Mormons! You remember them, right? They’re the ones who gave all that money to Prop 8, tried to shut down Autostraddle 1.0, are having their moment, and (some of whom) are working hard to reconcile gay and Mormon differences. And now, a new study is poised to be the first large-scale body of research that looks at the gay Mormon experience.
Researchers Renee Galliher, a psychology professor at Utah State University, and Bill Bradshaw, a biology professor at BYU, are working together to “[separate] truth from myth in the gay Mormon experience. They also share a hope that the data gathered will provide insight and understanding that can be useful to Mormon church leaders and families.” Using an online questionnaire, they hope to gather data from 1,000 individuals from all (gay Mormon) walks of life.
While Galliher is neither gay nor Mormon, Bradshaw is an LDS member and the father of a gay son. Dr. Bradshaw runs Family Fellowship, a kind of Mormon PFLAG, and has given lectures in the past to support the idea that homosexuality is intrinsic (aka not a choice). While his ideas sound far from revolutionary to my ears, they provide support for gay LDS members who have experienced rejection from the church, their family members and their friends.
As easy as it is to vilify the Mormon church, it’s important to remember that those who belong to it aren’t a totally monolithic lot. John Dehlin, a graduate student at USU (and currently “inactive” LDS member) who is helping with the research, runs MormonsForMarriage.com and has produced podcasts that celebrate diversity within the LDS community.
Since I’m guessing that opinions on the LDS church around these here parts range from just tolerant to loathsome, it’s worth asking why we’re talking about some guy who thinks it’s rad that not all Mormons live in little boxes made out of ticky-tacky. First: there are countless gay Mormons who are being affected by the church’s policies every day who deserve our solidarity. Second: the church has 14 million members, billions of dollars, and some serious political clout. The tide might be turning in favor of LGBT rights in secular society, but the LDS church and other religious institutions are standing in the way of progress — and the fact that their funding and political support was a MAJOR factor in the passing of Prop 8, it’s very worthwhile to think about what we can do to help them become more openminded. Despite how silly its religious tenets may seem to people outside the church, the LDS power structure doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere soon.
People like Dehlin and Bradshaw are vital to our struggle because they have the opportunity to create change from the inside. They speak the language (I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t talk about “struggling with homosexual attraction” without throwing up), know the secret handshake, and are trusted by the community. In the same way, Galliher and Bradshaw’s study just might provide opportunities for more honest discussion about queer issues. Here’s to hoping that the voices of 1,000 gay Mormons don’t go unheard.