Note: The ideas and words of each blog post are those of the author alone and do not necesarily reflect the position of the USGA presidency or USGA as an organization. Many of the blog posts featured here are written by LGBTQ/SSA BYU students who are not yet ready to have their sexual orientation known by some friends, family, colleagues and internet strangers. As you read this or any other anonymous post, please take a moment to consider the implications and risks of being publicly LGBTQ/SSA as a BYU student.
A couple weeks ago, Meridian Magazine published an article written by an allegedly licensed therapist, Dr. Smith, from Florida. The article received immediate and intense disapproval, and was altered, and then removed completely within 24 hours. While the article is no longer available on the Meridian website, it was no doubt seen and shared by many countless members of the Church who are interested or concerned by this topic.
There was enough damaging and dangerous rhetoric and false notions in this article, that I think it is still important that this commentary still be published. Much of what Dr. Smith wrote flies in the face of established research, the codes and conlcusions of her own professional licensing organization, and the Church doctrine as repeated by Apostles and Prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Below, you will find her original writing in plain text, with my critiques and commentary in bold.
Meridian Magazine Editor’s note: We understand this is a very sensitive and tender topic. Many families in the Church and outside are trying to understand gender issues from every angle. There are many things we do not know. The following is one therapist’s experience in this delicate field of learning.
As a therapist, I have observed teens who are experimenting with homosexuality these days because it’s rather in vogue at the moment. I have also had clients who have gone back and forth in their sexuality, for the convenience of the relationship they were in at the moment.
I have had some members of the LGBT community tell me this is always biological and never a choice while at the same time the movement includes bisexuals which suggests choice.
The idea that homosexuality is a choice, or consciously controllable, is not founded in science. Furthermore, the existence of bisexuals—people who feel romantic and sexual attraction to both genders—does not suggest choice. Elder Christofferson, speaking on the Church’s mormonsandgays.org website says: “One thing that’s always important is to recognize the feelings of a person, that they are real, that they are authentic, that we don’t deny that someone feels a certain way. We take the reality where it is, and we go from there.”
Furthermore, the Church says:
“The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people . . . . Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them.”
One’s sexual orientation is not a choice. Period.
Thus, I write my observations
Those who believe that acting on same sex attraction is wrong and those who believe acting on same sex attraction is inevitable, can likely agree on one truth: It would be nice to have a choice.
Society has come a long way in its regard for homosexual individuals. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that I used when I first started working in the field of mental health had only recently removed homosexuality as a disorder. Even after medicine re-categorized homosexuality, the stigma resulted in far too much prejudice and mistreatment of homosexuals.
Today most members of society treat homosexuals with courtesy, whether or not we agree with their lifestyle.
Homosexuals do not have a monolithic lifestyle. The “gay lifestyle” is a vague, nebulous falsehood. Some gay people are active, faithful members of the LDS Church. Some gay people have left the Church and are in monogamous, legal, same-sex marriages. Yes, some gay people are promiscuous, drink alcohol, do drugs, and party. But so do straight people. Turn on the TV. There are a lot more straight partiers than there are gay partiers. The “gay lifestyle” doesn’t exist, because being gay doesn’t imply anything about how you live your life. It is a meaningless term.
However, being treated well by society does not necessarily mean that all the drawbacks of homosexuality will go away. Regardless of whether we bake them exquisite wedding cakes, take phenomenal photographs at their receptions, or rent them a room with the very best view in the building, homosexuals will still be deprived of some of the privileges afforded heterosexual couples.
A husband and wife who bear children together can look at their progeny and exclaim, “She has your nose, and my mouth,” or “Our daughter got her musical talent from her mom and her sense of humor from her dad,” or “Look at this gorgeous child. She’s the best of both of us.” A husband and wife can celebrate posterity that will last through the eternities. Their union, sanctioned not just by the government, but by God Almighty, can last forever.
