Question: In Mormonism, what are the ramifications from denying a gay identity?

Table of Contents

Question: In Mormonism, what are the ramifications from denying a gay identity?

No harm has been demonstrated in not having a homosexual orientation identity

Critics of Mormonism argue that in order to be happy and healthy, a person with same-sex attraction needs to identify as gay and have a same-sex relationship.

No harm has been demonstrated in not having a homosexual orientation identity, and in some cases, it may even prove beneficial. There are, of course, many questions about homosexuality that have not been studied scientifically, but Latter-day Saints nevertheless can be sure about the wisdom of following the example and teaching of the Lord's chosen servants. Not only can members with same-sex attraction be content rejecting a gay identity, but they can gain greater clarity about things and find great joy in preparing themselves for all of the eternal blessings the Lord promises them through His Gospel.

The church encourages members to view themselves as sons and daughters of God

The church encourages members to view themselves as sons and daughters of God, and discourages any identity that interferes with that identity. Members who refer to themselves as straight, gay or lesbian are free to go on as all other members, but are advised not to identify themselves primarily by their sexual feelings.

See also: LGBT identity

Taking on a sexual identity, whether gay or straight, has not been shown to have any benefit over those who choose not to assume a sexual identity. Most of the people with same-sex attractions who have not had a homosexual experience also do not identity as gay.[1] Critics argue that it is not healthy for homosexual people to reject a gay identity or suppress their homosexual attractions. They argue that the only way to be well-adjusted is to come out as a gay person. Many faithful members of the church as well as other Christians have found peace and joy in rejecting a gay identity. Others have incorporated a gay identity into a lifestyle of celibacy or heterosexual marriage.

Because of the massive opposition to people who want to reject a gay identity, a task force set up by the APA investigated the matter. They found that there is no clear harm in denying a gay identity. They found that for some people, a religious identity was stronger than their sexual identity, and instructed counselors not to preclude the goal of celibacy, but to help clients determine their own goals in therapy, and that together with support groups, the therapy can change a client's sexual orientation identity. Dr. Glassgold, the leader of the taskforce, summarized the findings by saying that there has been little research about the long-term effects of rejecting a gay identity, but there is "no clear evidence of harm" and "some people seem to be content with that path."[2]

Due to the results of this study, the task force recommended sexual orientation identity exploration for clients with unwanted same-sex attractions. Psychologists are recommended to help clients explore which sexual orientation identity best suits their needs and values. It is then recommended that psychologists help clients transition to their new identity. They list as possible new sexual orientation identities for people with same-sex attractions as:

  1. Heterosexual
  2. LGBT
  3. Disidentify from LGBT (such as ex-gay)
  4. No specific sexual orientation identity[3]

A person could assume any of these identities and still be a member of the Church in good standing. None of these identities have been found to cause any harm.

Effects of adopting a gay identity

While there is no evidence that the failure to adopt a gay identity is harmful for people with same-sex attractions, there is evidence that adopting a gay identity may lead to undesired results for some people.

There is a strong correlation between identifying as gay or lesbian and having gay sex. This is an important part for members who want to follow the law of chastity. A study by the Social Organization of Sexuality found that 60% of men and 68% of women who were attracted to the same gender have never engaged in homosexual behavior. This number differs from those who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual. For them, only 13% of men and 4% of women have never engaged in homosexual behavior.[4] This lead the researchers to conclude that sexual identity (i.e., how people label and conceive of themselves) was a stronger indicator of sexual behavior than sexual orientation (i.e., the feelings or inclinations which people have).

Dr. Gary Remafedi, the director of the Youth and AIDS Projects at the University of Minnesota, did a study on people with same-sex attraction. He found that those who adopted a gay or bisexual identity at an earlier age were more likely to attempt suicide than those that did not.[5]It is not clear why this is the case. Another study on Norwegian adolescents found that when sexual attraction, identity and behavior were factored together, only homosexual behavior was predictive of suicide.[6] It may be that those who adopt a gay identity at a younger age are more likely for suicide simply because they are more likely to have gay sex, and not because of their sexual identity in and of itself. Another possible explanation may be because of increased exposure to bullying and intimidation of people who identify as gay, which bullying the Church strongly opposes. Whatever the reason, it seems that youth with same-sex attractions who do not adopt a gay identity may be less prone to suicide.

Research by Schneider found that for some married me with same-sex attraction, a strong homosexual identity was associated with difficulties in marital satisfaction.[7] Other research by Yarhouse found that the sexual identity of a spouse with same-sex attraction was an important resilient factor in helping marriages succeed.[8]

Research seems to indicate that adopting a gay identity may have a negative impact on youth and married men.

Notes

  1. Laumann, Edward O. , The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States 299 link
  2. A New Therapy on Faith and Sexual Identity: Psychological Association Revises Treatment Guidelines to Allow Counselors to Help Clients Reject Their Same-Sex Attractions
  3. [citation needed] was footnoted as "task.force"
  4. Laumann, Edward O. , The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States 299
  5.  [needs work] http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/87/6/869
  6.  [needs work] http://psycnet.apa.org/?&fa=main.doiLanding&doi=10.1037/0021-843X.112.1.144
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2079706 [citation needed]
  8. http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a923933982~db=all~jumptype=rss [citation needed]