"Bill" is not his real name. He was interviewed anonymously to protect his family from the intolerance, he says, is directed at those who believe, as he does, that living a homosexual lifestyle is a choice.To find out his specific reasons for agreeing to be interviewed anonymously, click here.
Q: Tell me about your membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, how long you've been a member, and what that membership means to you.
A: I've been a member of the LDS church all my life, my parents were members, I grew up in the church. I was always active: baptized at eight and went on a mission when I was nineteen. I went to BYU to school and I've always been active in the church and felt strongly about my commitment to the gospel and the church. And have always had a very strong belief in it.
Q: When did you first become aware of same-sex attraction? Tell me a little about what happened then.
A: Well, I remember from early in my childhood feeling a sense of intrigue with other guys who were sometimes my age or sometimes somewhat older. I guess those feelings started to become more sexual of course when I entered adolescence. I guess in terms of recognizing same-sex attraction that would have happened you know from puberty probably. Of course I didn't really know what to do about that but, I recognized those feeling and tended to think a lot about those things, to kind of obsess about those things quite a bit.
Q: So, what ultimately happened then? What did you decide to do? Go into relationships and follow that path? And did you consider yourself gay?
A: Well, when I was young I never I really considered living a homosexual life as a viable option long term, because I had been taught in church that you know, that was an incorrect choice. But the feelings were still there regardless. So when I was young I thought that if I went on a mission that God would take it all away. I certainly don't regret the decision that I made to go on a mission. It was a wonderful experience and, unfortunately, with respect to same sex attraction, it's not that simple. Heavenly Father certainly did help me through my struggles and has always helped me you know, whenever I've had problems. But in terms of trying to overcome this thing, this sexual attraction, it took a lot longer and it took a lot of different things.
And so as I grew older, and and got into college and came back from my mission, I tried to seek out therapy, to find answers, since I obviously had not found them this far in my life. And I did get involved with other guys, but I did not ever consider that to be a long-term option. My belief in the gospel was still there and those instances where I found myself involved I considered mistakes that I had to correct. So I was searching for the answers how to correct those things.
Q: I'm going to back up a little here. So, do you believe that you were simply born that way? Or is this a developmental thing? There are a lot of theories, but what do you personally believe?
A: I believe in my own life that there were probably several components that contributed and I think that, that people because of all the people that I've met, and because of my own experience, once again I think that people can be born with a propensity towards homosexuality. That is a lot of therapists that you'll talk to, and the literature that's out will indicate, that there tends to be certain level of sensitivity, among young, particularly young boys, who end up being homosexual. I think that was probably the case in my life, that there was, some level of sensitivity and introspection and so on that may not have been there to the same degree in some of my peers.
Now, does that make me, or did that me homosexual? No, but it may have given some of the elements that, contributed to that later on. Do I believe it's genetic? No. Could there be some genetic component? Maybe. But I believe probably in my own life that it was a combination of things as I grew up my relationship with my father which was somewhat emotionally and sometimes even physically distant. Consequently my relationship with my peers which also tended to be on the surface fine but somewhat emotionally distant as well. So I think there were kind of a combination of things along the way that lead to that sexual orientation.
Q: To get a sense of the struggle, and put it in a context, some homosexuals who I talk with, who define themselves as gay, say that it's just an innate part of them, that it's very strong and can't be denied. Was that an easy thing for you? Just try to describe it a little bit.
A: For those who would indicate that it's a very strong undeniable kind of feeling I certainly agree with them. There are perhaps is no over feeling or emotion that I've had that feels more compelling than that sexual orientation felt for so many years. And so to propose that it's innate or part of someone is perfectly understandable. It feels like a part of you because it seems to be and for so many years in my life seemed to be something that I could do nothing about. It was always there, it always seem to be just about as strong and so it it tended to look like part of my life part of my emotional being. But at the same time I tend to belief that many things like that like homosexuality and those strong feelings are not necessarily static. That they can be impacted and that our lives and my life could be adjusted such that I could deal with things in a way that was harmonious with my moral beliefs, my religious beliefs, and those were ultimately the things that I was successful in working on. Did that answer you question?
