#7 What exactly is meant by ‘change’ in the context of same-sex attraction?

Note:  As detailed elsewhere, children’s art invokes for me the curiosity, wonder, and “beginner’s mind” that makes for an especially productive conversation. “As children we fall in love with the wonder of being alive,” Tsoknyi Rinpoche taught, with “the things around us fascinat[ing] us” – inviting people to make space for mindful practices (including mindful listening) that move us towards, “falling back in love with the sheer wonder of being alive.”

Similar to contrasting views of “choice,” discussion of “change” in relation to sexual orientation is challenging – especially given the aggressive way change has often been portrayed and pursued in the past.

Fighting, Fixing & Forcing. As demonstrated across many accounts, it has been common in the past to see same-sex attraction as something that can and should be “conquered,” “fixed” and “beat like an addition”:

  • This was something I was going to fix. I had all these plans in place, this game plan, and I was going to beat this….I saw it as an addiction. (VH-LWJ)
  • Maybe I’m broken and I just need to fix me…if I go to therapy enough and if I work hard enough, I will be like everybody else. (FB-JE)

As reflected here, some anticipate that their attraction to the same gender will eventually just go away – especially, for one man, “if they give that service and their whole heart to God and making sure they are bringing people into His fold then as a blessing He would take away that trial from them and from me. I went on my mission with that same intent thinking I would just serve as hard as I could and that if I kept praying it would just go away” (VH-JT). Others added:

  • I just kept thinking it’s going to go away. It’s going to go away. I’ve been praying, I’ve been faithful, I’m going on a mission, and I love being a missionary. It’s going to work out. And when I come back I’m going to want to date women so badly. And it’s just going to be great. (FB-ER)
  • I remember saying a prayer and saying, “If I join this Church and enter into the waters of baptism then I will never look back; I’ll never think about this again.” I was pretty certain that if I joined the Church then my feelings would go away. If I prayed hard enough and I thought hard enough about focusing on Christ and the gospel then I felt like these feelings would go away. (VH-WW)
  • I would pray to Heavenly Father to make it go away…I prayed and prayed and prayed to have my attractions to other men go away (VH-LJ)
  • I made a promise to God that, if He would heal me or fix me rather, that I would serve faithfully and do my best. I went out there believing whole heartedly that when I came home, or when I would come home, that these would be all taken care of and so I worked my butt off….I loved being a missionary, especially knowing that when I got home, this would all be gone. ​(VH -PMD)​

While some attempt to “fix” it through prayer or mission service or baptism, others attempt the same through therapy or marriage itself. Ultimately, as reflected in the last quote, some try making some kind of grand “bargain” with God:

  • I decided I was going to follow the Church plan and to go with the gospel and do everything perfectly. If I did everything perfectly I kind of made this bargain with God. I said, “Okay, if I do everything perfectly then please take this away…” I think it was for four months I did my home teaching the first of every month; I did my calling to every extent that I knew, and every little bit of living the gospel I did to a T – I read my scriptures every day, I prayed multiple times a day, I put forth the strongest effort I knew how…(VH-SB)
  • I tried to bargain with God and I said, “If I magnify my calling to the best that I can, will you please take this away from me? And if I read my scriptures every night and I become the best member that I can, will you please take this away from me?” (FB-BR)
  • I did a lot of praying, a lot of bartering with God. I said, “I will do this if you will take this away. I promise I will try to get married …I will serve and be a good person and all these things if you will just take this away. (VH-WW)

Out of this same mentality, daily practice comes to center around constant control and fighting:

  • I’ve tried to white knuckle it. I tried to resist or to just suppress my feelings for a very long time because those were bad. ‘You’re not supposed to feel that way; that is wrong.’ (VH-JO)
  • I felt like enduring to the end was just white-knuckle in horrible misery until the end. (VH-SB)
  • I worked at not feeling. At one point I had tried so hard to stop feeling the way I felt. (FB-L)
  • I have to fight every day…fighting through those attractions. (VH-JN)

Unsurprisingly, this kind of aggressive, controlling mentality leads to only growing despair and hopelessness:

  • Those were some of my darkest times …when I was on my knees every night praying that this would be taken from me. (FB-ST)
  • I didn’t know what else to do, because I had spent hours on my knees praying, begging God to fix me because I hated that about myself. (FB-JA)

As reflected here, self-condemnation grows out of this kind of mentality.  Rather than re-think the fundamental approach, some speak of their urgency and desire only increasing:  “My desperation grew to get fixed, for lack of a better word” (FB-BE)

The despair is compounded by discovering the attraction not “going away completely.”  As one man recounted, “I still felt I couldn’t shake the feelings of the attraction. There were boys in my ward that I was very attracted to…the feelings only got stronger” (VH-WW).

