Friday, April 29, 2011

The Challenge

Toby and I are trying to rebuild our friendship.  We had something of a falling out recently and we've both decided to alter some of our bad habits and try to be better friends for each other.

So yesterday, we went and grabbed some lunch.  We were acting normal again, joking and making fun and just being normal.  He's got a mouth, which I can usually handle except for the F-Bomb.  I hate it; it's the one word I don't say often and never in public, so I told him that I'd stop chewing with my mouth open (one of his pet peeves) if he stopped saying the F-word.  He agreed and after a few minutes of contemplative silence, he told me that he'd stop fooling around with other guys if I went on a mission.

Jaw, meet floor.

An online friend of mine and I were talking about same-gender attraction and what it is about certain people that attracts us.  I brought it up because I've been wondering what I'd do if I found a man with my same goals, if I'd be able to resist the desire to be with that person.  One of the things we agreed on is that faithfulness is an attractive quality.  And here was Toby, telling me that we should move forward in the Gospel by repenting and following the commandments.  He was submitting himself a little bit to the recommendations I'd judgmentally made for his life.

And that, paradoxically, made him so much more attractive to me.  I've referenced my safety net before, where I tend to like straight, faithful Mormon guys, but I've never had the experience of liking a gay, faithful Mormon boy. And ironically, dating a gay Mormon guy would put both of us in a life contrary to the teachings of the Church.  It's a weird little cycle I find myself in.

Anyway, I'm trying really hard not to take his challenge to me at face value.  I think I want to serve a mission and when I do, it won't be to get Toby to stop sleeping with men; it'll be for myself.  And if he wants to stop fooling around, his motivation will need to come from somewhere else besides me.  My mission's value is not dependent on his obedience, nor is his faithfulness contingent on my honorable service.

Still, it was nice to hear that he had a little desire to change on some level.

Acting According to the Dictates of God

I am in a religion class at school that deals extensively with "The Family: A Proclamation to the World."  The opening paragraph reads:

We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children.

Today we met with several other sections of the class for our first lecture of the semester.  It ran the gauntlet of lots of different topics, but opened with that statement given by President Hinckley regarding the family. That topic is hard for me to understand because I was not born with those inclinations towards marriage, and while I want a family, I know that my proclivities aren't conducive to procreation.  Family and marriage are still the end goals for me, but lately those goals have been clouded a bit by lots of confusing and frustrating events lately.

Another topic we covered which I'm afraid I might be taking too far is the concept that blind faith in leadership is not something the Church ascribes to.  President Brigham Young said, and I'm paraphrasing a little, that we cannot put all of our trust in our leaders and that the whisperings of the Spirit should tell us if our leaders are acting according to the dictates of God.  That is a concept I hold to dearly, but lately I have been getting this feeling that the Church is fallible, or at least incomplete, in regard to homosexuality.  My tendencies, which God has suffered that I be submitted to, are in complete opposition to the Church's standing on the subject of homosexuality.  I struggle with that because I didn't wake up one day and decide that I'd like to be with a man.  As long as I can remember, I have felt that attraction to my gender and I feel like it's a part of who I am and I shouldn't have to change it.  In that regard, same-gender attraction and a desire to live a homosexual lifestyle is my truth and reality and I feel like the talking heads in suits I see every six months don't really understand.  And that's where faith comes in and I'm afraid that right now, it's faith that I have a hard time accessing.

Confusingly, our next topic of discussion addressed that concern, although not completely satisfyingly.  Our individual personalities have always existed; in an almost-inconceivable eternity, our personal essence has always existed and was not created by God.  God provided the spirit body to house that essence, and then provided the physical body as we maintained our first estate, but He did not create us out of nothing.  Our intelligence is as eternal as God Himself.  Therefore, God created us not of His own imagination, but under a set of specific parameters our essence placed on him.  He did not create me to be gay.  He created me under a set of circumstances that might suggest I'd be gay in this life.  While that takes away some of the bitterness and anger I have towards Him for allowing me to suffer like this, I also wonder how He'll be able to change me later if/after I've endured.  And there's where more faith comes in.

The current plan of action is to build that faith and hope that some of those answers come, or at the very least, that the questions don't trouble me as much.  Phew.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Not-So-Straight Moment

Full disclosure, this is gonna be a really metro/gay post.  I'm not a big fashionista and I'm not super label-conscious, but I like to think that I've cultivated a very specific style for myself and I love shopping for clothes that fit that style.  I love clothes.  Love love love.

My loving and considerate mother outdid herself this year.  I got two packages from her yesterday which I only just picked up today, one for my birthday last week and one for Easter today.

