I had a short talk with an institute teacher this last week. She mentioned that same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria (two very different situations) are challenges not just for those who experience them, but for everyone. I firmly agreed.
Everyone in the LDS Church will have to come to terms with these realities, whether it be through someone in their family, in their ward or a non-member neighbor or friend. These challenges, which lie at the core of who we are, test both our ability to love and our ability to adhere to gospel principles in our own lives. They force us to question whether our testimonies are where we thought they were. They cause us to dig a little deeper and prayerfully seek out further guidance in understanding the commandments and doctrine, particularly regarding eternity, compassion, gender, sexuality and marriage. They help us see eternal principles in a different light. They force us to examine what is culture and what is doctrine. We have to ask ourselves, "Would I feel comfortable doing this in the presence of the Savior?" "Will this decision jeopardize my salvation?" "Am I treating my gay friend the way the Savior would?" "Is distancing myself or arguing with my gay brother helping him know that I love him?" "Am I helping my transgender friend by insisting that she is a woman and nothing else?"
We all have to come to our own understanding, but I want to share how the gospel has helped me make sense of my situation...
One of the many things I love about the gospel of Jesus Christ is an eternal perspective. Eternity is long and mortality is short. From President Uchtdorf: "As mortals, we are scarcely more than awkward, faltering toddlers" (April 2013 General Conference). Even though we have a glorious Plan of Salvation, we don't have the entire picture. We don't know exactly what we were like before this life, and we don't fully understand what will happen after this life.
We usually talk about an eternal perspective when it comes to making decisions going forward and relying on finding more answers in the next life. I have a lot of hope in knowing that everything will be perfected in the next life and that I will have a wife and children. I'm learning that there are many aspects of my sexuality that I can use for righteous purposes, such as building up the kingdom of God and helping others love themselves. Therefore, I don't like to think of being fixed or healed from same-sex attraction, rather that this quality of mine will be perfected and added upon. Either way, God will make things right. I've been learning a lot about the transgender experience. I have been blessed by hearing their stories and how they are reconciling their feelings with an eternal perspective. Some of the men have chosen to still identify as male, but if in the next life they find that their spirit is female, God will figure everything out. Some have transitioned in various ways (not surgery, in most cases), and having been guided by the Lord in their decisions, they also know that everything will be made right in the eternities. It makes so much sense to me, and it seems so much easier to reconcile to the Proclamation than homosexuality ("Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose," and we also live in a fallen world).
But what about our life before this one, before we had bodies?
There are many studies out there trying to eek out proof of whether people are born gay or whether it is something they acquire through outside influences. When presented with this question, my answer is, "It doesn't matter!" All I know is that upon reflection, I had these feelings and tendencies when I was three years old. It is of little use to try and examine any slight mistake that my parents may have made in their parenting that made me gay. I don't mind saying I was born this way. Being gay doesn't rob me of my agency. It doesn't keep me from the blessings of the gospel. I was given this quality, and I can choose whether to use it for good or ill. I had a wonderful priesthood leader present the possibility that fifteen minutes ago in God's time, I was in a heavenly exit interview where I agreed to take on the responsibility of being a gay Mormon. Within this context, sure, I CHOSE to be gay, but certainly not in this life.
Another way I've had to use my faith is in determining what is cultural and what is doctrine. Since I am gay, I need men. It's just how I'm wired. I do not need to break the law of chastity, but I do need emotional, spiritual and non-sexual physical connection (ever wonder why we have Elders' Quorums?). In our culture, there is so much about male affection that has been sexualized. It seems like guys can't hold hands or snuggle up next to each other without setting off hundred's of gaydars. Even if they are gay, does it always have to suggest a sexual relationship? Does it always have to mean the same thing as the affection shown between a married man and woman? Is it really immoral, or does it just make some people feel uncomfortable? I know that it really shouldn't matter what other people think (but still...). I can imagine holding hands with or being held by my Savior. I can also imagine the same with a man who exhibits Christlike qualities and who shares my eternal perspective. I pose a similar question in regards to people struggling with gender identity issues. Is it really immoral for a transgender female (biologically male) to wear female clothing as a means to settle her dysphoria, or has our culture equated clothing with worthiness?
If I were straight, I probably wouldn't have been prompted to study and pray earnestly about the Proclamation to the World. I wouldn't understand how foretelling that document really is. I wouldn't understand why the family is such an important fundamental of society, and that it's not just about personal morality and personal happiness. Everyone has their agency and their personal choices should be respected, but if that was all that was at stake, then prophets wouldn't be talking about it as much (Even in defending traditional marriage, I have to realize that I can only share my thoughts, and then rely on my faith in the Atonement and an eternal perspective with whatever happens in the legal sphere...it's going to be difficult to see some of my friends get married).
If I didn't have my experience with same-sex attraction, would I be completely anti-gay? Would I drive them away from the Church? On the complete opposite end, would I be a major advocate for same-sex marriage, giving into my compassionate side without having much understanding? Such questions are a testimony to me that I am exactly where God wants me to be.