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That's how my father of origin responded when I came out to him as bisexual. And this is really how a lot of conservative religious types see sexual orientation and gender identity. They think it's something you choose to do, because sex.

Content note: This post talks about sexual shame and homophobia, and contains links to discussions of rape and child solicitation.

This doesn't make sense to anyone who's been persecuted for their orientation or identity. "Do you think I would choose to be ostracized by my family?" they ask. "By my community?"

But sex is something that conservative religious people are largely deprived of, except for the higher-ups with their serial marriage and child solicitation and mistresses and gay escorts. Most rank-and-file members of conservative, authoritarian religions are pressured into marrying early to produce as many children as possible, after an upbringing where they are made to feel terrified of their own bodies and humiliated for having sexual desire. It makes sense to them that someone would choose to give everything up for a wild night of sex (which they think gay and trans people must have every night), because for many of them that's the choice they face every day.

Now, I don't necessarily mean every Mormon's a raging lust monster, who would ravish you as soon as look at you. The reality's more sad and pathetic than that. As this post on a Mormon blog illustrates ...

Content note: After the first page or so that link segues into glorifying sexual shame and deprivation.

... among USian states, Utah is number 1 by a wide margin when it comes to softcore porn searches on Google, like "bikini babes." The kind of thing someone would look up if they were scared to death of the actual bodily functions involved with sex, but desperately wanted to feel sexual release and arousal. Both of which are so off-limits in conservative, authoritarian religion, that there's an entire industry around treating "pornography addiction." Which they define so broadly as to shame people who glance at cute pictures so much as once a month.

(I'm serious. Go to LDS Living magazine and look at the banner ads. Half of them are for Mormon kitsch, and the other half are for "porn addiction.")

I grew up thinking I was going to hell, more or less, because I looked at PG-rated furry webcomics. I knew for sure that if I ever stopped masturbating long enough to become "worthy" to marry someone, I'd just become "unworthy" again and my marriage would be destroyed and I would lose everything. Because that's the story they told me, over and over again, and that I saw playing out in the lives of Mormon men whose wives checked on their web browsing history.

I very briefly was treated for porn addiction, by a probably-unlicensed "therapist" who gave me a twelve-step handbook and asked me to describe my sexual fantasies to him. Thank goddess I had enough courage to refuse.

These people risk everything just to be able to fantasize about "bikini babes." They take the chance that their spouse will leave them, their job at Church headquarters will be terminated, and their kids will be taken from them, so they can spend thirty seconds in a world where sex is innocent fun and is okay to have.

(Fun fact: When you're scared to death that you will be found out, your body can make you climax really fast.)

The sociopaths among them tend to be given power and abuse it, and ask for graphic details of innocent young women's sexual fantasies and experiences. Or even persuade them that their and their families' salvation depend on their giving them sexual favours. But most of them aren't sociopaths, so much as they're being exploited by them. And one of the big ways that sociopaths exploit them is by teaching kids that pornography "will destroy you," and that only by trusting and obeying them completely will they eventually, someday, be allowed to have sex.

Every day, they are reminded that there is another path. They're told lies about it, to keep them in line. They were taught that AIDS is what happens when you disobey. They're told that innocent people's hearts are broken, and eternal families are split up, when they so much as fantasize about having sex. But the whole time, they're aware that other people are having it and not feeling guilty for it. And every so often, it occurs to them that they could choose to throw everything in their lives away and go do that.

What's heartbreaking is how much some of them long to.

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