Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Melody I Start But Can't Complete

So I did it. I had dinner with her. (You know, her). She was very gracious, and very kind. Almost too sweet, lol. She explained why the issue was so personal for her, and then asked about my experiences and the decisions that I have. She was specifically interested in the decision some make to stay in the Church despite strong feels of same gender attraction. She wants to encourage people to do that, and wants to know how that choice could be easier to make for them. We talked a lot about things members of the Church do that push gays away from the Church.

She talked about being very involved in the “protect family” movement, being close to high ups in the Southerland Institute and Narth, and being the president of BYU’s “protect family” club. (She’s an older graduate student). She said that one of the biggest problems they have is that a lot of the people involved in this movement lack compassion for gays because they don’t know gay people. She wants to move away from the fear tactics and the hatred and help her movement defend “truth” while still being compassionate to the undecided and to those who believe differently. She also wants to find a non-polarizing, moderate way to engage in dialog about sexuality.

And she wants me to help her.

She believes that by introducing me to people in her movement and letting me share my experiences with them, they will become more compassionate. She thinks that I can help her ensure that her club’s activities on campus don’t hurt people. She also thinks that I can help ground her by reminding her that real people are involved with this “battle.” Basically she wants me to humanize the other side.

Specifically, she wants me to attend a viewing of the debate between Equality Utah and the Southerland Institute tomorrow. Only 3 other leaders of her club would attend, and she has promised to protect me—she assured me that she doesn’t want to make me a dartboard. All she wants me to do is help these leaders see how their arguments and the way their arguments are structured are hurtful and push people away. But her goal is to then make better arguments and learn to be more respectful and informed in their delivery.

What should I do?

I want campus to be a safer place for gay students. I would love it if her club was less distracting—their booths during the prop 8 campaign made that semester hell for me. Really, though, I would just love it if her club ceased to exist, or if a counter club was permitted. So I don’t know how aligned our goals are. Plus, I maintain my studentship at BYU by walking a very fine line. The Honor Code forbids advocacy of homosexuality. I fear that I wouldn’t be able to say everything I believed in these settings for fear of my statements being misconstrued as advocacy. (I mean, I do personally support gay rights. Does merely saying so constitute advocacy?) Besides, I don’t want to help her make her political agenda more enticing to moderates or more likely to succeed in a shifting world. I want her political agenda to die in its outrageous extremism!

So to what extent should I help her/communicate with her/her club? I mean, the bridge has got to be made. We do need to have this conversation. But I don’t know that I’m in a position to do it.

Is there anyone out there who is in a more helpful position to communicate with them? Perhaps I could suggest a replacement, someone who is more warm towards the Church than I am, and yet secure enough to share with her what her groups are doing to us! Anyone out there? Help!


Captain Midnight said...

If I were in your situation, I would respectfully decline. That's just what I would do though, not necessarily what you should do. I think it's great that she has become more compassionate, and it's great that she wants others to be more compassionate as well, but I think that should be her responsibility, not yours. You could let her know that you'd be available to talk to her one on one again, but you're not going to be some specimen on display for her club. "You see, club members, the homosexual is much more civilized and docile than we once supposed..." etc.

Ned said...

I like the advice that you respectfully decline. Who could replace you, though? How about these six:

Scott and Sarah, Cog, husband and sons!

Seriously, I do find her comments troubling. To me it comes off as: "We don't want to hurt you while we seek to insure that what you think of, incorrectly, as your civil rights, will never be granted you because it is immoral to do so. But don't take it personally. We are trying to love you, and you could be a lot more lovable if you'd just back down and see this the one and only way it really is, our way."

Just my two cents.

Grant Haws said...

I also think you need to kindly decline.

It seems like she wants to use your experiences to feel better personally about what she's doing. If she really appreciated the dilemma of your life, she wouldn't be continuing on her mission of inequality. Having you there would just help her justify her goals.

Todd said...

I'm not a moho (just a homo), but in my experience people who are really anti-gay became more compassionate, reasonable, and moderate, when they meet and get to know actual, real, live gay people. Being out and open to people, is a bit like being a missionary for tolerance. So, if you can do this thing without getting in trouble with the school, it might be a good thing. It might be uncomfortable at times, but it might help change some minds. Good luck!

D-Train said...

Wow. That is a difficult position to be in. I might have to agree with the sentiment already expressed. It sounds like she almost wants to use you in her campaign, which I think is unfair to you. I am sure if she wants to humanize gays, she could find another one if she looks hard enough. :P

I am curious, how open were you with her regarding all of this "protecting families" BS that she is pushing? Did you make it clear where you stand?

But then part of me wants you to go and find out what is happening and to report back, but I don't think it is fair to do that to you.

austin said...

There's a debate between Equality Utah and the Sutherland institute tomorrow? Where? When?

And as for advice, it sounds like in your situation it would be too hard to be candid, but I think that it would be a great thing for a MoHo to do. In the long run, it will help some of the anti-gay rights people really see how their agenda is hurting real people.

El Genio said...

I'd like to echo what Ned said about finding her comments troubling. What she needs to realize is that the very existance of these organizations hurts people. Even if we assume that this type of advocacy doesn't drive people to suicide (I believe it does) it still encourages the creation of marriages that are almost always doomed to painful failure. The family doesn't need protectionfrom gay marriage. It needs protection from groups that are attempting to divorce over 18,000 people.

