Latter gay saint

Steven Fales’ one-man show ‘Confessions of a Mormon Boy’ skewers his religious upbringing, but his real mission is to show gay youth that it really does get better

THANK YOU JESUS Fales says there’s something sexy about Mormon boys. We concur.

MORMON BOY
Eisemann Center, 2352
Performance Drive, Richardson. Dec. 9 at 7:30 p.m.  $25­–$150.
EisemannCenter.com
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Steven Fales knows something about growing up gay in the church. A sixth generation Mormon, he married and had two children before coming out. And along the way, got heavily into the sex trade and drugs.

But Fales also knows something about turning his life around — and turning his experiences into something original. He’s in town for a one-night-only performance of his hit one-man show, Confessions of a Mormon Boy, presented in conjunction with Youth First Texas.

Before his return to Dallas, Fales talked to us about how his play has become a trilogy and why, excommunication aside, he’s still on a spiritual quest.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

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Dallas Voice: Obviously, you grew up Mormon and that influenced your show. What was the path from your experience to the stage? Steven Fales: I’m one of those Brokeback Mormon train wrecks where the children were the blessing. But I wouldn’t even have children if it weren’t for the Mormon machine — and I wouldn’t have material for my show!

I have an MFA in acting [from Brigham Young University] and did a lot of Shakespeare and musicals and then my life fell apart. I just intuitively knew I needed to write about it. The first version was back in November of 2001, and it just grew and grew. Confessions had a nice run off Broadway so I spun off Missionary Position which is very well on its way to being complete and just did a benefit staged reading of Who’s Your Daddy? All of a sudden, you have a trilogy. All three 90-minute plays will be done in repertory in Fort Lauderdale next spring. My “Mormon Conquests.”

I read a recent study that said Salt Lake City is, as a percentage, one of the gayest cities in the nation. What do you think accounts for that? Here are some theories. A lot of Mormons went out there and were an isolated gene pool for a while so you might have a genetic factor there. Mormonism is the extreme expression of patriarchy [which may attract gay people]. The amount of gays in that system reminds the system just how unbalanced it is. My excommunication, that’s [an example of how] Mormons try to erase all evidence that they also created it.

Also, to live that good, perfect, Mormon life takes gay people. It takes gays to be charismatic preachers and sing in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. To go on your mission at 19, you had to be a virgin. Many straight guys had fooled around but the gays had suppressed it. My own adolescence was delayed. I can’t tell you how many Mormon missionaries I served with in Portugal came out later.

It makes sense that a play like this would succeed in cosmopolitan cities, but what about smaller towns? Have you been surprised at how well it does in unexpected places?  It finds its audience everywhere. I’ve been wildly successful in Salt Lake City and smaller places. I think it’s the Mormon thing, too.

Yeah, what is it about good Christian boys gone gay that we find so fascinating, especially Mormons? It’s a curious piece of Americana. It’s easy to make fun of them and they’re hot! You wanna corrupt them because of it. The juxtaposition of virginity and sexuality is too delicious.

Do you think it’s ex-churchgoing gays who come or ones who still feel connected to their religious roots? My queer spiritual community definitely finds me, but straight people burned by their religions or ostracized by the church of their birth also find the show. This is my effort to find where we fit in as gays and lesbians. There’s a lot of anger in the gay community toward religion and I want to reclaim our spirituality as gay men. It looks different than we were told, but it’s there for us.

I take on Mormonism and the sex industry — how I descended into escorting and crystal meth and how I reclaimed myself after that. It’s not just about religion — there’s a secular part too. It’s a gay everyman story.

For the performance this week, you’ve teamed up with Youth First Texas. What led you to do that? Chris-James Cognetta contacted me and I’ve never played Dallas so this is the perfect opportunity. I’m hoping the show will give these youth an example of not playing victim even when you have every right to be one. I’ve had two cousins who committed suicide, and there was a slow, steady suicide track that I was on when I was selling myself and using meth. I want to help our youth not go down that path. With the suicides we’ve been having, we need to give kids the tools to deal with this. Your parents might say this and your church may do that, but you don’t need to buy into that.

Do you consider yourself still a Mormon or a Christian? Are you religious or just spiritual?  They excommunicated me and I saw how false much of the doctrine was. I don’t believe in golden plates or that Joseph Smith was more spiritual than you or me. I like to say I’m no longer a Latter-day Saint but something about me will always be Mormon. My people settled Utah and I celebrate the culture, but I do not endorse the doctrines, such as support Proposition 8. I did convert to become an Episcopalian about three years ago — I felt I needed a new church to bash.

How’s that working out for you? Great! They’ll take anyone. You can believe anything and I love coffee hour; I love the music; I love trying to listen to things that will help me. I think on a spiritual path, you do need a few guides, even if it’s Deepak Chopra or reading a few books. I think science and religion are both a quest to uncover the mystery of what God is. We’re all searching for truth. I think it shows a way to essentially love other people. We’re all interconnected. We should act that way.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

BYU student tells truth about why Mormons backed Prop 8; student newspaper axes letter

ABC 4 in Salt Lake City reports that a senior at Brigham Young University recently wrote a letter to the editor of the student newspaper, The Daily Universe, saying Mormons should be honest about whey they supported Prop 8. Cary Crall told the TV station that his letter was initially rejected, then turned into a full-blown op-ed, then pulled from the newspaper’s website and labeled offensive:

Crall wrote that Mormons ought to be honest about the real reasons they put so much time, money and effort into passage of Prop 8. After reading the decision of the federal judge in the Prop 8 case, he concluded there is little rational basis for many of the arguments for Prop 8. So if such arguments were not the real reasons for their support, then what? “The real reason,” he wrote, “is that a man who most of us believe is a prophet of God told us to support the amendment.”

“If the real reason for supporting the amendment is a privately held religious opinion and belief in a prophet — that a prophet is telling us to do it — then we need to be honest about that and take the consequences,” Crall told ABC 4. “I think the Mormon community owes that kind of introspection to the rest of the world for our actions in Proposition 8.”

Read Crall’s full letter at PoynterOnline.

—  John Wright

Hawaii boycott?

Gov. Linda Lingle

After Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed a civil unions bill, the San Francisco Chronicle asked the question “Should civil union veto mean Hawaii boycott?”

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser has prepared the state’s largest industry for the reaction with its warning, “Civil unions backlash begins.”

Most of the blame for the veto has been heaped on Hawaii’s Mormon population. Though just 5 percent of the population, Oahu is home to a branch of Brigham Young University and the church as always been active in Hawaii politics.

The blame, however, should be placed directly on the state’s Jewish Republican governor. Though same-sex marriage is performed in most branches of Judaism, Lingle belongs to the small, right-wing Chabad movement.

The Honolulu newspaper said a boycott wouldn’t hurt people and businesses in the state that support civil unions. More of them should have lobbied the governor to sign. An airline that’s a member of an LGBT Chamber of Commerce could have warned that a boycott might mean fewer flights a week to her state. Large hotel chains that market to the LGBT community could have lobbied the governor to support the bill. Restaurants, stores and other businesses that have relied, in part, on business from the LGBT community might have made more of an effort to let the governor know that discrimination doesn’t create a good environment for travel.

Rabbi Peter Schaktman from the state’s largest synagogue made his opinions clear. Schaktman was a Houston rabbi before moving to Honolulu in 2005.

“People who oppose civil unions from a religious perspective are asking the state to enforce their version of morality on their behalf,” he told the governor.

His synagogue’s website continues to invite same-sex and opposite-sex couples to celebrate their weddings at Temple Emanu-El.

—  David Taffet