Thursday, May 17, 2007

Mormon and Gay

Gay Mormons And Homophobia

Mormon author and playwright Carol Lynn Pearson is working to educate and enlighten those of her faith that coming to terms with homosexuality is a family affair.

Facing EastPlan-B Theatre CompanyAtlantic Stage Two330 W. 16th St.May 25-Jun. 17$40; 212-279-4200
Mormon writer Carol Lynn Pearson's new play, "Facing East," beginning performances in New York following a sold out run in Salt Lake City, takes as its subject a married couple's graveside encounter with their dead son's partner. The searing family confrontation concerning the gay son's suicide would make compelling drama on its own merits, but has a particular resonance given Pearson's personal background.In 1978, Pearson and her husband Gerald divorced, after a decade of trying as a devout Mormons to manage and come to terms with his homosexuality.

Six years later, she would nurse him on her couch as he lay dying of AIDS. Her writing career was initially championed by Gerald - on their honeymoon he suggested publishing her first book of poems and their $2,000 investment would lead to sales of more than 150,000 copies - and later it became her way of processing his death.Her book, "Goodbye, I Love You" (Random House) became a bestseller. Since that time, in addition to more than 40 books of poetry, on women's issues and spirituality, Pearson, 68, has been a tireless advocate for religious families struggling to deal with homosexuality. Without every breaking ties to the Mormon Church, she has sounded a clarion call for a reevaluation by the Latter Day Saints on gay issues. Her most recent book, "No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons Around Our Gay Loved Ones," is a collection of stories about gay Mormons and their families.
CHRISTOPHER MURRAY: Why did you feel compelled to write this play, "Facing East?"
CAROL LYNN PEARSON: I seem to have a calling in my life to address this subject. I was married to a gay man for 12 years and it was a wonderful experience for both of us and terrible, too, as we were struggling to figure out why and what to do. Gerald, my husband, said, "We are in this thing to do something really important and I'm sorry it's so difficult for us both."In the 20 years now since I published "Goodbye, I Love You," about our relationship, I've been privileged to be the repository of hundred of stories, especially those of Mormon gay people and their families.We know that the intersection of religion and especially conservative religions and homosexuality is one of the huge painful arenas that has to be addressed. As Gerald was going through his enormous struggle, the anguish was between his love of the Church and what he felt was the Church's condemnation of him. For his own sanity, he withdrew from the Church, which is the case with most gay Mormon men I know of.
CM: You remain part of the Mormon Church now?
CP: Yes, in fact I'm fourth generation. My grandmother, Sara, walked across the Plains as an eight-year-old girl. My friends have been extraordinarily loyal, as has my family. It brings up enormous questions about my relationship to the Church, but I have no complaints about how I've been treated by the Church. My ecclesiastical leaders have been nothing but kind to me.
CM: How have you remained such a passionate advocate about this for such a long time?
CP: In the current political climate, tensions have increased. The issue of homosexuality is central to so many of the dominant political points of view right now.But, in the stories that come to me, there's a lot of enlightenment going on. Sadly, Utah has the highest rate of suicides among young men between 15 and 24. That's unacceptable. It should no longer be business as usual for the state or the Church until we find out how to do better.
CM: So as in movies like "Ordinary People" or plays like "Angels in America" or "Facing East" now, the moms get hit pretty hard as characters reluctant to change their views about their children.
CP: For a playwright there's no subject matter more fraught than this confrontation between one's belief system and a family's love for a person they feel they must protect by insisting they be what they are not. But actually, in most families I've encountered, it seems the mom is one who is least willing to reject a child.In my play, the mother really struggles and I don't know if I was deliberately working against stereotypes, but there was something appealing to me about this father who has a high status position in the Church being the one to have a breakthrough on this issue.With Mormon women, though, it's true that in some ways their whole existence is getting their families back to God. They will do it by hook or by crook. Not that men don't feel that, but women feel it singularly.
CM: What was the reception to the play in Salt Lake City?
CP: We sold out every night. Our director said 'Who would have thought this would create such a commotion?' But I knew that if I built this, play people would come. I knew the pain that exists among Mormons around these issues. I watched the audience with such emotion in my heart knowing that few of them came just to go to a night in the theater. Most had a story that brought them there. Honestly, you could hear a pin drop.
CM: What change do you want to see in the Mormon Church around homosexuality?
CP: I'd like to all of us to say, wait, we seem not to be doing this right. What are we missing here? Let us look again at scripture, at our own personal history. Let us invite in gay people and their families to tell us their stories. Let's open up new avenues of thinking on this, because there is still so much pain and we aren't where we need to be.We're still not in the Promised Land.

©GayCityNews 2007

1 comment:

kelly miller said...

What drew me to him was the pain in his eyes
Though he was pleasant, he did not oft smile
Of his membership, he said, "I'm not worthy
I am attracted to men -I've strong feelings
Just why am I this way? With feelings so real?"
However, he'd not acted on how he'd feel
He would not violate the law of chastity
For he sought to keep his life in harmony

He spoke for a while we each were in relief
This man showed courage to live within beliefs
For he did not act upon what was in him
I assured him that attraction's not in sin
Whatever the cause of how he now does feel
It does not matter his worthiness was real
He's worthy to serve and enjoy fellowship
He still did belong and with his membership

I told him much more from spirit to spirit
And of every single word, he wanted to hear it
I told him thank you for wanting to be clean
That this attraction was not differently seen
Heterosexuals and homosexuals, too
Have the same requirements that they must do
I gave him assurance and he sat up straighter
Sex is a small part, On Christ we must center

With hope in his eyes, newly detected
Not feeling rejected, next steps were directed
With a recommend, he could simply endure
For during this life, there might not be a cure
God loves his children, we don't know all meanings
And what we now feel may not be as it's seemings
When we're unworthy, may we act to repent
Let's love each other, we're all so different

To you who struggle :

When we've fears we're quick to feel offended
Please recognize that to harm was not intended
We can do things to keep weeds from choking
And when we've faith, great blessings we're invoking
Like anyone else there's lessons in gardening
And things to do to keep soils from hardening
For spiritual nourishment there's things we must do
Like scripture reading, worship, fasting and prayer, too.

The Lord's aware of each current circumstance
Fight the good fight. We can take a stance
We can promote the law of chastity
Whatever our situations here might be
Dear Father, in regards to those who have this struggle
Help them overcome all the thoughts that juggle
We weep for them. We've admiration and respect
Of what we can do to show love, let us detect

based on words by
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Helping Those Who Struggle With
Same Gender Attraction
Ensign, Oct 2007