Navigating the Labyrinth Surrounding Homosexual Desire

Joshua Johanson
August 2012

Navigating the Labyrinth Surrounding Homosexual Desire

There is a labyrinth surrounding homosexuality that is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate. More and more it seems the two sides are talking past each other. I chose the title of Navigating the Labyrinth Surrounding Homosexual Desire because I think understanding the difference between having same-sex attractions and having homosexual desires is key to understanding how to navigate this labyrinth.

My time is short so I will focus on male homosexuality, so I apologize for that. Female homosexuality is an important topic and deserves to be covered by someone who knows more about it.

Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Joshua Johanson and I have same-sex attraction, which is often referred to as SSA. I was never attracted to girls, until Alyssa came into my life. I met her at a dance and we hit it off immediately. The more time I spent with her, the more we fell in love. Then, I started wanting to kiss her, like a lot. I wanted to do more. I had never had those feelings for a woman before, and she remains the only woman to whom I am sexually attracted. We got married in the Oakland temple and have enjoyed an incredibly happy and sexually fulfilling relationship ever since.

I am very lucky to have her. Not only is Alyssa incredibly beautiful, but smart too. She obtained her doctorate from Berkeley in chemical engineering. She has several publications and has won awards for her work. From all aspects, she had a bright future in the biotech industry. That is, until she got tangled up with another boy.

In January, our son Isaac entered our family, and Alyssa became conflicted between her desire to work and her desire to be a mom. People often spoke of being “just” a mom, as if being a mom wasn’t as good of a career as a chemical engineer. Too often these comments come from other women. Alyssa has been grateful that the feminist movement has enabled her to go to college and have a successful career. However, she also feels that they have debased the most feminine of roles, being a mom. It frustrates her that just because she is a woman, people assume she supports abortion.

I see many parallels between how my wife views the feminist movement and how I view the gay rights movement. I too am very grateful to the gay rights movement for fighting discrimination. I don’t have to worry about losing my job or getting kicked out of my house just because I have SSA or walk or talk a little effeminately. I am protected. At the same time, I feel the gay rights movement has debased my choice to be a husband and a father and has made it more difficult for me to have and raise my family the way I want to. Worse yet, there are many political issues they assign to me that I strongly disagree with. The gay rights movement no more represents me just because I am gay than the feminist movement represents my wife because she is female.

To really understand this, we need to answer the question “What does it mean to be gay?” And that, my dear Watson, is not quite so elementary. This is a scene from the series Sherlock.1 (Video clip)

Holmes deduced the boyfriend, Jim, was gay from the way he conducted himself. It didn’t even seem to matter how he identified or even the fact that he was dating a woman. For Sherlock, being gay was something intrinsic, a core attribute that affected everything a person does, from the way they carry themselves to their sexual choices and the types of relationships that they can find fulfilling. He goes so far as to say Jim can’t be a good boyfriend, because he is gay. Not only is this discriminatory, it is fundamentally flawed. We make our own sexual choices. They are not predetermined by birth, but this view seems very prevalent in society. As humans, we have a nasty tendency to put people in boxes. Once most people know a person has this attribute that they call “gay”, they assume this person will want a same-sex relationship. I hope to prove that a person with SSA can find fulfillment living the gospel, either through celibacy or marriage.

Edward Laumann conducted one of the most comprehensive studies on sexuality in the United States.2 This chart breaks adult males with SSA into two groups, those who have had gay sex and those who haven’t.3 His team was surprised to find most men with SSA have never acted on it.

How can this be, when the only time we hear about gay people is in reference to same-sex relationships? If we include identity in this pie chart, we find that most people who identify as gay also have had gay sex. Only a tiny fraction of those who identify as gay have never had gay sex. The silent majority do not identify as gay and have never had gay sex. Usually, when a person comes out as gay, they are simultaneously stating their desire to have a same-sex relationship. This may be one reason why our church leaders advise us against labeling ourselves as gay. Too often, laws and policies focus on this vocal minority, and ignore the silent majority.

The term “homosexuality” incorporates this whole chart. According to the dictionary, homosexuality could refer to sexual orientation or behaviors.4 I think most of the miscommunication around this issue comes from confusing these two definitions. Do people choose to be gay? It depends how you define gay. We may not choose our attractions, but do choose our behaviors.

For example, many people fault President Kimball for saying homosexuality can be changed. Understanding that homosexuality has multiple meanings, we can look at the context and determine he was referring to homosexual behavior.5 Take this quote for example about homosexuality:

“If one has such desires and tendencies, he overcomes them the same as if he had the urge toward petting or fornication or adultery. The Lord condemns and forbids this practice with a vigor equal to his condemnation of adultery and other such sex acts.” 6

He refers to homosexuality as both a practice and a sex act, not as an attraction. It becomes more obvious when we look at the pattern he suggests to overcome homosexuality. He suggests the same method as overcoming the urge towards fornication. Straight men do not overcome the urge towards fornication by becoming gay, so why would we think the only way to overcome the urge towards the practice of homosexuality is by becoming straight. Straight men overcome through the atonement of Christ, and that is the method Kimball suggests.

According to this quote, a celibate person still might need to repent if they desire towards the practice of homosexuality. There is a difference between having SSA and desiring gay sex. This difference lies at the heart of the labyrinth. Our desires are what we want to do with our life, and that is up to us. As members of the Church, we seek to align our will with God’s. That doesn’t mean we are free from temptation. Most people have sexual temptations. To me, sexual orientation is the direction temptations come from. I am not tempted by females. I am tempted by males. Therefore I have SSA. However, desire is different. My desire is to be faithful to my wife and son. Elder Maxwell taught “The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar.”7 My will is mine and mine alone to give, and I decide where I give it. It was not predetermined at birth. The scriptures are filled with stories of people who have turned their will over to God. I am the captain of my soul, and no study on genetics, Supreme Court ruling, or media sound bites can take that away from me. I am here to act, and not to be acted upon.

