Monday, October 5, 2009
No Going Back, by Jonathan Langford
LDS church members often find discussion about homosexuality uncomfortable. I think a lot of that boils down, so far, to an unanswerable question: are those with same gender attraction "born that way" or do they make "a lifestyle choice"? While this book does not attempt to answer that question, it attempts to help us see what life may be like for a young man who does feel that attraction, and yet wants to be a good Mormon. As you might well predict, trying to live such a life invites all kinds of stress.
Paul, a Mormon teenager, doesn't try to "cure" himself. He feels he needs the support of his mom, his best friend, his Bishop, and others who may be in his same situation, but he doesn't want to be outed to the rest of the ward or his classmates. He knows that being gay in the church means that the ideal of a temple marriage in this life may lie out of reach for him. He knows that gay sex is forbidden. He wants to live a virtuous life, find acceptance for the person he is, and still have the social life that most teens yearn for.
Like many straight teens, he does get into some trouble. The guilt he feels for his transgressions is real and sincere. He goes to his Bishop to get back on the road to a righteous life. In many ways, he is more spiritually sensitive than most of the other guys in his Young Men's group. He doesn't have to be "caught" before he confesses.
Despite all he can do to keep his life as "normal" as possible, wagging tongues and debates over whether he can be a Mormon AND gay eventually bring his same gender attraction into the glare of his peers and the adults in his ward. Those peers that are politically active in securing rights for homosexuals despise him for his adherance to his religion, and those of his own religion shun him for his orientation.
Except for the few characters in the book that care for Paul no matter what, everyone else exhibits various forms of prejudice born of fear and ill-conceived preconceptions. It makes you examine how you feel about those who are members of the Church but who struggle with same sex attraction. How would you react if your son or daughter came to you and told you, "I'm gay"?
For parents who are wondering about content; you could probably call it a strong PG-13. There is profanity, vulgar humor (from teenage boys, both gay and straight), and brief mention of sexual experimentation but no graphic descriptions of these moments. Were they necessary for the story? For the most part, I think so. Teens, whether LDS or not, are bombarded with sexual messages in all types of media and I know it comes out in the form of sexual innuendo and other crude comments of all sorts. Any parent who thinks "not my kid" is probably deluding themselves. All the more reason for parents to discuss their moral standards with their kids. I think parents, if they feel it is appropriate for their teens to read, should read the book WITH their older teens. They should talk about the situations in this book TOGETHER. I know most teenagers would hate that, but I think some of the concepts in the book must be discussed with parents.
This book is not for the faint of heart. It's a hard one to read in the sense that there aren't easy answers for the challenges Paul goes through. I believe that the book encourages virtuous living by teens, whether gay or straight, with a hard look at the possible consequences should one go looking for comfort in places that are not spiritually healthy.
No Going Back is available for sale at Zarahemla Books and Amazon.