For my birthday, she sent a pair of Lucky jeans. Over Spring Break, she gave me a shopping trip for my birthday since I needed some new clothes.  One day, she sent me to the mall and asked jocularly that I keep the tab below a grand, haha.  After $100 worth of new shoes, pants, and shirts, I came home a little dejected because I couldn't find any deals on Lucky jeans, which are my faves.  I used to have to wear them in high school because they were the only jeans that fit my lanky legs and I got spoiled, so now that I'm a bit fuller, the cheap jeans that fit don't cut the mustard.  But I just can't justify spending more than $40 on what is essentially a work garment.

In any case, my awesome mom sent out a pair of Luckys because she knows I like 'em.  I just hope she didn't spend retail for them, haha.

Sidenote:  I'd like Luckys a lot more if I was sexually active, haha.  Something about the "Lucky You" emblazoned on a patch inside the fly makes me really look forward to getting married and have the wife unzip those pants.

I guess this ended up being a pretty straight post after all...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Emotional vs. Sexual Attraction

Okay, so I've got this friend called Toby.  I've talked about him before a little.  He and I had a coming-out sesh together a few weeks ago and since then our friendship has been really weird.  For a few weeks, we held hands and cuddled together (thinking about his warm hands on my neck still makes me melt a little bit) and I had/have a crush on him for a bit.  My emotions tend to mirror my actions, so when I'm acting like someone who is emotionally attached, i.e., holding hands, cuddling, etc., I tend to get emotionally attached.  He acknowledged to me after a few weeks of our cuddling that he felt like he was leading me on and that he was attracted to me and thought I was cute, but wasn't interested in a relationship of any kind.

Then our friendship got even weirder, after a fight we had the night before Spring Break resulted in me feeling incredibly ambushed and violated (not by him so much as his friends and not sexually) and him feeling like I was judging him unfairly and hypocritically.  I see his point on that last part, but I'm not convinced he sees mine.  We talked before I left for home for the week and he apologized, as did I, and we decided to take the week off to see if we should be friends or what.  And then he went to Mexico and spent the week drunk on a beach, so I'm not convinced he did as much thinking as I did.

I kinda resent him for that a little bit.  I really want to know exactly WHY he's sorry for that night, as he said he was several times before I left on Spring Break, but he spent the week hammered and probably doesn't remember we even had a fight.

Regardless, my relationship with him has led me to a few conclusions.

One, I'm not looking for sex.  I don't want casual hookups or fooling around with men.  I am a sexual being and I'm sure I would love having sex from a purely physical-pleasure standpoint, but sex without love wouldn't be worth the sacrifices I'd have to make on the family, school, and church front.  At my core, I think (hope?) I'd be honest enough to withdraw from the BYU sisterhood of schools and accept disfellowship from the Church if I were sexually active with a man, and those consequences don't seem worth the pleasure that sex might bring.

Therefore, my relationship with Toby is going nowhere.  I know I'm strong enough in my testimony to keep him off me even if he ever became that predatory.  And while I know that holding hands and cuddling with men is a poor decision, I also know that with him, I can draw the line.  For heaven's sake, we've never even kissed.  His motivation is sexual and mine is emotional, and if he can't satisfy those emotional needs, he's not worth leaving the Church and foregoing some of the blessings that it brings.

The second conclusion is really more of a confusion.  I know I'm not looking for sex, but in my weak moments of fantasy, I see Toby and myself with a life together.  As I've said, I'm a little hung up on him right now and he gets to star in my dreams a little bit more than I like.  I see him and me living together in a committed and loving relationship and it scares me for how much I want that.  I'm giving up hope on his being a part of that life I want, but it gets me thinking about what if I find someone who has some of those same goals?  Someone who isn't interested just in sex but in commitment and love?  What then?

My therapist Max once told me that someday I would meet someone who reciprocated my attraction.  She said that not as a reassurance, but as a warning.  We had been talking about how even though same-gender attraction gets me down and used to charge my pornography consumption, it probably wouldn't ever lead to anything dicey because most of my crushes were straight males I knew and was friends with.  I knew that even if I was exceptionally weak and wanted to break some of the rules, I'd still have the safety net of the object of my affection not being attracted to me.

That's when she warned me that my lifeline wasn't enough, because someday I'd meet someone who liked me as much as I liked them and that then the decision would be mine and mine alone.  She said that I'd need to pick a side, because even though repentance is always an option, it's rarely an easy one, and I'd need to know fairly certainly what I'd be willing to give up to have either emotional fulfillment or faith in the truthfulness of the Church.  She said that I'd have to be sure that the Church was either true or incomplete for either life decision to make sense.

That's where I have trouble.  I'm nervous for what might happen when I meet that someone who has those same goals.  I've said that sex isn't enough to get me to leave the Church, but what about emotional intimacy and attraction?  Do I love the Church enough and have sufficient faith in its teachings to give up that higher relationship goal I have?

Thank goodness it's just a worry for now.  I'm glad I don't have to make that decision right away and I should probably stop concerning myself with it since it hasn't actually happened yet.  But, for the life of me, I have no idea how I'll react if it does.