It is easy to confuse. Most people think gay people want gay sex. It sounds right, but it isn’t. One analogy I use is the difference between having a sweet tooth and wanting to live a healthy lifestyle. I have a confession. I really like apple pie, especially the way my wife makes it. I think it tastes better than even broccoli. At the same time, I have found if I just eat sweets, I don’t feel good. I have decided I want to eat healthy. Therefore, I eat foods other than sweets, even though I like the taste of sweet foods better. I have the attraction to sweets, but the desire to eat healthy. I choose my foods based off of my desires, not my attractions. I don’t need to think broccoli tastes better than apple pie in order to chose broccoli.

Why do people have the temptations that they do? People argue whether it is nature or nurture. I don’t see what difference it makes. The Church does not have a position on it8, science does not have a position9 and neither do I. The point is we don’t choose our attractions. It would be like trying to debate why I like apple pie. I don’t know, I just do, but I can still choose whether I want to eat it or not. Some people say their orientation has changed,10 and others say they tried and it didn’t work. Who am I to argue? In the end, it doesn’t matter. The focus should be on living the law of chastity.11 We can all cultivate a desire to live the law of chastity, even if our body naturally wants something else.

Overcoming the natural man is center to the gospel of Christ. We believe we are all sinners, and by ourselves are incapable of rising above the nature of our flesh. If we submit ourselves to God, He will save us from ourselves. Through the atonement, we can find the peace that only the gospel brings.

There are those who find it oppressive to talk about changing desires. They believe we should be able to be saved by remaining where we are at. The problem is many of us don’t want to remain where we are at. We feel like we are drowning and we want Christ to lift us up. It’s not like straight people can be saved where they are at. We all need to change. People have a hard time understanding why straight people would want to live the law of chastity, so it is no wonder that they have a hard time understanding why people with SSA would want to live it as well. They assume that whenever someone asks them to overcome that urge, they are being oppressive. They don’t understand that it is loving to teach the commandments.12 Consider the reaction to the October 2010 general conference when Elder Packer said:

“We must understand that any persuasion to enter into any relationship that is not in harmony with the principles of the gospel must be wrong… Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn temptations toward the impure and unnatural. Not so!”13

At first glance, persuasion to enter into a same-sex relationship and temptation towards the impure sounds like it includes SSA. But I have SSA, and I have not been persuaded to enter into a same-sex relationship. To introduce this point, Packer used the example of a man viewing pornography, which is also impure and unnatural. Was he persuaded to view pornography just because he had opposite-sex attractions? To overcome his temptation to view pornography, did he need to get rid of any attraction to the opposite sex? Of course not. It is the desire to view pornography that needs to change, and it is the desire to enter into same-sex relationships that we need to change, not same-sex attraction. In previous statements, Packer had made it clear that simply having same-sex attraction is not a sin.14 Why would he change now? This is what Kimball taught, and this is what the Church teaches now. There hasn’t been a major change in doctrine like some people suggest.

Christ may not remove the temptation, but He gives us power to control our thoughts and behaviors. However, many people think all you to need to be persuaded to enter into a same-sex relationship is to have SSA. They heard this talk and thought he was asking people to change their sexual orientation rather than just change their desires.

Many faithful Latter-day Saints have overcome their desire for same-sex relationships. In every ward of the Church, LDS Family Services estimates there are four or five members with SSA, and about half have a temple marriage and kids. 15 Many are converts. There is a reason we have chosen to be part of the Church. We have made the same covenants to turn our lives over to Christ as everyone else has. We are here because we have a testimony of the gospel of Christ.

Many people like to pit us against the Church. When talking about gays in the church, the media often interviews either gay people who have left the church or straight people with gay friends who have left the church. These people attempt to speak for us, but they do not understand us. Faithful members of the Church with SSA are rarely interviewed to speak on the issues we actually face.

This paints a very unrealistic picture. It makes it seem gay people would be happy if only the church expanded its doctrine to include same-sex relationships. It ignores those of us who love and depend on the Church’s teachings on same-sex relationships. There are plenty of places that tell me I would be better off giving into my lusts. I want a church that will help me overcome my lusts. I want a church led by modern revelation, not every wind of doctrine.

We don’t connect with the gay ideology. It leaves us feeling more isolated and misunderstood. When other people speak for us, members get the wrong impression. Some become defensive and immediately have a negative reaction when anything about homosexuality comes up, and many have been unChristlike. Others are misled to think the only way to help is to oppose the law of chastity, which in turn hurts their testimony. Most are so confused they end up doing nothing and no one offers the help we need. We need help. We need people who understand our issues and are willing to bring us in, mourn with us and provide us with the support we need to overcome the natural man.

Part of the reason we are misunderstood is because for the most part we are hidden. For a long time, we have been able to go quietly living the law of chastity. However, the culture surrounding this issue has become very toxic, and misconceptions abound, and have become accepted as truth, which has prompted many of us to speak out.

Far from suicidal, closeted and depressed, the new image of faithful Latter-day Saints with SSA is happy and confident. For example, LDS Living just featured Ty Mansfield, a man with SSA, and his family. Another man with SSA, Josh Weed, and his family have made the news for their blog post. Deseret Book carries several books containing faith-promoting stories of people with SSA, such as the most recent one, Voices of Hope. If you want to find out what faithful Mormons with SSA feel, get it from the source.

