Accept people with same-gender attraction

As a community we need to practice what we preach regarding individuals with same sex attraction.

The dialogue from the pulpit regarding same sex attraction (SSA) is a message of love and acceptance, and there is no law forbidding individuals in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from being open about their sexual realities.

Yet within the LDS culture, specifically in the West, there is still a huge cultural stigma against SSA, which effectively silences these individuals.

Regardless of the messages coming from the pulpit, many LDS individuals with SSA stuffer in quiet anguish, knowing that if they openly declare their sexual orientation they will be ostracized by family and friends, or become the pet projects for well meaning priesthood leaders.

There may be “love” but there seems to be little acceptance of individuals with same-sex attraction in the LDS community.

We preach a gospel of acceptance, but that the fact that LDS individuals with SSA even fear the possibility of rejection from the community that reared them is shameful.

As a culture we fall painfully short of accepting these individuals in our wards, as friends or even as families.

This lack of community support for these individuals has real and measurable consequences.

Mark Hatzenbuehler, Ph.D, of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, in New York City, analyzed student data from 297 schools in Oregon and found that lesbian, gay and bisexual teens living in unsupportive surroundings had a 20 percent higher risk of attempting suicide than those in more supportive areas.

Acceptance does not come from telling these individuals that they need to be “fixed” and need to see the bishop or receive counseling.

True acceptance comes when we realize that for many LDS individuals with SSA, their sexual orientation is not a flimsy inclination or sexual addiction but a permanent reality.

Acceptance comes when we see them as children of God and teach them as such.

Until LDS individuals with SSA can find true acceptance and support within the LDS community, through ward activities, groups and firesides, they will continue to leave the church in droves and find the love and acceptance they crave in secular LGBT organizations or worse — attempt suicide.

6 Responses

  1. Mholland93 says:

    First off, I really like your article. You make some very good points. But I have a few serious questions, not necessarily directed towards you. Can LGBT individuals really find acceptance in a church that defines their sexual orientation as a major sin? I mean, isn’t the church’s position a position of non-acceptance by definition? Like you say “their sexual orientation is not a flimsy inclination or sexual addiction but a permanent reality…” so if we agree that their sexual orientation is really a major part of who they are and is there to stay, how can they be accepted in a church that will excommunicate them if they act on that orientation?

  2. Thank you for such a beautiful article. I would really like to see the general authorities give the same speech. For the longest time, I attended general priesthood meetings and thought that the general authorities would eventually give this same address. I think that it’s interesting that we are just now getting this message, and it’s such a relief! Thanks.

  3. I am truly and deeply heartened to see this article.

    As an out gay man who is also an active and faithful latter-day saint (fwiw, I teach EQ in my ward), the love and support I receive from my ward family has been instrumental in remaining active in the Church.

    I do have two quibbles, though — one with the article, and then one in the comment above (by MHOLLAND93).

    In using the term “same sex attraction”, you are quietly reinforcing the idea that homosexuality is a disease — something you’re afflicted with and something for which there is a cure.

    One IS a cold, has a toothache, has cancer. One IS left-handed.

    I don’t HAVE same sex attraction, but I AM gay.

    Yes, SSA is the current turn of phrase favored by some of the Brethren. Before that, they used the term “gender confused” (what a howler!). But it’s a rhetorically poisonous term that will certainly fall out of use. Let’s hasten its demise by using the term “gay” as appropriate.

    MHOLLAND93: It’s a little ironic that you like the article but still put forth the (false) notion that the Church “that defines [this] sexual orientation as a major sin”. The Church, you see, stopped excommunicating folks for BEING gay back in the 80s.

    As for gay BEHAVIOR — which may get one excommunicated — that’s a fight for another day.

    The Church and our people have come a long way on this issue — and it has a long ways to go. But I’m happy to celebrate every small victory.

    This article is one such victory.

