Carson Kressley | Illinois | Mormon | Religion | Salt Lake City | Utah

How A Mormon Bishop Became An LGBT Ally (With An Assist From Carson Kressley): VIDEO


This link leads to a funny, poignant personal essay from Kevin Kloosterman, an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights who also happens to be an ex-Bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He came out as an ally to LGBTfolk two years ago, when he was still Bishopping. Life got weird, fast.

Kloosterman was not always an ally. He was turned into one by Queer Eye For The Straight Guy. Kloosterman describes his transformation like so:

I would watch the show and imagine what it would be like for them to be in a Mormon bishop’s home, which is probably considered the heart of enemy territory by some in the gay community since Proposition 8. There was something about the spirit of these men that seemed to break barriers of orientation, politics, and even religion. Perhaps like every other fan, I considered them to be more familiar than reality would dictate. Then something that Carson said in his cheeky manner struck me like a thunderbolt. He said, “We are very pro traditional marriage.” Those words echoed in my mind for months and months. It seemed to disrupt and challenge a deeply held belief that the traditional family was under attack by a so called “gay agenda.” 

That belief was dismantled at that moment and I realized that these good men had no desire to hurt me, my marriage, or my family. On the contrary, if they were in my home, I could only see them supporting me, my traditional marriage, and my family.  

(The contrapuntal statement to that one, it seems, would be that many conservative Mormons and other religious types really do believe that gayfolk want to hurt them, their marriages, and their families, which is a terribly sad thing to think about.)

Kloosterman is apparently not the sort of person who can recognize a grave moral wrong and do nothing about it. So he flew to Utah to share what he'd learned with his heterosexual co-religionists -- to tell them they'd misunderstood the gay community entirely. His message was not received with uniform friendliness:

When the story broke that a sitting bishop had flown from Illinois to Utah to call for straight members to do more to reach out to LGBT individuals in and out of the church, the two major newspapers in Utah saw the talk in radically different ways, which created controversy. The reaction continued to be mixed as the story moved to talk radio. Mormons of the more conservative variety called for me to be excommunicated. There was one extremist blog even wishing “apostates could be executed” juxtaposed with my name, my wife’s name, our home address and work address for all to see as well as calling for “blood atonement,” which is primitive Mormon talk for execution.

My coworkers advised me to file a police report and the blog was taken down soon thereafter. The trauma of that experience though has not been easy on my wife or our marriage.

... nor on Kloosterman's relationship with his church. His essay doesn't mention why he went from "Bishop" to "ex-Bishop," but it seems to have had something to do with his attitude towards the LGBT community. He now treats advocacy work as as a serious avocation, just as he once practiced ministry.

Please do take the time to read the article. It's a fascinating view of a transformation that most of us, for obvious reasons, need never undergo. (Also: Kloosterman's semi-obsessive paeans to each of Queer Eye's Fab Five somehow manage to be creepy and totally charming at the same time, which is a pretty rare feat.) 

And, if you like, have a look at Kloosterman's tear-soaked speech at "Circling The Wagons," last year's conference "in support" of LGBT LDS's. It's extremely religious -- one cause of Kloosterman's evident distress is surely that he's condemning his religion's conduct while trying to maintain his faith in its truth, which must require some painful mental contortions. I hope he feels better soon. Watch AFTER THE JUMP ...


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  1. It might just be time for him to abandon Mormonism. Calling for his death??

    Posted by: Robert | Jul 15, 2012 2:59:16 PM

  2. It's sad when thinking clergy begin to acknowledge that organized religion is all about social control. The inconsistencies in the pablum they have been pushing begin to tear them up. Mother Teresa went through the same thing, and is said not to have believed in God toward the end of her life.

    If you are 25 Conquistadors facing down 6 million Aztecs and Incas / descendents and you want their gold, you really can't take it by force. You have to control them, and a God who is alternately loving and vengeful is just the ticket. They become marionettes and poof- there is another ruby-encrusted letter opener in the Vatican, to sit along side the one from the people of Bangladesh.

    Posted by: Rob | Jul 15, 2012 3:04:06 PM

  3. I would not trust any ally who got their idea of what Gay people are from a TV show like "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy". And I don't need any pity from a Mormon, someone who deserves it far more than any Gay person does.

