Salt Lake City - Preston "Pret" Dahlgren has led what might seem like a picture-perfect Mormon life: He met his future bride in Sunday religious classes as a teenager, completed his mission and married her. He is active in the church and the proud father of two young daughters. Dahlgren also is attracted to men.
His story is the subject of a new TV show called My Husband's Not Gay, which gay-rights advocacy groups are calling irresponsible and dangerous. They want the TLC cable network to pull the plug on the programme before it airs on Sunday.Check out this clip from the TV show:
Dahlgren and another Mormon man from Utah featured in the show say they're happy in their marriages, and they hope the programme gives stories like theirs a foothold in the conversation about sexuality.
Dahlgren, 32, said he's known he was attracted to men since he was about 12 years old, but he also always wanted the kind of family he grew up in: a father, mother and children.
The gay rights group GLAAD, however, says the show sends the wrong message and is a sad reminder of so-called gay conversion therapy, often faith-based efforts designed to change sexual orientation that can be emotionally scarring. New Jersey and California in 2013 banned therapists from practicing gay conversion therapy on children and teenagers. The American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association do not support the therapy.
"No one can change who they love, and, more importantly, no one should have to," GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. "By investing in this dangerous programming, TLC is putting countless young LGBT people in harm's way."
The organisation pointed to a change.org petition asking TLC to cancel the show that so far has gathered more than 80 000 signatures. Responding to GLAAD, the network says it will tell compelling stories about different ways of life, and the four men on the hourlong show speak only for themselves.
Jeff Bennion, 44, met his wife, Tanya, more than 13 years ago after he had dated men. He told her he was attracted to men after they'd been dating for about a year and a half.Twitter has been at a stand still with people weighing in with their opinions concerning the show.
No. Nobody protested the Mormon polygamy reality show. Because it's a REALITY SHOW. Not an endorsement of a lifestyle. #myhusbandisnotgay— Quince Mountain (@QuinceMountain) January 7, 2015
No. Nobody protested the Mormon polygamy reality show. Because it's a REALITY SHOW. Not an endorsement of a lifestyle. #myhusbandisnotgay
I feel sorry for the men in @TLC #MyHusbandisNotGay. They are clearly denying who they really are to conform to society. #notok #pulltheplug— Sasha Rochelle Peña (@QueenofMean87) January 6, 2015
I feel sorry for the men in @TLC #MyHusbandisNotGay. They are clearly denying who they really are to conform to society. #notok #pulltheplug
"I was devastated because I didn't know what that meant for me," said Tanya Bennion, 42. She worried that he'd cheat on her with a friend but said the couple's strong connection helped her work through her questions.
Megan Dahlgren says her marriage remains strong, including the physical aspects of their relationship. "We do have a happy, healthy sex life," she said.
Dahlgren and Bennion both said their upbringing in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a big part of why they wanted to remain in a husband-and-wife relationship.
"I would say it was part of my decision early on, especially, and a big influencer of that," Dahlgren said. "It certainly helped guide me toward where I'm at today, no doubt about it."
Church spokesperson Eric Hawkins said in a statement on Tuesday that marriage is deeply personal.
"While the church does not promote marriage as a treatment method for same-sex attraction, couples who are trying to be lovingly supportive of each other while being true to their religious convictions deserve our support and respect," Hawkins said.
Jeff Bennion said he would be horrified if a parent told a gay child that they should be more like one of the men on the show.My Husband's Not Gay is not the only show about people from Utah in unusual marriages. TLC also airs the shows Sister Wives and My Five Wives about polygamous unions.
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