“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”
~ George Orwell ~
If you haven’t already seen it, the upcoming TLC special “My Husband’s Not Gay”, featuring four Latter-day Saint men who are attracted to men, three of whom are married to women and whose wives are similarly featured on the show, has created something of a media firestorm. “LGBT, Inc.”, has come out in protest, with one self-identified gay Christian man creating a petition on Change.org to cancel the show, now with more than 87,000 signatures. GLAAD (formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) has subsequently stepped in with a propaganda campaign to call on folks to sign the petition.
This morning, Good Morning America talked about the controversy and included some footage from recent interviews conducted with the shows participants:
As a man in a similar situation, and who is very happily married to a woman whom I adore, and with three beautiful children whom I wouldn’t trade for the world, I’m thrilled that TLC is willing to profile the stories of one minority group that gets very little exposure in the pop cultural media because LGBT, Inc., is threatened by the fact that our very existence challenges its identity, its distorted socio-cultural narrative, and its socio-political agenda.
I want to be clear that when I talk about “LGBT, Inc.”, I’m not talking about all or perhaps even most self-identified gays and lesbians. There are many in the LGBT community who are very respectful of the range of choices someone might make and support them in those choices as long as they’re made with a healthy level of self-awareness and self-determination. I have dear friends in the LGBT community who have been very supportive of me and my personal choices. What I do mean by “LGBT, Inc.”, however, are the LGBT socio-political organizations and activists who too often set the agenda, the tone, and the talking points around sexuality and identity that are often oversimplifications and distortions in order to attain social or political ends, and which demonize and bully anyone who disagrees with them or gets in their way—and there are problems when others in our society assume that those talking points, often nothing more than sheer propaganda, are “the truth” and adopt them in the way they talk about different perspectives or the people who hold them.
The Mormon Church was blasted in 2008 for supporting Proposition 8, and there have been several “No H8” propaganda campaigns since then, but the sheer hatred and ugliness I have seen from many LGBT folks and supporters around this TLC special far exceeds anything I’ve seen from the vast majority of religious folks and is shameful and hypocritical coming from a community proclaiming that “all love is equal.” The hypocrisy and double-standard is mind-blowing. It’s fascinating to me how our popular culture has so evolved to become almost fascist about sexuality and it’s prescription about what it means to live authentically or to be “true to one’s self”, simply trading all the old myths and falsehoods about sexuality they’ve fought against with new ones.
Many in the LGBT community, which claims to be against suppression, would be happy to suppress our stories simply because they feel threatened by them. There is a simple truth that some people who are attracted to others of the same sex would choose to marry and remain faithful to someone of the opposite sex—and who are living happy, authentic lives, being completely “true to ourselves.” We’re here, and without telling others how they “should” live, we have a story to tell—and I’m thrilled that TLC is open-minded enough to be willing to provide a forum for that telling.
In an official response from TLC, they stated:
“TLC has long shared compelling stories about real people and different ways of life, without judgment. The individuals featured in this one-hour special reveal the decisions they have made, and speak only for themselves.”
Thank you, TLC, for sticking to your guns in the face of the unfortunate bigotry of GLAAD and those who have signed the Change.org petition to cancel the show.
The problem with much of the media, including stories by Samantha Allen at The Daily Beast and Jana Riess at Religion News Service, is that they’re saturated with pop cultural ideology far more than science or sound reason and they paint these men and their wives as victims. Knowing each of these men and women well, they are anything but victims. The benefit of this TLC special is that, unlike Ms. Allen or Ms. Riess, it’s respectful enough to allow people to tell their own story rather than projecting her own version of dogmatic bigotry onto them. Jana Riess went so far as to declare that “these couples’ lives—and, more sadly, their children’s—are constructed on a cracked foundation.” Really, Jana? And how exactly would she know this? It’s disrespectful and offensive.
Occasionally, however, in the midst of such controversy, there are refreshingly reasonable and credible voices who actually know what they’re talking about from a mental health perspective, speak to the issue. In a piece yesterday by the New York Post, for example, it states:
“Many outside the SSA community might wonder how such marriages can possibly survive. But New York psychologist Dr. Gilda Carle believes that as long as both sides of the couple understand each other and observe certain boundaries, their bond can flourish.
“’It’s the year 2015 and there is no one-size-fits-all,’ says the author of 15 relationships books, including ‘Ask for What You Want and Get It’ and ‘I’m Worth Loving and Here’s Why.’ ‘We learn to live with each other’s idiosyncracies when we love another person.
“’Love and marriage are not just about a penis and a vagina. It’s about a connection of souls, faith, family and children. And these couples appear to share an extraordinary trust and openness. Every study shows those are the keys to lasting human relationships.’
