(This is a letter to my stake president in preparation for a special Questions and Answers session with the women in our stake. The women were able to write a question on a slip of paper and have it delivered to him in advance. He then researched the answers and addressed as many as he could in our meeting. I wanted desperately to ask something but I wasn't sure what. I finally decided to pour my heart out in a letter and send it to his home. I was saddened when he didn't address any of my concerns during that meeting and feared that I wasn't important enough, or rather the topic wasn't important enough. I found out later that he hadn't received the letter until after the meeting. He then addressed the topic briefly in Stake Conference a couple of weeks later).
I am anxiously awaiting the special meeting in a week or two where you address the questions of the sisters in our stake. I have so many questions on my mind that I could ask you personally, but I’d like to use this unique opportunity to help educate the sisters about same sex attraction. I apologize for not slipping a tiny piece of paper into an envelope in Relief Society to give to my RS president, but I’m still hiding this part of myself from everyone. I’m not sure how to form my question to you properly, but I’ll throw some ideas out and see if there’s anything you can use. Maybe I’ll share with you some of the questions I’ve had for myself, since I’ve recently discovered my own struggle with SSA, and I’ll add the answers I’ve come up with so far.
1. Why would my Heavenly Father create me in "this way" (homosexual)?
A: It’s just another one of many trials we are given to overcome in this life. Everyone has their own "handcart" to pull whether a disability, deformity, mental illness, alcoholism, pornography, abuse inflicted by others, same sex attraction, etc. What a person does with those afflictions / tendencies / issues is what makes the difference. If I live my life according to His Plan, and strive daily to shun the temptations put there by Satan, I will be blessed in the next life. This little part of me will be removed and I will be able to find my place in exaltation.
2. Are homosexuals "born that way?"
A: No one knows the answer to that with the exception of our Heavenly Father. There is no proof either way, although there seem to be a lot of factors that determines ones sexual orientation. There could be a biological predisposition to homosexuality, it could be created from negative childhood experiences and some may actually choose this for themselves, although it’s hard to believe that a person would intentionally inflict themselves with something so painful. The fact remains that the reason for SSA isn’t very important. The answer to that question may never be answered in this lifetime, but we don’t really need to know the answer now. "Just as the capacity to defer gratification is a sign of real maturity, likewise the willingness to wait for deferred explanation is a sign of real faith and of trust spread over time." (Neal A. Maxwell). What we do with each trial we’re given is what matters most, not what brought the trials in the first place.
3. Why are people scared of people who struggle with SSA? Why do they feel we’re automatically going to be attracted to them?
A: They don’t understand! People who struggle with same sex attraction are NOT their temptation. It’s just small part of who they are. Would a heterosexual person be attracted to every single person in their life who was the opposite sex? No! We are not a threat to each straight same sex friend we encounter. In fact, one thing that helps us on our journey is to have heterosexual friends of the same gender who are willing to encourage and support us along our path. They can teach us by example and unconditional love. We need those healthy friendships, please don’t be scared of us!
4. Why do people assume homosexuals are a threat to children?
A: Would heterosexuals be a threat to children because of their orientation? No! That’s a separate issue that deals with an entirely different struggle, one that has nothing to do with sexuality in general. We are not a threat to children. We have the capacity to love them just as any heterosexual does.
5. Is same sex attraction a sin?
A: No! Homosexual behaviors are definitely a sin while homosexual tendencies are not! We have the responsibility to make sure our thoughts are pure. Just as a person without SSA must do their best to keep themselves free of erotic heterosexual feelings and thoughts, we are required to do the same. If we do just that we are not sinning. If we act on these feelings then we are sinning, but until that happens we are just the same as everyone else.
6. Can a person with SSA marry and have children?
A: Marriage is not a cure to homosexual tendencies and shouldn’t be used as a means to fix everything. However, some people are able to marry and have a great relationship with a loving and supportive spouse who will remain with them on their journey back to our Heavenly Father. Some people have not completely realized their SSA until years after marrying and starting a family. Some will divorce and some will stay in their marriage. I believe it all depends on the attitude and desire of both, but especially the one who suffers from SSA. Obviously the people with SSA who choose to abandon their families and live a gay lifestyle are not in accordance with the commandments of God. Those people who find themselves attracted to the same sex can live a fulfilling life with someone of the opposite sex, although there will be added trials and struggles. A couple can find true happiness working together to overcome this obstacle that has been put into their marriage. (This is my hope, considering the fact that I haven’t as of yet shared this with my husband).
7. Is SSA a sexual addiction?
A: No! Some people who struggle with homosexuality sometimes have additional problems such as viewing pornography or masturbation, which can become addictions, but attraction to the same sex in and of itself is not an addiction. It’s having the same feelings for the same sex as a man would feel for a woman or a woman would feel for a man. And just as a heterosexual person feels it unnatural to have homosexual feelings and tendencies, a homosexual person feels it unnatural to have heterosexual feelings and tendencies. We just have to fight harder and go against what feels natural to us because we believe that Heavenly Father disagrees with that lifestyle.
