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Same-sex attraction

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Same-sex attraction (SSA) or same-gender attraction (SGA) is an intense interest in members of the same sex. This interest may include desires for their attention, friendship, intimacy, and/or a fascination with their bodies and other gender traits. It may also include erotic thoughts and sexual behavior with others of the same sex.

Terminology

The term homosexuality refers to the entire complex that includes attractions, feelings, desires, sexual behavior, identity, and all its associated aspects.

Some people prefer to use the terms same-sex attraction (SSA) or same-gender attraction (SGA) to avoid the clinical and psychiatric misunderstandings that may come by using the term homosexuality. A person who experiences same-sex attraction or same-gender attraction may experience

  • Intense attractions (which may or may not be sexual or erotic) without sexual behavior or
  • Complete emotional and sexual involvement.

The words homosexual, lesbian, and gay are adjectives to describe particular thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. They should not be used as nouns to identify particular conditions or specific persons.

Those who refer to themselves gay or lesbian are welcome in the Church and 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. All members are counseled not to identify themselves primarily by their sexual feelings, but that they are a son or daughter of God.

Unwanted same-sex attraction

For some individuals, same-sex attraction is at odds with their personal values and moral and religious beliefs. They do not wish to act on these impulses nor embrace a gay lifestyle. They may seek therapy or other help to diminish their same-sex attraction and avoid (or overcome) same-sex sexual behavior. Of those who are committed to this long-term process, many avoid or eliminate homosexual behavior, and reduce homosexual desires (or in some cases, nearly eliminate them).

There are many LDS support groups to assist individuals who experience same-sex attraction. These groups vary greatly in their support of the teachings and practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some support the right of individuals to engage in same-gender sexual relationships. Others petition the Church to change its policies and doctrines. Evergreen International and North Star are the only known organizations that support the Church's teachings and practices "without reservation or exception." There are a host of other religious organizations to support individuals of other faiths.

Marriage

Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God. No other form of marriage is recognized by the Church. Marriage between a man and woman is not just the basis for a healthy society; it is central to the true gospel. The highest level of exaltation in God's heavenly kingdom is for those who are eternally married.

Members of the Church are counseled to marry the person they love and love the person they marry. Marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to become straight. It should be put off until the person has developed a real attraction for a member of the opposite sex. Some may never be able to do this in this lifetime, but if they are faithful, they are promised all of the blessings given from God to mankind. Others have been able to develop a sexual attraction for someone of the opposite sex and have gone on to create faithful and fulfilling marriages.

Those who enter a same-sex marriage may face church disciplinary action and lose their membership in the Church, but are welcome to attend services.

Causes of same-sex attraction

The church does not take a position on the cause of same-sex attractions. It considers these to be scientific questions for experts in the field to answer, not religious questions. It has made clear that neither the person dealing with the attractions nor the parents should be blamed for the attractions. The focus is on living the commandments of God. All people, regardless of the orientation of their attractions, can learn to control their attractions and live a chaste life.

Researchers have not been able to find a cause for same-sex attractions. Most major psychological associations believe it is a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental influences.[1] Many think both nature and nuture play a major role. They have recognized that sexual orientation is not fixed. The American Psychological Association has stated "Some people believe that sexual orientation is innate and fixed; however, sexual orientation develops across a person's lifetime".[2]

Therapy

The Church rarely takes a position on what treatment techniques are appropriate. The focus of the church is not on the clinical side of things, but on encouraging people to obey the commandments of God. In some cases, people have found that therapy helps them obey the commandments of God. In other cases, they have not been successful.

Many people with unwanted same-sex attractions have sought for help from therapy. The American Psychological Association has stated that sexual orientation identity exploration can be beneficial for those with unwanted same-sex attractions. It can help change a person's sexual orientation identity, behaviors and values.[3] With the help of such therapy, patients have formed a heterosexual orientation identity. No indication has been found of any negative effect in rejecting a gay identity.[4]

Others have sought help from ex-gay groups. Research has found that such groups help counteract and buffer minority stress, marginalization, and isolation. They also have found that ex-gay groups appear to relieve the distress caused by conflicts between religious values and sexual orientation and help participants change their sexual orientation identity.[3] Evergreen International is an ex-gay group for members of the Church. Other ex-gay groups for a more general audience include Exodus International and People Can Change.

The church does not officially endorse any ex-gay groups, but sends General Authorities to speak at the annual Evergreen conferences.

Church Teachings

Main article: Law of Chastity

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that gender is an essential part of our eternal identity and purpose. Another principle of the Church is that God commanded His children to multiply and replenish the earth, and that the sacred powers of procreation should be used only between a lawfully married man and woman. These commandments were given by God because the family unit is a crucial part of Heavenly Father's plan for His children. All children are entitled to birth within marriage and to be reared by a father and a mother.

