Monday, March 17, 2014

The Longest Sunday Part 2: the Parents

I’ve really struggled with this post.  It’s been two weeks since I came out to my parents, and in all honesty I’m not sure how I feel about it.  Whereas my bishop was very understanding and compassionate, my parents were much more…orthodox.

Two days before “the talk” I sent both my parents a link to this blog post and this blog post and said “please read these articles; I’d like to discuss them on Sunday when I come over.”  I figured it would be better to give them a heads up about what was going on, partly because I didn’t want to deal with their knee-jerk  reaction and partly because there was a good chance I’d chicken out if I didn’t.

I had a minor panic attack when I hit “send,” and a major panic attack when my mom texted me Sunday morning.  She said that dad had wondered, she hadn’t, that they loved me no matter what, and that they would do their best to be understanding.

During our four-hour conversation they did make sure that I knew they still love me.  As for being understanding…well, they tried, sort of.

A lot of the things they said were pretty hurtful and offensive.  I know they didn’t intend to be hurtful and offensive, so I’m trying not to resent them for it, but my stomach twists every time I think about it.

As far as my mom is concerned the Church is the final authority on the subject, and it was very painful for her to see that I disagree with most of their official statements about homosexuality, especially the interview with Elder Oaks and Elder Wickman. 

It was much more difficult with my dad.  His general attitude is that since he doesn’t understand the issue it can’t be understood, and therefore isn’t a real issue.  It took me at least half an hour of explaining before he finally got the picture that I’m not attracted to women that way.  Even then, he offhandedly dismissed my spiritual confirmation that a mixed-orientation marriage is not for me, and told me I should still keep an open mind about that possibility.  Then he told me to find a lesbian and marry her.  Just thinking about it makes me want to tear my hair out and scream.

Even though I’m not angry with my parents (out of sheer force of will) I’m frustrated as hell about the whole experience.  Coming to terms with myself as a gay Mormon was a harrowing experience, and although my perspective is very unorthodox I feel it is based on personal revelation.  As far as they are concerned, however, at best I’m misinterpreting things, and at worst I’ve been deceived.  In a church based on developing personal relationships with God, why is it so easy to disregard spiritual experiences that don’t fit the mold?

I decided not to share everything with them.  They think I’m sticking with celibacy, although I made it clear that I am repulsed by the very idea.  They made it clear that they wouldn’t approve of me pursuing a same-sex relationship.  I sure as hell didn’t mention that I date guys now.

In the end I’m not sure what to think about the whole experience.  I glad to have it out of the way, I guess.  My mom texts me every couple days to show that I’m not cut off or anything like that, but the banality of the conversation is irritating.  We both see the elephant in the room, and ignoring it like this shows that she thinks it’s something shameful to be avoided.  I haven’t heard anything from my dad yet, but chances were I wouldn’t have heard anything from him anyway.

It will be interesting to see how things work out.  Maybe their thoughts on the whole issue will evolve over time, maybe not.  For now I’m content that they still love me and accept me as their son.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Longest Sunday of my Life, Part 1: The Bishop

A little over a week ago I sat down and had “the talk” with my bishop.  Then I drove down to my parent’s house to have “the talk” with them.

It was the longest Sunday of my life. 

On the mission Sundays were my least favorite day.  We’d spend all day scrambling to meet our weekly goals, and I’d always be exhausted by the end of the day.  Fast Sundays were the worst, especially when we had to get around on bikes in the humid Southern heat.

That Sunday was much worse than any Sunday on my mission.

After Stake Conference I just couldn’t hack it anymore.  Even though I’d calmed down from my initial reaction (which was to remove myself completely from the Church), it was time to define my membership on my own terms. 

Since my ward meets at 1:30 I had all morning to worry about how things were going to work out.  It ended up being not that bad.  In fact, after all the horror stories I’ve heard about bishops’ reactions to ward members coming out my experience was nearly ideal.

I stepped into his office and he could tell right away that I was nervous.  “What can I do for you?” he asked.

“I need to be released from my calling.”

“Oh, ok.  What’s going on?”

“I’m gay and I’m not going to fight it anymore.”

“Wow, I’m sorry to hear that.”

Now, I don’t think he meant it as “I’m sorry you’re gay.”  It was more like “I’m sorry about the difficult position this puts you in.”  From the beginning he never judged me or tried to tell me what to do.  He did everything he could to understand my situation so he would know how to help me. 

He admitted that he didn’t know a lot about homosexuality, especially in the Mormon context.  “You have some tough decisions to make, though, and I understand if you don’t feel comfortable coming to Church.”  I reassured him that I’ll probably attend Sacrament Meeting most weeks, but as long as I’m right in the middle of Church activity there’s a tremendous pressure pushing me out, and it might push me so far away that I’d never have anything to do with the Church again.  However, if I come as close as I feel comfortable, just close enough to get from it what I need, then I can maintain some relationship with the Church.

The question did come up if I’d “acted out on these feelings,” to which I responded “yes, but I’m not ready to go over all that just yet.”  My bishop said “that’s fine.  I’m always here if you need or want to talk about anything.  For now we’ll release you and won’t give you another calling unless you decide you’re ready for one.”

I had no idea how things would happen, but I can’t think of a better way he could have handled it.  In fact, I wish there were official training for local leaders on how to minister to gay church members, because then I wouldn’t have worried so much going in.

Despite the positive experience with my bishop I still left his office exhausted.  I’d promised to help him count tithing after the block since his counselors were gone and I was the only clerk there, so I couldn’t run off and hide, but I really wasn’t feeling enthusiastic about sitting through priesthood meeting.  Fortunately, the temple was only five minutes away, so I drove there and listened to cheesy EFY music that reminds me of my mission.  The clouds didn’t part and I didn’t hear a voice or concourses of angels, but looking at the temple and thinking about my mission experience I felt that being open and honest about who I am and what I believe was the right thing to do.