How should I reconcile that desire for emotional satisfaction with my faith in God and His Gospel?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

saved by grace

Yesterday, I was sitting in my apartment when two kids knocked on my door.  They introduced themselves as students from a Christian high school in Virginia who were learning about the LDS church in one of their classes.  The school organized a field trip for them and their classmates to come to a place with lots of Mormons so they could learn more.  They were really cool kids and very respectful and I loved chatting with them.  They invited me to their worship service that night, which I attended, and we went out to dinner afterwards and talked some good story.  

One of the things we talked about in our conversation at my house was salvation through works vs. salvation through grace.  Their point that they eloquently made was that our works come as we show gratitude to God for His mercy, but it's not essential for our salvation.  I agree with the first part of their statement, because our obedience should be a function of our love for God and desire to serve Him, not our expectation of salvation or blessings.  

We talked a little about that and I brought up a scripture in 2 Nephi 25:23. where it reads, "For we labor diligently to write,  to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled with God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do" (emphasis added).  Without confrontation, they heard what I had to say and showed a genuine interest and curiosity in why the LDS church believes such.


What I hope they took away from our conversation (and I wish I had remembered to pray before we talked) is that Mormons believe in salvation by grace as well.  None of us is perfect or powerful enough to satisfy the demands of justice that are placed on all of us when we fall.  My amazing Institute teacher back home put it in informal language when he envisioned Jesus speaking with Heavenly Father on our behalf: "Don't look at GMP.  Look at me.  GMP has satisfied the requirements I placed on him, now look at MY perfection to judge him."  

They were good kids.  I'd love to see what happens to them in the future.  I met their friends at the worship service that night and when I asked what the group what they wanted to be when they grew up, their answers were varied except in one aspect: all of them thought and pondered about where their talents and interests could serve God in His kingdom?  What kind of high schoolers think about how their dream jobs will help build the Kingdom?  How awesome they will be if that continues to be their motivation.

I wish I was that kind of a spiritual rock star in high school.  I will probably never see them again in this realm, but if they endure and I endure, I can't wait to meet them on the other side and ask what they did to serve.

Old Journal Entry-II

Goal for this semester? Write a blog post entirely in Spanish. I bypassed the first year classes and start my Spanish 201 class tomorrow. Haven't taken a language class in five years and I'm pretty freakin' terrified about it, haha.

Here's another old journal entry from awhile back. I wrote this journal for a class and turned it in for the teacher to grade. I'm glad she read it. She offered a lot of interesting insights and called me candid, raw, and warm, which might be the greatest set of attributes ever ascribed to me.

If you haven't already picked up on it, I'm pretty damn emotional. Like, overly emotional and self-absorbed. And way into my problems. But this entry kinda explains why that is and how it's still beneficial for me and my spiritual growth.
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01/20/11

I’ve had an epiphany with this entry. Being in pain doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. Pain necessarily is a part of life and refusing to acknowledge it isn’t something that works for me. What I need to do, then, is take the edge off of the pain by seeing it for what it is, then seeing how the Lord is taking me through it. I will still feel that pain and envy towards those who seem to have it easier, but knowing that I can acknowledge my pain to the Lord and to those close to me will be a great blessing.

Sometimes, I get the feeling that I should just shut up about all my problems and start being more grateful for the gifts I’ve been given. I feel like I should have more faith to know that this too shall pass, come what may and love it, and all that. People say that all the time, but do you know how those sayings make me feel? In the words of a good friend, they “trivialize the pain.” And being in pain doesn’t make me less grateful for my car, my money, my schooling, my family, my job, etc. It just means I’m in pain.
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See? Way hung up on pain I have been this semester. But the growth comes when I acknowledge the pain, mourn a little, ask Heavenly Father what to do with it, and put it in the perspective of the parts of His plan that I understand. It's not a perfect system and eventually I'd like to cut the mourning part out of the cycle, but until that happens, I'm gonna keep trying to put things in perspective the way I know how.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Old Journal Entry

This journal entry is from March 24, 2011.  I wrote these words after my school choir participated as the angelic choir in Savior of the World.  


In the way of backstory, my friend Toby had just come out to me a few days earlier, which inspired me to return the favor, I suppose.  Our relationship became very complicated after that, with him and I now battling constant temptation to yield to our attractions.  That complication continues to this day, which is why I felt like I needed to repost some of these old journal entries.
___________________________________________________

Additionally, tonight was rehearsal for Savior of the World. There are certain hymns (and I will call them that) that pierce my soul. The lines inviting Jesus to “come in glory to the earth” and “come to us to rule and reign” send shivers and chills down my body and the humble beseeching of Mary Magdalene and jubilant Alleluias of Mother Mary bring tears of humble joy to my eyes.

