August 28, 2014

Homosexuality Is Not a Mental Illness: Letter writer makes poignant points, columnist totally misses them

Recently, I ran across a columnist responding to a letter he received from a reader. I found the letter to be quite beautiful, so I'm going to quote it, and then we'll look at the columnist's response...and why I feel he truly missed the mark.

Let me preface this with an explanation of my beliefs about sexuality. I've done this time and again, and perhaps at some point I will find time to do a post just on it, because it's that important to me.

Sexuality is a part of who you are. It's a spectrum, from those with lots of interest to those with none. It's not determined by your gender, or your biological sex. It's typically normal and natural, healthy. When it's expressing itself in normal, healthy ways (i.e., between normal consenting peers), it's something that should be embraced--not repressed. It's not dirty or shameful. Attraction is not dirty or shameful. It's not something that should be guilt-ridden.

These are my basic beliefs about sexuality, pared down to the bare bones.

And I can tell you, this columnist and I clearly have divergent ideas on the subject.

The letter write says:
I appreciate your recent discussion of depression and admire your admission that depression has been a challenge for you for many years. I don’t know if you realize it or not, but one could substitute “homosexual feelings” for the word “depression” in your column and it would accurately describe how many have felt, too. 
Most of us ran from homosexuality when we were young, just as you literally ran from depression. Many, perhaps most, of us prayed that our homosexual feelings would go away. They didn’t. 
We worried that someone would find out, that our family and friends would hate us, that we would lose our jobs. We went to counselors, some of whom told us we would “outgrow” these feelings or that we could change our feelings. They were mistaken. 
Some of us married and lied to our spouses and our children, and feared every day they would learn the truth. Some of them did, and we got divorced. Some of us remarried and tried again, but it was useless. Finally we understood that we could not change our homosexuality any more than you can get rid of your depression. 
Some of us tried to commit suicide and some of us succeeded. Some of us were promiscuous because we could not commit ourselves to one partner and marry that partner and have a stable family life. And some of us died of AIDS as a result of our promiscuity, or we live with HIV and worry about the future. 
Sometimes in your past columns, you have expressed what I interpreted as a very negative attitude toward homosexuals. Since you are a Baptist, I suspect you also probably do not approve of same-sex marriage. If I am wrong, I apologize. 
In any event, please try to understand homosexuality in the same way that you have experienced depression and understand the pain it has caused you — especially the fact that you didn’t choose depression and that it won’t go away. 
As a healthy senior citizen and a life-long bachelor, I am at peace with myself as a homosexual and I am not ashamed of being gay because, for whatever reason, God made me that way. But I don’t have the courage you exhibited in outing your depression. 
Through the years, I have confessed my homosexuality only to a few close friends who are straight but all of them still love me. My parents and grandparents may have suspected, but they were kind enough never to bring up the subject, and they continued to love me until they died. I have scores of straight friends who probably know but never mention the subject. Even so, I remain in the closet. 
I hope you also have found peace concerning your depression even though you continue to suffer from it. In the New Testament, Paul admitted that he had “a thorn in the flesh.” Perhaps that “thorn” was depression, or considering Paul was a bachelor, perhaps it was homosexuality. No matter what it was, Paul had his challenges too. But God loves all of us, in spite of our challenges and that’s all that matters. 
A fellow Christian who must remain anonymous except to God
This was a beautiful appeal to understand homosexuality in terms of something that can't be changed, but that can be accepted.

It hurts me to see how the letter writer struggled with his sexuality, how he faced rejection because of it. It hurts me to see him liken it to depression--sexuality should be a part of ourselves that we can embrace. It's a piece of our identity, a piece we should be able to own.

So how did the columnist respond?
Depression, alcoholism and homosexuality are just three behaviors that researchers have linked to genetics. Unlike the last one, however, I don’t see anyone embracing and proud of their depression, not wishing to get rid of their depression, fighting for depression rights. 
I do with the gay community. But it would be a gross generality to believe all gays are that comfortable with their sexuality.
The columnist completely bowls over the point of the letter: the letter writer came to terms with his sexuality. It was the rejection from society, the inability to fully embrace himself, that caused his negative experiences.

And likening homosexuality to depression and alcoholism? Again? Do we have to keep retreading these waters?

The columnist expounds on the negative connotations:
I’m more convinced than ever that homosexuality is not a choice, but inherent at birth. There are a wide variety of things that aren’t our choice — birth defects, middle-aged maladies, natural disasters — but all must be confronted in some manner.
Did he really...did he

But he did. The letter writer doesn't need to 'confront' his sexuality. He's already come to terms with it. Other homosexuals don't need to confront it either--they need to know that it's a part of them. That it's natural and normal.

The columnist finishes up with this thought:
Regardless of my Biblical stance on homosexuality, I’ve always tried to see gays in the same way as straights, judging them more for the person they are than what may be their sexuality.
And again, I am struck by the audacity of those that feel that we can separate sexuality so completely from ourselves. You can't reject someone's sexuality and still respect them as a whole person--that's love the sinner, hate the sin, and it's not possible. You're blatantly ignoring part of their identity, a major part of who they are. Do you also ignore the sexuality of people that are expressing it in ways you agree with? The virginic bride on her wedding day--do you ignore it? Do you ignore the young couple, first starting on their journey as man and mate? No. You don't. It's part of who they are.

Saying you'll respect someone in spite of their sexuality is pointless. You can't.

Either you respect the whole person, or you don't.

There's no in-between.

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