"Diagnosing" same-sex attraction relies on biological signs - men who are sexually attracted to other men, and not to women, and vice versa. But as I've lived and learned from my life, I've realized that same-sex attraction, especially for faithful Mormon members, is not just about physical urges. Sexual attraction only tells part of the story.

When a good Mormon guy is dating a girl, he is usually looking for "chemistry" on multiple levels. Physical attraction - which is somewhat arbitrary and often independent of any third-party assessment of beauty. Intellectual attraction - the desire and ability to understand, know, and share the mind and thoughts of another. Emotional attraction - the desire and ability to understand and share their feelings, hopes, dreams, passions, and loves.

Each desire for attraction comes out of an innate need for intimacy in each context - physical, emotional, and intellectual. But, like attraction, intimacy isn't a need that someone can just choose to fill, or to have filled. They have to fit the part. Intimacy - physical, intellectual, and emotional - is a specific need that can only be met in specific ways.

Now switch to my world. And realize that I am not only physically attracted to men... but intellectually and emotionally tied to them as well. Just as in the case above, my needs for intimacy are tied to gender. And trying to make them fill themselves doesn't work all that well.

I can stand next to a girl I'm dating, put my arm around her, run my fingers through her hair, and whisper in her ear. But when I do, I'm just going through the motions. Trying to light a fire that hasn't yet seen daylight. And eventually I have to give up, because my physical need for intimacy hasn't been met. 

I can sit on a staircase talking with a girl for hours, sharing everything about me and learning everything about her. But when the night is over, I still feel like I don't understand her, or like she understands me. I'm trying, but it isn't working. And eventually I have to give up, because my need for intellectual intimacy hasn't been met.

I can share my dreams, my passions, my hopes, and my fears with a girl. I can open up and show her the secrets in my heart - the things that I care about most - and talk about how the gospel and my relationship with God has made me who I am today... and listen to her do the same. But at the end of the night, I feel like a missionary - not a lover... and while I have come to love her, it's no different from the love I have for anyone else. I'm still trying, but it isn't working. And eventually I have to give up, because my need for emotional intimacy hasn't been met.

At the same time, I feel a pull towards other men... and doing any of the above things with them fills a void that always seems painfully empty. But the pull doesn't always involve powerful, passionate feelings of lust. Sometimes it's a powerful desire to understand their minds. Sometimes it's a desire to know and support their dreams and hopes and passions. But it's always a desire for intimacy in some way - a need that seems like it will never be filled any other way.

This is what the gay community is talking about when they say "homosexuality isn't about sex." It's the reason why some who live with same-sex attraction choose to have monogamous long-term relationships, and the glue that sticks them together when the physicality of that relationship ends. Homosexuality is about sexual attraction. But it's also about emotional attraction, and intellectual attraction - attractions based on basic needs which, unmet, have far more pressing effects than does celibacy.

Physical celibacy isn't a new thought for society, especially for religious people. The expectation from God is that men and women will practice complete abstinence outside of marriage between a man and a woman, and complete fidelity in marriage.

The ease of keeping that commandment, however, depends a lot on hormones and available avenues to righteously fill part of the need for physical intimacy. Once hormones turn on, most guys and girls can cuddle, hold hands, kiss, and look each other in the eyes and feel pretty good about their needs being met. But with same-sex attraction it doesn't work that way, at least not in today's society. To try to righteously fill my need for physical intimacy, I have to find ways to make do in everyday life. A handshake with someone at Church. Sitting next to a guy in class. Standing near a coworker at work. None of those sound at all romantic, and they're not. They're just as un-useful in filling my needs, but they're also all I have. Which is why pornography is such a huge problem among young men with same-sex attraction - even those who will never be sexually involved with men. At this point in my life, the only positive way I can think of meeting my needs for physical intimacy would be playing huge amounts of direct-contact sports.

So I'm physically celibate and lack physical intimacy. I try to choose the right and follow the directions of the prophets, which exclude most of the activities that people use to fill their need cup... They essentially ask me to keep my cup half empty. So I turn to the Lord and He takes care of me, as He has everyone who faces this. With Him, I can do it. He's asked me to. What isn't explicit in the talks given by the Brethren... but is perhaps even harder... is emotional and intellectual celibacy. Something that, explicitly, no one would ever wish on their worst enemy... but still happens as a side effect anyway.

You remember, talking with a girl does nothing to fill my need for emotional and intellectual intimacy. But most guys don't want or need emotional intimacy with another guy. They don't need intellectual intimacy with another guy. And, for whatever reason, many of them have significantly lower needs for intellectual and emotional needs for intimacy in the first place. One reader here put it like this: "You're asking for a relationship that some guys aren't comfortable having even with their wives." I can have passing meaningful conversations with guys, or try to share my dreams, but, again, it never fills the void.

And then I'm at a turning point. And, just as with physical intimacy, there are multiple options. There are other guys who have innate emotional and intellectual needs that match mine - other guys who live with same-sex attraction. But while finding a guy with whom to be intellectually and emotionally intimate might work, is it the best option? And what would be the guidelines?

I've done a lot of thinking about this topic lately. And reading. And praying. The direction from the Brethren is the same as it always has been - be morally clean... which sometimes seems like it isn't enough direction, but in reality is. It means to never put myself in places where my morals could be compromised. To never make exceptions. To stay clean. And, in my case, it definitely means that dating guys, tying physical intimacy with the intention of finding one to partner with, is not an option. I'll have to find emotional and intellectual friends the normal way, and slowly grow our friendships to find best friends to eventually and severally meet my needs. But in my case, because of other factors I won't mention here, even that won't work. Developing those intimacies hasn't worked at all - not even casually.

And so I find myself alone, without the ability to fill any of my needs - individually or severally, and yet told by the Church to be happy, for the rest of my life... with no one who understands. For a while I wondered how that would ever be possible. And then, one night in prayer, I was talking with God and I realized that, with all my pleading, I had never truly had the faith to give Him my life, say, "Thy will be done," and ask Him to help me. So I did. I asked, and for the first time in as long as I could remember... I felt peace, love, hope, joy... and the powerful mixture of feelings I'd expect would come when someone who I love completely embraces me and knows my heart and soul.

Being Mormon with same-sex attraction has far more consequences than a sexual drive directed towards men. I have specific, incredible, important psychological needs that can't be met any other way than by through a guy... and through God. But the incredible truth of the gospel, and of the power of God, is that meeting those needs, and living the gospel, and being happy, is possible in my life... even though they may never be met by a mortal... because the Lord will always prepare the way.
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