I had some great discussions, but I had to face something that has been troubling me for some time. I'm not too worried about the future--marriage, relationships, etc.--because I've finally been able to say, 'I'll cross that bridge when I get there--for now, I just need to take one day at a time." I've finally reached a place where my gay-ness (I doubt that's a real word, but 'homosexuality' sounds so clinical) isn't a big deal, and I've realized it's hardest to grapple with when I make it a big deal. Beyond that, though, is my larger struggle of my feelings about the Church. That is what's been tearing me apart. Not the fact that I'm gay. Not the fact that I don't know what my future holds. The fact that, as a gay member, I am in an uncomfortable position with the Church I love.
Yesterday a fellow MoHo blogger shared his feelings about the new Church pamphlet on 'SGA', God Loveth His Children. He had some frustrations that also went through my mind when my bishop handed me the pamphlet, which--though it certainly beats Helping Those With a Homosexual Problem or whatever the previous edition was called--contains some definite snags, for me at least. I gratefully acknowledge that it's a marked improvement from the previous tone of death-is-preferable condemnation, but this pamphlet is still greatly flawed in my eyes.
Of course, they're very carefully-worded flaws like "It is not helpful to flaunt homosexual tendencies or make them the subject of unnecessary observation or discussion. It is better to choose as friends those who do not publicly display their homosexual feelings" (page nine). Translation: don't be yourself, and don't befriend people who are themselves. I hope I'm not being harsh here, but that's how I interpret it. There's also this: "While many Latter-day Saints, through individual effort, the exercise of faith, and reliance upon the enabling power of the Atonement, overcome same-gender attraction in mortality, others may not be free of this challenge in this life" (pages three and four). Many Latter-Day Saints? In my view, those who have 'overcome same-gender attraction' are in fact bisexuals. Moreover, 'many' means that it is a goal that can and should be accomplished, that change of orientation is an achievable task, like working through an addiction or other problem. Can't you imagine the gay Deacon, Teacher, or Priest who says, "Well, if 'many Latter-Day Saints' can do it, why can't I? What have they got on me?" I know that that was my thinking for a time, and the bottom line is that it's a futile and destructive mindset. Nearly everyone in the mental health field would agree.
Perhaps the hardest thing for me to swallow is "As we follow Heavenly Father’s plan, our bodies, feelings, and desires will be perfected in the next life so that every one of God’s children may find joy in a family consisting of a husband, a wife, and children." In other words, we will become straight in the next life, an idea I find...unsettling. Despite the convenience, I don't think I would want to be straight, now or then. Sexuality is a core part of being--I believe, an eternal part of being. There are many like me, too. Would a just and loving God force us to be turned straight? I don't think so. How, then, could "every one of God's children...find joy in a family consisting of a husband, a wife, and children"?
For me, though, it goes deeper than this. Throughout all of my inner confusion, there have been three things--three sustaining pillars--about which I have not been unsure:
- Heavenly Father and Jesus both live and love me.
- I need not be ashamed about being gay.
- Homosexuality is no more inherently sinful than heterosexuality.
- “The greatest fear I have is that the people of this Church will accept what we say as the will of the Lord without first praying about it and getting the witness within their own hearts that what we say is the word of the Lord.” - Brigham Young
- "If Joseph Fielding Smith writes something which is out of harmony with the revelations, then every member of the Church is duty bound to reject it. If he writes that which is in perfect harmony with the revealed word of the Lord, then it should be accepted.” - Joseph Fielding Smith. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), 3:203–204 ISBN 0884940411)
It's hard for me to stand by and watch the Church's actions on homosexuality and the consequences of those actions. Shock and reparative therapy. Defense of Marriage and Proposition 8. Misleading pamphlets. The Plaza incident. Gay Mormon suicides.
And yet, I can't imagine living outside of the Church. Right now, my family is slipping into inactivity, and it causes me to consider if I really want a life I can't live in harmony with the Church. I look at the many MoHo's (and Mormons in general) who have left the Church and utterly lost their faith--becoming atheists or agnostics-- and think, I don't want to lose my salvation! I don't want to lose my faith! I don't want to lose my belief in God, my ultimate mooring!
