What Not To Say - by Emily Earl Nelson

(Original Post here)

June is Pride Month.  Here at MormonPress we want to show our support and love for our LGBTQ Latter-day Saint brothers and sisters!  In order to do that, I got permission to post the following - common things we say that cause our LGBTQ brothers and sisters to feel less welcome in our wards.

The original post was written by Emily Earl Nelson and Christina Dee was the one who told me about it.  Let's be kinder to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and learn what not to say.

What Not To Say to the Parents of LGBTQ Kids

by Emily Earl Nelson

  • "Why would your child choose this?"
    • They wouldn’t! Being LGBTQ is not a choice. They are born this way. Science is continuing to show that these things are based in genetics and epigenetics. The church no longer teaches that it is a choice. Please visit mormonandgay.lds.org to read about the current teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on this topic.
  • "The Lord isn’t asking your child to do anything he isn’t asking a single person to do."
    • This is a false statement. To equate being gay and living a celibate life with being single and living a chaste life are two very different things. Straight, single people in the church can date, hold hands, kiss, snuggle, seek a spouse. Gay people can do none of that. Straight people have hope of finding an eternal companion, either in this life or in the next. Gay people have no hope. A straight single member can pray every night that they will fall in love and find their eternal companion. A gay, celibate member prays they won’t fall in love. It is a different experience. And the way the church talks about and treats single people vs gay people are completely different.
  • "We love him, we just don’t agree with the lifestyle."
    • There is no lifestyle. It is just their life. Please stop saying "lifestyle." We don’t refer to the “heterosexual lifestyle.” LGBTQ people are just living their lives like any other person. And their lifestyles are as varied as straight people’s lifestyles. Sometimes people use this to refer to the false idea that gay people are all sexually promiscuous. There are sexually promiscuous gay people, just as there are sexually promiscuous straight people. Or they use it as a way to say that the gay person is in a relationship. If you want to refer to that, just say that. Don’t use the word "lifestyle."
  • "It’s probably just a phase. Maybe they will grow out of it."
    • This is just a dismissive, invalidating thing to say. It is also false. They will not grow out of it. It is part of who they are.
  • "Do you think your child is acting on it"?
    • First, it is not your business if someone is involved in a sexual relationship. Second, LGBTQ people are constantly 'acting' on their sexuality, just as straight people are. It is part of who they are and effects their decisions, their mannerisms, their interests and preferences, etc. It is impossible for and LGBTQ or a straight person to not 'act on' their sexuality, as our sexuality is part of our being and our brain.
  • "We understand that being gay is not a choice, but acting on it is!"
    • Just stop saying this! Please!! We ALL know that the Church says acting on homosexual attractions is wrong. We DO NOT need to be beat over the head with that idea anymore. Also, my gay son is constantly 'acting' on his homosexuality even though he has never even been on a date with a boy. His homosexuality is part of who he is and affects every aspect of his life. It is not just about sex. It plays into his likes and dislikes, his mannerisms, his thought processes and decision making, his preferences, his style, his talents and interests. He is constantly 'acting on it' because he can’t live without acting on it because it is part of him.
  • Asking if or suggesting that your child has been molested and that caused him to be gay. Not believing when you tell them they haven’t.
    • One parent expressed that when questioned about this and she answered that no, her child hadn’t been molested, the questioner replied with, 'As far as you know.' It is none of your business if their child has been molested. Molestation doesn’t cause homosexuality. MANY more straight people have been molested than gay people. Also, people typically talk about this in regards to gay males. They think if a male is molested by a male, it turns them gay but seem to forget there are gay women as well. This stigma is much less common when considering lesbians.
  • Asking if they’ve been viewing porn
    • Same as with molestation, it is not your business and porn doesn’t cause homosexuality. That is a fallacy. Millions of straight people view pornography.
  • "Struggling with same sex attraction."
    • This is a phrase many parents and LGB people really dislike. The fact is, their sexuality is not the struggle. The struggle comes from the reaction of society/the church/their family to their sexuality. Many LGB people come to view their sexuality as a beautiful part of their being and have no struggle with it. Also, the term same-sex attraction is offensive to many people. Some people do choose to use that terminology, but many prefer gay, lesbian, bisexual or queer. Take the lead of the parents or the LGBTQ individual on what terminology they are most comfortable using.
  • "I bet you pray every night that God will take his gayness away from him."
    • Some parents have tried to pray the gay away from their child and quickly found out it was not a productive thing to pray for. They learn to change their prayers to "How can I love him better? How can I support him in his journey? Help me see him the way you do. Help me see your plan for him. etc." At first, I think many parents do wish their child wasn’t having this experience because it is very hard considering the ideas society has about your child. There is also a grieving process for the life you envisioned for your child. But in time, most parents I know have come to a place of extreme gratitude for the opportunity to have an LGBTQ child. They view it as a great blessing in their lives. So no, we aren’t all praying our children will be made straight/cisgendered.
