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Gay Mormon characters step out of the shadows


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Gay missionaries make frequent appearances. In 2009, Steven Fales’ "Missionary Position" told the story of a "squeaky-clean Mormon boy on his mission, trying to hide his homosexuality." That same year, Devan Mark Hite told the story of another gay Mormon missionary with "Since ‘Psychopathia Sexualis.’ "

In 2011, "The Book of Mormon" musical stormed Broadway — and so did its gay missionary character. The show has been wildly successful, which Argetsinger credits to the show’s satirical approach.

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A newer show, Matthew Greene’s "Adam and Steve and the Empty Sea," tells the story of a missionary and his gay best friend. It premiered this January at Plan-B Theatre in Salt Lake City — a venue dedicated to highlighting the works of Utah playwrights.

Although some of its recent shows have dealt with homosexuality and Mormonism, Plan-B’s producing director Jerry Rapier said that’s not necessarily the focus. He thinks in terms of "a character who happens to be gay and Mormon, instead of a gay Mormon character."

In February, Plan-B brought the first transgender Mormon character to the stage in Matthew Ivan Bennett’s "ERIC(A)." The show is about a man grappling with a sex change operation after years spent living as an LDS housewife.

An insider perspective makes the shows work, said Rapier, who is gay. "They ring true," he said, "because they are written by active, faithful Mormons."

Many of the stories are based in reality — take Samuelsen’s "Duets." It’s part of three one-act plays slated to open next season, and it’s about a woman who tells her best friend that her husband is gay.

"It’s a fictional play, but I could plug in the names and faces of lots of kids I’ve known," said Samuelsen, who taught at LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University for 20 years and watched several college-age women marry men they knew were gay.

Self-publishing has also propelled the increase in works about gays and Mormonism. That’s what worked for Seattle writer Johnny Townsend, who collaborated with Argetsinger on the upcoming anthology.

He’s written at least 70 short stories and sold at least 1,200 books. Many of his characters are LDS or Jewish — he’s a former Mormon, now a nonpracticing Jew. Some of them are gay.


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Self-publishing allows for targeting a niche audience, but Townsend said that audience is "not nearly big enough."

Ironically, he said, sometimes the people most intimately connected with the stories aren’t interested. People who are gay and Mormon — or were Mormon — "are over it; they don’t want to read about Mormons anymore."

— Kellie Kotraba is the editor of Columbia Faith & Values.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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