Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Coming Out: A Family Affair

An email I recently sent to all my siblings:

My dearest family,

This email has been a long time coming. I've felt strongly prompted to write this out for a while now. 

I apologize in advance Lyn for writing this right before your wedding, I don't want this to take the focus off of you. It just felt like an appropriate time since it's the first time all six of have been together since Ashtyn's wedding. With the trials our whole family has gone through, I can't help but feel the necessity to be honest and genuine with my siblings especially with the limited time that we get to see each other, plus how fragile we have come to find life is over the past couple of years.

I'm gay, which Ashtyn and Benjamin I'm sure have already figured out a long time ago. Some people call it same sex attracted, same gender attracted, etc. A lot of people including Mom don't like to call it gay because it makes it sound like one is actively pursuing the lifestyle. To me it all means the same thing. I like men. So I say gay because it's easier and to me doesn't make it sound like I have some disease or disorder, or like I'm ashamed of that part of me. I'm not, though I used to be. 

How did I end up this way? That's debatable and highly controversial with a lot of people. Mental illness is a common thread with guys that have SSA tendencies. Another common thread is daddy issues which we are all aware of. My therapist knows that dad is a good father but he said between him and I, that "your father kind of screwed you up". I'm way past the blame game in this whole thing. I don't blame dad for anything in my life and haven't since I was 18. He's taught me how to give and how to work hard, which I'm really grateful for. 

When mom told dad about me, the very first thing he said was "I hope I didn't contribute to this." He immediately felt guilt, which honestly made me emotional. It's not his fault, it's not anyone's fault. 

No matter how complicated and crazy our lives were growing up, mom made sure we always had family nights, family prayers and scripture study. We attended church every Sunday as well as mutual during the week.

Growing up in the Church, I always did what was expected of me. I fulfilled my priesthood duties and priesthood callings. I served in leadership positions and continued to stay proactive and involved with the church as I grew.

Academically, I was a straight A student. I was involved in music, sports, and leadership.

I worked part time during school and had a group of friends that I would go out to lunch with and hang out with on the weekends.

On the outside my life seemed fairly ideal, but inside there was this inner struggle that tore me apart constantly. I found myself attracted to other men. I had this desire to be close with them and intimate in the way most other men feel about women.

Most of my adolescence I would tell myself that these feelings would go away as I progressed in the Gospel. I continued on my journey through the church, and with each ordination, calling, experience, I waited for the feelings to disappear.

Do y'all remember Suzanne? My first girlfriend, my first kiss. I told her I loved her; we talked about the future and our dreams. We even planned to get married. Deep inside, I felt a part of me was lying to her because I felt I didn’t love her with my whole heart. We would kiss and I would feel awkward and unfulfilled. 

It wasn't until my first semester up at school when I was studying the Proclamation on The Family for my religion class that I truly figured out what was up with me. I decided to read a book entitled "In Quiet Desperation" by Ty Mansfield in order to "better understand" homosexuality and being mormon. Upon completion of the book, I realized: I was gay. 

This was June 2011. Mom figured it out and told dad around this time. We had a confrontation (over the phone) and some words were exchanged that weren't exactly christlike. I had an emotional breakdown. I spent most days crying and feeling detached from the world. I felt I had no future. I felt I was an abomination in the eyes of God. I felt unloved, I wanted to kill myself. 

How could God have done this to me? I had served a mission worthily, I had received the priesthood and gone through the temple? Shouldn't that mean a girl would just walk I into my life and we would get married, have 6 kids, and live happily ever after? 

I spent many restless nights tossing and turning, feeling at a loss of what to do. I felt like a sinner because I had this attraction. Largely because terms such as "gay" and "fag" are so loosely tossed around as negative connotations in the Church and even in our family. The Church is perfect but the people in it are not. And there have been some many ignorant and hurtful things said by people in the church about gay people that are not true.

