Michael Aaron

Response to “Help Your Children Choose Heterosexuality” published by LDS magazine

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I tried to respond paragraph-by-paragraph to the drivel written by JeaNette Goates Smith and published by Meridian Magazine on their website, but frankly I became bored. The article is rife with presumption, errors and lies, but I have better things to do than subject myself to it. Since the article has been removed (Meridian Magazine has not yet responded to why the article is no longer available), I put my notes on it here:

[Meridian Magazine] Editor’s note: We understand this is a very sensitive and tender topic. Many families in the Church and outside are trying to understand gender issues from every angle. There are many things we do not know. The following is one therapist’s experience in this delicate field of learning.

Those who believe that acting on same sex attraction is wrong and those who believe acting on same sex attraction is inevitable, can likely agree on one truth: It would be nice to have a choice.

Simply because “it would be nice” does not make a truth.

Society has come a long way in its regard for homosexual individuals. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that I used when I first started working in the field of mental health had only recently removed homosexuality as a disorder. Even after medicine re-categorized homosexuality, the stigma resulted in far too much prejudice and mistreatment of homosexuals.

If you consider 1973 “only recently,” then perhaps this paragraph is true. Even the new diagnosis of “ego-dystonic homosexuality,” meaning a person didn’t want to be homosexual, was removed in 1986. Based on her age, unless she was using an outdated book or began her work in the mental health field at the age of 18, this is simply a lie.

Stigma comes from society’s fears and biases, not from the fact that someone is different.

Today most members of society treat homosexuals with courtesy, whether or not we agree with their lifestyle. However, being treated well by society does not necessarily mean that all the drawbacks of homosexuality will go away. Regardless of whether we bake them exquisite wedding cakes, take phenomenal photographs at their receptions, or rent them a room with the very best view in the building, homosexuals will still be deprived of some of the privileges afforded heterosexual couples.

A husband and wife who bear children together can look at their progeny and exclaim, “She has your nose, and my mouth,”
A husband and wife who bear children together can look at their progeny and exclaim, “She has your nose, and my mouth,” or “Our daughter got her musical talent from her mom and her sense of humor from her dad,” or “Look at this gorgeous child. She’s the best of both of us.” A husband and wife can celebrate posterity that will last through the eternities. Their union, sanctioned not just by the government, but by God Almighty, can last forever.

Perhaps all of this is true, but what, exactly, does it have to do with the premise?

We can be kind to gays, and we can grant them legal privileges, but we can’t combine their genetics and create a human being. Therefore, an individual who finds themselves attracted to members of the same sex must make a choice. “Will I choose this lifestyle that the world has made possible for me, the lifestyle that feels good, the lifestyle I feel I have a right to choose, even though I will be sacrificing an eternal family?”

When a young person understands (as well as is possible with their limited experience) the ramifications of choosing to live a homosexual lifestyle over a heterosexual lifestyle, one would imagine he would pause long and hard before choosing to give up an eternal family.

May I suggest this be rewritten to “Should I choose to live my life honestly as I was created, or should I choose to go against my nature and bring a wife and children into that poor decision?”

It’s a Choice

Because you say so doesn’t make it true.

We, as a society, have made it far easier than it ever used to be for someone with homosexual inclinations to choose a gay lifestyle. We can, and must, make it easier for someone with homosexual inclinations to choose heterosexuality.

Your reduction of a person’s core to “inclinations” is repugnant.

You will note that I have differentiated between same sex attraction or homosexual inclinations, and acting on same-sex attraction, or living a homosexual lifestyle. Our youth need to recognize that there is a difference between the two.

Yes, all people should recognize that acting on your core desires, your truth, is a healthy expression of self.

Likewise, if a man or woman finds someone of the same gender attractive, that is not a sin. Granted, there are some seriously gorgeous human beings in this world. Just because we find them attractive doesn’t mean we have to have sex with them. The first thing we need to do if our children reveal a same sex attraction is to remove the shame of attraction.

We get it. You want to have sex with Eva Mendes but don’t. Congratulations on your restraint.

A child who feels shame will quickly learn to hide who he is. He also becomes ashamed of himself. Shame is a dangerous emotion. It is one of the emotions that can cause people to turn to any number of addictions in order to dull intolerable emotions.

