Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Big Gay Mormon Book Chapter Four

This is chapter four of the book I wrote with a friend. She is the mother of several children, one of them gay.  We are both practicing LDS. I am a gay man who is married to a woman and is trying to follow the the commandments as set out by Jesus Christ and his prophets.  Chapter Four:

Answerable and unanswerable questions 
or A few facts & figures from those who don’t understand facts & figures

If rewards of joy and peace of mind were instantaneously given to the doer of good, all would do well. I would.  

If every time I paid my tithing I heard a “ka-ching!”  sound and I saw my points being calculated on the celestial scoreboard, I would write a few more checks. This, however, would not test my strength, nor develop my character, nor grow my powers and abilities.
Julie:  OK Cal, why did you lead with that thought?

Cal:  Because a lot of us think there is going to be some huge reward for choosing to obey. Those in my position who are trying to follow all fathers’ commandments sometimes look around the corner for Ed McMahon and a giant spiritual check. It doesn’t work like that.
Just thought I’d get that over with.

Julie: I am going on with the chapter. I mentioned this question to you before, but I’d like to go back to it because I think it’s important. I’d like to know why some people develop same gender attraction while others develop opposite gender attraction. Knowing the why will give me power to figure out what I should be doing as a parent and how to do it.
Calvin:  Let’s look at that directly and divide it into two parts – the temporal and the not so temporal.

The spiritual “Why” (And the answer to a universal question)

We do not know answers to many difficult questions, such as why some are affected and some aren’t, why I was blessed with this and someone else blessed with that.  However, I know for certainty that God loves His children. With that knowledge I can turn the “why” into a “what” as in “what experience is there to be gained” or “what can I learn?”

I also take solace in the understanding that someday I will have the answer.

“Yea, verily I say unto you, in that day when the Lord shall come, he shall reveal all things—“Things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof.”
In the general question “why” I hear strains of the same question I asked myself for years. What I yearned to know was: “Is this my fault? Was there something I should have done or something I should have not done?”

Often we think trials are handed out to us because of something we have done wrong, or, by the same token, that challenges are given to others because of something they have done wrong – which boggles the mind because we clearly teach that adversity is part of the Plan of Salvation. From adversity we grow and progress - if we so choose.

There are trials that come to us as a result of our disobedience, as a consequence of an action taken (or not taken). Prepare yourself now for the discovery that homosexuality is not a result of past sin.

There are other trials that come to us to teach us and to enlighten us in the process of overcoming. The Savior suffered and made an atonement not only for the things we do that are sinful but also for the things which happen to us - things over which we have no control. Things over which we never had control. I believe that homosexuality falls into this category. If I didn’t choose it in this life, if it is not because of some mistake I made by action or inaction, then it may have happened to me.

I feel the need to make this point again: Some people do not consider that homosexual feelings are something to overcome. Support those who feel this way, love them and make them part of your life. Their life experience is not your call.

There are mortal circumstances, experiences, misfortunes that transpire -- things that are unwanted, painful, and even evil.  In the Book of Mormon Alma and Amulek, were forced to witness the burning of women and righteousness children. They were taunted, spat upon, and ridiculed.

“And it came to pass that they took Alma and Amulek, and carried them forth to the place of martyrdom, that they might witness the destruction of those who were consumed by fire.” 
However, they had been promised that…

“And he (the Savior) shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
What had happened to Amulek and Alma the younger was not of their doing, nor was it the doing of the women and children that were sacrificed. Regardless of its origin, it was reprehensible. It was traumatic, painful, and horrific. The horrors perpetuated toward them left emotional and literal scars. Why was that allowed to happen?

While we do not know all the answers, we do know important principles that allow us to face tragedies with faith and confidence that there is a bright future planned for each of us.  -- Quinton L Cook   https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/the-songs-they-could-not-sing?lang=eng
The atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ was able to heal Amulek and Alma the younger. Jesus had taken upon him the pain that they had experienced. They were able to withstand the experience because Jesus interceded.  They retained the wisdom and knowledge, and their pain was healed

We, too, can rely on the Atonement to help us through experiences that have done us harm as well.

So, am I to blame?

Calvin: Concerning my own pain; I began my healing process wanting the Lord to tell me what I had done wrong. I thought I was being punished and I wanted to know why. I was sure that, somehow, this gay thing was my fault.

