For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

- Mosiah 3:19

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Priori headaches...

So I've been sober for a month now and it feels good. My sponsor tells me that the the good thing about sobriety is you get your feelings back; the bad part of sobriety is that you get your feelings back. While it has been only a month, I am coming to sense the truth in this. But as my therapist says part of this is that my system is being drained of the addictive elements and I'm coming back down and connecting with myself - acting out with my compulsive sexual behavior is merely a way for me to disconnect from myself and my emotions.

And believe me there's a lot I do not want to connect with, most of it dealing with the implications of long-term activity in the church and what that means in facing the seemingly irresolvable question of homosexuality in the church. But despite that, I've been sober and I thank God for that!

There's lot for sure. But I've been able to process some tensions that exist around this question. I think at the moment the biggest question that I face when I come to think about me being gay and Mormon is how do I navigate and create a space for myself and others like me in the current doctrinal framework, without having to deny part of my identity (as is the implication of not using the labels "gay," or the addage of "just don't act on it"), without having to keep my life a secret, without having to abide by the heterosexual injunctions of the church culture, and so forth.

It seems to me that there are several facets to this: there is a view of the gospel tied to a heterosexual normative view that has been passed down (and changed) by white males for the last several hundred years. But this view is largely the work of mortals (imperfect) and constructed to ensure they maintain their privilege and power. Further this perspective is not largely questioned by many people, because there is seeming congruence when this heterosexual view of world is laid over the gospel (and Father's perspective). It seems to me, that this practice is not questioned because of the seemingly congruence, thus we have practices where non-white culture (and practices) are viewed with great discomfort in the church (these include dress, language, perspectives, etc). Though diversity is celebrated, it is done so in very controlled ways, where culture is defined as merely dress, food, and other superficial things that can be easily abandoned when "serious" work of the church needs to happen, therefore, the colorful attire is put off, the language changes, and the white shirts appear, the short cropped hair appears, and efforts to look like a white Mormon family become priority. But more important, what they also adopt are the gender roles and norms of the white Mormon family. This practice is largely unquestioned and it is at some level considered change via the atonement and therefore considered proximity to Christ and therefore faithful.

Perhaps, just perhaps, this is the wrong logic. Perhaps, God's way of viewing is different from ours and He is asking us to be highly critical of our own worldly practices and importune His courts to enable and empower our understanding of the workings of heaven, rather than assuming that the way we have been taught is God's way. I'm not sure if this makes sense.

But the point I'm trying to make is that perhaps the hetersexual lens and its attendant privilege in the church may be a hindrance in gaining further light and knowledge on the matter of homosexuality. Perhaps God thinks of this quite different, but because we are not ready to question the institutions of heterosexuality and its practice in how we structure and think about ourselves and the doctrine that we are not ready for this light and knowledge.

Perhaps not. Perhaps all God is asking us to do is continue to be critical and to rise above the frameworks of organizing and understanding the world that we've been given in mortality. Perhaps doing so will enable us to understand the place of the homosexual in the church. This does not mean we discount any of the profound spiritual experiences that have been communicated truth to us, rather it simply means that perhaps we could expand out thinking.

Anyhow, this is the thought (however incomplete) that's been noodling in my head.

I've developed a very good friendship with a guy (I'll call him Andrew). Andrew is a grad student in feminist studies, we've been having some great intense conversations about the nature of queer-ness, it has been enlightening. But I think what is most comforting about this friendship is that for the first time I do not feel like I have to hid any part of myself. He is indigenous, I am indigenous. He is a radical political thinker, I am a radical political thinker. He was religious, I'm trying to be religious. He is queer, I'm queer. There is something about that combination of characteristics that makes me feel so comfortable. I do not have to explain why I'm gay, I don't have to explain my political positions, I don't have to explain why a person of color experiences the world differently than white people. These are all just givens, I don't have to hold back part of that, nor do I have to be careful with what I say. It's understood. Anyhow, Andrew has been a great help in helping me feel comfortable talking about my sexuality and is OK with my struggle with the Church. Having him as a friend has helped me feel accepted, he accepts all of me.

Often times in the church, even before I "came out" I knew a part of me, the indigenous, radical, would always make many church members uncomfortable and question the veracity of my faith - and they have. Some years ago I was called into the Stake President's office because of my mobilizing around Indigenous water rights, which affected the white Mormon ranchers among others. He chastised me and told me that I would "think" my way out of the church with what I was doing and threatened to take my temple recommend from me. From that experience, I struggled to make sense. I took my covenants seriously about not speaking evil of the Lord's anointed. So it was then that I realized that there are parts of me that I could never fully share with others in the church because it would bring them discomfort and therefore lead to questions of my faith.

Being with Andrew, I do not feel that way. Also Andrew has been helpful in pointing out all the guys who are apparently 'checking me out." This is interesting, flattering, but also confusing. We were at a thrift store this weekend and a guy across the rack was eyeing me - I didn't know what to do, but eventually left without doing anything. Andrew understood.

So this gets to the other things that have been on my mind, as I dilate on frustration. I went to a fireside on homosexuality and the church this weekend - the speaker was great, though there were a lot of unanswered questions. Despite that, I think the approach taken by the speaker was inclusive and critical of the larger heteronormative institutions at work in the church. I appreciated that.

This then gets to my frustration with members of the church in how they react to this issue. 1) The married people are at the head of this trying to figure out what is best for the homosexual. (This is crazy, much like white people getting together to discuss what the best way for black people to be happy and included in society, without having black people at the meetings or allowed to speak). 2) These come in two varieties: a) the liberal mormons who, when they approach me, assume that I've not thought deeply about options when the come with their supposed enlightened thinking of "I'm an active Mormon and would have no problem with you finding a partner and being happy." Responding to that supposed "enlightened" response could take pages upon pages. The second variety b) are the uber active Mormons who simply say "just don't act on it" as their enlightened phrase, as if though that never occured to me. Yet again, there is much that can be said with that "enlightened" view that they have not even considered. But that will be for another time.

At the moment, I write as a way to distract me from my dissertation. I don't know much, this I know. But what I do know is that for whatever reason God is not ready to give us further light and knowledge, but that does not mean He does not want us to puzzle it out in our minds.

I will continue to do so and try to refrain from acting out as the puzzling produces much anxiety in me. I surrender to God and hope I remain sober today!

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