I first heard of Jimmy Hales’ coming out video on Facebook from a group of gay Mormons (some former and some current). Comments ranged from “that’s cute” to “whatever” to “meh”. It’s nothing new to those who know what’s going in the gay Mormon world. For us, it’s another gay Mormon testifying to the world he’ll be faithful to a belief system that misrepresents “the gay lifestyle”. For us, it’s another gay Mormon blogger who’ll be in the spotlight for a while and then disappear. Where he ends up, no one knows. In other words, we sense a familiar trepidation when he responds to questions like, “Do you think you can really stay celibate your entire life?”
I was like him at one point in my life. I might have been him if I hadn’t given up so easily on learning the ins and outs of Final Cut. I understand the conflict between wanting to live what your religion teaches you is the better path and what your heart tells you is the happier path. I understand what it feels like to think the only way you’re going to make it as a single, celibate, gay Mormon is to make a name for yourself, to be vociferous proponent of the “Mormon lifestyle” in tacit opposition of the “gay lifestyle”.
To understand where Jimmy is coming from (and where I was coming from a number of years ago), there are a few things you need to understand about Mormon beliefs and Mormon lore. According to Mormon beliefs, being gay is the most difficult “test” you can have in mortal life. Everyone must undergo some form of a test — and come off conquerer — to make it to heaven, and gay Mormons will only make it to heaven if they marry someone of the opposite sex or remain celibate. One gay Mormon put it this way:
According to Mormon lore, there’s this thing called “the gay lifestyle”. It’s all about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll — a constant party of seduction, sin, and sex. It will destroy other types of families (e.g., “traditional” families) and freedom (e.g., religious freedom). (See the LDS Church’s newsroom for more info). It’s a major assumption of many Mormon comments on social media.
Gay Mormons are caught up in this war of belief and lore. At least I know I was. We were taught to have a negative view of gay relationships. They’re only based on lust. Gays only want to get married because they want to have lots and lots of sex. Gays kiss because they can’t control their appetite for sin. You sense these types of beliefs in this quote from a gay Mormon blogger:
“The first time I saw two guys kissing was an interesting event in my life. I had seen normal kisses before in movies, paintings, photos, and in real life at weddings or just watching my parents… I did a double-take. This wasn’t the kiss of husband and wife when they’ve made covenants to serve God and each other for eternity. This was a passionate kiss between two men who were glorifying the natural man”
These beliefs and lore kept me from a lot of good experiences for a number of years. I thought dating men would lead me down a path of lasciviousness. I was afraid I’d become addicted to sex, that I’d start taking drugs, and that I’d become a drunk. I’d feel empty and hollow for the rest of my life.
To understand some of the blow back Jimmy Hales is getting from a morally decaying world, you have to understand where others of us are coming from. A lot of people, like me, know what Jimmy is missing out on. It’s a difficult thing to be celibate for life. And I’m not talking refraining from sex. I’m talking about refraining from all the experiences of falling in love, breaking up, and marriage. And I think it’s safe to say a lot of people are skeptical about whether this kid has really been in love before and what will happen to his resolve when he falls in love.
At some point I thought more critically of my situation and decided I would give “the gay lifestyle” a shot. The first step was challenging all these beliefs and lore about the gay lifestyle. The basic assumption that drove me was something along the lines of dating just like my straight friends date, follow a similar moral code, and see what happens. And something did happen. The more I dated, the more I realized how false all those beliefs were. I started to feel everything portrayed in chic flick and love songs. I felt love (or as Mormons are prone to say “romantic” love; see this blog post by Mormon Carol Lynn Pearson).
I remember talking to a Mormon friend on the phone shortly after my first kiss. She advised me on all the bad things that will happen because of what I had done. I don’t remember much of what she said because when I thought about that kiss I couldn’t stop thinking about how awesome it was (in a romantic way). Through typical dating experiences, I started to realize more and more that love is love.
Falling in love with Dan led me to my second coming out. It was one thing to come out as a gay Mormon with the resolve to be faithful in the Mormon sense and it was another thing to come out as a gay man in love. Whether Jimmy stays strong to his resolve to stay faithful to his belief system or comes out a second time (as I did), I wish him well.