As with all people who want to live the law of chastity, members with SSA can either be celibate or faithful in marriage. Neither is an easy road, and for some, marriage is simply not an option, but just like some people with a sweet tooth are willing to sacrifice eating too many sweets in order to have a healthy lifestyle, so too are many of us willing to sacrifice same-sex relationships so we can have the peace that only the gospel brings.

Marriage seems like an odd choice for someone with SSA. It is important to be sexually attracted to your spouse.16 I don’t know how to explain it, but many men with SSA are sexually attracted to their wives. I sure am. My personal opinion is that there are two different types of attractions, one based on initial impressions, and another develops after getting to know a person better. I have only ever been initially attracted to men. I was not initially sexually attracted to my wife, but as I got to know her as a person, those attractions developed. It is helpful to have the initial attractions, but not necessary. There are many straight people who did not initially find their spouse to be sexually attractive. But that is only my theory. Whatever the actual reasons are, it seems many people with SSA fall in love and get married to someone of the opposite sex. You also have to remember that SSA includes anyone with same-sex attraction, including bisexuals.

Using data from the study referenced earlier by Laumann, there are an estimated 2 million men with SSA who are married to women in the United States17. Unfortunately, the data also showed that 29% of these men had gay sex the previous year.18 This is a big problem, and needs to be addressed, but it is still shows the majority are faithful. However, with some very public scandals and movies like Brokeback Mountain, this minority of marriages is what gets the attention. Being faithful to your wife rarely makes national headlines.

Critics argue gay men need gay sex and cannot be faithful to a woman, but can only be faithful to another man. Let’s look at those statistics. While many gay men have gay sex, very few actually settle down and commit to a partner. The US census found that there are around 600,000 men in committed same-sex relationships.19 What about fidelity? The Gay Couples Survey conducted by San Francisco State University found that at least one partner in 55% of committed male same-sex couples said they had an open relationship.20 This shows there are same-sex couples who are committed and faithful. However, there are a lot more men with SSA who are faithful and committed to a woman. I think we as men need women to be complete, and that women bring a balance to the relationship that simply cannot be found with another man.

So what is the divorce rate for people with SSA? It is difficult to get exact numbers. Laumann’s study did not show a significant difference between married men with SSA and divorced men with SSA.21 On the other hand, “The Other Side of the Closet” by Buxton said that 85% of marriages with an SSA husband dissolve a few years after the husband comes out, which equates to approximately 1.7 times the national average.22 This study did not include marriage like mine where I came out before my marriage. Finding out that your husband is gay after you are already married is traumatic, and is hard on a marriage. In fact, 66% of the couples decided to divorce without even trying to make things work when the husband came out. Of the couples who recommitted after the husband came out, the divorce rate was around the nation average of 50%, which is much closer to Laumann’s numbers.23 The key is to be part of the second category, and not the first. This shows if we follow Elder Oak’s counsel to disclose our same-sex attraction before marriage, we can avoid much of the problem of divorce. 24 A separate study by Kays confirmed that open and honest communication lead to higher rates of stability and satisfaction in these marriage, and that some of the couples “report having a highly satisfying and stable relationship, similar to that of heterosexual marriages.” 25

How do men in same-sex couples fare? A study on same-sex marriages in Sweden found that male same-sex couples divorced at one and a half times Sweden’s national average,26 so it seems getting married to a man doesn’t help very much if you want to avoid divorce.27

Critics argue that the only reason men with SSA get married to women is out of pressure or to be seen as straight. A study done by the Sexual Identity Institute showed most men with SSA got married because they loved their spouse and they wanted a family. Most said they were not doing it out of pressure or as a way to hide their attractions. 28 There is still a minority that gets married for the wrong reason, and these are the people that often end up in messy divorces. We need to do more work to make sure that doesn’t happen. We need to stop pressuring gay men to get married.

In 1992, the Church sent a letter to leaders warning that “Encouraging members to cultivate heterosexual feelings as a way to resolve homosexual problems generally leads them to frustration and discouragement. However, some people have reported that once they are freed from homosexual problems, heterosexual feelings have gradually emerged.”29

Marriage is possible for some people with SSA, but not everyone. Before I met Alyssa, I was faced with the very real possibility of a lifetime of celibacy. It was not a fun place to be, but I was willing to do it to find the peace that only the gospel could bring. When we turn our lives over to Christ, He sets the terms, not us. We need to be willing to accept celibacy if that is what He has in store for us.

Critics often like to paint celibate gay people as unhealthy and suicidal. Suicide rates of gay people are higher than other segments of the population,30 but what effect does celibacy have on these rates? Wichstrom did a study on the risk factors contributing to suicide attempt rates among Norwegian youth with SSA. There were factors that affected everyone with SSA, such as social support and peer relationships. However, when he looked at just attraction and behavior, he found that only homosexual behavior was predictive of a higher suicide rate. Having gay sex at an earlier age and having more same-sex partners also contributed to suicide.31 Everyone needs support, including teenagers who want to be celibate, but it seems not having gay sex is one of the best ways to prevent suicide.

The other accusation is that it is unhealthy to suppress same-sex attractions. Dr. Glassgold, who oversaw a task force investigating the effects of rejecting the gay identity, said there was “no clear evidence of harm” and “some people seem to be content with that path”.32 Granted, this isn’t a glowing recommendation, but no clear evidence of harm when they looked for it says something. I disagree with many of the APA’s positions, but when we really look at their stance, it isn’t as far off from the church’s position as most people believe.

