Sunday, April 15, 2007

The ideal resource

Most people say on these blogs at one time or another that they wish there were better resources for LDS folks who struggle with their sexual orientation. I'm wondering today a little more specifically what form such resources would take. What would they need to convey exactly?

There are currently books on the subject--not truckloads full, but certainly more than a few from a spectrum of views on the church and therapy. There are websites ranging from social to academic, faithful to antagonistic (to the church). There are quite a few discussion groups available. And, last but not least, there is a fantastic blogging community.

For all of you who believe we need more resources available (and I'm one), what do we need? I don't want to hear that you think your particular viewpoint is under-emphasized and should be broadcast louder. ;-) I'm just curious to know what you would want and need if you were looking for resources.

25 comments:

Stephalumpagus said...

I'm not gay, nor do I know if this counts as a "resource," but I would like SSA to be discussed more in Church settings. Not that it should be the topic of every lesson, or that it should be mentioned every General Conference, but I think it would be helpful for the Church itself to put out more material on the subject. Yes, there are already a lot of "resources," but there aren't very many that the Church itself puts out. I guess what I mean is that "The Miracle of Forgiveness" isn't exactly the greatest resource for homosexuality. It's a shame how mis/uninformed a lot of people in the Church are, and I think it would be good to get it more out in the open. It really has been getting better, I just hope to see it continue to get better.

Forester said...

I'm hoping that we will soon have a high ranking member of the bretheren who has struggled with SGA and who will want to empathize with those of us who are struggling, often daily, with this enormous burden. Someone who will know what subjects are needed, such as how to not feel guilty for having these feelings, how to live a fulfilled life in a marriage with children, testifying that it can be done and that we're not on the fringe of the gospel, that we are part of the very fiber that makes up the members of the church. I live in fear of telling my wife about my feelings because there is so little understanding and support from high levels. I would definately be happy as well, with a lesson in the priesthood manual devoted to the topic of SGA.

Mormon Enigma said...

What I think we need is a change in the culture, not necessarily new resources. For example, I've never talked to my Bishop about my SSA. The reason being that I fear the consequences. Not because I've done anything wrong, but because of misunderstandings about what being gay is and isn't. And, I've read enough bad experiences from other people that I feel my fears are justified. But, that is wrong. I should be able to feel comfortable talking to my Bishop without worrying that my records will be notated that I'm not allowed to work with youth, or that I'll spend the rest of my life in callings such as magazine subscription coordinator.

To accomplish this, I think church leadership needs to do more to reach out to members with SSA. And, the general membership needs to be educated that we are among them whether they realize it or not. And, that some of the things they say, often in jest and/or seemingly innocent, can be hurtful to someone with SSA.

Also, within the church, we have a lot of activities geared towards the special interests of a subset of the church membership. We have primary activities, youth activities, young single adult activities, old single adult activities. The sisters have Relief society activities. And we men have ... er, um, well there's basketball.

Maybe straight guys don't have the same needs as sisters for companionship. But, I know I often feel a little jealous when my wife goes off to her RS activities and wish men had something similar. I've even brought it up in priesthood meetings when the question was posed about what can the quorum do better to meet the needs of its members. All I typically got were odd stares.

playasinmar said...

Back in 2001 I remember reading a lengthy article in the Ensign about SSA. In it there is a story of a young man who told his parents of his struggle. His parents supported him and told him they loved him. the young man took this as license to pursue a homosexual relationship. The story blamed the parents for being to supportive.

This is the state of Mormon culture. The attitude of keep-it-to-yourself because if you don't we'll have to put you on a short leash.

-L- said...

I see a trend in everyone's thoughts, and I agree that there's an overall sense that too few church members have a clue on this issue.

But, in terms of resources, do you think the books are any good? Do you think they cover what they need to cover? Surely there could be better actual resources.

And Playasinmar, I would love to have a reference for that story if it wouldn't be too troublesome to find it.

MoHoHawaii said...

When I was struggling as a young person I felt an incredible sense of isolation, as if I were the only person in the world with my problem. I know that when I came out to my parents they too felt isolated.

To me the best resource to come around has been the Internet. It's chaotic, but somehow it works to connect people who are dealing with the same set of issues.

I think it would be great if this topic was less taboo in the Church. Maybe it could be mentioned more in lesson manuals. There's a lot of anguish (including in the families of gay Mormons) that could be eliminated. I guess I don't expect to start full diversity training (funny), but any step in the direction of compassion and understanding would be a welcome step.

Mormon Enigma said...

playasinmar, is this the article you were referring to?