8. Can SSA go away with prayer and study?
A: Although a person can be strengthened by prayer and scripture study, and living their lives according to His will, the feelings of SSA will most likely never go away in this lifetime. Our challenges might be eased, and we may have less of an urge to act out on our feelings, but it’s my belief that this is a part of who I am, just like my hair and eye color. My weaknesses can become a strength, but that doesn’t mean it will be taken from me completely.
9. Does Heavenly Father love me as much as people who don’t struggle with SSA?
A: I’m not so sure. Please convince me that He does! No amount of study, prayer, pleading, etc. has worked thus far. I continue to work on this and I’m trying to feel it, but it’s so difficult. My logic tells me that He has to, that I’m as valuable as my sisters, but my heart is saddened to not completely internalize it. I have come a long way in a very short time, but I want more than anything to feel valued and cherished like everyone else. Why should I be any different in God’s eyes? I shouldn’t, but I still feel like I am. This flaw in my being seems to drag me into the depths of hell on most days. I feel inherently bad and as though I’m a mistake in His Plan. This seems contradictory to the answers I’ve given previously, but even though my logic tells me these answers, somewhere deep down I’m feeling like less of a spirit.
One of the problem comes from years of being taught in church that homosexuality is a sin. But if these feelings are natural to me, then the answer I’ve received all these years is that there is something fundamentally wrong with who I am. I know that the "acting out" part of homosexuality is the actual sin, and not the tendencies themselves, but that isn’t discussed in the church as openly as it should be (my own opinion, of course). Growing up feeling one way, but trying to repress those feelings because of how ‘wrong’ it is, brings an incredible amount of guilt and shame. I have a strong desire to do what is right and good, to follow my Savior’s example and return to my Heavenly Father, but I can’t rid myself of the incessant thoughts of "I’m not worthy, I’m not good enough, I’m a mistake" because of naturally feeling something highly unnatural and against God’s Plan.
President, I hope that you are able to address even a tiny bit of what I’ve shared with you. Of course I wish to remain anonymous considering no one knows of my struggles, but hopefully something will be helpful for the sisters of our stake. You may decide that it’s not something you wish to discuss; I will have to trust your judgment on that.
I love you. I love all that you represent. I love the advice and encouragement you have given over the years. I love that you are as close to our Savior as anyone I’ve ever met. The closeness to the Spirit that exudes from you is comforting and delightful. I am blessed to be able to know you and love you.
Your Sister in Zion.
Oh boy! I thought I knew so much back then, but I didn't know much at all. I had only been "out" to myself for a month or two and thought I had all the answers. Although my stake president referred to my letter in stake conference a couple weeks later, he didn't refer to homosexuality specifically. He told me of Heavenly Father's love for me and that there is a way to be happy. That was pretty much the gist of it.
My feelings have changed drastically this past year. I no longer see "SSA" as a challenge, trial, burden, affliction, struggle, issue, weakness, something to suffer through, a SIN, etc. I actually view it as a blessing. I am HAPPY that I am a lesbian. Finding myself and finally admitting that I'm a lesbian is what has brought me the most happiness. That may seem absurd to a lot of you, but that's okay. My eyes have finally been opened to the truth, which is that my Heavenly Father created me this way for a purpose. And that purpose was NOT to punish me, nor was it because He wanted to see if I could "overcome my challenge." He loves me just as much as all of you. Even as much as all of the straight people. Gasp!
Here's the kicker people ... the most important thing I've learned is that God made me this way and he does NOT want me to change! I no longer feel that His love for me is "even though" I'm gay. It's because I am gay and that's enough for Him. Having changed my belief about God has been integral in my healing. Please don't misunderstand. I didn't need to heal my homosexuality. I was healing my feelings of inadequacy and my belief that I was inherently bad. I was healing the part of me that felt that I was God's only mistake and that He couldn't love me as much as my neighbor.
All the years of depression, anxiety and being suicidal melted away the moment I recognized that I am enough exactly the way I am. I do need to abide by God's laws of being a good person in general, but that has nothing to do with homosexuality. I've taken that out of the equation because I no longer believe that it's something to overcome. It's a core part of my being. I am a better person because of it.
I don't believe it's a coincidence that I am a happier person today than when I wrote that letter. For years my therapists, bishops, doctors, friends and family had told me that I would only be happy when I was finally able to find out WHO I AM. Most of them meant who I am in relation to God, which has also been an important aspect for me to figure out. But finally recognizing that I'm a gay woman, and fully embracing that, is what has helped me to find my happiness. I believe there is more happiness to be found, but I am definitely on the right path. And God loves me and accepts me. Little ol' gay ME!!