In this post I would like to describe, in a little more detail, my experiences as a same-sex or same-gender attracted (gay) Mormon through the story of Steven Wilson (as interviewed by Steven Densley Junion of the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research). In short, I would like to tell the story of nearly every gay Mormon and their pursuit of happiness. In the interview (Why would a gay man with AIDS join the [LDS] Church), Wilson describes his experiences of meeting a returned missionary at a gay bar, eventually moving in with him, joining the Church, and how his association with members of the LDS faith helped him abandon “the homosexual lifestyle”.
Wilson’s story isn’t completely unfamiliar to me. I attended support groups (e.g., LDS Family Services, Evergreen) and firesides intended to fortify my relationship with the Church, its leaders, and members. At Evergreen support groups, I learned that if I want to stay in the Church I need to stay single and celibate and wait for the resurrection or marry or woman.
As I became more entangled in Evergreen and other support groups, I learned that it’s possible to pray away the gay. The solution to the gay problem is simple: keep every commandment and get plenty of (nonsexual) healthy touch from other men. Voila! You’re cured. Let me explain the concept of healthy touch (for those who aren’t familiar). The theory behind male homosexuality is gay men didn’t bond enough with their fathers and/or male peers and sexualized their need for male affection to make up for it. So, you need to bond with other men, even get in some “healthy touch” (e.g., hugs, cuddles, holding), to mitigate the sexual attractions. (Be warned: the next video clip has some vulgarity).
I was actually invited to a “holding party” once. Well, two holding parties (but the second wasn’t advertised as a holding party). I didn’t go to the first one because when others described their experiences, it freaked me out. I was informed that I would be held by an older member of the group (as a father might hold a young son in his arms) and I would talk to him about my experience: how does it feel, what am I thinking, what am I feelings, etc. The experiences of others included talking about how it aroused them and learning to “talk through it” rather than fantasize about it. The other holding party didn’t involve older men, so I went. It was an emotional roller coaster as I watched guys (some of whom were engaged to girls at the time) snuggle up with any and everyone present. The sexual tension was high. And what should I have expected? A bunch of gay Mormon guys who aren’t getting any visiting a place far away from home (what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas kind of a thing).
I learned there are a number of additional organizations to help facilitate change in orientation:
- North Star (Ty Mansfield)
- People Can Change (Rich Wyler)
- Exodus International
- NARTH (A. Dean Byrd, George A. Rekers)
- New Warriors
Although not all of these organizations are designed to cure same-sex attraction, many gay Mormons recommended these programs to me as helpful in resolving the underlying causes of “the gay”. The most interesting to me is Journey into Manhood (JiM). For those wanting to know exactly what happens at Journey into Manhood weekends, Ted Cox describes his experience with alarming detail. Here’s a thoughtful perspective on JiM by the Original Mohomie. And for the lazy reader, here’s a little clip about JiM:
It’s weird to watch that video clip because I know most of the guys interviewed.
At firesides, I learned that if I want to stay in the Church I need to hate everything that is or might possibly be gay and fight against it. A man at one particular fireside shared a story similar to Wilson’s experience: he lived “the homosexual lifestyle”, turned away from his life as a porn star and addict, and converted to the LDS faith. Like Wilson, he referred to “the gay lifestyle” as a lifestyle of drugs, sex, and rock ‘n’ roll. He encouraged everyone present to avoid the very appearance of evil: don’t date members of the same sex, don’t do drugs, don’t drink alcohol; in short, don’t be gay. At the time, I had already begun dating and learned enough to know that “the gay lifestyle” he spoke of was nothing more than “his lifestyle“. I didn’t think it was fair to pass judgement on an entire group’s lifestyle based on personal experiences.
But I was used to judgement being passed. In Logan, I organized social events which later took on the name “Logansides” — firesides for gay Mormons in Logan, Utah. The firesides were intended to be nothing more than a social gathering for members of the LDS faith who are gay/lesbian or know someone who is gay/lesbian. Advertising was complicated: People not of the LDS faith thought I was starting an ex-gay ministry and people of the LDS faith thought I was spreading the infamous “gay agenda”. And then there were the ultra conservative gay Mormons who were vocal about the fact that I organized firesides and dated men (and eventually married). I learned for myself that it’s next to impossible to unite liberal and conservative Mormons when it comes to this social issue.
In short, what turned me off to the Mormon solution to the gay problem is the unkindness and intolerance experienced at the hand of gay Mormons. Oh, and none of these Mormons solutions I discussed made sense to me. Ultimately, these “solutions” led to an increase of unhappiness and frustration. Thus, I began my own pursuit of happiness that steered me away from the traditional gay Mormon path and away from experiences like those of Steven Wilson.