It Gets Better at BYU? Religion & Homophobia

For anyone not familiar, the It Gets Better project was launched as a response to a string of GLBT-related teen suicides by Dan Savage and his husband Terry last September. The purpose of the project is to give LGBT youth hope during a period of their life that they may feel alone and not be able to reach out to anyone they know.

I first learned about the BYU student contribution to the project through a friend. I was pleasantly surprised to find out such a video could exist until it was posted to one of the most awesome threads on this site and I watched it. Watching it made me so angry my blood pressure rose... leading to the following response in a far less appropriate thread for this discussion.

RoughneckGeek wrote:

The BYU video is just hard to watch. The rhetoric about suicide causing the family less trauma than coming out is one I'm quite familiar with. At the beginning of the video I was wishing I could see a follow up in 5 years from each of the students. By the end, that's the last thing I want. I really don't want to know which of the students involved don't make it that far.

The LDS church does not accept that same sex attraction is biological... the church's stance is that being gay is a choice. The only acceptable course of action for a gay Mormon is to remain celibate for life and never seek a partner... or live in ex-gay denial. I've only seen that result in long term misery for all involved or suicide.

momgamer wrote:

There are levels of drive, no matter what your inclination. And for some people giving up what you see as a normal sexual life for what they see as a good relationship with their God is worth it to them. People from many faiths have made that choice.

I would have no qualms if they framed the choice they're making as living celibate and simply not acting on their innate homosexual attraction. Instead, they sell a lie that the attraction can be changed and they can live a normal hetrosexual life. The ones that aren't bisexual enough to make that work are told they simply don't have enough faith. If their faith was stronger then they would cease to struggle. These are people that are already sacrificing who they are for their faith. When they fail it results in depression, a gutting of their self-worth... and no one to turn to for support.

A personal decision made as you suggest above, I have no issues with. As soon as they are then propped up as an example of a successful ex-gay, I view them as a murderer.

I stand by what I said originally, especially after reading comments from the students on their Facebook group page confirming my concerns. The group recently hosted a panel at BYU in which one of the 4 students participating is currently in a heterosexual marriage. What the group offers is not acceptance and support. Instead, they reiterate the Mormon church's position that an individual can be attracted to their own gender, but must never act on that attraction. For LGBT youth that already feel they have no one to reach out to, telling them they can never have an intimate relationship is not encouragement.

Now I am just playing devil's advocate here, and this will be kinda very train of thought here, so bear with me.

We are told that we should not force people into being straight, that if they feel that they are non-traditionally oriented sexually, that they should be allowed to follow what they feel (limits of legality being followed. ie pedo, bestiality, etc) and not looked down upon. Yet here we have cases where people have looked at their sexuality, see that it conflicts with their faith and have decided that they prefer following the tenets of their faith to what they feel sexually.

So my question after the above is the following: How is telling someone "No, you have to be gay and enter into a gay relationship, and you will like it!!" (to pick one specific orientation for sake of example) any different than telling someone "No, you have to be straight and enter into a hetero relationship, and you will like it!"

(Note, in the above scenario, I am assuming that the person is, for whatever reason, uncomfortable with their non-hetero sexuality. Also assuming that there is a minimum of pressure.)

Edit to add - Just to make my personal stance clear, I feel that people should be allowed to make their own choices as to their sexuality. If they are straight, go for it. Gay, go for it. Gay and happier living in a hetero relationship, go for it. Hetero, but happier in a gay relationship, equally go for it.

It's always good to point out at the start of these discussions that sexual orientation is a spectrum. For some people, it *is* a choice - they are attracted to both sexes to one degree or another. To more (as far as I can tell), there's no choice - they are attracted to someone and they can't really say why. I think a lot of the church positions are based on seriously outmoded understandings of sexuality - pre-Masters and Johnson, certainly - in large part because newer research does not support the conclusions they draw from their holy books.

Of course, for people for whom it is a choice, they don't lose the attraction to one or the other by "picking a side". So what's the point of doing it? It just highlights the foolishness of many religious rules. (Yes, that's a personal bugaboo of mine.)

Just to follow of on your point Robear...

There are some people who, for whatever reason, their need to believe in a god (or higher power) is not really something that they have any control over. (Note that I want to distinguish this position from that of believing in the church. Sometimes churches do a lot of stupid things). If someone is in the unfortunate position of being both a non-traditional sexual orientation *and* believing in a higher power, they are in a very, very hard position.

The fact that most churches take the position that non-heterosexuality is bad only makes things much harder for them.

Instead, they reiterate the Mormon church's position that an individual can be attracted to their own gender, but must never act on that attraction. For LGBT youth that already feel they have no one to reach out to, telling them they can never have an intimate relationship is not encouragement.

While I am not sure what the Mormon stance is, I think it bears clarifying that as far as I understand Catholic doctrine, intimacy of any kind other than sexual is allowed between any two people. In fact, spiritual intimacy seems not to have any limitation. The prohibition is purely against sex, not intimacy; at least as far as I know.

