Jonah brought this blog post to my attention two days ago, and in the following days I have seen many of my Facebook friends posting links and comments about it. Obviously, it has gone viral.
The post got under Jonah's skin. I didn't feel as strongly about it as he did, but understood why it upset him, and I agree with much of what he felt. As I've thought more about it, I decided to post my feelings about it.
If you don't feel like reading Josh Wood's entire post, let me sum it up for you. Basically, Josh Weed is a devout, believing Mormon who is also a therapist, but is also homosexual and has been in a mixed-orientation marriage for ten years. He says that in spite of the fact that he is attracted to men, he and his wife have a fulfilling marriage and sex life because it is built on "intimacy, communication, genuine love and affection." He loves his wife, his career, his education, and his three kids.
Josh's wife, Lolly, knew Josh was gay before she married him. Lolly actually writes about her experiences dating and deciding to marry Josh. Josh and Lolly knew each other from a young age, and she was the first person (aside from his parents) that Josh told about his homosexuality. Although she could see Josh was very devoted to God and the teachings of the LDS Church, she didn't initially see herself marrying him. Eventually, however, she realized Josh was everything she was looking for in a husband (well, except for the gay part). Josh felt she was everything he wanted in a wife as well. Lolly, however, had doubts, and Josh asked her the question, "Am I worth it to you?"
Although the full impact of that question did not hit her until later, she realized, in her words: "When you get married, you are accepting a person as a package deal—the good, the bad, the hard, the amazing and the imperfect....I knew that I loved Josh. I loved All of him. I wanted to marry him. I wanted to marry Josh Weed because I loved the man that he was. I loved everything that made him him. I didn't want anyone else. I knew that we had the kind of relationship that could work through hard trials and circumstances. I had faith in him and I had faith in our love. I did not choose to marry someone who is gay. I chose to marry Josh Weed, the man that I love, and to accept all of him. I have never regretted it."
Josh explains that the reasons he chose not to pursue a same-sex relationship in spite of his attractions were because he believes the doctrines of the LDS Church are true; he wanted a wife and biological children; and ultimately he loves Lolly and wanted to be with her for the rest of his life. Josh didn't feel the sacrifices he would make being in a same-sex relationship were worth the sacrifices he would make choosing to be with his wife. For him, "It all comes down to what you choose and why, and knowing what you want for yourself and why you want it. That’s basically what life is all about," and Lolly and he both chose the life they have and, according to them, have never regretted it.
Josh does make it clear (his words) that "while I have found a path that brings me profound joy and that is the right path for me, I don’t endorse this as the only path for somebody who is gay and religious. I will never, ever judge somebody else’s path as being “incorrect” and I know many people who have chosen different paths than myself."
He further goes on to say that those who know and love someone who is gay need to just love them and fight the impulses to correct or control them or force them down what they feel is the right path for that loved one; that even if what they do goes against what you believe to be true, you need to let go, let them govern themselves, and trust that they will find the path that is best for them.
He also pleads for those gay Christians out there to accept themselves as they are; that they are not broken or evil, and that God loves them and will take them where they need to go. He then tells the readers of his post that however they feel about his post, it's okay. He says it's okay if you think that being gay is a matter of choice or that it's hard to believe that a gay person could be happy in a mixed-orientation marriage or if you think a marriage like his is impossible or if you think that a person can't be gay and Christian. He says whatever emotion you feel, it's okay to feel it because this issue is both emotional and complex. But he promises that whatever each reader is feeling, he is not lying to them. This is his truth.
That's basically the gist of his post. Jonah and I had a long discussion about it, and I've discussed it with a couple of other friends as well. If Josh and Lolly are being completely honest (and really, I have no reason to believe they aren't), then who am I say that their path isn't right for them? If they are truly happy, why would I have a problem with that?
What I do have a problem with (and I do not feel that it is Josh's intent) is that I hope that people will remember everything Josh has said and not just the parts they agree with. Josh, himself, says his path is not necessarily the right path for anyone else and pleads with people to allow them to find their own path, and I think that is key.
I have always said in my blog that my path was right for me, but I do not dismiss that other paths are just as valid based on each individual's circumstance. Never in a million years would I say that Josh and Lolly's path is wrong if it's truly working for them. Whether it is, only they will know.
As I discussed this with Jonah, one of our fears is that it would be irresponsible if Josh or Lolly or any readers of the post (including ecclesiastical leaders, therapists, family members of gay people, friends of gay people themselves, or gay people themselves) use this story to promote the idea that what may have worked for Josh and his wife will work for them. It is my opinion (and it is just that: an opinion) that people like Josh and Lolly are the exception, not the rule.
Jonah and I worry that naive or unprepared people will read this story and think, "Well, if they can do it, so can we," but instead be left with heartache and disappointment. We worry that ecclesiastical leaders or family members will use this story as a way of saying, "See, you can change," and end up doing more harm than good. Although he doesn't indicate it and actually, seems to indicate that he doesn't push the idea, I worry that someone like Josh, who is s therapist, will say, "Well, this worked for me, so it can work for you, too," when in fact, it may not.
