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Watching our Words

April 7, 2011

The following is an excerpt from a letter to his mom and dad concerning childhood wounds from a man with same-sex attraction (SSA). The entire letter was posted by JONAH, (Jews offering alternatives to homosexuality) a group that works with Jewish men struggling with SSA. ( March 2011) The young man’s words should stand as a reminder to all of us that words can wound.

“Most of all and what was most distressing, however, was the environment you created — an environment where it became absolutely impossible for me to seek your help to overcome my homosexual feelings.  I’d like to remind you of some of the things you have said over the years:

  1. As a young boy, I remember sitting in a restaurant with you and Graham.  Mom was out of town on a business trip.  You said to both of us, “if I ever find out either one of you is homosexual, I will put you out of the house.”
  2. While watching male figure skaters on TV, you were laughing and mocking them, saying “I bet their dads are really proud to have them as sons.”
  3. You expressed a personal conviction that frightened me: “Having a queer son would be more than I can bear.”
  4. While helping you clean out filthy trash containers, you colorfully explained that you believe “the only things that are worse than maggots are faggots.”

“Actually, I don’t remember once since adolescence being in the same room with you for more than an hour when you didn’t have a demeaning joke or say something nasty about homosexuals.  Naturally, I took all of these things personally.  In fact, every time you have ever said “I love you” or “I’m proud of you” I would add the phrase within my own mind, ‘Not if you knew about my problem.’”

In the 1980s, I began my activism working against abortion. I focused on the reasons why women have abortions and the negative physical and emotional effects of abortion on women. At the time pro-life advocates, often spoke harshly about women who had abortions, calling them selfish and callous, but I found wounded and broken women who were frightened and often thought their decision to abort would protect those they loved or who were forced into the decision by others. Too late they realized that the abortion had not solved the real problem. Many struggled with guilt for years afterwards. Many went on to make very bad life choices.

When I and others brought this information to the attention of the pro-life activists, it was not initially accepted, but eventually the pro-life movement changed it became very pro-woman, reaching out with a message of love to women thinking about abortion and women who had abortions. I am firmly convinced that this has been crucial to the growing success of the pro-life movement.

We must apply the same strategy to the battle over marriage. Like the young man whose letter appears above, persons with SSA attraction have struggled with unacceptable feelings and have heard vulgar comments and cruel jokes, not sympathy, understanding and truth.

Yes, homosexual acts are sinful, just as abortion is a terrible crime against an innocent baby, but without in any way justifying objectively immoral behavior, we have to look beyond the behavior and see the wounded child.

Person with SSA are looking for love in the wrong place. SSA is a preventable and treatable problem. Everyone needs to know this. We need to open our arms and our churches to those who are struggling. Shame is the biggest barrier to recovery and we have the power to lift the burden of shame, simply by changing our language. We can say to the person struggling with SSA: You didn’t ask for this. Right now you may not know what caused it, but we can help you understand and find healing. You don’t have to act on these feelings and, if you have, there is forgiveness and the possibility of a fresh start.

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