more submissive when they believe they are flawed or broken.