Even being open and honest with my parents.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Stake Conference and Home Teaching

Yesterday was stake conference, and ever since the week before when sacrament meeting was all about the sanctity of marriage I felt an ominous sense of foreboding.  I tried to dismiss it by telling myself I was just being paranoid, so I went to both the Saturday night and Sunday sessions trying to keep an open mind.

The Saturday session wasn’t bad.  It had a heavy focus on “hastening the work,” something I’m not particularly enthusiastic about, but there were some warm fuzzies when a recent convert shared her conversion story.

The Sunday session started out fine.  The Stake President even said “usually these meetings are about getting you people married, but we’re going to give you a break this time.”  I was even enjoying it until Elder Porter of the Quorum of the Seventy took the pulpit.  As soon as he said “on January 10th the First Presidency sent out the following letter” my heart dropped into my stomach.

It got worse from there.  He went on to say that same-sex relationships in any form are the greatest tool that Satan is using to derail the Plan of Salvation.  He mentioned a recent survey of seminary students in Utah where some of them indicated they were in favor of same-sex marriage, which shows that we as members of the Church are failing our youth by allowing them to have opinions so contrary to the gospel.  “We must remember to love people who experience those feelings,” he said, “but that should never be taken to mean that we accept their behavior or agree with their attempts to redefine traditional marriage.” 

I understand that the Church is made up of imperfect people, and I try my best to shrug off insensitive comments made by Church members.  However, when a general authority comes from Salt Lake to tell my stake that people like me are trying to destroy the gospel, and that their love for LGBT members should be conditional upon our adherence to Church standards, it becomes harder to swallow. 

The meeting ended with the hymn “Lord, I Would Follow Thee.”  The jarring conflict between the message of the hymn, one of unconditional Christ-like love without judgment, and Elder Porter’s talk made me ill, and I would have fled the room right then if I hadn't come with my roommate. 

I got a text right afterward from my home teaching companion asking if I was free to make some visits that afternoon.  Since I was wondering if I even wanted to keep my name on the records at that point, home teaching was the last thing I wanted to do.  I texted back “I’m really sorry, but after this morning’s session I’m not in a mental/spiritual state where I can represent the church right now.”

He responded a couple minutes later.  “Not a fan of anti-gay rhetoric, huh?  I can sympathize.  Want to talk about it?”

What did he mean by “I can sympathize?”  He couldn’t possibly...  I laid it all out, how I truly believe in marriage and what a great blessing it can be, but I will have to leave the church if I ever want to experience it.

“It’s very frustrating, I agree.  There is no easy answer for guys like us.” 

Well, that confirms it.  In some ways I shouldn't have been surprised.  I mean, statistically speaking, there’s probably a very good reason why an active, 30-year-old RM with a great job is still single.  He’s so Mormon, though, and is the last person I would have expected to be a “guy like us.”

He asked what I planned on doing with the Church.  I told him I still intend to go to church most weeks, but I’m going to ask to be released from my calling.  His response was that he wants me to be happy, and he will support me in any path I believe will bring me joy.  By the end of our conversation he had convinced me to go home teaching with him.  “I’ll give the lesson,” he promised.  “I just need a companion.”

It wasn't bad.  In fact, it was one of the few times I've gone home teaching where it didn't feel like a tedious formality.  Some of the people we visited seemed excited to have contact from the ward, and I started to think maybe being Mormon wasn't so bad after all.

I used to think that any gay Mormon who held out hope for a traditional marriage or planned on lifelong celibacy was hopelessly deluded.  I don’t think that’s the case for him.  He has a genuine testimony, and it is enough to sustain him as a single, 30-year-old gay Mormon.  Just as he is willing to support me in whatever path I follow, I will support him in whatever he chooses.  Who knows, maybe he’ll be one of the extremely rare guys who manages to make a mixed-orientation-marriage work.  It would be great if he did, because the Church needs guys like him as bishops, stake presidents, and general authorities.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Miracle of the MOHO Directory

I’m a different person now than I was in September.  It’s been five months since I even started thinking about it, and only three months since I accepted myself as being gay.  Now I’m going on dates with guys and enjoying my gay Mormon life.  Sometimes I wonder if it all happened too fast.  But then again, I’m happier being where I am than where I was.  I’m glad I didn’t have to agonize over it for years.

You guys (and girls) already did it for me.

I owe a lot to the MOHO bloggers out there.

Sometime over the summer a friend had linked something on Facebook about a guy here at Utah State who was out but still active.  When I finally accepted my gayness I remembered the article and searched at least ten timelines looking for it.  I even messaged a couple friends asking if they remembered posting something like that (I came up with a good excuse for why I was looking, of course), but no one seemed to know what I was talking about.

I ended up searching for “gay Mormon blog” on Bing (don’t judge me) and stumbled across the MOHO Directory.  It was like discovering a sunken pirate ship full of gold.  Here was a community of people who understood exactly what I was going through!  Trevor had posted most recently, so I read his blog first.  From there I absorbed the wide variety of gay Mormon experiences.  There were guys out there committed to celibacy, guys who were a little bit critical of the Church, guys who had married women, guys who had married guys, and everything in between.

Suddenly I wasn’t alone.  I realized that almost every MOHO goes through self-loathing and depression, but there’s a way out of it.  I realized that a lot of MOHOs have to deal with suicidal thoughts, and since they got through it so could I.  I saw that happiness is possible for MOHOs, and I don’t have to completely abandon my beliefs just to find it.  I also discovered that Utah is teeming with cute MOHOs : ).

The MOHO bloggers who came before me are true pioneers.  They laid a foundation for me to build upon, and I’m proud to make my small contribution for future generations of scared, confused gay Mormons.  I’m grateful to Abelard Enigma and Moving Horizon for establishing this resource, and I’m excited to see where Trevor takes it. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Evolving Nature of My Nature.

