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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Schilaty

One Size Doesn't Fit All

Since I came out on my blog more than two years ago I’ve been sent Josh Weed’s blog post dozens of times. In the post he and his wife Lolly discuss why a gay man and straight woman would choose to get married. It’s a really great post. Josh is very explicit in the post that this is their story and no one else’s. He wrote, “I want to make it very clear that while I have found a path that brings me profound joy and that is the right path for me, I don’t endorse this as the only path for somebody who is gay and religious. I will never, ever judge somebody else’s path as being ‘incorrect’ and I know many people who have chosen different paths than myself.” However, my friends who forward me this post often send a note that says, “See! You can marry a woman! Josh did it so you can, too!” I occasionally hear of people sending my posts to other gay Mormons as a way to correct them or to tell them that they should be living like me. "See! Ben's living his life as a single gay man and you can, too!" This does not make me happy.

A very good friend of mine is gay, in a loving relationship with his boyfriend, and no longer believes in or attends the LDS church. I’m also friends with his mom. One time he told me, “You’re everything my mom wishes I would be.” Hearing that broke my heart. He knows he’s disappointing her, but he’s just living his life the way he feels is best and his mom wishes he were more like me. This does not make me happy.

There are lots of gay Mormon stories that get passed around on the internet. A video of two lesbians who got divorced so they could be members of the church recently got a lot of attention. I watched the video and I thought it was touching and powerful. They were very explicit in the video that this was their story and no one else’s. They were not recommending that other couples do what they have done. One of them even said that it would be ignorant to think that there is a black and white answer for every gay Mormon. I love what one of them shared, “The only thing that really matters is your relationship with your Heavenly Father and taking advantage of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” And yet, they are being looked to as examples and their story is being shared with gay friends of mine who are seeking same-sex relationships. They’re being told, “Look at what will happen if you get gay married. You’ll just end up getting divorced.” I wish that the people who saw that video could also read some of my friend Laura Root's stories about being active in the church and being married to woman. Her journey is different and equally as beautiful. 

When I hear powerful stories at church I often think, “Oh, I wish Sister so-and-so could hear this story. It would help her a lot.” What I try to do, instead of projecting these stories onto someone else’s life, is put myself in that person’s shoes and think of what I would do in that situation. If I were married and being faithful meant getting a divorce would I do that? Would I do what the women in the video did? Now put yourself in my shoes for a moment. What would you do if you were a gay Mormon like me? Would you swear off romantic love and move forward as a single person like I have? Or would you choose a different path? We gay Mormons have some tough decisions to make and I hope that instead of telling us what to do that you take some time to really, truly empathize with us.

I don’t want people to live like me. I don’t want to be anyone’s model for how to live. And I would be highly annoyed if anyone used my story as a template for how their gay loved one should live. That said, I still feel it’s important to share my story, but I don’t do it so that others will live how I do. Perhaps I should have been more explicit about that. I share my story because I felt prompted to do so and I will continue sharing. I hope that anyone who has chosen a different lifestyle doesn't take my story as an attack on theirs. There is plenty of room for a diversity of opinions and choices. 

If you have a gay loved one and you’re worried about the path they’re taking please, please, please don’t use another gay Mormon’s story to tell them how they should live. May I suggest an alternative? In 2 Peter 1, Peter lists nine Christlike attributes: diligence, faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity. I’m kind of surprised that humility didn’t make the list, but whatever, it’s Peter’s list. Then he says: “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8). Isn’t that awesome?! I love the idea that being patient brings me to the Savior and that being diligent increases my knowledge of Him.

It wouldn’t take long to find an active member of the LDS church that is seriously lacking in these Christlike attributes (I mean, we could all do better). Nor would it take long to find someone who isn’t Mormon who exemplifies these qualities. I believe that becoming like Jesus is what life is all about and, for me, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the vehicle that I have felt called to to help me develop these traits and build Zion. I worry that sometimes we focus too much on activity in the church as the end goal (i.e. feeling sad when someone has “left the church”) when someone could be active in church and be a terrible, miserable person. And if anyone, in or out of the church, exemplifies the attributes of charity or patience or temperance, shouldn’t we rejoice in that? I hope so.

If you’ve read any of my other posts I hope you’ve noticed that I try to highlight the people in my life who do something right, who behave in Christlike ways. They are the heroes of my story because they act as I believe the Savior would. I hope you’ve seen LeAnne’s charity, Carl’s humility, Craig’s brotherly kindness, my parents’ faith, Paul’s diligence, and my new bishop’s godliness. So please don’t use my story as a model for how to be a gay Mormon. Please don’t use it to tell someone that they should be living like I do. If you’re going to point your gay loved ones to an example of how to live, please just point them to Jesus (I know, I know, I'm being super cheesy, but it's true).

If your gay loved one chooses to attend church then I would be thrilled to have them sit next to me on the pew. And if they choose not to attend church then I would love to have them sit next to me in some delicious Thai restaurant. Whatever path they choose, I hope the people in my life know that I will walk with them. I also hope that whatever path they choose they develop Christlike attributes along the way. 

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