Shame is brought on a child when parents and others say their core desires are unnatural or need to be overcome.

Disassociate General Preferences from Sexual Preferences

Parents who freak-out because their boys like to play with dolls or their girls like trucks may shame the child, simply for their toy preferences. Parents may fear because their son likes to do “girl things,” or that their daughter likes to do “boy things” that this means he or she is at risk of same-sex attraction. This leap of logic needs to leap right into the garbage bin. A parent’s shaming of a child because of his toy preferences is far more likely to prompt a child to consider homosexuality than the toy preferences themselves.

Your antiquated understanding of gender roles and sexuality have been abandoned by all, but apparently you. Boys who play football can be, and many are, gay. Not all gay men grew up playing with their sister’s Easy Bake Oven. Well, maybe that’s not true…

In a similar manner, there are people who think if a man likes to do things a woman traditionally does that must mean his sexual preferences are also womanly. This makes absolutely no sense, but is born of paranoia. There is no reason a man can’t become a hairdresser, a seamstress, a decorator or an actor and also marry a woman, have children and live happily ever after. In the olden days tailors were men, and barbers were men, and they were not homosexual men. Certain jobs may be correlated with sexual preference but they certainly are not causal. Just because a man likes to decorate does not mean he is a homosexual, and just because a man is a homosexual does not mean he will automatically want to be a decorator.

We need to remove interest/hobby/talent stereotypes from gender roles. Stereotypes are limiting, small-minded and inaccurate. Kind, sensitive human beings are not always female. Rough, brave human beings are not always male. The fact that a man has sensitive emotions has nothing whatsoever to do with his sexual preferences. My husband cries far more easily than I do. His father cries more easily than his wife as do their four sons. My three sons cry more readily than their wives. None of these eight men is homosexual simply because they have traditionally feminine emotions. We must allow our children, both boys and girls, to enjoy their natural emotions without feeling shame.Adolescents with gender confusion may mistakenly think they are gay simply because of societal stereotypes. They may also mistakenly think they are gay simply because they find someone of the same gender attractive. Our children and adolescents need to be taught to separate their affinity for certain interests/hobbies/talents from their affinity for a certain gender. They must be allowed to separate their admiration for the physical beauty of another human being from their “need” to have sexual relations with that human being.

I’m sorry. I didn’t read all that. I’m growing bored.

Choosing Abstinence

Just because you are attracted to someone doesn’t mean you have to have sex with him or her. If everybody gave in to their sexual attractions we would have even more infidelity in this world than we already do. Husbands would readily have affairs with their secretaries and wives with the mailman. Marriage itself requires people to manage their attractions.

Sex is a privilege not an inalienable right. It is a privilege God has reserved for husbands and wives within the bonds of marriage.
People with same-sex attraction may feel entitled to sexual relations. If they are not attracted to someone of the opposite gender, and they believe a heterosexual relationships is impossible for them, that doesn’t automatically mean they get to have sex with the person they are attracted to. Sex is a privilege not an inalienable right. It is a privilege God has reserved for husbands and wives within the bonds of marriage.

Choosing Heterosexuality

The biggest obstacle to those with same-sex attraction who wish they were heterosexual is the belief that they can’t change. Once they become convinced they are “born this way” they accept their situation and try to persuade everybody else to accept it too.

There is continuing debate about whether sexual preference is indeed something you are born with, or is something that you learn. It is impossible to determine how much of who we are is due to nature and how much is due to nurture. But whether we are 80% nature and 20% nurture, or just the opposite, it doesn’t matter. We are still responsible for our choices.

Individuals who are born with a “hot temper” still must learn to treat their family members in harmony with the Church’s teachings. Missionaries who are painfully shy commit to open their mouths and bear testimony of the restored gospel, as hard as it may be. We are here on earth to overcome the natural man, even if the natural man came with us from Heaven.

If we want our children to choose not to succumb to homosexual impulses, we must first teach them that they have a choice. Often we fear talking about such matters, because we fear they will make the wrong choice. We want them to think they have no choice but to go on a mission, or to marry in the temple. But they always have a choice. They also have a choice of whether or not they will give in to same-sex attraction.

