Ever heard that phrase? I have. I've heard it multiple times, including today. "Pray the gay away" is a phrase used in reference to a belief some people have that people with same-sex attraction can just pray to God, and that God will remove their attractions toward members of the same-sex and replace it with an attraction towards the opposite-sex. Some people believe that being same-sex attracted is a sin in and of itself, or at least an "impurity", even if it is never acted on.
I'm still in my YSA ward I mentioned in blog posts before (YSA stands for Young Single Adults). I've shared my testimony about same-sex attraction multiple times in this ward for the whole ward to hear. Well, today during Sunday School a woman from the stake pulled me out of class saying she wanted to talk to me. I went out and stood in the hall with her. I don't really know her position in the stake, and I don't really know her, but I have seen her before.
Well, we stood for a second before she brought up my same-sex attraction that I had shared about months ago. She told me she had been wanting to talk to me ever since I had shared my testimony months ago, but never got the chance until now. She didn't speak the best English, but she basically explained to me how if I pray to God that my attractions will go away, and told me that God can make me "love a woman" and that I should get married to a girl and not sit alone at Church. I wanted so badly to explain to her how wrong she was, to make her realize how wrong she was, but I couldn't. She was an older woman, her English wasn't all that great, and I could tell from her tone, firmness, and the tears in her eyes that she honestly believed what she was saying.
I was frustrated. I was offended. I was sad. How could she honestly believe that? I've heard it before from many other people telling me I chose to be gay, and that I could just pray and God would fix me, but something was different this time. The other times that I heard it said, I was still trying to figure things out myself, so it seemed like feedback more than insult, but this time, since I have an unshakeable testimony about the subject already, it felt like an insult, a slap in the face. I could tell she had the right intentions, but she was sorely misinformed.
Can I really blame her though? I mean I once believed the same thing. I tried praying and praying and praying begging God to take it away. I mean, why wouldn't I? People hated me because of it. I got bullied, picked on, and I constantly felt un-included and isolated. I even hated myself for it. I honestly believed that I was an abomination to God and that's why he wouldn't take it away. But you know what? My understanding is completely different now. Could God take my attractions away? In theory, yes. God can do anything. But there are certain things God decides not to do, and He always has a reason for it.
I'll try to explain it this way. Say you were born with only one leg. Do you think that just by praying about it, God would suddenly give you a new leg? Or if you have autism, that just by praying it would suddenly be cured? Or an addiction, does God just instantly take that away? Or you're homeless, does God just make money rain from the sky? God could do all those things, and in some very rare cases he has (scriptures about Christ healing the sick and lame, for example), but for the most part, God gives us support throughout our trials without ever completely curing us. We are given trials in this life so that we can grow spiritually and rely on God more wholly.
I don't hate the lady who said that to me today, and I don't hate the other people who have told me that. Do I have frustrated emotions to resolve? Yes, but I don't hate them. More than anything I'm sad for them, sad that they misunderstand the gift God gave me. Sad for the people they may meet in the future who deal with SSA who may get the same "Pray the gay away" response from them. Same-sex attraction has definitely had a role in bad things that happened in my life, but it wasn't the sole cause, and ultimately it boils down to my free agency when I make a mistake, and doesn't necessarily point to any one condition or circumstance.
I just want everyone to know that everyone is human, and everyone deserves just as much respect and love as the next person. God loves all His children, and so should we. We should be careful what we say about sensitive subjects. Don't come to conclusions without first investigating the issue yourself. I recognize that there are stories out there of Christians (both and the LDS faith and others) who claim to have been rid of their same-sex attractions. I'm not here to say it's not possible. If it worked for them, then great for them, but it doesn't mean it works for everyone, and it definitely doesn't mean the people it doesn't work for are sinners. I know that I will not be "free" from my attractions in this life. That isn't part of God's plan for me. And you know what? I'm happy about that. My attractions, my struggles, everything about me has made me who I am today, and I wouldn't trade that for anything in the world.
There are people who love and support me as best they can, who don't reject me because of things I can't control, and I know that God doesn't reject me either. God loves me completely and wholly.
I know same-sex attraction is such a complex topic in the Church, but always approach it with sensitivity and care. Don't try to make others' feel like sinners, for we are all sinners. Help them feel like equals. Love them into the gospel, don't reject them in the very place they should be most accepted. Don't enable them to sin, but at the same time don't hate them and drive them away.
I know I need to work on being more loving and outgoing in my ward, and I know that the Church has the potential to be very loving, welcoming, and understanding of everyone, but there's still a lot of work to do there. Life is good though. I know God lives. I know God loves me. And I know all that He put in my life was meant to bring me closer to Him and become who I was meant to be.