Q: Talk about that passion and conviction that you had for your belief, because you just described these strong feelings, your feelings for God must have been equally and more so compelling, can you describe that?
A: Yeah, for so many years there seemed to be a giant clash of this sexual feeling or identity or emotion versus the religious believes that I had and my morals value that I had believed in all my life. And I always believed throughout this entire process that regardless of how strong the feelings were or what kind of activity I was involved in. I always believed that that God would never teach people and instruct me to live in a certain way and not allow me and in fact not help me to do that.
Now, to say that is easy and then to find the answer is much more difficult. I always believed that that God had a plan for me, that he wanted me to have a family, to have you know a "normal" life. And there were certain things that I had been taught that I could follow, but I just had to find what those things were and so I never gave up on the church. I never gave up on my conviction even though , by my actions sometimes it would appear that I'd kind of given up.
But in terms of my own inner conviction and belief in the gospel, I clung to that. In fact if there was anything in my life that was kind of there as the constant that I could cling to it was the church and the gospel. And really it tended to carry me through those very difficult times because, because really deep down I always knew that there was a way through this and that God would help me and he did.
Q: How you did get through it? What was that final answer?
A: Well, the answer for me just as I guess the issue itself came in many different ways, I guess the answer came in different ways. And you know we talked about the church and the influence of the church in my life and my own conviction that way. And I think that that was critical because if you asse for a moment that this issue of homosexuality is at least partially developmental which I belief it is. Then you need to understand over a nber of years.
In my case I was in my mid-twenties before I started making any serious headway and finding what I thought were substantive answers to the thing. And so, so given that length of developments it therefore is a very difficult thing to try to turn around, especially to try to turn around quickly. And so, in my opinion and in my experience, one of the critical things that was needed to make a change was divine intervention, call it what you will. But the help of God. Because , because he can step in and do things and change things that we can not and therapists can not and that books and studies and all kinds of things can't do. And , and in fact I always reflect on the account on the bible that is given of , when Jesus met the blind man that had been blind from birth.
I've always found it interesting that the scriptural account points that out that this man had been blind from birth. So, it wasn't an accident apparently it seems some sort of birth defect but the scripture then points out the fact that Christ healed him. And and I think that's important because he can do things quite literally in that way, he doesn't care whether I was born with something or whether I've had it for thirty years or whether it's the biggest struggle in my life he can fix it. And so I guess I need to point out in terms of what was important and what worked, reliance on the Savior on Heavenly Father was critical.
Some people talk about 12-step programs and the idea that there's a higher power even though different people have different ideas about what that higher power is. But the idea that we need to surrender to that higher power every day is a very critical kind of thing. I would, I would spend , every morning saying you know, Heavenly Father I know that , there is a terrible difficult thing for me and I can't do it all on my own and I really need your help and I need your help today and probably many times throughout the day I need it. And so that became a critical thing for me and clinging to the activities in the gospel. And in terms of other things that I did, , I searched over the years. I, when I was in college I went to this counseling center there met an individual, a clinical psychologist who kind of came from the old school of thinking where he thought that if he could get me comfortable with the opposite sex, with women and with dating that that would kind of do the trick. That would kind of make this other problem fade away. And while I believe I learned a lot out of that experience I went to group therapy.
When I was in college early on, and in fact I'd returned from my mission and it was clear this thing wasn't going away. I go into therapy with a individual there, a clinical psychologist. Who kind of came from the old school, in terms of treatment for homosexuality. In fact the reason I went there to begin with was to receive what they call aversion therapy. Which you may be acquainted with, they used to use it back in the fifties where , someone would be shown a stimulus such as a homosexual picture or something and then when , arousal occurred they'd get an electronic shock. And so with negative feedback they would hopefully get rid of the unwanted behavior.