I used to obsess over the possible reasons I turned out gay.  During the years when I was fasting and praying for my “SSA” to go away I thought if I could identify why I had it I could beat it.  I eventually convinced myself that masturbation and porn had somehow undone my default setting, and if I could just stop it I wouldn't be attracted to guys anymore.

When I was 18 I read about a study that identified a correlation between having older brothers and being gay.  On the one hand I was relieved that maybe it wasn't my fault after all, but on the other I was perturbed by the idea that it might be hardwired into my physiology.

Then, a couple months later, the Church released a statement saying that being attracted to the same sex isn't a sin, but acting on it is.  Instead of making me feel better about things I was terrified that I might have to spend a lifetime struggling, since I never wanted to commit the great crime against nature.

When I got home from my mission I thought my attraction was strictly physical.  Since the Church teaches that “SSA” is a temporary trial limited to this life I knew that if I reined in my behavior and bridled my passions my attraction would realign itself toward women.  I knew that once I was married my appetites would be satisfied and I wouldn't have those feelings toward men anymore.

It was liberating to finally come to terms with being gay and realize that God loves me anyway.  Heavenly Father knew what He was doing when He made me.  Even if it were nothing but a weakness of my biology He must have either specifically assigned this body to me or allowed it to happen as a result of my environment.  Either way it happened according to His will.  My sexuality is no longer a trial to be borne or an affliction to be suffered.

The official Church position is that “SSA” didn't exist before this life and won’t exist in the next.  I’ll agree that before this life my spirit wasn't sexually attracted to male spirits; even straight spirits weren't sexually attracted to spirits of the opposite sex.  However, written deep into my eternal nature is the ability to form bonds with males better than with females.  In some ways the term “homosexual” is misleading.  The “gay lifestyle” is so repugnant to the average Church member because they fixate on those who live a life of rampant promiscuity while pointedly ignoring all those who make an upstanding, productive life that involves a same-sex relationship.  Yes, I am sexually attracted to guys, but I am emotionally and romantically attracted to them as well.

Now, there are people in the Church who faithfully choose celibacy hoping to be cured in the next life.  I sincerely hope that God will honor their sacrifice and provide every blessing they missed out on in this life.  I don’t believe that necessarily means their orientation will shift; I think Heavenly Father has more options available than we can imagine.  Likewise, I hope the best for the Ty Mansfields and Josh Weeds out there and their marriages.  However, I doubt their gayness will go away when they die.  Instead, their ability to fully love and appreciate their wives will strengthen enough to allow them to spend eternity together.  Nevertheless, my experience with personal revelation applies to my situation only.  If someone prays and sincerely feels that God wants them to remain celibate or marry a woman that is exactly what they should do. 

The idea of being “cured” scares me, though.  Now that I know and accept who I am I don’t think I would still be me if God just made me straight after this life.  The general theme of and God Loveth His Children is that God loves us even though we are gay, which is good and important for all of us to realize.  However, as I've come to terms with myself and looked at who I am I have come to realize that God loves me because I’m gay.  He, who knew me before I was born, knows my individual nature better than anyone else and loves me because it is what makes me unique among His billions of children.  Being gay isn't the only thing that makes me who I am, but it has affected so much of what I feel, believe, and experience I couldn't see myself any other way.

In the Book of Mormon it says if we come unto God He will show us our weaknesses, and His grace is sufficient to make our weaknesses into strengths (Ether 12:27).  For most of my life I went to God and I told Him what I thought my weaknesses were.  It wasn't until I truly humbled myself before Him that He showed me that my weakness wasn't that I was gay; it was my anger and embarrassment over it.  Now that I recognize and embrace my full nature as a child of God who happens to be gay my weakness is becoming strength.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

How I got to where I am

This post contains adult situations and may not be suitable for children or prudes.

Up until September I was a good Mormon boy.  I was “struggling with SGA,” not that I’d admit it, even to myself, but it was a struggle nonetheless.  I had read everything the Church ever published on the subject, and desperately wanted to believe it.

Ultimately I think those materials harmed more than helped.  They taught me to deny, suppress, and hate a major part of who I am, and it drove me into depression.  They prevented me from coming to terms with my gayness in a healthy way, so I ended up having my first sexual experience before I was ready for it.

My testimony was all but gone by that point.  I was unhappy in life, and didn't believe in much of anything.  Somewhere in the back of my mind I was starting to think that maybe I had just a little bit of “SGA,” but I was doing everything I could to “deal with these feelings” and “put them in the background” like I’d been told.  Because I’d ignored my feelings for so long I was unprepared to deal with them rationally when they boiled to the surface.

I've tried to figure out what made me decide to act on my inclinations in the first place.  I really don’t know what I was thinking, because I wasn't thinking at the time.  I’d had a long, stressful week at school and work, and then I worked a twelve hour shift that Friday night.  After going home to sleep a couple hours I had to come back in to finish things up.  When I got home I was too tired to make rational decisions, but too caffeinated to sleep.  On pure impulse I answered an ad on craigslist.

I’m not impulsive by nature.  I don’t buy anything unless I've thoroughly considered every option and whether or not I really need it.  If you had asked me the day before it happened if I’d ever actually do anything with another guy I’d have said “hell no!”  And yet, that evening, without thinking it through at all, I messed around with a guy for the first time.

In all fairness he was pretty nice.  He just didn't appreciate what a big deal it is for an active returned missionary to do something like this.  His general attitude was that he was rescuing me from my repressed upbringing.  Things happened so fast, and it wasn't until it was over that I thought“holy shit, what am I doing?”

I wish I could say I took a step back at that point and examined where I was in life.  Instead, I shut down my emotions completely because I couldn't face the implications of my actions.  When I think back to that period it’s like I’m watching things from the side rather than through my own eyes. 

