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.