Unfortunately what they found was, and what I found out was, they that tended to , mess up sexual feelings entirely and not necessary correct them in one direction or another. And so they had largely abandoned that practice but that's how desperate I was to find an answer. That's what you do, so I guess I'll go do that. I'll go get hooked up to the electrodes. But , but what he did was, he thought that if he could get me comfortable with the opposite sex, and with dating and with women. That would that would fix the problem.
I was involved with group therapy over a nuber of semesters with this individual and other clients he was seeing. And these weren't just people with homosexual problems, they were girls and guys some of whom had been molested as children, some of whom just had depression problems, just a mixed group. And I found that very valuable because it helped me start to learn to open up. Because one of the things that I found in my experience and I think it's common with people who had the same type of experiences is that I've been very closed up. That to large degree perhaps because of this issue I'd had with homosexual feelings I had kind of shut myself off emotionally, no one was getting in and I wasn't letting anything sensitive out. I learned to start to bridge that a little bit in those sessions and I learned to start to share with people. That was very helpful and I think very critical. In terms of his therapeutic approach about about women being the answer to homosexuality, I don't know that I necessarily agree with that being the best answer but I think there were some valuable things that I learned out of that therapy.
As I continued along, got out of college I still needed help dealing with this and I went to a therapist through my work, through the insurance plan that I had, and this therapist took an approach which is quite common in the therapeutic community right now. Which is that, my problem was not homosexuality, my problem was this archaic system of religious beliefs that I had. And so that's what I needed to fix. So, she encouraged me to explore homosexual feelings and to forgot about these religious morals that I had followed. While I didn't agree with that, and I felt still fairly grounded in my own beliefs; it was perhaps not coincidental at the same time I had some additional problems with acting out and with other individuals.
And I am not, I don't mean to criticize that counselor necessarily, because I think she did have my welfare in mind, but I am skeptical of the approach. I don't think that approach is appropriate for everyone. And I think it's dangerous when the therapeutic community takes that approach, because there are some people out there and I would consider myself one of those peopleb for whom moral values are not negotiable. My morals don't depend on what society says today, or what's in the newspaper today, or what's on television. I had to find a way to live a life that was consistent with my beliefs. The beliefs weren't going to go away because somebody didn't like them, and so her approach was not the one for me.
Q: Bottom line, was it your experiences in therapy combined with your religious beliefs?
A: Yes, I ultimately found a counselor who has expertise in dealing with homosexual issues and believes people can change and who would help them work towards that goal if that's what they want. I also found some support groups that help people who desire to make that change. So with the combination of a qualified therapist who was able to give me some very concrete things, activities -- things to work on with family members and friends and associates -- with my continued reliance on God, prayer, and scripture reading, and all those things we do to try to stay connected with God; and through the help of the friends who I made in this group, who could share with me their experience of what was working and of what helped them. Through a combination of all those factors, I found what I guess I would call a solution -- understanding once again, realistically, that that solution took a long time.
Things that develop over a number of years don't reverse themselves over a number of weeks; it's just not realistic. And so the progress was slow but over a couple of years I was finally able to look back and say you know what I have really made some progress here. And that's where I started to see the change.
Q: What about your church leaders' approach? Were you ever in danger of excommunication? And what do you think about that?
A: I felt very fortunate with the church leaders that I had. Because you know, to be very frank, most of the leaders in the church don't know anything about homosexuality. They don't know anything about it. And so when somebody wanders into their office, and says, "You know what? I've just had sex with somebody," or "I've got these problems and I don't know what to do about them," they don't know what to do about them either.
So they need to rely on the spirit, and on any other resources they can gather to help them figure out what this individual might do for this particular problem. I felt fortunate that my leaders were willing to work with me, and help me explore some of these things like this support group that I mentioned.
Evergreen International is the group that I was involved with for several years. They were willing to let me work on those things and work with a therapist and kind of help me work through this process from many different angles and they provided that spiritual crutch that I needed and perspective that I needed. They helped me get in contact with the religious aspect and with what God would want me to do.
Now, I know that there are people out there who have said that their leaders counsel them to marry to fix this problem. And you know what? I think that probably happens sometimes, because once again the leaders don't know what to do and they think that sounds like a logical conclusion.