When a Loved One Struggles with Same-Sex Attraction
(see #3)

Regarding your question about resources, I'm reminded of a definition I once read for a "customer": A customer is someone who doesn't know what they want, they just know that what you have isn't what they want.. That kind of describes how I feel. I don't really know what resources I want, I just know that the resources that are available aren't what I want. But, if the right resource comes along then I'll recognize it.

Ron Schow said...

Mormon Enigma & playasinmar

"We believe that a man should be punished for his own sins and not for Adam's transgression."

When this article by Dean Byrd blames parents for choices their 27 year old adult son makes, I couldn't help but think of this article of faith.

Byrd also in this article (posing as an authority to unsuspecting members of the Church) cites the research of Friedman & Downey, and other scientists. Even though Byrd himself is not a biologist he claims to have read the research of Friedman and Downey, etc, and Byrd says these scientists have been misinterpreted and they support Byrd's position. On our website in the professional section (www.LDSResources.info) Dr. William Bradshaw, a BYU biology professor, carefully documents in a review of In Quiet Desperation, the way Byrd has misunderstood and misrepresented the writing of Friedman and Downey on Neurobiology and several other scientists in biology. It is extremely unfortunate when Church members are given resources in the Ensign which mislead our members.

Byrd insists that parents should have accurate information and then proceeds to misinform them. He says homosexuality is not genetic and can be changed. "First, it is important to understand that homosexuality is not innate and unchangeable." He blames nurture rather than nature and beats up on parents when he stresses how "familial" factors among others cause it.

In this he contradicts Elder Oaks (Oaks/Wickman on the Church website) who insists the Church has no positon on nature or nurture.

ELDER OAKS: That’s where our doctrine comes into play. The Church does not have a position on the causes of any of these susceptibilities or inclinations, including those related to same-gender attraction. Those are scientific questions — whether nature or nurture — those are things the Church doesn’t have a position on.

Byrd also asks parents to give their "testimony of change" to their loved one. Elder Wickman on the other hand said,

"This is an issue that those in psychiatry, in the psychology professions have debated. Case studies I believe have shown that in some cases there has been progress made in helping someone to change that orientation; in other cases not. From the Church’s standpoint, from our standpoint of concern for people, that’s not where we place our principal focus."

Asking parents to testify of change is one of the best ways I know for parents to lose credibility with their gay children, yet it is what Byrd recommends in the Ensign.

I have learned from one of the highest placed general authorities that this article appeared in the Ensign without the normal review and approval process by the GA in charge.

This is an article I consider to be a horrible resource for the reasons cited above.

playasinmar said...

Good job, Enigma! That's the article! (I guess I was looking for it in more recent issues of the ensign.)

In gay Mormon circles I often hear people complain about "A. Dean Byrd's article." I didn't realize I disapproved of his article as well.

But there it is:

3. While maintaining a loving concern for the person, reiterate the Lord’s position that homosexual relations are sinful, and don’t lose sight of this gospel truth. The story of one young man highlights this point. At 27 years of age, Kent had never acted on his homosexual urgings, which had been present for several years. He decided to inform his parents about his feelings. They were visibly upset but voiced their support for him. Unfortunately, he viewed their support as approval to pursue homosexual relations. He contracted the AIDS virus. In retrospect, he wondered if it would have made a difference if his parents had taken a stronger stand. He stated, “I interpreted their love for me as their approval of homosexual relations.”

santorio said...

don't expect church leaders to take a leading role in this in more than they took a leading role in the civil rights movement or are taking a role in anti-war movements. doing so would only decrease tithing income [even dialogue has learned that articles with a gay theme result in a loss of readership].

these changes have to come from the bottom up.

when the sunday school teacher asked for an example of a prayer being answered, a sister said that she had initially balked at the church's position against gay marriage but had prayed and received the answer that the position was correct. i raised my hand and noted that i had prayed about the same issue and received the opposite answer. a few quiet laughs; then a change of subject. but the point was made: there are other viewpoints held by respectible [that's me!] members of the church.

Beck said...

Santorio is sooo bad! :) Sounds like something I would have said...

The Ensign article "Compassion for those who Struggle" (Sept. 2004) came out the month I "came out" to myself. It had a powerful influence on my life and takes a more "tolerant and loving" approach verses the earlier Byrd article quoted above... Though still very bent on "overcoming", there is a spirit of distinction between temptation and transgression, a key point I had to realize and emphasize to my wife when I came "out" to her. Had this not been printed in the Ensign for her to read, the Byrd piece would have been "authoratative" in her mind.

