The Advocate recently ran an op-ed written by a former Mormon Bishop, Kevin Kloosterman, in which he describes how the Bravo hit series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy changed his perception about LGBT people. Kloosterman once believed that his family was under attack from LGBT people, but was transformed by watching five gay men working to improve the lives and relationships of straight men on a television show.
I would watch the show and imagine what it would be like for them to be in a Mormon bishop’s home, which is probably considered the heart of enemy territory by some in the gay community since Proposition 8. There was something about the spirit of these men that seemed to break barriers of orientation, politics, and even religion. Perhaps like every other fan, I considered them to be more familiar than reality would dictate. Then something that Carson said in his cheeky manner struck me like a thunderbolt. He said, “We are very pro traditional marriage.” Those words echoed in my mind for months and months. It seemed to disrupt and challenge a deeply held belief that the traditional family was under attack by a so called “gay agenda.”
Last fall, Kloosterman contacted GLAAD to ask for assistance in speaking out in support of LGBT people. A series of attacks on gay men in Salt Lake City convinced him that he could no longer be a quiet supporter, and needed to become a public ally. GLAAD’s Religion, Faith & Values program helped him to plan out how he would do this sort-of “coming out.”
Kloosterman traveled to the Mormon Stories conference in Salt Lake City last November to offer the following apology:
For many, it may be hard to understand what a major step this was for Kloosterman. He was a bishop who was publically standing up against a culture that opposes LGBT equality. Kloosterman received some attacks, which he describes in his essay, including some threats on his life and his family. Those threats prompted him to lay low for several months.
However, once his term as bishop was over, Kloosterman was ready to speak out again. He contacted GLAAD’s Religion, Faith & Values program and shared how much Queer Eye shaped his attitude change. His dream was to have the Fab 5 hold a reunion show where they could work their magic on his home and family. We advised him to write up his thoughts in an open letter. He did, and the result was the Advocate op-ed.
And members of the Fab 5 have taken note. Kyan Douglas posted on his Facebook page, “Someone shared this with me tonight. (thanks Ophir) it's nice to know that something one was involved with made a difference. ;)”
Ted Allen, host of the Food Network’s CHOPPED, has also posted on Facebook and twitter, inviting direct communication between the two. They have exchanged messages with one another.
Wow! Cant imagine a bigger compliment! Kevin, write me here, please.... fb.me/1DKuWu2P4
— Ted Allen (@ChopTedAllen) July 14, 2012
Jai Rodriguez added a tweet of his own:
— Jai Rodriguez (@jairodriguez) July 17, 2012
Just a few weeks ago, Kloosterman marched in Chicago’s LGBT Pride Parade, joining hundreds of Mormons who marched in pride parades across the country. He wore his Mormon Sunday best--a white shirt and tie. It was significant for two reasons; the Chicago pride parade prominently featured faith communities, following the anti-LGBT statement of Cardinal Francis George concerning the parade. Additionally, this year, hundreds of Mormons marched in Pride parades across the country, including Mormon-heavy Salt Lake City, marking the most significant presence of Mormons at Pride celebrations to date.
While there is much progress to be made, it is heartening to see more faith leaders speaking out about their support for LGBT equality. Kloosterman’s story is also a testament to the power that LGBT presence in the media can bring to change perceptions. GLAAD thanks Kloosterman for sharing his testimony and calls on others to share how media has changed their view of LGBT people.