I realize now that what I was really looking for was someone to talk to.  Instead, I kept hooking up with guys from craigslist over the next month and a half.  I’d been conditioned to believe that being gay is only about the sex, and it was the only way I knew how to address that part of myself.  I tried to talk about it with some of the guys I met, but they weren't helpful at all.

In November I decided I was done messing around.  It had turned into an addiction, and I was embarrassed by the things I was doing just to get another fix.  That’s when I finally accepted that I’m gay, not “curious” or “getting it out of my system.”

From what I've read most guys come to terms with their sexuality before they ever act on it.  I wish I had done it that way, but I never would have come to terms with it on my own.  That “slut phase,” as embarrassing and awkward as it was, forced me to confront what I’d avoided for too long.

I’m still working through my resentment toward the Church for how it handles homosexuality.  I don’t think the resources it provides, such as God Loveth His Children and, were ever meant for gays.  They exist to convince straight members that the Church knows what it’s doing so they don’t need to think about it for themselves.  If you are gay and looking for answers the Church doesn't have much to offer.  The best advice they can give is “don’t think about it, don’t talk about it, and especially don’t act on it.”  Even if you are committed to a celibate lifestyle they best they can tell you is “pray and read your scriptures and you’ll be fixed when you die.”

I really wish there were a way for me to be happy as an active Church member.  However, I agree with Nate.  My misery didn't stem from being gay, but from the Church.  I've spent my life relying on the Church for happiness, but it wasn't until I stopped looking there that I found it.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Girl trouble, part 2

Well, it’s done.  I had the dreaded DTR with…let’s call her Lucrezia.

I’ve come out to about five people so far, but each time I pretty much knew that they would take it well.  This was the first time I had no idea what the outcome would be.

It sucked.

Ok, to be fair, it wasn’t that bad.  She didn’t cry, although I may or may not have.  In fact, she was remarkably sensitive and understanding.

The evening started out on the couch as usual.  She sat right next to me, leaning against my side.  Her left hand lay against my thigh, but I kept my right hand safe in the middle of my lap.  I don’t know if she could tell, but my entire body was tense.

I kept hoping an opportune moment would present itself, but we just chatted about work and roommates while my insides gyrated.  I was hoping the movie would provide the perfect setup, but apparently whoever wrote Footloose didn’t have this kind of situation in mind.

 “So, Lucrezia, there’s something I need to talk to you about.”

Oh, shit.  Is this happening?  Rewind!  Ctrl-Z!

….Well, uh, um, I’m…*voice cracks like a 14-year-old*… gay.”


Awkward silence.

“So, we aren’t ever going to be more than friends.”


“I didn’t start coming to terms with this until right around the time we started going out.  I really hoped you would prove me wrong, but it doesn’t work that way.”


The expression on her face was killing me.  I might as well have told her I ran over her dog.  I tried to explain things as best I could, but I just ended up rambling.  In the end she told me that we’re still friends, and we can still watch movies sometimes, but I should do what I feel is best for me.  She said I should do what makes me happy.

So why don’t I feel happy about it?

Because for the first time in a while I felt broken.  For the first time in a while I felt like there was something wrong with me.  It was the first time in a while that I wished I could change.  I had forgotten how revolting it feels to hate yourself for who you are.

I hate that I had to hurt her.  Had there been any other way I would have done it, but I’m tired of being ashamed of this.  Before I told her I promised myself I wouldn't apologize for who I am.  I did apologize for leading her on, and that things didn't work out the way she wanted, but when it comes to being gay, there is nothing to apologize for.

Yes, it was hard.  Yes, I still feel sick about it.  It was the right thing to do, though, and now there’s one less thing holding me back from finding happiness in this life.

Now that this is out of the way the next step is to tell my parents.  Fuck.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Girl trouble

I was hoping that coming to terms with being gay would eliminate girl trouble.  Someday, it will be exciting to deal with boy trouble instead of girl trouble.  There’s a giant hurdle to jump through first.

I've been dating a girl from work since September.  The term “dating” is debatable since nothing is official, but we have gone on one or two dates a week since then.  That should be an obvious rainbow flag right there—straight Mormon guys usually don’t go four months without proposing, let alone defining the relationship.

I was hesitant to go out with her in the beginning, since our first date was a week after my first *experience* with a guy.  At first I thought she just wanted to be hiking buddies, but she told some of our coworkers that she had a crush on me and the next thing I knew everyone at work was asking me when we were going out again.

In all fairness I have enjoyed spending time with her.  It’s nice to have someone to go to restaurants with, and watch movies with.  Our personalities click pretty well even though she’s younger than me by a substantial margin.  For a while I even hoped that she’d prove me wrong, that I really was capable of forming a normal, healthy relationship with a girl.  As things progressed, though, my feelings reached the close friend stage and stopped. 

It’s starting to get…complicated.  She’s been dropping hints that she wants to define the relationship.  The worst was a couple days ago.  She invited me over to watch a movie, and sat right next to me on the couch.  There was full sidal contact.  Then she started rubbing the back of her hand against mine.  The next thing I knew our fingers were firmly interdigitated, and her head was leaned against my shoulder.

I felt sick.  She was making her attraction to me obvious, and there I was allowing her to think I felt the same way.  At that point I was completely, inexcusably, leading her on.

I am not looking forward to the talk.  I’m definitely not looking forward to seeing her at work afterward.  I’m ashamed to admit that I've thought about making it official as a cover.  I've thought about just marring her out of sheer awkwardness. 

But then, maybe it won’t be that bad.  I mean, how often do you get to say “it’s not you, it’s me,” and really mean it?  Maybe we can “still be friends,” since there won’t be any awkward tension, at least not on my end.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Option Two: live a celibate life in the church

I've started this post over and over again, but somehow I just can’t manage to put all my thoughts on celibacy together.  In short, I don’t like it.  I don’t want to be a Mormon monk.

