During the past few months, I enjoyed watching two movies about two of my favorite rock stars. Rocketman[i] tells the story of Sir Elton John. Bohemian Rhapsody[ii] tells the story of Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of Queen. Both were musical geniuses. Both lived troubled lives. Both happened to be gay.
Here is a scene from Rocketman, followed by its official trailer:
Here is a clip from Bohemian Rhapsody, which illustrates the creative musical genius behind Queen in general, and Mercury specifically:
Both Elton John and Freddie Mercury were born at a time when being gay was far less accepted than it is today. Both had confidants that helped them accept their gayness. For Elton, it was John Baldry, a member of one of his early bands, Bluesology, and from whom he took his last name (it wasn’t John Lennon, as portrayed in the movie). For Freddie, it was his lifelong friend, Mary Austin, as illustrated by this scene:
I bring up these two movies because June is Gay Pride month. In honor of that, my wife, Janene, and I flew to Salt Lake City to attend Love Loud, an annual musical festival supporting the LGBTQ community, headed by Dan Reynolds, the lead singer of Imagine Dragons. You can see how Love Loud came about in the documentary, Believer.[iii] Here is its trailer:
I recently watched a documentary that had a more significant impact on me than either Rocketman, Bohemian Rhapsody, or Believer. June 28 marked the 50th anniversary of the riots at The Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, which became the defining moment of the gay civil rights movement, and led to the first gay pride parade. This documentary, entitled Stonewall Uprising,[iv] gives the viewer an up close and personal look at the people behind the riots, and the world in which the LGBTQ community had to live back then. Here is the official trailer for this documentary:
The most significant impact Stonewall Uprising had on me was the realization of how far we have come the last 50 years in connection with LGBTQ civil liberties. In 1969, every state but Illinois had laws making “homosexual activity” a crime, with the penalties for violating such laws being incarceration for a term ranging from five years to sixty years. Those punishments were longer than those for such other crimes as public intoxication, armed bank robbery or second-degree murder. And it didn’t matter that the “homosexual activity” was between consenting adults in the privacy of their bedrooms.
Stonewall Uprising sets the stage for the Stonewall Inn riots by incorporating portions of a CBS Reports documentary entitled The Homosexuals.[v] It was the first American network TV documentary to explore the topic of homosexuality. You can watch the entire show here:
In connection with the making of The Homosexuals, CBS News commissioned a survey to determine how Americans felt about gays and lesbians. That survey found that, in 1967, “two-thirds of Americans considered homosexuality more harmful to society than adultery, abortion, or prostitution,” and looked upon homosexuality with “disgust, discomfort, or fear.” One out of ten Americans looked at gays and lesbians with “hatred.” And the vast majority back then considered homosexuality to be an illness. Stonewall Uprising takes a clip from The Homosexuals in which Dr. Charles Socarides, a New York psychoanalyst, lectures to a group of resident psychiatrists at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine. Dr. Socarides states, “Homosexuality is, in fact, a mental illness which has reached epidemiologic portions.” The residents are taught that “No man is born homosexual; that it is not genetic in origin; not the result of a hormone imbalance.” Instead, Dr. Socarides tells these residents that “homosexual behavior is learned behavior.” In response to this query from one residents, “I was wondering if you think there are any ‘happy’ homosexuals, for whom homosexuality would be, in a way, their best adjustment to life,” Dr. Socarides states, “The fact that someone is homosexual, a true, obligatory homosexual, automatically rules out the possibility that he will remain happy for long, in my opinion. The stresses and strains, the psychic apparatuses they are subjected to, over the years, will cause him, in time, I think, to have increasing difficulties. I think the whole idea of saying the happy homosexual is again to create a mythology about the nature of homosexuality.”
