Dealing with a LGBTQIA+ identity within any of the segments of Christianity is rarely, if ever, easy. There are an ever-growing number of writers publically addressing the dissonance many feel within the church and how queerness can affect one's faith journey. This is a part of a series of profiles of those courageous people furthering the conversation.
K.T. Martin is a writer who addresses a variety of social issues including his own experiences with homosexuality and Mormonism. He co-authors a blog called Say Something Awesome--I encourage you to check out his work there.
Q: Could you describe how your faith journey has been impacted by your LGBTQIA+ identification?
A: I guess I should start out with what my identification is. I don't really like labels and try not to use them, but I guess I identify as same sex attracted (SSA). In the past, I identified as gay, but that is no longer the case.
Dealing with and understanding SSA has enabled me to develop a level of compassion and Christ-like love for others. I don't know if I would the deep level of love I do if circumstances were different. Due to my experiences, I feel deeply for people who are different, because while I may not be able to relate to everybody's exact circumstances, I do know what it's like to feel like you're on the outside and don't fit in. I try really hard to be thoughtful and inclusive of anyone I meet, especially at church. People need to know that somebody cares.
I had a long period of time where I had to reconcile my feelings of same gender attraction with my faith. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints does not condone homosexual relationships and believe such to be a sin. I craved an intimate relationship with another man, and to be told that was wrong... well, I didn't really know what to do with that. This was really hard for me. I was involved in varying levels of the gay "lifestyle" for essentially seven years. I wasn't really open about it to most people. Early on, I started searching for men in my circumstances but who were active Mormons and stayed celibate, etc. It took me years to find anyone like that, and after doing so, I started to consider doing the same. It wasn't something that I found myself able to do for many more years, but I've slowly been working towards it.
What I want to focus on is just serving my fellow man and bridging the gaps that divide different groups of people from being able to coexist without turmoil. I often have felt stuck in between two worlds, feeling like I don't totally belong to either. The LDS Church and the LGBTQIA+ Community sometimes don't seem to be able to coexist, and I want to find the areas where they can.
Q: In what areas do you hope your work in this field most help others?
A: Well I want to write articles, and eventually novels that are relatable. My hope with my writing is that it will bring other people unto Christ--that no matter who you are, you are able to feel His unconditional love. Unconditional doesn't mean He doesn't have expectations of how we should live our lives, but that no matter if we fully meet those expectations (which none of us do) He loves us anyways, and will always love us.
I think that especially people in the LGBTQIA+ Community need to know that Christ loves them no matter what.
Q: What were some of the unexpected hurdles you faced in beginning your writing career?
A: I think getting a following is a big hurdle. It doesn't do you a whole lot of good if your articles are lost on a blog someplace so far into the dark recesses of the internet that nobody can ever find them. I've started to get a little bit of a following going, but it's still pretty small; it takes a lot of work to grow it.
Even though I've set myself up in such a way as to put as much time aside as possible each day to write, I've found it very hard to sit down and actually do so. It seems like something always comes up. I've had to learn to really dedicate myself and say, "___ amount of time today is for writing and nothing else." I'm getting better at that.
Q: What were some of the unexpected benefits you accrued after you started?
A: You know to be honest I was surprised by the number of my friends who have liked my work. It wasn't because I felt like I was doing poor work; I just didn't expect to get the compliments I do as often as I do. People tell me all the time how much they appreciate my perspective and what I write about. I try to keep my articles as balanced and unbiased as possible, and people like that. I don't go out trying to attack anybody on any side of any issue. I've had quite a few people tell me that I've helped them gain a different perspective on an issue, etc.
I've also found friends who are not even necessarily of my faith who have related to my story. That's been really neat. There are a lot of people of faith who struggle with reconciling their sexuality with their faith.
Q: What would you most like to celebrate, at the end of next year, as your accomplishment?
A: By the end of next year I really hope to be done writing a book that I've started on. I'm co-authoring it with one of my best friends, and I really think that the story is going to really impact a lot of people. We've been working on several drafts of the story, and I think we've finally settled on one that we think is going to work really well. It's been a process already to get where we're at, so I just hope we can see it the rest of the way through by next year.
Q: Who is your role model? Why?
A: I guess I have a few different role models. As a writer, one of my biggest role models is C.S. Lewis. I love his work, and the way that he wrote.
As a person who is a part of my life, one of my greatest role models is my grandfather, Tom Martin. The man is dedicated to hard work and serving others. He's also had a tremendous transformation of himself throughout his lifetime that I really admire. He isn't perfect, but he is a really good man, and I would like to be a lot more like him.
At the end of the day though, the individual with whom I should emulate the most is Jesus Christ. There was no other who has lived on this earth that has been more perfectly loving, kind, charitable, dedicated, and selfless. He was perfect, and thus makes the perfect architect of what a man should be and what I aspire towards.
Q: What would you recommend to someone just starting on his or her faith journey?
A: You are likely to encounter a lot of hard times, especially if you identify as LGBTQIA+ or SSA, etc. Prayer is likely going to be a major component of your journey. Scripture study is also extremely important. Things won't be easy, and you'll likely encounter people who are close-minded and thoughtless. You have to know why you're going on this journey. It has to be for you, and for your relationship with Christ and nothing else. If it isn't, then you probably will find yourself giving up as soon as someone says or does something hurtful. You have to base yourself on the right foundation with Christ if you want to keep going in the long term. If possible, it's important to find a support network of like-minded people who you can turn for advice as you continue.
Q: What is the most effective way, in your experience, to help people overcome anti-LGBTQIA+ attitudes?
A: I guess that all depends on what "Anti-LGBTQIA+ Attitudes" means. Getting rid of hatred I think requires putting faces to the struggle. If you know somebody struggling with something like this, it's a little harder to be indifferent to people, at least in some cases... but beyond that with a lot of topics on this subject I don't expect anyone to change their views or agree with me... and I never make that a goal. This goes for "conservative" folks as well the "liberal" ones. My focus is to find the places where we agree; the mutual interests if you will, and focus on those. I don't think that either side is wrong for having the beliefs that they do. I will not criticize a Mormon or Christian for believing that homosexuality is sin any more than I would criticize someone in the LGBTQIA+ community for being true to their self and living life according to the dictates of their own conscience. I don't believe that either one needs to be convinced that they are wrong. We live in a country where we have a right to believe whatever we want.
I might express my own views on the subject, and I will obviously support them with as much information as I can, but I do so primarily for other people to see a different of view--not to be convinced that they are wrong. I try to be careful about what I say for that reason.
Q: How has your family been with regards to both your LGBTQIA+ status and your public ministry?
A: My family is very supportive. Even back when I identified as gay, my parents made it very clear that they still loved me, and made it clear that I was still a part of the family. However, they also made it clear on the positions they held on the subject of homosexuality, which were things I already knew. They didn't treat me any different, and I didn't expect them to change their views for me, either. We were still a family regardless. I have other relatives that belong to the LGBTQIA+ community, and the same situation applies to them. They and their partner are welcome at all the family gatherings; we love them and care about how they are doing, etc. It's one of the reasons that I began to see that there is a way for people to get along, regardless of personal opinions or lifestyles. My family is able to do it. We might not be perfect, but we try to inclusive of everyone, even if we don't agree.
My mom has told me for years that I should write a blog about my experiences with having SSA, so she supports that. The rest of my family primarily does too. I know they aren't fond of me pursuing writing as my primary occupation, but it's something I feel I am supposed to do... so I go forward.