Suicide Prevention & Awareness
Reconciling Two Genuine Loves: A Conversation with Devan Hite
Hite's Play Since Psychopathia Sexualis Will Be Staged in New York July 17-20
In interview with Hugo Salinas
Devan Hite is an Affirmation member and a graduate student at Yale. He is also the author of Since Psychopathia Sexualis, a gay Mormon-themed play which will be staged in New York City at the Hudson Guild Theater (441 West 26th Street in Manhattan) July 17-20. ("Psychopathia Sexualis" is a reference to the 1884 psychological textbook that first used the word "homosexuality"). The exact dates and times will be announced later on. For more information, visit Devan's blog at www.devantics.com and www.freshfruitfestival.com/calendar.htm.
What is Since Psyhcopathia Sexualis about?
The play is about a young man who undergoes a heavy crisis after realizing he was aroused when his two best (male) friends attempted to save his life during a serious tubing accident. As a result, Robert (our main character) plunges into a rather desperate and impulsive pursuit to understand his sexual identity in a post-modern, post-Psychopathia Sexualis consciousness, as he compares notions of what the "modern west" delineates as "gay" and "straight" with his past and present affections toward his best (and married) friend, Mike, and his best (female) friend, Michelle. I never mean to directly answer the question for the audience as to whether or not Robert is really gay. He certainly acts "gay" in many ways--but, he's torn. Furthermore, the confines of his religious background and the dedication to his Mormon faith make it all the more difficult for him to accept, for himself, the true nature of his sexual preferences.
In light of recent suicide-themed dramas such as Facing East and Missa Solemnis, why keeping writing about a heavy topic such as suicide in the gay Mormon community?
A fellow gay Mormon friend of mine out here in Connecticut was hospitalized for three weeks after trying to commit suicide over this issue. So, in my view, it seems that it is still very present for those of us in the LGBT community, who come from strong, religious backgrounds. However, I do not see this play as one that is directly about suicide, per se; although, demonstrating that component helps to keep the urgency of the questions we face alive.
What was the genesis of writing Since Psychopathia?
I wrote the play in response to an assignment for a playwriting class here at Yale. Several versions of it appeared in various venues--i.e., two readings on campus and one in Salt Lake City for the annual Sunstone symposium. Later, I incorporated the play as part of the blog "Why Gay Mormons Are So Often Tempted to Blow Their Stinkin' Heads Off," which I started shortly after Proposition 8 passed, and which is designed to raise awareness of the kinds of frustrations that I (and what seems to be many other gay Mormons) face in reconciling one's faith and sexuality.
I find the title of your blog both confusing and offensive. Why did you choose such title?
The very last thing I want to do is offend anyone with the title of my blog. I try to make it very clear that my point is to make others aware of the gravity of what we often face as gay Mormons (or of any strong faith background, really), trying to reconcile two genuine and honest loves. I think there is a sense to the title of the blog (and the blog itself) that attempts to be serious, frank, but also light and inviting (for those on all sides of experience). And I have received emails in all areas of the spectrum, but the ones I live for the most are those which express appreciation for it, and that the blog/play has been helpful. I have always said that if the work I'm doing is not helpful, then scrap it and move on to something that does.
Since Psychopathia explores a notion that is very meaningful for Mormons: The importance of covenants. How does the Mormon principle of covenants apply to the life of a gay or lesbian Mormon?
There is tremendous power for Mormons in covenant-making, especially between spouses. I think that many Mormon couples, who are rightly suited for each other, stay true to their covenants during tough times because they are aware of and take them seriously, which by extension strengthens the integrity of their relationships. The irony is, in all of this, those who usually call out the gay community for immoral practices are those who also fight to withhold the structure-building elements of society that would help to solve the problem in the first place. In short, whether we realize and like it or not, I believe that when couples feel that the integrity of their covenants is real and fortified, by God or the law (etc.), then what naturally follows is a sense of security and structure; Mormons can understand this, given the evidence--i.e., the general strength of our families, relationships, etc.
It seems to me that some of your heroes fall for (straight?) married men because they believe that's the only way to embrace family life (as opposed to just sex), as if only straights could have a full, balanced, life-long relationships. With so many same-sex couples now getting married or partnered and starting their own families, isn't the stereotype passť?
I don't believe that enough of us in the LGBT community (especially gay Mormons) genuinely feel that that we can be partnered and have our own families in a full, balanced, life-long relationship. Regardless, I am not sure that I imagine Robert attaching himself to Mike because it is the only way that he feels he can embrace family life. Mike certainly fills a void for Robert, which was created when Robert loses his father, but he also seeks to establish a family life with Michelle. I set the contrast between the "just sex" aspects of the gay community, and that of "family life" to demonstrate Robert's perception of his options, more than what he really faces. (Perhaps, in a sequel, Robert finds a partner that is a balance of the two "extremes.")
In an entry in your blog, you talk about how gay Mormons sometimes follow the prescribed method for discovering truth (such as praying) and find truths that are in opposition to the Church's teachings. How has that process played out in your life?
I feel very supported by the Lord, through much prayer, closely studying the scriptures, and then back to more prayer, and so on. The only difference is, I believe that we, in the Church, tell God what's true far too often (or at least, reject what could possibly be healthy and correct answers to our questions because they don't fit what we think is coming from the pulpits), when there are other possibilities--other answers available to us beyond the "five pillars," so to speak. I have come to sense that God is much more flexible than a lot of us realize.