The problem with this paragraph and argument is that ‘children who resemble their parents’ is not a privilege enjoyed by heterosexual couples. It is a benefit (maybe?) enjoyed by opposite-sex couples who are able to conceive children, and chose to do so. Even then, a mixed race couple might produce some children who don’t look anything like one of the parents. Either way this is a silly point. Not only should “children who look like me” not be a terribly important priority for people getting married, it denigrates the validity of all parents who are not able to conceive children. This idea, and variations of it, has been occurring more frequently in the latest arguments against same-sex marriage. It seems unfortunate that in order to invalidate same-sex relationships, you need to throw childless or infertile couples under the bus.
We can be kind to gays, and we can grant them legal privileges, but we can’t combine their genetics and create a human being. Therefore, an individual who finds themselves attracted to members of the same sex must make a choice. “Will I choose this lifestyle that the world has made possible for me, the lifestyle that feels good, the lifestyle I feel I have a right to choose, even though I will be sacrificing an eternal family?”
Interestingly, this may soon be possible. Ahem.
When a young person understands (as well as is possible with their limited experience) the ramifications of choosing to live a homosexual lifestyle over a heterosexual lifestyle, one would imagine he would pause long and hard before choosing to give up an eternal family.
Again with the lifestyle. What is a heterosexual lifestyle? Why don’t we just solve this problem once and for all by being more specific. “Choosing heterosexual relationships over homosexual relationships” is a perfectly accurately way of describing what this author seems to mean. Which is fine. Just please be specific with your language.
It’s a Choice
We, as a society, have made it far easier than it ever used to be for someone with homosexual inclinations to choose a gay lifestyle. We can, and must, make it easier for someone with homosexual inclinations to choose heterosexuality.
This is a dangerous and misleading section head. Behavior is a Choice. Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity are NOT. Also, homosexuality is not an inclination. It is as real and full bodied as heterosexuality. Love is not an inclination. Please stop using the words “feelings,” “inclinations,” “affinities,” or anything like them after the descriptor “homosexual.”
Here. I’ll just re-write this whole paragraph:
We as a society have made it far easier for someone who is homosexual to choose to pursue homosexual relationships and have a legally recognized marriage to someone to whom they experience full attraction. We can, also, however, make it easier for someone to who is gay or same-sex attracted to choose a mixed-orientation relationship or marriage.
Same message. Factually accurate. No longer full of garbage.
You will note that I have differentiated between same sex attraction or homosexual inclinations, and acting on same-sex attraction, or living a homosexual lifestyle. Our youth need to recognize that there is a difference between the two.
*cries about the use of the inclinations and lifestyle in the same sentence*
But kudos for differentiating between attraction/orientation and behavioral choices. Ironically, I believe youth (especially in our Church) already understand this. The people who don’t are people from older generations who grew up learning dangerous, homophobic falsehoods about what it means to be homosexual. Being gay doesn’t mean you’re sexually active. It just means you’re attracted to the same gender/sex.
Likewise, if a man or woman finds someone of the same gender attractive, that is not a sin. Granted, there are some seriously gorgeous human beings in this world. Just because we find them attractive doesn’t mean we have to have sex with them. The first thing we need to do if our children reveal a same sex attraction is to remove the shame of attraction.
BREAKING: Finding someone else attractive does NOT—I repeat, does NOT—give you the license or privilege of having sex with them.
It doesn’t even mean you get to expect to have sex with them. In fact, it doesn’t even mean you actually want to have sex with them. Having sex with everyone you find attractive could quickly become a very exhausting endeavor.
To her credit, the author goes on to make some very valid (and needed) points, which I’ll address more below. But I need to take a moment to drive something home here that the author glosses over—an assumption so basic it barely registers.
Everything in this article, to this point, has been based off of 2 premises:
- Homosexual people want to have sex, and sex alone, with others of their same sex/gender.
- Homosexual people can choose not to do so.
The second assertion is very valid. But the underlying idea—that homosexuality is exclusively or predominantly about sex—is a lie. The implications of this idea riddle this article and a lot of talking points about homosexuality that come from similar outlets. Let me say this as clearly as I can.
Being homosexual, as an orientation, is exactly the same as being heterosexual. Period.