On the other hand, the Center for Disease Control reveals a slew of medical problems that disproportionately affect men who have sex with men.33 They cited a study of 21 major US cities that concluded that 19% of men who had sex with men were infected with HIV,34 and the problem is getting worse. Between 2006 and 2009, the HIV infection rate increased 34% among men who have sex with men ages 13-29.35 Every year, 7,000 men who have sex with men die from AIDS36. They are also at increased risk for other STDs such as syphilis, Hepatitis A and B, and anal cancer. 37

Part of the problem is that most programs focus on “safe sex” since they assume celibacy is unrealistic. No government program focuses on helping people leave the gay lifestyle. Males who are struggling do not understand if they chose “safe” gay sex they are still at an increased risk. Condoms are never 100% effective, but anal sex is even more dangerous because condoms were designed for vaginal sex and they have a much higher risk of tearing. Even if condoms are effective, there are STDs like syphilis which can spread through contact with areas not covered by a condom, which can in turn transmit HIV. STDs also spread more quickly when people switch roles. I think it is more loving and “pro-gay” to talk about these issues so people, especially teenagers, can make more informed decisions, but many view it as homophobic to suggest that gay people can be celibate.

There are groups that offer support for people with SSA. There is Evergreen and North Star specifically for Mormons, but there are many other groups such as Exodus, People Can Change and so on that people can turn to. Critics assume these groups are “anti-gay” because they teach against gay sex. They worry we are being pressured into it, so they try to “protect” us from choosing these groups for ourselves. One of these groups, People Can Change, interviewed their participants to see why they were seeking help. The results showed that the most commonly cited reasons were spiritual reasons, the desire to have or maintain the family they already had, and personal values. Pressure and shame, while present, were among the least cited answers.38 They were not as prevalent as people make it seem to be. Many participants said they had felt pressure to seek therapy, but that was not their reason for coming. At the same time, the majority also stated they had felt pressure to have gay sex. 39 So you see, there is pressure from both sides. I think it is odd that people think I would choose this path because I couldn’t deal with pressure.

Due to intense controversy, the American Psychological Association commissioned a task force to study the effects of efforts to change sexual orientation.40 They could not find enough evidence whether or not these efforts could change sexual orientation,41 but they did find that these efforts could help change values, behaviors and identity.42 In other words, SSA may never go away, but we can still live the law of chastity. They referred to groups like Exodus as a refuge43 and said Exodus helps us deal with marginalization and isolation caused by rejection from both gay groups and conservative churches.44

While there were people who reported being cured, there were also people who reported being harmed. Many of them felt that the counselor was trying to pressure them into changing. While the APA could not find causal evidence that therapy causes harm, 45 they recommended against therapy aimed directly at changing sexual orientation because it could potentially be harmful.46 This is similar to what the church told leaders that trying to cultivate heterosexual feelings leads to frustration and discouragement. At the same time, many people also reported that gay affirmative therapy was harmful.47 They felt the counselors were trying to force them to accept the gay identity. To respond to these concerns, the task force recommended that counselors should not try to impose any specific outcome on a client, but that they should help a client come to their own, informed decision based on their values.48 Depending on the client, they could work towards a gay or a straight identity.49 It would be just as wrong for the counselor to tell a client to accept a gay identity as for them to tell them to reject it. Psychologists usually don’t try to project their personal beliefs onto a client.50

This is not the message that gets out. Most people believe that the APA would oppose counselors helping their clients develop a straight identity if that is what they want, not recommend it. This goes back to not understanding the difference between attractions and desires. People repeat what they think they hear, but fail to grasp the nuances. So this is what happens. The APA reports that same-sex attractions are resistant to change. The media reports gays can’t become straight. People hear the media reports, and think gay people can’t choose their behavior. They then base their policies and laws on this misunderstanding.

For example, Supreme Court cases supporting same-sex marriage will often argue no one chooses to be gay. That sounds reasonable, but they expand gay to mean that they will choose someone of the same sex as a lifetime partner. 51 They even argue that since it is innate, nothing will affect whether they want a same-sex partner or not.52 While they focused on extending rights to same-sex couples, they also made derogatory remarks against opposite-sex marriages. They argued these marriages are not only unfulfilling for someone with SSA,53 but also unrealistic.54 They argue only in same-sex relationships can gay people find their “true identity”.55 As far as I can tell, they only consulted same-sex couples to make this conclusion and did not include people with SSA in opposite-sex marriages. It seems odd to make such sweeping conclusions from very limited antecdotal evidence. While same-sex couples welcomed the conclusion that everyone with SSA will want a same-sex relationship, it has negative consequences for those of us who don’t. It perpetuates negative stereotypes that serve to marginalize us and increase isolation. Constantly hearing that our marriages are unrealistic and goes against our true identity may cause some people to second-guess the feasibility of their marriage, which may lead to higher divorce rates. Worse yet, it sets a dangerous legal precedent that justifies groups that wish to separate us from our support groups. It limits our agency. After all, why would we need support to go against our “true identity”.

For example, it used to be that a student with SSA at Hastings College could find social support by joining a club. A gay club would support them if they desired gay sex, or the Christian Legal Society would support them if they wanted to live the law of chastity. However, since the college thought the law of chastity discriminated against gay people, they banned the Christian club. When the club argued they were not rejecting people with SSA, the Supreme Court stated they “declined to distinguish between status and conduct”.56 Now, students with SSA can only be supported in having gay sex.

