Paradise? Not for you.
This video isn’t just hateful, it’s deadly.
I can remember the exact moment I realized Mormonism had the gay marriage thing wrong.
I was 10 and at a Prop 8 rally — I’d tagged along with my friend and her family because my parents were oddly unwilling to plaster their lawns with the “Yes on 8” signs that all the other families we knew put up with gusto. We drove all the way up to the biggest city near us and joined a mass of what I soon realized were Not My People.
Grown men paraded home-printed signs with Bible verses slashed across them in red. “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!” There were crosses branded everywhere, and not another Mormon family in sight. A lot of yelling about Protecting The Family was happening, and I wanted nothing more than to go back home and be with mine. I have never in my life been in an unholier place than at that “Yes on 8” rally. I’d rather take God to a topless bar.
There is a decade between me and that rally now. I’m no longer a practicing Mormon, and I’m acutely aware of why my mother tore down the anti-gay marriage sign that a member of our local church branch had so thoughtfully propped up on our front lawn. I think about that rally often, especially when I hear of yet another LGBT Mormon suicide from a small town in Utah. I think about it whenever I see ads like the recent one Jehovah’s Witnesses have produced aimed at children.
The scene: A young girl brings home a picture she drew of her family at school. She shows it to her mom, and they both have a good laugh about how she forgot to draw her brother a face because families get to have a life speckled with small moments of joy like that. She mentions a drawing she saw of another classmate’s family that had two moms. Her teacher had told her it didn’t matter who made up a family, as long as people were happy and loved each other (shoutout to the teacher for being a regular old decent human being), to which her mom replies, “Well, people have their own ideas about what is right and wrong.”
Bible quotes ensue — Adam and Eve are mentioned. We are reminded that the family is Hip and Modern, with an artist mom sketching up a flier for organic yarn, as she tells her daughter why her classmate’s family is hellbound. The part that really gets me is the end; they make a plan of what to tell the little girl with two moms about Paradise, and what she can do to get there (hint: it involves not having gay moms).
Part of me wants to write this off as innocuous and carry on with my day, because homophobia is already everywhere and there are better things for me to dedicate my words to — but then I remember 10-year old me. I remember hearing those same things from adults I trusted and admired, people who literally helped raise me. I remember how sure I was that they were right, how nicely they packaged up hate for me. I consider myself a pretty good person, honestly. I don’t hold my 10-year old self against me; I have a lot of compassion for her. But I’ll be damned if I let some other little girl out there get tricked into the same hate, and double damned if she ends up queer and scared of her “sinful” desires.
Because I bet you all the taxes I just paid (and I paid a lot of taxes) that there is a gay Jehovah’s Witness kid watching this video right now. A kid being told that if they love people the way they were born loving them, they aren’t loving their God enough. And maybe for folks who never grew up in a deeply religious culture, that might not seem like a big deal — in that case God is just an idea, maybe even less than that. But I cannot stress enough how big this deal is — it is infinite, omnipotent, eternal. This deal is the Alpha and Omega of big deals to these kids — and it can kill them — it kills them every day.
This video isn’t just hateful, it’s deadly. It’s the sickly-sweet sort of homophobia that you only realize isn’t actually candy after you’ve swallowed it. It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a merchant setting up shop in a temple, three lobster claws for Sunday dinner, and a woman in pants bearing false witness. I’m not about to let another kid walk into a rally not knowing any different — that’s the opposite of Paradise.