“She does warn, however, that it’s only strong women, secure in their own identity, who can deal with the implications of a husband with SSA.
“’Any wife who is wishy-washy about her own sexuality, or ability to understand a guy with these urges, does not belong in one of these relationships,’ says Carle.”
Thank you, Ms. Carle, for restoring some of my hope in an enlightened humanity.
There are even some refreshingly reasonable comments from some within the LGBT community. Joe Kort, a gay psychotherapist who has written books on how to be a healthier gay person, commented:
I spent the 1990’s pressuring these men to come out of the closet and feel I did some damage to them. Many men who are deeply religious or deeply committed to their families such as Arabic, Asian and Indian cultures will never find happiness in coming out as gay. So for these men this is the best solution for them. I understand that now. I didn’t then. Can’t wait to watch this.
Thank you, Jeff, Tanya, Curtis, Tera, Pret, Megan, and Tom, for being willing to share your lives and your stories with a world that doesn’t understand you—many of whom refusing to even try.
Finally, in light of GLAAD’s solicitation of signatures to the Change.org petition, a few Latter-day Saints have opted to respond differently—by sending letters to GLAAD expressing disappointment in their response. You can too. Here are a few that were also shared in other venues:
From Bryce J.:
I just wanted to express a deep, deep disappointment towards your response to the upcoming TLC show “My Husband’s Not Gay.” It is an enormous letdown to me to see such a knee-jerk, unthinking and deeply misunderstanding reaction from a group flying the flag of tolerance. I am a Mormon, 23 years old, who believes deeply in his religion and its philosophies while also experiencing a homosexual orientation. I can tell you that while I respect GLAAD’s purpose in working towards increasing awareness and tolerance of the LGBT community as a whole, I find it sad and disappointing that that work has not been extended to include those within the LGBT community like myself, who reject identifying as homosexual, and do not pursue homosexual relationships, on the grounds of authentic religious beliefs forged in the fire of personal experience. We are not just a deluded bunch of zealots living in fear of religious leaders, lying to ourselves about reality; we are real people, real flesh and blood people with valid experiences in the realms of both homosexuality and spirituality. It is immensely alienating to me to see the self-appointed spokespeople of the LGBT umbrella not only ignore, but openly demean and belittle those “other” LGBTs like myself who believe differently than you do. We are all human; we are all united by a common heritage as people, and I can assure you that if you would take the time to lift the blinders of your own biases and look, REALLY look at the increasing stories and voices within the religious LGBT community that express authentic desires to and marry a person of the opposite sex, stay celibate or remain their sex assigned at birth, you would find beauty and meaning, an extraordinary level of self-acceptance, and a progressive and dynamic spirituality grounded in the here and now, and not in the dogmas of the 1800’s.
It would be MUCH better for vulnerable, religious LGBT youth like myself if you would extend the horizons of your vision to understand that, yes, there IS room within the broad rainbow we all find ourselves under to live an authentically religious, moral life to the exclusion of homosexual relationships; to acknowledge and respect that such a decision can, and yes, should, be made by some of us within this community, even if it is not the decision you would personally make or advance yourself.
If it truly is your desire to grant hope, then cease marginalizing us and instead join with us, together giving hope to ALL LGBT individuals in each of their lifestyles, including those who are religious or engaged in mixed-orientation relationships.
From John P.
I was very disappointed by your response to My Husband’s Not Gay. I know some of the people in the show, and am in a similar marriage. I take great exception to the complete invalidation of my life choices, especially when done by an organization that promotes tolerance and fights defamation. Or by the article I read today that staid v5 those on the show are in sham marriages sß ft is because of responses like this as much as those on the right that are why I’m in the closet to all but my wife and a few close friends. I sat through college diversity classes while my lifestyle and life choices were maligned by professors and LGBT guest speakers. The professor said that there were probably several gay people in the room who wouldn’t come out because they wouldn’t feel accepted. The irony is that I was feeling exactly that way due to her position on the issue. I feared what kind of tongue lashing or verbal attack I would get if I opened up in that room. Your public response feeds that attitude that kept me quiet in class.
My religious beliefs are very much a part of me, and I could no more live authentically while denying them than I could if I pretended I was a different race. My religious beliefs are a bigger part of me than my attractions. I was raised Mormon, but there was a time I didn’t have much to do with it. Even then, I still believed it and chose to return to full fellowship, even knowing what my attractions were.
There is a lot of oppression and even hate out there directed at those of is who choose a different path than what others might choose, or what the LGBT establishment sees as ideal. We now stand exactly where you all stood 20+ years ago: asking for acceptance of how we live our lives, even if you don’t understand or agree. I hope you can be open minded enough to accept a different point of view.