Out of the conflict between that and their religious convictions, some begin to reach dire conclusions about their lives:

  • I just felt exhausted, and I was ready to give up. I was ready to say, “You know what, I don’t know that I can do this.” (VH-SB)
  • I felt that it would have been better to not be alive (FB-L)
  • There was a day specifically I remember thinking, you know, it’d be better off if I died (FB-KE)

Some also spoke of reaching new conclusions about God: “I remember countless nights of just being on my knees, pleading and crying until I fell asleep, only to wake up the next morning knowing that it hadn’t been taken away from me and that left me feeling worthless because it’s like he wasn’t listening anymore” (FB-BR).

Tragically, some people never find a way out of this desperate and aggressive space. Understanding the suffering that leads some to take their lives represents rock-solid common ground that is a priority for everyone – especially learning how to prevent it in the future (see separate discussion here).

One step that many people now agree on is taking steps to move beyond the kind of aggressive and controlling approaches described above.

Stopping the Fighting, Fixing and Forcing. Something profound takes place when someone decides to simply stop this kind of aggressive fighting with themselves or their own feelings. As described by mindfulness teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn, “we are going to be looking deeply into each moment with full acceptance and not trying to force ourselves to be different from how we are right now.”

Laying aside the different ways this self-acceptance unfolds, people almost universally experience the cessation-of-fighting as hugely relieving.  Compared to a past where one woman said, “I thought about dying and I thought about hurting all the time,” she described the effect of finding greater levels of acceptance: “and today I don’t. Today life is so beautiful. I look around and I see so much beauty and I’m so excited to be alive. I’m so excited for the next year of my life and twenty years of my life. And maybe even forty years of my life and I look forward to living. And that feels awesome. And anybody out there who wonders if life is worth living, it is…You matter” (FB-JE).

In what follows, different pathways people chart moving forward are reviewed, based on diverse personal accounts.  Each pathway builds on the basic acceptance just described.

  1. “It’s time to embrace this as my life…” For some, the pain and suffering of trying to aggressively control same-sex attraction leads to a complete acceptance of these feelings as who they are. One man said, “What changed was I reached a point where I didn’t want to struggle anymore. I wanted to let this inner part of me out and just be gay and see how that played out for me…I just wanted to be myself. I just wanted to try and find myself” (VH-JN).

As reflected here, acceptance for some people involves reaching a conclusion that these attractions reflect their fundamental self: “Just find you…you are perfect the way you are” (FB-JE)

After so much fixing, forcing and controlling, there is a predictable relief that arises simply from not expending so much energy in that resistance anymore. Given the psychological stress of this chronic in-fighting, cessation brings with it a calm of its own.

Recounting his experience of “praying and just begging for an answer or release from what I felt,” for instance, one man said, “and no answer ever came.”  He continued:  “And after a while I, I stopped denying” – recounting a process of breaking through to acceptance:  “I think the hardest part was admitting to myself initially what was going on – how I felt. Once that was over, once I finally said, ‘This is me,’ ‘This is who I am’…it got easier.” (FB-L)

When the anticipated change doesn’t happen, others reach a conclusion that nothing can or will ever change in the future:

  • I thought that I could still fix it, but it didn’t really resolve the problem that I had wanted it to resolve. I still felt gay, I wasn’t attracted to my companions per se, but I just, I came to this conclusion that it wasn’t going away (FB-KE)
  • That’s where I really decided that I was gay and…there wasn’t anything that was going to change (FB-NI)
  • I had a very, very difficult time and hit a very great depression and that’s when I had to confront these basic issues that I’m gay, that I’m attracted to men and the feelings are not going away, no matter what I do. (FB-DE)

This conclusion is generally accepted enough as to be largely taken for granted in conversation. For example, in a 2015 article entitled, “Evangelicals, the last gay marriage holdouts,” Jonathan Rausch described young people as increasingly accepting “that gay people cannot change who we are.”

Because most of public conversation elaborates this first approach, more space will be given to developing this second option.