There is a line that Mary Magdalene sings of angels admonishing her to “Fear not, Christ is risen this day.” She continues by asking why she mourned after his death, knowing full well that his prophecy of his resurrection would come to pass. It got me thinking. After Jesus died, the earth went through literal hell. The Spirit of the Lord had withdrawn from the world and tumult shook the very foundations of the planet. His absence brought tears, loneliness, and death. And yet, for Mary Magdalene, that Sunday morning washed her fears and concerns away.

Each of us goes through our three days of hell eventually, and often at more than one time in our lives. But Mary Magdalene’s fears were alleviated when she heard her name followed by, “Fear not.”

Right now, I am going through my three days of hell. I am so tempted by Toby, and yet I feel such a love for the Savior. I feel intense loneliness and sorrow in the throes of my trial, and yet, I know that the Lord will bring me through it. I struggle daily with the wish to feel loved, but the Lord fills me with enough light to see through the shadows in my heart. My three days will be punctuated with the phrase, “Fear not, my beloved.”

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mommy Dearest

Tonight, my parents and some of our family friends and I went to see The Adjustment Bureau, which for a guy in my situation was a mistake.  A movie about true love rising above all odds and altering the plans that the almighty Chairman lays out has the capability to produce pretty revolutionary thoughts in a confused Mormon kid's head.  Luckily for me it wasn't a very good movie, so I can't take its message too seriously.

As we piled into the Suburban, we naturally started talking about the movie.  My parents were up front, their friends were in the middle seat, and their friends' daughter, Kay, who is a very good friend of mine, sat in the back seat with me.  Somehow, Kay's mother drew some kind of parallel between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt's characters with Bill and Hilary Clinton, which launched the car into a political division, in which I became a distinct minority of one.

The debate was what made Clinton a good president.  I brought up the work he did for Chinese-American relations, the economic boom the country experienced during his presidency, some of the good social programs he initiated, etc.  My mom, who is an outspoken and vibrant Clinton-basher, said that he was as despicable a president as John F. Kennedy.  We asked why she felt like Kennedy was such a terrible president, even amid the inspiring, ground-breaking, and positive contributions he'd made to the country and the world at large.  Her answer cut me as deep as I've ever been cut in my life.

"For me, I am incapable of looking past those kinds of unrighteous actions to see a person's good qualities."

I only recently told my mom that I'm gay.  She was a champion in that conversation, full of support and encouragement.  She spoke of her  faith that I could serve a mission and that I could do a lot of good in the Church.  She said that my problems with pornography and masturbation could become things of the past and I could have as much strength as I needed to overcome those challenges.  And she also said that she knows that the Lord works miracles every day and that someday, he might release me from this burden of same-gender attraction.

A few days ago I told her about the UP with whom I had dinner at the end of the semester.  I let her in regarding my feelings about Toby and how attracted I was to him.  I reassured her constantly that I'm still worthy and I'm still working towards serving a mission, but I wanted to let her know how hard it has been for me this semester.  I'm trying to let people into my world and I want her to feel like I'm making an effort to keep her in my circle of trust.

That effort seemed to be for nothing tonight.  I know my mom didn't mean that my unrighteous desires negate my positive attributes, but that's how it felt a little bit.  I'm sure she didn't even think of how what she said would affect me, but it doesn't change the fact that she said it.

I am a good person.  I care for other people, I donate lots and lots of time to my friends, I bear other people up, I pick up litter, I include others in my social groups and activities, and I'm honest in my dealings with others.  And yet, I feel like none of that would matter to my mom if I decided to go gay.

I wonder a little bit if she didn't say what she did to scare me "straight."  In my mind, maybe she wanted to send me a message that such deplorable behavior as homosexuality would doom me, no matter how honorable I was the rest of the time.  I mostly believe that it was just insensitivity and a poor brain-mouth filter that made her say what she said, but as Freud postulated, nothing we say is accidental.

I love my mom and I know that she loves me, but the way she acted tonight makes it obvious that she's a long way from really understanding the roads that some of God's children are called to walk. For now, faith in the Atonement will have to be all the support I should expect from her.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Straight Talk

Lately, I've been having lots of strange and random conversations about same-gender attraction with people who don't know that I'm gay and it's been interesting talking about it from the role of a straight man.  Tonight, Chris, a new friend of mine, and I were talking on Facebook about homosexuality a little bit.  He and I met when a mutual friend gave him my phone number since we were both 21 and hadn't served missions.  He wanted to know other people in his situation; he's had trouble with over-zealous and judgmental members of the Church being rude and accusatory towards him.  His willingness to be set up on a blind friend-date was kind of off-putting to me at first, but he's a good guy and I like talking to him.  We've only actually met once, but we get along well in person, too.  I'm not attracted to him at all, but I like him as a friend.

In any case, his gregariousness in being introduced to a total stranger had my gaydar blipping a little bit, but after tonight's conversation, it's pinging like I'm in West Hollywood.  We talked a lot about how difficult it must be for gay members of the Church.  Somehow we got on the subject of gay members at the school we attend.  He said that for the first time, he didn't know any people at the university who struggled with SGA.  He used to attend one of the other BYUs and he said he knew of a huge network of men there who struggled.  We got talking about the risks and merits of having such a system in life (speaking hypothetically, of course).