My point... we do need more articles, lessons, discussions that help "mainstream rigid black-and-white thinking members" to understand and show compassion verses condemnation. Had this meager article not been printed when it was, who knows where my marriage would have ended up...

Mormon Enigma said...

Wow! This comment thread sure took a left turn. Beck, good save for bringing it back to what -L-'s original intent.

I just have one question: Why do we care what Byrd thinks?

Anyway, back to the original question regarding resources. I've been very impressed with drex - how open he is with his family and friends, and how supportive they are with him. What I think we need is:

1. More of us Gay Mormon's need to be like drex

2. More members of the church need to be like drex's family and friends.

I know that isn't the answer -L- is looking for. And, I don't know how we get there. But, I don't think more books is the answer.

drex said...

^_^ Mormon Enigma, you make me laugh.

Honestly, I think everything will happen better if it happens both from the top down and the bottom up. Leaders have to educate themselves, but we have to educate others. Not indoctrinate, but we need to have the gumption and bravery to get out of our comfort zones a little bit, to reach out to people who can understand and share some of our experiences. Some of the seemingly most homophobic people I've met, once confronted with someone close to them dealing with SSA, will become their most stalwart defenders. I have faith that the majority of church members want to understand what people deal with, and so when they come face-to-face with it - when it becomes real to them - they'll try to understand.

As for direct resources, one thing that I have never found is anything outlining the experiences of SSA Mormons successfully (or even unsuccessfully) dating members of the opposite sex. Aside from a few sparse blog entries, no one has outlined what the key components to a mixed orientation dating relationship are, what sorts of personality traits tend to manifest in someone who would have the strength or understanding to deal with such a difficult relationship, or anything like that. I'm trying to assemble some of my limited experience on that sort of thing, but I'm only one voice and one perspective.

Along that vein, official-like resources outlining the workings of successful mixed-orientation marriages are hard to find. I imagine that many of the components that comprise a successful dating relationship would carry over into a marriage, but there are added expectations and struggles of a marriage that aren't present in a dating relationship, and those ought to be addressed as well.

Then again, I'm not too well-read on the subject, so I'm not sure I'm correct in my conclusions about what is available.

-L- said...

MEnigma, I completely agree with your apprehension that unfair results might follow from outing yourself to your bishop. It's a horrible shame.

Ron, I agree that Byrd's article overstates a number of things, but I don't think change from gay to straight was the only kind of change he was talking about. The way I read it, he may have also been talking about repentance for actual sins. Regardless, I agree that he has no basis for his unqualified claims about genetics, innate orientation, etc.

I do find it amazing that there was an implicit recommendation to shun your gay children. No, it didn't say that exactly, but it was written in just such a way as to suggest that love is too easily mistaken for approval. I think the solution for that is to love and make your views known (perhaps what Byrd really wants to recommend), not to withhold loving acceptance. Anyway. What everyone said. Yeah.

As for resources, I agree, Drex that there is a lack of guidance, and I think it stems from the reluctance of people to speak frankly of their personal situations (as several people have pointed out), what worked and what did not. While I admire those who put themselves at risk in this way, it's a risk I'm trying to avoid for all the reasons Enigma mentioned.

Hopefully, we've all contributed to the collective resources available by sharing our individual stories. :-)

playasinmar said...

I think the most valuable change would be if the church actually encouraged families to reach out and fellowship the gay members. There are way too many kids (boys in particular) who kill themselves because that is the only resource they can find. (Well... also the church has always been prety hard on young men who don't measure up.)

And for a erie mixed orientation marriage resource you can read Ben Christensen's "Getting Out/ Staying In." Maybe one of you mixed-orientation successes could write something too. :)

Ron Schow said...

A friend of mine created a resource site for LDS with SSA/orientation issues a few years ago. He has been saying lately that he wants to rework the site by adding some things and taking off some of what is there.

This is the site

www.ldsep.org/peace

He has described the site "jokingly" as having 3 degrees of glory. The effort was to have different sections for those basically in and out of the Church. If you don't want to read anything outside of approved church standards you shouldn't go to the 3rd degree (celestial or telestial depending on your point of view). If you go there, he says, don't complain because he warned you, but free choice is operative. You can check it out if you want to.

I think he might be open to adding some items from this site and Ben's blog. It would take some work to prepare certain things from here to go onto a somewhat more focused site, but I'm curious as to whether any of you would want to look it over and see what you think. It has lots of different sections at the top you can click on. There are many different short essays. There are a variety of perspectives.

Take a look at it if you are curious.

