Q: Tell me how long have you been a member of the LDS church and what does your church membership mean to you?
A: I've been a member of the church for twenty seven years. I joined the church at the young age of twenty-one. And what does the church mean to me? Recently, we had a Relief Society meeting and were asked the question, "What is your most valuable possession?" I thought long and hard about that and have come to realize that my most valuable possession is the testimony and the knowledge that I have that Jesus Christ is my savior, my friend, and my brother. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is his church, and it contains his doctrines and his teachings. It is those doctrines, those truths that I consider the most valuable to me because they set the standard of life.
Q: Did you serve a mission?
A: I did. I served a mission in the southern states for the Florida Tallahassee mission. I was gone for eighteen months.
Q: Sandy, how old were you when you first became aware of same-sex attractions, and then, at what age did you finally act on those attractions?
A: Taking into consideration that I spent most of my life denying the fact and hiding from the fact that I was attracted to the same sex, I was really forty-six-years-old when I realized and came to admit that yes, I had a problem. In retrospect, going back over my life as I have in therapy, I realize that I was nine-years-old when I first had those attractions, those feelings for the girls my age. , I related better to girls, to my girlfriends, and I wanted to be with them more; I felt very special when I was with them. That's not to discount the fact that there were seventeen boys in my neighborhood, and, by golly, I was the best shortstop that they ever saw.I did have associations with a lot of younger men my same age, but I was just more attracted and felt more comfortable with girls my age.
Q: Do you believe that you were simply born that way?
A: I don't feel that I was born with the same-sex attraction. Through the understanding of my core beliefs and believing in them, I don't think that there is a God of Bad Jokes. I don't feel that my heavenly father let somebody be happier than I. I've come to feel that because the goals and the things I want in my life I can't have right now, the joys that come from familial ties, at least not until I get this issue worked out. It's not because the heavenly father decreed that I didn't deserve it or that I wasn't worthy of it. I feel that we're all born with the same chance in this life to progress according to his plan and according to my personal goals and what I want for myself. I don't feel that he would play that kind of a joke on me.
Q: So from your life experiences, do you think there are people who are born that way?
A: I feel that all of us have the same opportunity. I believe that our environmental factors have influenced it, at least my environmental factors have influenced me greatly in the same sex attraction. I feel that if I had had the right mirror hold up to me to help me to understand my role as a woman, that I would be enjoying my grandchildren right now.
Q: Let's clarify that a little. If you weren't born that way, why do you feel like you had those attractions when other for instance other people have not? Or when they've had differences or difficulties in their family.
A: Loss of gender identity. Something happened in my life and something happened, I believe, in those who struggle with this issue. As a child they may not have had the right environmental influence, to learn the gender issues, the female issues: the nurturing, the loving. In my case, it was abuse.
I was sexually, emotionally, and physically abused as a child. I first became aware that my family was not safe at three years old. I recognized weaknesses and pain coming from my mother, and, my gosh, who would want to be like that? Who would want to attach to a woman who was not comfortable in her own self.
It's true that mom had issues; she had her own issues. She was abused as a child, and a big part of abuse is the generational abuse that's past on from mother to daughter, father to son, father to daughter, whatever. In this case, it was my mom. And I knew that she was not a safe person and that she was not a nice person. I didn't want to identify with that, and, as a result, there was the loss of a gender identity.
I do want to emphasize that abuse is not the only channel that would determine a lose of gender identity. In some families, the mother takes such a weak role, because of her own insecurities or whatever has gone through, that the girl, the child, the female would want to disassociate herself from mom and recognize the strength coming from dad and identify more with him. There are lots of avenues that would bring about lost of gender identity. In my case, the lost of gender identity truly is the frank diagnosis for this disease, if you will. The same sex attraction is a symptom.
Q: What about gay people who say, I've never had any of these things in my life, I was raised in a happy home, and I had a happy life?
A: I've met those people. In bringing out my issues of abuse they've said, hey, you know my parents were great, I didn't have a problem with that. And to that I say, okay that's fine, and I am glad. I'm really glad that they don't have to deal with that, but there is something that has happened that would separate the identity from the female or the male even.
Just an example: I do have a friend and she also is struggling, but in her family, she realized that her mother played kind of a weak role. Her mother wasn't comfortable with her femininity, didn't take it out on her or anything, tried her best to be a good role model, but for one reason or another was not comfortable. So she disassociated herself from her. The daughter found that her level of comfort was coming from her father and brothers, so she would go out and try just as hard as the boys to please her dad. She associated with dad and, with that, lost her association with her mom. A full picture was not drawn for her of her identity, of her gender. She didn't get the full impact of mom's role in her life.
Q: So, you decide to go into therapy. How long ago was that?
A: Yes. This is two years. As a matter of fact, this month it's been two years.