2. “This is something I need to accept…” While rejecting the aggressive approach described earlier, others reach a different conclusion about what to do next. For some, their basic acceptance is followed not by accepting same-sex attraction as fundamental to identity, but instead, coming to work with these attractions in a more generous and gentle away.

This includes some limits on how far people decide this attraction should guide their future. As one man described it, “it is not trying so hard to get rid of these feelings, but accepting that they are there and owning the fact that I have these feelings and that is okay; that doesn’t have to determine everything about my future. And it doesn’t necessarily have to define who you are; those feelings aren’t all of you” (VH-BLH)

Leaving behind the patterns of forcing and fixing above, some describe a challenging journey to find a better approach. One man who had whole heartedly expected God to just take his attractions to men away, said: “I distinctly remember getting on my knees and I prayed and I said, ‘God, I’ve done my part, I’ve served, I’ve been faithful, I’m ready. Take it away.’ I waited and I waited and I thought, ‘I’m not feeling anything. I’m not feeling the feelings gone.’ But, I felt peace, and I remember distinctly thinking, ‘no, that’s not what I’m supposed to feel…’ I felt peace. I was confused by that and yet I was comforted.” ​(VH -PMD)​

He continued his description of a personal turning point:

I remember the Spirit coming and saying, “close your eyes, and just feel.” I closed my eyes and I thought, if the Savior were here, what would He be doing? In my mind’s eye, I saw Him and I saw Him walk—and He was there with us—and He didn’t take it away. He didn’t heal. He didn’t change everybody like I had always prayed for and hoped for. He was just there. He comforted and He understood. That was the single moment that I changed, that was the moment that I thought, “this is possible then.” ​(VH -PMD)​[1]

Others describe reaching similar conclusions:

  • It’s not about overcoming same sex attraction. It’s not about being healed from it. It’s about being healed through the process of coming to know yourself, coming to know the real you. (​VH-SMT)​
  • I spent so long praying that my same-sex attraction would be taken away and I’m learning that He is taking me where I want to be, not without my same-sex attraction, but with it. (VH-LWJ)

The challenge of accepting same-sex attraction as a part of one’s experience, while still seeking to live in alignment with deeper spiritual commitments is a practice that some people sought help with.

Speaking of his experience with therapy, support groups and weekend retreats, one man says, “I don’t really consider them reparative therapy because they didn’t seem there to fix me, or to change me, or make me straight. That wasn’t their intent in my judgment. Their intent was to help me realize the life that I wanted to live with no promises to what may or may not happen to my attraction. But they were empowering and that process of self-realization in going through counseling, and pursuing the help that I needed was incredibly empowering for me” (VH-SB)

This contrasts with the fix-and-force approach described earlier, with its focus on getting away from the feelings – which is still how some people experienced therapy – e.g., in one man’s words, a therapist “handed me material on how to overcome and essentially squash this part of myself…[and] just dismiss this side of me that was attracted to men” (FB-JE).

Given the contrasting views and experiences of Sexual-Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE), the aim here is to represent nuances in how different approaches are seen and experienced.  Within a larger context dominated by aggressive psychological treatments generally, even a counselor explicitly not trying to “get rid” of the feelings can be misinterpreted. Speaking of his religious counselor, one man said:

His concern wasn’t getting rid of the same-sex attraction, it was helping me learn to deal with it, but I misunderstood all that, and somewhere in me I felt like I had to be done with the same-sex attraction before I could be a worthy missionary, and before I could be affective. As a result, my perfectionism in getting rid of the same-sex attraction and all that, and just becoming straight was the whole goal instead of learning from the trial. The perfectionism brought on depression, sadness, increased stress, and anxiety. It got to be so much that I was not functional…We probably spent a couple of hours a day in the apartment just for me to recuperate just from any of the emotions I was feeling. (VH-SF)

One man spoke of his therapist recommending, “I go to a weekend that was really life changing for me. It helped me to start recognizing the connections I needed with other men and how to get those connections met in a healthy way” (VH-DEC).

Out of different kinds of experience, some describe changing how they saw masculinity generally.  One man spoke of becoming “okay with embracing some of my masculine traits.”  He continued: “I guess I had a very negative view of males before; they seemed very aggressive, uncaring, and unspiritual. They helped me to see some of the positive things males have that females don’t and to embrace some of those qualities in myself….That helped me view myself more as a part of this world of men. I had always previously referred to men in the third person – them rather than us” (VH-JAJ).  Another said, “I had grown up thinking things that were taught to me and I just kind of accepted that I am not masculine. I have mannerisms, or my voice, or other things that I’m interested in, the activities I prefer doing – none of those things are masculine.” He added, “That was life changing and I began to realize different things about myself that I had never known before – including “learning that I was masculine for the first time and being able to accept myself.”

