Last week, Josh Weed came out as gay on his blog.
This isn’t really a big deal on the Internet, except for these facts: Josh is a Mormon. And he’s married to a woman, Lolly, who has known he was gay since the beginning. And they have three children.
His coming out post is long, but worth reading to the end, and I’m not going to lie: I found myself nodding affirmatively through parts of it, and bristling through others. Weed and his wife (who participated in the preparation of the post and also tells her own story in it) put a lot of time and thought into it, and tried to be as thorough as possible in addressing questions that people might have. And they’re used to questions, because they’ve been spending time coming out lately.
Here’s the thing about Mormons: I don’t know a lot about them. What I do know, from experience working with Mormons and living in communities with Mormons, is that they are, shockingly, not a monolith. The LDS church is extremely diverse and things many of us non-Mormons associate with “Mormonism” are, as my Mormon associates put it, “A Utah thing,” not representative of the faith as a whole.
Mormonism in general is not well understood by people outside the faith, and there are a lot of misconceptions about it. There's also a tendency to attack the church for things that outsiders don't really understand, or haven't bothered to educate themselves about. Like many religious faiths, the LDS church has highlights and lowlights, as well as a structure that may be deeply unfamiliar to many people. Being a devout Mormon can require dealing with considerable pressure from the outside as you encounter people who don't understand your faith, but still feel comfortable trashing it.
Being gay and a member of the LDS church is also very difficult. The church is extremely clear on the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman and that it’s also a sacred covenant which everyone needs to undertake. In fact, the church is so clear on this that it spent almost $200,000 supporting Proposition 8 in California; it was in fact a key part of why Proposition 8 passed, because in addition to money, the church dedicated time, strategists and other tools to the campaign.
So to see a Mormon openly talk about being gay surprised me, and it also surprised me to learn that Josh had been lovingly supported by his family as a gay teen, and supported by friends and family as an adult as well. It was an eye-opener and a reminder for me that individual members of institutions don’t necessarily follow the party line.
And this deeply personal piece articulates the decisions Josh has made for himself, and only for himself. It’s clearly about his personal experiences and the choices he made, rather than being a prescriptive model for anyone else -- although he does offer advice for other people in the same position, as well as people who want to support them. Rather than being a guide to being gay and Mormon, it’s a discussion on how Josh reconciles these parts of his identity – and how he feels they are not in conflict.
Talking about his marriage, which reportedly includes a lot of very satisfying and enjoyable sex, Josh pointed out that it was founded on mutual love, trust, faith and honesty. He enjoys a deep friendship and spiritual connection to his wife and their relationship is strengthened by that. He may not be sexually attracted to her, but sexual attraction doesn’t necessarily have to be a component of enjoyable sex.
Which, if I may digress for a moment, is something I actually know a bit about, as an asexual; I may not be sexually attracted to people, but it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy having sex with them. Emotional and physical intimacy can be a great part of a loving relationship, and sexual attraction doesn’t have to be present for a marriage to work, sometimes very, very well. Josh and Lolly sound like friends and pals who love each other, support each other, have each other’s backs, and are committed to raising a family together.
It’s a lot like long-term partnerships I’ve had, minus the children and the wedding rings. And minus the pull of sexual attraction outside the partnership.
His marriage is not, as some people might assert, a lie. At all. And he’s hardly the first gay man (or lesbian woman) to be open and in a heterosexual marriage, for any number of reasons. Marriage can be about far more than sexual attraction, and as a relationship, it can take a number of different forms. This is one. It’s a valid form.
Josh is a Marriage and Family Therapist and it shows in his piece. He’s really given a lot of thought to this, he’s gone to counseling himself, and he’s talked about this with family and loved ones. He’s a pretty darn well-adjusted man and he’s a courageous one to come out as gay and Mormon, given the church’s antipathy for homosexuality. And he’s a funny man:
First of all, I understand that when people refer to a “gay lifestyle” they are talking about a lifestyle that includes gay romantic and sexual relationships. But I want to point out that because I am gay, any lifestyle I choose is technically a “gay lifestyle.” Mine just looks different than other gay peoples’.
But there are also some parts of his piece that make me deeply uncomfortable. Like the assertion that homosexuality is a sin, which I fundamentally do not agree with. While I'm aware that many (though not all) Christians share this belief, it's not one I feel is supported in scripture, or in lines with religious teachings counseling love for others. I'm also aware that religious faith can evolve, and perhaps the church will someday come to support homosexuality, but that day is not here yet.
And the fixation on conventional families, which, again, Josh may be speaking for himself, and he clearly articulates that he doesn’t think there’s anything false or untrue about families constructed differently, but it’s still a reinforcement of specific attitudes about what makes a “family.” And the subtle hint that he seems to believe “alternative lifestyles” are less fulfilling.
And there’s a huge, gaping hole in his piece: He completely failed to address the record on Prop 8 as well as other measures related to LGBQT equality across the nation. Not even a nod or a reference to the fact that the church he obviously loves deeply hates people like him, and people like me, and people like at least some of his readers. Nary a mention.
While individual Mormons may not support these initiatives, and may have differing views on homosexuality, overall, the church clearly positions itself as believing that homosexuality is sinful, and thinking that equal rights should be denied to LGBQT people.
The LDS church is heavily involved in lobbying against measures designed to protect the LGBQT community, and while I understand that Josh has given this issue a great deal of thought, I keep coming back to this cognitive dissonance, and I wonder if it troubles him like it troubles me.
He doesn’t tell me in his piece, so I have no way of knowing.