Q: Do you feel at this point that you have changed or overcome same-sex attraction?
A: Since starting therapy two years ago, yes, I feel that I have significant changes. There's been progress. I've gained a better understandingof my issues, of why the attraction was there before I hid from it, scared to death because I didn't want to admit that I had this problem. That's what kept me stuck in, having to deal with the attraction; this was what I wasn't willing to face. After going through the therapy for two years, and I will continue to go through, I've learned about my issues.
What has developed as a result of the abuse and as a result of the dissociation from my mother is a very low self-opinion. I felt that I was worthless. I felt that I was stupid. I felt that I didn't matter. I truly came to the conclusion that my soul reason for existing was to meet other people's needs. And that's what I've done my whole life is try to meet their needs and ignore my own. I haven't grown, I haven't progressed. I haven't finish a thing that I've started, because, my gosh, who do I think I am that I could work for myself and I could develop my sense of me. That's not what I was here for.
I was taught at a very young age that I was here not for me but to serve others. And in doing that, of course, I was cut off from any sense of feeling worthwhile and feeling that I was able to give to anybody in hopes that maybe I was okay.
Q: What about those in the lesbian or gay lifestyle who fully believe that that was how they were born? Was that ever something you would want to do? Did you ever think about fully embracing that lifestyle?
A: Two years ago in May I finally came to a decision that I needed to look in the mirror and see who really was there. Was it the person that I felt I should be? I knew that it was not. Or was it a person that truly had an issue and could admit that maybe I was gay? I hesitate using that word because I hate it. It's like bile in my mouth. I realized that I had to make a choice, I had to know who I was, what I wanted in life, and where I needed to go for that.
And as I considered embracing the gay lifestyle every ounce of fiber in me rejected the idea so violently that I almost got physically ill. I knew that I could not live that life. On the other hand, I was looking at how I was living and that I was attracted to women. I did desire sexual relationships with them, and where I was, where I wanted to be, which was healthy. I had a good aspect of me and who I truly am: Married with children and a family. They were worlds apart so I knew that I needed to do something to get there. And I also knew that I would not have those desire unless there was a way for me to do it.
I decided at that point that I needed to heal. I needed to overcome this. And I didn't even imagine for a minute that there wasn't a chance for me to do that. To overcome and to be healed and to be whole. It was that that drove me to the therapist chair. And in retrospect, listening to the people who feel they are born that way, I came to understand that for me, if I had been told at that point, sitting in that chair pouring out my heart and my desires and my goals, sorry can't help you, I would have been in the obituaries the next day.
It was that important to me not to have to be consigned to living that lifestyle. For me it was not right, it wasn't good, it didn't fulfill my goals, and it wasn't me. I had a lot of glimpses of the person that I wanted to be, and that was good, that was healthy, and that was somebody that was loved and that could give healthy love in a normal heterosexual environment.
Q: Has it been difficult maintaining your participation in the church given all the struggles that you've gone through?
A: Not since I've been in therapy. Prior to that time, yes. Remaining active in the church for the last two years has not been difficult. Realizing again the goals that I'd set for myself, I know that they can only be met within the bounds of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Prior to that point it had been difficult. Life had been difficulty.
I had commitment problems all over the place. During high school, I didn't study well, because who was I to think that I could be smart enough to get good grades. I wasn't taught that I was smart. I dropped out of college. Who did I think that I was that I could go after this wonderful thing for me? I didn't deserve it. My marriage failed because of my lack of commitment to my marriage. I mean every aspect of my life has been impacted by the belief system; I was led to believe that I was the way that I was because of the abuse and because of the issue. My gosh, here I was, this person wanting really wonderful things for myself, but not ever taught or come to realize that I deserved them. And so I didn't. I didn't go after it, my commitment failed in every aspect of my life.
Q: Okay Sandy, you say that this affiliation with the church and your belief in God has helped you. Do you believe that could have done this without this belief, and tell me about it's role.
A: It would have been very very difficult. To do it without knowing that I had a father that was compassionate and understanding and a savior who was there to help me to overcome and to understand these issues.
It would have been very difficult to have entered the therapy and the healing phrase without knowing that there is a father, a heavenly father there that I know loves me unconditionally. And that I have a savior who has been here and has experienced pain and sorrow, and who I know loves me and he did that because he loves me--he loves us all.
That knowledge has allowed me to continue. This has been a very, very painful process. It's been a difficult thing for me to face myself and to admit the failures. And to really look at myself, and to dredge up all the memories of the abuse and all that. And I don't think I could have done it without knowing that there was somebody there that loved unconditionally and could support me.
Christ has taken upon himself all of our sorrow, all of our grief: In Isiah 53, Isiah says that he's taken upon himself our sorrows and our grief and our pain. And then Christ himself says, I have done this, I have taken upon myself the sins of the world and have atoned for them and paid for them. And he's done that so that we wouldn't have to suffer those things.
