First of all, Mormons don’t understand that most of the gays and lesbians in Utah grew up as they did: Mormon. We lived it and believed it. Many of us, especially those my age and older, have gone on missions, spending two years promoting and defending the church. We believed that if we did God’s will, he would make us straight.
Upon returning, we found we were still gay and had to make the painful journey toward accepting our sexual orientation.
The church and its members don’t—and can’t ever—fully realize how difficult a process that is. Ever. We are forced to reconcile our religious beliefs with the reality of ourselves. It is incomparable to anything else, and yet we go through it alone—without the support of our family, friends and religion— because they could never understand what we were dealing with.
What also dumbfounds the church is that the turning point for our coming-out process is sometimes a spiritual experience in which we get an answer from God letting us know that it’s OK to be gay and that he still loves us. We finally accept who we are and, knowing the church is not able to accept us, we leave the church.
Living as a gay man, a lesbian, a bisexual or especially as a transgender person is not easy. We did not grow up with positive media images; it wasn’t the cool thing to do. Nor is it easy. We deal with persecution and discrimination all the time. The church has complained about a few broken windows and blames the LGBT community for them. I’ve had my car keyed more times than I can remember. People yell, “Faggot!” at us as they drive away. We’re mugged, beaten and left for dead. We’re fired from our jobs and evicted from our apartments. We lose friends. Our families turn away. Sorry, Elder Oaks, but the post-Prop-8-Mormon-backlash has nothing on what we’ve been dealing with our whole lives.
The church and its members don’t realize we’re not out to get revenge for what the church has put us through emotionally, spiritually and mentally. We’re not out to change the church’s position. We don’t care to silence the church from preaching against homosexuality within its congregations. We left the church, and we’re fine with that.
What we’re not fine with is that the church still tries to influence our lives. We allowed the church to guide us while we were still members, but we’re not anymore, and we shouldn’t be forced to hold to the church’s moral beliefs.
Hate-crimes legislation, which President Obama signed into law on Oct. 28, is not about creating a special class— it’s about preventing violence based on hate. A group of gay men who attack a straight man would be tried just as harshly as a group of straight men who attack a gay man. Employment nondiscrimination does not limit employers’ rights—it will prevent discrimination. Being hired or fired should based upon performance, not on a person’s love life. Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would let everyone serve his or her country with honor.
These bills have nothing to do with infringing on religious rights; they’re about protecting the rights of those being discriminated against. Even marriage equality has nothing to do with religion. The LDS Church will never have to perform gay marriages if it doesn’t have a revelation ordaining it.
You cannot be incarcerated for preaching that homosexuality is immoral. However, it’s one thing to preach morality but it’s quite another thing to demand and enforce it, especially when not everyone embraces your concepts of morality. Religious principles and teachings should not be enacted by law, especially since not all religions agree.
Salt Lake City