  4. I loved your article and the points that you are making. you make exceptionally valid points. I understand the community that you’re writing for and that you need to speak their language. I think though that it’s time that the church and its members abandon the terminology SSA or SGA. Even the title of your article “Accept people with same-gender attraction” denotes that SGA is a disease, an affliction, a plague. one could easily substitute HIV, AIDS, Cancer, Muscular Dystrophy, etc. for SGA. It’s demeaning and insulting to those who are homosexual on some level or another. I feel strongly that the church only creates greater self loathing by using the term SSA or SGA because it equates those feelings with an illness. these young men and women (and even the old ones) are not ill. They are not sick, the are not afflicted. They are simply aware of the circumstances of their existence. To accept one’s sexuality is not to admit defeat but rather to be conscientious of personal feelings that are simply a part of someone’s reality. Whether its genetic or biological or whatever is beside the point. These are human beings with great potential that is diminished by this false diagnosis of affliction and the accompanying shame, guilt, pity, and ostracization that comes with it within the LDS community.
    You’ve done an exceptional job describing where we should go from here. Your words are heartfelt and greatly appreciated but I think that the next step is abandoning this sentiment of affliction or trial. Being gay has been a great blessing for me. I have been open to my emotions, my creativity, my feelings for all mankind and womankind. Being gay has allowed me to show great compassion, to find good in all things, and be intensely aware of my own spirituality. It is time that more people look at the great good that comes with things instead of constantly finding cause for bemoaning their plight. The more that the members of the church embrace all people (regardless of the “trial”) and encourage the good, the stronger the church can become.
    Great job, keep up the good work.

  5. thebeninator says:

    to MHOLLAND 93 and others who might be confused about the doctrine:

    “Feelings are another matter. Some kinds of feelings seem to be inborn. Others are traceable to mortal experiences. Still other feelings seem to be acquired from a complex interaction of ‘nature and nurture.’ All of us have some feelings we did not choose, but the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that we still have the power to resist and reform our feelings (as needed) and to assure that they do not lead us to entertain inappropriate thoughts or to engage in sinful behavior.” “Different persons have different physical characteristics and different susceptibilities to the various physical and emotional pressures we may encounter in our childhood and adult environments. We did not choose these personal susceptibilities either, but we do choose and will be accountable for the attitudes, priorities, behavior, and ‘lifestyle’ we engraft upon them.” “Just as some people have different feelings than others, some people seem to be unusually susceptible to particular actions, reactions, or addictions. Perhaps such susceptibilities are inborn or acquired without personal choice or fault, like the unnamed ailment the Apostle Paul called ‘a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure’ (2 Cor. 12:7).”
    (http://www.lds.org/ensign/1995/10/same-gender-attraction?lang=eng&query=homosexual+(name%3a%22Dallin+H.+Oaks%22))

    “God does indeed love all His children. Many questions, however, including some related to same-gender attractions, must await a future answer, even in the next life.” “In some circumstances a person defers marriage because he or she is not presently attracted to a member of the opposite gender. While many Latter-day Saints, through individual effort, the exercise of faith, and reliance upon the enabling power of the Atonement, overcome same-gender attraction in mortality, others may not be free of this challenge in this life. However, the perfect plan of our Father in Heaven makes provision for individuals who seek to keep His commandments but who, through no fault of their own, do not have an eternal marriage in mortal life. As we follow Heavenly Father’s plan, our bodies, feelings, and desires will be perfected in the next life so that every one of God’s children may find joy in a family consisting of a husband, a wife, and children. Same-gender attractions include deep emotional, social, and physical feelings. All of Heavenly Father’s children desire to love and be loved, including many adults who, for a variety of reasons, remain single. God assures His children, including those currently attracted to persons of the same gender, that their righteous desires will eventually be fully satisfied in God’s own way and according to His timing.” (http://www.lds.org/manual/god-loveth-his-children/god-loveth-his-children?lang=eng)

    “They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. If they violate the law of chastity and the moral standards of the Church, then they are subject to the discipline of the Church, just as others are” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign , Nov. 1998, 71).

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