  • "I know about someone who prayed really hard and they weren’t gay anymore."
    • In all of my studies and conversations in 2+ years, I have NEVER heard of someone successfully "praying away the gay." I have heard MANY stories of people attempting to, of living a nrealy perfect obedient life, of doing every "righteous" thing with exactness to try to pray away the gay and be "worthy" of the blessing of being made straight. But I have NEVER heard of them being successful. To me, that means it is not possible, not even for an all-powerful God. Even if it were true that someone had prayed away the gay, you must not use one person’s story as grounds for what other people should do. You could also be giving false hope to someone by relaying that story.
  • "Don’t worry, they will be fixed in the next life."
    • This is one of the MOST damaging phrases and lines of thinking. Gay people are NOT broken not damaged, not diseased. They do not need to be fixed. Many LGB people feel that their sexuality is part of their very soul, that their spirit itself is LGB, not just their body. Also, we really don’t know what is going to happen in the next life. We do not have the knowledge and shouldn’t speak as though we do. Finally, and MOST importantly, this idea has led people to suicide. If you tell them that in the next life this difficult reality will be taken from them and they will be “normal” it tends to make them want to get to the next life as soon as possible. Please do not contribute to this type of thinking by using this statement. We have lost far too many LGBTQ people to suicide already!
  • "Supporting your trans child is child abuse."
    • This has been said to many a parent of trans children. This is so wrong, and so hurtful. These parents are doing EVERYTHING they can to try to help their child live a successful life. You have no idea the turmoil their child experiences and what their family is going through. These parents are GOOD parents who are doing their very best. Do NOT judge. Do NOT call their support of their trans child “abuse.”
  • "How could they know for sure at such a young age?"
    • When did you know you were attracted to the opposite sex? Many of us knew well before adolescence. It is the same for gay people. They may not have the right words to describe what they are feeling at a young age. But many of them know they feel differently than others do. The average age for a person to realize their sexuality is 10 years old. That is 4th grade. Please understand you may have an LGBTQ child on your hands and speak to them as though they may come out to you some day. Be prepared. Help them know you will love them no matter what. Guard your words. Do not speak disparagingly about LGBTQ people. You may be speaking about your own child!
  • "What do you think you did to make him gay?"
    • There is nothing a parent does, or doesn’t do to make their child gay. This is a fallacy and damaging to the parents. Don’t even go there.
  • "Well, pedophiles are born that way, too and we don’t let them act on it."
    • Don’t ever equate homosexuality with perversion or deviant behavior or pedophilia. Can you imagine someone equating your innocent 12 year old to a pedophile? This is just not fair and not correct in any way, shape, or form. I don’t know if pedophiles are born that way or not, but pedophilia hurts children. Being gay does not.
  • "Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of homosexuality."
    • If you believe this, you don’t know the scriptures very well. I suggest you engage in a thorough study of this and you will come to see that Sodom and Gomorrah were NOT destroyed for homosexuality at all. The story this idea even came from was one about rape, not homosexuality.
  • "Love the sinner, hate the sin" (see next bullet)
  • "I love him but I won’t condone his sin." or "I know you love him but you can’t condone his sin."
    • These two ideas just need to stop. Instead, how about we just love the sinner? Love our neighbor (we are all sinners). How about we focus on our own sins, rather than the sins of others? To condone or not condone requires judging another person. That is not our job. Our job is simply to love others while working on our own sins. We do not need to comment on, correct, or worry about the sins of others. The ONLY time we have ANY leeway in that is with people we have stewardship over, and even then I think we must use caution.
  • Comparing being gay with any form of disease, trial, or addiction.
    • Avoid all analogies because you will most likely be wrong and offensive. There just is no other experience/reality like this. Nothing compares. I did once write up a fictitious analogy about people with green eyes. It is very similar to saying to the small percentage of people in the world with green eyes that it is not a sin to have green eyes, but they aren’t allowed to use their eyes and must go through life with a blindfold on. So far, that is the closest thing I have come up with. There is no actual situation that is analogous to being LGBTQ. I advise you to stay away from analogies and comparisons.
  • "Why did they want to come out? They should keep it private. Why do gay people have to talk about their sexuality? They should keep it to themselves."
