I was talking with a bishop once where I said that I needed a certain amount of “gayness” in my life in order to be happy. He was taken aback and likened it to someone saying that they needed a certain amount of sin in their life in order to be happy. I knew that that wasn’t what I meant, but I couldn’t really explain myself then. As the years have passed, however, I now know how to express what I meant then.
I accept myself as a homosexual. By so doing, I accept the fact that I have attractions to members of my own sex. I do not accept that I have to act on those inclinations. I do not accept that I have to live a certain lifestyle. A lot of people get real jittery when gays in the Church start “accepting their homosexuality”. They seem to be confused why gays feel the need to talk about their homosexuality or even to refer to themselves as gays, SSA, SGA, homosexuals, whatever. If homosexuality is a sin, shouldn’t you try to separate yourself as far as possibly from it? Shouldn’t you try and be straight? Yes…and no.
The main problem with gay people trying to be straight is…well, we are not. Don’t get me wrong, many gay Mormons are leading happily married lives and for most of us, marriage is the ultimate goal (whenever that may happen). For some guys, homosexual attractions have diminished over time and for a select few, homosexual attractions have disappeared altogether, but for many of us, homosexual attractions will be present for us in some degree for the rest of our lives. Some of us swing so far right on the Kinsey Scale that we are unsure if we will ever get married in this life. Seeing that homosexual attractions will likely be ever present, there can be danger in thinking of oneself as “straight” – just like everyone around us – because our individual circumstances often dictate that we act differently than other (straight) people around us.
For example, if I am attracted to a man and I get the feeling that he is attracted to me as well, I have the personal rule to try and not allow myself to get into a situation in which I may be alone with him. By so doing, I remove the possibility of something inappropriate happening. Do I think something might happen? Not really, but it can’t if the situation never has a chance to present itself. Do straight guys worry about such things? No. (They don’t, right?) But I have to consider them. Why? Because I am gay.
So, for me, identifying myself as gay (or SSA, SGA, whatever) serves as a reminder of the additional boundaries that I have had to establish in my life in order to keep myself protected from unique temptation that I experience.
But there is another reason why I accept my homosexuality – to survive. For whatever reason, being “in the closet” (I use this term in the LDS context of actively hiding one’s homosexual tendencies while trying to pass as straight) can cause lots of anxiety, despair, and depression. Now, I don’t think that every gay guy in the Church needs to start wearing a rainbow tie to sacrament meeting, but there is a big difference in not talking about your sexuality because you don’t feel the need to and not talking about your sexuality because you feel you will be actively rejected by those around you if you do. The Lord has made it very clear that homosexual acts are a sin, but homosexual attractions are not. If we are made to feel that we should be ashamed for even having homosexual attractions – it’s very easy to turn that into self hatred, which leads to very bad things. Every time in the past that I personally have allowed myself to slip into the “I’m straight, just like everyone else” mindset or felt the necessity to keep my sexuality to hidden because of likely rejection, I’ve always been slammed with massive depression and even suicidal ideations. We don’t need to talk about it constantly (my friends sometimes point out that they’d expected me to talk more about it), but we need to know that we can talk about it without being the target of a real-world “smear the queer”.
“Some people with same-gender attraction have felt rejected because members of the Church did not always show love. No member of the Church should ever be intolerant. As you show love and kindness to others, you give them an opportunity to change their attitudes and follow Christ more fully.” (God Loveth His Children)
In my interactions with other members of the Church on the issue of homosexuality, I’ve often found myself grow hot under the collar when faced with ignorant attitudes and views. In my haste to respond, if I have ever come across as unkind or accusatory towards others over this issue, I do apologize. That was not my intent. In my desire to have the Church be a safe haven for all of Heavenly Father’s children, I admit to sometimes being impatient. This is not the correct response, however, but I should respond with love and kindness – including to those who may not be showing it. It is by showing love (for our friends and our enemies) that we learn to be followers of Christ.
And that is one thing that hopefully we all can self-identify as.