October 30, 2006
Will, Grace and Angels in Brokeback America: Straight Women, Gay Men and Mormonism (the introduction)
During the six years I've attended Sunstone, I've noticed that sessions there discussing homosexuality tend to focus on male sexuality, and that discussants, regardless of orientation, are generally male. For the 2006 symposium, I proposed a panel entitled "Will, Grace and Angels in Brokeback America: Straight Women, Gay Men and Mormonism" in part as a way of calling attention to the fact that homosexuality is an issue that also affects women. Admittedly, my panel did not include lesbian voices, but it seemed artificial to ask a lesbian to comment on the topic just as a way of correcting previous imbalances. I hope future sessions will address the concerns of lesbians, or include their voices.
I thought a lot about the title: I went with widely-recognized references to pop culture to show how common this issue is. I invoked Will and Grace because I want to underscore how genuine, precious and pleasurable my platonic friendships with gay men have been. I invoked Angels in America because it's a Pulitzer-prize winning set of plays featuring an unequal marriage between a closeted gay Mormon man and an unhappy Mormon housewife. (Though I admit I HATE both installments for so many reasons, including the fact that they're full of self-indulgent speeches that go on and on beyond the point of being either narratively or philosophically interesting, and that Kushner is a really shitty fact-checker, and that his female Mormon characters are not at all believable to me--no Mormon woman--no Mormon, PERIOD--would ever complain that it was a bad idea to leave Manhattan and move to DC, because DC is less righteous--hell, DC is overrun with Mormons, and there's a goddamn temple there!) I invoked Brokeback Mountain because it was current and also I really loved it.
That's the stuff before the colon; after the colon we get STRAIGHT WOMEN first, and then GAY MEN, because I wanted to foreground women in all of this. And then we get Mormonism, because it's the spin that complicates the matter.
Mine was not the only session dealing with homosexuality; one reason Dan Wotherspoon was so enthusiastic about the timing of my panel was that 2006 was the 20th anniversary of the publication of Good-bye, I Love You, a memoir by Carol Lynn Pearson, one of Mormondom's most beloved writers, about her temple marriage to a gay man, their divorce, and his death from AIDS. Carol Lynn presented a heartbreaking discussion of the suffering gay Mormons often endure. Her daughter Emily, who also married a gay man (I mention his one-man play here), was one of the panelists in my session. And Carol Lynn's ex-son-in-law also presented some of his more recent work.
My remarks for my part of the panel were drawn in part from material I first grappled with here. Relevant posts are, in order of posting, Mormon Social Taboos, A Happy Marriage with a Good Man, The Exclusive Territory of Straight Men, The Society of Buggers, Brokeback Mountain, Old Testament Weirdness, It's Not Just Mormon Men Who Don't Want to Lose the Beard, and The SL Tribune Joins the Chorus.
OK. That's all preamble. Tomorrow is Halloween and I'm planning to go that with theme in tomorrow's entry, so check back Wednesday or Thursday for the more substantial account of my remarks at Sunstone, if you're interested--or, if you're not, you know to stay away until the weekend.
Posted by holly at October 30, 2006 10:10 AM