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.