In response to “Five Girls and Me”

I rarely respond to blog posts that are written in response to things I’ve written (follow that?) but I had to here. While I wish I had unlimited time to respond to every point in this article which was written in response to something Michael and I wrote titled “Misleading Mormons: Voices of False Hope,” the fact is I simply don’t have the time. I’ve put in quotation marks the first sentence of the paragraph I’m responding to from this blog post.

1) “With a desire to offer constructive criticism…” Objectivity is a strange word because no one is objective, we all come to the table with our own perspective, which can be called bias. Bias is not a bad word, it is only a bad thing when information is withheld in order to mislead people or when the person with a bias refuses to even consider another point of view. My husband Michael was associated with North Star when it began and also went to conversion therapy groups off and on for over 7 years. I would argue that his point of view is valid and far closer to objective because he brings with him first-hand experience and the scars to show for it. Further, requiring anyone to be objective about any topic for which they have an opinion is a fool’s errand, because if that were true, no person would ever speak.

2) “That said, I would begin with quoting North Star and Evergreen’s summarized mission statement….” The mission statement of North Star quoted includes a subtle but vicious premise, namely, that there is something wrong with gay people and that therefore they cannot live in harmony with their religious values. There is something else astonishing within the mission statement of these groups, which is they recognize that LGBT Mormons do not have a safe space within their wards and therefore need groups like North Star where they can feel safe. That’s quite an indictment of the Mormon Church because if gay Mormons found fellowship, friendship, compassion, and healthy portrayals of gay people in their own wards, why would they need the assistance of North Star?

3) “In the beginning of your article…” Using words other than “gay” or “transgender” when talking about gay or transgendered people only serves to reinforce the vicious premise previously mentioned, specifically that there is something so repulsive about gay people that we can’t even use the correct words. Plus it adds another level of needless shame. The Victorians spoke a LOT about sex, but through euphemism and innuendo. For a deeper discussion about that, please read Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality. As a historian of sexuality, I’d caution you against conflating race/racism with sex/sexual orientation. Sex and race are indeed useful forms of analysis. They are intertwined, but not the same. From a paper I wrote in grad school, “Together, race and sexuality capture the multi-dimensions of inequality and are so closely intertwined within American history that separating the two is nearly impossible. In addition, the meanings of race and sexuality are contextual and change with economic and political trends, however these concepts are linked to power and dominance of white men over other nonwhite men and women.” Point being, please don’t pretend that the use of the “N word” and “gay” depending on context are on par, they are not and we must avoid conflating them.

4) “Your concluding sentence…” Again, a premise is snuck in, an assertion really, that gay people cannot “adhere to the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ as identified in LDS theology and doctrine.” Why not? Says who? Are you really reducing a person’s spiritual value and worth down to their genitals and what they do or don’t do with them? That sounds like a barnyard version of spirituality. God does not have the same hang-ups about sex as Mormons think she does.

5) “I don’t believe that every homosexual man or woman will feel long term happiness…” Conflation again. Conflation of sex acts with sexual orientation and reinforcement of the false idea that gay people can’t live fulfilling lives as gay people. I assume the primary reason a man would not cheat on his wife is because he said he would not when he married her, and if he did cheat on her, he’d be breaking his word and that would make him a dishonest person. The only reason that a gay Mormon would feel bad about having an intimate relationship with someone with whom they love is because someone else told them to feel bad about it. Mormon doctrine eschews celibacy for the reason that a person cannot become more Christ-like by living alone. A person learns to be selfless, patient, forgiving, kind, long-suffering, in a committed, healthy relationship. Why then, would anyone deny this to people or tell them it’s wrong? Based on what, besides merely an assertion?

SIDE STORY: I’ve told this story before but I’ll tell it again. When I was 22 and struggling with being gay (which I knew I was from the time I was 7) I prayed and prayed and prayed that God would change me, that God would “fix me,” the words I used in my prayers daily. I prayed until my knees were bruised, I pounded on that door until my knuckles bled, and guess what? The Lord heard my prayer and in a moment of personal revelation told me, “Stop asking for me to fix you. There is nothing wrong, there is nothing to fix.”

6) “This is followed by a discussion of research done by…” I can’t comment on John Dehlin’s work as I have not read the full study, but I have heard about the study, about the methods and the results from John’s lips. I’ve watched his TED Talk too. Peer reviewed academic journals found the study up to caliber and have published it. I realize that just because something is published in a journal doesn’t make it “true,”  but it does mean that it has gone through more rigorous scrutiny by professionals in the field. A study can be later retracted and proven to be flawed, however, I’m unaware of any professional group casting doubt on the merits and methods of John’s research.

7) “However, I would like to make a point.” There’s that damn vicious premise again, the one that asserts incorrectly that gay people are somehow unable to have a family, be married, or have children. Lesbians have been raising children from the 1970s. There is a lot of social science evidence that children raised in gay families turn out pretty much the same as children in straight families and there is extensive social science data that shows that keeping secrets or lying to your family is bad for you, and thus produces a cost for the parents who lie, and children who are lied to, and as they grow older, in turn must lie about their own families. Gay people can get married (finally) after decades of the religious right denying people equality under the law who then marginalized and demeaned us for not being married. There are thousands of children languishing right now in orphanages. You say Ty is keeping with the doctrines of the LDS Church. What do you mean? Does LDS doctrine teach that people should be married to partners they are not sexually attracted to or lie about their sexual activities after they are married to women?