Max Power said...

I would tell her about your predicament with your Honor Code issue. Let her know that you can't talk freely about things without coming off in a way that may threaten your student status. Then I would decline the invitation and refer her to someone(s) whose student status is not on the line when the voice their opinions.

Honestly, this feels like a setup to me. In her eyes your are just a poodle that she's trying to dress up and win best in show. She has decided that she can capture and display the mighty King Kong to show her prowess.

... but what happens when Kong gets out of his bonds and rampages through the city? :)

Der Orgelspieler said...

It's true. That's a very hard thing to do. I agree that it would be better for you to decline, and perhaps point her to someone who has already graduated from Cougar U, thus not being affiliated with the university but still with the church. Sigh...but someone does need to point out why groups like hers are hurtful just in their premise. Viel gluck!

Daniel said...

Dear ******,

So I've thought about your invitation to the meeting today, and I've prayed about it, and now I've slept on it. I'm going to respectfully decline. I appreciate the invitation and the intentions behind it, but I'm not sure it's the right thing for me at this time. You and I have a lot of goals, and most of them are very different. One of them, at least, is the same, and that is that we both want to make campus (and the Church in general) a safer, more compassionate place for people who are attracted to the same gender. Usually when people know gay people, they are more compassionate towards them. I can see how introducing me to people, and how getting to know me yourself, would lead towards that end, but I don't know that I'm the man for the job.

In the specific case of tonight's viewing of the debate, the situation is, though not your fault, intrinsically unfair. The leaders of your group can say anything they believe and formulate any argument for their cause. I cannot. I am bound by an Honor Code I am obligated to keep that elusively and undescriptively forbids the "advocacy" of homosexual behavior. It's really unclear what that means, and so I try to be careful. I have my personal opinions and views, and that's okay. Sharing them in private conversation, I believe, is also okay. When it comes to group meetings, though, and public events, I am less comfortable being forthright about what I believe. In the case of the photography project, the artist and I were careful to speak with department leaders and knew that the project was within the bounds of the honor code and did not constitute "advocacy" well before the first picture was taken, much less hung. In this situation, I'm not sure that I could reflect Equality Utah adequately because I'd be unsure of where that line is.

I think there are other ways you could accomplish your goal of raising awareness and compassion. What if you brought your club (or just its leaders) to one of the Matis firesides? I mentioned their family home evenings in my first email to you. It's a safe, off campus gathering where BYU professors and others speak, so it is completely gospel and Church affirming. You would get to visit with a large group of people who are attracted to the same gender and who are yet still committed to the gospel and to the Church. You could speak with Brother and Sister Matis ahead of time, and I'm sure they'd be more than happy to accommodate something- maybe even a dialog with some of the people who regularly attend. The firesides are the first Monday of every month, and I'd be more than happy to get you the Matis's contact information if you're interested.

I really enjoyed talking with you, and I'm open to meeting one on one with you in the future. I've thought a lot about our conversation, and I do want to be clear in where I stand. I am committed to transparency and openness, because I believe that's the only way we can really meet our common goal of being Christlike people and of living in a Christlike world. Having said that, I believe that groups like NARTH cause suicide and other real, horrific damage to real people. As such, I do not see the hand of God in their efforts. What Evergreen termed "Gender Affirmative Therapy" nearly killed me. It was only divine intervention, with the Lord telling me that it was okay to have these feelings and that He didn't need to take them away, that saved my life and brought me to the secure position I hold today.

I believe that homosexuality is never chosen. Even in situations of molestation [an example she used], a child never chooses to be molested. A woman who is very close to me was sexually abused as a child, and she does not deal with same sex attractions. This leads me to believe that child abuse in and of itself does not cause same gender attraction, there must be other factors present. I appreciate you acknowledging that some don't choose same sex attractions, but I can't agree that it is only some. I know a lot of gay people, and I have never met one who has said that he chose to be gay.

I think our meeting has helped us both. I hope I have helped you in some way, and I know you have helped me. Since my mission, I believe I have been lead by God in specific ways to improve my own life and the lives of those around me. I believe I have been called on a mission to help others with same gender attraction love themselves and become healthy, and also to raise awareness within Mormonism about things that hurt people like me. I see groups like the Southerland Institute as being intrinsically opposed to this aim. Frankly, rather than helping families, I believe the extremest in that camp destroy families and individual lives. Right now, I think the best way for me to accomplish what I feel God has asked of me is to be open about who I am and to engage the BYU community in dialog. that's what I've been doing, and that's why I stay at BYU despite the discomfort I feel here.

Thank you so much for dinner last night, and I hope that we can get together again soon. I'm glad we've overcome differences to be friends and to help our respective groups come together.


Scott said...

I've come late to this, but re: Ned's suggestion, Sarah and I would be happy to talk to her on an individual basis, and depending on how that went, I'm open to the idea of meeting with her group.

I really admire you for carrying on this dialogue with her. I'm sure you've had some impact on her!

cj said...


This is a remarkable opportunity. I am also a little late coming to this. You've probably already finished with this contact with her, but if you wanted to write her and tell her that B. and I would be happy to meet with her and talk about our situation, we would be okay with that.