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From Mormon Bishop to LGBT Ally

Jim Burroway

July 16th, 2012

The “Aha”  moment for Kevin Kloosterman, who was a sitting Mormon Bishop in Illinois, came from re-runs of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy:

As is sometimes typical for Mormons on a variety of issues, I was late.  I didn’t see it until a year or two ago, when it went into syndication. …I would watch the show and imagine what it would be like for them to be in a Mormon bishop’s home, which is probably considered the heart of enemy territory by some in the gay community since Proposition 8. There was something about the spirit of these men that seemed to break barriers of orientation, politics, and even religion. Perhaps like every other fan, I considered them to be more familiar than reality would dictate. Then something that Carson said in his cheeky manner struck me like a thunderbolt.  He said, “We are very pro traditional marriage.” Those words echoed in my mind for months and months. It seemed to disrupt and challenge a deeply held belief that the traditional family was under attack by a so called “gay agenda.”

That belief was dismantled at that moment and I realized that these good men had no desire to hurt me, my marriage, or my family. On the contrary, if they were in my home, I could only see them supporting me, my traditional marriage, and my family.

At some point, Kloosterman began familiarizing himself with LGBT issues, where he found himself “quite frankly embarrassed at how little I knew or understood. When I heard last summer of three separate violent attacks on gay men in Utah, I could no longer shake my head and say “how awful.” I could no longer be silent.” The chronology in Kloosterman’s essay isn’t exactly clear, but at some point he flew to Salt Lake City to try to engage his fellow religionists to reach out and do more for the LGBT community:

When the story broke that a sitting bishop had flown from Illinois to Utah to call for straight members to do more to reach out to LGBT individuals in and out of the church, the two major newspapers in Utah saw the talk in radically different ways, which created controversy. The reaction continued to be mixed as the story moved to talk radio. Mormons of the more conservative variety called for me to be excommunicated. There was one extremist blog even wishing “apostates could be executed” juxtaposed with my name, my wife’s name, our home address and work address for all to see as well as calling for “blood atonement,” which is primitive Mormon talk for execution.

Kloosterman filed a police report on the blog and it was taken down soon after.

Kloosterman spoke at the first “Circling the Wagons” Mormon pro-LGBT conference which took place in Salt Lake City in in 2011. You can find a video and a written transcript of that talk here. He came under fire for using the word “atrocity” to describe the experiences of gay Mormons after hearing their first-hand accounts.



Ben In Oakland
July 16th, 2012 | LINK

Amazing what thinking and experiencing will do for your worldview.

It underlines once again– the enemy is the closet, not religion.

July 16th, 2012 | LINK

Yes indeed, HOTS (High Order Thinking Skills) are quite something.

Which is why idiots like Rick Scott want to suppress HOTS.

Because the moment you have critical thinking skills, the arguments of the religious bigots fall shallow.

July 16th, 2012 | LINK

Kloosterman was doing fine until he decided he needed to “reach out” to me.

Toward what end?

Kloosterman is engaged in a theology that cannot be changed. I know what that theology says about me and about plans I have for my life, and so I know that neither Kloosterman nor any Mormon has counsel for me. None.

Great. A few Mormons now see LGBT citizens in a fuller light. Sadly for them, this light works also to illuminate some real problems with their beloved theology. And worse, it shows that these are problems that can’t be fixed; not until an old man hears a voice or has a special dream can a single word of this theology be changed.

So, from there, they want to “reach out” to me, march in my parades, knit me sox and sweaters. Meanwhile, in the background, the theology goes on, unchanged and unabated. And I — and even worse, Gay Mormons — should find cheer in this?

I’d respect people like Kloosterman if they’d just acknowledge their personal situation, and then report that they’ve changed it. Kloosterman is engaged with a theology that does real evil in the world, and cannot be called off by witnesses to it. So Kloosterman must either accept it as it is, or he must leave it. There’s no honest middle ground.