For this man, it led him to a place where he said, I “began to love myself. That was really something new for me” (VH-JO)

Rather than “squashing” the feminine parts of himself, this man described the opposite:  “I’ve been able to also to learn about how by rejecting my feminine side….or by feeling shame about my feminine side, so that part that is more sensitive or that part of me that likes to dance – by allowing that part of me to be there, and embrace it and be okay with it, I’ve been able to embrace the feminine in general and I have been able to establish better relationships with women. I realize that by rejecting the feminine in me I was rejecting the feminine as a whole. I was having difficulties in interacting with women” (VH-JO)

In particular, it was impactful for some men to experience a deeper, non-sexual intimacy with other men:

  • Ray treated me with a brand of kindness, respect, and love that I had rarely experienced. His gentle treatment was the key that unlocked the door to my heart, and caused a paradigm shift in my understanding of what it means to be a man. I felt a closeness with him that I’d never experienced before. This was what I needed! (VH-AH)
  • That was my first exposure knowing that you could love a man without being sexually involved with him. (VH-BLS)

Working with sexual attraction in new ways. Rather than anticipating (or seeking) the eradication of feelings, this effort is about helping people work with sexual attraction according to their deeper values:  “Same-sex attraction hasn’t vanished but sometimes I experience that it diminishes or that it is less. Whenever it is stronger I just have to remember to have my needs met; my need for manly connection, love, for being rested, and in tune with the spirit. I’ve learned to work on this in order to find peace and find calm. I’ve learned to be calm and more open about what I need and ask for it whenever I need it” (VH-JO)

While some talk about sexual attraction as a constant, some people do experience a natural fluidity of feelings over time, as the strength of attractions can change:  “There have always been moments where I have had that longing to be with somebody – they come and go” (VH-JT)

Different people experience different things that may impact their level of attraction.  Speaking of his own experience, one man said that when he “allowed pornography to creep in my life,” it impacted his feelings as well – “My attraction to men was much more present in my thoughts and the desire to act out physically increased” (VH-AH)

If not “taking anything away,” different people describe their experience losing themselves in service as having a powerful impact:

  • On my mission, I focused on serving the Lord and locking my heart. Same sex attraction rarely crossed my mind. Putting God first and relying on Him completely gave me the joy that I was looking for. I believe that having meaningful relationships with my mission companions and roommates also helped same sex attraction be less of an issue. As I sought to strengthen my brothers and sisters, I found that my own needs were fulfilled in serving. (VH-TL)
  • It was a wonderful spiritual experience and it was really wonderful for me to be able to serve other people and just be out there and not think about me. Throughout the whole time I actually never struggled with my sexuality. (FB-MA)
  • I had an amazing experience on my mission and I felt like a lot of my core needs were met. We had one common purpose to serve God and I felt an incredible amount of love from God and these other Elders and I just felt a connection with them. I did appreciate that I could just be myself and I felt like they had genuine love and concern for me and I for them (VH-JT)
  • I went on my mission and most of that time my same-sex attraction felt incredibly diminished.

In addition to losing oneself in service, the intimacy of close fellowship and brotherhood appears to help some live in alignment with their faith. Another mentioned a similar experience with a group of close roommates:

I wasn’t attracted to any of my roommates; it was gone. Looking back now I just had this group of guys who just thought I was amazing and I had never had that before; I had never had a group of guys who I thought they were just awesome and they thought the same about me too. During that time I realized as I looked back there was no hint of same-sex attraction. Really, it was one of the happiest times of my life. We had so much fun. They were just a good group of spiritual guys that I really connected with. (VH-DEC)

As emotional intimacy with other men is cultivated, some experience greater space to live in alignment with their faith.[2] Still others mentioned a similar experience from a growing intimacy and connection to God:

  • The more that I grew to know the love that Christ and Heavenly Father had for me, dealing with same-sex attraction became more and more easy; (VH-JN)
  • I never want to leave the Church anymore because I found out I am happy when I serve. I am happy when I get to go and serve others and lift others with my testimony. I can’t do that if I leave; I might be able to satisfy some craving, but as I immerse myself in the gospel a lot of the cravings go away. I just find myself being filled with satisfaction and happiness. (VH-RC)

Although the idea of individuals cultivating closer connections to those of the same gender may feel counterintuitive,[3] some people find it really helpful.