These principles explain some of the reasons why violations of chastity such as homosexual activity are such serious sins. It is a distortion of God's plan for his children. Homosexual activity prevents people from receiving the blessings of family life and deprives spirit children of our Heavenly Father from receiving mortal bodies.

Many people today claim that homosexual activity is an act of nature; that it is simply the way a person is, but Heavenly Father has explained through his prophets that this is not the case. President Spencer W. Kimball has said, "Homosexuality is an ugly sin, repugnant to those who find no temptation in it, as well as to many past offenders who are seeking a way out of its clutches. ... All such deviations from normal, proper heterosexual relationships are not merely unnatural but wrong in the sight of God."

The Mormon Church's position on same-sex relationships has been brought up more recently because of same-gender marriage issues in the public arena. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said,

"This is much bigger than just a question of whether or not society should be more tolerant of the homosexual lifestyle. Over past years we have seen unrelenting pressure from advocates of that lifestyle to accept as normal what is not normal, and to characterize those who disagree as narrow-minded, bigoted and unreasonable. Such advocates are quick to demand freedom of speech and thought for themselves, but equally quick to criticize those with a different view and, if possible, to silence them by applying labels like 'homophobic.' In at least one country where homosexual activists have won major concessions, we have even seen a church pastor threatened with prison for preaching from the pulpit that homosexual behavior is sinful. Given these trends, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must take a stand on doctrine and principle. This is more than a social issue — ultimately it may be a test of our most basic religious freedoms to teach what we know our Father in Heaven wants us to teach."

Engaging in a same-sex relationship is a serious sin because it ignores God's first and great commandment to multiply and replenish the earth. But those who have committed this sin are not seen as hopeless by the Church. Those who have committed sexual transgressions or who have thoughts of homosexuality are asked to speak with their bishop. The bishop will help lead them back to the path of happiness. It is important to note that the Mormon Church does not promote persecution or wrongful treatment of those who choose to live a homosexual lifestyle. While the Church may not agree with their actions, they are still children of our Heavenly Father and must be treated as such. The Church has upheld the civil rights of same-gender couples, including the rights incorporated into "civil unions" under state laws. The Church stops short, however, of allowing marriage and adoption rights. This stance cannot be altered by the pleas of same-sex couples, since this is the will of the Lord spoken to His prophet.

Myths concerning same-sex attraction

Myth: People don't overcome same-sex attraction

One common myth is that people don't overcome same-sex attraction. Some people would like the public to believe that no one really changes. They claim that individuals who say they have overcome it either (1) didn't really experience same-sex attraction in the first place, or (2) they are only suppressing their true feelings and will someday realize it. The truth is that many people find success in overcoming homosexual behavior, diminishing same-sex attraction, resolving internal conflicts, and living according to their personal and religious values. For proof of the many who are successful, read the testimonies on the Web sites listed at the end of this article.

Some gay activists have spread rumors that people who have written books or otherwise publicly shared their story of change either do not exist or have returned to a gay identity. This just isn't true. Conferences by Evergreen International, Exodus International, and other national and international organizations regularly invite such authors to speak publically.

Myth: People are born gay. It's all genetic.

Some scientists have intently tried to discover scientific proof that homosexuality is genetic, and therefore, cannot be changed. Some studies hint at a biological component, but have not proven that same-sex attraction is simply caused by genetics, or that such a potential cause overrules the possibility that people can change such attractions. Conversely, studies have shown that environment, experience, and desire play a major role in homosexuality.

It is difficult to develop theories about the origins of same-sex attractions because no single theory fits every situation. Sexual and emotional issues are the result of a complex interaction of personality, biological inheritance, environmental influences,1 and developmental experiences.

Myth: The psychological associations in America denounce trying to change. It is unethical to even try.

Many professional organizations have made statements about the ineffectiveness and potential damage that can be caused by reparative or conversion therapy. They claim that the potential risks of such therapy include depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior. The American Psychological Association's Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Issues Committee lobbied for years against the right of individuals to receive treatment for unwanted same-sex attractions and have pressured the APA to ban scientists from studying the viability of gender-affirmative therapy.

It is unethical for a therapist to try to convince a client that he/she should change from homosexuality to heterosexuality. However, it is equally unethical for a therapist to tell a client to remain in homosexuality when he/she has determined that homosexuality does not fit with his/her personal values and has come to the therapist for help in overcoming it. Ethical therapy is where the therapist presents alternatives, and lets the client make decisions for him/herself. Individuals have a right to know that prevention and effective treatment are available. A variety of studies have shown that between 25% and 50% of those seeking treatment experienced significant improvement.

