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On the cusp of the Circling the Wagons Conference, there was another gay Mormon conference held in Salt Lake City called Same-Genger Attraction Conference: Reconciling Faith & Feelings. This one was hosted by The Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists (AMCAP)

“the first-ever public presentation brings together a number of people who have experienced same-sex attraction, including several persons who now have successful opposite-sex marriages. They will offer insights into how they have reconciled their challenges and their traditional moral values, including the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Other therapists and scholars will provide additional perspectives.”

Remember how I was initially all pissy about the Northern Lights-like  people being invited to the Circling the Wagons Conference and yet still guardedly acquiesced with  caution that it was in keeping with the CTW Mission?

Well, I’m glad I at least voiced my concern and suspicion that those folks were taking the Mormon way of speaking one way publicly and another way amongst themselves because it appears that this conference is the exact thing I was concerned about. Granted that this was not Circling the Wagons, but it appears to be the very thing I was concerned about.

No matter how you twist and contort it, if you believe in the LDS faith then homosexuality is seen as a negative and something to be overcome or suffered through. These men can be respectful of, and kind to other gay men who have taken different paths that allow for the free expression of their identities…but among themselves they will always default to the idea that a heterosexual life is a model to emulate and strive for.

By way of full disclosure, I’m getting all my information of this conference second-hand. I did not attend. I did not read the speakers’ remarks. I merely read an attendees blog where he listed some general impressions and a few specific points that touched him. Without his permission, I am reprinting those bullet points here along with my reactions and comments. Since my main concern was how their image is PERCEIVED, I’m comfortable responding to the perception of the conference 2nd hand in this way:

*The key to overcoming same sex attraction is to not make it the central focus in your life. Focus on living the the gospel and as you do you will over come compulsive sexual behaviors. With the gospel as your central focus, your view of SSA will change, you will find joy, you will stop hating yourself, your homosexual feelings will not go away but they will diminish. One of the speakers made the point to say that any appetite that’s fed (sexual addictions, SSA), grows in strength. Make SSA your focus, you feed it. Make God your focus, you feed yourself, he feeds you.

From this comment, I gather that the main concern of this conference is indeed “overcoming same sex attraction.” Keep in mind that such an approach runs contrary to the American Psychiatric Association guidelines which state,

“The prejudice and discrimination that people who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual regularly experience have been shown to have negative psychological effects.  The discipline of psychology is concerned with the well-being of people and groups and therefore with threats to that well-being. All major national mental health organizations have officially expressed concerns about therapies promoted to modify sexual orientation.”

“To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective. Furthermore, it seems likely that the promotion of change therapies reinforces stereotypes and contributes to a negative climate for lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons. This appears to be especially likely for lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals who grow up in more conservative religious settings.”

In other words, these Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists are hacks who disregard principles of their profession. They are contributing to a negative climate rather than helping with it.

Furthermore, notice how “SSA” or “Same Sex Attraction” is lumped together with sexual addictions. They’re not the same, nor are they both negatives.

I also find it hypocritical of these sort of people to hold a conference on “SSA” as a central focus and to spend considerable amount of time, resources and professional energy on something they tell other to not focus on. How does someone like Ty Mansfield have any moral ground on which to stand to tell others not to focus on their “SSA”? He’s done numerous videos and presentations on the matter, telling his own story frankly and unabashedly. He apparently makes a living counseling others with SSA. How is that NOT focusing on SSA?

Keep in mind there are LDS young men who commit suicide because of the messages such as were promoted at this conference.

*Hope with a capital H is what’s most important. The goal for those helping treat those who experience SSA is to give hope. To let them know that there is hope, there is a road, there is a path for them in which the faith and feelings reconcile.

The only thing worse than NO hope is FALSE hope.

*The most powerful and sustaining type of change that occurs in someone who experiences SSA is the change in one’s heart. Having the faith to believe in a higher power and truly be able to say “They will be done.” Change though is individual and it all comes down to what the individual wants.

This is classic Mormon-speak for, “If you don’t achieve the change we are now promising you then it’s because to didn’t want it bad enough.”

*SSA can be likened to speaking english. One wasn’t born speaking english. Though one may not remember it, you learned how to speak english. SSA is the same. No one was “born this way.” Certain experiences and tendencies led to this place of SSA. Missionaries learn second languages all the time. They still think in English but are able to adapt and be proficient in another language.