My point was that I, as a straight man, have a hard enough time keeping things appropriate with girls, where there is a physical outlet in the vein of kissing, hugging, and holding hands.  If, however, I were gay, there wouldn't be any socially acceptable activity to show my affections for men and that pent-up need, combined with the temptation, might be too much for me to handle if I knew of other men who were gay.

This of course was speaking from experience.  I have a friend named Toby and we mutually know the other is gay, and for us, it's very difficult to keep things appropriate.  We like holding hands when we drive in the car and we've gotten into a little trouble with cuddling together and random kisses on the cheek.  It's difficult to back down from those activities and keep them from going further than they already have.  Having a network wider than the one person I already know is gay would be torture for me.

Chris' point, I suspect also coming from experience, was that living a lie is exhausting (I agree) and that you need to have people that really understand you.  That's the alluring part about my relationship with Toby.  He gets me to a certain extent, and I really love that.  We don't see eye to eye on many things, including things of a religious nature, but neither of us are out in the public eye and both of us are struggling to reconcile a testimony with a tempting lifestyle choice.  Chris brought up a friend of his who decided that a life in the Gospel wasn't worth giving up who he really was and giving up his happiness in this life.  I have to say, I respect that viewpoint, but I think it comes from misinformation, or at the very least, a different perspective from mine.

My perspective is that while I am gay and I really want to be happy and fulfilled romantically in this life, I also have an equally persuasive side of me that tells me that a mission is the only way forward and building a relationship with Jesus Christ in His restored gospel is another vital key to happiness.  For me, the two parts of me are at odds with each other and I don't want to give either one up, even though I will have to eventually.

That's why Chris' friend's solution isn't an acceptable one for me.  I'm too rooted in the Gospel to believe that leaving it would make me happy; yet, I understand why his friend thinks that it would.  I'm similarly too rooted in my same-gender attractions to believe that fully giving them up would be a good choice for my earthly happiness.  As I said earlier today, I need to develop the eternal perspective to know that my joy in this life should come secondary to my happiness in the eternities.

Another topic Chris and I talked about was the lesson that gay people are supposed to learn from their trials.  I'm dying to know what this struggle of SGA is preparing them (us) for.  I'd love to get a glimpse of that knowledge, but as Chris said, "Someday, you'll get to find out why."  That someday isn't today and I shouldn't let that make me bitter.  Chris also mused on the judgment that gay people, both practicing and latent, will receive in the end.  My friend Toby has been abused and lived a gay lifestyle before joining the church, so I have to believe there will be a lot of lenience in his case, but for me, I don't know.  I've grown up in the Church and unless I'm repressing a memory, I never was called upon to bear the burden of sexual abuse.  How much tolerance can I expect?  Then again, the scriptures say that no matter who you are, you're never to be tested above your ability (1 Corinthians 10:13), so I suppose none of us can expect to see tolerance or a slap on the wrist when it comes down to judgment.

It was interesting seeing all of these things from the viewpoint of a straight guy (if Chris actually believes I'm straight).  And he's either as gay as a Maypole or the most understanding straight guy in the Church.  I hope it's the latter; I don't want him to have to walk such a complicated and confusing road.

Afterthought:  Even though it's strange and confusing, life is still good.  Today I went with a good friend from high school to dinner.  My friend looked amazing, it was a warm, sunny day, and we were driving in my mom's Mustang convertible, so how bad could life really be?  Beautiful girl, beautiful weather, beautiful car.  Good day in my book.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Last Night's Reading

After finishing the blog post last night, I sat down to read In Quiet Desperation.  I'm muddling my way through, but every time I start reading, I fall asleep!  It's a really slow process and it doesn't seem to matter what time of day it is, haha.  Ah well, there are worse things to complain about.

In any case, I struggled my way through the chapter entitled "A God of Miracles" and came across a pretty great scripture reference, found in Mosiah 24:15.  In my scriptures, I highlighted the part that reads "... the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease..."  Through His strengthening, the people of Alma "did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord."  Already I know that I need more patience and I need to submit more cheerfully to the Lord's will for me, but it was the portion of the verse on strengthening that hit me the hardest and spoke most clearly of truth for me.

I've said before that it oftentimes feels like the hardest day of my life, and yet I always make it through.  The Lord never leaves me completely alone.  That knowledge makes the next "hardest day of my life" seem a little easier, because I know that I'll make it through with the Lord's help that day as well.  Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have a pretty good track record for keeping their children safe and taken care of.  Looking back, I can't find a single example of a time when something didn't work out okay in the end.  Somehow, it always does.