    • Straight people constantly talk about their sexuality. They talk about their crushes, boyfriends, girlfriends, wives, husbands, ex-spouses. Gay people deserve the same privilege. Also, before coming out, gay people have to live a lie. They literally have to lie and deceive to keep their sexuality secret. Because until you come out, it is assumed that you are straight and people speak to you as though you are. To the teenaged boy, "Who do you want to date?" To the RM, "When are you going to take a girl to the temple?" To the single man in your ward, "Let me set you up with my best friend. You will LOVE her!" You get the idea. Gay people should not have to hide who they are because their sexuality makes YOU uncomfortable. They have EVERY right to talk about their sexuality and who they love and speak and live their truth, just as you do. IT is INCREDIBLY freeing for many gay people when they can finally come out and be authentic and not have to hide who they are any more. It is especially damaging to their mental health to feel they have to hide it.
  • "Gay sex is a sin so if you support marriage equality you are supporting sin."
    • That may be your opinion, but once again you should worry about your own sins. Also, there ARE people who believe homosexual relationships are sinful but STILL support marriage equality because they believe people should have equal rights under the law.
  • "It’s so sad that your son can’t be with you in the celestial kingdom."
    • We REALLY don’t know who is going where after we die or how that is all going to be worked out. We understand a tiny, tiny fraction of what will take place in the eternities and shouldn’t speak as though we have a perfect knowledge. And even if that IS your belief, what do you accomplish by saying that other than to wound the heart of the parent of the LGBTQ child? Please keep these kinds of statements to yourself!
  • "Well, but the doctrine is the doctrine."
    • Another unhelpful, hurtful statement. Doctrine is nothing more than man’s understanding of God’s eternal truths. We don’t have ALL the doctrine and our doctrines have changed over time. We believe that God "will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God." The church's teaching regarding LGB people have changed DRASTICALLY over the past 20 years. They may continue to change, or they may not. But LGBTQ people and their parents understand the church’s current doctrines used to prohibit homosexuality far better than you do, trust me! They certainly don't need to be reminded of the doctrine. Also, this is just not an appropriate statement from someone who has promised to mourn with those that mourn. Offer empathy instead.
  • "It’s a fad for teens to say they are gay or bi or trans."
    • Whether there is any truth to this statement or not does not matter. You should not say this to the parent of an LGBTQ child. Most likely, if their LDS child has come out as LGBTQ it is NOT a fad or a passing phase or anything of the sort.
  • Asking about all your kids but the gay one.
    • Don't leave out your friend's LGBTQ child when asking them about their family. That is just hurtful. Take a genuine interest in all their children!
  • "It is their cross to bear….we all have trials."
    • We do all have trials. LGBTQ people experience all the same types of trials in life that straight people experience. In addition, they have to be subject to the false ideas and disparaging statements and beliefs about their very nature perpetuated by straight people. To remain in good standing with the church, they have to live celibate. Not chaste, but CELIBATE. I often wonder if suddenly straight people were asked to live their lives celibate, how many of the members of the church would so flippantly state how do-able celibacy is and how it’s just their cross to bear.
  • Questioning a supportive parent's testimony or commitment to the gospel.
    • I hope this speaks for itself. Many parents believe they have been guided by God to support their child in their choice to date and marry. This does NOT mean those parents aren’t faithful, strong members of the church. It doesn’t mean they have lost their testimony or are weak. It means they are seeking and following personal revelation and direction from the Lord. Please don’t judge.
  • Assuming the family is struggling.
    • Many families are struggling, especially at the beginning of this journey. But at some point, most families come to a place of acceptance and understanding and are no longer struggling with this reality. A good rule of thumb is to never assume anything. You know what they say about assuming, right?
  • "There’s no way God would ever tell a gay person their gay relationship is right."
    • Please allow people the space to receive their own revelation and direction from their Heavenly Father about their own life. Even Nephi was directed by God to break the commandment of "Thou shalt not kill."
  • "Only hetero couples can procreate, therefore gay is wrong."
    • Many straight couples cannot procreate. "But," you might say, "they will be able to in the next life!" We really do not know how procreation will work in the next life. We know so very little about the next life. In my mind, procreation will likely be a VERY different process than it is here. Personally, I am not willing to birth trillions of babies in the next life. I highly doubt procreation will happen with our physical bodies. It’s possible only a man and woman can procreate in the next life, but we just don’t know. And maybe not everyone will have the desire to procreate in the next life. Maybe there is other important work to do.
  • "They can use the enabling power of the atonement to remain celibate.” or “The Savior can fulfill their need for a relationship.”
    • Don’t even go there. Some people are able to live a celibate life. I am sure they regularly turn to Christ to endure that. But it is simply not possible for everyone.
  • "Follow the prophet!"
    • Another dismissive, unhelpful comment. In my opinion, this idea has taken over our own responsibility to get personal direction and revelation about our own lives. Instead of blindly obeying and following the prophet, we should seek confirmation of the things he says in regards to our own lives. There are often times when the general teachings of prophets do not apply to us personally and the spirit confirms that to us.
