Sunday, March 24, 2013

painful progress

So I'm lying here in bed listening to this guy speak in 2000 from the Vermont house chamber about his experience of being an openly gay Vermont legislator when Vermont was debating a civil union bill.  This is part of what he said:

"There remains afoot in Vermont prejudice against gay men and lesbians. ... I have been called names in this chamber, in this building, the likes of which I have never experienced in my life — my personal life or my political life. And I've watched come true what I have always known to be true. That those who stand beside gay and lesbian people as their allies ... they get targeted, too...

"I've had members of my committee say, 'I couldn't sleep at night; I've had knots in my stomach.' I wouldn't have wished this on any of them."

Then I started thinking about how in spite of all the good progress that's been made in the church on the topic of homosexuality, I'm finding it hard at times to engage or celebrate the progress.  I think that in part it's because there are still lots of conditions in place and an air of subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) condescension towards those who are gay.  Sure, before nobody even attempted to parse out the "sinner" from the "sin" in order to love the former and not the latter (a mantra I despise).  The "sinner" and the "sin" were wrapped up in one neat little package to loathe. I'm glad we've moved on to softening the language and being more inclusive.

The fact remains though, that there are conditions and condescension still in place that were born of that original disgust and disdain.  A disgust and disdain that led Ernest Wilkinson to say the following to the entire BYU student body in the 60's when he was president of BYU:

"We [at BYU] do not intend to admit to our campus any homosexuals. If any of you have this tendency and have not completely abandoned it, may I suggest that you leave the university immediately after this assembly; and if you will be honest enough to let us know the reason, we will voluntarily refund your tuition. We do not want others on this campus to be contaminated by your presence."

And this is just one instance of countless.  And I guess that's why lately it feels hard for me to celebrate any progress.  Because I feel hints of that original disgust in all the conditions and condescension. The hateful things that have been said aren't far enough in the past to be able to separate them from the hesitancy that exists in the current outreach.  The calls for love and inclusivity ring hollow when the church is silent on the issue of the BSA ban on those who are LGBT, or silent on a statewide nondiscrimination bill in Utah, while at the same time being all too eager to jump to file an amicus brief with the Supreme Court.

To be sure, the gradual shifts are welcome.  I think the pace of the shifting when considered with the history of outright disdain and disgust just reminds of how far we have yet to go.


  1. What is the reference for the Wilkinson quote? I found that to be very disturbing and oh, so hurtful. Despicable, really.

  2. that Wilkinson comment is jaw-dropping.

    BYU could partially make up for it if they'd make the same statement now, except substitute "homophobe" for "homosexual."

    1. Ooh, wouldn't that be delicious?

  3. In the Novemeber 1980 issue of the Ensign there is a "Special Message to all Latter-day Saints." by President Kimball. When discussing homosexuality, among other sexual sins, he says "If one has such desires he overcomes them..." "This heinous homosexual sin is of the ages..." "This is a most unpleasant subject to dwell dwell on..." He then goes on to say that if we say "God made me that way" then it is blasphemy.

    It's as you said Jon, for all the progress in shifting attitudes, is it really progress?

  4. I do not believe the church is a safe place for gay people. I compare the apathy or disgust of active members to the post of my guy and me to the loving, accepting, joyful responses from the members of his church (UCC). The new website does not offer much as long as it retains the links to other resources that contradict the new site.

  5. i agree that there is not nearly enough progess and for sure not in the church. i send my good thoughts your way if thats where you are at, and you have my support 100% for my energy, votes, etc going towards you having full rights in this country.

    and even without my condescension! :)

    take care friend, and good luck in whereever you are trying to accomplish soe progress in this crazy world.