No, this isn't about how I vomited my tragic life all over Facebook in a self-pitying sob-fest for the whole world to see. This is about my Facebook friends, specifically the ones who are "family". You know how you can make lists of friends? I've been maintaining a few fun lists for a couple of years, and one of them is "Family", and I ain't talkin' blood relatives, here.
I was curious to find out what percentage of my friends on Facebook are gay/SSA/afraid-to-label-their-homosexuality-but-who-are-nonetheless-decidedly-homosexual. Turns out just over 30% (over 100) of my friends on Facebook are, in fact, queer. Of course, I left out those who have admitted to "desires" but not explicitly to experiencing homosexuality more than heterosexuality. And there are plenty of others I strongly suspect as being "family" but who I'm reserving judgement about until I hear it from them. What I'm saying is that this nearly-one-third of my friends are those who have confirmed that they experience primarily same-sex attraction. That's a lot.
But my curiosity didn't stop there: I also wondered how they break down as far as church affiliation and activity go, so I defined various groups into which to break them up. I think the actual conduct of people within each group varies wildly, but what puts someone in a group is their general attitude towards homosexuality and the Church. Of course, people shift between groups over time, and I can't be sure about the beliefs of some people, but this is my best-guess, current observation. I've included some commentary on each group based on my own observations. They are as follows:
- ??? (10%): I don't know these people well enough or haven't been in touch enough to have any read on their current perspective. Or we've talked, but I'm not sure even they know where they are. :-)
- Non-LDS (2%)(sorry, Elder Ballard, it's just easiest to phrase it this way for my purposes here): Never, to my knowledge, have they been members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Among my friends, these are all "out-and-proud" gay men. Of course, I could divide these up all sorts of ways, but since I'm focusing on the LDS angle, I'll just lump these all together (yes, all 3 of them).
- Ex-LDS (7%): they used to be LDS but have been either excommunicated (and intend to stay that way) or have disavowed their connection with the institutional church. They may or may not still subscribe to some core gospel doctrines, but they have vocally and clearly declared their final departure from the church. Among my Facebook friends, all of these are seeking or are in same-sex relationships, to my knowledge.
- Inactive (22%): these are those from whom I've not heard a firm declaration that they're finished with the church or that they don't believe the doctrines anymore but who are not attending church services, not necessarily focused on the institutional "church standards" in guiding their morality, and may or may not report themselves as "LDS" if asked what religion they subscribe to. Most of these are, to my knowledge, dating members of the same sex, a few in committed, long-term relationships, and some are just living the single life without dating, which may or may not have anything to do with their LDS background. I even included a couple of guys who are engaged to other guys but who are not officially excommunicated or whom I haven't heard state their intent to fully disavow the church.
- Active in their own way (17%): folks who claim affiliation with the church and generally attend a ward, appreciate the structure and community church activity offers, and who generally live "clean" lives basically in harmony with gospel principles, aside from the whole annoying "gay" issue and maybe along with other strictures (e.g. the word of wisdom, temple covenants and attendance, etc). They may even live a basically temple-worthy life except for having a same-sex partner, along with the physical intimacy of a committed relationship, or they may mostly not even concern themselves with the church's standards of conduct but live by their own moral code while considering church a useful place to explore spirituality, remember good principles, and find a community of basically good people. They sometimes describe themselves as "as active as the church will allow me to be". Most of these are in same-sex relationships or seeking such and seem to consider it their compromise between happiness in this life and keeping an eye on eternity as they understand it. Some may have been excommunicated in consequence of their relationships, but their desire to stay affiliated and as active as possible distinguishes them from the "Ex-LDS".
- Active but dating (8%): these are slightly different from the "active in their own way" in that they still strive to maintain church standards but believe that includes non-sexual, but romantic, relationships with members of the same sex for the sake of companionship, or who at least believe there's no harm in dating for fun and maybe engaging in some makey-outy here and there, in light of not believing they will or should ever marry someone of the opposite sex. They may have no qualms about carrying a temple recommend while dating or kissing members of the same sex, as long as they maintain the same rules of chastity that all heterosexual members are expected to maintain.
- Strictly active (34%): as far as I know, these folks are active in their wards and believe they should refrain from all dating and romantic involvement with members of their same sex. Many of these are hoping to find someone of the opposite sex to marry and with whom have a family. Most are not, to my knowledge, actually ready to date the opposite sex or actively doing so, but they have it as a goal and believe it may happen. However, some of them are actually dating members of the opposite sex, one or two are engaged, and some (about 1/4 of them) are already married to members of the opposite sex. Some of them do "slip up" with members of the same sex at times, but what distinguishes these from, say, the "Active but dating" bunch is that while an "Active but dating" type has no qualms about making out with or romantically dating a same-sexer, a "Strictly active" type may do it and determine they've transgressed or at least lost sight of their goal and swear they will "do better" in the future. In other words, same-sex romantic conduct may not be a grievous sin, but it's something to eschew and avoid and is certainly not helpful in one's goal of forming an eternal family. Some are staunch in this and completely oppose anything resembling "homosexual conduct", such as physical affection (e.g. cuddling) between gay male friends. Others embrace non-sexual physical affection between members of the same sex as something healthy and even starkly lacking in western culture and something which needn't be sexual or romantic in nature. They may even vary on whether reparative therapy or experiential weekends are worthwhile or necessary. Come to think of it, I think this group is pretty diverse and includes varying levels of church activity and behavioral stability, and I'm tempted to break it down even more, but I think that would just get messy... I guess their common thread is that they are active in the church and believe that church activity and adherence is generally incompatible with same-sex romance and sexuality.
Great, now I want to create a poll to find out how my readers would categorize themselves. I enjoy polls...but I don't know how to do one. ...I'm going to resign myself to my obsessive curiosity and go and find out how, aren't I? Yeah, I am...