In a blog post last year (see, “Where is the Love?” posted October 15, 2018), I discussed Believer and gave a brief history of my relationship with the LGBTQ community and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church has made great strides since the 1960s to help LGBTQs feel loved and accepted. It no longer considers same-sex attraction, in and of itself, to be a perversion. It no longer teaches that homosexuality is a choice. It has established a website for the LGBTQ. It has donated significant dollars to a group called Affirmation, whose mission is to help prevent youth suicides, especially among LGBTQ Mormons (whose rates of death by suicide are far higher than for any other demographic). The Church has even expressed support for Love Loud. And perhaps most dramatically, the Church rescinded a policy it had established in November 2015, which prevented the children of LGBTQ from participating in Church ordinances such as baptism and priesthood ordinations. I have encountered many good Church members who love and support their LGBTQ friends and family members. I also believe that the overwhelming majority of church leaders are much, much more accepting of their LGBTQ members than they were in the 1960s.
I rejoice over these changes, especially the rescission of the November 15 policy, although I acknowledge that many people had been emotionally harmed, even scarred, by its implementation in the first place.
But one church leader seems to be stuck in the 1960s.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, the number two person in the leadership hierarchy of the Church, continues to paint the entire LGBTQ community with disdain. At a recent talk he gave at BYU Hawaii, he said, in part, the following:
“We also have the challenge of living in a godless and increasingly amoral generation. More and more publicized voices deny or doubt the existence of God. More and more support the idea that all authority and all rules of behavior are man-made and can be accepted or rejected as one chooses, each person being free to decide for himself or herself what is right and wrong.
“Along with these challenges and caused by them, we are confronted by a culture of evil and personal wickedness in the world. This includes:
The diminishing of marriage and childbearing
The increasing frequency and power of the culture and phenomenon of lesbian, gay, and transgender lifestyles and values.”
I acknowledge that a lesbian or gay relationship can be abusive or immoral, just like any heterosexual relationship. But many gays and lesbians live in committed relationships where each partner loves and respects the other, where each partner is honest, law-abiding, a good parent, and a hard worker. They love their children; they pay their taxes; they donate to charities and serve their communities. Most believe in God. Most do their best to love God and their neighbors—just like most of those of us who are straight. Are such relationships a culture of evil? I think not. To consider all gays, lesbians, and transgender people to be part of a culture of evil and personal wickedness, to me, is wrong. We no longer live in the sixties, and thankfully, most of us do not still consider homosexuality to be more harmful to society than “adultery, abortion, or prostitution.”
Elder Oaks, I invite you, no, I plead that you move on from the sixties and join the rest of us in 2019. Your rhetoric, whether intended to be hateful or not, needs to stop. Too many people, both queer and straight, are being scarred by it. Too many people feel marginalized by it. Too many feel “less than” because of it. And too many good, wonderful, faithful young men and women are ending their lives as a result of it.
And to all of my LGBTQ friends and family everywhere—whether I know you yet or not—please know that we see you. We love you. We admire your courage to be your authentic selves. Toward the end of the Love Loud festival last night, Dan Reynolds invited to the stage parents of Stockton, a young gay man who took his life by suicide. I echo the words of Stockton’s father who told all the LGBTQ in the audience that “you have a beautiful light within you—whether others can see that light or not.”
- Production Companies: Marv Films, Marv Studios, New Republic Pictures
- Director: Dexter Fletcher
- Screenwriter: Lee Hall
- Starring: Taron Egerton and Jamie Bell
- Release date: May 31, 2019
[ii] Bohemian Rhapsody:
- Production Companies: GK Ffilms, New Regency Pictures, Queen Films Ltd.
- Director: Bryan Singer
- Screenwriters: Anthony McCarten and Peter Morgan
- Starring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, and Gwilym Lee
- Release date: November 2, 2018
- Production Companies: Live Nation Productions, 9.14 Pictures, and Another Brother Productions
- Director: Don Argott
- Starring: Dan Reynolds, Aja Volkman, and Ben McKee
- Release date: June 25, 2018
[iv] Stonewall Uprising:
- Production Company: PBS American Experience
- Directors: Kate Davis and David Heilbroner
- Screenwriters: David Carter and David Heilbroner
- Starring: Paul Bosche, Alfredo Del Rio, and John DiGiacomo
- Release date: June 16, 2010
[v] The Homosexuals:
- Production Company: CBS
- Writers: Mike Wallace, William Peters, and Harry Morgan
- Release date: March 7, 1967