Why I’m Gay, Not SSA

I’m gay and queer. I’m not “homosexual” or “SSA.” Here is why.

We’re all familiar with Shakespeare’s famous line “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet.” On the surface, this line is true. Saussure’s theory of semiotics shows that words are not inherently linked to the objects they signify, and the random combinations of sounds only gain significance when they are placed in an interconnected system of language. We could just as easily have named a rose a “brishnoll” or a “wittot,” and it certainly would smell as sweet. But what if we called it “reek weed?” How many generations would it take before the smell of the rose became loathsome? The words “reek” and “weed” already have strong negative connotations in our language, and those connotations bleed through our objective sensual intake and shape how we perceive the world. In other words, how we choose to name something helps determine…

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You Don’t Have to Hate Anybody to be a Bigot

This is a good analysis.

The Weekly Sift

Throughout American history, most bigots have been nice folks who had sincere religious reasons for treating other people badly.

Social conservatives were all over the airwaves and print media this week, explaining how and why the battle over marriage equality is not over. The Supreme Court may have spoken, but the other branches of government, they promised, could still step in somehow, if we elect the right people. Or county clerks could just refuse to issue licenses. Or ordinary people could practice civil disobedience in some unspecified way. There are, Glenn Beck has promised us, ten thousand pastors willing to “go to prison or to death” over this issue (though exactly what charges will brought against them or who might try to kill them is a bit vague).

To me, the most revealing moment of this Alamo-like refusal to surrender came when Texas Senator Ted Cruz was interviewed…

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“Come, Come, Ye Saints” as a “Coming-Out” Anthem

The Lord gave Brigham Young this encouragement to leave the East and cross the plains: “I am he who led the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; and my arm is stretched out in the last days, to save my people Israel” (D&C 136:22).

There are three parts to each LGBT coming-out process, all of which match the Westward journey of the Saints: the closet experience (Kirtland, Missouri, Nauvoo), the coming out journey (crossing the plains), and living in freedom (Utah).

When the Saints lived in the closet of the Eastern US, they were not free to be themselves.  They were victims of identity-based hate crimes, including being beaten, being tarred and feathered, and even being killed.  The Saints were just trying to get on with their lives and be the special people who God called them to be, and they were horribly misunderstood and persecuted by everyone around them, even though they weren’t hurting anyone.  All of this happens to LGBT people as well.

“Exodus” literally means “coming out.”  Like God leading Israel out of Egypt, the Westward journey was a coming-out experience.   That is why the iconic LDS hymn “Come, Come, Ye Saints” is a perfect coming-out invitation and support.  Yes, coming out is hard work, and it’s scary, but the hymn encourages us not to fear “toil nor labor.”  One of the tendencies of people in the closet is to sink into the seductive and simple convenience of the closet.  The familiar oppression is less scary than the unfamiliar freedom.  “Come, Come, Ye Saints” gives us fresh courage to deal with the long, hard journey of coming out as LGBT into the Utah of open living. It’s better far to be ourselves than to live in shame and secrecy.

LGBT people long to come out into a world “where none shall come to hurt or make afraid” and we can finally shout what we knew about ourselves all along: “All is well!”  Yes, being LGBT is neither a sickness nor a sin.  For us, all is well.  Though all is not well with the world, and there is work to do, we must all press on anyway.  LGBT people must be pioneers, like the early Saints.  Pioneers are those who go in a different direction, do something new, and do something very hard.  That’s why LGBT activists rightly continue the heritage of Mormon pioneers.  Some of us will be killed along the way, but most of us will make it safely to the land of rest and refreshment that is promised to all LGBT people who come out.  Our God will never forsake us.

Listen to this hymn with fresh insight!  Every time I hear it, it gives me even more courage to fight homophobia.   It’s an amazing coming-out anthem:

  1. Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear;
    But with joy wend your way.
    Though hard to you this journey may appear,
    Grace shall be as your day.
    ‘Tis better far for us to strive
    Our useless cares from us to drive;
    Do this, and joy your hearts will swell–

    All is well! All is well!

  2. Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?
    ‘Tis not so; all is right.
    Why should we think to earn a great reward
    If we now shun the fight?
    Gird up your loins; fresh courage take.
    Our God will never us forsake;
    And soon we’ll have this tale to tell–

    All is well! All is well!