Gender-affirmative therapy has recently been the subject of increasing interest by organizations and therapists who believe in helping people who have determined for themselves that they want to overcome unwanted same-sex attractions.

Myth: The efforts to make people change do more harm than good.

People sometimes try to discredit the efforts of people who are changing their lives, saying that the stress and effort to try to change only tears families apart and causes more harm than good. In reality, there are thousands of people who improve their lives by resolving their internal conflicts, so they can live according to their personal values and keep their families together. Of course, there are those who do not succeed. Some of these people are vocal and try to convince others that no one is succeeding. For proof of the many who are successful, read the testimonies on the Web sites listed at the end of this article.

While it is true that no one should be coerced into treatment, the reverse is also true that no one should be denied treatment if they want it. Ultimately, it is an issue of personal freedom and self-determination.

Myth: You can support same-gender sexual relationships and still be a good member of the Church.

Many so-called "LDS" groups support the right of individuals to engage in same-gender sexual relationships. They rationalize that when individuals are attracted to the same sex, they have no hope of a happy heterosexual marriage and family, and therefore should be allowed a same-sex relationship. Some of these groups even maintain a vague association with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Evergreen International and North Star are the only known organizations that support Church teachings and practices "without reservation or exception."



1 Many environmental studies have proven that exposure to various "xenohormones," chemicals which the body reads as hormones, but which are not, can cause transexuality and homosexuality in animals, reptiles, fish, and birds. Examples are feminized male fish in the Hudson River from PCB exposure (EPA.gov), transexual birds found in the Hudson River Valley from the same PCB exposure; transexual bass in the Potomac (MSNBC.com) from chemical pollutants; transexual fish found off the coast of Southern California from effluent exposure (article also cites similar findings in frogs, alligators, and other wild animals) (L.A. Times, Monday, Nov. 14, 2005).

References

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics:Sexual Orientation and Adolescents
  2. AGLP Fact Sheets
  3. 3.0 3.1 Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation
  4. A New Therapy on Faith and Sexual Identity: Psychological Association Revises Treatment Guidelines to Allow Counselors to Help Clients Reject Their Same-Sex Attractions

For Everyone

For Men

For Women

  • Evergreen Workbook for Women (LDS) by Cox & Forbes & Dant
  • Heart of the Matter: The Roots and Causes of Female Homosexuality by Davies & Rentzel (booklet)
  • Developing Genuine Friendships by Shirley E. Cox, Ph.D. & Doris Dant (booklet)
  • Out of Egypt by Janette Howard

For Friends, Family, and Church Leaders

  • Helping LDS Men Resolve their Homosexual Problems: A Guide for Family, Friends, and Church Leaders by Jason Park Century Publishing
  • God Loveth His Children by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

External links and LDS Resources

  • Gay Mormons
  • Evergreen International [1]. This nonprofit organization provides direction and support to Latter-day Saint men and women who want to diminish their same-sex attraction and free themselves from homosexual behavior. It is also a resource for family and friends, professional counselors, religious leaders, and all others who wish to help individuals who desire to change. The organization refers people to affiliated support groups and therapists, publishes manuals and newsletters, sells books by mail, and sponsors conferences.
  • North Star. A place of community for Latter-day Saints dealing with issues surrounding homosexual attraction who desire to live in harmony with the teachings of Jesus Christ and the values and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • SameSexAttraction.org. Help to overcome unwanted feelings of same-sex attraction and homosexual behavior. If you don't want to be gay, you don't have to be.
  • LDS Newsroom. Public Issues -- Same-Gender Attraction interview with Elder Oaks and Elder Wickman.
  • LDS Family Services. Provides counseling help to LDS members. Help for same-sex attraction may not require a bishop's referral.
  • People Can Change. A comprehensive Web site of valuable information for people who want to overcome same-sex attraction.
  • Disciples 2. Support for LDS members who struggle with same-sex attraction and want to stay true to the Church.
  • LDSSR. Devoted to the support and help of Latter-day Saints who are desirous of overcoming sexual addiction/compulsion in their lives
  • LDS-SSA is a online information and support resource for LDS men and women struggling with same-sex attraction.
  • Support Center for Latter-day Saints. Supportive organizations and helpful literature (with many online links) for Latter-day Saints and others dealing with same-sex attraction and/or sexual addiction.
  • Women of Worth Women of Worth seeks to help those individuals in opposite-gender relationships whose partner struggles with same-gender attractions.
  • STAR Program of Salt Lake City (Sexual Trauma And Recovery) offers programs for sexual addiction and sexual codependency.
  • California and same-sex marriage