Honestly, I think in the majority of cases, that heterosexuality is not the cure for homosexuality. Homosexuality, is an issue unto itself. It has to do with relationship with the same sex, and problems with those relationships, and connecting emotionally. That's what has to be worked on. The heterosexual feelings and relationships, I think and in my own life tended to come quite naturally after some that other baggage was dealt with. But to say "Go get married, and that's the cure," I don't know that I would agree with that necessarily. And once again I wouldn't criticize well-meaning leaders who give that advice, because they don't have much to deal with they have no expertise. I guess maybe you know they could avail themselves with some of the literature that exists and so on. And it is out there. But the truth is sometimes they're flying blind.
And you asked about excommunication.I was in danger on a couple of occasions with excommunication from the church. In fact at one point was put on unofficial probation a couple of times, and official probation another time. I was never disfellowshiped and I was never excommunicated. And I felt very fortunate. I just thank God that my church leaders were willing to work with me and they were trying really hard to see where I was. Because as I kind of mentioned earlier, for so many times, or for such a long period in my life the church was the thing that I had to rely on and was my crutch and to be completely without it would have been devastating for me.
Now, at the same time I know there are those that are excommunicated for the same kind of activity that I was involved in, or who are disfellowshipped and that is also devastating for them and their families. I guess all I can say is that I can't second guess God and that I honestly believe that in most of those instances what the individual experiences is probably what he or she needs. Sometimes that is very harsh reality. I think sometimes and what I needed for example in that official probation period was a little shock to the system.
Regardless of what choices I made, the church still had to protect other individuals, who I might be involved with. They had to protect me, for the promises I had made and the covenants that I had made. Sometimes violating those things can endanger us to the point that official disfellowship or excommunication sometimes is a protection for a period of time. So, there are many reasons why it happens; it's painful when it does. That they worked with me. Those guys that I met with in that bishop's court, and the stake presidents I met with once again knew very little about this issue but they were willing to work me, and they were willing to sit there and listen and try to figure out what was going on with me.
Q: What about your participation in you ward? In speaking with others, I've found that it was difficult for them. Some wards are not very accepting, partly perhaps because of ignorance.
A: I never had a big problem with acceptance in a congregation or a church setting primarily probably because I never was identified as someone who had this problem. Any issues that I had were dealt with between me and my leaders and so as far as everyone in the congregation knew I was just some guy.
Now, I know that there are those who have problems because they are identified or because they choose to identify themselves as homosexual or having problems homosexuality. I think that's unfortunate because you know the church does teach and is very clear about the fact that people need to be loved and accepted regardless of who they are and even regardless of what choices they make. They need to be loved and accepted. Unfortunately, people are not always that strong and people in the church and out of the church. Oftentimes we'll make judgements about people because of the choices they're making. I guess in some ways will harbor some prejudice against those people because of the choices they are making. And I think, I think that's unfortunate.
I think we still need work on, even in the church, our ability to separate the person from the behavior. And love the person even though we may not approve of the behavior. And by the way disapproval of the behavior is perfectly appropriate. There are things that the church teaches that are wrong and it's okay to believe that they are wrong. But, loving the person who may be engage in that behavior is perhaps one of the most challenging things that we face. And people sometimes are not that strong. So yes, prejudice exists in the church sometimes. Yeah, it does. And we need to continue to work on it.
Q: Let's talk about this whole issue of labeling.Why you've had such an aversion to that and why you think it's dangerous?
A: I never identified myself as gay or even necessarily as homosexual because I never accepted it based on what I've explain as something that is necessarily unchangeable. And in my mind, gay the term gay as we use it now is almost a political identity even beyond the sexual identity. I never labeled myself that way because once again I never saw myself in that light and I am not much for labels anyway. Because I think life is so much more than, our sexual preference. That is such a small, tiny part of life. And yet people once they, I guess accept this identity of being gay, tend to cling to that with such vigor , that it becomes, it seems to become all of who they are. And I think that's unfortunate because whether or not you have homosexual feelings and whether or not you want them to go away.