The second part of the verse is where I need the most help.  I know the will of the Lord in my life and right now, that will is to be saddled with same-gender attraction.  His will is for me to have to manage my same-gender relationships carefully and to keep friendships within the bounds of propriety.  He wants me to learn to bridle my passions.  It's also His will for me to learn to serve in his kingdom and help His children anywhere I can.  I'm aware of these intentions he has for me.  What I have the most trouble with is forgetting my own wants and submitting myself to His.

Each day, I know I should break ties with friends who drag me down, but those friendships are so fun for me and they fulfill some of those wants I have, and so I just can't bring myself to cutting them off.  I know that there are certain men and women I shouldn't be around because they make it harder for me to maintain an eternal perspective, but those men and women say things I want to hear, so I keep going back for more.  The trick isn't learning the will of the Father, it's submitting yourself to it.

I think the process that's hardest for me is just that.  I don't need to learn His will for me, I need to cheerfully and patiently wait on the Lord and rely on that knowledge that I have that He will strengthen me and that someday, all of those wants for affection and love will be met with someone whom the Lord sees fit.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lonely Night

I am generally a pretty happy guy, but like everyone else, I have my days.  Today was one of those days when I felt like my body was heavier than my skinny little muscles could bear.  It started off well enough.  I fell asleep on the sofa last night and woke up to a screaming baby second cousin and three teeny bopper girlies rampaging around at 7 am, but times like those I actually enjoy.  I could hear my grandma, aunts and uncle, who are visiting for the week, chuckling to themselves about my goofy sleep habits because I rarely sleep in my bed (I am occasionally so lazy when I get in at night that I can't handle the stairs to my bedroom.  Sometimes I try to climb them but give up halfway and spend the night on the staircase.)  I woke up to my visiting family eating breakfast and I felt genuinely happy to be around so many loud, loving people.

But sometime during the day, some wire got crossed and I got depressed.  Today, I had a meeting with my therapist, a great woman called Max* who I haven't seen since I left for school.  She truly is the friend I pay.  I know she cares about me and she's done some selfless pro-bono work when I was unemployed, giving me sessions for free.  She occasionally calls and checks in while I'm at college, just to be sure everything's okay on my end.

Anyway, we made an appointment to meet today just to catch up and talk about the things I'd called her about a few weeks ago.  It's something I really shouldn't blog about, since it's not really my story to tell, but I had called her that day because an opportunity opened up that might allow me to have a relationship with another man.  I was so conflicted between my feelings for him and my testimony.  As our friendship stood, he wasn't worth risking my future in the Church and my desire to serve the Lord, but I acknowledged that our relationship might deepen later and then I don't know how I'd react.  She offered some great interim advice and we made an appointment to meet today.

Since that phone conversation, I've been put into contact with more gay men than I could shake a dick stick at.  I had dinner with one such, before I found out he was gay, a few nights before I came home for Spring Break.  The entire dinner, he was on the offensive, psychoanalyzing my behavior and conversation topics.  He interpreted every action and every discussion up to the nth degree and as much as I hate to admit it, he was right on many counts.  I don't necessarily chalk that up to his skill as a psychologist, as any dinner with a stranger is bound to be filled with discretionary limited disclosure, but the way he attacked my defense made me feel like I was his prey.  Only later did I find out that he was gay and I'm 99% sure he somehow knew I was as well.  Complicating things even further, this craptastic dinner directly led to a fight that night with a friend that left me feeling betrayed and led on.  Yay for the end of Winter term.

As I related the details of the story to Max, she became incensed.  I told her about how I started turning the conversation on the unprofessional psychologist (UP), a fact that I'm pretty dang proud of, and she cheered.  Literally, in her quiet office with therapeutic music, she cheered in her seat.  She said that she is fairly certain that the UP had somehow picked up that I was gay and was saying everything about my defensiveness in a ploy to get me to admit it, leaving me in a compromising position and giving him the opportunity to take advantage of me.  I don't quite know if I believe that, but the possibility is there and it is feasible.

Our conversation also led to a discussion of my progress towards developing feelings for women.  Max and I fairly strongly feel that reorientation therapy is bunk, but that reorientation and intimacy can come from the concerted efforts of the mind combined with the power of the Atonement.  I told her that I had little news to report in that area.  I'm not sure how I feel about my prospect as a future husband and father.  I've had hope in the past, but it's been dwindling as of late.  I left her office feeling clarified a little, but the reality of my situation was once again at the forefront.  I am scared I'll have to choose between a life of loneliness or a life I know I can't believe is right.  I don't want to live the next 80 years of my life alone and I even less want to live the next eternity in regret.  As of now, my only hope is building that mystic relationship with Christ, the relationship that fills all needs and fulfills all righteousness.  But even that is a relationship I'm somewhat skeptical of.

So I get home from my appointment to the aforementioned teeny bopper and baby cousins.  The adults had all gone out shopping and errand-running, so it was just me and the girls.  The older kids were content with playing the Kinect, so the baby and I went into the back yard.  I took a seat on the porch swing and watched her play in the yard.  My mind wandered back to the conversation I had with Max and my heart sank.