For a while I tried to convince myself I could do it.  It’s no different from what the church expects of single straight members, is it?  Well, no, not really.

In Sacrament Meeting yesterday I hopped off the fence.  That doesn't mean I’m going to take my name off the records and move to San Francisco.  In fact, I’ll probably keep going to church for a while.  It does mean, however, that I will date guys and stop feeling bad about it.

Ironically, it was a talk about the Law of Chastity that convinced me.  It’s not that I disagree with the doctrine on the Law of Chastity; I believe it is divinely inspired, and in general a good idea.  However, as the speaker mentioned in her talk, the Law of Chastity doesn't exist because sex is dirty and evil; it exists to ensure that sex occurs under the proper circumstances.

As a gay Mormon, though, there never will be a proper circumstance for me, at least according to the church.  I don’t buy it. 

The speaker compared the Law of Chastity to the parable of the talents.  According to her our bodies are like the talents in the parable; they are given to us with the expectation that we marry and have kids.  Violating the Law of Chastity is like burying your talent—instead of expanding and developing it you fail to live up to your divine potential.

I sympathize with the servant who only received one talent.  Just like him, I have been handed a different set of circumstances in life.  I have been blessed with the ability to love and form relationships with men.  I could deny that part of myself and bury it, but what happens in the end when I’m called to account for my life?

I buried this part of me for most of my life, and it made me miserable.  I’m done with that.  I’m ready to dust off my talent and take it to the exchangers.

The closing hymn was “Oh My Father,” one of my all-time favorites.  I was struck by the line “for a wise and glorious purpose Thou hast placed me here on earth.”  I don’t know why I’m gay, and I don’t really care, either.  I trust that God has a wise and glorious purpose for making me this way, and at length, when I've completed all He sent me forth to do, with his approbation He will let me come and dwell with Him.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I didn't always know

Most of the coming out stories I've read talk about how they “always knew, but…”  I’m kind of jealous.  I didn't know until a few months ago.  Granted, I should have known a long time ago.  In fact, looking back, it should have been painfully obvious that I’m gay.

Here’s a sampling of the evidence:
  • I suck at sports.  I don’t watch them, and I sure as hell don’t play them (running doesn’t count).  I don’t even know the difference between a linebacker and a shortstop (I’m not entirely sure which sport each one comes from).
  •  I enjoy Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga.
  •  I spent months looking at dresses, flowers, and other stuff with my roommate’s fiancee.
  •  I love the movie Mean Girls.  I can quote almost the entire thing.
  •  I sucked at dating.  In fact, I've never kissed a girl.

None of these is particularly damning, but when taken all together they make a convincing case.  Oh, and there’s the BIG ONE: I looked at gay porn for years.  I could go over a list of all the rationalizations I came up with for why that didn't mean I was gay, but I’m pretty sure every MoHo is very well versed in them.

Why didn't anyone tell me?  Oh, wait, they did.  I hated young men’s activities in church because, not being as manly as the other guys, they constantly teased me and called me a homo.  I saw how much everyone hated anything “gay,” and knew I didn't want to be that.  A well-meaning young men’s leader (who later became the bishop who sent me on my mission) told me I should have more enthusiasm for scouting because people might think I was gay otherwise.

I followed church counsel to the letter.  I prayed, read my scriptures, went to church, and did my best to “let virtue garnish my thoughts unceasingly.”  Unfortunately, just like a sprig of parsley on a pot roast, virtue did little to cover up my thoughts about guys.  I had read that even though we may not choose the attractions we feel, it is still a choice whether or not to identify yourself as gay.  I chose not to be gay, and convinced myself that if I served a mission God would remove these feelings as a reward.

My mission was great, and it has formed the foundation for my life ever since.  Don’t get me wrong—it was the toughest two years of my life, and sometimes I wished I had a medical condition so I could come home early without the stigma.  I never felt attracted to my companions or any other missionary (which, looking back, was quite the accomplishment).  That was probably due more to “missionary goggles” than anything else, but at the time I took it as a sign that God was “fixing” me.

That lasted for about four days after I got home, then I was back into old habits.  I told myself it was a temporary setback, and that once I got into dating it would go away again.  That “temporary setback” lasted four years.

Dating girls never worked for me.  It’s obvious now, but at the time I was confused why first dates rarely turned to second dates, and third dates were even rarer.  I thought maybe it was because I’m solitary by nature, or maybe I was creepy or something.  I could go on about dating, but it’s just sad.

Back in February I had the worst dating experience of my life.  I really liked her, and just when I thought she might like me too she said “I’m way out of your league.  Why would someone like me ever want to go out with someone like you?”  Ok, she didn't say those words exactly, but that’s the general idea.  Oh, and she made jokes about me being gay—not something you want to hear when you’re packed to the brim with internalized homophobia.

After that I didn't even try to date.  No more obligatory one date a week, or month, or quarter.  I didn't even keep an eye out for potential crushes.  I tried to define happiness on my own terms, not according to what the church expected of me, but it wasn't working.  That’s when the depression, which was always a minor issue in the past, really set in.

Then, in September, everything changed.  I’ll save the sordid details for another post, but let’s just say that for the first time I had to confront the possibility that maybe I’m not “curious,” or “SGA,” or “confused,” but actually gay.

It took until the beginning of November before I could look in the mirror and say “holy crap, that’s a gay guy looking back at me.”  I broke down.  The room was spinning.  It felt like I was falling.  I couldn't breathe.  Curled in the fetal position on my bedroom floor I whispered, for the first time in months, “Padre Celestial…”*

I started by telling Him I’m gay, and how disgusting it made me feel.  I ended up realizing I was pissed at Heavenly Father.  After raging against God for about 45 minutes I felt numb.  I was ready to give up and die at that point.  Isn't that what’s supposed to happen when you curse God?

