Can you have same-gender attraction, be a faithful Christian and/or member of the LDS church, and be at peace?
I was about 13 years old when I recognized that I had the same kinds of “crushes” on girls that I had on guys. I guess you could call me a bisexual if you wanted, although I have never chosen to live the bisexual lifestyle. Throughout my youth, I felt afraid of those feelings of attraction and desire because I knew it wasn’t normal or average to feel that way about people of my same gender. I kept it a secret until I was an adult. When I told my best friend at that time, she was so kind and understanding. I was worried it would change how she felt about me, but she has never treated me differently since she found out because she knows it doesn’t really change who I am.
I wanted to share a few of the thoughts and ideas that I have found comforting in dealing with the trial of same-gender attraction. God is the only one who knows the truth about the why behind homosexuality, and its comforting to know that one day we’ll all understand. I am not an expert on this topic and I know that it is often a controversial issue that produces strong feelings in many people. My hope is that these thoughts will help someone else struggling with this issue, like they have helped me and others I have shared them with.
One semester in college, I read in a textbook about different factors that can affect how one feels about one’s gender and one’s sexual orientation. It described several things that can make one not fully biologically male or biologically female or that influences a person’s sense of gender, such as:
-chromosomal predispositions to gender
-the presence of either ovaries or testes
-exposure to male or female hormones prior to birth and brain differentiation resulting from hormones prior to birth
-the presence of internal male or female reproductive organs
-exterior genital appearance
– the production of either male or female hormones during puberty
The textbook also gave the statistics that 1 in 2000 people are born intersex/transgender, with genitals that are not clearly one gender or the other.
As I read, I thought about the people I knew with hormonal problems such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). One of the symptoms of PCOS is overproduction of testosterone, which seems like it could also contribute to same-gender attraction.
As I read and thought about these things I realized it is possible that same-gender attraction– including homosexuality and bisexuality–could be caused by hormone problems or other biological problems that people really can’t help.
Just like I have OCD and its not my fault.
I try not to over-identify with my health conditions, because they are not who I am. I have OCD, but I am not OCD. Some people have sickle cell anemia, but they are not sickle cell anemia. And the same goes for asthma, type 1 diabetes, cerebral palsy, schizophrenia, Downs syndrome, and any other biological problem people are born with or develop. So it occurred to me that rather than BEING gay, it may be more accurate to say one HAS homosexuality.
Once again, only God knows the why behind homosexuality or same-gender attraction, but it was really comforting for me personally to realize that it may be a hormonal and biological disorder that causes this. It helped me realize that similar to other challenges I face in life that are not who I am, like OCD, homosexuality does not have to be something significant with deep meaning. I can think of it as just another disorder I must deal with in this life. For some, that disorder may be multiple sclerosis or bipolar disorder. For me, its OCD, PTSD, and same-gender attraction.
I really feel that satan has convinced the world that our sexual orientation is part of our identity. You notice this in the way people have begun to call it “my sexuality” or “my sexual identity” as if it were some integral, essential and inherent part of who they are. But it really isn’t part of their identity at all, not in that way.
I really like something an apostle in our church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints), Jeffrey R Holland said:
“You serve yourself poorly when you identify yourself primarily by your sexual feelings. That isn’t your only characteristic, so don’t give it disproportionate attention. You are first and foremost a son of God, and He loves you.”
I feel like satan, as well as some influential but incorrect individuals, have convinced society that sex is a need. Sex is even listed as a basic need in college textbooks these days. Because of this, many with same-gender attraction believe that they must either unbearably suffer while abstaining or else give in to their desires. I believe, however, that sex really isn’t a need that homosexuals or bisexuals are being deprived of. Monks and nuns, while unable to live without food, water, or shelter from harsh environmental elements, are completely able to live to a healthy old age without sex.
I understand personally how hard it is for people who experience same-gender attraction to not fulfill those desires, while those with only heterosexual desires eventually are able to fulfill them when they get married. But it is doable, and it is not harder than other trials people have to live with. There are many biological problems people are born with, like some of the ones I mentioned earlier, that can prevent people from being able to marry too. It is a trial of life, and although painful, trials can strengthen our character and our spiritual capacities.