From Jenn C.:
According to the GLAAD website, GLAAD “tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change”. The organization also “protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love”. With these two stated purposes for existing as an LGBT organization, I don’t understand the harsh attitude and petition action being taken against the TLC special, “My Husband’s Not Gay”.
The disgruntled narrative between the LGBT and religious community is not new. The views on homosexuality between the two seem to be at opposing ends of a spectrum. So, the fact that a group of individuals seem to be straddling that line should be of interest to the LGBT community, not a threat. After all, there is a gay Christian subset within the larger LGBT community. I would think curiosity alone would ignite a desire to see this TLC special air. However, a sense of fear seems to prevail in the GLAAD dialogue, associated with a petition to stop the show. A “provoking dialogue” would be of use to me, instead I mostly see negative comments and articles, including GLAAD’s. I wish I could see a dialogue that shows a “world where everyone can live the life they love”, even if that life is not what many LGBT individuals would choose themselves.
I expected both the religious and LGBT communities to find a middle ground here. But, I am finding more tolerance from the religious community than the LGBT. Disagree or not, I believe a person has the right to choose their own path in life, no matter how they feel. All of the people featured in the show are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a group not viewed as welcoming to gay people. The LDS community is still developing their ability to openly discuss the intersection of LDS belief and same-sex attractions. I’ve seen progress in the last five years. Apparently, the community that gives speeches about tolerance is being closed minded here, creating an unsafe space for these couples and hopeful man. GLAAD should be taking the opportunity to tackle this tough issue, instead of running away and starting a petition.
Who has the right to tell the Brown’s, Bennion’s, Dahlgren’s, or Mr. Brocksome how to live their life while experiencing same-sex attraction? Who has the right to define happiness for them? Who has the right to judge them? I believe these seven people are some of the bravest I’ve seen in a long time, in the LGBT community. For them, they are caught in two worlds that disagree with their very existence. The LGBT community should be applauding them, not tearing them down for living their truth.
From Ethan M.:
Dear Ms. Ellis,
I’m writing in response to your recent call for signatures to cancel an upcoming television show, “My Husband’s Not Gay,” and I think cancelling the show would cause more harm than allowing it to air would.
As a gay Christian, I felt that I was caught between two irreconcilable worlds for most of my life. I felt like my only two options were to either abandon my faith or to repress my feelings for men, and the tug-o-war between these two ideas threw me into a depression that lasted years.
After years of silence, I finally found the examples of some of these men who you said “reject their sexual orientation.” Their stories helped me to see that I wasn’t alone: I wasn’t the only man who felt sexual attractions for other men, but didn’t want to act on those attractions because of personal, heartfelt belief. I realized that I didn’t have to hide anymore—I could accept my sexual orientation as well as live according to the principles of a faith I believed to be true. I could share my experiences with others without shame, just as these men had.
I don’t believe these men are rejecting their sexual orientation—they fully acknowledge it. They’ve just discovered a way to live their faith while still experiencing their sexual orientation. I don’t believe they’re “[changing] who they love,” but merely showing that love is what you make of it; love is much more than sexual attraction. This won’t harm LGBT youth: it will show them that they are in charge of their beliefs and actions. It will show them that they don’t have to fit the mold of a stereotypical gay man or a stereotypical Mormon. Each one of us defines our own identity, and the sooner we realize that, the better.
Thank you for your consideration,
From Philip K.:
To Sarah Kate Ellis and the rest of GLAAD:
I am sorely disappointed in your response to TLC’s upcoming special, and the irony of much of what you said and believe does not escape me. As a personal friend to the [show’s participants], I can tell you that they do love their spouses. You have no right or place to decide whom should love whom, and I find it truly sad that you place judgment on any of these people before actually hearing what they have to say or the example they show.
I approached Pret during a low point in my life when I needed assistance, guidance, and support. The others have done the same for me. So forgive my living proof, but their examples have not only inspired my life, but also saved it time and time again. They showed me a reality and a choice that I didn’t know existed before, a choice which I would be miserable not knowing about, if not perhaps driven to suicide like I nearly had been in the past. These individuals have already inspired hundreds, if not thousands, of youth, adults, families, and friends to know that they can keep values and promises which they hold dear to them without needing to compromise.
I am not expecting you to understand Mormon culture or doctrine, but I am begging you to respect different choices, just as your organization has asked society to do so for gays and lesbians. Do you not see the bare-faced hypocrisy? Can you not detect your own ignorance?