I have seen too many people attempt the same kind of relationship as Josh and his wife, and I have seen marriages end in messy divorce, seen wives' self- esteem deteriorate, seen innocent children left in the dust, spouses cheating on each other in same-sex liaisons, and couples unhappily trudging through unfulfilled and empty marriages out of a sense of duty or obedience. I don't think it's good. But I admit that I have seen a couple of rare couples like Josh and his wife who do seem to be making it work, so I think it can be a valid choice provided that both parties are happy with it.
Jonah and I both know that such a relationship would not have been a good path for either of us. Having been in several opposite-sex relationships and just the one same-sex one, I know without any doubt what has made me happier, and I would not give that up for anything.
The bottom line is that each person's story is their own, and I can't control how they choose to share that story, nor I can I judge them for telling their own truth. I just don't want people to think that their truth is the only truth.
From reading Josh's post, I suspect that he does not feel that his truth is the only truth or the only option, but because that path has seemingly worked for him, I fear that he may be biased towards his own option. I hope, like he says in his blog, that he would truly let each of his clients who may struggle with homosexual feelings find their own path in that regard and not try to force his own on them.
Ultimately, each person has to figure out what makes them happy. Josh's path would not have made me happy, and perhaps my path would not have made him happy. But each person does have to find their own path.
Jonah is skeptical that Josh is really living an authentic life and that, due to his wiring, Josh and his wife are sacrificing too much. I can't speak to that. Only Josh and his wife know how their relationship truly is. But Jonah and I do agree that if people try to use Josh and Lolly's story to steer them on to a path that isn't good for them, that's no good. And especially during this time when so many gay youth are already having such confusion and conflict, we worry that this story could cause more heartache than good because of false expectations.
Josh did say a couple of things that I wanted to highlight. One was the following quote:
"One of the sad truths about being homosexual is that no matter what you decide for your future, you have to sacrifice something. It’s very sad, but it is true. ...If you are Mormon and you choose to live your religion, you are sacrificing the ability to have a romantic relationship with a same-sex partner. If you choose a same-sex partner, you are sacrificing the ability to have a biological family with the one you love. And so on. No matter what path you choose, if you are gay you are giving up something basic, and sometimes various things that are very basic. I chose not to 'live the gay lifestyle,' as it were, because I found that what I would have to give up to do so wasn’t worth the sacrifice for me."
"I find that when I think of what alternative lifestyles could offer me, they pale in comparison to the full, joyous, bounteous life I live. Thus, I believe that to live my life this way is being true to myself, and to go down any other path would be egregiously inauthentic and self-deceptive."
That may very well be true for Josh, but quite the opposite is true for me. I gave up my place in a religion I loved and some would argue that I sacrificed my eternal salvation. I would have been miserable trying to live as a gay man in a straight relationship, and I've written many times about how much happiness my relationship with Jonah has given me and how blessed we are because of it. Living in a straight marriage would have been inauthentic and self-deceptive for me. That is just as true for me as I have to assume Josh's relationship is for him.
I was reading a story today about gay parents and their kids. A straight couple can just have kids if they're fertile. Many straight couples have kids by accident. That doesn't happen much in gay relationships. Having a kid involves a lot of planning and often a great financial investment. Children of gay couples are rarely unplanned. If Josh wanted biological kids of his own, I don't take issue with that. But non-biological kids are just as important and loved by their parents.
I like Josh's last two recommendations:
"1. If you know and love somebody who is gay and LDS (or Christian), your job is to love and nothing more. Let go of your impulse to correct them or control them or propel them down the path you think is right for them. Do what you need to do to move past that impulse. Do not condemn the choices your loved one makes. Love. Only love. Show your love in word and deed. Embrace them, both literally and figuratively. I promise they need it—and they need to feel like they can figure out this part of themselves in a safe way without ridicule and judgment. It’s what Christ would do. It’s what your loved one needs. Accept them. Love them. Genuinely and totally.
"If you are a parent or guardian, teach them what you know to be true in appropriate moments, with the Spirit. But then let go and let them govern themselves. Trust that they can find their own path. Let them live their life and have the experiences they need to learn and grow. Trust that they are in charge of their own agency and destiny. I promise you they will thank you. I also promise that pressuring them to live the life you want them to lead will only hamper their ability to make a genuine and authentic choice for their own future, be it what you hope for them or not. You will never, ever give your gay loved one a better gift than to love and accept them for who they are, right now, no matter what, period. The friends and family who did that for me (at varying points in my journey, including very recently) are cherished and will go down in the history of my life as the people that truly loved me, and as true Christians who helped me on my path. (And, btw, some of them are not technically even Christian—but to me are like Christ in their actions.)
"2. If you are gay and Mormon (or Christian), I want you to know how much love I feel for you, and how much I admire you. I know how hard it is to be where you are. I want you to do me a favor. I want you, right now, to take a deep breath, look in the mirror, and accept yourself as you are in this very instant. You are you. And your attractions are part of you. And you are totally okay! I promise. I want you to stop battling with this part of you that you may have understood as being sinful. Being gay does not mean you are a sinner or that you are evil. Sin is in action, not in temptation or attraction. I feel this is a very important distinction. This is true for every single person. You don’t get to choose your circumstances, but you do get to choose what you do with them.
Anyway, those are my thoughts.