“But!” you say. No buts. They are both sexual orientations, and they function exactly the same way. If you are a straight or heterosexual person reading this, ponder these questions.
How do you experience attraction to the opposite gender? Do you find men’s smiles attractive? Do you laugh when your girlfriend tells a joke? Do you find intelligence and drive attractive in a man? Do you like talking about God and the eternities with your date, while looking up at the stars? Does the idea of your current or future spouse as the mother or father of your children give you satisfaction and comfort? Do you admire the qualities of selflessness and charity you see in your significant other? Do you also, sometimes, see someone out running, or in a nice dress, or after they just got a haircut, or in the golden light of sunset and think, “Damn.”?
So. Do. We.
Being homosexual isn’t all, or even mostly, about sex. Sexual desire and attraction occupies the same amount of our lives as it does yours. Being homosexual or gay or same sex attracted or bisexual or lesbian doesn’t mean we’re sex-craved erotomaniacs.
And yet, too frequently, the conversation about homosexuality devolves into sex. Please stop thinking that just because we’re attracted to people of our same sex or gender that we think about sex any more than you do. Frankly, it’s degrading to continue thinking of us in purely sexual terms. It’s dehumanizing to collapse our identity to our sexual preferences. Stop. Please.
So now that, halfway through this article, we’ve established that LGBTQ/SSA people are just people who experience attraction (all types of attraction—romantic, aesthetic, emotional, mental, spiritual, and, yes, sexual) to others of the same sex/gender, let’s continue.
A child who feels shame will quickly learn to hide who he is. He also becomes ashamed of himself.
A child who feels shame will quickly learn to hide who he is. He also becomes ashamed of himself. Shame is a dangerous emotion. It is one of the emotions that can cause people to turn to any number of addictions in order to dull intolerable emotions.
This is great! Amen. (Sorry this is not something that is wrong with this article.)
Disassociate General Preferences from Sexual Preferences
Parents who freak-out because their boys like to play with dolls or their girls like trucks may shame the child, simply for their toy preferences. Parents may fear because their son likes to do “girl things,” or that their daughter likes to do “boy things” that this means he or she is at risk of same-sex attraction. This leap of logic needs to leap right into the garbage bin. A parent’s shaming of a child because of his toy preferences is far more likely to prompt a child to consider homosexuality than the toy preferences themselves.
This is also . . . great. Up until the last couple lines. Shame does not turn people gay. Same-sex attraction is not a “risk.” It is not something that develops. It is not communicable. It is not a disease. So yes—all the more reason to not freak out if your kid enjoys toys or activities not typically associated with their gender. It neither means they are gay nor that they will become gay if you don’t stop them.
In a similar manner, there are people who think if a man likes to do things a woman traditionally does that must mean his sexual preferences are also womanly. This makes absolutely no sense, but is born of paranoia. There is no reason a man can’t become a hairdresser, a seamstress, a decorator or an actor and also marry a woman, have children and live happily ever after. In the olden days tailors were men, and barbers were men, and they were not homosexual men. Certain jobs may be correlated with sexual preference but they certainly are not causal. Just because a man likes to decorate does not mean he is a homosexual, and just because a man is a homosexual does not mean he will automatically want to be a decorator.
And it came to pass that in the year 2015, we have finally realized that gendering activities, hobbies, and occupations, is silly and nonsensical. As a gay man who is colorblind, and frequently critiqued for my clothing choices and sense of style, I can testify that being gay doesn’t imbue you with above average talents in the world of aesthetics.
We need to remove interest/hobby/talent stereotypes from gender roles. Stereotypes are limiting, small-minded and inaccurate. Kind, sensitive human beings are not always female. Rough, brave human beings are not always male. The fact that a man has sensitive emotions has nothing whatsoever to do with his sexual preferences. My husband cries far more easily than I do. His father cries more easily than his wife as do their four sons. My three sons cry more readily than their wives. None of these eight men is homosexual simply because they have traditionally feminine emotions. We must allow our children, both boys and girls, to enjoy their natural emotions without feeling shame.Adolescents with gender confusion may mistakenly think they are gay simply because of societal stereotypes. They may also mistakenly think they are gay simply because they find someone of the same gender attractive. Our children and adolescents need to be taught to separate their affinity for certain interests/hobbies/talents from their affinity for a certain gender. They must be allowed to separate their admiration for the physical beauty of another human being from their “need” to have sexual relations with that human being.
