“Today, we need to let you know that Lolly and I are divorcing.”
-Josh & Lolly Weed
A few years ago, a straight female friend said to me, “I think that gay people just have a libido on overdrive.” At the time she was trying very hard to empathize with what it was like to be me, and this was the closest thing she could attach to.
Her comment was disturbing to me, because it didn’t at all reflect my experience of being gay. And, it perpetuated a prominent belief that a gay person is simply a sexual deviant. However, I think that she came to that conclusion honestly.
Depending on where you take a peek into the “gay scene” it can reflect a bunch of freaks that are hyper-sexualized. (This is another post altogether, however, you may find the comments section of interest in the matter.)
When a straight conservative Christian sees the gay community in this way it doesn’t reflect what “Love” means to them. It only reflects hyper-sexual debauchery. With this picture in mind, “Love is Love” is a definite “No it’s not!” in the conservative Christian mind.
For religious leaders working with LGBTQ individuals who are trying to live the law of chastity within the bounds of their covenants, the perception that homosexuality is merely a sexual issue can be even stronger. These individuals often spend their lives in their bishop’s office repenting of homosexual sins, large or small.
I spent my young adult life in my bishop and stake presidents’ offices. I literally could not find a way to navigate my struggle in a way that aligned with the standards of the church. I was expelled from Ricks College (now BYU Idaho) for homosexual behavior and was called a “sexual predator” during my expulsion. Grounds for expulsion based on the chastity commitments I’d made upon acceptance were sound. However, the language used to describe me revealed a clear paradigm that homosexuality was simply a dangerous sexual deviancy.
As I got older I learned, in a somewhat self-abusive way, to navigate my internal conflict better. However, I have been in my bishop’s office a time or two even as a mature, temple endowed, faithful adult.
Even the word of choice by both gay and straight people alike to describe homosexuality reflects a connection to sex alone. Straight people tell me all the time, “I have attractions too, and I don’t engage in them.” Meaning, “I don’t know why this is such a big deal for someone who experiences same sex attraction. You should be able to control your sexual urges just like I do.”
By observation and experience of straight individuals on the outside looking in, my friend was right, homosexuality does seem to be all about sex, and a gay person’s inability to manage their hyper-driven deviant libido.
For many, Josh’s recent revelation of divorce and his decision to openly embrace a gay relationship can also be interpreted as just more proof that homosexuality is all about sex. These are some mucky weeds to wade through.
In fact, all throughout his piece Josh uses the words “romantic attachment.” Isn’t that sex, you say? Here are Lolly’s words about sex being the center of their divorce.
“After talking about this with my sister-in-law, she said, “but you guys have such a special relationship. You’re intimate in so many other ways. Believe me, sex is not worth throwing away the connection that you two have.” From the outside looking in, I can see why she would think that, but the truth is our relationship was missing more than just a primal sexual connection . . . it was missing romantic attachment.”
Romantic attachment can be a tough concept for anyone to tease apart from sex. Here’s a little primer to help you understand the difference.
These are important weeds for me to muck through personally.
In 2014 I became suicidal. I was married to a man, had four beautiful children, and a wonderful life, but suddenly I couldn’t bear living in a heterosexual relationship for another minute. At the time, it felt like my marriage or my life. If I stayed I was certain I was going to kill myself. But, I couldn’t bear the thought of breaking up my family. It was real, and dangerous, and brutal.
There wasn’t another relationship that came into my life to create the chaos. It just happened, despite all of my efforts to keep the comfortable emotional status quo of the last two decades.
During this dark time, to preserve my life within such an intractable conflict, I had to go deep into my experience of what it really meant to be gay, and why I was feeling like I wanted to kill myself over it. I needed to find my own concept of what it meant to be gay from the inside looking out.
In Mormonism, sexuality plays a key role in the salvation of humankind—the refining power of marriage between a man and woman, procreation, and the eternal binding together of God’s children as families. And, ultimately, parents becoming like Gods themselves to continue the process of creation, as from the beginning. Sexuality plays no minor, nor muted role here. It is fundamental to the whole experience, and progress of the human soul. It is the pinnacle of existence itself.
Because sexuality is inseparable from salvation it could be thought of as a fundamental part of the fabric of our being, informing our whole experience of the world, our own selves, and our eternal relationship with God. It touches everything. The influence and impact of sexuality can only truly be understood when it is denied existence. Like a fish suddenly connects with the influence of water when he’s suddenly plucked from the bowl he swims in. Sexuality at this level is different than choosing not to have sex, or not being able to have sexual relations because of disease or disability. Sexuality is deeper than sex. Sexuality is inseparable from the makeup of our temporal and eternal selves.
Growing up as a gay woman during the 80’s and 90’s, I was counseled to ignore, stuff away, hide, and fear who I was. The only time I felt like a worthy human being was when I was absolutely sterile in thought and feeling. However, the cost for worthiness was high. It required that my very essence, and the juiciness of my life be squeezed dry. I couldn’t taste flavour, or smell fragrance, or feel my body, or hear sound, or see colors in full life because that always lead to my feeling gay—not the gay that we label as attraction, but that fundamentally deeper level of the fabric of myself. I couldn’t allow myself to connect to my very existence, or I no longer felt worthy. I couldn’t crush it out of being, I could only disconnect.