LarryC wrote:
Instead, they reiterate the Mormon church's position that an individual can be attracted to their own gender, but must never act on that attraction. For LGBT youth that already feel they have no one to reach out to, telling them they can never have an intimate relationship is not encouragement.

While I am not sure what the Mormon stance is, I think it bears clarifying that as far as I understand Catholic doctrine, intimacy of any kind other than sexual is allowed between any two people. In fact, spiritual intimacy seems not to have any limitation. The prohibition is purely against sex, not intimacy; at least as far as I know.

I chuckled a little to myself because I just recently read the results of a survey in which a majority of teenagers don't consider oral or anal sex to be sex. Sounds like homosexuality may be okay with Catholic doctrine after all.

mudbunny wrote:

So my question after the above is the following: How is telling someone "No, you have to be gay and enter into a gay relationship, and you will like it!!" (to pick one specific orientation for sake of example) any different than telling someone "No, you have to be straight and enter into a hetero relationship, and you will like it!"

None, but I think it's more telling someone "No, all the evidence points to your problems (since if there are no problems, then whatevs) being with not accepting you're gay, so enter into a gay relationship and see how it works out for you." I think the difference here is that one is, appropriately, a call for faith and the other is evidence based.

mudbunny wrote:

Just to follow of on your point Robear...

There are some people who, for whatever reason, their need to believe in a god (or higher power) is not really something that they have any control over. (Note that I want to distinguish this position from that of believing in the church. Sometimes churches do a lot of stupid things). If someone is in the unfortunate position of being both a non-traditional sexual orientation *and* believing in a higher power, they are in a very, very hard position.

The fact that most churches take the position that non-heterosexuality is bad only makes things much harder for them.

This is absolutely a factor that must be considered. Our brains do some crazy sh*t, including seeking and finding agency and meaning (a god) where there otherwise is none. These mechanisms are hard-wired into our brains through thousands of years of evolution, and it can be a real b*tch when it comes to putting that pattern-seeking in check. So while they may not have immediate, direct control over what they believe, that excuse only sails so far as there are many who have learned to keep it in check.

Nicholaas:

I think that a fair bit of pattern seeking is going on on both sides of this discussion, since much of it is being attributed to religion. While it's true that many organized religious organizations condemn same gender sex as a sin, they also condemn a great many other things as sins, and the enforcement and emphasis of which sins are which is greatly dependent on the culture which adopts the religion, not the other way around. In other words, religion is the excuse, not the cause.

My religion teaches me that same gender sex is a sin, but it also teaches me that masturbation is also a sin along very similar lines, and I am very remiss in my observation of that restriction. Even if my religion instructed me to judge and condemn (which it does not), I am in no position to be casting rocks, as it were.

The video might do more harm than good. However I'm sure there are a segment of kids who don't want to give up their religion and feel strongly about that as well. That has to be hell, honestly. I assume there are kids in this demographic who, even without family or societal pressure, want to stay tied to their church and be honest about who they are. This video is for them, I suppose.

This would be my response to that video. At 1:35.

[quote=mudbunny]If someone is in the unfortunate position of being both a non-traditional sexual orientation /quote]

Non-traditional? In what way? If tradition is a function of age, then homosexuality is a damn sight more 'traditional' than any religion I can think of.

Gays have been around a lot longer than most messiahs.

LarryC wrote:
Instead, they reiterate the Mormon church's position that an individual can be attracted to their own gender, but must never act on that attraction. For LGBT youth that already feel they have no one to reach out to, telling them they can never have an intimate relationship is not encouragement.

While I am not sure what the Mormon stance is, I think it bears clarifying that as far as I understand Catholic doctrine, intimacy of any kind other than sexual is allowed between any two people. In fact, spiritual intimacy seems not to have any limitation. The prohibition is purely against sex, not intimacy; at least as far as I know.

Yeah, the prohibitions are against lust and sex outside of wedlock, including sex between two men. There is, in fact, no rule on orientation as far as I'm aware. (It's about acting on, or fantasizing about acting on that orientation.)

wordsmythe:

On a similar note, the Church teaches us not to fantasize about having sex with women who are not our wives, and I tend to do rather poorly at that, too. Who am I to judge someone else who's doing exactly the same thing, just because our objects of fantasy are slightly different? What right has anyone, for that matter?

LarryC wrote:

wordsmythe:

On a similar note, the Church teaches us not to fantasize about having sex with women who are not our wives, and I tend to do rather poorly at that, too. Who am I to judge someone else who's doing exactly the same thing, just because our objects of fantasy are slightly different? What right has anyone, for that matter?

Yeah, man. "Let he who is without sin" and all that. There are some interpretations of the Greek in John 8 that state that Jesus's words specifically relate to the same class of sin as the woman was accused of, id est sexual impurity.