This paragraph also has a lot of good in it.
DEVELOPING: Emotional Proclivities Do Not Signify Someone’s Gayness.
One thing the LDS Church often does well is to foster stereotypically “feminine” emotional attributes in men, and sometimes “masculine” attributes in women. We expect men to be compassionate, kind, soft spoken, empathetic—just like the Savior. We expect women to be strong, brave, courageous, leaders—just like the Savior.
This paragraph also brings up an interesting idea. The author appears to be unwittingly identifying a difference in aesthetic and sexual attraction, while simultaneously conflating them. Let me explain.
There are several types of attraction. Many of them are easily recognizable. Sexual. Emotional. Mental or intellectual. Spiritual. There are also ones that may be more nuanced or subtle. Romantic. Aesthetic. Platonic. We don’t have time here to go into depth on all of the types and variations of attraction. But what’s important to know is that they are separate and independent of each other. Most people should be able to relate to this. You might find several people physically or sexually attractive. Other people you might find funny or kind—aspects of emotional attraction. Still others you may be able to hold your most fulfilling conversations with—intellectual attraction. But it’s hard to find someone who you’re attracted to in all of these different ways. Harder still to find one who likes you back.
The difference between aesthetic and sexual attraction is pretty simple. Aesthetic attraction means you find a physical beauty in something. Sexual attraction means you find someone sexually arousing. At first glance those may appear to be the same thing. But they’re not. Despite being a gay man, who experiences no discernible sexual attraction to women, there are some women I find more attractive (aesthetically) than others. And not even in a conventionally attractive vs. conventionally unattractive way. I find Gwyneth Paltrow much more attractive in Iron Man than Scarlett Johansen. I don’t want to have sex with either of them, but I’d rather look at Pepper Pots than Black Widow. Straight women usually find it socially acceptable to comment on the aesthetic attractiveness of other women—without also being sexually attracted to them. Straight men might admire another man’s physique, without also being sexually attracted to them.
One can admire the physical beauty of another human without being sexually attracted to them. You can find grace in the curves of a women’s neck bone or a man’s bicep. You can discern intricacy in the patterns of people’s irises or the shapes of their hands. I also find beauty in art and sculpture, buildings, mountains, flowers – I might find some buildings more beautiful than others, or some flowers more captivating – but I don’t want to have sex with them. But just because you don’t, doesn’t make you physically attracted to them.
But, that also doesn’t negate the validity and reality of my sexual attraction to members of my same sex/gender. I don’t have to act on them. I don’t have to indulge them. But they are as real and valid as the sexual attractions of any other unmarried 20-something Mormon – straight or gay.
Just because you are attracted to someone doesn’t mean you have to have sex with him or her. If everybody gave in to their sexual attractions we would have even more infidelity in this world than we already do. Husbands would readily have affairs with their secretaries and wives with the mailman. Marriage itself requires people to manage their attractions.
Sex is a privilege not an inalienable right. It is a privilege God has reserved for husbands and wives within the bonds of marriage.
True. You can’t just have sex with whomever you want.
People with same-sex attraction may feel entitled to sexual relations. If they are not attracted to someone of the opposite gender, and they believe a heterosexual relationships is impossible for them, that doesn’t automatically mean they get to have sex with the person they are attracted to. Sex is a privilege not an inalienable right. It is a privilege God has reserved for husbands and wives within the bonds of marriage.
From a religious standpoint this is very true. I assume that is the context the author was using. From a legal standpoint, however, I just want to point out that consenting adults are pretty much allowed to do what they want (sexually) as long as no one is being harmed (physically, mentally, emotionally)—at least in the US where we enjoy broad and basic human rights.
