A boy comes to you, asks to speak to you in private.  He’s 16 years old.  He says, “Brother Brandt, I think I might be gay.”

What do you do?

While I haven’t had this happen to me (yet), I know there are those of you out there who have.  It’s something that I think all people that work with the youth should have some training on, or, at the least, have some insight into what’s going on.

I know I needed it.  I used to think it was something that could be prayed/scripture studied/fasted away.  Then I started reading more on it.  And the more I read, the more I realized how much I didn’t know.

Homosexuality, especially within Mormonism, is still a relatively uncomfortable thing to talk about.  However, the church has been doing a great job in training and informing its members about this condition.  Like the shift in thinking concerning depression (and other forms of mental illness), this is something that we are more to acknowledge that our lay-leadership might not be the best source of counsel on, and the LDS Therapists have done a great job in getting more involved.  More light has been shed on these topics, and we as a church are still trying to understand this concept of same-gender attraction.

How would you deal with it?  How would you react if one of your youth came to you and said this to you?

While I haven’t been put in this circumstance, when I think about it, I think the first and most important thing is to really drive home the fact that they are one of God’s children, and that He loves them unconditionally, and that Christ suffered all their feelings so He could succor them (Alma 7:11-13).  From everything I’ve read about what these individuals are going through, we cannot comprehend it.  We really can’t, unless we’ve been there.  And I think that explaining it away as being part of being a teenager isn’t effective.

Second, I think we need to not just dismiss this as “a stage” or make them feel shameful for feeling this way.  Again, this is something that is a very real thing.  Going back to the first point, they are all children of God, with real feelings, and this is a real struggle.  Embrace them.  Welcome them with open arms.  Don’t make them feel “shamed” or try to “force the gay out of them.”   Evergreen International’s website has a great section on how to respond when a loved one tells you he/she is attracted to the same gender.  From the website:

  1. Manage the initial shock of finding out
  2. Get him to open up to you
  3. Be accepting and caring
  4. Express your own feelings and limitations
  5. Don’t accept responsibility for things that aren’t your fault
  6. Don’t try to “fix” the situation
  7. Don’t offer simplistic solutions
  8. Don’t be quick to judge
  9. Recognize this is a learning process
  10. Support his efforts
  11. Use professional counseling resources
  12. Take care of yourself
  13. Show Christlike love, but maintain your integrity
  14. Keep lines of communication open
  15. Keep information confidential
  16. Decide who to tell.

Finally, I know I’m not an expert in this matter.  I just started thinking about it last night before I went to sleep on how I would react.  But I would plead with all church leadership to develop some training on both the adult and youth level in this matter.  Bring in LDS counselors to discuss the issues in an LDS setting, develop some procedures so that leaders will know what protocol is, and most importantly, let’s try to understand and develop some empathy for what these souls are going through. Remember, “all are alike unto God,” (2 Nephi 26:33) and as leaders, we have a sacred responsibility to not lose our youth.

How do we navigate the troubled waters of same-gender attraction when it comes to our youth and the church?

References:

In Quiet Desparation: Understanding the Challenge of Same-Gender Attraction. This book really should be required reading for everyone.  I read this book when I was in college, and had many deep discussions with a psychology student I worked with about this book.  While a heart-wrenching read, it really shows the struggles of those with same-gender attraction, and the misconceptions that some have.  The one criticism I have is that they showed extreme cases, but didn’t show any cases of “success,” however one would define that.  But a very good book to understand this topic more.

No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons Around our Gay Loved Ones.  While I haven’t read this, Amazon gives it 5/5 with 12 customer reviews.  From the reviews, “Though No More Goodbyes tells the stories of Mormon families adapting to the tumultuous change that a revelation of homosexuality brings, the stories are sure to strike a chord with all readers who have had to navigate the difficult waters between religion and sexual orientation. No More Goodbyes does not judge or condemn; Pearson loves and wishes well gay friends who choose lifelong celibacy, openly gay friends who attempt to preserve their heterosexual marriages despite the obvious difficulties, and gay friends who choose to pursue gay relationships. What No More Goodbyes does denounce are the tragedies of high suicide rates among gays, the terrible anguish that results from hiding one’s sexual orientation in order to marry someone of the opposite sex, and any religious or simply bigoted promotion of hatred or suffering.”  Reviewed at Feminist Mormon Houswives here.

Also by Pearson is Goodbye, I Love You. This powerful story document’s her husband’s struggle with homosexuality while being married for 8 years (and having 4 kids).  After a friendly divorce, they remained close as a family.  Gerald (her husband), was stricken with AIDS, and this story is about Carol standing by her husbands side…as he came home to die.  Again, a very powerful book.

Blog Postings

Here are some postings around the LDS Bloggernacle that could be of use:

Here is an interview by Elder Dallin. H. Oaks published by the LDS Newsroom concerning Same-Sex Attraction.  This was published back in 2006, and was a topic of great discussion on the bloggernacle.

LDS Pamphlet on Same-Gender Attraction back in 2007, plus the natural discussion of it over at Times and Seasons.

Questions and Discussion on Gays at By Common Consent.

Finally, there is the Soy Made Me Gay blog, now defunct, about an LDS man and his homosexuality.  It’s funny, open, and gives a much different perspective to what those struggling must go through while remaining faithful.

Evergreen International is a great source for those looking for resources and help for staying in the church while experiencing same-gender attraction

Advertisements