Science Wants Gay Mormons to Talk About Being Gay Mormons

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 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.

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Laura is a tiny girl who wishes she were a superhero. She likes talking to her grandma on the phone and making things with her hands. Strengths include an impressive knowledge of Harry Potter, the ability to apply sociology to everything under the sun, and a knack for haggling for groceries in Spanish. Weaknesses: Chick-fil-a, her triceps, girls in glasses, and the subjunctive mood. Follow the vagabond adventures of Laura and her bike on twitter [@laurrrrita].

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  1. I have a friend that I found, after almost a year of knowing him, was Mormon.

    I immediately felt so creeped out and deceived that I didn’t want anything to do with him anymore. I was like oh god is he going to kill me? Is he a polygamist? Is his wife twelve? Has he told me how old his wife is? I need to check Facebook.

    And then I thought, this must be how homophobes feel when they find out they have a friend who’s gay, I’m being an asshole. He had known I was gay since forever and had no problem with it, and whatever he’s cool. And also Mormon. We even had a joke about how he’s not a “bad” Mormon (his words).

    Moral being that maybe there are lots of Mormon’s who cringe at their representation the was I cringe at TRLW, because obviously that’s not a great portrayal of my life.

  2. I completed this survey a few weeks ago. From the perspective of an Exmormon lesbian, it was a pretty fair survey with more-or-less unbiased wording. It was therapeutic, with lots of space to explain your point of view and get your experiences out there.

  3. I also took this survey, and liked it a lot. It felt nice to explain myself thoroughly about what it was like to be raised Mormon and be gay.

    The whole, “I’m not a bad Mormon,” thing can get sticky. Mormons are supposed to pay 10% of their gross income to the LDS church as a tithe. That money is then used for anything the church wants. Coughprop8cough.

    • No tithing went to Prop 8. All prop 8 funding came from individual members. The church itself never officially endorsed it.

      • I was under the impression that they never released documentation on how much money did or did not go to Prop 8?

      • Money did come from the church’s funds. Just not tithing funds. Their attorney’s used funds that don’t come directly from tithing funds. But they still financially endorsed Prop. 8. They were fined for this by the state of California.

  4. This is the best thing I’ve heard about Mormons since I invented the Book of Mormon drinking game. As a Jew, I’m not qualified for the survey, but I’m glad it exists.

      • The drinking game is awesome. There are rules, but the easy way to explain it is whenever they say something that sounds ridiculous, you take a drink. For example: there’s a subset of the game that is “prophet or J.R.R. Tolkien character;” you guess wrong, you take a drink.

          • I mean, when you’ve got names like Nephi, Helaman and Moroni–I think you’re more likely to think that Bilbo will be a member of the gang…

  5. I grew up LDS (Mormon). I live in the heart of Mormon country (SL,UT bitches!)I stopped going to church when decided I was an Atheist though, a few years before I came out as a lesbian. So I can’t really speak from experience. However I have had many gay friends in the LDS faith. It’s really not so different from being gay in any strongly religious community. I am baffled as to how so many people can still profess to have faith in the LDS church (which is ridiculous enough on it’s own) and be gay. Many of these people choose to live celibate lifestyles, or they live with much self loathing and disgust when they aren’t celibate. Groups like Affirmation and Family Fellowship try to reconcile the LGBT community and the LDS community, but you can’t do it. Mormon faith teaches that the only way to “heaven” is through a temple marriage and having children, which obviously leaves out anyone who is gay, single or infertile.

    • As a closeted lesbian in an LDS home I know what it’s like to try and reconcile 2 parts of my identity; my faith and my sexuality. Both are integral parts of me yet they are almost black and white in contradiction of each other. One thing that has helped me, if only a little, is separating church and gospel. The church is an earthly organization run by humans. Whether those humans are led by god or not, they are still human and fallible. I personally know that the gospel I have been taught in that church, in my home, in scriptures, is true. I also know that I’m gay. Go figure. You don’t have to believe me.
      Another comment, the gospel as taught by the LDS church does not teach that one must have children to get into “heaven”. You must be sealed in the temple, yes, but that is only to get to the very very top level of heaven known as Exaltation or The Highest Degree of Glory. Sounds weird I know but it’s in LDS scripture as taught since forever in the church. Infertility is not an obstacle. Nor is being single necessarily an obstacle. Being gay, well, obviously the church takes issue with that. Which really really blows.

  6. I once participated in a study on LGBT youth who grew up in religious households that was conducted by one of Renee’s PHD students. It was the most time that I’d ever spent reflecting and processing my gay childhood, and it was better than any therapist. Ya’ll should totally participate if you fit the criteria.

  7. does anyone else always misread LDS church as LSD church?

    because i think those are two completely different places.

    • Very different places, although both have a lot to do with thinking some really strange shit.

  8. I’m glad to see this reported on AS. The LDS (which, yes, I often mistype as LSD) are a much more complicated group of people than we often recognize.

