I recently read this post in the New York Times.
The desire to reconcile our religious faith with our same-sex attractions is difficult. We aren't the only ones with this desire or conflict. But being Mormon is a unique variation on a theme that the entire Christian world is struggling with.
I'd like to share a little bit about my experiences both with therapists and with "book therapy." I do not endorse reparative therapy, or the authors I'm mentioning, or feel the same way now as I did then, so please don't assume I do.
At 17, I realized that I might be gay. I wasn't as into girls as my friends, and I noticed I was aroused by good looking muscular boys, and that same feeling didn't really happen with girls.
I called one of my friends and told her I thought I was gay. I don't exactly remember what she said. But she told me not to worry about it so much.
As I was getting ready to apply to BYU, I set up an appointment with my Bishop.
I told my bishop, and he reacted better than I expected. He started telling me that research showed that these feelings were caused by a lot of things. He agreed not to tell my parents and he sent me to counseling.
My first experience was with LDS family services. I pulled up to a stake center across town, and someone from LDS social services told me that because of problems with the relationship with my Dad, I had same-gender attraction. He told me a story about how he had ADHD and passed his test to become a therapist anyway. I cried for a long time in the car after. I didn't want to go back to him, and the Bishop agreed to pay to have me see a different therapist.
She was nice. She was LDS and she wasn't pushy or anything, but we talked a lot about me believing I was gay. She talked to me about how in some cultures masculine physical affection was more acceptable, but in ours it wasn't. She believed I just was expressing a natural desire for affection but that I wasn't gay.
I remember reading on the internet, my source for all knowledge at the time, some people believed that homosexuality was caused by sexual abuse. I thought that I might have repressed memories, and my therapist did hypnotherapy with me to explore this. I didn't remember anything. I kind of latched onto this idea though, because it gave me a way for me to explain my same-sex attractions to people.
I confided in my counselor at school, as well as two of the teachers that I might be gay. They were all heterosexual, but they were very understanding and compassionate to my situation. They urged me to take some time to find out about myself, to consider not going to BYU. They worried about how that might interfere my journey of self discovery. One teacher told me to be open to being gay. He told me that his friends had been in a committed monogamous relationship for over 20 years. He gave me a book about a pastor in California that had tried for years to deny himself, but eventually left his marriage and fell in love with a man. Somewhere in this process, I started dating a boy from the musical and from choir. It was mostly a good friendship and it wasn't serious, but we spent a lot of time together. He held my hand. He put his arm around me.
After a couple months, I felt like I should tell my parents. I told my parents I was gay. All hell broke loose. Suddenly my parents, who had kind of left me alone to do my own thing were constantly talking to me or writing me letters about how I would die of AIDS if I lived a "gay lifestyle" about how I was rebelling against the Lord's plan for me. My parents flipped when they found out I had a boyfriend. I was pretty honest with them about how I felt. I felt that it wasn't wrong to hold hands. Why couldn't I just live the standards of the church that apply to boy/girl relationship, but apply them to me and my relationship? Because it became so difficult, I agreed to stop seeing him.
My Dad gave me a book by Nicolosi. A perusal of his books on Amazon includes such title's as A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality or Reparative Therapy for Men. I don't remember the title of the book I read, but the idea of the book was that exotic becomes erotic, that because of a deficiency in my male relationships I had eroticized men.
A short time later, one of my friends came home from Ricks College for the summer. I told him that I thought I was gay. We talked all night. We prayed together on his lawn, and because of him, I decided to one not leave the church and two to try and marry a woman/become straight. He told me to have hope that someday I would find love and to not give up.
I decided to see a male therapist, since I believed that I needed one to help me overcome my "deficiency." He was my friend's Stake President.I wasn't going in trying to do reparative therapy per se, but I was trying to have him help me to overcome the same-sex attraction. When I saw him, he had me read things about how the dynamics of the relationship with my parents created my homosexuality. He said I was too close to my Mom, and too distant from my dad, and this dynamic created same-sex attractions. He told me that just because I was aroused by men didn't mean I was gay. I should let myself feel free to have all the sexual feelings I want for women, that me feeling embarrassed about sex made it so I had fantasies about men and not women. At the end of our time, he told me that he as a therapist could only do so much, but that the atonement would heal me.
In September of that year, I went with my Dad to an Evergreen International Conference. I heard A. Dean Byrd rail against the APA from taking homosexuality out of the DSM-IV. I head stories about how people had been excommunicated and come back and been excommunicated again. I remember them talking about cruising and having sex in bathrooms and all kinds of things. It was a heartbreaking experience to hear what they'd been through. But a lot of them had overcome this and gotten married. This gave me hope.
I also remember them talking about playing baseball to help feel more masculine. At the end I remember there was a fireside, and at the fireside I met a boy named Jon. He was from Provo and his Mom was there, and she didn't want us talking. But he did anyway. I remember wishing I could get to know him better. My Dad and I left the conference with a bunch of books that my Dad bought me. One was a workbook for Men on how to overcome SSA. I was on my way to becoming straight, or at least "diminishing" my feelings of same-sex attraction.
(To be continued)