Wednesday, July 12, 2017

PoMo MoHo

This week a friend asked what the MoHo shield on my webpage represents. “MoHo” is internet shorthand for “Mormon Homosexual.” Mormons are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to the Mormons, a Homosexual is a deluded soul struggling to overcome the curse of “same-sex attraction” so he can enjoy eternal life with his wife and children.

When I was in grad school, the postmodern buzzword du jour was “deconstruction.” These days, the black-clothes-and-brown-cigarettes set are abuzz about “intersectionality” – examining how our multiple identities influence us. For example, I am a father and I’m gay. Both roles are fundamental to being me. At the same time, each of these core characteristics constantly affects the other. Being gay often defines how I parent, and being a parent profoundly altered my formerly fabulous gay life. Driving around in our dented old Kia minivan, I don’t miss my pre-kids sailboat and convertible. Much.

I am also very Canadian. How can I tell? My first concert performing with Vancouver Men’s Chorus last year was as the guests of Elektra Women’s Choir. Searching for a vocal exercise we could all use for a joint warm up, Elektra’s conductor asked us to sing the theme song from “The Friendly Giant,” which was like a Canadian version of Romper Room on TV in the 60s. Somehow the melody came back to me, buried beneath 45 years of detritus. 

Like fatherhood, my sexual orientation, and Vancouver, my Latter-day Saint heritage is a core part of my identity. In law school, one friend captured the Mormon-Canadian combo by making fun of my vestigial accent – whenever I said the word “tomorrow” as “to-more-ow” rather than “to-mah-row,” Jim would repeat it as “ToMormon.”

Unlike being a gay father or Canadian Mormon, however, the relationship between being gay and being Mormon is fraught. It's not a simple matter of charting where two Venn diagram circles overlap, or observing the subtle effect each characteristic has on the other. MoHo is an oxyMormon. Most people ultimately find their LGBT and Mormon identities are incompatible. The Mormon church certainly treated us that way

The term “MoHo” also refers to the online community of LGBT Mormons, ex-Mormons, and their families. MoHos began sharing their stories long before anyone started listening.  Clicking on the MoHo shield will take you to a directory of recent postings on a wide variety of MoHo blogs, including this one. For example, my BYU roommate John Gustav-Wrathall has written extensively about his post-Mormon experiences. John ran away from BYU, narrowly avoided suicide, was excommunicated by the Mormons, became a Protestant, eventually married his longtime partner Goren, and raised a gay foster son. A decade ago, John heard God call him to start attending the Mormon church again and still be a Homosexual. (Goren is the latter-day saint in this story.) John hasn’t posted much on his blog lately, however, because he’s been busy working with Affirmation, the LGBT/Mormon advocacy and support organization. 

These days I don't often cross paths with Mormons other than my extended family. But adding my blog to the MoHo Directory reminded me of two occasions when I paid rapt attention to the “Blogernacle,” the broader online community of Mormons and fellow travelers. The most recent episode was in November 2015, when the Mormon church announced it would no longer allow the children of gay parents to be baptized. This coincided with my PTSD diagnosis, and helped us to identify some of the specific youthful traumas underlying my newly-triggered symptoms. Several over-the-top Facebook rants were involved. Luckily I’m not on Twitter.

The only other time I actively followed MoHo blogs was three or four years before. A large contingency of MoHo bloggers are LDS men who went on missions, married very young, and had a bunch of kids before coming out in midlife. I started obsessively following their stories. In hindsight, I realize I identified with them because they were publicly agonizing over the end of their eternal Mormon marriages, just as I was in the process of separating from my longtime partner. Change is painful, particularly when you love your family but know deep down you’re no longer in the right place.

I consider myself a PoMo MoHo. Unlike John, I’ve managed to stay Post Mormon. Until this whole PTSD thing happened, I thought I had finished my processing long ago and moved on from Mormonism. Now I recognize there’s a lot more digging left to do.

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