Before it could get too low, however, I was interrupted with a call from my brother informing me that he and his wife were separating.  My brother never talks to me about anything more serious than fixed-gear cycling and which level to play on Halo, so this conversation was at once a breakthrough and another source of depression.  I played the supportive role well; I didn't want this to be the last time he confided in me.  Still, I couldn't help but feel like they were giving up too soon.  They wanted to end it on amicable terms, which I admire, but part of me thinks that if you're not screaming and verbally abusive, there's still hope for improvement.  Another part of me thinks that he's throwing away a good life.  I also think that he presented some compelling support for their decision.  And I also think that he's wasting his heterosexuality and I resent him a little for it.  And him talking to me, while I love it and am grateful he felt like he could confide in me, only added to the burdens I've already been feeling today.

Phew.  It's been a lonely day and I find myself doubting love more and more the longer I stay awake.  I guess I know a good remedy: now the only decision I have to make is couch or bed?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"In Quiet Desperation"

I was killing time at Deseret Book the other day.  I had been flipping through some of the books on love languages when another book nearby caught my eye, called In Quiet Desperation.  Ironically, it grabbed my attention because there was an attractive man on the cover.  I picked it up and read some of the cover material and the blurb on the back.  To my horror and embarrassment, it was about the struggle of same-gender attraction among Church members.  I quickly put it back before anyone could see that I picked it up, fearful that one of my neighbors or friends might walk by.

But a few minutes later, I stole over to the bookcase again, grabbed it quickly, and found a corner of the store to start reading.  I read almost half the book that day before I got feeling guilty for not buying the book and I decided to leave.  I went home, bought it through the anonymity of Amazon.com, and waited for it to arrive.  After a few days, I gave the book to a friend who I knew needed it, so I ended up buying a copy from Deseret Book anyway, so I don't feel too bad about reading it there, haha.

In Quiet Desperation is told in two parts.  The first is written by Fred and Marilyn Matis, parents of Stuart Matis who since his death in 2000 has become a poster boy for California's pro-gay rights group.  In their section of the book, Stuart's parents talk about how their son's suicide was not a political statement about homosexuality; instead it was a plea that Mormons strive to understand and reach out to members of the Church and community who struggle or succumb to same-gender attraction.  Their section of the book is touching and powerful, and many of the emotions they attribute to Stuart I have felt very personally as well.

I'm still working on Part II, written by Ty Mansfield.  In this section, he describes his own struggle with same-gender attraction and the road he has walked because of it.  Again, many of his feelings and questions square away with my own.

One of the things I really love about the book so far is the peace and calm that Brother and Sister Matis and Brother Mansfield express.  Sister Matis writes poignantly of an experience she and her husband had in the temple just a few days before her son's suicide: "When we were together in the celestial room, Fred drew me into a quiet corner where we could be alone.  He described what had happened. We held hands, said a prayer together, and turned Stuart over to Heavenly Father."  What a blessing to their family that just days before Stuart's death, the Lord was with them and prepared them for what was to come...

This is a wonderful book.  The strength and faith it has given me so far has been wonderful.  I've wept while reading it (which is a fun phenomenon to explain to your roommates) and it has brought me to my knees in prayers of supplication and hope.  Even some of the discussion about suicide is clarifying; although suicide has never been an option for me, it's affirming to see how Stuart's family reconciles it with the teachings of the Church.  It reminds me of the catharsis I and many others seek with same-gender attraction.

I've thought about buying copies for my parents and siblings and I'd like my mom to read it in her book club sometime.  It's a book I recommend with no reservations to anyone, as I think that everyone could benefit from the expressions of faith it conveys, as well as the understanding about the struggle that it furthers.

About Me

As has been said, I'm GMP. Since age is variable, I'll just say I was born in 1989 and let y'all do the math. I am currently a student, but that might change someday too, I hope. I'm a faithful, worthy member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and am proud to be a Mormon, at least most of the time. Currently, I am trying to get out on a mission, a milestone that seemed unachievable at times but lately has come within my view and now feels closer than ever. I love cars with a passion that shouldn't be bestowed on objects; it's sad, but my best love letters and poetry are directed at some of the cars I've owned. Currently, I'm a BMW man, the older the better.

I also have the fun distinction of being gay. I'm not going to call it an affliction or a suffering, although at times it feels like it is. I've never acted out sexually with another man (or woman, for that matter), but my drive definitely lies within my gender. I first became cognizant that I was gay when I was 11 or 12, but looking back, I know that my attraction to men started before I can even remember. I was much more attracted in a humanistic sense to the guys in my classes, but it wasn't until I hit puberty and those attractions became sexualized a little that I understood who I was in that aspect.