Instead, as I dried the tears, I felt…loved.  I was surprised.  It was like all the stereotypical stuff you read in Ensign articles—waves of warmth, joy, bosom burning, all of it.  Heavenly Father loves me.  It doesn’t matter that I’m gay, or that I’ve “acted on these feelings,” I’m still His child.  I didn’t hear a voice, but I could feel the impression “of course you’re gay.  I’m sorry you made yourself so miserable trying to deny it for so long.”  He still loves me and wants me to be happy, no matter how gay I am. 

I’m happier now than I've been in years.  It’s still a tough situation, and there are a lot of questions to which I desperately need answers, but now there’s hope.

*I prayed in Spanish my entire mission (ooh, look, a clue about Praenomen’s secret identity!) and the habit stuck, probably because I haven’t prayed super regularly since coming home.  Plus, I don’t like praying in English—all the thee and thou and thine stuff feels unnatural.  In Spanish you pray using informal pronouns like you’re talking to a family member or close friend, which feels like how it should be.  Now I go back and forth between Spanish and English, but I leave out the archaic pronouns.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

I didn't choose this

The church teaches that homosexual tendencies, or “Same-Gender Attraction,” are not a choice.  Why is it, then, that so many faithful members still insist that we chose this?

I sure as hell didn’t choose to be this way.  Why would I?  I’ve lived a very Mormon life, which included an incredibly difficult (and rewarding), full-time mission.  I would love to marry and have kids, but that’s not a possibility for me in this life.

I do not know why Heavenly Father made me gay.  I don’t know if He specifically assigned it to me, or allowed it to occur as the result of living in a fallen, mortal world.  I do know that as a result of being gay, He expects different things from me than from others.  Does that mean celibacy?  Maybe.  I don’t know.  When I pray about that option I feel uneasy about it, which is usually God’s way of saying “ponder it out and tell me what you think about it.”

My ability to feel genuine affection and love isn’t impaired by being gay.  I feel that this ability comes from Heavenly Father, and He wants me to develop and expand it so that I can someday love as He does.  However, He’s made it clear he doesn’t expect me to develop and expand it with a wife.

If celibacy is seen as contrary to the plan of salvation for straight people, why is it expected of gay people?  I refuse to believe that a loving Heavenly Father would make these expectations, then incapacitate me from living up to them.  

Friday, January 10, 2014

Arwen's Choice

I am a Lord of the Rings superfan.  My sainted mother read the books to me when I was ten years old, back before the movies came out.  Since then I've lost count of how many times I've read the books and seen the movies.  To this day the Lord of the Rings is the gold standard against which I judge every other book, and it forms the basis for what I do and don't enjoy reading.

If you haven't read the books or watched the movies that's ok, I love you anyway and won't judge : ).  I'll define the following terms just in case you've never experienced the joys of the Lord of the Rings.

Elves: sort of like humans, but fancier.  They are immortal, so they live thousands of years without aging beyond their early twenties.  When they get tired of living in Middle Earth they set sail for Valinor.

Valinor: the elvish afterlife.  The elves live happily ever after in Valinor with their gods, so it's pretty much like the Mormon view of heaven.

Middle Earth: earth.  This is where elves and humans are born, live, and die (if you're human.  If you're an elf you have to be killed in order to die, but you wake up in Valinor anyway).

Humans: sort of like elves, but cruddier.  They are dirty, shortsighted, and mortal.  They will eventually die of old age if something like disease or war doesn't kill them first.  No one really knows what sort of afterlife is available to them.

So, Arwen is the smokin' hot daughter of Elrond, a pretty important elf in Middle Earth (he's kind of like a king).  She's been alive for about 2700 years, and in that time never got around to getting married.  You'd think that somewhere during that time she could have found a suitable husband.  I mean, there's no shortage of hunky elvish princes (Legolas, anyone?).  Then, after 2700 years Aragorn shows up in Rivendell and she falls head over heals for him.  Elrond, however, isn't too thrilled with the idea of his lovely princess marrying a mortal man.  He wants her to be with him in Valinor, like any good father would.  The books don't mention this, but I imagine he tried to send her to therapy to get over her "OSA," or "opposite-species attraction."

What's an elf princess to do?  If she marries Aragorn she forfeits her place in Valinor and won't be with her family for eternity.  If she spurns his affections she gives up any chance of finding love.  Maybe Elrond tries to convince her that in Valinor the gods will "fix" her, and she'll then be attracted to an elf and marry him.  However, she sincerely wonders if she'd still be herself if that part of her were magically changed.

*SPOILER ALERT*  Arwen chooses Aragorn and it's super romantic and mushy and heartwarming.  Elrond begrudgingly accepts her choice when he realizes that all he wants is for his daughter to be happy.  After a long and happy life with Aragorn and the kids she eventually wanders off to die, satisfied that she made the right choice.

So, did she make the right choice?  The author wants the reader to think so, and it looks like Arwen thought so.  But how does this apply to me?

I'm stuck in a situation where I don't want to marry a woman, elvish or human (although I could possible make an exception for Liv Tyler or Cate Blanchet).  I'd rather be with Aragorn (I mean, Viggo Mortensen, come on!).  However, if I follow the desires of my heart I'll forfeit my place in the Celestial Kingdom with my family.  But then again, how happy would I really be in the Celestial Kingdom having given up the opportunity for love in this life?  How could I not resent my family and God for the misery I felt in life just to be there with them?  Is it blasphemous even to think that?

Like Arwen, I have serious doubts that I will change in the next life and suddenly like women.  It's a part of what it means to be me, and I worry about what else would change if Heavenly Father could magic the gay out of me.

*Side note 1*  Legolas and Gimli both remain single for the rest of their lives, even though they hold very prominent positions within their communities.  Then they set sail for Valinor together.  Is there such a thing as SSA/OSA?