The biggest obstacle to those with same-sex attraction who wish they were heterosexual is the belief that they can’t change. Once they become convinced they are “born this way” they accept their situation and try to persuade everybody else to accept it too.
False. The biggest obstacle to being heterosexual is . . . wait for it . . . being homosexual (and not having the power to consciously or deliberately change their orientation). Some people have reported being able to diminish their unwanted same-sex attraction. But some people are not all people. And the some people who have are far fewer (very very very few) than the many who haven’t been able to.
More importantly, many, many people have experienced depression, anxiety, and suicide ideation and attempts because they were unable (through no fault of their own) to change, alter, or diminish their sexual orientation.
If you or anyone you know has found distress or discomfort from their sexual orientation or gender identity, it. Is. ok! It’s ok that you’re same-sex attracted or gay – or lesbian, or bisexual, or transgender, or anything else. You don’t need to feel shame for being different. You don’t have to pick any behavior or choices just because of your orientation. But you don’t need to feel responsible for changing your orientation either. If you want to try, go right ahead! But if you’ve tried and it hasn’t worked, it’s ok. I, and a lot of other people, wished and hoped and worked at being straight for a long time. And we’re all still gay. And it’s ok. Chin up, kids.
Just last week, Elder Holland said: “This [same-sex attracted] son’s sexual orientation did not somehow miraculously change—no one assumed it would.”
There is continuing debate about whether sexual preference is indeed something you are born with, or is something that you learn. It is impossible to determine how much of who we are is due to nature and how much is due to nurture. But whether we are 80% nature and 20% nurture, or just the opposite, it doesn’t matter. We are still responsible for our choices.
Individuals who are born with a “hot temper” still must learn to treat their family members in harmony with the Church’s teachings. Missionaries who are painfully shy commit to open their mouths and bear testimony of the restored gospel, as hard as it may be. We are here on earth to overcome the natural man, even if the natural man came with us from Heaven.
Another poor analogy. Being homosexual—the sexual orientation that enables you to fall in love with someone of the same gender—is not an inherently bad or sinful thing. Remember, being gay is just like being straight. It’s love, it’s attraction, it’s crushes, and yes sexual attraction too. The Church teaches that we should not engage in sexual relationships outside of marriage and, therefore, homosexuality frustrates an individual’s ability to experience the fullness of the Plan of Salvation in this life. But being gay is not like having a hot temper. Or being painfully shy. Or being an alcoholic. Those things are inherently bad, negative, or sinful. Being quick to anger doesn’t enable you to connect deeply with other people. It doesn’t make you more selfless. It doesn’t help you experience the love God has for another one of His children. Being an alcoholic doesn’t motivate you to commit your life to someone or start a family. In the Church, being gay isn’t like being a smoker, or an alcoholic, or having a short temper. It’s just like being straight—and 15.
You can’t date. You can’t marry. You can’t pursue those you’re attracted to. You just have to wait. But you’ll never turn 16 in this life.
If we want our children to choose not to succumb to homosexual impulses, we must first teach them that they have a choice. Often we fear talking about such matters, because we fear they will make the wrong choice. We want them to think they have no choice but to go on a mission, or to marry in the temple. But they always have a choice. They also have a choice of whether or not they will give in to same-sex attraction.
Aha! A new word to ban: impulses. Straight people don’t have “straight impulses”—gay people don’t have “gay impulses.” Yes it is true that people will always have a choice—about their behavior. And thankfully, it is becoming more and more a choice motivated by personal desires and beliefs, than by externally imposed fear and despair.
As stated, we don’t know how many individuals are homosexual because of a genetic anomaly, and how many are homosexual because of something that happened in their environment. Likewise, we don’t know what portion of sexual preference in any one individual is because of genetics and what portion is environmental. Although we can do little to affect a genetic anomaly, for those who have elected a homosexual lifestyle due to the influence of environmental factors, there is a lot we can do to help them choose heterosexuality.
