Gay Mormon says article on “choosing” heterosexuality is irresponsible and dangerous

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Helping Our Children Choose Heterosexuality

(Author screen shot of ldsmag.com)

Helping Our Children Choose HeterosexualityA guest post by Mitch Mayne

Earlier this week, Meridian Magazine (an LDS publication) posted an article by JeaNette Goates Smith titled, “Helping Our Children Choose Heterosexuality.”

As the headline would lead you to suspect, Smith laments the handicaps of those who are LGBT and shares her opinion on what parents can do to help ensure their children are heterosexual.

Mormonism is already awash in a stew of misinformation about what it means to be LGBT. One of the biggest gaps is that, as an institution, we lack formal education based on scientific research that helps parents keep LGBT youth safe.

At the same time, we have made strides in the right direction, with efforts like the Mormons and Gays website. While imperfect, the site broaches the conversation and clearly states that LGBT individuals “ . . . do not choose to have such attractions”—a point Smith must have missed before writing her article.

Smith’s article has been removed—presumably the result of outcries from frustrated readers. (You can still access a copy here, along with a response.) At the same time, I still fear for the damage this kind of entrenched and uninformed thinking can cause our Mormon LGBT youth. What I found most disturbing about Smith’s article—beyond the scientific inaccuracies and misrepresentation of the Church’s stated position on the notion of choice—is that her opinion appears veiled in a thick layer of Mormon “niceness.”

Those of us who are LGBT or have LGBT family members are usually well versed in this kind of “niceness.” We’ve heard it before, from well-meaning leaders, fellow Mormons, and even family members. And almost always—as with Smith’s article—it rings hollow.

Of course, it’s good to be nice, and being nice is a long-held Mormon value. But when it comes to the topic of keeping our Mormon LGBT youth safe, there’s something more important than the appearance of niceness: being informed, and practicing Christ’s message of unconditional love.

Because when we peel back all the layers of niceness, what is often revealed is the unpleasant underbelly of rejection. Smith’s article is no exception. Beneath the superficial courtesy and flowery words lies the message that LGBT children must change who they are in order to be worthy of love and inclusion.

That’s an irresponsible message at its best, and a dangerous one at its worst. Evidence-based research done by the Family Acceptance Project tells us that attempting to change a child’s orientation is one of the leading rejecting parental behaviors that put youth at risk for negative physical and mental health outcomes. In fact, research shows that children who experience high levels of rejection are:

  • More than 8 times as likely to attempt suicide
  • Nearly 6 times as likely to report high levels of depression
  • More than 3 times as likely to use illegal drugs
  • More than 3 times as likely to be at high risk for HIV and STIs
Mitch Mayne

Mitch Mayne

As an openly gay, active Latter-day Saint, I’ve encountered thousands of stories of deeply wounded women, men, and youth who struggle greatly to understand how LGBTQ Mormons fit inside our faith. While no formal statistics of gay Mormon youth suicide exists, those of us who work with youth and families directly know that the risk—and the loss—is high.

Articles on how to parent LGBT youth must begin to include rigorous science and cease to rely upon folklore belief, distorted anecdotes, and disproven opinion. The Family Acceptance Project produced an LDS version of their evidence-based, family education booklet that enables families and communities to support LGBT youth in a way that reduces the risks outlined above. You can download it here at no cost.

When I first met with Dr. Caitlin Ryan, director of the Family Acceptance Project, and saw her work, I was amazed at how skillfully she and her team had blended the compelling science of her research with the best parts of the Mormon faith — the parts that carry with them true compassion and Christlike love.

Dr. Ryan left me by myself in the conference room when we neared the close of our meeting. What she didn’t see is how intensely I cried in those moments I was alone.

The Family Acceptance Project work is not marketing based on focus groups. It is not speculation. It is not ecclesiastical opinion—or opinion veiled in a thick layer of Mormon niceness. It is science. For LGBT Mormons and their families, it is a lifeline of hope that cuts through the dark abyss of misinformation that keeps us locked in dangerous thinking.

It is, I’m quite certain, a gift from our Savior—an answer to many prayers.

So instead of heeding Smith’s advice and wondering how we can change our children, let’s wonder how we can change ourselves—and our culture. Let’s focus less on enshrining rejection beneath a dense layer of niceness, and more on becoming informed about what science tells us when it comes to keeping LGBT youth safe and close to the family.

We don’t have to change our doctrine to do that. But we do have to live it.


OTHER RNS POSTS BY MITCH MAYNE:


Mitch Mayne is an openly gay, active Latter-day Saint (Mormon), and recently served as the executive secretary in the bishopric (ecclesiastical leadership) of the LDS Church in San Francisco. Mitch is a national voice on Mormon LGBT issues. A special emphasis of Mitch’s work is improving the health, mental health, and well being of Mormon LGBT youth and young people in the context of their faith.