    Posted by: Stuffed Animal | Jul 15, 2012 3:21:51 PM

  4. I would not trust any ally who got their idea of what Gay people are from a TV show like "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy". And I don't need any pity from a Mormon, someone who deserves it far more than any Gay person does.

    Posted by: Stuffed Animal | Jul 15, 2012 3:21:51 PM

  5. Good God, "STUFFED ANIMAL", take your allies where you can get them.

    Posted by: vraxvalhalla | Jul 15, 2012 3:24:59 PM

  6. @Stuffed Animal: I think you really missed the intent. Regardless of how gay stereotypes are played up on "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," the real breakthrough happens when straights understand that we aren't a threat to their way of life, and when we recognize that such fear on their part is the single biggest reason why we are discriminated against.

    It's only when we are able to make progress on that front that we will achieve equality. While stereotypes are damaging, and we do have a legitimate complaint about this, to make that the subject of debate is to put the cart before the horse. We can't even begin to address the issue of stereotypes until we get them to stop fearing us. If a reality TV show helps someone to understand that a lifetime of indoctrination and fear is seriously misplaced, all the better. That will increase their willingness to get to know actual GLBTs, and then the stereotypes fall away. But they will never want to get to know us if they persist in the delusion that we are somehow threatening their way of life.

    Posted by: atomic | Jul 15, 2012 3:33:46 PM

  7. that was a lovely read, actually.

    and stuffed animal would cut off his nose to spite his face. oh well :D

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Jul 15, 2012 3:39:21 PM

  8. Great article--just one observation:

    An LDS bishop's tenure averages about five years until they are "released" and replaced by another man in the local congregation (unlike higher-ups in the church, bishops do not receive a salary or stipend and are expected to hold down a full-time job in addition to being the ecclesiastical leader of a 150-500 member congregation, so it's necessary to "spread the pain" a bit). While Mr. Kloosterman may have been released for his remarks, it's not something that can be inferred by the information in the article.

    Posted by: Nate W. | Jul 15, 2012 4:27:49 PM

  9. My mother was a huge fan of Queer Eye when it was on, and though she was accepting of both me and my gay brother she wasn't by no stretch of the imagination a PFLAG type parent who was agitating for gay rights. I had dismissed Queer Eye as stereotypical until she pretty much made me sit down and watch some episodes with her. In some ways it WAS stereotypical by implying that ALL gay men are into fashion, home decorating, etc. and in other ways it wasn't.

    For one thing really only one of the group, Carson Kressley, was overtly effeminate and he was also probably the most genuinely nice and funny. The biggest place they diverged most from the stereotype is they were critical without being bit*chy and the tone of the show was they really *did* want to help.

    Clearly Mr Kloosterman responded to that, as did others. Despite the fact she had two openly gay sons my mother was "in the closet" about it. Her friends, most of whom came from her church, didn't know. My brother and I had talked about it and how it was hurtful that we were like a dirty secret she was keeping, but what were we going to do about it? Nothing. Unexpectedly it was through talking to her church friends about Queer Eye, getting them to watch it and then talking about it, that our mother finally eased into "coming out" about her two gay sons. Queer Eye was the ice breaker that allowed her to do it.

    So yeah, it was somewhat stereotypical and I can see why some people didn't like it, but I have nothing bad to say about the show or its cast. It was the Sesame Street version of gay men but if it helped people think beyond the "gay agenda" stereotype of evil homos wanting to destroy straight people, or at least be catty about them behind their backs, then more power to them.

    Posted by: Caliban | Jul 15, 2012 4:41:55 PM

  10. the thing is, being "stereotypical" is in no way inherently harmful or negative.

    and remember - there are TONNES of "gay stereotypes"

    one of the biggest ones? the insecure resentful homosexual who can't stop talking about how he's not like those 'Stereotypical Gays'

    it's a massive gay stereotype, and a decidedly lame one.

    one of the things that so many folks tend to miss or ignore about Queer Eye was the positive benefits those men gave to the straight men (and by extension, women) who were on that show.

    if those straight dudes can enjoy them, why can't we?


    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Jul 15, 2012 4:50:05 PM

  11. @LittleKiwi - Stereotypes can be very negative when it perpetuates the false idea that all people within a group fit that stereotype. Stereotypeing is a terrible example of being judgmental, just like those who toss around terms like resentful and insecure when others reject being lumped into that stereotype.