It used to be support was easy to access with your iPad. iPad users with SSA could find groups supportive of gay sex, or with an app from Exodus, they could find a community that supported them in their resolve to avoid gay sex. However, gay rights groups argued it was dangerous to gay youth and petitioned Apple to remove the app. Remember, the APA could find no evidence that Exodus caused any harm. Exodus helps teens be celibate. I find it incredibly ironic that now gay rights groups are worried about us recruiting their youth to be celibate. Does Apple think celibacy is dangerous for teens? The APA found support groups like Exodus reduced minority stress, which helps prevent suicide, so why would Apple want to separate teens from their support? Nevertheless, Apple pulled the app from its store. We can no longer find support on our iPad.

Currently, if a teenager in California wants to stop having gay sex, he could work with a counselor to either just accept himself as gay, or to change his behavior. However, a new bill, SB 1172, would make it illegal for a counselor to help a gay teenager change his behavior. The bill quotes the APA’s recommendation against changing attractions, but then subtly changes the definition to “include efforts to change behaviors”.57 Since the APA recommends the counselor helps the client reach his own goals, including changing behaviors, it would make it illegal for counselors to follow the APA’s recommendation. Since most people don’t recognize the difference between changing attractions and behaviors, they miss the subtle change.

Something is seriously backwards in this country when we try to protect children from celibacy. The gay rights movement used to argue that consenting adults should be free to have whatever sexual relationships they want. That is no longer the case. My wife and I are consenting adults, but they do not respect our choices. They didn’t respect my choice when I was celibate either. This is a different message than “anything goes”. Now, they think our lifestyle is dangerous. It is getting harder and harder for people with SSA to find the support we need to live the law of chastity. What we want is no longer discussed. Those who support us are often painted as anti-gay. Even the law is making it more difficult for us to get support.

I don’t think this is intentional. I think they worry that heterosexual marriage and celibacy is oppressive against gay people. They think we are born to love people of the same sex, and trying to love someone else will bring us pain. They think the only reason we aren’t giving into our true identity is because we are being pressured into it against our will. They have a hard time fathoming that some people want to overcome the natural man. Whatever their reasons, they need to learn to accept our decisions. It doesn’t matter whether they agree or even understand our decisions. They still don’t have a right to push their morals on us. I want to make my own choices. They have done many things to make life better for us, but right now they are making it harder. We have been ignored too long. We need someone to fight for our rights now.

I have been encouraged by how compassionately our leaders have spoken on AIDS prevention, 58 and against gay bashing59, bullying of gay people60, and discrimination in housing and employment61, but disappointed in the lack of enthusiasm from the general church membership. They tend to be very reluctant to be involved in anything related to homosexuality besides opposing it. They tend to miss subtle changes in terminology. They don’t participate in any programs designed to help gay people, so they leave gay right activists completely in control. Gay rights activists tend to ignore us and focus on people who want gay sex.

For example, the Family Acceptance Project recently produced a pamphlet called Supportive Families, Healthy Children specifically geared towards LDS families with gay children.62 There is a lot of really good information about the importance of love and acceptance in this pamphlet. However, it only talks about children who “have or desire relationships with people of the same gender.”63 The study this pamphlet was based from excluded children with SSA who didn’t identify as gay and who didn’t want gay sex. The pamphlet tells parents they need to support a gay identity for their children.64 There is no mention that some children with SSA want to be celibate and do not want a gay identity, nor that identifying as gay at an earlier age increases the risk of suicide.65 Further, there is no mention that gay sex can increase the risk of both suicide and STDs.

As much as gay rights activists talk about equality, love, affirmation, tolerance, and support, they sure are not showing it. I think many members shy away from anything that characterizes itself as supportive and affirming towards gay people because those words are so often misused. However, those are still good words. It is still a commandment to be loving and supportive of our gay brothers and sisters, but we don’t have to do it the way they are telling us to do it. We know the plan of happiness. We know that to truly love people, we lift them up. We teach true and correct principles. We let them know about the dangers of disobeying God. We continue to love and support them even if they choose a different path. And we certainly do not turn our backs on those who want to be lifted just because other people might be offended that we want help. In my view, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the most “pro-gay” and welcoming and affirming organization there is, because it teaches us what we need to do to return and live with God again. You just can’t beat that.

Wouldn’t it be great if programs aimed at preventing AIDS, suicide and bullying would take into account everyone with SSA, and not assume we all want gay sex? Wouldn’t it be great if there were government programs supporting celibacy for gay people alongside those that encouraged safe sex? Wouldn’t it be great if teenagers were informed of the increased risk of gay sex, so they could take it into account when forming their own decisions? It could happen, but not if we remain silent. We need a voice that will point out that many of these so-called “pro-gay” policies and laws are actually harmful towards many people with SSA. We need people who know not all gay people want gay sex.

I am very thankful to be a member of the Church. I don’t even want to imagine where I would be without it. I love feeling the peace the gospel brings. I know Christ lives and I am eternally indebted to him for suffering for my sins so I could be clean. It feels so good to be clean. I don’t know how anyone could say something that feels this good could be wrong. My greatest joy in life is my wife and son. I have an eternal family because of the gospel. This is God’s church. We are on the winning side.

Notes

1 From the BBC TV series Sherlock, Season 1, Episode 3, The Great Game, 2010, written by Mark Gatiss,

2Laumann, Edward O. , The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States, University of Chicago Press, 2000, http://books.google.com/books/about/The_social_organization_of_sexuality.html?id=72AHO0rE2HoC

3 Ibid, pg 299. The statistics in the book focused on all people who had either homosexual behavior, attractions, or identity. Since, I was only focused on men with same-sex attraction, I recalculated the numbers to exclude those who exhibited homosexual behavior, but are not currently attracted to the same sex.

