How Can I Get To Know Their Needs?

Summary: No two people with same-sex attraction are the same. Only by releasing all stereotypes and presuppositions will you become able to truly see the individual. And only by understanding the individual will you become able to really help.

Consider your approach

Taking time to think about the personality of the individual with same-sex attraction and the nature of your relationship with them will help you understand how to best approach them. Specific ideas are offered. [ MORE ]

Learn About Their background

The backgrounds of those with same-sex attraction often include painful experiences that they need help to heal. Understanding their background empowers you to minister to their deeper needs. [ MORE ]

Learn About Their Attractions, Behaviors, and Thoughts

A basic understanding of a person’s sexual desires, behaviors, and thoughts can increase understanding, produce valuable insights on how you might help them, and provide relief to the individual. [ MORE ]

Assess Their Situation

Individuals with same-sex attraction often experience difficulties in their relationships, finances, career, mental health, or living situation. Certain behaviors can also lead to legal problems. In addition, same-sex attraction can create intense difficulties for family members. [ MORE ]

Understand Their Perspective on same-sex attraction

Understanding the person’s beliefs and attitude about homosexuality can help you know how to guide them. It may also provide helpful information on how they feel about themselves and on the sources that influence them—whether in harmony with the gospel or otherwise. [ MORE ]

Learn About Their Relationship With God

Understanding the status of the person’s faith and connection with God is important in helping them progress. [ MORE ]

Assess Their Hope and Expectations for the Future

People need hope for the future. Some people with same-sex attraction may have strong hope in their ability to move past blocks in their lives and experience all the blessings of the gospel, including a joyful marriage and family life. Others may see only a very dim and bleak future. [ MORE ]

Consider your approach

Summary: Taking time to think about the personality of the individual with same-sex attraction and the nature of your relationship with them will help you understand how to best approach them. Specific ideas are offered.

The way to talk with someone about their same-sex attraction and other issues depends on the personality of the individual and the nature of your relationship to them—whether you are a parent, spouse, friend, or Church leader. But the key relational components are the same: compassion, trust, frankness, and the same-sex attraction person’s perception of your willingness and ability to help.

Those with same-sex attraction will be most willing to tell you their problems and their needs when they trust you and feel your love.

Those with same-sex attraction will be most willing to tell you their problems and their needs when they trust you and feel your love. Also, they are more likely to be disclosing if they sense that you truly want to help and have the ability to do so. When they do disclose their needs to you, take time to be sure you accurately understand them. You can do this by repeating back what you have heard and asking if you got it right. Then it is crucial that you give them a compassionate and truthful response regarding your ability to provide what is needed. If you agree to help with a specific need, it is paramount that you follow through.

Many with same-sex attraction may be hesitant to state their needs. If you sense this, ask them directly about ways you can be supportive. At the same time, be sensitive to their comfort level as you speak with them. Pushing them too far beyond their comfort zone may result in their feeling shame and embarrassment and not wanting to speak with you about their issues again in the future. Before initiating conversation, we suggest you read How Do I Create A Supportive Relationship? and Avoid Doing Harm on this website.

The suggestions provided in the sections below must be handled differently depending on the personality of the individual and the nature of your relationship to them—whether you are a parent, spouse, friend, or Church leader. You will be in a better position to grasp what they tell you if you have first read the material under the Understanding tab on this website.

Bishops and Stake Presidents can usually ask these questions directly if they have gained the trust of the individual. You will gain important insights regarding worthiness and whether the member’s behaviors pose any kind of risk to themselves or others. These questions will also help you assess their need for therapy. We suggest you also review the section, How Do I Know When Someone Needs Therapy?

Parents of minor children may approach the suggestions below directly if you have a reasonably open and trusting relationship with your child. If your child tends to withhold or the relationship is conflictual, forcing the conversation will likely result in further distancing from the child. In any case, we suggest you bring the child to therapy, if he or she is willing. Much can be done to help willing children and teenagers build their confidence and self-esteem and redirect their interests and attractions.

Spouses have a right and a need to understand most of what is suggested in the sections below. However, it is very important that you have support, and preferably your own individual counseling, before you investigate some of these topics too deeply. Some of what you might learn could be very triggering or even traumatizing to you. Our experience strongly suggests that spouses do far better if they are in therapy when they learn details about their partner’s same-sex attractions, behaviors, and history. And it is vital that your counselor have specialized training in these issues.

Other family members and friends should approach these topics gently and with permission of the individual. Much of what is suggested in the sections below may not be important for you to know and could be too embarrassing or sensitive for the same-sex attraction individual to disclose unless you have a very close and trusting relationship.

Learn About Their Background

Summary: The backgrounds of those with same-sex attraction often include painful experiences that they need help to heal. Understanding their background empowers you to minister to their deeper needs.

In order to more fully understand and help an individual with same-sex attraction, you might ask them:

    • How long they have been struggling with homosexual thoughts and feelings. When their first memories of feeling attracted to members of their own sex occurred.
    • What factors in their life they think contributed to their same-sex attraction.
    • If they have experienced sexual, physical, verbal, or emotional abuse. If they were bullied by peers or siblings.
    • How they feel about themselves as a man or woman. As a child of God. As a member of the Church.
    • How they relate to others of the same sex and members of the opposite sex. With whom they feel comfortable or uncomfortable, connected or detached.