I like something F. Enzio Busche once said:
“In your life there have to be challenges. They will either bring you closer to God and therefore make you stronger, or they can destroy you. But you make the decision of which road you take.” http://kevinhinckley.com/userfiles/files/busche_fenzio_1996_05.pdf
It is hard that same-sex attraction sometimes makes it hard for people afflicted with it to follow all of God’s plan—including marrying and having a family—although many gay people are able to do it and are genuinely happy. I was comforted by a friend who told me that “all we have to do in this life is live as much of God’s plan as we’re able to” and that we’re all in God’s hands. He knows our limitations and what mortal problems may make it difficult for us to complete all of His plan. He will take care of each of us and in the next life, when our bodies are perfect, we will be able to do all we could not do in this life.
I have often wondered why God would allow some things to exist in this life—same gender attraction, the addictive effects of drugs and pornography, etc. I’ve wondered why our bodies have weaknesses in these areas, why its hard to not engage in these things. It dawned on me that it could be “to see if they will do all things which God has commanded”.
These behaviors, if avoided according to God’s commandments, should not be problems. We may feel the desire to engage in these things because they feel good to our bodies, but what is more important to us: obeying God and strengthening our true identity—our spirit—or making our bodies feel good? It is a true test of where our heart is if we will resist the urges and temptations to do things that bring our bodies pleasure but that are against God’s will.
This is a really hard part of the test of life for those who have what might be a biological disorder that causes this disordered attraction. But I feel like we have the ability to obey. And we all can repent if we’ve disobeyed in the past and God will completely and totally forgive us.
It is really true that every person has strong desires emanating from their natural man/body towards some things that are the opposite of God’s commandments for our happiness. The desire might be masturbation, to engage in sex out of wedlock, to engage in homosexual behavior, to strike out in anger, to demean another person, to steal something we want but can’t afford, to take drugs like caffeine or alcohol or unneeded prescriptions, to never forgive someone, etc.
Part of this life is to see if we want what God has in store more than we want what our bodies desire. Which desire is stronger? Is our soul master over our body? Do we trust God that His way is best and will ultimately lead to the most freedom and happiness in this life and in eternity?
The unrighteous desires have to be strong in order for it to really test us, for our choice to obey God to really be meaningful and really show our true desires. If it wasn’t hard to choose God’s way, we’d probably just do it. But when we have an opposite pull to choose something different from God’s way, it shows our soul’s strong desire to obey God when we obey Him despite our other desires. Life is about seeing if we will do all things God has commanded, it is a test.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, another apostle, said:
“If you believe this in your hearts—if you truly believe the great mission of our Heavenly Father is to exalt and glorify His children and that He knows best how to do it—doesn’t it make sense to embrace and follow His commandments, even the ones that appear difficult?”
It makes sense that God makes the rules about sexuality, cause He created us and He created sex. When people choose to view pornography, masturbate, engage in homosexual behaviors, or have sexual intercourse with someone they are not married to, they may experience enjoyable physical feelings or happiness that are temporary. But in eternity, God tell us that you must be a male and female, committed eternally to each other, in order to experience that, and those who don’t choose a different way in this life will just experience disappointment in the next life. While those with same-gender attraction who are obedient in every way but can’t follow this part of God’s plan will receive in the next life the same blessings as those who could follow this part of the plan. God will take care of you.
I really like something another apostle, D. Todd Christofferson, said:
“As we endeavor day by day and week by week to follow the path of Christ, our spirit asserts its preeminence, the battle within subsides, and temptations cease to trouble.”
The struggle with same-gender attraction is difficult, but as our spirit asserts its preeminence over our bodies, it will get easier. We are children of God, and all have the potential to become who He intended us to be.
This talk, by another apostle, David A. Bednar, really helped me to understand God’s purposes for His standards on sexuality: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/04/we-believe-in-being-chaste?lang=eng