Questions of the Heart: Gay Mormons and the Search for Identity

Ben Abbott isn’t gay, but c’mon, he’s an actor, so many of his friends are. The trouble is, Ben’s also a Mormon, which holds explicit views against homosexuality. In 2008, the Church led the fight for Proposition 8 in California, which banned gay marriage. Ben loves his friends. Ben loves the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. What’s a guy to do?

Ben chooses to listen. The one-man show unfolds as a series of tapped interviews between Ben and excommunicated Mormons, closeted Mormons, gay Mormons married to straight spouses, openly gay Mormons accepted by their wards. As he points out, you can’t look at a definitive “gay Mormon” experience, because everyone’s road is different. Some lost friends and partners to suicide. Others chose a heterosexual life and children, despite their natural inclinations, to be a full part of the Mormon community and to be a part of a “complete” family here and in eternity. Others believed that God led them to be a part of their church community and remain faithful to their same-sex partners.

It’s a heavy show. Sure, there are bits of levity, but it’s basically Ben’s existential crisis right on stage. Though he views homosexuality and religion through the lens of a devout LDS member, it could just as easily have played out in an evangelical, Catholic or Orthodox Jewish community. How can you reconcile a faith that’s supposedly based on love, community and support with one who casts out some of the people who need that understanding most?

Ben doesn’t give easy answers. There probably aren’t any to give. But he does know the right questions to ask, and how to break down the sometimes esoteric world of Mormonism into easily understandable, digestible bites. He embodies the spirits of the very different men and women he interviewed and shares their heartbreaking stories of being torn between the people they love and the church that fills a whole inside of them.

Questions of the Heart: Gay Mormons and the Search for Identity is thoughtful, moving, achingly sad yet hopeful that one day, there might be a place at the table for everyone. It’s a quiet sort of Fringe show, one that searches for meaning instead of doling it out into convenient life lessons. And for that alone and Ben’s obvious passion for his religion and his friends, it’s worth seeing.

Catch the show at the new BABECA Theatre. Showtimes and full descriptions can be found here.