Today I read in the newspaper that David Matheson came out as gay. You don’t know who David Matheson is, unless you know exactly who David Matheson is, and in that case you know a whole lot more. If you know who David Matheson is, then you know what Evergreen International was, and you know what North Star is, and you know Josh and Lolly Weed, and you’ve read James O. Mason, and you’ve read Douglas L. Callister, over and over, clinging to the faint hope their words bring you that maybe, maybe, you can just be “normal” some day.
I know who David Matheson is. One time when I lived in San Diego, I made my profile picture a Torrey pine, because it’s an evergreen tree, hah hah, get it, as some kind of bat-signal, I guess, or maybe a cry for help. I navigated the extensive archipelago of blogs written by similarly miserable people (shoutout to (Gay) Mormon Guy). I rejected Affirmation for being too affirming. I fasted and prayed and wore masks and lied to myself and fought against myself and hated myself. It was not good for me.
If you don’t know who David Matheson is: David Matheson used to be the executive director of Evergreen International, which used to be an organization that sold Mormon gays the hope of becoming “ex-gay.”
Evergreen touted the salutary benefits of fasting, prayer, repentance, taking the sacrament, wholesome social interaction with other diligently-striving men, eschewing the word “gay” in favor of the church-approved arm’s-length euphemism “a person who experiences same-gender attraction,” and, most impactfully, the now thoroughly-debunked practice of conversion therapy.
If you don’t know what conversion therapy is: Conversion therapy is a purported psychological treatment designed to make gay people no longer be gay. In fewer words, conversion therapy is a dangerous lie. It is violence and self-hatred and bigotry masquerading as science and hope. It has killed more people than we will ever know. Young men and young women who find themselves “struggling with same-gender attraction” turn to conversion therapy in the desperate hope to be “normal,” or else they’re given the ultimatum by their parents to participate in conversion therapy or be turned out onto the streets. It does not work, and then they commit suicide, to free themselves of the mortal body they have been carefully taught to hate, that they have been carefully taught has betrayed their eternal nature. Conversion therapy is a bloody weapon invented by straight people to subjugate and dehumanize everyone else.
It is easier to fight when you know who your enemy is. Straight people are your enemy. They are your enemy when they don’t acknowledge your invisibility and continue to live in and contribute to a culture that kills you.
– Queer Nation Manifesto
David Matheson, in revealing himself to be gay, reveals himself to be some kind of discount Chaim Rumkowski: someone who acquiesced to a regime that would rather he was dead; someone who made a living from enforcing rules that would lead to his and his own people’s misery; someone who asked his people to get on a train that was going nowhere good.
This is to say that he’s complicated, and that I have no idea what to do with him now. In those actions, was he a bad man? Or was he a flawed man doing his best in troubled times, acting in good faith at the behest of his religion? Or something in between? I don’t know.
I don’t know where his path leads now. People can change, as he spent so many years preaching. He freely admits that he is “a person of many contradictions,” as are we all, I guess. He will need to find a way to resolve the contradictions between his past and present selves, as will I, I guess. I wish him the best, but I don’t know what his solution will be.
I do know that he was complicit. I do know that religions in general, and this religion in particular, have remarkable power to make people complicit in their own misery.
Being queer is not about a right to privacy; it is about the freedom to be public, to just be who we are. It means everyday fighting oppression; homophobia, racism, misogyny, the bigotry of religious hypocrites and our own self-hatred. (We have been carefully taught to hate ourselves.)
– Queer Nation Manifesto
How can I tell you, my brother, my sister, my non-binary sibling? How can I convince you? You must leave, or you are complicit too. Straight people built the church for themselves, not for you, and straight people do not have your best interests at heart. How can I show you that if you stay there it might kill you?
Listen: You can leave. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. You can be happy if you walk away.
The straight people who built the church for themselves will tell you that this is not true, that their way is the only way to true happiness. They will tell you that whatever happiness you may find elsewhere is illusory, that “wickedness never was happiness.” They are telling you, though they are too polite to ever say it out loud, that there is something wrong with you, that you are wicked at your core. They are lying to you, as they must if they are to retain power over you. They are selling you a cure to a disease they fabricated. They are keeping you lost in a maze of their own design, in a dark and dreary wilderness, fenced in with rods of iron. They have no power over you except the power that you give them.
My brothers, my sisters, my beautiful non-binary siblings: Leave. Take one step. Maybe try Affirmation; they’re good people, I promise. Take your power back. Reject the church’s insidious power to make you complicit in your own subjugation. Stop throwing your life away; it’s the only one you have. Listen to your heart; admit to yourself that you’ve always known this is true. Trust yourself. Love yourself, as you know you deserve to be loved.
Let me tell you about love. Let me tell you how great it is to kiss someone who you’re actually attracted to, how your heart pounds in your chest. Let me tell you how great sex is — real sex, the sex that you want, with the person you want. Let me tell you about falling asleep next to someone you love — really love, love with eros and not just agape. Let me tell you about building a life with someone you really love, buying a home with them, buying groceries with them, and at the core of everything there is truth about who you are and what you want. The fruit of this tree is most sweet, above all you’ve ever tasted before, and it will make you happy.
The straight people who built the church for themselves know this, somewhere deep down inside themselves, though they will never admit it to you. They must keep you away from true love, because they know that if you ever taste it, you, like me, will be desirous that everyone like you should taste it too. You, like me, will never stop fighting for it, and we will win, because an army of lovers cannot lose.