8) “So, Ty Mansfield’s (and I would imply by extension, North Star…” Wait, so you’re arguing that North Star’s goal is to help people live the doctrines of the Church, which includes, as you’ve asserted, marriage, but are now arguing that North Star has no intention of “entering people into mixed orientation couples”? I’m confused. What does North Star actually do? And I must ask again, why aren’t LGBT Mormons getting this same support from their wards? Why can’t they be “home in the gospel of Christ” in their wards and stakes?

9) “I would also point out concerns…” Yes, that quote is found in the APA statement, but it also says this, “The task force conducted a systematic review of the peer-reviewed journal literature on sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) and concluded that efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm, contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates.” (Emphasis mine)

10) “Finally, you end your criticism of North Star with a link to ‘People Can Change…” My husband knows all about the JONAH case because he is the lead plaintiff. (The case is called Ferguson v JONAH) The incestuous connections between JONAH, People Can Change (change WHAT, exactly? See number 9 on my list), Journey into Manhood (the gayest name I’ve ever heard), Evergreen and North Star are astonishing. Unfortunately, I can’t talk about the specifics of the case at this time and how each organization is connected, but I can say it goes to trial early next year. I can only hope that when you hear the evidence in a court of law that you will consider rethinking your position on the “help” North Star purports to give people.

11) SAME PARAGRAPH…You’re not seriously equating a pap smear with telling gay men to, among other things I can’t speak of now, beat effigies of their mothers for making them gay? Surely you can see the difference. (Oh I just can’t WAIT for the trial to begin so a national dialogue can start about the “therapies” these groups use.)

12) “In Conclusion…” There is no such thing as an objective viewpoint, as I mentioned earlier. One is not required to be “objective” to speak about their lives, their experiences, and the harm that has been inflicted on them. I hear a slight ringing of “blame the victim” in your assertion and that alarms me.

Standing idly by while people are being emotionally and spiritually abused is something I cannot do. I stand for things I believe in like love, honesty, peace. I seek to ease suffering in the world, I strive to let every person know that they are beautiful and perfect just they way they are. People do not fulfill the measure of their creation by spending years and thousands of dollars trying to erase a vital part of who they are simply because a stranger tells them they must conform to a heterosexual ideal. Remember, there can be no heterosexual without homosexual. The two exist in tandem, and neither one is worse or better than the other. They are healthy expressions of an extremely complicated process called human sexuality.

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  • Dennis
    May 30, 2014


    I couldn’t agree more with everything you’ve said in these posts. Two years ago I wrote about North Star here:

    I consider myself fortunate that I got out of the church before this married gay Mormon thing became a thing. I might have fallen for it out of desperation although I doubt my ex-wife would have settled for it.

    Nobody thinks of what’s best for the straight spouses.

  • Thad
    May 30, 2014

    Seth, I obviously quite effectively did a lot of what I had no intention to do. I respect Michael’s incredible intelligence and capacity to assess circumstances, and admire his willingness to put himself out in the world stage and question the “routine” and “status quo” of our nation, our society, our state, and the LDS religion/other religions.

    My intent was to point out that he wrote an article that was very caustic. He expressed a point of view about an organization, and then proceeded to support his assertion with facts. However, I think that there were many things about his facts that were either incomplete, not offering a more objective viewpoint (and I completely agree with your first comments related to objectivity–I think that if you glance again at what I wrote, I’m also completely agreeing that full objectivity is likely unachievable, but disclosure of bias along with a persistent quest to diminish as much personal bias as possible is the best way to make a strong and persuasive argument).

    As Michael said to me, likely this discussion is better made in person, because I’m very obviously created more discord than I ever intended. I have no grief at all with Michael’s concerns about North Star, and I heartily endorse him entering the public sphere to speak out about things that he sees are wrong regarding what they do. His personal experiences make his viewpoint all the more valuable. However, he didn’t discuss his personal experience in the article, and many of the things that he pointed out were, rather than supportable arguments and observations, more subjective assessments that could easily be interpreted as a person with a vendetta. I don’t think that’s Michael (or you, by extension–I am assuming that he would not have married you had that been a part of who you are), and I think that he could do so much more by “exposing” black and white issues rather than dissecting the word usage on an organization’s website to show that they are attempting to scar and humilitate the LGBTQ community. I know little or nothing about North Star other than my perusal of their website, and I don’t agree on the surface of it the types of “therapies” described by dissenters regarding programs like Journey Into Manhood, but I also have learned first to be skeptical of the subjective descriptions of events by individuals who have a bone to pick (like the ex-Mormon who wrote the expose on his JiM weekend undercover)–it may be true, these programs may be doing totally ridiculous therapeutic things, but again, as another example, electroconvulsive therapy doesn’t sound all that fantastic, but it works really well for some patients with depression that isn’t responsive to anything else. I would want to hear other experts in the field say that there is no indication that these therapeutic techniques are beneficial, and a great deal of evidence to say that they are harmful. I trust that kind of evidence over a former Mormon checking out a social program with Mormon ties. There’s just too much bias to consider that a reliable source.

    Again, Seth, I’m sorry that I created contention with this. I merely wanted to point out that I thought there could be better ways to criticize this organization that would hold more water, and have more weight. It wasn’t intended to be a personal attack, or any kind of statement against Dr. Dehlin’s research (again, I would reiterate I was just pointing out that his research has validity, but its conclusions must be understood in the full context of what it is–a retrospective survey; this type of research is broadly accepted as having a great deal of limitation, and there are other methods that are considered to be more robust in making conclusions that relate an intervention with a cause/effect.)

    How about we get together some time for dinner. Jill can slap me on the head in front of both of you for being such a clod, and maybe we can figure out that I’m not a complete clod…

  • Michael
    June 2, 2014

    That sounds good. :)

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