With this in mind, before we try to resolve the spiritual “why am “ or “why is he/she gay”, let’s get this huge mongo-question out of the way so that we all can think clearly.

I believe that to some degree, all of us chose to open our arms wide and embrace these challenges, trials and obstacles and accept the heartbreak and joy that comes with them. I suppose there is something that we could have done to prevent them from happening. We could have voted not to have any agency. Now that we are in the midst of challenges, we could choose to live our lives in a hole and avoid relationships with other human beings.
But we do not.

That, however, is where the guilt and subsequent remorse can responsibly end. And the only one that can confirm this in a way you can understand is the Spirit of the Lord.
Homework implied.

The Temporal “Why”, & Other stuff we don’t know for certian

The other answers to SGA questions aren’t as clear cut. Everyone wants to get to the bottom of it, but at the bottom there is only a note that says “Sorry - don’t know.”  There seems to be no intellectual light at the end of this tunnel.
At this printing, there are no irrefutable explanations about why some people are gay. It’s undeniably clear that we do not understand the cause of homosexuality. No one knows. Yet, everyone wants or needs to assign either the credit or the blame.

Current arguments on the origin of SGA feelings are generally based on two ideas -- whether homosexuality results from a person's surroundings and environment (nurture), or rather as a by-product of one’s biology and genetics (nature). The debate hotly continues because both sides have diligently supported their cause. If you’re in the middle you had better duck.

The following is only for those who have been frozen for the last 20 years or so and need a primer:

Argument one: Nature

Nature enthusiasts believe that some humans are born with a gene, chemical or other physical characteristic unique to those who are attracted to their same gender.

After years of speculation and hypotheses, something akin to evidence was presented in support of this claim in 1991 by a British-American known for his research into brain, its structures and functions and sexual orientation. This neuroscientist, Simon LeVay, reported in a published study of his research on the human brain that there appeared to be a size differentiation in the anterior hypothalamus (a certain neuron group) between straight and gay men. He reported that the INAH3 nuclei of the anterior hypothalamus was on average three times smaller in homosexual men than in heterosexual men. He based his study on post-mortem examinations of the brains of self-declared homosexual men.

When Mr. LeVay’s research was initially reported he was clear to emphasize;

"It's important to stress what I didn't find. I did not prove that homosexuality is genetic or find a genetic cause for being gay. I didn't show that gay men are 'born that way'- the most common mistake people make in interpreting my work. Nor did I locate a gay center in the brain.”
“INAH3 is less likely to be the sole gay nucleus of the brain than part of a chain of nuclei engaged in men and women's sexual behavior. My work is just a hint in that direction--a spur, I hope, to future work."
Some criticized Mr. LeVay’s findings and labeled them incomplete saying that his work was based on too few subjects with inadequate histories. Some outspoken woman suggested that cutting up dead men’s heads regardless of sexual orientation was just plain gross. (That was Julie and I tend to agree with her.)

A later paper that was published in Science in 1993 by Dr. Dean Hamer, an American geneticist, showed that there was at least one subtype of male sexual orientation that appeared to be genetically influenced - as indicated by the linkage of DNA markers ( Xq28 segment on the X chromosome) among gay males. Dr. Hamer was also responsible for the postulation of the existence of a God gene for religious experiences.  He believed that genetic studies have proved that homosexuality is not a choice. “People can’t change their genes.” He said.
For those of you that speak science as a second language - felicitates. For the rest of us, the basic gist is that these studies show a possible link between a certain segment of the X chromosome and homosexuality but do not prove any reason, cause or relationship.
However, the possibility of a “gay gene” has become the proverbial holy grail of homosexual research and the possibility of its existence has poured gas on the nature vs. nurture argument that was combustible to begin with.

Neuroendocrine studies support a biological point of view that sexual orientation could be determined by the early pre-natal levels of androgen(s) on relevant neural structures. In other words…

Julie: Yes Cal, please, please use other words.

Calvin:  If exposed to high levels of these androgens, the fetus will be attracted to females. The site studies suggest that male rats who received lower levels of androgen became submissive, in matters of sexual drive, to the other male rats.

Still, with all the interest, speculation and science, there is to this date no definitive answer to whether homosexuality is biological.

