This essay was originally published here.
There’s a pretty toxic article floating around from Meridian that I hope, by the time I publish this, gets taken down by the magazine’s editors. I’ve known them to be reasonable before, which is why I was particularly shocked to see an article by someone claiming to be a fellow therapist (I’m a psychologist) lamenting the disadvantages of being gay and explaining what she feels parents can do to encourage their kids to be heterosexual.
As if that were even possible. I remember that special day in my childhood I chose to be heterosexual…as one does. Don’t you?
The LDS church this magazine centers around has made it clear that being gay is not a choice, so why in God’s green earth would this person try to dispute that? States are already beginning to make conversion therapy for gay kids illegal, so therapists claiming they can change sexual orientation do so at the risk of their own license.
Here’s another reason why this article is so harmful. Utah (probably the largest clientele population for this magazine) ranks #1 in death by suicide rates. I wrote my dissertation on Utah suicide prevention, and in my studies saw the impact these feelings had on at-risk youth and young adults: of feeling rejected, of not measuring up, that there was something fundamentally wrong with them. This article will contribute to those feelings for gay youth and adults, who are made to feel yet again that they are inherently less than their heterosexual friends, whose futures will be more glorious because they can procreate with someone of the opposite gender, because that’s God’s will. That they are a glitch in God’s plan is something no child should ever hear.
This is why I founded a portal for Happily Ever After Stories of Gay Mormons. Smiling faces of couples in same-sex relationships/marriages beam back at you from the site along with their stories of how they met, how happy they are now, even pictures of their kids. Many on this site share sentiments about how they never thought such happiness was possible. Here’s the thing: I’m never going to place one kind of relationship as superior over another. What I WILL do as a psychologist is do my best to instill hope where there is none (or little), and the fact of the matter is there are not a lot of narratives of Gay Mormons who live happily ever after. The narrative we are told is that you’ll live a sad life of sin and never achieve happiness if you live a gay lifestyle, and it’s not hard to imagine the alternative (celibacy) being very lonely. However, gay youth are told it’s worth it, as if they remain worthy they will be rewarded with heterosexual happiness in the next life. For those who choose celibacy rather than be excommunicated, I will affirm your decision and help you cope–that is my ethical duty as a psychologist. However, it’s my same duty to not hold one type of relationship as better than another or to proscribe a particular lifestyle to someone, as this therapist author has done.
I can’t tell you how damaging this article (purposefully not linked to here) is for kids and families–not just parents of gay kids (as I tried to enumerate above), but even to a different extent heterosexual relationships like mine.
But let me try anyway.
I would be remiss as a psychologist specializing in infertility counseling to not note how damaging her statements about biological families are, as she asserts that this family type is the most superior and God’s ideal. If it’s not too triggering, imagine you are a man or woman who has tried to conceive and hasn’t been able to, even after spending thousands of dollars. Imagine you are a couple trying to adopt, a child of adoption, or someone who was conceived through egg or sperm donation and with that paradigm in mind read her prose:
“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.”
We can do SO much better in our sensitivity to individuals and families who do not fit the mold that is so often preached from pulpits. I’m pretty sure it’s what God would do. However, we mortals are here to interact with each other and we have been trusted with the capability to profoundly help or hurt one another. Paying lip service to how we need to be “kind to those we disagree with” is not sufficient when followed with articles like this. Similarly, those who refuse to go to a wedding of a gay loved one because they don’t support that person’s “lifestyle”…that’s not kindness. If you have to try so hard to emphasize or convince someone that you really and truly are kind to them and love them, while at the same time saying and doing horrible things to them (like those listed above), chances are you aren’t doing the whole kindness thing right. Kids are smart: they know when they’re being treated with love and kindness or not.
Let’s do our kids a favor and save thousands of dollars of therapy by accepting our children *exactly the way they are.* You can do that by not enshrining a particular family type as ideal, whether it’s heterosexual or gay, biological or blended, infertile or fertile. If you have a gay child, their future is just as bright as a straight child’s. If you have a daughter who may one day diagnosed with with infertility, she doesn’t need to carry baggage around from her youth, like the notion that her crowning achievement in life will be childbirth. Your son, should he be infertile someday, doesn’t need to hear at any point that he’s not fulfilling the measure of his creation if he doesn’t pass on his genetic material. Single folks don’t need to hear this, either, for the record. So let’s just take a moment to reflect on what about our culture would bring about such an article, and in the words of Elder Uchtdorf, “stop it.” Our children are beautiful, they are enough, they are strong and can lead fulfilling and wonderful lives, just the way they are. Let’s celebrate that.