Monday, March 18, 2013

Policy of Politics: Being Involved in the LGBT Mormon Movement

Now that I have established where I’ve been in last week’s vlog, I feel more confident in journeying forward. And though I do not know where my journey will take me and where I’ll end up, I do know that I want to do my part in creating safe and accepting spaces for LGBT-identified individuals within the LDS church. And while many may think this an impossible goal, the reality is that there are many activists working toward this common goal.

As I immerse myself in political causes and activism, I find it helpful to set some ground rules initially. Here are a few points I’d like to incorporate into my own politics as I work towards creating acceptable spaces for queer Mormons.

1. It’s about the power, not the identity
            Rather than rally around our identity of sexuality, we need to rally around our position to power, more specifically God. The idea of using relationship to power as the basis for coalitional politics is theorized by Cathy Cohen in “Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics.” If we truly apply biblical teachings that we are all his children, equally loved by him, and that our duty is to love one another, then members who don’t identify as straight can be included in the conception of the LDS church. Each of us is here on this Earth to experience life and learn what we need to before returning with our Heavenly Father. And that's something that *everyone* is and should be doing, regardless of sexuality or romantic relationships.

2. There’s strength in interfaith
             In addition to resisting to center politics around sexual identities, it may become useful to resist rallying exclusively around the identity of Mormon as well. I attended the “Circling the Wagons” conference in San Francisco last summer. As part of the conference, an interfaith worship service was held. This was, singlehandedly, one of the most spiritual and neatest experiences of my life. Not only was this personally useful, but helped me to realize that socially, the acceptance of LGBT members in religious spaces isn’t only a problem confined to the Mormon church. The point to include other faiths resists building a community around identity and prioritizing one identity with another, as noted in Miranda Joseph’s “Introduction: Persistent Critique Relentless Return” from her book Against the Romance of Community. And while religions may vary and spaces based on sect are still useful, politically uniting various religions is useful as it focuses on religion’s, as a whole, denial to queer worshipers the same treatment as their straight counterparts. In other words, it reiterates Cohen’s point on rallying around one’s relation to power and not identity (our religious ones, in this case).

3. A shift from politics of shame to politics of humility
            In collectively organizing, it is important to recognize the varying identities and experiences those who I am working with have. People involved in the LGBT Mormon movement are not all just gay, white men: these participants vary in gender, sexual identities, romantic relationships, and – most prominently – activity levels within the Church. While some remain active and attend church services, others choose not to do so. In collectively organizing, it is important to refrain from shaming other people and their experiences. Moreover, there should not be a hierarchy that privileges certain people and experiences over others. Instead, a politics of humility, where each individual is embraced and welcomed, should be stressed. For further reading about the politics of humility, the text “What’s Queer About Queer Studies Now” by David L. Eng with Judith Halberstam and Jose Estaban Munoz does an excellent job of dissecting this.  

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