    Tangent: I frequently travel to SLC for work and have heard the rumors about a “vibrant queer scene” there. Where? Where do I find the (non-teenage) women?? (No offense to the teenagers, but I’ve aged out of that scene.)

    • The Utah Pride Center has a calendar of all of their activities, a lot of which take place in clubs/bars.

    • Well, there is a lesbian bar- The Paper Moon, there are a lot of gay bars/bars/clubs with gay nights- The Metro, Club Sound/Pure (friday nights), JAM… a simple google search will give you more info. Also, there’s a Guerrilla Queer Bar SLC. Mm, like Brianne said, Utah Pride Center has a lot of events. There is an anarchist movement which includes some awesome queers (Anarchist Black Cross SLC), and I head the LGBTQ committee of the Revolutionary Students Union at both UVU and the University of Utah (,, so if you’re in town looking for some Leftist queer action, we usually have some stuff going on.

    • I have been unable to find a lesbian scene that does not revolve around that horrible bar. I despise the Paper Moon. I want a nice quiet bar, where I can get a normal drink (a nice cocktail or a beer, not some fucked up, neon drink called a “wet pussy”), But Utah is not friendly towards the drinking population either

  9. I am very happy to see this study. I live in Provo, Utah (home of Brigham Young University) and am currently working on a campaign at Utah Valley University to increase LGBTQ visibility in “Happy Valley.” I was born into a Mormon household (both of my parents are converts, at that!) As the history of the LDS Church has proved, public opinion has a lot to do with the doctrine of the Church. If people (especially in Utah where 58% of the population are LDS) change their opinions of LGBTQ folks, there is a strong possibility that god might change his mind on the gays.
    If any of you are in Utah and want to get more involved with some hard work in Utah County, check out my video which has a link to the campaign’s blog.

  10. Pingback: 14.1 Million | Times & Seasons

  11. Being gay is not easy. I have paid tithing to get my own blessings and I feel betrayed by the Mormons. Because if you pay, they have do to their own obligation. If you pay and do not give you what you buy, they are stealing. I feel stolen and abused by the Mormons. I paid the Bishop to give me blessings that I was seeking some guys to seal to me forever and ever. Because I studied harder about the scriptures which it says that 144,000 males who are sealed. I wanted to have some men to be sealed to me who loves Jesus Christ and loves me and follow me with Jesus Christ. But, I was stolen and betrayed and I paid the money and was seized. Because I feel seized. What would you do if you pay to the store and they do not give you what you ask them to sell? I will tell you again that I will screw your mind that you may understand me, because some people are not smart. Well, If I go to the store, and I want to buy a soda, and the cashier do not give me the soda, while I bought and gave the money and assault and threat you to call the cops? What would you do and how will you feel if you are stolen and betrayed while you buy a soda to the cashier and never gives you? So, it is the same thing what the Mormons have done to me. Because I paid tithing since 2000 whom I have been faithful to be in the church for 7 years and the bible says, rest when you fulfilled the seven years and come back to church and pay again with the harvest of your tithing in the Deuteronomy says and also Exodus say this. I feel betrayed and stolen. They promise many things and lie to you. How will you feel when he ask you, you pay me and I will pay you. They never paid me any blessing. They have betrayed me with lies and all of the blatantly offenses. That’s why I do not to church anymore. Why will I pay my tithing if they promise and never fulfill? What kind of church is this? It is like a store. It gives me chilling.

  12. Hey, the Mormon Church will never change. So,what you have to do is not fight against them. Even you fight against them, they will never change. Ok. Even you pay tithing to them, they will never change because they will take advantage of you and steal your money. They only want money and they seek only for money purposes. I believe personally, the church takes the tithing to buy their own houses, their own cars, and their own beds, and what else? How did they become millionaire? By people tithing, and they took and take people money and takes advantage to have their own wealth such houses,cars, televisions, beds, food and many things. They do not build their own churches, and help the poor and do not have compassion upon the people who have Aids and Cancer and lots of illnesses. They are not like Jesus Christ. Jesus went doing well. The Mormons do it antichristically.

  13. Micheal

    I don’t agree with you when you say that the leaders of LDS church are taking all the money and not helping the poor. They could not build more churches and temples without money so at least some of it was used for construction. I was raised Mormon. After my father became mentally ill and quit working, my family became very poor. If it wasn’t for the church welfare system providing food for my family, my mother would not have been able to afford to keep her children and we would have been taken away and split up by foster care. I have also myself participated in community service programs for the LDS church, many of which would likely have required funding. so don’t tell me that the Mormon church doesn’t give back to the community.

    As a queer ex Mormon, I have some mixed feelings about the church. Many of the members are good people but they are brainwashed and ignorant. Asking someone to live a miserable closeted life without the possibility of falling in love or sharing personal feelings with loved ones without facing total social stigmatization and be cut off from family and community is cruel and it is killing people. The church also has a history of racism and sexism that cannot be hidden or denied.

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