My boss last semester after DOMA was overthrown said "Gays aren't allowed to go to the temple, and even if they are they shouldn't want to because if what they are doing." I asked her if she was talking about those actively living the lifestyle of people in the Church who were active but experienced it. Her response "There's no difference." I wanted to punch her in the face. How dare she insinuate my trial was too great for the Savior's atonement? How dare she imply my eternal worth was not enough for the temple? 

Despite what misinformed people may say the Church firmly believes that same-gender attraction (involving no action) is a personal struggle and not a sin, while homosexuality (which requires action), is a sin. Faithful and worthy members of the Church who do not act on their struggle with same-gender attraction can still have a calling in the Church, hold the priesthood (if they are a male), and go to the temple

I recall the words from Elder Holland’s talk on Missionary Work and the Atonement. “You will have occasion to ask those questions. I have thought about this a great deal. I offer this as my personal feeling. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary”. I would like to take Elder Holland’s words and apply them not only to same gender attraction, but also to any trial that we experience in this life. It is necessary for us to experience trials and temptations in this life. Our Heavenly Father wants us to be like him, and in order for that to happen, we need experience what he did. Trials, suffering, temptations are necessary for eternal progression.

The first step I took was joining a support group for men that deal with same gender attraction that upheld Church values and beliefs. This allowed me to meet other men who like myself had this attraction but were determined to live in harmony with the Church. It also gave me the opportunity to voice my struggles and receive support without judgment.

The support group acted as a double-edged sword. For me it seemed that the more I tried to live the Gospel, the more Satan attempted to force me off the path. He would tempt me to act out on my attractions (something I had never done at that point) given me false reasons and excuses such as ‘you will never get married anyways’ or ‘you will be alone forever”.

I've made the mistake of acting out on some of my attractions. I felt awful. I was not happy. I was miserable and felt like I was worthless.

I decided it was time to get professional help. I decided to speak privately with my Bishop. I was going to inform him of my attraction and confessed how I had acted out on some of my attractions. I had never been so scared to talk to someone before in my life. I feared my Bishop would look at me in disgust and would not understand.

To my complete surprise, my Bishop did not only understand, but poured out his heart to me. He wanted to help me. He told me some very important things. Things that Satan tries to make me forget. I am first and foremost a Son of God. That is my divine worth. That does not change. No matter what choices I make. Being gay had allowed my relationship with Christ and my Heavenly Father to become tangible and real. My love and appreciation for the atonement has grown, as well as my ability to express charity to those around me and the trials they go through. Being gay makes me more sensitive to things, and emotional, I can relate to things where most other guys can't. Who cares if I like Britney Spears and Taylor Swift? Who cares that I like clothes and  taking good care of myself. Who cares if I don't like sports? This is not what my worth is built upon. 

“Over and over again, the Lord assures us of our worth and value to him. In D&C 18:10–11, he admonishes us to “remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God; “For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him. 

Our eternal worth is given to us by God; it cannot be manipulated or decreased by anyone. Of course, if we are not living the commandments, we may lose sight of our divine worth and potential. Nevertheless, each soul’s inherent worth is always great in the sight of our loving Heavenly Father. I think that is imperative to know! Worthlessness is not an option for anyone."

As a missionary, I had taught continually of our divine worth, our potential as children of God, and the Lord’s infinite atonement. I allowed the clever bands of the adversary to wrap himself around me and tell me lies. I lost sight of who I was. I had allowed the adversary to make me believe that the atonement was not sufficient enough for me and this attraction that I suffered from. This is a lie. I think we as imperfect human beings with limited capacity to comprehend, don’t appreciated the atonement for what it truly is. The atonement does infinitely more than washing away our sins. The atonement has the power to heal, to give us power, to make our hearts whole again. The atonement has no beginning, it has no end. It was and is the single greatest act of love ever performed. Our Savior gave us the power to overcome our trials and our weakness if we choose to take advantage of his gift. At times we forget this, I know I have.

