Column: 'Not gay' Mormons Should Be Free To Come Out

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Sally Kohn

(CNN) -- There's a new reality TV show, called "My Husband's Not Gay," about four men in Utah who say they are attracted to men and yet have chosen to marry women. The show has stirred up controversy, in some cases for all the wrong reasons.

"I think it's irresponsible to be airing a show with the content that gives the idea that sexual orientation is a choice," GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said. "That a discredited and old idea." ABC's Robin Roberts agreed: "To even give the idea that it is a choice can be very dangerous, especially to young people who are dealing with their sexuality and trying to figure things out."

Much of the gay community's critique of the show centers around the fact that these four men, who are Mormon, are linked to deeply anti-gay "reparative therapy" that teaches men to "pray away the gay." This so-called "therapy" is as psychologically damaging to individual gay people as it is to our societal aspirations to be ever more equitable and tolerant.

The show reinforces gay self-loathing by driving home the idea that being gay is inconsistent with being a person of faith. Nothing could be further from the truth. Maybe what needs changing isn't these men but the Mormon Church; that would be a better angle for a reality show.

At the dawn of the gay rights movement, people wanted to liberate sexuality not only for gay men and women but also for everyone, expanding the range of sexual self-expression along a spectrum of identities.

But some believed that gayness would be less threatening to the heterosexual status quo if it's wasn't a choice. The phrase "sexual preference" gave way to "sexual orientation," suggesting something unchanging, the gay south to heterosexual north. Scientists hunted for the "gay gene" as proof that sexual orientation is fixed at birth.

Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" seemed to seal the deal. Or did it?

Some people think being gay is a choice; some disagree. The debate continues. But in a free society, everyone should be free to make a choice about sexuality. This may seem like a very disruptive notion to heterosexuality, but I've always favored a version of gayness that is very disruptive to the status quo.

In the face of restrictive traditions that argue one should choose to not be gay, how should one respond? The best answer is that people should feel entirely free to choose whatever sexuality they want and that their choice should be celebrated and afforded full legal protections and cultural equality.

Your sexual identity and self-expression should be up to you. And that is the problem at the heart of "My Husband's Not Gay" and "reparative therapy": not the idea that being gay might be a choice but that being straight is compulsory or forced, whether by religions of society in general. That compulsion is the problem. The antidote to that, simply, is choice.

Mormons, for instance, choose to be Mormon. While most of us are born into a faith tradition, no one would seriously argue religious beliefs are written into our biology or DNA. But we honor and respect religious choices, and afford them protections under our laws because we are a nation that continually aspires to increasing freedom and self-determination.

It's perfectly wonderful to choose to be Mormon. It's perfectly wonderful to choose to be gay. And it should be perfectly wonderful to choose to be both. That would be a reality worth tuning in for.

 Editor's note: Sally Kohn is an activist, columnist and television commentator. Follow her on Twitter: @sallykohn. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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