Elbow: Gay Culture Falls on Deaf Ears

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Gay Culture Falls on Deaf Ears

I worked with a guy three or four years ago who was gay and once at work he refered to the collective consciousness of homosexuals a "culture" or "the gay culture." At the time I challenged him on it. For me it was hard to believe that gay was a culture, like the latin culture, or even the Mormon culture. But a couple of years later I was introduced to a group of deaf people and suddenly I was saturated in the deaf culture.

All these deaf men and women who I was starting to associate were so proud of who they were, how they were brought up and what they were doing to spread the knowledge of thier deaf culture to all areas of their lives. At that time in D.C. at the school for the deaf called Gallaudet, the student body there were outragged at the announcement that there would be a new dean who was a deaf woman who was "reformed" as she put it. She had been born deaf, but she had since learned to speak and communicate with out using sign language through the use of technology and various proceedures. For the students of this school their culture was being threatened.

Their identity, the things they thought about, talked about, stood for and planed for, were being questioned and being looked at as second rate. Most of these same student who were fighting to have this particular dean removed from her position in the school had the same opportunities that this woman did. They could have learned to speak and aclimate themselves to the hearing world, but they didn't want to. They felt connected to the deaf culture, they thought that the sign language they were using and the gestures and manerisms that were specific to them and their culture were just as valid as any other form of speak and they didn't see any reason to give into the mentality that their culture as deaf men and women was less valid than that of someone that can hear.

I've thought a lot about that incident since that time. And in thinking about the deaf cutlure I draw a lot of parallels to gay culture as well. Some might say that being gay is a disability, and maybe it's true, it was a definate handicap in my marriage and in my relationship to the way I have a lack of sexual interest in women, but that doesn't mean that my choices are any less valid than the choices of someone who is straight. I didn't choose to be gay, and regardless of if I was born gay or not, I know it's not a choice, and I know that it's not going to change. And within that structure of thought I see clearly the collective connection I have with other gay men and women who have the same stories, fears and desires as I do.

Just as the Church has made special wards and branches for deaf people to accomodate the deaf culture, what is the Church doing about the gay culture? Why shouldn't there be a gay ward? There are gay bishops and gay stake presidents in the Church (not out, but gay nonetheless). There are enough gay members and 90% of the gay population in the Church leave the Church because they feel like there is no place for them. Why push these sons and daughters of God out of the Church when it would behoove every member of the Church to open their hearts and minds around the concept of what it means for someone to grow up gay and to embrace the gay culture for what it is and what it is not and just love without judgement.

How much more amazing would the Church be if they just accepted gay men and women just as they accept straight men and women and hold them to the same standards of monogamy and family and Church callings? The Church isn't doing any good by ignoring the problem and tolerating the presence of gay men and women who have so much to offer in service of others and the Lord.

I'm proud to be part of the gay culture, and I'm also proud to be part of the gay Mormon culture. And just as those student at Gallaudet University fought for a culture that they feel so connected with and proud to be a part of, I too am willing to stand up for what I believe and ask why there isn't more acceptance for gay families and gay men and women who are in monogamous relationships to be welcomed into the Church with open arms.


Blogger playasinmar said...

The Church isn't ignoring the problem!

They release a whole pamphlet every ten years or so.

8:39 AM  
Blogger gentlefriend said...

If there is a gay culture it is moulded and colored by the larger culture. I assume that the gay culture in France or Egypt or India and all distinctly different. Is there a Mormon Gay culture? It certainly isn't permitted to be external. But as I read the posting in this blogging world, I identify with much that is said. Even though we all approach our faith at different angles, as you write and open your heart, I find myself saying, "Yes, I understand. I know what he feels." Even though we don't know each other by the world's standards (name, face, etc.) I feel closer to many of you than I do to my own brother. When you were ill, Elbow, I ached for you. I was relieved when you got better. Is this a culture? It would be fun to have this whole blogger gang all in the same ward!

12:41 AM  
Blogger Abelard Enigma said...

I once spent 3 months in France on a temporary assignment for work. I recall that whenever I came across another American, it seemed like we became instant friends. People whom, if we met in America, we probably wouldn't have given each other any notice at all. It's not that I have anything against the French; but, when we are a minority, we tend to latch onto others who are like ourselves.

Nobody likes to think of themselves as inferior or defective in any way; so, I think there is also a natural tendency to defend being like we are.

Is that culture? I don't know. Or is it that we all have an essential need to 'belong'? To be part of something much bigger than ourselves?

I agree with much of what you said. It's just that the 'gay culture' as you described it is very different from the 'gay culture' as the world defines it. How do we differentiate between these? Do we need another term? Like our 'gay sensibility' or 'gay solidarity'?

8:18 AM  

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