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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended March 02, 2000
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Letter Sent to Mormon-News: 03Mar00

Letter from: Thomas D. Sevy

Re: Gay Mormon hoped suicide would help change church

Dear Editor:

Gay Mormon Suicide

This article states that the Gay Mormon Man realized that he was gay when he was seven years old. This statement in his letter illustrates that he was very troubled at least from age seven. But, no seven year old has any accurate indication of being gay or straight. To illustrate this, let me tell you about a social work conference that focused on Homosexuality and ethical issues of providing therapy/counseling to help people change their sexual orientation. Part of the conference included a panel of three gay mental health professionals and three straight mental health professionals. A straight social worker, who is a school counselor, asked the panel to provide advice on the following real situation. A 15 year old boy came to the counselor and said that he wondered if he is gay. He wondered if he should seek a sexual experience to test whether he is gay or not. One of the gay therapists responded that the boy should be counseled to develop social skills with both genders, and that this is not the age to be making decisions about sexual orientation.

I was very pleased to hear such an objective and wise suggestion. I believe that this illustrates that the subject of your report may have been driven to suicide by far more than what he perceived as his church's attitude toward homosexuality.

Let me share one other story that may also be relevant. My first job as a clinical social worker was in a psychiatric hospital. Given that I obtained my degree in the 1960s when homosexuality wasn't widely discussed, I didn't have much experience or knowledge in this area. I began working with an 18 year old man who was diagnosed (as best I can recall) as alcoholic and homosexual. [I point out that a diagnosis of homosexual was not prohibited by the American Psychiatric Association at that time.] My standard approach was to learn about a patient's background and to identify the specific issues that led to the diagnoses. I asked him to help me understand his homosexuality. The following are the reasons he gave for describing himself as a homosexual: he felt uncomfortable around females of his age; he had never dated, although he wanted to; he felt that females weren't attracted to him; he was more comfortable with males; in junior high gym class in the locker room, he looked at other's genitals. In response to my questions I learned the following: he had never touched a males genitals; he found some satisfaction looking at photos of nude females, but felt uncomfortable looking at photos of nude males; he had never engaged in any type of sexual behavior with a male or female; he had no desire to engage in a homosexual relationship; he did have a desire for a girl friend. My conclusion was that he had an unhappy adolescence and that he had concluded that the absence of a heterosexual relationship, and his discomfort around females meant that he must be homosexual. It would be clear to almost anyone who knows anything about behavior that there was nothing in his background or behavior that indicated he was homosexual.

I could describe another example of 'self proclaimed homosexuality' coming from inappropriate assumptions and/or from misdirected emotions, but this is already too long.

Tom Sevy, MSW, LCSW


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