And that’s the problem I have with people like Kloosterman. He’s correct to receive the insights, but he’s incorrect with what he does with them. “Reaching out” to me from his blighted, evil and unchangeable theology is a waste of truth.

Ben In Oakland
July 16th, 2012 | LINK

Soren– I hate t osound like Cliches-r-Us, and i basically agree with you. but

every joutrney starts with a step. He’s made that step.

And when enough mormons have made that step, you can be pretty sure that some old man will have a prophetic dream.

Nick Literski
July 16th, 2012 | LINK

I was a member of the same Mormon congregation as Kevin Kloosterman, back when both of us were graduate students and I was a closeted man, desperately trying to live the Mormon lifestyle of opposite-sex marriage and children. I always was impressed with Kevin, and found him warm and genuine.

When Kevin first spoke out on this issue, I got back in touch with him and told him of my own changed circumstances. He celebrated the fact that I was finally living authentically as the gay man I was created to be. Since that time, I’ve been impressed to watch him in action, as he’s frankly placing his membership in the Mormon church in constant jeapordy by insisting on telling the truth about his church’s handling of GLBT issues. Rather than condemning him for remaining Mormon, I celebrate the fact that he’s effectively reaching Mormon members from inside—something that most of them reflexively reject from the outside. I’m proud to consider him a friend.

July 16th, 2012 | LINK

One heart at a time. This is why we need to be visible, visible, visible.

Richard Rush
July 16th, 2012 | LINK

One thing that I find gratifying about Kloosterman is that, on the face of it, he changed his positions as a result of his own experiences and thinking, rather than as a result of some theological epiphany that God loves homosexuals, after all, even if they actually have sex. While I may be grateful if it happens via the latter scenario, I also find it unsettling. I simply cannot feel comfortable with someone who adopts a position because they literally believe that a god has called them to do so.

July 16th, 2012 | LINK

Like many others in conservative religious communities, this man is trying to live by the basic tenents of all religions: to be kind, compassionate and loving toward other humans. We should celebrate his courage, because he and his family are paying a huge price to stand up for folks like me. It is one thing to risk for your own, it is a bigger deal to risk for the other.

July 17th, 2012 | LINK

Since I work with and live with Mormons I had to make a stand. Except for a couple of my co-workers who threw the “You’re not discriminated against. You (meaning me) can marry. You can marry a woman.” Most of my Mormon community is starting to understand just what being gay entails.

The vast majority of Mormons I know have come to question what the real ‘threat’ to marriage. They’re finally understanding the last rung on the ladder to the institution of marriage in Mormon theology is not castigating gays.

It’s fidelity.

It’s waiting until you’re older and more mature before getting married.

It’s working to love your partner through the rough times.

I say: Work on your own marriage problems before tackling the homo threat.

Some Mormons are cognizant what Prop 8 really was. It was sanctioned discrimination. Some Saints (like this Bishop) is recognizing this now. When you can point out the discrimination the LGBT community faces each day and the LDS Church was part of that, it makes some Mormons squirm in their righteous looking suits, white-shirts and ties.

But, somewhat like what Soren456 says, there really isn’t going to be any shift of Mormon dogma any time soon. I don’t believe in my lifetime, anyway.

So, I welcome the chance to further the understand of my plight for equality. But, I’m not any closer to sitting in an LDS Chapel any time soon.

Until Mormons start to understand I’m not broken or I need fixing or that I’m a sinner for just being who I am…I’ll appreciate no pity and just let me live my life. We will get along just fine.

July 17th, 2012 | LINK

I just can’t believe Kevin’s epiphany came from “Queer Eye.” What a horrible, stereotype-pandering show. Let’s all mince and shriek over FAB-U-LOUS things!

Jim Burroway
July 17th, 2012 | LINK

Let’s all mince and shriek over FAB-U-LOUS things!

You say that like it’s a bad thing…

By the way, “mince”? What happened? Did we get teleported back to 1957?

July 17th, 2012 | LINK

Jim, I happen to think mince is a fabulous term; perfectly swell in this context.

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