Drew Call is 32, and he’s worked as a supervisor in the printing department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He’s been employed by
LDS for more than 10 years. But on March 4, he was effectively fired. How come? Because Call, who is gay and a divorced father of two, refused to give up his gay friends.
At a February private meeting with his Salt Lake City stake president—who declined to be interviewed—Call says he was asked to abandon his gay friends as a condition for renewal of his temple recommend. Surprised and fearing people may not believe him, Call surreptitiously made an audio recording of the follow-up meeting in March so there could be no doubt about what happened. “I want people to know that [the LDS Church] is targeting people unfairly,” Call says. “I do believe they wronged me.”
[...] On the recording, the stake president expresses concerns that Call recently had taken his daughters to “gay bingo,” a monthly charitable fundraiser hosted by the Utah Pride Center and the drag/comedy troupe Utah Cyber Sluts. “I think it’s inappropriate to take children, and I really think it’s inappropriate for you to go, myself, to this gay bingo,” the stake president says on the recording. Later, the stake president says of the gay community, “They are conducting themselves in a manner that is definitely in opposition to teaching and practices of the gospel. I’ve talked to you about this, about your association with [gay people]. Last time you left here, you were willing to give up your four, or so, individuals.” Call responded that he’d thought about it, but wasn’t willing to give up his gay friends after all.
Without a temple recommend, you cannot work for LDS. Which means Call lost his job. And while the idea that any employer, religious or otherwise, could demand you abandon a certain set of friends is ridiculous, it was perhaps more painful for Call to even contemplate.
He married at age 24 to a lady classmate. Something about being raised to believe men should have families and not feel same-sex attractions. “I thought getting married would fix it and this tendency to like men would go away, but it never did,” says Call.
He chatted online with gay men occasionally starting in 2008 as his marriage started to fall apart over financial issues and growing distrust. He was too afraid of sexually transmitted infections—and passing them on to his wife—to actually have sex with a man, he says. In April 2009, he filed for divorce. Unbeknownst to his stake president, he started secretly dating men. In October 2009, he started swimming with QUAC, the Queer Utah Aquatic Club, after meeting a coach at the gym. Still not completely honest even with himself about his homosexuality, he went to a party where he was “warned” the attendees would be mostly gay men. When he arrived, the host asked Call if he is gay or straight. Call said he was gay. “That was the first time I admitted it,” he says.
In April 2010, the already-strained relationship with his parents grew more painful when they were told—not by Call—that he was gay. They were not accepting of it. He felt shunned at church and was still unsure if rumors were spreading about his sexuality or if it was just that he was divorced. His job was in jeopardy because of his small, secret steps toward living openly as a gay man. His only strong allies with whom he could be totally honest during a painful divorce, crisis of faith and job insecurity were his gay friends, many of whom had had similar experiences. “I had no idea how many great people are in the gay community,” he says. “I have better friends than I’ve ever had in my life and I’m happier.”
Oh, LDS. See what your church policies continue to do? While you say that you welcome gay members, so long as they don’t have The Gay Sex, in actuality you alienate them — even the ones who have dedicated significant portions of their lives serving out your mission. When one of your own church elders ascribes gay people as god’s mistakes, and rails against their right to marry, even your church can no longer wonder why there is such animosity toward you from the gay community. You are not our friends. You are, literally, swearing to be our enemy.