Another kind of change. Rather than trying to change attraction itself, these people came to focus on changing their relationship to God:  “I think a lot of the pressure came off when I made it more about aligning my life and my thoughts with what God wants me to do, and really figuring out what God wants me to do, as opposed to trying really hard to have these heterosexual feelings for Lindsay. Or just to get rid of it completely” (VH-BLH)

As a result, some talk about personal growth and an increase in faith through their experience of same-sex attraction.  One man reflected:  “In the book of John chapter nine people are asking Jesus Christ about this man that is blind. They ask whose fault is it, is it his fault? Is it his parents? And he says it is nobody’s fault but it is so that the works of God may be made manifest in him. I know that we have these trials so that we can see God working in our life, we can see the love He has for us. We can see miracles happen” (VH-LJ)

He added, “I have come to see my same-gender attraction as something that can really teach me. I‘ve learned so much because of it. My relationship with Heavenly Father has grown so much. I have become more charitable. I can accept other people’s differences, and I can see past one little part of them that might seem different” (VH-LJ)

Several described their experience of same-sex attraction as an opportunity to come closer to God[4]  One man described, “how much closer to the Savior I am because of my same-sex attraction. I thought, ‘Wow, I am actually pretty lucky; I am pretty grateful for it.’” (VH-JO).  Others added:

  • I know I have this for a reason….Most things that happen in my life that are hard, I just sort of push through it, I go and do it myself….Same-gender attraction has forced me down on my knees to ask for help. There is nothing else in my life that has made me turn to Heavenly Father for help like this. I have spent so much time on my knees; so much time in prayer trying to find guidance and peace. (VH-LJ)
  • I have been able to use same-sex attraction as a stepping stone, as a tool, and something that I could use to push my faith to my Heavenly Father and bring me true happiness. I don’t think I would have true happiness if it weren’t for same-sex attraction, and I believe that with all my heart. Every fiber of my happiness right now has come from me putting my faith in my Heavenly Father and knowing that He loves me. I have so much faith in Christ. He knows what you are going through and what I’m going through. He knows every pain that there is out there. Every struggle out there He has gone through. To me that lets me know that I can have faith in Him.(VH-JN)
  • So therein, same-sex attraction, far more than just being this trial or this burden to be borne, has been one of the biggest harbingers of blessings in my life that I have ever had because it has brought me closer to my Savior, my Heavenly Father, and brought me closer to all the loved ones around me than anything I thought possible. It has also made me work to a point where I feel so much love for myself and so much determination in what I want, and so much hope that I can achieve those things. (VH-SB)

Another concluded, “The power of the strength that I can get from Christ is more powerful than any mistake I could make. No matter what I do He is always willing to forgive me and bring me back. He wants me to come back, and He is not waiting for me to make a mistake; He wants me to do the right things, and He wants me to improve. To me that is the beautiful truth of the gospel.” (VH-SF)

One described “coming to a knowledge and really strong belief that I’m happier, and I’m happy because of same-gender attraction, not in spite of same-gender attraction” (VH-BLH)

Rather than having to wait for some happiness only in the future, these individuals describe what they have found in the moment:

  • I can be happy…He truly does want me to be happy and healthy in this; I can live according to the precepts of my religion and find a way to be whole and happy in this. (VH-LWJ)
  • Hope doesn’t look like an absence of same-sex attraction, the attainment of something like a career goal, the finishing of a degree, or a marriage. Hope and happiness can be had now. (VH-SB)

Even if they pursue this in different ways, this, in the end, may be a point everyone can agree on:  deep happiness and peace can and should be something to be enjoyed by people now.

Flirting with Curiosity Questions:

  • Is moving away from an aggressive forcing, fixing and controlling approaching becoming an area of common ground between the LGBT and religious conservative communities?
  • Compared to your own perspective on “change,” how do you feel about others who see it differently?
  • Is any believe in “change” dangerous in the context of same-sex attraction – or is there an approach that can be welcomed for those who choose it?
  • Do you personally believe there is one primary path to happiness – or are there various ways people might seek and find it?

