“I am so fed up, it's unbelievable. There is no simple solution. No single right answer. I have to answer to so many. A family who needs me, but I am dying emotionally, mentally, spiritually … Yet to leave my children, to cause pain to both them and wife - that is something that is not me, not something I would deliberately do, let alone choose to do. I would rather die. And so I am dying …”
~ Gay Mormon Man in a Mixed-Orientation Marriage
This is not a post about same-sex marriage. This is a post about Mormon mixed-orientation marriages. Specifically, this is a post about an op-ed piece that appeared in Sunday’s Deseret News that conflates mixed-orientation marriages with the issue of same-sex marriage by touting that mixed-orientation marriages are an alternative to “same-sex marriage.”
In support of this proposition, the authors of the article – Michael and Jenet Jacob Anderson – do not point to extensive personal experience with or research of Mormon mixed-orientation marriages, nor to they point to statistical or academic studies. In point of fact, their piece is not only based on but liberally quotes from (without explicitly identifying the source, other than through an innocuous link) an amicus brief filed with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeal in the Kitchen case.
The fact that the Ericksons take such an extremely complicated, emotional issue, i.e., mixed-orientation marriage, and use it for political purposes is repulsive to me. I lived in a mixed-orientation marriage for over 20 years. I know many Mormon men who either are or have lived in a mixed-orientation marriage. I know a fair bit about mixed-orientation marriages, and in every case of which I am aware, there has been a tremendous amount of heartache; the circumstances of each marriage were unique to the couple involved; and the sexual orientation of one of the partners was only one factor that played into how the marriages evolved and, in some cases, ended.
The fact of the matter is that many, many gay Mormon men of my generation entered into marriages with women because that is what the Church taught they should do. Marriage to a woman would fix their problem. Living the Plan of Happiness would fix their problem. But it didn’t. What it did was, sooner or later, to one degree or another, create a tremendous amount of heartache.
The stories of these men and their spouses and children are largely unknown to the general LDS population (something I hope to help change). Stories such as those of Miguel, Allen, Kurt, Gary, Mark, Scott, Sarah, Sean, Kennedy, Steve, Shawn, Dan, Beck, Jeff, and many others. Because of this obscurity, the issues these families face and have faced are not appreciated by the larger Mormon community.
This highlights yet another reason I took issue with the Erickson’s piece. They point to a few stories of couples on the Voices of Hope website who are making their mixed-orientation marriages work, imply that these are the people whose stories have been suppressed and then callously use them for their own rhetorical/political purposes by claiming that “their lives dispel the myth that same-sex marriage is the only path to being free, equal and happy.” What nonsense. I would have to think that the couples whose stories are featured in Erickson’s piece would themselves be mortified at the use to which their stories were put.
There is yet one more aspect of the Erickson piece that offends.
Many, many gay and lesbian Mormons, at some point in their journey, have been asked by (sometimes) well-meaning friends, family members and ward members, “Why can’t you be like _____?” The blank represents someone who has “successfully” addressed their same-sex attraction and is a faithful Mormon. These well-meaning (but often ignorant) people point to websites such as ldsvoicesofhope.org as proof of their point; but what they often don’t realize is how complex same-sex attraction is and how offensive their “advice” is.
The Ericksons, in their piece, took this practice to a whole new level when they in essence applied it not to just one individual but to the entire community of gay Mormon men and women, implying that – if they wanted to – they could be like the people in the Voices of Hope videos. What the Ericksons did was ignorant, but I don't think is was well-meaning. It was callous, self-serving and offensive.
There are other voices available on the web that tell different stories from those found on Voices of Hope. Kendall Wilcox has collected and posted a number of these stories on his Far Between movie website. Stories of gay and lesbian Mormons who have chosen to live their sexuality with loving partners can be found at Voices of Love. In addition, I plan to republish a number of the posts I wrote about mixed-orientation marriages when I first came out, starting with one that I published earlier this month entitled “A Situation That Defies Our Nature,” from which the opening quote (above) was taken.
The issues pertaining to mixed-orientation marriages are extremely complicated. There needs to be more awareness and knowledge of these issues in the Mormon community. But they need to be talked about in a respectful and sensitive way, not used for callous political purposes.