On my facebook page I found a link to the following article called “Who are the Gay Mormons” by a blogger who calls himself Jancisco:
The author of the post begins by admitting that “This gay rights thing has got me all twisted up.” It has him twisted up because one, he is gay, and two, he is Mormon. Those of you who don’t know who Mormons are, suffice it to say that Mormons are Christians who believe homosexual acts are sinful. So naturaly, the author of this post would feel all twisted up. On the one hand he is gay, living in the midst of a great social movement, but on the other hand his faith prohibits him from actually acting gay. What makes it worse for him is the fact that it is not the Church’s command he is trying to follow, it’s his own heart, his own conviction, his own identity. His battle isn’t between himself and the authority of the Church. It’s between his homosexual attraction and his conviction in the truth of his Church’s teachings. So in this way I sympathize with him. I understand why he would get all “twisted up”.
So this post of mine is not to refute how he feels or to belittle his struggles. I would, however, like to make some comments on the solution he has found for his dilemma:
FAIR published an article called Navigating the Labryinth Surrounding Homosexual Desire that really illuminated for me how to think about this issue and how we have not been getting the whole story. The author, Joshua Johanson, divides the term gay into three subcategories: gay behavior, which is chosen; a gay identity, which is chosen, and gay attraction, or SSA (Same Sex Attraction) which is something you are born with. Gay behavior is the only sin. A person can join a gay community for support and still live the law of chastity. And hugely important: SSA is not a sin. The research he cites showed that “most men who have SSA have never acted on it”. The research also stated that 2 million men with SSA are married to women. Johanson himself has SSA and is happily married to a woman. That is a path, he admits, that may not work for all people with SSA. If it doesn’t work for them and they know it, they may choose to live a celibate life in harmony with the law of chastity. This has helped me untwist the issue of “Why did God make it so hard for gays to find happiness”. There are lots and lots of people who are dealing with their SSA in righteous and deliberate ways. And they are happy.
I must take issue with this definition of homosexuality. First the three subcategories he cites from Johanson’s study: gay behavior, gay identity, and gay attraction. He claims that gay attraction is the only thing that is not chosen, the only thing you are born with. He calls it “SSA”, which to me is kind of like relegating it to a medical condition like ADHD or AIDS. I’m only guessing here, but by treating homosexual attraction like a congenital illness it becomes easier for him to separate his identity as a gay person from his more important identity as a Mormon. His identity, he seems to be saying, is that of a man born with a mental condition known as SSA. His gayness is not his identity any more than Tourette’s syndrom is the identity of someone with Tourette’s. If this helps him sort out his identity with his religious beliefs, then I am happy for him.
The problem I have with his reasoning is his nonchalant defenition of identity as a choice. Really? What kind of “choice” can identity possibly be? Is it like the choice of going casual or formal? Is it like the choice between coffee or tea? In what way is identity a choice? You can’t relegate something as integral to our individual existence as identity to the simple box of “choice.” I think he may be mixing up identity with action. Action certainly is a choice. But identity . . . in what way does he think identity is a choice? Identity is not so easily defined. It’s like trying to define love or beauty. It is multifacited. It is personal. It is so closely connected to our most inner being, our spirit if you like, that it seems insulting to dismiss it as just a choice – something you can discard at will.
I am not saying that the author of this post is wrong in choosing not to act on his “SSA”. I just want to point out that his identity as a Mormon Christian is not exactly a choice. It is his identity. It is a deep integral part of his being. He can’t choose to discard his faith like an old pair of shoes. His religious identity is not a choice.
I am not gay. But like Jancisco, I was once a faithful Mormon. But something changed. I began to find the Church’s precepts at odds with my own view of the world. It’s hard to say exactly how this happened, but something changed in me and I had to come to a better understanding of myself. Yes, I had to make a choice – continue going to church inspite of how I felt about religion, or stop going altogether and become a new person. I chose to leave religion altogether. So yes there is a choice, but the choice was in my choice of action, not in how I identified with religion. That part was not a choice. The loss of my faith was a painful and heartwrending process for myself and everyone around me. It was not a choice. It was an experience.
If anything, I guess we could say that homosexual identity is more a weighing of options: is Jancisco’s attraction to other men more important to him than his faith in the Church? Clearly his faith is more important. His faith is not a choice. Not exactly. It’s more complex than that. It is who he is. It’s his identity. The choice he is talking about is whether or not to give up his faith in order to act on his homosexual feelings. Clearly, for him, this is not really a choice. His faith is not so easily tossed aside. His faith is not so easily modified to allow for homosexual behavior. The choice, is not really a choice.
So let’s be honest Jancisco: those who identify themselves as gay, are not making a choice – not any more of a choice than the one you make by calling yourself a Mormon.