[1] In an interview with his wife, they recounted what happened next:

Those were difficult and yet faith filled days for us, for our relationship. I realized that all of those years of praying and hoping it would just go away, and praying that it would, that just wasn’t going to happen. God had a whole different plan for me. As I put my trust in Him, it’s opened up in ways that I could never describe, in words, not just peace anymore but faith, confidence, knowing who I am…discovering parts about myself that I didn’t know were there….Recognizing that I’m capable of far more than what I had limited my mindset to…That’s not been easy, and it’s a day to day thing, but my goodness, it’s awesome. I’ve seen miracles and I’ve felt joy and connection that I never dreamed was possible with my wife. I thought that was only meant to be in a homosexual relationship and that’s just not true for me. …it’s been one heck of an adventure. We have a beautiful daughter that I love to death that I never thought was possible. My future is awesome. I see myself continuing to develop into my own masculinity. I see my marriage as even more fulfilling than it has been, even though it has been remarkable. I see more children in the future. I see those spirits who are waiting to come down to my household. I see myself as a protector, as a father, as somebody committed to providing for them and teaching them the right ways. I see a brighter future than I’ve ever seen and ironically that’s through accepting these parts of myself that I thought were entirely unacceptable…That doesn’t mean living the gay lifestyle, that means taking the gifts that are in it…I know that God can do that. He’s done it with me and he will continue to do it. ​(VH -PMD)​

[2] These excerpts illustrate those who have this experience and perspective:

  • By allowing myself to pull away to go do a night of ultimate frisbee, work out with a friend, or do something like that I felt that I came back and that need for male companionship was met in a healthy way and I also felt more energy to come back to my wife. (VH-JAJ)
  • I went to this weekend that helped me understand a bit more of where these feelings come from and what I can do about them in order to keep my needs met; in order to relate to other men in healthier ways. This was a life changing event for me because I was able to understand more and I was able to have more perspective on what I needed to do in order to be happy. (VH-JO)
  • [SALLIE]: We can both tell when he hasn’t been to group, he only goes every other week, because he is in such a good place when he comes back from group that I’m like, you need to go spend some time with them.. go get some guy time because…GARRETT: There are still needs there that I need met…immediately I feel more masculine than I had, and stronger; intimacy becomes easier, not that it is difficult. (VH-GSF)

[3] One man’s wife admitted, “It was a little weird for me to be honest, because it was like, you are going to meet with guys who also like guys, and you all are going to get together, and get better? Or at least deal with this?…I was like, okay, sure go do that if you feel like it is going to help. It did; it was incredible.” Her husband added:”It felt so life changing. Even after the first…I remember walking taller after the first meeting. Walking out and feeling just so…I just felt…I didn’t feel alone anymore. I didn’t feel like I was the only one on the planet. There were all these other great guys that experienced the exact same things I did, some married, and some not….I still attend the men’s group, and it still feels like changing often where I just feel more whole than I ever have before; I feel more put together, and I just feel so much better.” His wife added, “Some of the best guys, in my opinion, that I have ever met; just really great men.” (VH-GSF)

His wife described a similar experience with a men’s weekend retreat:

He came to me and said, “I’m going to go to this men’s retreat.”…It was over a weekend…and I’m like, what? again, you want to go to this retreat with other men, and they all like men, and it is over night, I don’t understand this, and I was really nervous about it. All weekend I was super nervous about it. Anyway, so he goes to this weekend and he comes back and it was a completely different Garrett when he came back….He was so confident and he was like, “This is who I am, and I love who I am, and I can be who I am, and I can be happy.” Her husband added, “I wasn’t afraid anymore” (VH-GSF)

[4] I began to learn a lot of things about myself and Heavenly Father. One thing that really was a huge spiritual experience for me was I started to notice good attributes that I had and I started to realize that deep down I wanted righteous things. I wanted to protect people; I wanted to nurture them, I wanted to show them truth and to be able to help people and be a righteous example. I wanted to be a leader and I started making this list and I was like, “This is like Jesus Christ. All the attributes I yearn for, all the things I’m hoping to do. That is like the Savior.” I had never thought that before. I had heard people say they want to be Christ-like, I had sung that hymn before. This was the first time I had ever felt like that. It totally changed that aspect of how I saw myself. I thought, “I can’t be this creature that is worthy of loathing and the shame that I’ve carried around for all these years if really my intent is to be like Jesus Christ.” (VH-JO)

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