I was a Mormon. For eighteen years - not of my own choosing. Once I reached the legal age of accountability in Utah, I had myself excommunicated from the Mormon Church due to irreconcilable differences. Not only was I disgusted at the regressive, backwards gender and race politics underwriting the Mormon faith, I also was a young queer kid that saw no space for himself within the religion if he wanted to live a political, true, open life that could serve as an example to others. You need to look no further than the recent premiere of TLC’s "My Husband’s Not Gay" to see how many options exist for queer folks within the Mormon religion.
When I asked my family’s bishop to excommunicate me he was hesitant at first. He recommended aversion therapy (read: shock therapy) in order to “beat” my addiction/attraction. He pleaded that I try one more time to align my life with the precepts of Mormonism. I’ll never forget the actual words he used either: “The Mormon church is like a country club with a golf course, and you are asking us to build a tennis court just for you. Couldn’t you just try once more to play golf with us.” I didn’t want to play gold at all. Or tennis. I just wanted to burn the membership card that got me through the front door of their racist, sexist, and homophobic social organization.
I wasn’t really that surprised by any of this because I already knew that the Mormon church has always been anti-gay. They may feign tolerance as long as LGBTQ individuals don’t make themselves known, question their own place in Mormon teachings, or ask to be included or embraced; but they have never wavered from their staunch party line: Mormons do not condone an LGBTQ lifestyle, which is to say anyone who acts on any attraction outside the confines of a marriage between one man and one woman. Interestingly enough, the one woman side of that equation was only put into play in 1890 when Utah sought statehood and was rejected unless they complied with the anti-polygamy laws followed by the rest of the United States. It was common and even encouraged for marriage to take place between one man and many, many women prior. But that was the past, they say. Now, they just say, “hate the sin, not the sinner.” But when my “sin” is loving another man, is that “sin” actually divisible from me as a person?
Given my own personal experience and knowledge from both within and without the Mormon church, I was quite taken aback at all the headlines that flooded news sites recently claiming Mormons had announced their unequivocal support for legal protections for LGTBQ folks against discrimination in housing and employment. Wow, I thought. Then I read the stories accompanying the headlines. The fine print quickly showed that Mormon support was not unequivocal at all. In fact, their support for these policies was quite conditional, and couched within something quite insidious.
While still insisting that nothing in the doctrine had changed in order to embrace LGBTQ people within the religion, leaders of the Mormon church held an unusual press conference in which they claimed this support against discrimination if - and only if - that same anti-discrimination protection included no one being able to discriminate against Mormons for practicing their religion or beliefs. Of course this was conveyed as language of religious freedom for all, but Mormons were clearly only concerned about themselves.
Essentially, the Mormon church was using the very real threat of discrimination against LGBTQ folks’ housing, employment, and very lives as a bargaining chip for their own gain to discriminate against those some people under the guise of their religion with no backlash. LGBTQ lives are expendable to the Mormon church as long as they can gain their own protection to practice their religious freedom by denying LGBTQ people equal standing within their church and denouncing LGBTQ relationships of any sort. I find this disgusting. I find this to be the definition of anti-gay, or anti-LGBTQ generally.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to be included by the Mormon church. Nor do I think they need to include me if that exclusion is their choice. Individual religions can operate however they see fit, but the government has the duty to protect ALL citizens, whether or not the Mormon church agrees and religious practice and legal protection should not be conflated. The Mormon church is using their own false support for actual real-world issues and dangers that LGBTQ people face everyday to bolster their own already tarnished image in the media. They should be ashamed of themselves.
This is not a political win for LGBTQ people or for social justice, so I reject the headlines celebrating this moment or positioning Mormons as benevolent saviors. Mormons are not being discriminated against and will not be discriminated against because they are a white- and male-led Christian religion based in the United States of America. They have nothing to fear. The people that do have something to fear though are the LGBTQ-identified people that go to job interviews or file rental applications not knowing if their appearance, lifestyle, or general being will offend the interviewer or landlord, thus leaving them unable to pay rent or homeless. And how DARE the Mormon church use this immediate reality for many in order to position themselves as the victims of discrimination.
Mormons are not victims. Shame on them and their disingenuous publicity stunt. I’m not here for their publicity, for their thinly-veiled attempt at inclusivity, or for their misguided attempt at reclaiming a positive public image. Not when the Mormon church causes pain. Not when they exclude. Now when - at the end of the day - they remain just as anti-gay as they ever were.