I want to stay close to my Heavenly Father, and I don't want to leave (or be dismissed from) the Church. Some MoHo "strugglers" say that SGA is a trial like any other, one that can take us closer to God or take us from Him, but I'm not so sure. I realize that some would say it's a trial that has already taken me away from God. Again, I don't think so. I don't even see it as a burden, a trial, something to overcome. Rather, I see it as a blessing, a part of who I am. This is not a travail I long to be rid of...this is me.
Must 'who I am' automatically remove me from the great I AM?
My mother's advice in a recent conversation was, "You never know. It just takes one--some special girl could come along and..." I said, "What would you say if the tables were turned and your mother said, 'Just wait for that special girl who will come along and magically turn you gay'?" I also reminded her that plenty of gay Mormons have done just that--waited for 'that special girl', sincerely fell in love with her, and married her in the Temple...only to have the supressed feelings explode a few years later. (As Stephen Covey said, "Unexpressed feelings come forth later in uglier ways.")
Then she said, "Just be open. At your age, you're searching for an identity--I know, I remember. You're young, and things change. People change." I am willing to 'be open', but I also know that there comes a point when you have to face reality and deal with the facts. The sooner the better, I tend to think. I realize that many adolescents who think they are gay are merely experimenting--physically or mentally--but I have looked inward and realized that I really am gay and really will, in all likelihood, remain that way. It took a long time to face the fact, but when I finally did, I felt an increased measure of clarity. And, I mentioned, this is not an exercize in identity-seeking. The fact of the matter is, I'm a pretty conservative guy who identifies much more readily with an equally conservative church than a community with a reputation for being a bit wild (the LGBT community at large, not the MoHo sub-group). And as far as culture, I'm more comfortable with the religious culture I grew up in and love than the rather, by definition, sexualized world of homosexuality (what many contemptuously--and erroneously--term "the lifestyle").
After hearing this, she said, "Well, what do you want to do? Make an announcement in the six o'clock news?" Her advice was that my sexuality really isn't other people's business, and I don't need to make it their business. And to a point, I quite agree: I don't have to sit my friends down and tell them I was born out of wedlock. Nor do I need to stand up at a family reunion and announce that I hate lettuce. So it's not like I need to issue a press release to come out as gay.
...And it was then that I read a second applicable proverb in the book, a Huron saying that goes, "Let your nature be known and proclaimed." This does sound like sound advice: if I'm not ashamed of who and what I am, there's nothing to hide. On the other hand, I don't climb up on the roof and shout, "I'M A CYCLOTHYMIC!", even though that would be "let[ing my] nature be known and proclaimed". So I'm curious--Do you agree with this quote? Is it better to let people know you're gay, or simply let them worry about it if they must (even if it means they sit around and wonder until they finally ask you upfront)?
Put another way: I think being out is not the act of announcing your sexuality but rather a state of mind, one in which you don't live with in fear of people "finding out". So, if you are in this state of mind, and you are willing to be honest and open with people, do you...
- Tell your associates and end the mystery once and for all: "There's something I need to talk to you about..."
- Be yourself, and let others think what they want of you. If they do ask you, be honest with them, but don't make a federal case out of it: "Q: Are you gay? A: Yeah, so what?" (that was how it went for Rep. Barney Frank, anyway).
*Zona, Guy. The Soul Would Have No Rainbow If the Eyes Had No Tears and Other Native American Proverbs. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994.
- I got to know myself a little better while away, and was able to look inward. At last I was able to accept the fact that I really am gay.