And he tells us in Mathew 11, he says, "Come unto me all ye that labor, and are heavy laden and I will give you rest." And he can tell us that because he's been there, he knows it, he's done it, and all he asks is that we give it up to him. And that the peace does come, the understanding does come. He says, "I am meek and lonely in heart and ye shall rest unto your souls." And the rest comes from the understanding of the issues and being able to let go of them. That he can strengthen me against the struggle and against the desire that I can become whole. And I know that I can.
Q: Some homosexuals I've talked to have really criticized the church and its members for its intolerance and prejudice towards those struggling with issues of homosexuality. How do the people around you, your church leader and ward members, deal with your struggles?
A: My church leaders have just, oh my gosh, they have been so tolerant, they've been so compassionate, and so supportive. They're the ones that have made it possible for me to even begin the therapy process. They've put their arms around me and loved me. Two men within my ward now each have come up and given me a hug and offered their support. And they continue to do so throughout this process. They've continued to be there.
I've developed new friendships with heterosexual women who are not afraid to be associated with me and who have expressed their trust in me. I don't think there are words to explain how grateful I am for that support, because it just strengthens me. I've also had adverse reactions from people who I knew prior to this ward, who are in my other ward. People often react to their own fears and to their own lack of understanding, and they act on what they know.
An alcoholic is an alcoholic because they drink excessively. A woman is a lesbian because she has sex with another lesbian. The issue is why. Why do they need that? What is it in their lives that is lacking that they feel they need that. And that gets back to the lost of the gender identity.
It is so important to try to understand and to try to educate yourself. Speaking of people in general, to educate themselves about the issues and to just not look at the action. There's a reason for it. There's a reason that people react adversely. Please don't close your eyes to people with problems and to people who struggle, especially with this issue, because it's the understanding that is going to help both sides. And we have good things to offer. I really feel that I am worthwhile, that I have something good to offer. And if I have that opportunity, we both gain. Everybody wins.
Q: Some therapist and homosexuals might say you're simply repressing your desires and sexual attractions, and people can't really change something that's so engrained. So, what would your response to that assertion be?
A: I would again come back to the repression of the desires. I'd again come back to having them take time to recognize the need in that person. IIf I continue to repress that desire, I would still be stuck in in this circle of the attraction. It's in recognizing that desire and educating myself of why it was there, that has helped me to begin to overcome that desire. That has helped me begin to understand that it can be overcome, that I can change. Yes, the desire is there, but in understanding the desire is my greatest tool that I have to change it.
Q: What would you say to someone who is struggling now with same sex attraction? What would your advice be?
If they would be willing to listen, I would ask them to just please explore the issue, educate themselves about why they're struggling with this where it came from. I didn't wake up one day and say, Hah, I think I'll be a lesbian. It's not a conscious decision: It's born out of something that happened that made me lose my gender identity, the abuse and all that awful stuff. I would help them to understand that they do have a choice, that there is healing available, that they are not born that way, and that they don't not have to consign themselves to live in that way.
Q: Bottom line what would you say to someone who is same sex attracted?
A: Struggling with the issue, maybe having to make the decision as to whether I was born that way. I would help them to understand that no, they weren't born that way, that they need to address the issue and to try and find out what it is in their life that that need is there to, for love and acceptance. We didn't get it as a child from our moms, that unconditional love, so we need to get it from somewhere. But there comes a time where the attraction is more of a hindrance and is crippling. And I would have them understand that they are not consigned to a life of having to live in that type of society. That they can change, that there is hope, that they are loved, and that they are of value. Ultimately, that they can change.
Q: One last question, why would it be wrong, from your perspective, to just embrace that lifestyle or for anyone to embrace that lifestyle?
A: Choices. It all comes down to choices. We all have our agency to choose for our selves what is right for ourselves. For me, my choice is not to live a gay lifestyle. My choice is to heal, to be made whole, to go after those goals that I know I deserve. If they choose to stay in their community, in their gay lifestyle, they're wonderful people, they're beautiful people. And if that's what they choose for themselves, okay. I would just hope they would allow themselves the opportunity to know that they can change. And if they choose not to, that is their choice. I would not condemn them for it. If they lived next door to me, I would be a friend. I would not um, alienate myself from them. As I said before, it's so important to look more at the person than at their actions, because heavenly father loves them too.
Q: In closing what do you hope to accomplish? What are your goals now?
A: I want to be married. I want a loving husband. I want a loving household. I want a house full of kids. And I'm probably as old as I appear on camera, but I can still adopt. I think I still have some energy left. I would love to be able to raise children and I would love to be able to perpetuate my life with Christ and with heavenly father. And live my life with a good, understanding man, and hopefully I can be just as good and strong for him.