  3. We’ll find the place which God for us prepared,
    Far away in the West,
    Where none shall come to hurt or make afraid;
    There the Saints will be blessed.
    We’ll make the air with music ring,
    Shout praises to our God and King;
    Above the rest these words we’ll tell–

    All is well! All is well!

  4. And should we die before our journey’s through,
    Happy day! All is well!
    We then are free from toil and sorrow, too;
    With the just we shall dwell!
    But if our lives are spared again
    To see the Saints their rest obtain,
    Oh, how we’ll make this chorus swell–
    All is well! All is well!

The Stone which the builders rejected

אֶבֶן מָאֲס֣וּ הַבּוֹנִ֑ים הָ֝יְתָ֗ה לְרֹ֣אשׁ פִּנָּֽה
Psalm 118:22

As it is recorded, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s work. We consider it amazing!” (Psalm 118:22–23). One of the earliest layers of meaning for this psalm refers to the anointing of King David. He was passed over in favor of his brothers for the kingship, but Samuel brought forth the boy who was never considered, and established him as the King (1 Sam 16:6–13). Another layer of meaning expands to all of Israel, a weak nation dwarfed by surrounding empires. Yet, God chose Israel out of all of them to be glorified with the Torah. Furthermore, another layer of interpretation in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon refocuses this on the crucified Jesus (Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10-11, Luke 20:17, Acts 4:11, Ephesians 2:20-22; 1 Peter 2:4-8, Jacob 4:15), whom the “experts” of the time rejected, yet God vindicated and to whom God gave the name that is above every other name.

We have heard these words many times: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Psalm 118:22).  Very few people stop to ask the questions of who the builders were, and why the stone was discarded! Well, the builders were the “experts” and the “leaders.” They were the ones in charge. They were the ones with power and authority. They had the ability to draw the lines wherever they wanted. And what about the stone? In the judgment of the builders, the stone didn’t fit. There was something “wrong” with it. Either it wasn’t the right shape to fit their hole, or it didn’t match the rest of the stones in color or texture. It didn’t fit their plan. They cast aside this stone because it contradicted their expectations. However, this queer stone was elevated to be the cornerstone, and this was explicitly the Lord’s doing! (Psalm 118:23). Putting this together, we see that the experts were wrong. The builders thought something didn’t fit, but God said that it should adorn the building anyway. This is what God is doing for queer people. The world says we don’t fit, that there’s something wrong with us, and we don’t fit the world’s plan. But, we fit Heavenly Father’s plan! And just like the stone, God is raising us up to a profound place, to be the spicy glory of the whole Church. By raising up the stone that was “weak,” God celebrates diversity, and so should we.

Latter-day revelation also builds upon this imagery.  Saints have always been a queer people, not really fitting in.  We are out of place in terms of the world’s standards.  We are “weak things” from their perspective.  Like the stone rejected by the builders, we were rejected by the people in power in Missouri in 1838.  We were oppressed by persecution and hate crimes, just for not fitting in.  That makes us literally “queer” people. As a comfort and consolation, the Lord by way of revelation in 1841 reminded the Saints that we are a cornerstone of Zion (D&C 124:2, 23, 131). No matter how we have been rejected by the world, we are elevated by God with our difference intact.  This is another way modern revelation gives hope for the vindication of LGBT individuals.

“Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Joseph Smith, I am well pleased with your offering and acknowledgments, which you have made; for unto this end have I raised you up, that I might show forth my wisdom through the weak things of the earth. Your prayers are acceptable before me; and in answer to them I say unto you, that you are now called immediately to make a solemn proclamation of my gospel, and of this stake which I have planted to be a cornerstone of Zion, which shall be polished with the refinement which is after the similitude of a palace.” (D&C 124:1-2, italics added)

[For an analysis of the temple architecture as an “inside-out” closet, see here.  For a defense of entryway as the holiest part of the temple, see here.]

#LoveWins! LGBTQ Bloggers Make Their Voices Heard

The WordPress.com Blog

You might have noticed the rainbow banner across the top of WordPress.com over the weekend — our way of marking Pride month, celebrated by cities across the globe in June, as well as the US Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage across all states. (The United States now joins 20 other countries, including my own, Portugal, in fully recognizing same-sex marriage nationwide.)

Here at WordPress.com we strive to democratize publishing and empower freedom of speech. It’s amazing to see the thoughtful analyses of the Supreme Court’s decision already being published, like this excellent piece from Tropics of Meta putting the decision into long-term historical context. We’re also proud to provide a platform for all the incredibly talented LGBTQ writers who are advocating for change…

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