There’s More to the Story on Gay/Straight Marriages

Ron Schow
Ron Schow

“The experience of bisexuals should not be generalized to homosexuals. The latter may have no sexual attraction whatever to the opposite gender.”

By Ron Schow
3 September 2006

Ron Schow is an Idaho State University professor in Pocatello, Idaho, who has studied gay LDS Church members and their marriages. This is an editorial Dr. Schow submitted to the Salt Lake Tribune.

I was pleased to see the recent articles on gay/straight marriages. I believe these stories explode the myth that marriage cures homosexuality.

It is worth noting that Ben and Jessie’s story included in the Tribune article is more fully described elsewhere. Their situation and professional responses to it, including my own, were presented in a recent issue of Dialogue, Fall 2005. Anyone wishing to understand the challenge of such marriages more fully should study the larger picture presented there.

Some of my research was cited in one of the Tribune articles, a bit out of context, and later mentioned in a letter to the editor. This small snippet of my work can be viewed in the larger context of the complete study at www.ldsresources.info (check in the professional section, in material on “The Persistence of Same Sex Attraction“). Also, those interested will find additional helpful scholarly work on other parts of this site.

For example, the site contains three video documentaries that may be viewed online. They describe the experience of three LDS gay men who wrestle with the issue of marriage. One dates women for 10 years and is finally unable to marry. The other two try marriage and are ultimately overwhelmed by the challenges of sexual incompatibility. Any male or female contemplating such a “mixed” marriage would do well to view all three videos, from which many insights may be gleaned.

An important resource also found on this site is “A Guide for Latter-day Saint Families Dealing with Homosexual Attraction.” This booklet was featured for a time at all Deseret Book stores. It is now available as a free download at this site.

This guide was co-authored by two former LDS bishops, one a former mission president, by a marriage and family therapist, and by me. All of us have wide church experience. The guide has general appeal and utility for any family.

In the Dialogue journal article I recommended that those contemplating these marriages (in which one of the partners experiences homosexual attraction) need to consider at least three issues:

    1. Kinsey HH Scale position. This is a calculation of sexual orientation based on sexual thoughts and feelings and on actual sexual experiences. On this scale persons with completely heterosexual attraction are at zero and those with completely homosexual attraction are at six. A bisexual person with equal attraction in both directions is at three on this seven-point continuum. Those at five and six are the most likely to encounter serious difficulty in heterosexual marriage.
    2. Intensity level of libido. The importance of sex varies with different persons. Some are powerfully sexed, others are virtually asexual. Sublimation refers to a strategy some persons employ to channel their sexual energy into other activities. Couples with low libido may find it possible to sublimate sexual (including homosexual) desire without adverse effect on the relationship.
    3. Shared interests, overall compatibility and general level of maturity. These related considerations, when present and positive, may partly compensate for sexual incompatibilities.

All three issues are extremely important.

My response to Ben’s essay and situation emphasizes that those who are bisexual have a greater chance of intimate bonding with a partner of the opposite sex than does someone who is unambiguously gay. Marriages involving bisexuals may face some challenges because of the bi- or ambivalent orientation of one partner. However, they also may be better marriages because of a bi-gendered sensitivity which a fully straight spouse may not possess.

As a caution, I would note that the experience of bisexuals should not be generalized to homosexuals. The latter may have no sexual attraction whatever to the opposite gender.

In summary, this is an extremely complex issue and deserves thorough study and thoughtful consideration.