  • Ben in oakland

    Ms. Smith is a licensed marriage and family therapist? He ignorance about homosexuality would fill the Tokyo phone book.

    You are being far, far too kind to her. Her diatribe contains every single smarmy assumption of superiority possible: as a Christian, a Mormon, a heterosexual, a moral person, and a human being. That is what is behind her façade of love: she is being oh-so-magnanimous to those whom she doesn’t know and clearly knows nothing about, but who are nevertheless her inferiors.

    I will go into only one offense: “There is continuing debate about whether sexual preference is indeed something you are born with, or is something that you learn.” Let’s see: on one hand, you have the assertions of virtually every scientific, professional, and medical association in the west, millions of gay people, and many liberal churches. On the other hand, you have the assertions of conservative religion, religious bigots, and professional political grifters.

    Whom to believe?…

  • Fred in Houston

    Thanks Mitch! Very well said. As a long-term member and father I was quite shocked by Sis. Smith’s words and tone in her article. Your response is most appropriate. Glad they took it down from the Meridian page.

  • Debbie Snowcroft

    “Of course, it’s good to be nice, and being nice is a long-held Mormon value. But when … we peel back all the layers of niceness, what is often revealed is the unpleasant underbelly of rejection.”

    Fake nice isn’t nice. Fake nice is a lie, and deception, and is often worse than outright hostility because fake nice leads to betrayal.

  • Ben in oakland

    You know, as mary poppins said, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. It works pretty well with poison, as well.

    I have often said that I much prefer the naked bigotry of antigay people rather than the “love” and the “pity” of people like Mrs. Smith, and so many so-called christians. For one, naked bigotry is like naked people: so much more honest. You see what you are getting.

    for another, naked bigotry doesn’t assume that I am too stupid to notice how much their statements rely on abdications of fact, logic, and experience in favor of religious dogma described as fact, refutable and incorrect statements described as logic, and fallacious and hidden assumptions disguised as experience.

    Not to mention the egregious harm, religious, social, legal, cultural, and psychological, wreaked upon innocent people to satisfy Mrs. smith’s particular, peculiar version of god, who so much agrees with her.

  • Anonymous

    In addition to the incredible harm this rhetoric has on the LGBT individuals themselves these ideas also carry an incredible cost for the spouses these LGBT individuals marry in an attempt to gain acceptance from their families and faith communities. I was married for 10 years to a closeted gay LDS man and we have children together. This relationship was incredibly damaging for me and has huge implications for myself, my spouse, and my children. I’m currently in a Facebook group for straight spouses who were previously or are currently in a marriage with a gay individual. A large percentage of these individuals are from an LDS background, more so than other conservative religions. There are not very many happy stories there. An incredible amount of pain could be prevented if LGBT individuals were not pressured to enter into heterosexual relationships.

  • E L Frederick

    If you’re a homosexual, nobody cares, and it’s anyone’s business but yours. You represent less than 5% of the population. So this isn’t as big a problem as you represent it to be.

    The apostle Paul has the last word on Homosexuality in Romans 1. Deal with it.

  • Mitchell

    E L Frederick, people like you are th problem. You act indifferent to the pain you inflict on others. One day you will die into nothingness, but your legacy of bigotry will continue. I know you think otherwise, and you are confident, like every other person who is sure their religious view is the right one, that you will be crowned in the afterlife and blessed by God for your views. Sadly, you let a religion, and those who run it, control your life. Sadness all around indeed.

  • Robert Versluis

    Scott and Maurine Proctor, while appearing to be great LDS, are merely nothing more than the Mormon Curia. I have never experienced more judgement and less Christlike from anyone.

  • Debbie Snowcroft

    Mormons represent less than 2% of the population in the US, and far less than 1% worldwide.

    Using the argument that numbers somehow affect a person’s right to have influence in society, Mormons must have far less right to influence society than Gays.

    As for Bible passages, it’s difficult to take your arguments seriously when the LDS church disregards so many other passages (Matthew 19:21, Matthew 19:8, and 1 Corinthians 13:4 come to mind).

  • Bill Williams

    Mitch, you are dangerous in thinking she cannot express her desire for heterosexual children. Be careful how you accuse fellow members. You have way to much influence to be exercising unrighteous dominion.

  • Larry

    That desire amounts to giving advice about tormenting homosexual children until they pretend they are heterosexual. So of course its dangerous, irresponsible and frankly bigoted.

  • Ben in oakland

    She’s not expressing her desire to have heterosexual children. She is engaging in a whole lot of fear mongering, innuendo, dissemination of false information, illogic, and things contra indicated by actual experience, facts, and logic. One of the biggest lies she is telling is the idea that wanting heterosexual children has the slightest thing to do with actually having them. What she is advocating is that gay people either try to be straight or Abandon sex, love, romance, and meaningful family.