Ron Schow said...

One of the bloggers on this site sent me some private email and asked me more about how the HH Scale works. He also wanted a little help from me with respect to how different factors would enter into figuring his own HH Scale position. I could post some information here so everyone would have access to it, if you are interested.

-L- Is this the right place to put it? Do you want to have it on your blogspot?

-L- said...

This sounds like valuable information to share. I think this is a great opportunity for you to start a blog, Ron. You can include a WordPress or Blogger blog as part of your existing website too. It's very simple and I'll certainly link to it (in a post or the resources list if you are not gay, in the moho list if you are gay--I really need to rework my linking system!). When you post something like that in the comment section it is less "findable." Let me know if you would like help getting your blog started.

Chris said...

I do find it amazing that there was an implicit recommendation to shun your gay children. No, it didn't say that exactly, but it was written in just such a way as to suggest that love is too easily mistaken for approval.

Why is this amazing? Elders Oaks and Wickman suggest essentially the same thing, though more diplomatically.

Oaks: I can also imagine some circumstances in which it might be possible to say, ‘Yes, come, but don’t expect to stay overnight. Don’t expect to be a lengthy house guest. Don’t expect us to take you out and introduce you to our friends, or to deal with you in a public situation that would imply our approval of your “partnership.”

To be fair, he does go on to say: There are so many different circumstances, it’s impossible to give one answer that fits all.

And Wickman later adds: The only thing that I would add to what Elder Oaks has just said is that I think it’s important as a parent to avoid a potential trap arising out of one’s anguish over this situation.

I refer to a shift from defending the Lord’s way to defending the errant child’s lifestyle, both with him and with others. It really is true the Lord’s way is to love the sinner while condemning the sin. That is to say we continue to open our homes and our hearts and our arms to our children, but that need not be with approval of their lifestyle.


But, again, at least he adds: Neither does it mean we need to be constantly telling them that their lifestyle is inappropriate.

It's kinder and gentler, but in quality, I think it's the same message as that in the Byrd article: Love them, but don't approve!

-L- said...

It's kinder and gentler, but in quality, I think it's the same message as that in the Byrd article: Love them, but don't approve!

If that's how you read it, I think they've been effective, because that's precisely the message I would expect (and agree with). It's not witholding approval that I think is tragic, it's the witholding love, something that Byrd's article could be seen as weirdly suggesting.

Chris said...

Effective? Yeah, I guess. They make sure that parents know that they shouldn't approve of their "errant" children, but do so in a much more socially acceptable way.

iwonder said...

I was going to write a reply, but it started to get a little long winded, so I am going to post it on my blog. I have really enjoy the topic and seeing other's thoughts.

playasinmar said...

I've quoted him before and I'll probably quote him again. Ladies and gentlemen, presenting Seanbaby!

"The second type of person is someone who can barely put up with the fact that somewhere out there someone is being gay. They'll say things like, "I don't care what they do, as long as it's in the privacy of their own home." It's sort of a way to still totally hate the idea of gay people, but sound just tolerant enough that no one calls you names. "

Here's the rest of the NSFW article.

The Hidden Gay said...

-L-,

Drex and I have been talking about this particular issue alot. I agree with much of what has been said.

One of the things we are gunning for is to increase awareness of the resources available and where we see a lack, make some.

As already said, a great friend is important, but you need to be careful it's someone heading where you want to go.

We took a trip down into the gut of the HBLL the other day where I know all the books on homosexuality are, and I was looking them over. *shakes head* There are some good ones, but I haven't read enough yet to be sure if everything is covered. Most of the books down there are from the 70's and 80's, and I'm scared to open them.

As for sharing with Church leaders, Simple Baker's Son participated in a fireside...it's mentioned in his last post, but should be archived elsewhere (I hope?), and all I've done since coming out is educate bishops. I guess I don't fear the way Mormon Enigma does because I haven't done anything, so it's okay for me to be open...so I am. I'm looking into spreading Drex's/mine/anyone else who wants to be an example/educator to other church leaders who may have someone come to them and they've never dealt with it before at all...that way they can contact us and we can help them through the process.

This will all take time, but we're working toward it anyway. If changes starts with me, hey I'll do it. Bottom up? I'll call myself bottom. Anyone top? Just kidding!!

~Hidden

The Hidden Gay said...

Mormon Enigma,

Sorry my last comment "I guess I don't fear the way Mormon Enigma does because I haven't done anything, so it's okay for me to be open...so I am." makes it sound like I'm implying you HAVE done things... that wasn't my intention at all. Bad wording. X_X