4 1) Sexual orientation to persons of the same sex. 2) Sexual activity with another of the same sex.
homosexuality. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Stedman’s Medical Dictionary. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/homosexuality

5 Dallin H. Oaks, Principles to Govern Possible Public Statement on Legislation Affecting Rights of Homosexuals, Aug 1984, pg 5 “Thus, the First Presidency’s letters condemning homosexuality are, by their expl icit terms, directed at the practices of homosexuality.”

6 Spencer W. Kimball, “Special Message to All Latter-day Saints, President Kimball Speaks Out on Morality,” The Ensign, 10 (11), November, 1980, 94-98

7 Neal A. Maxwell, “‘Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father’,” Ensign, Nov 1995, 22

8 Dallin H. Oaks and Lance B. Wickman, “Same Gender Attraction,” interview with Church Public Affairs (2006) “The Church does not have a position on the causes of any of these susceptibilities or inclinations, including those related to same-gender attraction. Those are scientific questions — whether nature or nurture — those are things the Church doesn’t have a position on.

9 American Psychological Association, website http://www.apa.org/topics/sexuality/orientation.aspx , page 4 “Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles”

10 American Psychiatric Association (May 2000). “Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Issues”. Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists”Some people believe that sexual orientation is innate and fixed; however, sexual orientation develops across a person’s lifetime.”

11 Dallin H. Oaks and Lance B. Wickman, “Same Gender Attraction,” interview with Church Public Affairs (2006) “Well, it may be appropriate for that person to seek therapy. Certainly the Church doesn’t counsel against that kind of therapy. But from the standpoint of a parent counseling a person, or a Church leader counseling a person, or a person looking at his or her same-gender attraction from the standpoint of ‘What can I do about it here that’s in keeping with gospel teachings?’ the clinical side of it is not what matters most. What matters most is recognition that ‘I have my own will. I have my own agency. I have the power within myself to control what I do.'”

12 Boyd K Packer, “Ye Are the Temple of God” General Conference, Oct 2001 “We understand why some feel we reject them. That is not true. We do not reject you, only immoral behavior. We cannot reject you, for you are the sons and daughters of God. We will not reject you, because we love you (see Heb. 12:6–9; Rom. 3:19; Hel. 15:3; D&C 95:1). You may even feel that we do not love you. That also is not true. Parents know, and one day you will know, that there are times when parents and we who lead the Church must extend tough love when failing to teach and to warn and to discipline is to destroy.”

13 Boyd K Packer, “Cleansing the Inner Vessel” General Conference, Oct 2010

14 Boyd K. Packer, “Ye Are The Temple of God,” General Conference (November 2000). “That may be a struggle from which you will not be free in this life. If you do not act on temptations, you need feel no guilt. They may be extremely difficult to resist. But that is better than to yield and bring disappointment and unhappiness to you and those who love you.”

15 Retrieved from Evergreen web site, 2012, “LDS Family Services estimates that there are four or five members in every ward of the Church dealing with erotic same-sex attraction problems. Usually, half of those individuals are married (most are temple marriages) and have children.” http://evergreeninternational.org/Individuals.htm

16 Dallin H. Oaks and Lance B. Wickman, “Same Gender Attraction,” interview with Church Public Affairs (2006) “On the other hand, persons who have cleansed themselves of any transgression and who have shown their ability to deal with these feelings or inclinations and put them in the background, and feel a great attraction for a daughter of God and therefore desire to enter marriage and have children and enjoy the blessings of eternity — that’s a situation when marriage would be appropriate.”

17 Laumann, Edward O. , The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States, University of Chicago Press, 2000, pg 305. This chart shows that 3.5% of married men report same-sex attraction. This equates to about 2 million marriages. This is also the figure used by Buxton in “The Other Side of the Closet” and quoted by the Straight Spouse Network. It has also been reported by many newspapers, such as Andrea McCarren, An Estimated Two Million Are Married To A Gay Spouse, Washington DC, WUSA, 2011. Also see Barabara Hernandez, Spouses in Mixed-orientation marriage, Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 2011

18 Ibid, pg 303. 1% of married men reported having gay sex in the previous year. This is 29% of the 3.5% that reported SSA

19 US Census Bereau, Characteristics of Same-Sex Couple Households 2010, reports 287,687 male same-sex couples, which equates to 575,374 males

20 May Meredith, Many Gay Couples Negotiate Open Relationships, July 16, 2010, San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com/lgbt/article/Many-gay-couples-negotiate-open-relationships-3241624.php

21 Laumann, Edward O. , The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States, University of Chicago Press, 2000, pg 305, 3.5% of married men report SSA and 3.0% of divorced men report SSA. If having SSA increased the likelihood that you would get a divorce, you would expect to see a higher percentage of divorced men with SSA.

22 Amity Pierce Buxton, “The Other Side of the Closet”, 1994, John Wiley & Sons Inc, New York http://www.amazon.com/The-Other-Side-Closet-Coming-Out/dp/0471021520

23 Ibid, “The significant finding is that about half of those who tried to make their marriages work succeeded, an important figure for couples who are dismayed by the fifteen percent figure to keep in mind. This low figure is based on all marriages where the husband came out.”

24 Dallin H. Oaks and Lance B. Wickman, “Same Gender Attraction,” interview with Church Public Affairs (2006) “On the other hand, persons who have cleansed themselves of any transgression and who have shown their ability to deal with these feelings or inclinations and put them in the background, and feel a great attraction for a daughter of God and therefore desire to enter marriage and have children and enjoy the blessings of eternity — that’s a situation when marriage would be appropriate.”