I went through most of high school without anyone knowing, at least not officially from me, that I had same-gender attraction. Rumors occasionally spread about me and a few of my guy friends, and one of my best friends with whom I had a falling-out did all he could to convince the school that I was in fact gay, but no one ever received confirmation from me.

In high school, I also was introduced to pornography and masturbation, which only brought on guilt and paranoia that further isolated me from my friends and family. It wasn't until I got into college that I felt the need to let people into my circle. I told my sister first. She was exceptionally supportive and has ever since been a great source of perspective and faith. In that initial conversation, she encouraged me to see my bishop about my worthiness issues and to be completely honest with him about the nature of the pornography I consumed.

That conversation with my loving bishop started the journey towards mastering and commandeering the decisions I made. I have been blessed ever since with kind, compassionate, and loving bishops who have helped me. I still struggled with pornography for another two years after that, but every time I had a relapse, coming back to church and maintaining the proper perspective became so much easier as my successive bishops and I talked about the Atonement. Suddenly, it wasn't me against them, it was me, my bishop, and Jesus Christ against them.

After a few years, I decided it was time to tell my parents about my proclivities. Ever since I became aware of what made me me, I was terrified to let my parents in on it. I saw my mother when her children sinned; she took everything so personally and assumed it was her failure. Her sadness in our sin wasn't an attempt to guilt us. It was more of a pathetic, ignorant impeachment on herself. That sounds harsh to say, as she is and always has been an empathetic, supportive mother, but oftentimes it seemed like she was trying to make her struggles more important than ours. In any case, I was driving to work one day when I decided that I would tell her. My mind turned from hoping never to tell her to knowing that she needed to know in about five minutes. The suddenness of the turnaround is what really convinced me to do it. I knew that the change of mind was really a change of heart.

After work, I called her and asked for an hour of her time. After I asked her to recognize that she had no hand in this and it wasn't a decision anyone made, I dropped what is now known as "the bomb" among my sister, mother, and trusted friends. She was as supportive as I now know I should have expected, but one comment she made scared and angered the hell out of me for a second. She told me about how she's always had inklings about her children and the struggles they'd one day face. She said that she first thought I might grow up to be gay when I was 7 years old and got in trouble for giving a hug to another boy on the playground. For whatever reason, I was infuriated that she would sexualize my 7-year-old self and interpret my affection as something immoral. I was also upset that she never warned me or brought up the subject, especially after such depressing rumors were spread about me in high school.

However, and by the grace of God, those feelings quickly passed and we were able to talk frankly and openly about the prospect of a mission, my previous problems with pornography, and marriage and family issues I'd have to face in the future. Since that conversation almost a year ago, we haven't brought up the subject once, except when she casually and supportively asks about my mission progress. I'm glad she doesn't bring it up, because I know she doesn't understand it; still, I'm glad she knows and I know she prays for me and seeks learning on the subject and that moral support is invaluable.

Life is a horrifying, awful, enlightening, strengthening, and awesome experience. The ways in which I've grown have been so poignant. Daily, I feel like I'm on the end of my chain, and yet, the chain never breaks. I often feel like I'm treading the mirror's edge, but if I fall, I know there'll be Someone to pick me up.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Gay Mormon Pioneer

You can call me GMP.  I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormon or LDS Church.  I was born into and raised in a loving LDS family and have gone to church almost every Sunday of my life.  I had a happy childhood with my older brothers and sister and I get along very well with my parents most of the time.  Currently, I am a communication student at one of the LDS colleges.  I am living a fairly typical life for a faithful LDS guy of my age.

There is one qualifying difference, however, between my life and the lives of many other LDS men.  I am, in simplest terms, gay.  However, I don't love the oversimplification that the term "gay" suggests.  Perhaps a more fitting term would be "same-gender attracted," because the sexual connotation of the word "gay" doesn't apply to me, for I've never acted on a sexual inclination with another person.  Still, "same-gender attracted" is a mouthful, so I'll stick with "gay" when referring to myself and within the title of this blog.

Same-gender attraction is a heretofore relatively unexplored issue within the LDS Church, in spite of its surprising prevalence among men and women of my generation and the generations preceding and following.  In June 1930, an ancestor of mine said this in a letter to his posterity:


You, my children, are living in a new age, but you, too, will have your frontiers to explore, your divides to cross, your own deserts to subdue. Most important of all, you will have home and state problems to solve that will challenge the pioneer blood that runs in your veins. Trust in the Lord, be true to yourselves and all will be well with you.

-David King Udall, 1851-1938

My father wrote those words to me in a letter one day and ever since reading them, I haven't been able to shake the feeling that same-gender attraction is one of those frontiers I will explore and that intolerance among members of the LDS Church is one of those deserts I will subdue.  That "pioneer blood" in me is what has prepared me for this unique struggle of reconciling a faithful Mormon life with a proclivity towards a lifestyle not endorsed or permitted within the LDS Church.  It's that pioneer blood that compels me to take this journey.

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