Who you are is so much more than your sexual preference. I think the label is very limiting and in fact I think it's particularly limiting with young people. We've talk a bit about some of the issues that exist in our community right now with young people and being exposed to information about homosexuality and the gay community and so forth. And I think that's potentially damaging for a young person to label themselves because because young people -- I'm speaking primarily of teenagers -- have so much yet to learn and so much of life is new to them. That categorizing themselves in one label or another any label I think is inherently limiting. Because for example, young kids who are sixteen or seventeen years old they've only been feeling sexual feelings for a few years and to and to then asse or presuppose that they are gay or that they are anything is a leap that I don't think should made at that point in life. I think I think you should leave yourself open to more choices rather than less choices. And I think once you adopt a label you have less choices.
This issue some who do use the label, will hear you and say there's no way. It is just so much a part of me, and there's no way that I can conceive of changing my sexual orientation he's got to be kidding himself. He is suppressing his desires. What would you say to that?
Yeah, those individuals who would say that I am deluded. I understand what they are saying that they are coming from their own experience and saying you know what I have always felt this way, I will never feel anyway else therefore what this guy is representing is , neverland. You know he's fooling himself. And in fact they'll say a nber of things about people like me, they will say I'm kidding myself and that I'm just suppress my true feelings or they'll say I was never really gay. , that I'm; they'll often times use the term bi-sexual even though that's a fairly tricky term and it's actually quite hard to find people who really are bi-sexual because usually when you find people that categorize themselves that way studies have shown that they tend to be largely homosexual. , or that this is all some kind of ruse, some kind of political game that I'm playing and that it's all a conspiracy. And that I made this whole thing up. They will say basically anything they need to say to continue to believe what they need to believe. , but I understand those comments and at the same time that I sound rather , critical of them, I understand them. Because they feel so strongly that this is the way they are, and the way they will always be and therefore everyone else who feels the same way must be that way too. , but in terms of deluding myself or fooling myself all I can say it to offer my own experience.
Earlier in my life the only kind of sexual activity I had before I was married in fact was homosexual activity. That is the predominate thought pattern that I was engaged in for years. And for those who deal with homosexuality know it is an obsession. It really is. Because you think about things day and night and I can tell you know that I don't have that obsession. And , that I have a very normal relationship with my wife and what I would consider a very standard kind of relationship and in terms of struggling with homosexuality or feelings it's just not a big issue in my life.
Is it possible to think a homosexual thought? Yeah, it's possible. Why is it possible? I suspect it's because I learned to do that over the better part of thirty years. , but it's not troubling anymore. It doesn't I don't obsess over those things anymore. And when I do think a thought it goes as soon as it comes. , I guess I would have to compare it to fleeting reminders of things that happened over a nber of years. But it doesn't bother me and , and so again you talk about the criticism he's fooling himself. I don't know how many years I have to go in my marriage before some one says I'm not fooling myself anymore. I suspect they never will. I suspect when they take the position that I'm fooling myself they will always believe that because that's what they need to believe. But I can tell you from my own experience the change is clear over a period of a nber of years it's dramatic. And , I'm happy now and I wasn't happy before. And that's probably the most critical thing. That I could tell you.
Q: How long have you been married?
A: I've been married now for six years.
Q: Let's talk about your family then and that transition into family life. Compare how you are now to how you were then.
A: Well, in terms of my family life now it's just, it's like night and day. Before when I was struggling so much with homosexuality and engaging in that lifestyle I wasn't happy. I would return to those behaviors like a robot sometime but never really seeing that as a goal and never really being happy that way. My wife and my daughter (I have a two and a half-year-old daughter) are just the light of my life. I can't imagine, frankly, going back to that life before versus the life that I have now. I believe this is the way things are suppose to be.
I guess life proves itself out by illustrating that my virtue of my own happiness this is the way things are suppose to be. I'm very happy. And you know we have our struggles from time to time as any couple would and our daughter drives us nuts sometimes as any daughter will. But I am just so infinitely happier now than I ever was then that I would never trade it. I would never go back.