Learn About Their Attractions, Behaviors, and Thoughts

Summary: A basic understanding of a person’s sexual desires, behaviors, and thoughts can increase understanding, produce valuable insights on how you might help them, and provide relief to the individual.

Inquiring about these topics, though potentially uncomfortable, can increase your understanding of the person’s life struggle. For the person with same-sex attraction, the opportunity to discuss these things with a compassionate and trusted ally may provide a feeling of being heard, understood, and accepted. The resulting reduction in shame may be tremendously relieving.

You might ask them:

    • About the general nature of their attraction. There are different types of same-sex attraction, each with its own interests, needs, desires, and objects of attraction.
    • How their mind is involved in their issues. For example, you might ask how often they think about their attractions, how much they fantasize about their desires, and whether they find themselves obsessed with certain thoughts related to their attraction or other subjects.
    • Whether they have acted on their feelings and desires and in what ways have they have done so. This might include viewing pornography, masturbating, engaging in sexual chat/texting, and various types of sexual behavior with others in person or over electronic equipment.  (It is advised that you don’t verbally list these various behaviors to the person, since you may give them ideas of behaviors they haven’t yet tried.)
    • How long they have been involved in these behaviors and how frequently they have engaged in them in the recent past.
    • Whether they have tried to stop these behaviors; how often they have tried; and what the results of these attempts have been.

Assess Their Situation

Summary: Individuals with same-sex attraction often experience difficulties in their relationships, finances, career, mental health, or living situation. Certain behaviors can also lead to legal problems. In addition, same-sex attraction can create intense difficulties for family members.

Understanding any such problems that exist enables you to provide useful guidance and appropriate relief. Below are questions that might spur thought as you talk with the person.

    • What is the current state of their life? How are their friendships, finances, and career? Are there any problems with their living situation? Are they facing any legal difficulties due to behaviors?
    • How has their situation impacted their family members? Who else knows about their situation? If they are young, have they talked to their parents? If they are married, have they talked with their spouse? What have been the responses of those they have told?
    • Are they struggling with psychological or emotional difficulties such as depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, worry, negative thinking, flashbacks of traumatic events, or feeling disconnected from life and from other people? These problems can indicate a need for immediate psychotherapy.
    • Are they experiencing sexual addiction? This probably indicates a need for an addiction recovery program as well as psychotherapy.
    • What support do they have from other people? Who are these people and what kind of support are they providing? Be aware that not all support may be positive. Some friends may support them in moving away from their faith and testimony.
    • Do they have needed financial support?

Understand Their Perspective on same-sex attraction

Summary: Understanding the person’s beliefs and attitude about homosexuality can help you know how to guide them. It may also provide helpful information on how they feel about themselves and on the sources that influence them—whether in harmony with the gospel or otherwise.

Below are questions you might consider as you talk with the person:

    • What do they believe caused or created their homosexual desires? Do they believe their feelings are natural and inborn, or the result of life experiences?
    • Do they experience the attractions as a core part of their identity? Do they believe God meant them to be gay? Do they see this as part of their eternal identity?
    • How do they feel about having these attractions? Are they able to accept them as part of their life challenge? Do they enjoy them? Do they feel angry, betrayed, or cursed because of them?
    • How do they view themselves in light of these attractions? Are they able to love themselves? Do they see themselves as shameful or bad? Do they hate themselves?

For additional context on this topic, read the section, Identity issues on this website.

Learn About Their Relationship With God

Summary: Understanding the person’s beliefs and attitude about homosexuality can help you know how to guide them. It may also provide helpful information on how they feel about themselves and on the sources that influence them.

Below are questions you might consider as you talk with the person:

    • What do they believe caused or created their homosexual desires? Do they believe their feelings are natural and inborn, or the result of life experiences?
    • Do they experience the attractions as a core part of their identity?
    • How do they feel about having these attractions? Are they able to accept them as part of their life challenge? Do they enjoy them? Do they feel angry, betrayed, or cursed because of them?
    • How do they view themselves in light of these attractions? Are they able to love themselves? Do they see themselves as shameful or bad? Do they hate themselves?

Assess Their Hope and Expectations for the Future

Summary: People need hope for the future. Some people with same-sex attraction may have strong hope in their ability to move past blocks in their lives and experience all the blessings of the gospel, including a joyful marriage and family life. Others may see only a very dim and bleak future.

In your conversations with them, try to understand how they see their future. In their near future, do they see themselves resolving their immediate conflicts, getting through their current distress, and overcoming problem situations and behaviors? In their long-term future, can they imagine themselves gaining freedom from unwanted desires, living a fulfilling life, and maintaining a relationship with God and with the Church? In their eternal future, do they believe in their ability to experience all the blessings offered through the plan of salvation?

Also try to understand what they really want. This may be different from what they see as possible in their future. And their wants may be contradictory. For example, on one hand they may want to remain close to the Lord and active in the Church but on the other hand they may want to have a romantic or sexual relationship with someone of the same sex.