Clearly I didn’t watch the same “Mormon coming out” video that everyone else watched.
Folks have been extolling this video (below) all over the Web. I found it disturbing, and a perfect example of the damage that far too many religions, in this case Mormonism, have done to far too many kids.
In the very-well-done video, a young gay BYU student comes out as gay to his family and friends on camera. It’s a project that he did over a year. It’s a great video, well executed, and the guy, Jimmy Hales, is a natural on camera.
But damn, it’s hard to be happy for this kid.
Let me quote you a few things, starting with Jimmy’s description of the video on its YouTube page:
Studying at BYU as a closet gay Mormon has been quite an experience. I finally decided to come out and stop living a lie. I’m still, and will forever be, a faithful Mormon, so it looks like I’m not going to marry and therefore live a single life through this mortal existence. Sucks.
Yes, because he’s a “good Mormon,” Jimmy is going to remain celibate for the rest of his life and never fall in love.
That’s hardly “coming out” in my book, and it certainly isn’t healthy. The message Jimmy has embraced is the message of the closet. The message that you will never love or be loved. That you will spend your life alone, and die alone, because [insert God here] hates you. That’s not a recipe for long-term happiness.
And here is Jimmy’s “coming out” to his Mormon bishop. Note what the bishop says, and note Jimmy’s response:
Sometime during Winter semester 2012.
“So, are you dating anyone.”
“Nope.” I shamelessly replied.
“Well that’s not good.” my bishop said.
“I don’t want to date anyone.” Then my bishop looked at me,
“Do you experience feelings of same-gender attraction?” What?! All I said is I don’t want to date anyone, how does he…? ’This is real. Oh gosh, this is very real.’ I paused a good while. I looked at my bishop and in a weak voice replied,
“Yeah.” I had never wanted to die more than that moment. Finally realizing the fact. Affirming the fact. Loathing the fact. Breaking through the denial was almost more than I could take. A few words were exchanged and then my bishop looked at me and with genuine empathy said,
It was exactly what I needed to hear. I needed empathy. I need empathy. He didn’t make the mistake and tell me to have hope or that one day I still might get married. Either one of those approaches would have thrust me out the door. My bishop is a man of God. The topic was relatively new to him and I feel he did well with it. He is a man of God, with the gift of discernment that I haven’t seen before. He truly understood that I must be passing through hell and still have a long way to go. As long as he knew that, then that was enough for me. Not only did this bishop give me empathy, but it’s because of him I was able to take that first step. I was finally headed away from the lie that enveloped my life, and was now headed towards who I really was. I had a long way to go.
Except that he’s not headed towards who he really is. He’s headed towards that particular hell that Mormons put gays through, forcing them to remain unloved their entire lives.
And “that sucks” was exactly what he needed to hear from someone he looked up to? Hardly. How about, I still love you. How about, God still loves you. But “that sucks”? That answer sucks. That was anything but a message of empathy.
This video disturbs me. It borders on (borders on?) anti-gay Mormon propaganda. It’s the kind of things the Mormon HQ would put together and/or disseminate in order to show how kinder and gentler they are, as they force kids to hate who they are, and become celibate adults who have given up any hope of ever being loved.
I’m really loathe to criticize anyone’s coming out, and don’t recall ever feeling the desire or need to before this. And I get that coming-outs are messy, and hardly ever perfect – we’re at a tender “new” stage coming out, and not everything is going to be 100% right. But this video isn’t just sad, in the YouTube age it’s harmful. It’s one thing to come out privately to your friends and family, it’s another to do it on YouTube where the possibilities of exposure are endless. The wrong message can do a lot of harm. This is not a video I’d show anyone interested in coming out, unless I showed it as a “don’t let this be you” admonishment.
I’m glad that Jimmy Hales feels better having come out, but I worry that his plan to be a good Mormon, by forever giving up on love, is not going to end well. It rarely has.
I watch this video and all I see is another soul damaged by our friends, the Mormons.