So before you defame, slam, suppress, ignore, or shame choices outside of the mainstream LGBT bubble, I would ask you to take a hard look at the statement you have released and compare it to what your organization supposedly stands for. “GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love.” What about these families? What about Tom? What about the members of North Star International? What about the members of other faiths who willingly choose the same path?
And finally, what about me? With your organization’s approach to this issue, I do not feel that you all are protecting all accomplishments and creating a world where I can live the life I love. I also feel that you are suppressing dialogue instead of opening it up.
I have never had to change who I love, and nobody on this show is forcing anyone to. On the contrary, your narrative seems to want to change that for those who wish to take this path. I respectfully hope that your organization will open up to other stories and experiences. If not, forgive me for not supporting your hypocrisy and bigotry.
From Nicholas K.:
It’s been interesting to watch the backlash over the upcoming TLC special “My Husband’s Not Gay”. I expected a lot of negative attention. Many people understandably fail to grasp why anyone would decide to give up relationships with “who they love” and attempt to sustain a heterosexual marriage. It’s easy to pawn these marriages off as religious brainwashing, internalized homophobia, or what have you. It’s harder to examine what really drives these men and women to live as they do because it might make some of the LGB community uncomfortable. But I have to say, I was so disappointed to see such a response from an organization that claims is devoted to leading the conversation and shaping the narrative. It is clear now that the only narrative GLAAD is interested is shaping is their own pristine and crystal cut definition of the homosexual experience.
The terminology used in the petition is striking. You say that the faith of these men “is unaccepting of gay people who live their lives authentically” which implies that these men are not living authentically, that they are not being true to themselves, and that is somehow threatening to other gay men and women. This is a fallacy. No one has the right to define what an authentic life is for anyone but themselves. And just because a lifestyle is in the minority does not make it illegitimate or unauthentic. I figured the LGB community, especially one as positively focused as GLAAD, would be among the first to recognize. Apparently, I was wrong.
I am an active (devout) gay Mormon and I wish to express my support for the families that have participated in TLC’s special. It is incredibly brave and I struggle to buy into the claims made in the petition to cancel the special. The demonstration of an alternative lifestyle (or an alternative to an alternative lifestyle, as it were) is not damaging–this is something the gay community has been fighting for since the beginning. I would ask for a more respectful treatment of these men’s authentic lives. Let’s change the culture of how we discuss LGBT issues, even the ones that are different.
From Bill G.:
A message to GLAAD: The irony is not lost on me, but is certainly lost on you: in your defense of same sex-marriage in court, the judges are finding that the argument with the most weight is that same-sex marriage will have no material effect on any individual heterosexual marriage. And yet you are decrying the “harm” caused by those with same-sex attraction who enter heterosexual marriage with the full knowledge and consent of their spouse.
You say it is harmful because it sends a message that “sexual orientation is a choice.” That is not the message it is sending. It is sending the message that whether or not to engage in sexual activity with someone of the same sex is a choice, and that whether or not to identify with the party-line gay culture is a choice.
Does the message that those two choices exist somehow threaten you? Only you can answer that question. But the type of rage response indicates something deep is there. If such choices were to exist, it may cause some individuals to question their sexual behavior. At least without choice, one can hide behind the “inevitability” of same-sex sexual activity. But why is it any more inevitable than adultery?
It is descriptive, not prejudicial, to say that until same sex marriage came along as a viable political cause and statement, indiscriminate sexual behavior among men with same-sex attraction was the rule, rather than the exception. Many here can testify to the moral bankruptcy, emptiness, and despair that accompany the hedonism, acceptance-seeking, and momentary sexual validation that drive indiscriminate same-sex sexual behavior.
Before you accuse me of stereotyping, I would ask the men of GLAAD, and those men they purport to represent, how many sexual partners have you had to date? When you’ve been in a relationship with someone of the same sex, how many times have you either secretly or openly had sex with someone other than your partner? How many times have you and your partner, together, had sex with a third? How many times have you had sex with someone whose name you do not know, or whom you’ve just met? How many times have you paid for, or been paid for, sex or a message with “a happy ending?” How many times have you had sex with someone you didn’t find attractive, or with someone who could provide you with the trappings of a lifestyle you could not afford on your own?
Finally, once you have reviewed these statistics, (now here’s the hard part), if you were to ask yourself, and none of your friends were to ever find out, “how did it feel afterwards?” will you still feel that the brave decision to not engage in same-sex sexual activity, and to not identify with the “sex-positive” gay culture, is really all so harmful? Be honest.
I support the right to choose the partner you will marry in a civil marriage–same or opposite sex. What I oppose is “the great lie” dictated by the gay party line that the only healthy response to same-sex attraction is inevitably same-sex sexual activity and embracing the oppressive party-line gay identity that tells us all how to think.