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Friday, September 30, 2016

Should She Share with Her Parents that She is Struggling with Same Gender Attraction?

Dear Bro Jo,

I can't believe that it's almost been a year since I wrote that first email to you. Funny how things change and yet stay the same. I'm still working on the depression and my relationships with my family are still messy and frustrating. But I've learned a lot too. I've realized that I need to be active in the gospel, even when I don't want to be or it's hard. I need to learn to trust the Lord, even when it seems impossible. I need to be honest with Him and honest with myself. I've learned that I need to take care of myself, and that sometimes saying yes to what I need to do for me means saying no to someone else. And that's okay. I've realized that I can't be happy if I'm not living an authentic life and being true to who I am.

And I guess that's where I need your advice again haha. It's been a soul searching year of coming to terms with something I tried to bury for a very long time and I still have a hard time sharing. I experience same gender attraction. I ignored it and hoped it would go away, but it didn't. I tried to get busy with other things in life but avoidance doesn't really solve anything. So I finally let myself accept it and started thinking about what it would mean to act on those feelings. I made some mistakes along the way but am working on overcoming those. I know now that it won't bring me any lasting happiness or peace. So a few months ago I told a few close friends about this internal struggle I was having and the isolation I felt because of it. Only one of those friends was a member of the church, and she was supportive but made it clear that she wanted me to stay active in the church and she would not support me in anything other than that. I know that's what I need to do. But it's also hard to understand how this is part of God's plan, and how God loves me like this. But I'm going to work on it, and I feel like it will work out. The others were more outwardly accepting and told me it was okay not to have answers. That was reassuring, even though I know I need to stay active in the Church, something they don't necessarily fully understand.

My next step is that I want to be open about this with my family. Except my family doesn't talk about anything real or personal or meaningful. We talk superficially and around the real issues. My sister and I are breaking those habits, but I'm afraid this might not go over well, especially with my parents. My parents and I can't even have a real conversation right now, but I still love them and value the relationship we could have as parent/child. So I guess I'm wondering, as a parent, what do you think would be the best way of going about this? I'm afraid of how they'll react (mostly because I don't know what that reaction will be) and so I talk myself out of telling them. I also feel bad that they aren't the first to know. Yet I know that I needed to process this with others first and that's why I didn't tell them first. And I'm realizing more and more that not being honest about my feelings and experiences is taking a toll on me, especially because I know that I need to be more authentic in order to connect with people and have meaningful relationships. But I do want my family to know before I really tell more people. Does that make sense? I'm also afraid my family will want answers, and honestly, I don't have answers right now. I know how I feel, I know what the church teaches, I have a testimony of the church and I'm going to try to follow that, even though I don't feel very close to God right now. I'm going to work on accepting myself for who I am and go from there. I'm working with my bishop to feel the spirit more in my life and working with a counselor to help me by more self-compassionate. But I feel like that doesn't give them the answers they want, and I'm not sure I'm open to giving them that detailed of a response haha.

Any thoughts or advice? Am I just over-thinking this and imagining the worst?

Thanks!

- Name Withheld




Dear NW,

How great to hear from you!

It really sounds like you're doing so much better than last year; good for you!

I'm a much more private person than I think many people realize. So I don't always understand the need to share everything with everyone.

I get that we take that risk because we're hoping, perhaps even expecting (though we may not admit it) that the people we open up to will be loving and supportive and maybe even condone what we have to say.

It's as if our happiness is dependent upon their reaction. I get that. And I understand it. But I also think sometimes it's best to limit who gets how much information.

If you don't have the kind of relationship with your parents at this point in time where you feel that you can safely share information, then I see no reason to be in a hurry to do so.

However, I'll also say this: were you my daughter, even though I might react in a way that is different than you hope, I'd rather know than not know. Especially if it's something your're struggling with.

I'd want to help. And I'd hope that in the same way that you'd want patience and understanding from me that you'd give me time and understanding, too.

Maybe for now you should keep the quantity of people you share your personal thoughts and feelings to a small group; not telling anyone else until you've had the conversation with your parents, regardless of how far in the future that may be.


Lastly, I'd like to take the opportunity of your email to share somethings about same-gender attraction that you may or may not have thought about in this way before.

First of all, simply recognizing that someone who shares you gender is attractive, or even sexy, is not enough to mean that you're gay. Or bi. Or anything else, for that matter.

Secondly, regardless of our sexual attractions, we control what we do with our bodies and who we do what we do with. I hope that makes sense.

We can certainly talk about it further if you like.

Oh, and one more thing: I think your Church friend has given you the best advice; you're lucky to have someone in your life who cares enough about you to tell you the truth, to tell you how they really feel.

Let's keep the lines of communication open.

Best,

- Bro Jo


[Dear Readers,

I haven't heard from this writer for several years, but I thought you might find it interesting that she has since been happily married in the Temple.

- Bro Jo]

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