Monday, April 03, 2006

Long comment

I recently read a beautiful post from hurricane about homosexuality and the Mormon Church. It laid out the situation eloquently and this post is a response to it. I recognize that it was a statement of hurricane’s own thoughts on the matter, and I didn’t want to hijack his comment section with MY thoughts on the matter. Well, I kind of did, but I resisted. :-)

Factually speaking, I have few qualms with the post. However, the distinction between same sex attraction (SSA) and gay behavior is central to the church's position, not to be dismissed as "euphemistic." I have unsuccessfully attempted to defend this distinction in the comments of other posts by offering examples of sexual behavior that are widely considered to be unacceptable in order to show that society MUST accept that inclination and behavior are separate if there is to be any accountability for sexual behavior whatsoever. And when I say “unsuccessfully” I must disclose that I consider my own explanation to be fine, it’s the folks I was talkin’ to who I wasn’t sure got it. Should I risk this discussion again? :-) I’ll spare you. Unless you say something that equivocates gay behavior with SSA in the comments. Then, oh yes, then you will receive the wrath of my analogies!!!

I just took the opportunity to read a couple of Kimball’s chapters again. I didn’t find where he compares homosexuality to bestiality except where he notes that they were both capital offenses under the Law of Moses. He uses tentative language in a few places that makes me think he recognizes that he is writing as himself, not as a prophet. And he himself equivocates SSA and gay behavior at the most alarming point (when he’s worked up by the pro-gay argument that people can’t “change” themselves—I’ll give it the charitable interpretation and read the equivocation as referring to behavior only, not inclination). Ultimately, it’s not the most carefully written exposition on doctrine relative to homosexuality and to criticize it as if it is representative of the church is probably inappropriate.

I will venture a comment on why scriptures suggest sexual immorality is “next to murder” in seriousness. This was once explained to me in seminary to be because murder and sexuality both deal with giving or taking life, the rules of which are the alleged province of God only. It is not suggesting, I was told, that a murderer and an immoral person are equally depraved in intent. Murder is bad not only because you slaughter another human being, but because from a plan of salvation point of view, you limit that person's ability to progress in this life and continue in the plan of salvation. Similarly, sexual immorality may change an unborn person’s opportunities in life. This is not church doctrine, just one way of thinking about it that was suggested to me.

Homosexuals are most likely to find genuine and lasting happiness and mental health by embracing and accepting their sexuality and integrating it fully into their personal identities.

I sort of agree. I feel like I’ve got some pretty genuine happiness and I’ve embraced and accepted my sexuality although I have no doubt you won’t count it as “fully integrated” into my identity. I am who I am. I’m attracted to men. And there’s no shame in that. But as something that hampers my goals, I’m going to try to change it. I've already used the obesity analogy in a previous post, but I like it well enough to repeat it. Obesity itself is not a disease—it is an adapted normal response that is only bad if you don’t happen to want to be obese (and because it puts you at risk for disease). This is similar to the way I see my SSA. It’s not evil and people shouldn’t be killing themselves over it. But, it’s not unreasonable to want to change it for personal reasons. And it does put me at risk for sin. [obligatory disclaimer—yes, I KNOW you don’t think it’s sin]

The APA's position, as well as the dozen or so other medical societies’, is an unfortunate example of the drawbacks of organized medicine—politics. This is the same organization that said homosexuality was a DISEASE not too many years ago. Both positions—the former and the current—are based on delegates who vote in the context of a consensus building process; a process that is intrinsically fraught with internal lobbying and (when the issues are controversial and the stakes are high) fervor to the point of misjudgment. I've voted as delegate or alternate in four different policy making bodies in organized medicine, so rest assured I like the idea most of the time. But because I'm familiar with how it works, an appeal to THAT authority gets little more from me than derision in this specific case.

This specific position statement is a vestigial remnant of a paternalistic medical system that seeks to tell people what choices they should make for themselves rather than supporting them by minimizing the risks of the choices they do make. It's like having a society sponsored position discouraging patients from being gay because it increases the risk of HIV transmission rather than just teaching about condoms. How would you feel about the APA if it held such a position?

And that Wikipedia article on “reparative” therapy (not the preferred term by practitioners of “conversion” therapy) was just annoying. Oh, if only I had three lifetimes to document all the crap in that puppy.

But, I want to end on a good note. Hurricane is one of the most careful and eloquent bloggers I know. He doesn’t just slap down whatever is running through his brain, and this post was a fine example of careful thinking. And conscientious principles. I commented a bit more than I usually do, but these thoughts were long overdue anyway. I respect and appreciate Hurc’s unique way of sharing the many things he has learned. Thanks, Hurc.


Chris (hurricane) said...

Thanks, L, for responding at length to my post--and for your kind words about me. I know that we are approaching our homosexuality differently, but we share the bond and I have enjoyed discussing the gay Mormon experience with you.

I have nothing of substance to say in response to your response. Just a few random thoughts.

1. I don't really have any issue with your distinction between attraction and behavior. I just disagree with you on the implications.

2. I will concede that it's possible that I got some of the details of Kimball's Miracle wrong. In an emotional act of catharsis, I actually burned my copy of the book about four months ago, so I no longer have it here to reference.

3. I think the juxtaposition of sexual sin with murder is nothing more than nonsensical Victorian prudery. Human beings are sexual creatures, and these types of condemnations create unnecessary shame and heartache.

4. I continue to believe that wanting to change one's sexual orientation is a form of self loathing and is a significant obstacle to self acceptance. On this point, you and I will simply disagree. And you certainly know your experience and psyche better than I do, and it may well refute to some extent my assertion on this point.

5. I am aware that the APA's position is political. But I also have faith in the professionalism of most of its members and believe the position they have adopted on homosexuality and reparative therapy is reflective of consensus thinking based in research and clinical practice.

6. I'm looking forward to hearing from you on conversion/reparative therapy.

Thanks again for your kind words about my posts and my approach.

LDSwithSSA said...

There is plenty of research and clinical practice showing that orientation is pliable, not set in stone. It's the political landscape that keeps it from being recognized.

Chris (hurricane) said...


I hear this all the time, and yet I don't know of a single person who has successfully converted from homosexual to heterosexual orientation.

The preponderence of the evidence tells us that orientation is largely fixed.

Dave Walter said...

Hurricane said: " I continue to believe that wanting to change one's sexual orientation is a form of self loathing and is a significant obstacle to self acceptance."

I agree with you. It would be like wanting to change from left-handed to right-handed just because society disdains left-handed people. It's wanting to change to please others rather then embrace one's true self.