A model psychologists often use to understand the cause of certain conditions is called Diathesis-Stress model. A diathesis is a predisposition for a certain characteristic. That predisposition may be genetic or biological. A predisposition for something does not necessarily mean a person will contract that something. It simply means they are at greater risk than someone without the predisposition. Various stressors can “trigger” the existing predisposition, and the condition will manifest itself. Without certain stressors, the person may never even know they have a diathesis.
A person without a diathesis for a condition can experience the same stressors as the person with the diathesis, and they will not be affected by the stress. This means if there is no predisposition for a condition, it doesn’t matter what the stressors are, the person will not contract the condition. According to this model, the condition is manifest only when we get a perfect storm: a combination of the diathesis plus corresponding stressors.
Wait. But I thought homosexuality was not a mental disorder? People don’t choose to become schizophrenic or OCD or anything else because of stressors in their life. And again, using the term “contract” in relation to homosexuality . . . what century is this?
It makes sense to me to apply this model to homosexuality. Presumably there are genetic characteristics that predispose some people to homosexuality. However, according to this model, it takes a stressor for these characteristics to manifest themselves. Some stressors, such as child sexual abuse, or pornography are easy to categorize as having the potential for activating a diathesis. Of all the reasons to avoid pornography, and sexual abuse, (reasons numerous and profound) the chance that it could trigger a proclivity toward homosexuality would be among them.
No, it does not make sense—for reasons I stated above. Also this idea that there is a gayness lurking in some of us (but we don’t know which ones), and, therefore, we need to be extra vigilant in avoiding pornography and sexual abuse (how does one avoid sexual abuse, pray tell?) is incredibly damaging and dangerous. We already have enough parents (my mother among them) who mistakenly believe that somehow a failing on their part causes their children to be gay. People in my generation (Millenials and younger) will almost undoubtedly be exposed to pornography at some point in their life. That doesn’t mean they need to or will choose to indulge in it or become addicted to porn. But we can’t be scaring every pubescent boy and girl into the insane idea that if they ever see Teh P0rnz it will unlock the secret gay gene inside them and turn them into a fabulous, glittery homosexual monster. That sounds like the plot to a dystopian, young adult novel that’s movie version I don’t want to see in theaters. Teenagers already have enough angst and things to worry about, the dangerous and false notion of catching or triggering “The Gay” is not one of them.
More amusingly, I can attest that whether or not I had ever seen anything pornographic in my life, attractive men (both shirtless runners and turtleneck sweater models with scruff and a nice smile) will always, always, be around. Porn doesn’t turn people gay. People realize they’re gay when they realize they’re attracted to someone of their same sex/gender. You can experience attraction to someone without seeing an inch of their skin.
In case my layman’s take down of this idea doesn’t convince you, the American Psychological Asociation concluded in 2007 that “there are no empirical studies or peer reviewed research to support … theories attributing same-sex sexual orientation to family dysfunction or trauma.”
Simplifying the Choice
For youth who do not have a genetic predisposition to homosexuality, but choose homosexuality for other reasons, we can help them choose heterosexuality if we simply make heterosexuality more appealing to them.
People. Don’t. Choose. Their. Sexual. Orientation. Here are two quotes from official LDS Church publications that address this issue:
“Please understand that … youthful experiences should not create a present sense of guilt, unworthiness or rejection by God or His church. Innocent mischief early in life does not predispose a youth toward same-gender attraction as an adult.” – God Loveth His Children, lds.org
And again: “The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people . . . . Individuals do not choose to have such attractions.” – mormonsandgays.org
When the only heterosexual relationships available for an adolescent to model are miserable, a child or an adolescent may decide they want “anything but” that type of relationship. As homosexuality is currently in vogue, particularly among adolescents, he or she may decide to experiment with this type of relationship. If a child is to choose heterosexuality, it is very helpful for him to have happy, loving heterosexual role models.
Straight people don’t choose to be in homosexual relationships just because their family sucked. If someone is pursuing a same-sex relationship, it’s probably because they are . . . wait for it . . . gay!