    As for unrighteous dominion, well, that’s what this is really about, isn’t it? dominionism, not faith, not love. Just the insistence of some so called Christians that they should have dominion in law and society over the lives of gay people.

    Sorry, those says are gone. No, I’m not sorry, not in the slightest.

    . We object, and will continue to do so strenuously.

  • blue

    This was so powerful. thank you Mitch, and Jana.

  • Marni

    A huge thank you to both Mitch and Jana for discussing this on their blog. Merdian’s article was extremely hurtful and as such reminds me of the kind of behavior Christians are warned against in Mathew 7:22-23.

  • Neal

    Brilliant as always! Thank you Mitch and Jana.

  • Joel

    This junk science leads to more mothers lamenting: “Oh, yes, I knew it was all my fault. All along, we thought we were preventing gayness by making him play with trucks. Now we know that this backfired and we should have let him play with the dolls! We failed.”

  • Maddy

    Amen Mitch!

    Have you thought of writing an article and submitting it to Meridian for publication? You should, if you haven’t.

    Keep telling your truth.

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  • Dave

    So you quote the a pro-gay website to justify your attack on those who believe a child should be allowed to choose not to act on their same sex desires. You have no understanding of the pain that person goes through when they know deeply within that such desires are wrong. You believe it is right to force children into a life that despite the pretty picture that pro-homosexual people like to paint, is for very many people hell. Anyone who truly loves their child would not wish that upon them. I’m not saying that children/adolescents should be force into change therapy but absolutely that choice should be open to them. That is what you folk want to deny them. All the talk of tolerance, acceptance and love gets flushed down the toilet the minute on rejects the lies you so clearly advocate.

  • ben in oakland

    Do you want to know about those for whom being a gay person is a life of hell?

    These are the people who have bought into the LIE that they know deeply within that such desires are wrong. People who have not been taught to hate themselves from the earliest age possible are people that generally live good lives as gay people. Self haters become rollo lopez and Ted haggard.

    I knew I was gay when I was THREE. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew I had better not talk about it. I knew stealing was wrong, hitting my sister was wrong, but I didn’t know being gay was.

    for antigay so-called Christians, I can say this– quoting YOU: All the talk of tolerance, acceptance and love gets flushed down the toilet the minute onerejects the lies you so clearly advocate.

  • Ben in Oakland

    “All the talk of tolerance, acceptance and love gets flushed down the toilet the minute on rejects the lies you so clearly advocate.”

    Have you tried looking in a mirror?

  • alison

    Maybe you can’t choose whether or not to have same or opposite sex attraction, but you can choose whether or not to act on it.

  • Maddy

    @Dave/alison
    “You have no understanding of the pain that person goes through when they know deeply within that such desires are wrong. You believe it is right to force children into a life that despite the pretty picture that pro-homosexual people like to paint, is for very many people hell”

    “Force?”
    Excuse me, do you know anything about Mitch Mayne? If there is anybody who knows, understands and has experienced the pain associated with this issue it is Mitch. Mitch stands in the middle–catching slings and arrows from both sides. On one side are people like yourself and the other side are people who are LGBT who can’t fathom why Mitch would choose to be celibate and an active member of the LDS church.

    Each person individually must find their path in this life–and each of us will one day stand before God. I trust that God will lovingly apply his perfect knowledge and understanding of our hearts our trials/experiences and our choices and judge us accordingly.

  • Richard Rush

    alison,

    And everyone should feel comfortable and free to make that choice, just as they are (usually) in choosing to act on their natural inclinations to be left or right handed.

  • Larry

    You can chose to live like a human being with a measure of dignity and decency or you can follow the nonsense which reduces one’s being to insulting terms about compulsion and sin.

    You can chose to treat one’s child with respect for their lives or you can torture them to fit your personal and official religious prejudices as JeaNette Goates Smith advocates.

  • Ben in oakland

    Thanks Larry. I couldn’t put it better myself.

    I will add this. The moralizing busybodies that want to control the sex loves of others and say that God made them want it that way will always point out that the same admonishments fall on gay and straight alike: no sex until marriage.

    But they also wish to deny marriage to gay people. Heterosexuals can always get married, and/or pull a Duggar, and fall repeatedly. This results in a resounding tsk-tsk, which is Latin or Aramaic for Jesus Forgives You. Go and sin no more, or until the next time, whichever comes first.

    I know Alison, you don’t see it as inherently unfair, let alone, and far more likely, a respectable religious veneer given to an ancient prejudice. Your real job is explaining why your belief about what your God thinks about a purely theological concern should have the slightest legal effect on people who don’t share that belief or concern.

    The issue is prejudice disguised as love and knowledge.

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