Deseret News Theatre Critic Ivan Lincoln penned this piece about a Salt Lake City actor who recently died of complications due to HIV-AIDS. I think it cheapens any life, especially that of a dead person who can no longer speak, to try to co-opt him in service of any political agenda. But as I read this memorial, I couldn’t help thinking about the raging debates we have about change here: Is it possible? Can it last? Or to rephrase it in the way most people probably mean, “How many other people have to change before I can believe that it’s possible for me?”
People are endlessly asking for an example of successful reorientation, as if we were talking about something rare and mythical like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster, when it is neither. I do not know if we can count Scott Morgan as one of the statistics in successful reorientation. The piece mentions nothing about contact with mental health, so he wouldn’t show up in anyone’s therapeutic outcome study anyway. He would have been one of the many who undergo what the mental health profession in its typical solipsist fashion calls “spontaneous remission,” when it was obviously anything but spontaneous. This is the dark matter of psychology, those who change without ever coming into contact with a mental health professional. The dark matter in cosmology comprises 96% of the matter and energy in the entire universe. How big the psychological equivalent with same sex attraction may be is anyone’s guess, but I believe it is large, probably larger than the entire population who have come into contact with the mental health system. (This appears to be true for other health conditions that have been measured.)
But to even start thinking about Scott Morgan as a statistic feels deeply wrong to me. He is more than a statistic; his complex life should not be reduced to a mark in the “ex-gay success stories” column. There are too many ways to simplify it. Is this success? Maybe he is still gay, and he was both born and died gay. Was he always straight but didn’t know it? Ex-gay? Perhaps his memoirs will tell us the labels he may have assigned himself. But to me, even if I knew enough about his life to hazard an answer, the labels seem empty and irrelevant. What I take from his life (and I know nothing more about it than what I read in this article) is the hope that in the end we can each transcend any mere label or statistic, and that we are sanctified and remembered by those things we love and sacrifice for. His life says to me that we cannot avoid changing, we can only hope to manage that change so that we continue becoming what we aspire to be, that at the end of our lives when we look back we will say we like what we have become. That it was worth it. Somehow I think saying to ourselves at that point, “I wanted my life to mean something else, but it was too hard,” will be of very little comfort. However you may wish to characterize or rationalize the final course his life took, it seems undeniable to me that his life in its entirety was a long succession of dramatic changes.
The title of Audie Murphy’s autobiography, “To Hell and Back,” could describe the battles fought by local actor Scott Douglas Morgan, who died Oct. 6 at University Medical Center.
Scott battled drugs, alcohol and same-gender attraction issues and eventually overcame them. He was 49 and succumbed after nearly a year of failing health to HIV-AIDS. He died much too young after living a life that was more dramatic than anything you’d see on stage at Hale Centre Theatre, where he spent most of his past few years.