In our culture we do a pretty good job of exposing little girls to the joys of motherhood. We buy them dolls, let them cuddle up to the new baby on the sofa, read them stories about princesses and princes. They dress up in bridal wear, and play house with their toddler-sized kitchen full of plastic food. We prepare them for their future as mothers, “When you grow up you will be such a good mommy…”
Boys are afforded fewer opportunities to visualize their bright futures as fathers. I’ve seen little boys put a doll to their chest, as if to nurse the baby, only to have a parent snatch the doll away as if the action were evil. Boys can be as tender and loving as girls if we will let them. Why don’t we help our boys look forward to becoming fathers just like we help our girls look forward to becoming mothers?
I know a woman who would tell her sons a bedtime story about themselves every night. “One day you will grow up, and fall in love with a beautiful young woman whom you will take to the temple, and you will be married forever and ever and you will have children that climb on your back and ride on your shoulders and they will adore you and you will be so happy.” The story began as a fairy tale for a small boy, but the little boys believed in the fairy tale and made it come true.
I’m all for helping boys and girls prepare for their futures. They should be comfortable expressing their interests regardless of their congruence with gender stereotypes. Keep in mind, though, that not every girl will grow up to be a mother who bears children, and not every boy will grow up to be a father of biological offspring.
It is, however, our obligation as parents, to educate our children, to teach them about agency and accountability.
Clearly, it is not our role to judge what influences a person’s choice to embrace a homosexual lifestyle, nor to assess the magnitude of those influences. It is, however, our obligation as parents, to educate our children, to teach them about agency and accountability.
The preceding 90% of this article seems to say otherwise.
We must be brave enough to contradict the world’s instance that homosexuals have no choice. For that matter, we need to contradict anybody’s refusal to take responsibility for their choices. The notion that we cannot help ourselves is contrary to our essence as children of our Heavenly Father. Our agency is what makes us human, not robots, and not animals. We must not let anybody convince us, or our children that agency is a myth. Our choices are something over which we have complete control.
Indeed we do have 100% control over our behavioral agency. As mortal humans, we don’t have control or choice in what color our eyes are, whether or not we can digest lactose, how tall we grow, or our sexual orientation. Again, Elder D. Todd Christofferson said, “No one fully knows the root causes of same-sex attraction. Each experience is different. Latter-day Saints recognize the enormous complexity of this matter. We simply don’t have all the answers.”
JeaNette Goates Smith is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Jacksonville, Florida. She is the author of four books, including Unsteady Dating: Resisting the Rush to Romance available here on Amazon.
A note of final concern. Dr. Smith presents herself as a licensed therapist and mental health counselor. Presumably she is licensed by the APA—an organization that’s conclusions on these topics she routinely ignores in this article. While there are many alarming aspects of this article, perhaps most disturbing is that she does not seem to adhere to professional standards set by her licensing organization. While she puts forth several good and useful points in this article, the overall ideological underpinnings are not supported by science or research. I would be concerned going to her for professional counseling as a gay Mormon.
Furthermore, her ideas reflect and amplify false notions that continue to permeate Mormon cultural ideas about homosexuality. They also go against the most recent counsel and teachings of the General Authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Licensed health professionals have a strong duty to correct misinformation related to their field of practice. Because homosexuality has been so taboo for so long, ideas about its origins, nature, and impact have historically been murky, convoluted, and wrong. Even comments from LDS Church leaders have been given from poor information or lack of scientific backing. Too many parents and lay leaders of our Church still believe many of the ideas in this article and it damages—emotionally and spiritually—the good people of our faith who experience same-sex attraction or identify as LGBTQ. This is not a matter of word preference or semantics. Ideas like those in this article can lead to depression and suicide.
I am glad Meridian Magazine removed this troubling article from its website. It shows that sound science, and caring and informed people, are making a difference in the conversation about homosexuality. I am still worried that there are too many people out there for whom this article represents nothing controversial or incorrect. While enough red flags were raised to get this article taken down, not enough red flags were raised to make sure it wasn’t published—let alone even written (in its current iteration)—in the first place.
If you’ve read this post, please make sure to share it to continue the work of dispelling myth and misunderstanding and forwarding the work of making all of God’s children welcome and understood in His Church.