25 Kays and Yarhouse, “Resilient Factors in Mixed Orientation Couples: Current State of the Research” The American Journal of Family Therapy, Volume 38, Issue 4, 2010, DOI:10.1080/01926187.2010.493464, pages 334-343, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01926187.2010.493464

26 Andersson, Gunnar, Turid Noack, Ane Seierstad, and Harald Weedon-Fekjaer, “The Demographics of Same Sex Marriages in Norway and Sweden,” Demography Vol 43, No. 1 (February 2006) 79-98. https://same-sex.web.ined.fr/WWW/04Doc124Gunnar.pdf

27 I could not find good data for divorce rates in the United States. Part of this is because marriage laws differ from one state to another. Couples may come in from another state, but be unable to get a divorce in the state they reside. Sweden has consistent marriage laws throughout the country. Their divorce rate is similar to the United States and they have had same-sex unions since and same-sex marriage since 2009. I could

28 Yarhouse, Mark, Characteristics of Mixed Orientation Couples: An Empirical Study, Regent University, Edification: The Transdisciplinary Journal of Christian Psychology, page 47 http://www.sexualidentityinstitute.org/academic-papers

29 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Understanding and Helping Those Who Have Homosexual Problems: Suggestions for Ecclesiastical Leaders. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1992

30 Stephen T. Russell, Adolescent Sexual Orientation and Suicide Risk: Evidence From a National Study, Am J Public Health. 2001 August; 91(8): 1276–1281. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1446760/

31 Wichstrøm, Lars; Hegna, Kristinn, Sexual orientation and suicide attempt: A longitudinal study of the general Norwegian adolescent population. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Vol 112(1), Feb 2003, 144-151. http://psycnet.apa.org/?&fa=main.doiLanding&doi=10.1037/0021-843X.112.1.144

32Stephanie Simon, A New Therapy on Faith and Sexual Identity: Psychological Association Revises Treatment Guidelines to Allow Counselors to Help Clients Reject Their Same-Sex Attractions , Wall Street Journal, Aug 2009, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124950491516608883.html

33Center for Disease Control, Gay and Bisexual Men’s Health, http://www.cdc.gov/msmhealth/

34Center for Disease Control, HIV and AIDS among Gay and Bisexual Men, http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/docs/FastFacts-MSM-FINAL508COMP.pdf

35 Center for Disease Control, HIV incidence, http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/surveillance/incidence.htm

36 Kevin Fenton, Addressing the HIV Epidemic among Gay and Bisexual Men, Office of National AIDS Policy, White House, Barack Obama, September 2011, http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/09/27/addressing-hiv-epidemic-among-gay-and-bisexual-men

37Center for Disease Control, Gay and Bisexual Men’s Health, http://www.cdc.gov/msmhealth/. These sites report that men who have sex with men represent 2% of the population, but they account for 63% of syphilis cases, 61% of HIV cases, 20% of Hepatitis B and 10% of Hepatitis A cases. They are 17 times more likely to get anal cancer. Because I wanted to put these all on one chart, I had to convert them into the same measurement. According to my calculations, if MSM represent 2% of the population, then they are 83% times more likely to get syphilis, 76 times more likely to get HIV, 12 times more likely to get Hepatitis B and 5 times more likely to get Hepatitis A.

38 People Can Change, “Why Change? Survey of Men With Unwanted Same-Sex Attractions (SSA) on The Factors Motivating Their Desire”, July 2009, self-published, pg 15 http://peoplecanchange.com/change/whychangesurvey.pdf

39 Ibid, pg 25

40 American Psychological Association, Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on: Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, 2009, http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/therapeutic-response.pdf

41 Ibid, “There are no studies of adequate scientific rigor to conclude whether or not recent SOCE do or do not work to change a person’s sexual orientation.” pg 120

42 Ibid, “The available evidence, from both early and recent studies, suggests that although sexual orientation is unlikely to change, some individuals modified their sexual orientation identity (i.e., individual or group membership and affiliation, self-labeling) and other aspects of sexuality (i.e., values and behavior).” pg 3

43 Ibid, “Erzen, Ponticelli, and Wolkomir described these religiously-oriented ex-gay groups as a refuge for those who were excluded both from conservative churches and from their families, because of their samesex sexual attractions, and from gay organizations and social networks, because of their conservative religious beliefs” pg 49

44 Ibid, “These groups counteracted and buffered minority stress, marginalization, and isolation.” Pg 59

45 Ibid, “Although the recent studies do not provide valid causal evidence of the efficacy of SOCE or of its harm, some recent studies document that there are people who perceive that they have been harmed through SOCE, just as other recent studies document that there are people who perceive that they have benefited from it” pg 42

46 Ibid, pg 6 “Although some accounts suggest that providing SOCE increases self-determination, we were not persuaded by this argument, as it encourages LMHP to provide treatment that has not provided evidence of efficacy, has the potential to be harmful, and delegates important professional decisions that should be based on qualified expertise and training—such as diagnosis and type of therapy. Rather, therapy that increases the client’s ability to cope, understand, acknowledge, and integrate sexual orientation concerns into a self-chosen life is the measured approach”

47 Ibid, Also see Haldeman, Douglas (2004). When Sexual and Religious Orientation Collide:Considerations in Working with Conflicted Same-Sex Attracted Male Clients. 32. The Counseling Psychologist. pp. 691-715. Throckmorton, Warren; Welton (Winter 2005). Counseling practices as they relate to ratings of helpfulness by consumers of sexual reorientation therapy. 24. Journal of Psychology and Christianity. pp. 332-342

48 Ibid, “Thus, the appropriate application of affirmative therapeutic interventions for those who seek SOCE involves therapist acceptance, support, and understanding of clients and the facilitation of clients’ active coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, without imposing a specific sexual orientation identity outcome.” pg v

49 Ibid, “For instance, the existing research indicates that possible outcomes of sexual orientation identity exploration for those distressed by their sexual orientation may be: LGB identities, Heterosexual sexual orientation identity, Disidentifying from LGB identities, Not specifying an identity”, pg 60-61

50 APA website www.apa.org/helpcenter/sexual-orientation.aspx “Mental health professional organizations call on their members to respect a person’s (client’s) right to self-determination; be sensitive to the client’s race, culture, ethnicity, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, language, and disability status when working with that client; and eliminate biases based on these factors.”

