Wednesday, November 14, 2012

CTW SLC Part IV- North Star's Participation

"My goodness," you're all thinking, "how could he possibly still be talking about Circling the Wagons? Hasn't it been more than a week?

Well, yes, Mr. or Ms. Snarky-pants, it has, but I'm not done.

loljk i don't actually think you're snarky for thinking that. *tangent over*

North Star had a fair presence at CTW this year. Steven Frei, president of the organization and oft-contributing writer at its sister blog, gave a keynote address, as well as Josh Weed, the therapist from Washington state who gained international notoriety when he came out on his blog as a gay man in a mixed-orientation marriage. Josh also contributes to Northern Lights.

In reality, it was North Star's participation in CTW, as well as the rave reviews the event garnered last year, that made me want to participate. It was a rare treat to see Steven and Josh speak in person about issues that plague the gay Mormon subculture and, indeed, society at large.  However, much of the blogosphere did not share my enthusiasm about their potential contribution to CTW, as both Josh and Steven are faithful Mormons in happy mixed-orientation marriages.  For many, their participation was an affront to the values of CTW, which does not encourage or advocate reorientation therapy.

However, in my opinion, the real values of CTW advocate creating safe spaces for people of all different orientations to be able to discuss these issues, and in that vein, Josh and Steven's participation was gratefully received by many.  Their lives seem just as authentic and genuine as anyone else's and their contributions to the conference were specifically calculated not to prescribe a specific life path to anyone else, but to offer some perspective on how they made it work.

Josh spoke first.  Very near to the beginning of his speech, he apologized for the way his story is being used to bludgeon gay Mormons into straight marriage. He told heartbreaking stories of parents or neighbors who sent links to Josh's blog to their presumably inactive gay community members, telling them they were welcome in the home when they'd found a way to pattern their lives after Josh. For these sad accounts of decidedly conditional love, Josh apologized.

In fact, he commanded each in attendance to stop the line of thought that his choices were the only right ones for gay Mormons whenever we heard it brought up. He said, "You need to tell them, 'I heard Josh Weed, out of his own mouth, say that you need to stop using his story to unfairly pressure others.'"  Powerful stuff.  That one sentence alone should have quieted all of those who were critical of his attendance.

He said that using conditional love in such a way not only is counter to the teachings of Jesus, but in actuality takes away others' agency by using unfair influence on their decisions. Besides that, using that influence unrighteously often can have the opposite effect than the one intended. Regarding that, he said, "Choices made for approval or conditional love often lead to disaster."

A final quote from Mr. Weed's first keynote: "Let go of your impulse to control or correct others. Love. Only love. That is your only job."

Steven's address took a different tack, but one that needed to be aired out.  In his opening statements, he talked about how his wife did not know about his orientation when they married.  He spoke, visibly emotional, about the pain and heartbreak it had caused his family and then advocated full, complete disclosure in serious dating and marriage. That is great advice for any couple, gay or straight (or anywhere in between). He then said that once he became open and honest with his family, their lives and their relationship improved.

Justifying North Star's participation, Steven said, "North Star affirms all options and individual choices and advocates those in consistence with the standards of the Gospel," before again adding a second witness to the power of unconditional love.  In spite of his personal moral beliefs, he recognized the different choices others will make, saying, "This is my story, not yours."  As with gas mileage, weight loss pills and late-night infomercial products, your results may vary.

Josh and Steven also contributed to a marriage panel, which I'll discuss next.

1 comment:

  1. GMP,

    I enjoyed meeting you at the conference, and I love your blog. You're a good man, and I appreciate your authenticity.

    Steven Frei


Be nice, mmmmkay? I allow anonymous comments, but not anonymous (or even attributed) douchebaggery. The Gay Mormon Pioneer's tolerance for hate and venom are incredibly low, but his love of communication and debate are high, so have an opinion, but be kind and gentle when you share it.

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