- My uncle (a highly intelligent physician) and I had an uncomfortable conversation in which he attacked homosexuality using beating-around-the-bush terms to which I couldn't really respond. At one point he said that "sometimes people say they're born...a certain way, and I don't buy it for a minute. They may have a genetic predisposition to something [homosexuality], but the choice is theirs. Just like alcoholism. It's a genetic predisposition, but it's first triggered by drinking alcohol. Have you ever met an alcoholic who hasn't tasted alcohol?" First of all, alcoholism is different from homosexuality precisely because of the "trigger choice", i.e., one has to make a choice to experience the full effects of alcoholism, while the full effects of homosexuality (as well as bi- or heterosexuality, for that matter) are felt without any chosen action being taken. Secondly, while of course I understand that most gay people don't choose to be gay in any way, I am unsure if the same applies to me, or if my uncle's opinion is, in my case, fitting. On the one hand, I have sometimes felt attractions for women; have I chosen to be gay by drowning out these attractions for women in "experimental" attractions for men? Or is it that I felt the most confused when I was trying to muster my heterosexual attractions, and now that I have finally accepted my homosexuality, these other attractions (or illusions of attractions) have fallen away? This suggests that it may have been a choice, and yet, perhaps it was my subconscious reaching for another future, and finally my self-acceptance has put that futile reaching to rest. Is that it?
- There is the possibility that while I feel and know that I'm gay now, that may not be the case for the rest of my life, especially as I begin to settle into adulthood. I do feel gay on an internal level, but still, teenage hormones change and develop, and maybe this is premature. On the other hand, straight kids can date the opposite sex without fear that their orientations will change, which sometimes happens. Then why couldn't gay kids have the same opportunities and confidence?
- I felt, on three separate occasions, impressions that my road entails pursuing a gay partnership, and that God approved of me as He made me. But there was doubt in my mind: was this genuinely personal revelation, or simply my own emotions?
- ...And then there are the implications of leaving the Church and, to some extent, possibly my (extended) family. My short life has, so far, pretty much revolved around the Church and my family, and I can't even begin to imagine life without either. They have been the framework of my life; without either, I would lose a huge measure of community and support. While there is, on the other hand, the LGBT community, I am quite conservative and felt uncomfortable the one time I wandered into the SLC Pride Center. Perhaps this is the result of internalized homophobia, but I still feel like the bat in an African legend: in the animal war between birds and furry animals, the bat, being neither, was fought by both (and, we can assume, was uncomfortable with either group).
- I was so distressed about the mere prospect of losing my church and/or family--along with the domestic stress I have already begun feeling in the days since I've gotten back--that I finally called the Trevor helpline and got some words of comfort. It's not that I'm suicidal, but I do admit that I carry around a death wish, e.g., 'Wouldn't it be nice if that tree would fall and crush me?' or 'If only that car would ram me and end all this', etc. (By the way, I'm feeling better now, though, as usual, every day is a struggle to some degree in our house!)The counselor fellow encouraged me to think about the future, which we discussed in some detail.
- ...And it was while talking about the future that he said, "...and you'll have a beautiful boyfriend who loves you to death!" This was a bit of a shock to hear outloud. I've given a lot of thought to the idea of a boyfriend, but to actually hear it expressed as a real possibility, an actual future, that was something new entirely. It made me consider what I really want out of life.
- At the end of the day, it's about what Heavenly Father wants for me (thankfully, I have not lost my faith in and love of God in this process). And here my thoughts inevitably flow to my Patriarchal Blessing. I am still not completely sure about what to think of this. I feel just a little bit uncomfortable trying to bend it around, and yet...
- ...The thought came to me that I must be an honest person if I am to be able to look myself in the mirror. I have the utmost respect for all of you in mixed-orientation-marriages--often entered into without the realization that it was such--but for me, personally, in my individual circumstances, I think that marrying a woman would be dishonest. Again, dishonest for me--I recognize that it's different for everyone, and there's a different solution for each person. But I don't know if I could call myself an honest man if I were married to a woman. Perhaps this is because I know that, if I did marry a woman, I would probably make the (very personal) decision to remain largely closeted. Just knowing myself, I don't think I could do a straight marriage whilst out.
I know this is a long post. I'm sort of having a rough time, I have to say, between my fears and insecurities in this department and the troubles and problems in the family department. It gets to be a bit much--I'm quite unhappy right now, and I don't know if that's because of the things I've posted above, or my unsurety of the future, or our domestic troubles, or what have you. I sometimes wonder, is my eternal soul in peril here? What if I've got it all wrong? Could I really leave the Church on the basis of my little ideas and feelings?
I'm not a gambler, and this is one bet I couldn't afford to lose.