Diathesis-Stress Syndrome

As stated, we don’t know how many individuals are homosexual because of a genetic anomaly, and how many are homosexual because of something that happened in their environment. Likewise, we don’t know what portion of sexual preference in any one individual is because of genetics and what portion is environmental. Although we can do little to affect a genetic anomaly, for those who have elected a homosexual lifestyle due to the influence of environmental factors, there is a lot we can do to help them choose heterosexuality.

A model psychologists often use to understand the cause of certain conditions is called Diathesis-Stress model. A diathesis is a predisposition for a certain characteristic. That predisposition may be genetic or biological. A predisposition for something does not necessarily mean a person will contract that something. It simply means they are at greater risk than someone without the predisposition. Various stressors can “trigger” the existing predisposition, and the condition will manifest itself. Without certain stressors, the person may never even know they have a diathesis.

A person without a diathesis for a condition can experience the same stressors as the person with the diathesis, and they will not be affected by the stress. This means if there is no predisposition for a condition, it doesn’t matter what the stressors are, the person will not contract the condition. According to this model, the condition is manifest only when we get a perfect storm: a combination of the diathesis plus corresponding stressors.

It makes sense to me to apply this model to homosexuality. Presumably there are genetic characteristics that predispose some people to homosexuality. However, according to this model, it takes a stressor for these characteristics to manifest themselves. Some stressors, such as child sexual abuse, or pornography are easy to categorize as having the potential for activating a diathesis. Of all the reasons to avoid pornography, and sexual abuse, (reasons numerous and profound) the chance that it could trigger a proclivity toward homosexuality would be among them.

Simplifying the Choice

For youth who do not have a genetic predisposition to homosexuality, but choose homosexuality for other reasons, we can help them choose heterosexuality if we simply make heterosexuality more appealing to them.

When the only heterosexual relationships available for an adolescent to model are miserable, a child or an adolescent may decide they want “anything but” that type of relationship.
When the only heterosexual relationships available for an adolescent to model are miserable, a child or an adolescent may decide they want “anything but” that type of relationship. As homosexuality is currently in vogue, particularly among adolescents, he or she may decide to experiment with this type of relationship. If a child is to choose heterosexuality, it is very helpful for him to have happy, loving heterosexual role models.

In our culture we do a pretty good job of exposing little girls to the joys of motherhood. We buy them dolls, let them cuddle up to the new baby on the sofa, read them stories about princesses and princes. They dress up in bridal wear, and play house with their toddler-sized kitchen full of plastic food. We prepare them for their future as mothers, “When you grow up you will be such a good mommy…”

Boys are afforded fewer opportunities to visualize their bright futures as fathers. I’ve seen little boys put a doll to their chest, as if to nurse the baby, only to have a parent snatch the doll away as if the action were evil. Boys can be as tender and loving as girls if we will let them. Why don’t we help our boys look forward to becoming fathers just like we help our girls look forward to becoming mothers?

I know a woman who would tell her sons a bedtime story about themselves every night. “One day you will grow up, and fall in love with a beautiful young woman whom you will take to the temple, and you will be married forever and ever and you will have children that climb on your back and ride on your shoulders and they will adore you and you will be so happy.” The story began as a fairy tale for a small boy, but the little boys believed in the fairy tale and made it come true.

It is, however, our obligation as parents, to educate our children, to teach them about agency and accountability.
Clearly, it is not our role to judge what influences a person’s choice to embrace a homosexual lifestyle, nor to assess the magnitude of those influences. It is, however, our obligation as parents, to educate our children, to teach them about agency and accountability.

We must be brave enough to contradict the world’s instance that homosexuals have no choice. For that matter, we need to contradict anybody’s refusal to take responsibility for their choices. The notion that we cannot help ourselves is contrary to our essence as children of our Heavenly Father. Our agency is what makes us human, not robots, and not animals. We must not let anybody convince us, or our children that agency is a myth. Our choices are something over which we have complete control.

JeaNette Goates Smith is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Jacksonville, Florida. She is the author of four books, including Unsteady Dating: Resisting the Rush to Romance

Michael Aaron

Michael Aaron is the editor and publisher of QSaltLake. He has been active in Utah's gay and lesbian community since the early 80s and published two publications then and in the 90s.

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