Peculiar People: Mormons and Same-Sex Orientation

peculiar_peopleRon Schow, Wayne Schow and Marybeth Raynes, eds. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1991. Reviewed by Hugo Salinas.

Peculiar People is the first book entirely dedicated to describing the gay/lesbian Mormon experience. It includes a number of essays that approach the subject from a variety of perspectives.

The first part of the book (“Personal Perspectives”) presents personal experiences and is divided into three sections: (1) Gay and Lesbian Voices, (2) Partners’ Voices, and (3) Voices of Family Members and Friends. The second part of the book comprises a number of professional and religious perspectives.

The first section of the book is undoubtedly the most touching, including testimonials by seven gay and lesbian Mormons who recount their personal experiences: how they discovered their same-sex attraction, how they faced their challenges, and how they started the long road that leads from concern and anguish to self-acceptance and self-fulfillment.

Even though the stories here included have a dose of suffering, there is a good dose of self-acceptance and optimism as well. Don Harryman, for example, reccounts the horrors of reparative therapy at BYU during the 70’s, but he also describes how he came to accept his gay identity, value his Mormon heritage, and embrace proudly his Affirmation family.

Anna Hurston reccounts her expriences as a lesbian Mormon: her childhood, her life as a missionary, her experiences at BYU, and finally the finding of a partner. Anna states the following: “I have learned that no human institution can ever separate me from the love of God… … I was created lesbian because I had much to learn, and it is my God-given responsability to move beyond fear of persecution and live a full and happy life, making my way with a life partner who shares the joys and challenges with me” (page 21).

These essays have been compiled by three college teachers: Ron Schow, H. Wayne Schow, and Marybeth Raynes. Ron Schow is a professor of audiology in the College of Health-Related Professions at Idaho State University. H. Wayne Schow is chair of the Department of English and Philosophy at Idaho State University. He is also the father of Brad Schow, a young gay Mormon who died of AIDS-related complications in 1986. Wayne chronicled his experience with his son in Remembering Brad: On the Loss of a Son to AIDS. Marybeth Raynes is an adjunct assistant professor in the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Utah, and a marriage and family therapist.

Peculiar People was published in 1991 by Signature Books and has received an award for publishing excellency from the Association for Mormon Letters. For a fuller review of this book, or if you are interested in purchasing a copy, visit Amazon.