“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.
❤ This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.
I am so glad you wrote this. There is so much here, so personal and so powerful. What I love particularly is your approach to space-making–that is, acknowledging that there is space for both your stories. It makes me feel by extension there is space for mine as well. And that feels nice! Many thanks.
Love, love, love this. Thank you for sharing your story. My husband, Ben, and I are actually with Josh and Lolly this evening. Ben happened upon your post tonight, and I was reading snippets of it to Josh, Lolly, and Ben as we sat together and mulled over the events of the last couple days of Josh and Lolly’s lives. We all appreciated your unique perspective on these “mucky” issues. 💕
Whitney, thank you for sharing this moment with me. I can only imagine how difficult it has been for both of them. I’m glad they had you with them. I wish to be a virtual friend and soft place to land. Thank you for sharing some of my thoughts, and hope it added to that end. LOVE.
Love all of this, especially “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.”
Your ability to sit with pain, support a myriad of journeys, and walk forward with courage each day continues to astound me and bring tender tears to my eyes. Thank you for your wisdom and kindness. I love you.
If homosexuality isn’t about sex, then why the incredibly high levels of promiscuity in the gay male population? For those who say it is not a cruising lifestyle, I’d say that you’re remarkably naive. I’ll never forget the response to a presentation by a prominent gay member of a political action committee. A friend came back from it and said he told them that as a gay man, gay marriage is disingenuous and told the LGBT community to stop the infighting about it because it was never about marriage but about sex. They were so upset and to prove his point, he said to the crowd of hundreds of LGBT people, “Okay, if it isnt about sex, then roght now, delete all your sex apps on your phones. Do it. Do it and prove that it isn’t about sex.” Everyone was seething and refused to do it.
So, I guess what I am trying to get to thr bottom of is of it isnt about sex, why the massive hook up culture? Why the saunas, why the gay clubs and gay bars with sex areas in the back, why the open relationships? I am sincerely trying to understand the incongruous nature of this and it baffles me.
j., I’m offering a perspective that deserves some push back for honest investigation. So, I’m so glad you brought up this issue. Commentary on it was purposely missing from my article, because it deserves its own attention. I’m a woman in an opposite sex intimate relationship, so even though I have an opinion on the issue, I’ve invited some of my gay colleagues who are navigating same sex intimate relationships to comment here. I think their perspective will be valuable.
I am a lesbian. I have been with two women prior to marriage to my wife seven years ago. I wish she had been my first.
I too have been disgusted by the hook up culture of gay men. Unfortunately, i came to the conclusion that it is not that they are gay but the fact that they are males that causes them to behave this way. No man can control their sexual urges for more than a few years.
This is why I think true, monogamous love can only exist between women. Heterosexual women do the best they can to create morality in relationships with males but most of the time they will be unsuccessful.
j., for some people it’s all about sex. For others (including the author of this post, and me, and maybe a couple more) it’s not. Also, if it is all about sex, why the incredibly high levels of show tunes and Disney?
Hi J and Kate –
There’s a lot going into these claims both of you had made. I’d be happy to respond more in depth, if you’re really invested in learning – simply send a request to our “Contact Us” part of the blog.
This critique of the “sex-obsessed gay culture” has a number of roots, both in the history of social and sexual repression, psychology of oppressed groups, and just general history of the United States. So, I’m going to just list a couple of thoughts and, again, feel free to reach out to me for more.
1 – First to consider is that not everyone is going to share your worldview of “sex is bad”. The restrictions surrounding sex and taboo nature of sex have a history, specifically in Victorian Western life. During the sexual revolutions of the 60s, in the US, sexual freedom was sought by members of all sexualities, not just gays/lesbians/queer/etc. people. I’m not trying to say that sexual freedom is better or that sexual freedom is bad. I’m just starting out by saying you both come at this from a particular moral framework which others might not hold. It’s important to recognize that.
2 – The implication that another group has a deviant sexuality is rooted in oppressive ideology. From the beginning of modern Western civilization, one of the first things dominant groups noted of “new people” or “foreign people” were their “deviant sexualities”. The pilgrims thought this of Indians, the British of the people from India, the Americans of blacks up until recently, and now the straights of the gays. Once sexuality became an important marker of a “good person” in Western Society, it was used as a shame factor to resist humanizing other groups – essentially saying: look at how they are using their bodies in such unseemly ways, they are obvious not as good as us. So, as a second starting point (adding to the history of Victorian tabooed sexuality), that the question of deviant sexuality is rooted in oppressive discourse.
Now, let’s try to explain your claims as if we all agreed on the above.
– Long long term gay relationships haven’t been a characteristic of gay communities until recently because it wasn’t allowed. Yes, you can find anecdotal evidence of gay relationships here and there, but it simply could not occur. In fact, any demonstration of same-sex sexual acts were criminal and subject to imprisonment, abuse, and rape. So hidden acts of sex were the easiest way to express sexuality.
– The advent of the queer movement (later dubbed the LGBTQ movement) started in the late 1960s at the close of the sexual liberation movement of starting in the 60s. The queer movement is strongly connected to this, but it’s important to know that this sexual liberation was actually spearheaded by straight individuals, especially women.