Jihan Ryu in The Quest for the Gay Gene  states:

“Although sexual orientation research has been strengthened by a study on maternal hormonal effects in utero and has refined theories about how homosexuality can be passed down through generations, it still has a long way to go to reach a satisfactory conclusion of any sort”.

Argument two: How you were reared.

Julie: As a mother of a gay son, the argument that how a child was reared affects their sexual orientation is a sensitive subject.

Social theorists who examine such things as play patterns, early peer relations, the interactions of children, the differences in parental behavior toward male and female children, and the role of gender constancy in the household, believe that these pre-adolescent elements are the largest contributing factors to homosexuality.

A study by Bogaert, Blanchard & Crosthwait done in 2007 found that having older brothers influenced sexual preference, and that with each older brother the chances of homosexuality increased by 33 percent. 

One could argue that these findings simply support a biological cause. Perhaps with each male fetus that is carried in the womb the chemical or hormone level in the mother’s body changes in such a way as to affect the sexual development of subsequent male pregnancies.

The point is that it’s easy to see trends but to explain why they happen or what causes them to occur is much more difficult. My son Sean’s is the oldest boy in our family, so scientifically it seems to be a tossup.

David Halperin (B-1952) a Freudian and Foucault enthusiast supported the idea that homosexuality is caused by a combination of a strong mother and a weaker father who paired and reared a son with unresolved Oedipus complex issues. This supposition, he clams, would lead to weakness in the son, weakness which would then lead to homosexuality. 
There are psychologists that disagree with this logic, thinking that the same scenario could be played out and could conceivable lead to a strong son who has been enabled to compensate for his father's weakness.

Calvin: And then there is the hair whorl. Science now shows that gay men have hair whorl patterns that flow to the left, while heterosexual’s whorling hair moves to the right.

Thumbprint density is considered to be another telling indicator of sexual orientation for men (increased density of ridges on the thumb and pinkie of the left hand).
I just looked for myself, and I had to borrow my daughters’ pink princess mirror to do it. My hair whorl is lefty-loosey. I’m not exactly sure what my thumb print is supposed to look like but I gotta tell you, it’s pretty impressive. I should also mention that my ring finger is slightly longer than my pointy finger, and I like musical theatre, classical music, and vocal jazz, but I can’t see how any of this matters unless you are a cosmetologist, manicurist or trying to get me to download your latest song..

Back to the drawing board

Calvin:  The nature vs. nurture argument and the studies that go with it are not so useful in understanding why SGA exists. Ultimately the answer may depend more on who you ask, their agenda, and on their worling hair than on any actual fact.

Julie:  Problematic parenting, biological blip, or hormonal happenstance? Maybe it’s just a choice. It sure would make it easier if one could choose a sexual preference like one chooses which sports team to follow, which shoes to wear, or which diet drink they want to be addicted to. If they choose it to begin with they could simply un-choose.

Calvin: …If they had chosen it to begin with. I don’t believe that any of these explanations really covers the question of why some people are same gender attracted and others aren’t. Traits can be developed as well as passed along genetically. Abilities can be enhanced, behaviors learned and there are way too many influencing factors to find a cause. If there is not a cause, is there a cure? For example…

Human Specimen “Adam” has nosebleeds, wounds that heal slowly, problems fighting infections, and severe joint pains.

In 1932 these were found to be symptoms of vitamin C deficiency - a lack of fresh fruit and vegetables in the diet. Therefore, Specimen “Adam” can be cured by being placed on a regimen of chewable gummy vitamin C, or fruit.

Problem solved.  Will same gender attraction ever be that cut and dried?

Human Specimen “Bob” is SGAttracted.  SGAttraction (homosexuality) is caused by an unknown factor or factors. (Will science figure out a specific cause?) Without a known cause, do we have a fix? And is a fix what “Bob” needs or wants?
Here is what we know now:

“…Sexual orientations, whether homosexual or heterosexual; gay, straight, lesbian, or bisexual, all are a cause of a complex interaction between environmental, cognitive, and anatomical factors, shaping the individual at an early age”. 
Control over “the natural man” is an important concept for us Mormons.  We believe that the unbridled or unchecked man does not realize his full potential; that striving for betterment is fundamental to a Christian life.

That the effect of homosexuality clearly touches all of us regardless of its actual cause, name, the science behind it, or the current political climate or popular opinion. The “why” is up in the air.

