Recently I came across an old textbook that I used when in graduate school (again) at Boston College (1995-97)- Understanding Diverse Families: What Practitioners Need to Know by Barbara F. Okun. The book was copyrighted in 1996 so you can see that it has been around for a while. The author talks about the fact that gays, lesbians, and bisexuals make up over 10% of our population. She further says, “Until the early 1970’s, the psychiatric profession, which dominated mental health theory and policy, believed that homosexuality was a pathological choice that was malleable and susceptible to reversal.” By 1973 homosexuality was removed by the American Psychiatric Association from its pathology classification. A number of studies were done and it was found that homosexuality really was not changeable and that those who appeared to change their sexual orientation had really only changed their behaviors, but not their desires. Having graduated from undergraduate school in nursing in 1973, I have never known any other teaching. In fact when I studied for my masters degree in community health nursing (1975-76), part of the focus was on families and I clearly remember being taught about a wide variety of compositions of families including those with gay parents. So in the field of mental health and in the medical field, homosexuality is accepted as a part of the norm. I believed what I was taught, though this author writes about the fact that many mental health and medical professionals are homophobic and don’t follow the accepted professional theories/standards.
For the past 12 years I have been practicing in a private behavioral health practice as a psychiatric nurse practitioner. I have counseled people from diverse backgrounds including gay men, women and couples as well as one person who was transgender. Their daily issues are no different than those of heterosexual individuals and couples and they include things like abuse, family dysfunction, grief, depression, anxiety, relationship issues, etc. Human beings are human beings and their sexual orientation is only one aspect of their lives. What matters is the ways that we relate to each other, to ourselves and to God. What matters is how we create balance in our lives and how we create healing and wholeness. I don’t understand how we can exclude anyone from participating in our religion and in serving God based on the fact that they were born with a particular sexual orientation. The Bible was written in ancient times. Society progresses in its thoughts and knowledge base as the years go by. May we truly open our hearts and our minds as we consider this issue of becoming a reconciling congregation.
Jana Marie Whitten