This is a heartbreaking and inspiring video by USGA (Understanding Same-Gender Attraction), an unofficial group of students and others at Brigham Young University, the Mormon-run institution of higher learning consistently ranked as one of the most unfriendly campuses in the U.S. for LGBT students. The suicidal depression and despairing loneliness that haunts these students’ lives is not a result of their sexuality, but of the toxic religious environment fostered by their church, their communities and their own families.
I need to tread carefully here, but this is something I feel compelled to say. As heartwarming as it is to see these students find relief, hope, and social acceptance among their peers, they still identify as Mormons, an ideology that explicitly rejects them as a result of their sexuality. They speak of life-affirming, prayerful realizations that their god accepts and loves them as they are, with all the confidence an imaginary friend can inspire. Now, I have no problem with anyone finding comfort and solace in whatever delusion suits them. But the fact is that when they identify as Mormon, they identify themselves as part of a powerful, extraordinarily wealthy organization which continuously, relentlessly, and quite effectively opposes gay rights. Case in point: the 2008 California ballot initiative for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage known as Prop 8:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are commonly known as Mormons, also publicly supported the proposition. The First Presidency of the church announced its support for Proposition 8 in a letter intended to be read in every congregation in California. In this letter, church members were encouraged to “do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time.” Local church leaders set organizational and monetary goals for their membership—sometimes quite specific—to fulfill this call. The response of church members to their leadership’s appeals to donate money and volunteer time was very supportive, such that Latter-day Saints provided a significant source for financial donations in support of the proposition, both inside and outside the State of California. About 45% of out-of-state contributions to ProtectMarriage.com came from Utah, over three times more than any other state. ProtectMarriage, the official proponent of Proposition 8, estimates that about half the donations they received came from Mormon sources, and that LDS church members made up somewhere between 80% and 90% of the volunteers for early door-to-door canvassing.
It escapes me how anyone can find solace in a religion that does that, but I will take their word for it. Still, I found myself alternately overjoyed and enraged watching the video. The USGA youtube site says:
USGA is not an appropriate forum for angry, vulgar, or profane remarks of any kind, nor for expressions of antagonism against any person or organization. In order to foster an environment of respect and understanding, we ask all participants to be respectful of BYU, the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints (Mormon), and the beliefs and experiences of others.
I will of course be respectful of their wishes — it’s their Palace, not mine — and so I will not post anything there that is disrespectful of Brigham Young University, the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints (Mormons), or “the beliefs and experiences of others” in the USGA community. But this happens to be my Palace — and here I will be as disrespectful of anyone as I damn well please. If nothing else, the Palace is a perfectly appropriate forum for angry, vulgar, and profane remarks of any kind, and for expressions of antagonism against any person or organization worthy of such scorn. Like this:
I do not respect Brigham Young University, the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints (Mormons), or “the beliefs and experiences” of anyone who holds a hateful and ridiculous faith antithetical to the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or otherwise queer-identified human beings.* I have nothing but seething contempt for the lot of them: they can all just fuck right off.
The brave young people in this video have admirably freed themselves from the tyranny of religiously indoctrinated self-hatred. My sincere hope it that this is but a first step on the path to freeing themselves from the tyranny of religion.
*Don’t even get me started on the LDS stance on women.