Within Mormonism we have a history of debating whether it’s preferable to identify as LGBT or same-sex attracted. There are many cogent and well-founded arguments behind this conflict that I won’t use any text space to rehash. That’s a conversation we’ve already had….. a few (or more) times.
What I’ve learned through listening to the life narratives of many sexual minority Mormons and considering their thoughts and feelings is that each one deliberately chooses the way he or she self-identifies for valid reasons that are important to his or her self-understanding and self-perception. Sexual self-identification is an exceptionally personal subject that individuals care about intensely. When someone tells me how he or she self-identifies, I feel respect for that person’s decision regardless of what it is and feel very strongly that it is not my place to correct or advise anyone about something so inherently personal. I feel, instead, that my role is to listen and try to comprehend where that person is coming from so that we can grow together and develop a supportive, accepting friendship.
Allowing others self-determination instead of trying to get them to adopt our own values and beliefs can be difficult as we each have good reasons for believing, identifying and behaving as we do. It can help, I think, to remember that just like we have good reasons for holding our own perspectives, those who make decisions different than our own have good reasons for holding their perspectives. Trying to convince other people to change the way they see the world so that their beliefs and behaviors more closely match our own gets in the way of listening, understanding, empathizing and developing strong relationships.
Sometimes the healthiest and most effective thing to do is just support people in their own self-perceptions and decisions about self-identification while we stand firm in our own. Self-determination empowers everyone. Others can be free to identify how they choose and we can be free to identify as we choose.