    Posted by: Brad | Jul 15, 2012 5:55:33 PM

  12. Back to the real topic of the article -
    As I former Mormon, this man is taking a big risk. He will probably be excommunicated at some point. The LDS church does not tolerate dissent at all. Speaking out against the church's main message on homosexuality could get him kicked out. It will affect his family as well. His wife and children and even extended family will suffer subtle and overt shunning. As a bishop, he has probably held his very last leadership position in the church. He will never be even a Sunday school teacher now. I admire him for standing up for his own conscience.

    Posted by: Brad | Jul 15, 2012 6:01:49 PM

  13. uh, Brad, I'm gonna call b.s. on that.

    at no point did the show say "all gay men are like this"

    articulate intelligently what you mean by "reject being lumped into that stereotype". if you can. which is doubtful.

    newsflash - only insecure and resentful people get butthurt about "stereotypes"

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Jul 15, 2012 6:10:01 PM

  14. @littlekiwi

    Nope, not going to get in a tit-for-tat argument with you. It's off topic, doesn't add to the discussion and is unnecessary. We're all on the same side here.

    Posted by: Brad | Jul 15, 2012 6:54:34 PM

  15. No matter what, this guy was brave. Whatever got him to speak out, be it a silly reality show or meeting real gay folk, he spoke out against discrimination. I thank him and his family for their bravery.

    Posted by: RealBRAD | Jul 15, 2012 6:59:51 PM

  16. I miss that show. It was enjoyable and had a huge impact on society. I wish it was still on.

    Posted by: Brian | Jul 15, 2012 7:59:23 PM

  17. it's not an argument, i just don't think you know what you're talking about.

    the issue is not "the stereotype", but the baseless assumption that it's a negative.

    the "stereotype" is not the negative part. the negative part is how people are ABOUT it.

    *elegant curtsy*

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Jul 15, 2012 8:03:26 PM

  18. I am no so sure you can trust Christians/Mormons who say they are now allies until they prove themselves beyond the call of duty, like giving up a religion that oppresses LGBT people or giving beyond the call of duty where they really make a difference not just say they are on board but really show it in some way that helps all LGBT people. The Christians are still using psychological warfare to disrupt the lives of LGBT people and they know it. Don't be fooled by Greeks bearing gifts, aka The Trojan Horse story. Some of these antigay Christian are mentally disturbed to the point that they can and will do anything to destroy gays and they do it in a hidden way that most don't know it until it is too late. These antigay Christians are doing a lot of damage and have done a lot of damage and they need to make up for a lot of destruction or sin as they call it. The problem is the antigay Christians do not view what they are doing as sin even though they are destructive and this is why they are mentally disturbed, they don't think they are harming anybody by their evil actions towards gays.

    Posted by: Mike | Jul 15, 2012 8:07:52 PM

  19. @littlekiwi: Your commentary is usually on target here, but I don't agree here. Stereotypes aren't a case where one can conveniently draw a distinction between the stereotype and the reaction to the stereotype.

    No, not all stereotypes are negative. I'm Asian and I happen to be quite good at math, but I can tell you that it absolutely does irritate me when people assume that every Asian must be good at math. It's presumptuous and it incorrectly generalizes a particular trait to an entire ethnic group, even if that trait is considered positive. It's insulting to me, because it supposes that my race played a role in my being good at something, rather than my own hard work and passion for it. I'm good at math because I dedicated myself to it, not because I'm Asian.

    I'm also gay, and I've had to correct my friends when they ask me for fashion advice. I don't know anything about fashion although I respect for those who do. My irritation at the stereotype is not based in a fear of being perceived as effeminate. Like the ethnic stereotyping, it's based in the way people presume to know who you are on the basis of the color of your skin or your sexual orientation, rather than actually taking the time to get to know you for who you really are.

    And that's why stereotypes are harmful, not because they are intrinsically negative or that those who push back against them are necessarily doing so out of self-loathing. It's the resentment of being viewed as a member of a category, rather than as an individual.

    Posted by: atomic | Jul 15, 2012 8:54:03 PM

  20. Honestly, it seems like this guy is getting ready to come out of the closet himself.

    Posted by: Cique | Jul 15, 2012 11:40:00 PM

  21. Great post, Atomic, particularly "the way people presume to know who you are on the basis of... your sexual orientation" and "being viewed as a member of a category, rather than as an individual."

    Posted by: Caliban | Jul 16, 2012 12:02:27 PM

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