  • "It’s not something I deal with in my family so I don’t really need answers."
    • You may not have a direct family member who is LGBTQ that you know about. But this situation touches us all. We all have a friend, a coworker, a relative who is LGBTQ. As children of God, we are all brothers and sisters. We ALL need answers. We ALL need to understand how our LGBTQ siblings fit into the plan of salvation. We ALL need God to send further light and knowledge on this subject.
  • "God doesn’t give people a free pass to sin."
    • Actually, God does allow us to sin. That is what agency is all about. But really, who are you to even address the sins of others? You only need concern yourself with your own sins.
  • "Gay marriage will destroy traditional families."
    • Please stop saying this. It is not true. This idea was born of ignorance. I believe it came from church leaders believing that homosexuality was a choice and was contagious. It came from them thinking that gay people would turn all the straight people gay and no one would procreate. Gay marriages have zero effect on your straight marriage. In fact, gay marriages CREATE families, albeit non-heteronormative families. But they are families none-the-less, and they are beautiful.
  • Offering to cast out evil spirits from your child.
    • Yup, this is real. People are STILL trying to cast evil spirits out of LGBTQ people. Insanity and so so so damaging. LGBTQ people are not possessed. They are not evil. In fact, if you get to know some of them you will see they are some of the most beautiful, gentle souls in existence.
  • "He really shouldn’t label himself."
    • Please don’t say this. We ALL label ourselves. Mother, father, Mormon, Christian, republican, democrat, etc. LGBTQ people have every right to identify with whatever labels they choose. Labels are important to our identity and to help those around us understand who we are.
  • "Wickedness never was happiness…He can’t be TRULY happy in a gay relationship."
    • This seems to be a common thing LDS people say about those outside our faith, and particularly those who have left our faith. It is false. There ARE people who are LGBTQ and TRULY happy. There ARE people who have left our faith and our TRULY happy. These people are NOT wicked. I have heard countless stories of gay people who were doing EVERYTHING right according to the church, living righteously to the Nth degree, and they were miserable. Only when they accepted who they are and realized God loves them as they are and wants them to live authentically did they find joy.
  • "I’m sure he will find a woman he can marry." (mixed orientation marriage).
    • The church used to think a gay person could be cured by entering into a mixed orientation marriage. The church no longer recommends that course of action, as the consequences of that line of thinking have been devastating to so many people’s lives. There ARE some mixed orientation marriages that are working. But there are so many that have not worked and have led to extreme pain for both parties. To read more about a mixed orientation that failed I invite you to google the Josh and Lolly Weed story. Also, would you want YOUR straight child to marry someone who is not and will never be romantically attracted to them?
  • "If you had to choose between God and your child, you’d choose God, right?"
    • God doesn’t ask us to choose between him and our child. And he never will. I think this is what the story of Abraham and Isaac was all about. Because God sacrificed HIS son, none of the rest of us will ever have to.
  • Implying that all gay people are sexually promiscuous and get AIDS.
    • This is just blatantly false and if you think this you REALLY need to find some LGBTQ persons to love and allow into your life. LGBTQ people are no more promiscuous than hetero people. There ARE promiscuous LGBTQ people and there ARE promiscuous hetero people. But there are also many that live chaste, monogamous, moral lives.
  • "Ugh, I’d rather my child were dead than gay."
    • This one was reported by a reader of this post. Do you really? Do you have any idea how many of us parents have had to be on suicide watch with our kids? Do you know what it is like to wonder if you’re going to find your child dead every time you open their bedroom door? Do you know the gripping fear of wondering if your child won’t be coming home when they are late for curfew? This statement implies you think the parent of the lgbtq child should wish their child was dead. It implies YOU wish their child was dead. Tragically, this is a sentiment expressed by far too many parents themselves before knowing their child is lgbtq. Could anything be more damaging?

Showing 4 reactions

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  • Donna Silva
    commented 2022-05-15 12:46:05 -0700
    This was written in such a thoughtful way and touched on real issues encountered by gay kids and their parents. And may i ad that just because a child or adult even, doesnt have gay mannerisms that is no assurance that they are not guy. People express themselves in such a variety of ways (thankfully and interestingly) one certainly cannot assume a person is gay or not gay becsuse of the mannerisms each displays. I had a family whos children were my friends. They had 2 sons and 2 daughters. 2 of them were gay but only in one case did mannerisms SEEM to indicate who was gay. Anyway I just want to compliment Emily’s observations. Very well written and expressed. Thank you Emily, for yoyr woke approach.
  • Myra Brodale
    commented 2021-06-06 12:29:18 -0700
    Beautiful and perfect Thank you so much
    Mother of 2chosen gay children and 1 trans grand child . I am so blessed.
  • Anonymous
    followed this page 2021-06-04 09:16:15 -0700
  • Matt Gardner
    published this page in Blog 2021-06-04 09:09:10 -0700

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