51 California Supreme Court, In re Marriage Cases, “California law does not literally prohibit gays and lesbians from marrying; however, it requires those who do to marry someone of the opposite sex. As a practical matter, of course, this requirement renders marriage unavailable to gay and lesbian individuals, whose choice of a life partner will, by definition, be a person of the same sex.”

52 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Perry v. Brown, “Although the House Report is filled with encomia to heterosexual marriage, DOMA does not increase benefits to opposite-sex couples–whose marriages may in any event be childless, unstable or both–or explain how denying benefits to same-sex couples will reinforce heterosexual marriage. Certainly, the denial will not affect the gender choices of those seeking marriage.

53 Judge Robert Hanson of Polk County District Court, Varnum v. Brien, Aug 2007,”Viewed in the complete context of marriage, including intimacy, civil marriage with a person of the opposite sex is as unappealing to a gay or lesbian person as civil marriage with a person of the same sex is to a heterosexual. Thus, the right of a gay or lesbian person under the marriage statute to enter into a civil marriage only with a person of the opposite sex is no right at all. Under such a law, gay or lesbian individuals cannot simultaneously fulfill their deeply felt need for a committed personal relationship, as influenced by their sexual orientation, and gain the civil status and attendant benefits granted by the statute. Instead, a gay or lesbian person can only gain the same rights under the 31 statute as a heterosexual person by negating the very trait that defines gay and lesbian people as a class – their sexual orientation.”

54U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, San Francisco Federal District Court, http://www.scribd.com/doc/35374462/California-Prop-8-Ruling-August-2010 pg 79 “Marrying a person of the opposite sex is an unrealistic option for gay and lesbian individuals.”

55California Supreme Court, In re Marriage Cases, “Having endured the often long and difficult process of claiming their true identities, gay men and lesbians are now asking to be recognized as the equally loving and committed partners and capable family units they are, and to be afforded the same responsibilities and protections available to other families.”

56 United States Supreme Court, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, 2010

57 SB 1172, introduced by Senator Lieu, 2012, “Sexual orientation change efforts” means any practices by mental health providers that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation. This includes efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.

58 Dallin H. Oaks, Interview with Elder Dallin H. Oaks on Homosexuality and AIDS, CBS News, 1986 “AIDS is a public health problem and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints is as concerned about AIDS and the victims of AIDS as any one that you can find. “

59 Dallin H. Oaks, “Same-Gender Attraction”, Ensign, Oct. 1995 “Our doctrines obviously condemn those who engage in so-called “gay bashing””- physical or verbal attacks on persons thought to be involved in homosexual or lesbian behavior.”

60 Michael Otterson, Church Responds to HRC Petition: Statement on Same-Sex Attraction, Oct 12, 2010 “This past week we have all witnessed tragic deaths across the country as a result of bullying or intimidation of gay young men. We join our voice with others in unreserved condemnation of acts of cruelty or attempts to belittle or mock any group or individual that is different – whether those differences arise from race, religion, mental challenges, social status, sexual orientation or for any other reason. Such actions simply have no place in our society.” http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-mormon-responds-to-human-rights-campaign-petition-same-sex-attraction

61 Michael Otterson, Church Supports Nondiscrimination Ordinances, LDS Newsroom, 2009

62 Ryan, C. & Rees, R. A. (2012) Supportive Families, Healthy Children: Helping Latter-day Saint Families with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Children. San Francisco, CA: Family Acceptance Project, Marian Wright Edelman Institute, San Francisco State University

63 Ibid, “Sexual orientation is comprised of attraction, identity and behavior and focuses on intimate human relationships… Many people who are attracted to and have or desire relationships with people of the same gender may call themselves gay. Women who are attracted to and have or desire relationships with other women may call themselves lesbian. Those who are attracted to and have or desire relationships with males and females may think of themselves as bisexual. Just like heterosexuals, people can know they are lesbian, gay or bisexual without ever being sexually active with another person. This is because sexual orientation relates to human relationships and interpersonal connections with others, not just sexual attraction or behavior.”

64 Ibid, “We found that young adults whose parents and foster parents support their lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender identity have better overall physical and mental health” pg 15. The study only included children who had a gay identity. I would imagine if they included children who rejected the gay identity, the study would find that parents who supported their children in rejecting a gay identity would similarly have better overall physical and mental health, but we do not know because they were excluded from the study. I personally believe that the benefit comes from having parents that support you in your life choices, not specifically the gay identity.

65 Gary Remafedi, Risk Factors for Attempted Suicide in Gay and Bisexual Youth, PEDIATRICS Vol. 87 No. 6 June 1, 1991 pp. 869 -875 “Compared with nonattempters, attempters had more feminine gender roles and adopted a bisexual or homosexual identity at younger ages.”

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