This gay rights thing has got me all twisted up.
According to the Lord’s law of chastity, gay sex is sinful and unwise. It is dangerous for any society to tolerate it, and even more perilous to encourage it.
On the other hand, when we declare that homosexuality is evil, it becomes very easy to justify discrimination and ostracism of an entire class of people. Which is also dangerous for any society to tolerate, and even more perilous to encourage.
The problem is, we are only getting one side of the gay story. The loud, colorful, gay-pride side. We are either entranced by it’s vivacity, or offended by it’s unabashed immorality. And then, because it’s the only show we’re seeing, we have to assume that everyone who is gay is getting on that boat because it is the only way. And then, we wonder how God could make people Gay and then punish them by making life so dang hard to follow the nuclear family trajectory. And that is where I get twisted up, and where a lot of people in the church start to suppose that “things will have to change” within the doctrine. But there is another side to this whole issue; a quieter, deliberate reasoning with the trial of same-sex attraction.
FAIR published an article called Navigating the Labryinth Surrounding Homosexual Desire that really illuminated for me how to think about this issue and how we have not been getting the whole story. The author, Joshua Johanson, divides the term gay into three subcategories: gay behavior, which is chosen; a gay identity, which is chosen, and gay attraction, or SSA (Same Sex Attraction) which is something you are born with. Gay behavior is the only sin. A person can join a gay community for support and still live the law of chastity. And hugely important: SSA is not a sin. The research he cites showed that “most men who have SSA have never acted on it”. The research also stated that 2 million men with SSA are married to women. Johanson himself has SSA and is happily married to a woman. That is a path, he admits, that may not work for all people with SSA. If it doesn’t work for them and they know it, they may choose to live a celibate life in harmony with the law of chastity. This has helped me untwist the issue of “Why did God make it so hard for gays to find happiness”. There are lots and lots of people who are dealing with their SSA in righteous and deliberate ways. And they are happy.
Johanson explained the dilemma of accepting the gay community for many LDS with SSA: “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.”
What I found enlightening about this perspective is that there are people with SSA literally all around us. They are married to our friends, they are teaching our kids in primary, they are giving fantastic lessons in Sunday School. We cannot know who they are because they have not chosen “gay” as their identity. Which also means that we must never, ever use hurtful, homophobic language anywhere. You may think that demeaning comments about “the gays” are all being received by like-minded people; but the truth is, your cousin may be inwardly trying to put yet another band-aid over a wound that keeps being ripped open.
When I was in my Secondary Education classes, one of my required courses was Multicultural Curriculum. And the teacher was a lovely lady, Ms. Groves, who we assumed was hired for this class because she was black. She was great, totally multicultural and talked about how to be sensitive to other races and religions and so forth. Then we had our unit on LGBT students and some of my classmates (mostly rural Utahn farm boys) started putting up major walls. They said things like, “I don’t care if they are in my class, I just think they are sick and wrong” or “I’d have a really hard time being around them if they were gay”. They were being honest, and the teacher understood their concerns. The class didn’t have too much of an impact on their opinions, unfortunately. I think the greatest lesson that she taught was in our Final Cornerstone right before we started student teaching, where Ms. Groves was a keynote speaker. She told the entire auditorium of soon-to-be-teachers about how she was fired from a local district because she was a lesbian and the parents were too uncomfortable with her teaching their children math. I blushed from head to toe with shame and I wasn’t even guilty of saying anything unkind in her class. But I felt the shame for Jimmy and Brandon and all the other students who had said those hurtful things to her face. It was the most unforgettable lesson of my Secondary Education experience. We can never know who we are hurting when we say judgmental things, so the best thing to do is not say them. Not think them. Be loving and accepting of everyone who is doing their best to get through this life.
We’ve all got something we have to overcome–anger, doubt, fear, mental illness, physical illness, learning disabilities. Satan is trying hard to target us in our weakest spots. Our sexual natures are a big part of us, no wonder many people are being tried in that manner, and have been throughout all of history. But what a person does with their SSA is totally up to them. They can choose to self-identify as gay and join that community, or they can quietly work with the Lord to find the best fit for them in living a righteous life. Either way, they are children of God and worthy of our love and respect.
The real evil of our time isn’t that homosexuality is out there. It’s always been out there. The problem is the pervasive lie that there is only one happy option for someone with SSA: follow the path of coming out, then finding a partner (or multiple partners), and living an openly gay life in a big city. It has become so normal and accepted that kids with SSA start down the path before even knowing of the other choices. Johanson is a brave advocate of these other choices.
Now when we see that 40-year-old, still-single, totally great guy in our ward, we must not judge him. He doesn’t need a reminder that he should be married. He doesn’t need to be set up on yet another blind date (unless he wants to be). And he doesn’t need to be whisperingly labeled “gay,” because that is only a label that someone can declare for themselves. The only correct label we can put on someone who is working through their trials through faith in Jesus Christ is “Latter-Day Saint”. Even if they aren’t gay, If they never have a family of their own, at the very least they should feel the love and acceptance of their church family.