*Side note 2*  Less than a third of the dwarvish population is female, and not all dwarf females choose to marry.  What about all those single dwarf males who have no hope of getting married?  You know where I'm going with this.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Things I Hate

I've started writing my thoughts about option two (a celibate life in the church) but I'm having a hard time doing it.  As a biology student most of the writing I've done has been technical, and it turns out I suck at emotional writing.  The topic of celibacy is especially touchy for me, and it might take a while for me to organize my thoughts about it.  In the mean time, here's what I'm feeling right now:

I hate myself for being gay.

I hate myself for wishing I were straight.

I hate God for making me this way.

I hate God for ignoring me when I prayed to be straight.

I hate the church for not making a place for me.

I hate the church for saying “we don’t know” and acting like that’s enough.

I hate that I hate myself.  I hate that I hate God.  I hate that I hate the church.

I hate that I still haven’t found a path I can take where I don’t hate these things.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Option One: Heterosexual Lifestyle in the Church.

There’s an amazing blog post I read when I was first coming to terms with things.  He very eloquently outlined every option available to gay Mormons, something that I had started thinking about, but definitely not in the level of detail he presented.

I’ve spent the last several months obsessing over each option, and why I do or don’t agree with it.  In this post I will examine option one: live a heterosexual lifestyle within the church.

The church is obsessed with marriage and families, and if you’re single you’d better be trying to find a spouse.  In fact, I’ve been told that I am not honoring my priesthood if I’m not going on at least one date per week.  Even in the early stages when I was doing things I’m not proud of I fully expected to “get it out of my system” and eventually get married.

There are lots of guys in this situation who marry women.  I try really hard not to judge any of them, and I sincerely hope that things work out for them.  These are my thoughts on the subject, not what I think anyone should or shouldn’t do.

After the mission I didn’t go out as much as most of my straight friends, but I still went on my fair share of dates.  The longest I ever dated anyone was almost three months, but it was never official—I never even held her hand.  I told myself that my discomfort with dating was due to a combination of girls being stupid and my innate social awkwardness.  Part of me is sort of impressed that I managed to fool myself for over four years.

When I finally accepted my gayness I had to reevaluate every vision of the future I’d ever had.  It suddenly became a real possibility that I would never have stickers of my wife and kids on my minivan.  I’d read Josh Weed’s blog (who hasn’t?) and tried to convince myself that if I had enough faith I could live that dream.

Out of desperation I asked Heavenly Father “should I get married?  Is that a goal that I should have in my life?”  I fully expected Him to tell me of course, that’s a worthy goal and I should go for it.  Instead I felt uneasy.  As I thought about it over the next couple of days the question “why do you want to get married” kept popping into my mind.  Why wouldn’t I want to get married?  All my life I’ve been told the greatest joy I will ever experience comes from marriage and family.  I saw how happy my sister and her husband were, and how happy my married friends were, and felt so jealous of them. 

The difference, though, is that my sister and her husband love each other completely.  My married friends love their spouses completely, and that’s the only reason to get married.  For me, I’d be getting married to please my family, the church, and society.  I’d be getting married just to have a church-approved sexual outlet.  I couldn’t imagine that God would want me to marry one of his daughters unless I really, truly loved her and wanted to make our relationship last for eternity.  When I took that conclusion to Him in prayer His answer was clear this time: “no, DON’T get married!  It’s not in My plans for you.”

It was surprising, and a little humiliating.  I’d never pictured Heavenly Father sitting on the front porch with a shotgun yelling “don’t be a-touchin’ my daughters!”  I thought maybe I was misinterpreting things; maybe He meant I shouldn’t be trying to get married now, but once I worked through things I should try again.

I don’t think that’s the case.  In my limited dating experience, with the few occasions where the girl actually liked me, my feelings toward her would progress to a certain point, then hit a wall.  Try as hard as I might, I couldn’t make myself think of her as more than a really good friend.  I used to tell myself that it meant I just hadn’t found the right one.  I’m certain now that I’m just incapable of feeling that way about a girl.  I’ve had plenty of crushes, and enjoyed dates with girls, but any relationship between me and a girl will inevitably stagnate.

I’ve never found any stats on mixed-orientation marriages, but from what I can tell they rarely end well.  Even when both partners are straight more than 50% of marriages end in divorce.  If two straight people have a hard time making it work how could I ever hope to stay married to a woman when I’d rather be with a man?

Ironically, I’ve been dating a girl for the last several months.  We went out the first time right when I first started coming to terms with things.  I thought of her as my last hope, the last chance I had to prove that I’m not gay.  She really is a great girl.  I enjoy spending time with her, and I really wanted it to work out.  However, when we go on dates I flirt out of duty, not because I want to win her over.  We cuddle on the couch because we’re supposed to, not because I truly enjoy that closeness.  I held her hand at the movie theater once, not because I wanted that intimate touch, but because she was sending “the signal.” 

I’ve thought about what to do about her.  I do like her, even if I don’t like her, and I don’t want to lie to her or be a total jackass and just stop calling her.  It’s really going to suck, though, when I tell her exactly why we’ll never be more than friends.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What is the conscience?

What is the conscience?  Is it an angel that sits on your shoulder?  Is it the Holy Ghost?  Is it the Light of Christ?  Different people will give you different answers, but in general it is some vague presence that tells us the difference between right and wrong.

As Mormons we tend to view the conscience as something that comes directly from Christ, universal in presence and interpretation among all humans.  While I agree that the Light of Christ is an important component of the conscience it is just that, a component.

Take a look at the eleventh article of faith: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”  Does that mean that the conscience can dictate to someone that they worship a different god, in a different way, and in a different place from what the “true church” worships?  I think so, and from the wording of the eleventh article of faith it looks like Joseph Smith thought so as well.