As a student of linguistics, I have something to say about this. I’ve long held that whether or not we are born this way is irrelevant. It is simply a straw-man argument. I do believe that to say “no one was born this way” is naive and premature, but even so lets pretend that homosexuality is indeed like English.

One thing is clear is that at birth, all languages are equal. An infant has equal capacity to learn any language, but once learned it will be a base or starting point making other languages easier or more difficult to learn.

Another interesting fact about language is that there is a point in maturity at which the brain undergoes a chemical change to the point that learning a foreign accent is near impossible. All of us are born with the equal capacity for learning ANY language. But, by the age of one, babies already exhibit the firm recognition of sounds and grammar unique to his own mother tongue. Simplified, it’s possible for a few talented adults to learn multiple languages, but rare, if not unheard of, for those adults to learn native accents. Children are capable of picking up accents and languages but their linguistic orientation is still set as early as the first year.

Missionaries DO learn second languages “all the time.” I did.  But when a native pretends that the one talented missionary speaks as clearly as a native, they are usually just being polite. It rarely, if ever, happens that a 19 year old speaks as fluently and sounds EXACTLY like a native.

Look, I learned the language of heterosexuality well enough to fool my wife and my own father. Whether I was born homosexual or not, I’m certain that by the time I was self-aware enough to do anything about it I was firmly and solidly homosexual to a point that it couldn’t be unlearned or “overcome.”

*When one first starts accepting and choosing to deal with their same sex attraction, they tend to ask the organizing question “Can I or can’t I change my sexual orientation?” Ty Mansfield said that this is a red herring that is presented to us. We don’t need to worry about sexual orientation. We should worry about changing our own story! A spiritual change is much more important and key to overcoming this mortal overlay. One speaker noted, “I may like women but when people ask my orientation, I tell them is is to the Gospel of Jesus Christ”.

I don’t even know how to address this point. It’s so “1984-ish” that I’m speechless.

*”Either I’m in the driver’s seat or my emotions are.”

I suggest anyone read, “The Happiness Hypothesis”  by Jonathon Haidt and they will gain a better understanding of this point. The truth is we are in the driver’s seat of much less than we think we are. If we want to make real change in our lives, a different approach than this quote warrants is in our own best interest.

*Ty also made the point to say that loneliness and sexual attraction are often thrown together into one when it comes to SSA. He said it was important that they be separated from each other. Those feelings of isolation and emotional starvation need to be treated, so you can be healthy first. In deepening your relationships with people and feeding yourself spiritual and emotional, SSA will be treated as well. Though it is important to note that one can’t base their happiness on another person or relationship. We can never learn to be happy married if we aren’t happy single.

Hmmm… I wonder why men who believe in the LDS and Ty Mansfield way are LONELY… Hmmm I wonder WHY…

He’s entirely right that it needs to be separated from homosexuality. But I can tell you that the only LDS options available are no remedy no matter how you look at it. Neither celibacy nor marriage to a straight spouse will do anything to address loneliness. My loneliest times were while married and temple-worthy.

*Ty spoke on how his SSA is a gift and a blessing. It has taught him so much about the Savior and has given him such great faith and patience.

“Faith” and “Patience” in Mormon-speak means a LOT of suffering and pain which he has managed to live through.

“Taught him so much about the Savior” is code for, “While everything around me is telling me to feel shitty about myself, there is one glimmer of hope that something, someone, somewhere still values me and sees me as worthy… that is the Savior. I cling to THAT as if it were real.”

“My greatest fear is that we get to the other side and realize that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ could have healed us.”

My greatest fear for you is that you will get to the other side and and realize you spent a lifetime trying to heal and recover from something that God himself both created and accepts at face value. What a sad, wasted life of self-loathing and struggle that was wholly unnecessary.

The truth is that I’ve come to a realization about myself.

My issue isn’t with the way any person chooses to live his/her own life. I’m not as horrified with the fact that there are straight-married gay men out there and more on the way as a result of propaganda spewing from North Star. My problem is with the LDS faith at its core, which isn’t what it claims to be (See Why I Left Mormonism, above). A belief in the LDS paradigm is only reason to live a North Star, or AMCAP style of life.  These hack therapists are choosing and promoting this lifestyle based upon flimsy and literally no solid evidence whatsoever. Like Leo Joseph Ryan, Jr., who tried to rescue the folks at Jonestown, I feel compelled to speak out against unnecessary compulsion and falsehood based on a faulty belief system.

What the LDS faith and followers are telling you just isn’t true.

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