Wednesday, August 20, 2008


After my mission, it quickly became clear that my prayers to overcome my same gender attraction would not be answered. I think part of me expected the mission to be the sacrifice required to show God I was worthy of an answer, and willing to go to great lengths to get one. When I realized that the feelings I had were not going to go away, and after ruining yet another relationship with the girl that had waited for me (all of the relationship stuff really should be a blog of its own. It’s coming… haha), I decided the next step would be to seek help from others. I knew I couldn’t keep fighting on my own, so I did one of the hardest things I ever had to do in my life – I told my mother my struggles, and asked for her support as I spoke to church leaders and sought professional help.

To say my mother took the news badly would be an understatement. Sometimes I wish I had a mother who would simply look at me and say “I love you anyway,” but the first words out of her mouth were, “This is the worst thing a mother could hear.” She’ll deny that she said that to this day, but my impressionable, fearful, timid, and despairing mind was seared with those words. I can’t say that I blame her, or that I think the words she said were untrue. In fact, I sympathize with her – if that is how she felt just how hard was it for her to imagine how I felt. Those were not the words I needed at that time. To her defense and credit, after that initial shock, we cried together, and reaffirmed our love for each other that night. My mother offered to put up half of the costs of counseling, and I had an appointment with LDS Family Services the next day.

I was extremely nervous on my first trip to LDS Family Services. In fact, I had a hard time feeling like counseling was a good idea. I sat in the waiting room with people who had addictions and other problems, and honestly had a hard time seeing how my situation justified the same thing theirs did. After all, I wasn’t addicted to anything – how could I be addicted to something I had never had? I wasn’t mentally deficient in any way – even the APA agreed with me on that. But I filled out the survey I was asked to fill out in the lobby anyway: Did I do drugs? How often? Did I find that my alcohol use interfered with my work? Was I happy? Was I sleeping? I checked the lowest box on the happiness question, but didn’t feel like the rest really applied.

My counselor was the third person to whom I had vocally admitted being gay. I drove much further than the closest Family Services building because I was assured that this counselor had “experience” with what the church called “same gender attraction.” It turned out, however, that this man had never worked with someone dealing with my feelings. In fact, he told me he had never even heard of someone coming into Family Services before they acted out on homosexual urges. He committed to help me to the best of his ability, and promptly gave me the assignment to carry around a picture of the Savior, and make marks on a paper every time I found someone of the same sex attractive. In addition to making the tick marks, I was to look at the picture of Christ every time I made a mark, and try to figure out what thought process led me to feel like I wanted to look at another man.

The pad of paper was full of little tick marks by the end of the day. I didn’t really understand how focusing on my attraction was going to help, but certainly having the little book did nothing but bring those feelings to the surface and make me feel worse about myself. What made me look at these men? How about the fact that they were there? That they breathed? That so did I? Were those valid reasons?

I went back the next week to find that the counselor was ready with the name of someone else who might be better able to help me.

I don’t remember the name of this counselor either, but I can tell you I preferred talking to him. When I arrived (at another distant location different from the first), I found him to be more focused on helping me accept myself (funny how when the church says that they mean something different than when the world does), and building my self-esteem. This man was an addiction counselor, and still had no experience with homosexual attraction, but he made a more earnest effort at helping me to control my thoughts. He talked to me at length about masturbation, about the church’s view on it, about how he as a married man engaged in it for some time, and about how he felt about it. I found this line of discussion a bit disturbing, because it didn’t seem to me to be a good idea to talk to the gay kid that comes into your office about your private escapades with yourself. I saw him for a little less than a month before he referred me to someone outside of LDS Family Services who, I was assured, was a specialist and dealt only with same gender attraction.

Before I move on to the next and last counselor, I want to make something very clear. During my first few sessions the option of shock therapy (as part of a “reparative therapy routing”) did surface. I was actually the one who brought it up, and although surprised, both therapists at LDS Family Services assured me that if that was an option I wanted, then they would be able to arrange for it. I assured them that I did not wish to go that route, and that I was asking to ensure that they didn’t support such practices. Both assured me that they did not, but the fact that they knew how or who to contact in regards to such options, scared me just a little.

My final counselor was a gentle man by the name of Jim Lewis. Jim Lewis was an Evergreen endorsed counselor who did not believe in "adversion" therapy. His mantra to all of his patients was “You are man enough.” My experience here was a good one, and if anyone is considering therapy to help overcome homosexual desires, even with the way I feel now concerning such therapy, I would still highly recommend Jim Lewis. His methods are applicable to all people in all walks of life. It was he who helped me realize that I had internalized a lot of self hatred and doubt, but hid that hatred even from myself. He was the first to admit that the way I had been taught and treated in the church and in society was to blame. Jim helped me to embrace my entire self, which included the part of me that was gay and the part of me that was LDS, and taught me to love myself first, in the hopes that I could then learn to love another.

When I was sufficiently progressing, he asked me to join a group session. I did so with a little trepidation, but was happy to find that I not only enjoyed the sessions, but got to meet a lot of fantastic people who were just like me. Jim had another counselor that worked with him by the name of Christy (although I’m not sure I have the spelling correct), who really touched me. I felt like everyone involved really cared for me, and their experience working with people who are homosexual gave them a love and a perspective for us that I wish everyone in the LDS culture could adopt.

From hatred to appreciation, I learned to stop viewing myself as a homosexual, homosexuality as a sin, and a sin as something to hate. Instead, I appreciated the unique gifts I possessed as a gay man. I know that Jim and Christy would have preferred a different outcome for me, but when I left their care by my own choice, openly honest with them about the choices I had made, they were supportive and caring. I never felt judged or condemned by them – in fact, only uplifted.

It is important for me to conclude this chapter of this blog by saying that Jim often told me there was nothing wrong with me, and that there was nothing to fix. He was very honest in telling me that out of the hundreds or thousands of men who had been through his program, only three now claim to never be bothered by homosexual desires, though many more have “learned to live with said desires differently.” I knew, after many conversations with God, that these desires would not change in this life for me. I knew that the best I could hope for in this life was celibacy and a continued Hell, or a choice. The choice for me wasn’t whether or not to go out and live a life of sin and debauchery, but whether or not to love another person. I hope that as you read these blogs you will begin to understand why I chose the latter, that you will understand that being gay is not a choice, but loving is.

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