Mixed Orientation Families
Background: Mormon doctrine and culture create a unique framework for incorporating matters of sexuality into personal life choices. Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) individuals sometimes enter marriage with “straight” opposite sex spouses. This is particularly true in Mormonism, due to church teachings that require adult members who experience ‘Same Sex Attraction’ (SSA), and who wish to remain in full fellowship, only two approved options: 1) celibacy, or 2) marriage to an opposite gender spouse. Because of this, generations of LDS LGBT families have experienced the painful challenges and disconnects of Mixed Orientation Marriage (MOM). Sadly, it is estimated that around 70% of mixed orientation marriages terminate in divorce.
The Affirmation Affinity group, “Mormon MOFIA: Mixed Orientation Families in Affirmation” is a collection of mostly Mormon people who are impacted by Mixed Orientation Marriage in their family life. This group is sponsored by Affirmation for the support of LGBT families to process their difficult realities, share personal stories, develop friendships, and ultimately gain understanding and healing in their families, however they may be configured. The Affinity Group consists of married spouses, single ex-spouses, remarried spouses, and even some adult children from MOM families. Mormon faith practice in the group ranges from active LDS to cultural LDS, to no longer affiliated with the LDS Church. The common thread is that we all share this one sticky fact in our lives: Mixed Orientation Marriage. We also share an ethic of being open to and affirming of where people are at. Because life is complex and we cannot know the details of people’s unique circumstances and decisions, we do not judge one another. ALL people are deserving of our kindness and respect: in this attitude, we are able to learn from one another.
Unfortunately, there often isn’t much ‘middle ground’ for MOM couples in Mormon Land. For many LDS families in MOMs, there again seems to be two options: 1) stay in the closet, or 2) get out of the marriage! Perhaps there is a sense of security or control in the “don’t ask don’t tell” mentality of non-disclosure about one’s orientation, but our belief is that happiness is seldom found in the seclusion of the closet. If life is repressed and the LGBT spouse wants to live authentically and more out in the open, why should a family break-up be the foregone conclusion? MOFIA provides the learning ground, the middle ground, for couples and families to reconnect and move forward. Members of the group develop empathy, gain understanding from a diverse sharing of experiences from BOTH straight and gay spouses, and in so doing may come back to terms of trust and empathy, which can be the stuff of renewed commitment and staying in a marriage. However, continuing a marriage may not always be the best solution for everyone. Sometimes divorce is the best option for a MOM couple. If such is the case, can the family relationship remain amicable in continuing a responsible parenting arrangement, where both parents interact with mutual respect? These are the goals of the Mormon MOFIA: to provide a safe place and encourage open and honest dialogue between individuals, which leads to greater understanding and to a more secure and healthy family life.