Our good friend Joshua was recently interviewed by a journalist (of questionable objectivity) at the San Jose Mercury News. From the negative responses to the article, its clear that many people in the gay community still do not believe a man with same-sex attraction can choose not to be in a homosexual relationship…and be happier then if was gay. Those nay-sayers obviously don’t know Joshua. Anyone who has heard his testimony should know that Joshua does not buy into the “I can’t help my actions” argument, and that he understands the situation better than just about anyone else.
Joshua is a 30-year-old active Mormon who considered himself gay until he married his wife. He requested his last name be withheld to protect his privacy. He is a computational linguist who lives in Union City and works in Palo Alto.
How would you describe your marriage?
I have been married to a wonderful woman for just over a year. Married life couldn’t be better. It is more wonderful than I could ever have imagined. For a long time I didn’t think a faithful marriage to a woman would work, but my love for her has eclipsed anything I ever felt for a man. The difference between my sexual attraction for men and for my wife is my sexual attraction for men comes more from my natural desires, where my sexual attraction for my wife has grown out of the love I have for her.
What is your history with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
I am Mormon and was raised Mormon. I am very involved in the church. I am in the Elder’s Quorum Presidency — the group over men in my congregation — and I go to the temple on a weekly basis.
Did you or do you struggle with same-sex attraction? Please explain.
I have been blessed with same-sex attraction. I don’t like saying “struggle.” It is a struggle, but so are opposite-sex attractions. Until I hear some straight person say they struggle with opposite-sex attractions, I won’t say I struggle with same-sex attractions.
I have had same-sex attractions since I was a little kid. I think my same-sex attractions have helped me to be a better person, more understanding of people in different situations. I think it has helped me to be more open-minded and compassionate. Ironically, I also think it has strengthened my relationship with my wife. It has made our relationship more honest and open. In sharing my story about same-sex attractions, I have shared some of my deepest feelings with her. This has created a bond I think few couples have. I have been very blessed with same-sex attractions.
Do you feel the relationship between gay-rights supporters and Mormons in the Bay Area and nationwide needs work?
Yes. That much is obvious. Mormons are often painted as Public Enemy No. 1 by many gay-rights activists. In reality, the Mormon church has a much softer stance than most churches. They are just more vocal about it. Opposition by the church is limited to the definition of marriage. We believe the complementary nature of men and women set the ideal standard for child-rearing, and marriage should reflect that. We have viciously defended this standard, but we are OK with people choosing to live and raise children in something other than the ideal. We have a strong belief that everyone has the freedom of choice.
We did not object to civil unions in California, even though many other religions did. I think that is very progressive. In my mind, civil unions create the balance between the very real need for same-sex couples to have the rights and benefits necessary to protect their families while still recognizing the value that a man-woman relationship has for child rearing. There are more than 1,100 federal rights currently being denied to same-sex couples in California that the church does not oppose. Rather than fighting the Mormons, they should be working together with the Mormons to get those 1,100 rights to same-sex couples.
This has worked well in Salt Lake City, where the church has put in its support for employment and housing protections for gay and transgender people. You have to realize how impressive this is. Very few places in the U.S. have employment and housing protections for transgender people. In this respect, the Mormon church is more progressive than most of America.
However, if you just treat Mormons as your enemy, you are going to have a self-fulfilling prophecy. You can only tell Mormons so many times that they hate gays before they start believing you. Going back to the housing example, it did not pass in all of Utah even though it had the full support of the church. I think a large part of this is because the backlash against the church after Prop. 8 worked very well at convincing Mormons that they hate gays. Many feel they are being attacked by gay people, and get defensive. Of course, both sides are attacking each other, and both sides are getting defensive.
This is very hard for gay members of the church. The best analogy I can think of is a child seeing your parents divorce. Gays attack Mormons, Mormons attack gays, and gay Mormons feel the blow from both sides. It is horrible.
… Gay-rights activists would do well to admit that same-sex relationships are a choice for gay people, and opposite-sex relationships are a perfectly valid alternative for gay people. Mormons are OK with same-sex relationships being a choice. A core of Mormon doctrine is to allow men the privilege of acting according to the dictates of their own conscience. They can respect a person’s choice to be in a same-sex relationship. Like I said, we do not oppose civil unions. The problem comes when they tell Mormons it is not a choice, and that their family and friends who have made another choice are either lying or not being true to themselves.
I have felt enormous opposition from the gay community for getting married to a woman. Many people in my situation don’t want to deal with the pressure, and they hide their sexual orientation. If they try to come out, they get accused of not being true to themselves, and are pushed back into the closet. The closet is a horrible, awful place and no one should be forced to be in it.
I think the situation would be improved if we worked on common grounds. No one chooses the orientation of their sexual attractions. Everyone chooses their sexual behavior.
Do you feel the LDS Church treats gay people fairly? How or how not?
I think people in general have treated gay people unfairly. There remains much misunderstanding about homosexuality in general. I think most members of the church don’t understand it, and they are afraid of what they do not understand. They don’t understand that seminude dancers in a gay pride parade are not representative of the gay population. But I think it is getting better. The church put out several publications right before Prop. 8 that have been really helpful to gay members of the church and emphasized loving and caring for gay members.
To my knowledge, the LDS Church has done more to reach out to its gay members than any other church that teaches same-sex relationships are a sin. There really is no better place to be for someone like me who is attracted to the same sex, and yet is morally opposed to same-sex relationships. The gay community says you aren’t being true to yourself, while many conservatives attack you for simply having the attractions. The Mormon church is one of the few places that has room for me. Not to say there isn’t room for improvement. I feel the acceptance is rather forced with a heavy dose of suspicion, but I think it genuinely is acceptance, which the gay community does not offer.