However, the “how” is manageable for all of us.

I am gay. How do I live like others?  How do I feel fulfilled? How do I express love? How can I be like everybody else?

The unexplainable nature of homosexuality, our inability to nail down an explanation or a reason behind it and, frankly its place in the LDS church (not the Gospel, mind you, but the Church) is the utmost example of the literary curse and a blessing.  Both its effect and affect is deeply personal and cannot be generalized or marginalized.

I cannot tell you how to live, love or how to have a life with any limitation or obstacle -- again assuming that you consider homosexuality as such. If you consider that your life is better for your individualized sexuality, (and why wouldn’t you) I can’t tell you how to reconcile that part of yourself with the LDS church.  It is not back and white for those who are gay.

Because the origins are so indefinable to us, the eventual possibilities seem to be huge.
The question is; for you, does the blessing of homosexuality outweigh any perceived curse?

Speaking for myself, it does.

Major Tangent at the end of this chapter:
Deep down inside, what do you really think and how do you really feel about homosexuality? Are you ashamed of it, or embarrassed by it?   
What images explain SGA for you? What is the first thing that comes to mind when SGA in its many forms and explanations is mentioned at school or in Church or at work?  Is homosexuality for you a pride parade in Technicolor on the local news? Is it a tasteless joke or a careless remark? Is it the funny uncle that doesn’t come around anymore – the one people make fun of?  
“Does it really matter what I think?” You say while mowing the lawn or stirring a pot on the stove - all while reading.
The good ol’ days of winking and nodding and claiming that homosexuality doesn’t affect us because we don’t know anyone like that were over years ago and frankly they weren’t all that good while they lasted. Not for me.
Julie: But Cal, I miss the good old days. I don’t like having to deal with all these issues I didn’t ask for and never wanted in my life. I wish Sean was still collecting baseball cards and complaining about chores. Every time that he starts dating someone “seriously” I start to freak out. I’m probably afraid that one of these days it’s going to be something permanent and I’m going to be forced to deal with it, and required to deal gracefully. I sometimes think how wrong it all is -how it goes against my nature. Then I start feeling guilty because here I’m am writing this book because I’m all “understanding and cool”, but sometimes I don’t feel all “understanding and cool”.
It’s not the homosexuality itself (and I’m sympathetic and supportive with the feelings) but the actions and the lifestyle as I have seen it are just not what I want for Sean. Then I feel guilty again because I’m probably screwing him up even more by what he must see as my evident disappointment and lack of acceptance.
Since I am venting
My daughter went to a dance last Friday night. So we were talking and I was saying how proud I was that she was dancing with boys.  Sean pipes up and says he goes dancing every weekend and dances with boys and I don’t compliment him on it. And I thought “but I’m not proud of that”.
You just asked if the readers can handle homosexuality. And reading along, I realized that sometimes I can’t. So tell me I am either destined to burn, which I feel sometimes, or that it’s a process because there is a difference in being mean to people because they are homosexual, and being angry or resentful because it is messing with my own life and the people I love.
Calvin:  Let’s refocus. How do you feel about Sean?  He is gay and that doesn’t fit with your belief systems. How would you feel about him if, instead of being gay, he did something else that was contrary to your personal or religious beliefs? What if he went dancing at the club every Saturday night with girls and was sexually active with them? Knowing you, Julie, you would not be happy about that, and yet you wouldn’t be asking me how to deal with it.
You would complement him on being outgoing, or on his talent in getting to know people. You might put some music on and dance a bit in the kitchen. And you would not hesitate to tell him that sex outside of marriage was not what he should be looking for and you would tell him why. That doesn’t seem foren to you because you do that all the time.
My kids are straight as trees, and there are days that I want to knock some sense into them. Parents are going to have issues with how their children live.
Thomas S Monson said
“Never let a problem to be solved become more important that a person to be loved.”
Julie, you are a good parent and a fair parent. You love your children and want to give them the best head start you can.
Maybe while you are trying to help Sean the others in your family will watch you being kind, nonjudgmental and respectful to people with differences. Who knows but that this may be the catalyst that propels your family forward to do great things?
You have opened up a dialogue with love and understanding so that those who may have wandered from the safety of the fold know that they still have a place. Maybe they will move a little closer to us as we show them our love and they can still dance with us in the kitchen. 

End of tangent.

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