That is the life experience of most gay Christians, a life completely disconnected from the very core of their humanity, their life force. The only analogy I can offer a straight person is how it feels when someone covers your nose and mouth and won’t let go. You suffocate and strangle.
In Josh’s words:
“This is what the [conservative Christian] stance does to LGBTQIA people. It actually kills them. It fills them with self-loathing and internalized homophobia, and then provides little to no help when the psychosomatic symptoms set in, instead reacting to this unexpected by-product (after all, living the gospel isn’t supposed to bring misery and death! It’s supposed to bring immeasurable joy! Right?) with aphorisms like “have more faith,” or “have an eternal perspective” or “be grateful.” And the LGBTQIA person is left even further alone, now having been shamed by having it implied that their unhappiness and lack of health is their own fault because they aren’t being righteous enough, or trying hard enough. And so, they try harder. And they get sicker. And the cycle continues. It is a sick, pathological spiral. Worst of all, and what amounts to the very crux of the problem: the church also deprives them . . . of attachment, and a natural, verified, studied reaction to attachment blockade is suicidality.”
When the soul is strangled, at the level of its very fabric, the result are degrees of death. No wonder gay people often feel such acute pain at best and kill themselves at worst.
Because sexuality is so much more than sex, and the effect of denying and shaming it has serious physical and emotional consequences to gay people, Josh and Lolly are taking a bold and brave move as they choose to preserve their own mental, emotional, and physical health. Especially in the face of the position they have held for the Mixed Orientation Marriage community.
So, working through these first weeds? Homosexuality is not fundamentally about sex. It is about the eternal need and drive to pair bond, which when blocked results in emotional, physical, and even spiritual consequences. All of us gay folk get to navigate the complex impact to our our bodies and minds in the ways that are best for us.
The next mucky place is specifically for mixed orientation marriages.
What about Josh’s position that his mixed orientation marriage was simply a denial whose demise was inevitable? What does that mean for other mixed orientation marriages? What does it mean for mine?
I’m making some sweeping generalizations about the commonality of our experience, but I remember when I hit the same place Josh seems to have hit. I also came to discover that there was nothing wrong with my sexual orientation, and I felt confirmation that it was by divine design, and I should appreciate and even love it. Then I came to the realization of the many decades I would be living in a mixed orientation marriage, and began asking the question of if it was possible to survive. Then I discovered that it was, in fact, killing me.
I too talked to my husband about divorce, and had the papers in hand. I prepared a letter requesting my name to be removed from the Mormon Church’s records, essentially excommunicating myself. These weren’t things I wanted, but I had four little children, and the collateral damage of suicide was unacceptable. I had to find a way to preserve my life.
However, Josh and my story diverge in how I moved forward from there. I felt an unrelenting commitment to an intact family. As I tried my hardest to follow my conscience during this difficult time I was gently guided to go as slowly as I could possibly stand and trust the speed of my soul. As much as I wanted to jump out of the pain immediately, I chose instead to sit in it for as long as I could. For safety, I created a strong system of support for when I felt in danger of killing myself. Taking it as slow as possible helped me navigate my own path more soundly that I might have otherwise.
I know how unreasonable and dangerous that sounds. But each LGBTQ person, especially in a mixed orientation marriage, must gauge for themselves what is reasonable and right despite what others may think. There’s no one right way to navigate a mixed orientation marriage. Nor does anyone have the right to dictate the choices one should make in the preservation of an individual’s life and health.
Over the last three years, my fundamental value and belief that there is a way for me to thrive with an intact family is beginning to slowly unfold. I am coming to some new and wonderful territory as my understanding and navigation of my sexual orientation matures and transforms. And, my husband and I are creating a meaningful and wonderful life together.
I have bouts of depression and anxiety. I may even find myself circling around to that terrible suicidal place again. I probably will. It seems to be an inevitable consequence of the choice of a mixed orientation marriage—periodic recommitment through deep pain. But, I will likely approach it in the same way I have before, as slowly as I possibly can stand, and trusting the speed of my soul.
I trust that God will be guiding my efforts as I go. He always has.
And, that brings us to the final mucky spot I want to address as we navigate through the weeds of Josh’s post.
What about this phenomenon of LGBTQ members of the Church getting confirmation from the Holy Ghost to embrace their sexuality and move forward with same-sex partnerships? If you listen to enough LGBTQ Mormon stories you’ll hear this theme over, and over, and over again. Josh and Lolly are just one more example.
It’s certainly a challenge to our ideas of God’s plan for us, and how he directs his children. We are taught that if your inspiration takes you outside of what has been identified as the “straight and narrow way” your inspiration is deception.
This is where I quietly settle down into my confidence that as we do our best to follow our conscience and be kind, we will be guided. I trust that the effort made by my LGBTQ brothers and sisters to receive inspiration is as honest as my own effort, even though our paths may look different. Rather than disparage the different results of honest seeking and striving for inspiration, this is our opportunity to rejoice in the reality of a Savior who will surprise us, in the end, with so much amazing grace for our own guaranteed imperfect following.