Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

"I walk away to protect those that cannot protect themselves. I think you have stayed to free that child
we both have the same reasons just different methods"--Sean

I've had the story The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas on my mind a lot lately. To summarize, it is basically the story of an utopia. Everyone was perfect, happy, smart, and lived in peace. Except for one child--this one innocent child was kept in a dark, filthy cellar. Each citizen was told about this child between ages 8 and 12, whenever they were mature. For the city to be happy, this child must be kept that way. Many went and saw the child. Some only learned of the child's presence and wanted to hear no more. Once they heard the truth, the inhabitants of the perfect city often recoiled and felt grief... but most got over it.

Some people though, walked away from the city with resolve. The story ended with "The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible it does not exist. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas."

The author's point of the story was basically that when we do things like buy from child sweatshops we should analyze our "ends justify the means" logic. For me though, this story inspires a lot of questions about the church. For those that walk away, how does it compare to leaving Omelas? The church makes so many people happy--it really does form a sort-of-Utopia. But who does it marginalize (even unintentionally). What is the result of the pressures of perfection (the competition of having the mormonest family in the ward)?

Walking away from both the church and Omelas means losing a path of direction, even a self-identity.

This story has been on my mind for a couple week. Finally today I talked with a good friend of mine about why it bothers me so much.

His quote:
I walk away to protect those that cannot protect themselves. I think you have stayed to free that child
we both have the same reasons just different methods

He's right. I came to BYU for a lot of reasons--but one of them was because I believe that regardless of sexual orientation, there should be a place for students at BYU. Because I know I'm strong enough to challenge the norms and change opinions.

I had lost sight of that because things are tough at times. I definitely feel like it is not an atmosphere of acceptance. My mom doesn't even know I'm gay (<.< although I'd bet money she suspects) and her response to me considering transferring schools next year was "If you leave, who will be a member of the gay rights club and the feminist club and the democrat club? Who will correct the professors when they start spewing racism or sexism or plain stupidity?"

It's almost as if my mom has known my my entire life (oh wait, she has). On the other hand, you have people like my friend Sarah, who consistently asks if I've gotten myself kicked out yet. As she said "You're not the type to stay quiet when an issue you feel strongly about gets brought up".

I try not to be. But what about today? Today I was put in a group of eight people by the TA and asked to discuss the church's position on homosexuality. No one spoke up, so one of the girls said "What do you think Julia?" I took a deep breath and tried to respond coherently

"Well, the church says that same-sex attraction isn't a sin, only acting on it is. But they don't like using the label gay, because the most important thing is that we're children of God, even though we're fine to label our selves in other ways like by our nationality or by our political party affiliation [as long as it is republican--just kidding--I didn't say that part]"

One of the more aggressive girls in my group said that I was completely wrong. She said that if we called people who attracted to people of their gender "gay" it would turn them gay--after all, we are what people expect of us. Then she said that the church needs to help them find a way to get better, a way to fix this. Everyone nodded with her.

I rebutted saying that "The church acknowledges that many people with same-sex attraction deal with it throughout their lives"

Immediately six people were arguing with me, saying that I wasn't listening and that the church just needs to help fix the gays.

Six of the eight people in our group left before the actual presentation of our information for the group. That left me and a boy that had nodded with all the girls in my group but had stayed relatively quiet. When he presented, he didn't say anything about homosexuals needing to be "fixed", but he did go on about why it was so important for people not to identify as gay.

The TA agreed with him saying that once people identified as gay they often felt they had to go live "the gay lifestyle" and be promiscuity and do drugs.

I wanted to say something along the lines of "How many people are so closeted for so long that when they finally come out, when they finally are allowed to admit they're gay, they've felt rejection from the church for years? That there is no place in the church for them? How many people come out to their family and feel like their parents don't accept them anyway, so they might as well leave? When is it plainly rebelling against the system, not because they're LBGT but because they feel that they cannot find acceptance within the system? Why do we expect those who leave that which hurt them to continue how we deem moral--they're finally free of the feeling of oppression that can come with mormon-culture"

It's true that when someone finally comes out they may lash out because they finally feel that they have a choice and a voice. Or they may have spent the last years of their life praying to be fixed with no cure. They may have never had a testimony to begin with or they may have lost the testimony they had.

Realizing I wasn't going to be cured, regardless of how important it was to me, was devastating. I lost trust in God--no matter how much I did I would never be the perfect molly-mormon. It took time and effort to build my faith back up. I didn't go out partying during that time not because God told me not to, but because I think that doing drugs, drinking, smoking, and being promiscuous are not good ideas for me. I didn't lose my faith because I called myself gay--I lost it because I had gone so long convinced that I wasn't one of those "gays", but that I was just a person that "struggled with same-gender attraction" and that if I tried hard enough, I would freed from this "affliction".

The culture of shame and silence is significantly more likely to cause a circle trying to fit in a square to balk and turn away than allowing the circle to acknowledge that it is different.

I want to rescue that child, I do. I don't believe that any of the challenges brought up in this post directly contradict the gospel of Christ--it's church culture I go up to battle against. I don't know how to help though and I don't feel like I am making any progress where I am.


  1. We're all here for you in support of whatever you decide to do.

    (But please don't stop blogging)

  2. You should be so proud of yourself- you sound amazing. Good luck with your school and drop me a line if you want to do a guest post on fMh.

    sarasbreadco at gmail