Q: Has it been difficult for your wife?
A: It was difficult for my wife, I was somewhat fortunate in that I was able to work through a lot of it before we were married. I told her when it became clear that we were getting serious that I had had this problem. And it was tough for her because she has heard the stories of people who have been married and then gone off and had relationships and that was challenging for her and I don't blame her. But she made it a matter of personal contemplation and prayer. She came back to me and said one day something was, has always stuck with me, which was that a she had come to understand that God loved me very much and it was okay for her to love me too. And she is just an angel. So, yes it was tough for her but she, she's willing to work with me.
A: I decided to do this interview because I think it's so important for people to be able hear this perspective. So much of what we hear in the media and in the press and in television has to do with what I would call the gay agenda for lack of another term. Which is that homosexuality is the way you are don't fight it, there's no possibility for change and any story that I might tell in garbage. Auh, and of course I disagree with that view point unfortunately as I said it's what people hear so much of. So I think it's important for people to hear there's another side of the story.
There are people out there who make changes, who make different decisions. And I have to make that distinction as well which is that people will pint out I didn't choose to be homosexual. And you know they're right.
No one chooses to be homosexual -- they'd have to be a lunatic. But, what we choose to do with those feelings is a choice and it's a choice that I have made and that everybody has to make at some point. And so I wanted this message to be heard. Why did I decide to do it with this siloqet approach because not because believe it or not of my family or friends.
Some of my family do not know about this and some of my friends don't, some do. All things considered I probably wouldn't want them all to know, because I don't know what good it does, but even if they did they would love me and support me because I have a wonderful and they wouldn't care what kinds of problems I'd in my life.
The reason that I have to do this anonymously is because quite frankly I am concerned about the backlash from the gay community. For people like me, who stand up against their views. I know an individual who for example who works for LDS social services.he has received personally threatening phone calls. I know other people who have written books who have threats and some backlash from the gay community and I don't want my family to have to deal with that at all. And so the things that I do in terms of conversations like this I do anonymously. And I think that's kind of sad. Because I think its shows a level of intolerance in the gay community which strangely enough for years has been asking for tolerance,.
But it's said quite interesting by an individual Camille Paglia, she's written a book on homosexuality, and she is a lesbian. Some members of the gay community don't like some of what she's written. But she doesn't necessary accept the fact that people can change but with respect to the question about changing orientation what is it about the collective ego of the gay community that we can't stand this viewpoint and why do we fight it so vigorously. And I think it's an interesting question.
Q: Some say the church should accept homosexuals even to the point of relationships and same sex marriage and they should be able to participate in the church.
A: With respect to some of the comments that have been made about the appropriateness or inappropriateness of excommunication for the church because of homosexuality or homosexual behavior, I would have to say once again I feel very fortunate with my own experience of what happened. Now there was discipline in my own experience, it wasn't excommunication but of course some people would suggest the idea just when we need the church most it turns its back.
But you need to take the question of church discipline into the larger context. And consider what's happening. You can say that about almost any issue where someone is disciplined because they've just gone through something usually that is emotionally and spiritually damaging to them like a sexual relationship. Or like any other kind of problem that would bring them into a bishop's court or into a high council court. And so when those things happen those people are usually quite devastating the same is true with homosexuality.
If I've had homosexual behaviors, and am really struggling in my life, yeah, I'm pretty depressed. But then you ask what does the church do about that or what should the church do about that and of course some people would suggest let them stay in the church and don't' do anything.
But the problem with that is once again the church is built on a set of beliefs that the church suggests and the leadership suggests are eternal principles. They're true. And so they can't, in fact there's a scripture that said, that says that God can not look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. He can't just turn his back and say okay you want to live that way that's great because membership in the church has certain requirements. Membership in any club, group has certain requirements. And membership in the church as some basic requirement s one of which is that we can't get involved with certain sexual activities. One of the rules of the road.