– Even though there is increasing acceptance of same-sex relationships, young LGBTQ+ people grow up in fear and consistently repress their sexuality. They have no safe outlets by which to understand, express, or experiment like straight people do: no dating, no holding hands, no kissing, etc. As is similar in most cultures or groups that experience sexual repression, once someone finds their way out of it, this often leads to more intense, frequent, and unfortunately riskier sexual exploration. But this happens in uber-conservative sexual households as well (pregnant teens aren’t getting pregnant because of gay kids). It was also a social drive that prompted the sexual revolution aforementioned.
– Your claims are also dismissing the real sexual deviance in heterosexual societies since…forever. Cited are the massive hook up culture, gay clubs, and gay bars. I might respond with: strip clubs, sexual acts on television, the porn industry that caters much more to straight men than to gay men, and the history of brothels everywhere. I just finished reading “Devil in the White City” about the World’s Fair in Chicago in the late 19th Century. Madames flocked to the city knowing that there would be millions of /heterosexual/ men who would want sex. We might also look to the scene in Les Miserables by Victor Hugo where Fantine becomes employed at a brothel – those wouldn’t exist if heterosexuals did not engage in extramarital sex. So, at it’s very basis, the idea that “homosexuals” are more about sex is historically not true. (Do we also have to mention that the majority of sexual abuse cases are about heterosexuals? Might we also mention the Ashley Madison scandal? There is so MUCH SEX that is heterosexual, but because it’s not “different’ or “gross” or “deviant”, we don’t think about it. But SEX is literally everywhere – in our dress, schools, movies, songs, churches, etc. And it’s mostly /heterosexual/ sex.)
– You give a cute anecdote about a gay man critiquing gay sex culture. He’s not the only one. Welcome to the LGBTQ community. There is a lot of similar conversations because the community is so new. Creating a community from scratch takes time and negotiations, fighting and compromise, questioning and answering, developing norms and fighting norms. This happens in straight communities too, though. We might consider all the conference talks about the dangers of pornography, infidelity, pre-marital sex (you should see the amount of fear general authorities had about teenage sex during the 60s and 70s), yet you would never say: OMG – These straight people MUST have a sex problem. Again, the question of whether gay people have too much sex is rooted in homophobic discourses because the same problems exist in the heterosexual world, but no one bats an eye and asks if straight people have too much sex. And if they do ask that question, the solution is never to restrict their rights, demonize the entirety of the heterosexual population, or any of the things that dominant discourses do to minorities (racial, ethnic, sexual, etc.).
– As mentioned above, the repression and discrimination against gay people is still alive and well. Thus, even to attain some kind of relationship, gay apps have been a god-send for many gay people. In my research on LGBQ+ Mormons, even those that never engaged in sex used the apps just to connect with other gay people – just simply to talk to someone else who understood what they were going through without fear of being “outed” or attacked. Plus, I met my current partner on an app. Things are just fine, thanks.
– Nearing the end, this discussion presents a false dichotomy that because there is a lot of sex by gay men that there cannot be romantic attachment. This is not an “either/or” situation. You can crave both. And just as /some/ straight people go to strip clubs, look at porn, or hire prostitutes, /some/ gay people hookup with other gay people. Yet, the romantic and emotional drive still exists.
And, finally, to Kate’s point – your claim is rooted in a discredited belief that women have less of a sex-drive than men. Or that men have less control than women. While you may feel that you have more control, scholars have shown that this belief resides in the fact that women are taught in Western society not to respond to their own sexuality – that they are to be acted upon and men are taught to act on their sexual urges. This is not a biological difference between men and women. It’s a social one. Female-dominant cultures show that women are more sexually active than men.
And thus, your claim that monogamous relationships can’t exist between men is false again. Canada, for example, legalized gay marriage over 10 years ago and the research on gay couples there shows virtually no distance in the quality of marriages compared to straight people. Let’s leave behind the outdated conceptions of gendered sexuality for they do nothing but harm.
Hope this helps clarify some things!
Thank you for your thoughts. This latest revelation hit me with great sadness inside for a multiple of reasons relating to my own experiences in life. However, when I read their blog post, I kept thinking of the human need for “time.” We all need time to figure things out and grow and learn and we do that in our own way, through our own experience, and with God allowing us to make choices that we help us learn that. I appreciate your experience with time and how it is helping you. I am just beginning to see how the basic need of time is a blessing. God be with you.
This: “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.”
I would have to agree with this. My struggle with knowing who I was–yet also growing up in the church, going to a church school, and serving a mission…it was so hard. I have never felt bad or guilty about marrying my wife and living true to myself. I am authentic to who God created me to be. I have never felt happier and more true to me. Thank you for the post and I can completely sympathize with Josh (and Lolly).
If anyone is interested, I have a blog that talks about LGBTQ+ issues and it often ties in LDS perspectives and my personal experience. Find it here: liveengayged.wordpress.com
Thank you Erik L. for responding to J’s question. Very good points and thoughts that I’ve also had on Western Christian Culture’s influence on how we view our own sexuality, you outlined so well.
Thanks for sharing your perspective. My heart breaks for the Weeds and I hope they find the peace they’re seeking.