I confess I stole the question from an episode of 1 Girl 5 Gays.
The TV show 1 Girl 5 Gays is a fun 1/2 hour romp with a female host, Aliya-Jasmine Sovani, interviewing a panel of 5 young gay men. It’s a guilty pleasure. Aliya-Jasmine makes an easygoing host and the panel of guests spans all the stereotypes of gay men – some interesting, some embarrassing.
You have everything from the effeminate, opinionated male bitches to the seemingly genuine, but hilarious cuddly boys that make up the heart of the show (Jonathan S. and Jean-Paul are my two favorites). The premise is obviously 1 girl asking 20 provocative questions to a panel of 5 gay men.
I wish I had seen something like this when I was 16; it could have prevented a lot of poor choices on my part and pain for others.
In a recently aired episode, Aliya-Jasmine posed the question, “Is everyone who opposes gay marriage homophobic?” I don’t even remember what the panelists said because I was so intrigued by the question and how I’d respond to it.
I’d say, “Yes… and… No.”
Yes, opposing gay marriage is homophobic.
No, homophobia is not necessarily the root problem for everyone who opposes gay marriage (a marriage ceremony being a state or a religious issue is a post for another time).
More often than not I think opposing gay marriage is only a symptom of a much more serious and dangerous disease. It is like a runny nose. Sometimes it really is just a cold; But sometimes, a runny nose might be a symptom of hay fever or a more serious flu. It could even be: food allergies, measles, whooping cough, swine flu, sinus infection, roseola, etc.
In trying to alleviate an illness if you just go after the symptom then you only bring temporary comfort, instead of a cure or full recovery. I think the same goes for gay marriage and a host of other social issues. If you try to isolate it and squelch homophobia or racism alone then you might be missing a host of other much graver problems at the root.
Years ago when the campaign for Prop 8 in California was in full swing I was driving down a familiar road near my old home and noticed all the “Yes on 8” signs on lawns of all the homes of Mormons that I knew. They were former “friends.” As much as that hurt to see, I don’t think homophobia was their deepest problem. In fact, I think most Mormons I know could be cured of their opposition to gay marriage in an instant. I don’t think someone with true homophobia could get over it as quickly as Mormons could.
All that it would take is for their “prophet” to tell them to accept it and in an instant most of these people would switch on a dime. As an example, look at what happened with people of African descent in 1978. In fact I’m going to say that if the Mormon church had attacked the root of their true problem in 1978, then a long litany of social issues in the entire country would have resolved themselves much more easily and our world would be a much better place today (the facts show that Mormons had a disproportionate political and financial influence over Prop 8 as well as the ERA. Without Mormons, the outcome of both would likely have been different).
I was old enough to remember the LDS church environment prior to this monumental change in 1978. While the LDS church and its members certainly embraced racist policies, their racism was only a symptom. I remember my LDS parents and the environment in our home back then. We lived in the suburbs and exposure to African Americans was pretty scarce; I remember my brother’s black teacher at school (whom he loved) and the rest were only on TV. I don’t believe my parents were racist to the core, but I’m sure they would have voted exactly the way the LDS Church expected them to and I’m sure they were opposed to full religious integration like all good Mormons. Racism wasn’t the most distasteful flaw of the adults in my life. Their blind obedience and lack of independent thought was the bigger cause of their unfortunate racism.
Suddenly there was a “revelation” from above; the leaders spoke and people obediently followed… but just on the issue of racism. They still had to yet to be told what to do regarding Equal rights for all, gay marriage, immigration, etc…
What if, instead of the monumental but isolated move to undo the racism in the church in 1978 the leaders had instead encouraged a greater universal equality for all of God’s children? They could have created a pathway whereby members could be taught to develop a moral compass all their own and not wait to be told to choose the right. They could have spent the last 35 years giving members encouragement and critical thinking skills to find their own sense of justice, empathy, compassion and equality, rather than maintaining their inherent fear and obedience to the hierarchy at all costs. This would have cut to the root of their problem.
If that larger, deeper and even more corrupt illness had been eliminated back in 1978 instead of the symptom of racism we would probably have avoided several battles in the meantime such as this current battle over gay marriage; The US would have also passed the Equal Rights Amendment back in the 80’s and our mothers, sisters and our families would be better off for it.
No. Mormons are not inherently racist or homophobic. They are inherently unable to think for themselves and lack the moral compass to make choices that haven’t been made for them. It’s horrifying to watch actually. I saw it in 2008 when LDS folks admitted that they personally saw nothing wrong with gay marriage but they felt the more powerful tug of loyalty to to a man who did have a problem with it…and so they voted according to the instructions rather than according to their consciences. You saw the same thing with the ERA Amendment in the early 80’s, and the civil rights movement of the 60’s and 70’s. In fact, I think you could come up with dozens of issues like this through the years as far back as 1857 and the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
There’s a lot of silly arguing over whether that particular religiously inspired terrorist attack (it happened on September 11, 1857 by the way) occurred due to explicit instructions from the leader Brigham Young or not. I think it’s irrelevant. What is clear is that the attackers THOUGHT that their behavior was what their leaders would want them to do. I don’t think anyone cares that Muslim leaders never actually called for the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks. What is significant is what the actual attackers THOUGHT and UNDERSTOOD. Even in the aftermath of the Mormon event, healing has been at the mercy of the direction from LDS leaders.
I attended the Ex-Mormon Foundation Conference in 2007 where the documentary film “Burying the Past“ was presented. It’s a look at the descendants of the Mountain Meadow Massacre – the descendants of both the victims and the perpetrators. The thing that stood out to me in this film was the behavior of the LDS descendents of the attackers. They were virtually paralyzed from any action such as working together with the victim’s families on a memorial. I can’t fathom how such a coordinated effort to encourage healing and forgiveness would have been an improper choice, but they wouldn’t move forward without getting the OK from Salt Lake City.
When doing the right thing is subject to approval or leadership sanction there’s a corrupt system. It proves that there’s a whole lot more going wrong than just a few unsavory attitudes and behaviors. What a horrible lesson for our children to learn that they need to put off doing the right thing until some corporate figurehead nods.
Again, imagine if in the later half of the 19th century Mormonism had learned from September 11, 1857 and changed their course from a top down Pharisaical, procedural and obedience-based organization to one whose purpose were to teach moral principals. What if, instead of fighting for their own narrow freedom to practice polygamy they had instead fought in the larger war of equality for all? If that had been the case, Mormon history and US history would have been dramatically different when it comes to civil rights.
Instead of rules and standards pamphlets that the LDS publish today there would be thought provoking questions, lessons and discussions on making a positive impact in the world without “right” or “wrong” answers provided. So-called “christian” principles of empathy, compassion, forgiveness and justice would find their seed and nourishment from within individuals rather than as a a directive from above.
Homophobia isn’t today’s problem. It is just today’s prevailing symptom.
Most pundits predict that the battle for gay marriage will be won soon. But I say that the larger war against injustice won’t be won until organizations like Mormonism that breed inequality, immorality and blind obedience are changed or wounded enough to remove their power over individuals. It’s a power that they aren’t going to give up willingly.