So then, what exactly is the conscience?  I view it as the collective influences in our lives that determine our sense of morality.  It consists of the following:

Our innate humanity.  This is what Mormons call “the Light of Christ.”  Whatever the original source, I believe that there is a universal sense of goodness common to all humanity.  Some of us are better at ignoring it than others.

What we learned at home.  This is why the church places so much emphasis on the family.  Most of what we believe about wrong and right is based on what our parents taught and reinforced at home.  In my house watching the Simpsons was just fine (except on Sundays), but at my friend’s house it was forbidden.  He still doesn’t watch it because it feels wrong to him.

What we learned at church.  Now, there are plenty of people who don’t have a religious background and still have a well-developed sense of morality.  I don’t believe religion is absolutely necessary to a moral lifestyle, but for those of us who did grow up going to church it provides the framework for why we do or don’t do certain things.  That’s why most non-Mormons don’t feel bad about drinking tea, coffee, or alcohol, but many of my Mormon friends won’t touch a smoothie with green tea extract in it.

What we learn from society.  This is based on what is legal or illegal.  In some places bribes are customary, and someone from such a place may not feel it is wrong to pay a bribe to get out of trouble.  For someone where bribery is highly illegal and aggressively prosecuted, it is morally reprehensible to try to pay your way out of accepting the consequences of your behavior.

What we learn from our culture.  On my mission I was shocked to see that in Latin culture people are blunt, almost brutal sometimes.  If they think your accent is bad, or that you’re fat, they will tell you so without blinking an eye.  Where I come from you would never, ever tell someone you think they’re fat.

Our individual personalities.  Each person takes the above factors and determines which parts are more important than others.  That’s why some people rebel against their upbringing and do the opposite of everything they were ever taught, and others maintain it. 

There probably are other influences on the conscience, but these are the main ones I have noticed.  I don’t care what background someone comes from, but every human being needs a well-defined conscience.  With over seven billion people on earth that means there are more than seven billion definitions of conscience, and that is fine.  The entire purpose of us coming to earth was to live according to our agency, and even if I have a different sense of right and wrong it would be inappropriate of me to expect anyone else to conform to mine.

What about laws and legally defining right and wrong?  That’s a discussion for another time.  I suck at politics (which is why I’m studying biology) and am woefully underequipped to discuss that topic.  If someone more enlightened than I wants to take a shot at it go ahead; I’d like to see what you have to say.

I first started thinking about conscience when one of my brothers dropped out of the church.  He used to be painfully Mormon, to the point where he drove the rest of us crazy with how self-righteous he was.  It was surprising and confusing to see him change directions so radically, but my other brother made an interesting point: “I’d rather see him outside the church and true to who he really is than making himself miserable trying to be something he’s not.”  Could it be possible that the dictates of his conscience compelled him to leave the church?  I believe so, and I wouldn’t have him do anything else.

That explains the title of my blog.  I’m listening to my conscience, and sometimes it tells me I should do the “wrong” thing.  I have to decide now whether to follow the church just because that’s what good Mormons do, or to do what my conscience says.  

Monday, January 6, 2014

What would I tell myself five years ago?

I came out to my best friend a week ago.  He comes from a Mormon cultural background, but didn’t grow up in the church.  He’s lived in Utah most of his life and married a very Mormon girl, so he understood my frustrations about not wanting to leave the church but wanting to be happy.  
After talking about how I should have realized things a lot sooner he asked “knowing what you know now, what would you tell yourself five years ago?”  I wasn’t sure how to answer that.

Five years ago I was finishing up my mission.  I was very much in denial about my sexuality, and took the lack of attraction I felt toward any of my companions as a sign that God had rewarded me for serving a mission and was finally making me straight.  I wouldn’t want to interrupt my mission with news like that.

Would I tell the 21-year-old, freshly returned missionary me?  Probably still no.  I learned a lot of things during the time between coming home and accepting that I’m gay.  I now have years of evidence to support that I will never be able to form a successful relationship, let alone marriage, with a woman.  A lot of the things I experienced were painful during that time, but I think I learned a lot of important life lessons from them.

Would I ever travel back in time and give myself a heads up?  I think I would.  I would wait until March 2013, right after the most painful dating disaster of my life.  That marked the turning point in my life that led to me coming to terms with things, and I really could have used some advice from future me.  Here’s what I would say to myself ten months ago:
 You’re right, life sucks right now, and it’s only going to get worse.  Dating girls just isn’t working out, and probably won’t ever work out.  It’s not because you have a major personality defect or some sort of social disorder.  It’s because you’re gay.   
   Remember how you’ve been burying those feelings since you were 12?  It turns out your worst fear is coming true.  And you know what?  It’s not the end of the world.  Yes, there are some very tough decisions you will have to make, but you don’t have to decide anything right away. 
 Pray about it.  Tell Heavenly Father that you’re gay and ask Him if He still loves you anyway.  Call up [one of your district leaders from the mission] and talk to him about it.  He’ll help you with this more than you could ever imagine, and you’ll be surprised at how well he understands what you’re going through.  
 Don’t jump into things right away.  Think about it first and then decide what you want to do and with whom.  You can avoid a lot of awkward and sketchy situations that way.  When you’re ready go on dates with guys.  You’ll be surprised at how natural it feels.   
 Yes, it’s clich├ęd, but it does get better.  It will be difficult, and you will want to just give up on life at times, but you get to make your own life according to the dictates of your conscience.  It’s a unique gift, so make of it what you can.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Another one?

Does the world really need another gay Mormon blog?  Probably not, but here's mine anyway.  I've been thinking inside a bubble for too long, and it gets lonely in here.

When I was first coming to terms with my sexuality I binged on every blog I could find about being Mormon and gay.  I still do sometimes.  I doubt I'll have a lot to say that hasn't already been said a thousand times, but reading blogs doesn't replace actual interaction with other people who understand this situation.

Anyway, here's my blog, in which I'll talk about living my life according to the dictates of my gay conscience.