My journey with being gay is far from over. I love the Church and know that it's true, but I still have my good days and my bad days. I have felt the love of my Heavenly Father promise me this is a trial and that I will have my own family one day, and yet I have also felt true romantic love for another man. Knowing though it could never happen. Can you imagine that? Loving someone through and through, feeling so right? But knowing you can never be with them? It's a hard pill to swallow, and has left me with a lot of sleepless nights and Taylor Swift songs on repeat. Reconciling faith & feelings is not easy, but it is possible because of my Savior.

From you my wonderful siblings, I ask for your patience, understanding, and non-judgement. The thing I need the most is love, even if you don't understand my trial, knowing that it doesn't change how you feel about makes a world of difference. 

Also, I ask that this remain in the family, if you would like to tell  your spouses, that is fine. Please just respect that this is my journey, my trial to share when I'm ready with others. 

Love always,

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Don't you ever say I just walked away...

It's been a good minute since I've posted anything or really participated in anything with the MOHO community. I felt the need for a break for personal reasons. I didn't want this blog to turn into a bitch fest about how my life sucks because this or that. I've always wanted to be able to inspire people and give them hope. Another large problem is that more and more people that I know are aware of this blog. Which at times can make it hard to express my feelings or be completely unfiltered without repercussions.

I've looked for other ways of dealing with my pent up feelings and nothing has really seemed to work for me. If anything I shut myself off emotionally to feeling anything. I've become tired of hurting and tired of aching for the ones that I love who don't love or care for me anymore. I've made multiple mistakes over the past couple of months to try and just escape the feelings I'm trying to avoid feeling. Instead these mistakes just made me feel worse about myself and did not make me any happier. They fed habits and addictions and built up my guilt.

I had actually thought that I made progress in the past couple of months with regards to issues I deal with. I thought I had moved past people, I thought that I was stronger and more stable - and it a sense part of that is true. My doctor upped my dose on my medication and it has definitely been helping with anxiety. He even gave me emergency xanax for highly stressful situations and anxiety attacks. I'm taking my exams in my professor's offices so that I don't have panic attacks in the testing center anymore. I've been diligently doing cardio every day and eating healthy (this one is a lot harder). My body definitely feels a lot better than it has in a long time. But emotionally I'm just as torn up as ever.

There is so much going on with multiple relationships in my life right now. It's been a relief to find that there have been those friendships that have been different because of problems the other person was having... in other words it wasn't my fault. But then there's those relationships that I never thought I would have to live without, but have had to for a while now. I never stopped caring or loving and as much as it hurt, I had to let those I love make their own decisions about their life even if it didn't include me. I mourned for a long time, and it honestly sucked. There hasn't been a day that hasn't gone by that I didn't think about or miss certain people, But I felt I was able to heal and move forward. Then I randomly see them again after months and months and I fall apart. Every memory, feeling, emotion that I ever felt with them comes rushing back and I break down crying in my car. Seeing them, talking to them just makes my heart ache. It longs to feel what once was and aches as it senses the changes and as so casually cruel in the name of being honest words are said. The sad music has come back out, though this time I'm still able to live my life and perform the things that I need to at work and at school.

I've thought a lot about Jane and we've been writing ever since she left (it's been 5 months now). Her letters are always great to receive though she no longer says I love you in them. Part of me is afraid that she sending the friend zone message. If that's the case, I've put all my eggs in one basket and feel like I'm ready to throw my hands up and give up on marriage.

General Conference was this past weekend and deep down a part of me was secretly wishing/hoping that the apostles would come out and say that gay marriage was okay. I'm gotten so tired of trying to live a life that has so much hurt and loneliness in it. The thought of being with a man and having a family for the rest of my life sounds so much more fulfilling.

Thankfully the Lord knew that I needed some oil in my lamp. Traditional marriage was reiterated and reaffirmed. Multiple times it was mentioned along the lines of "God's doctrine does not change, though the world's morals do. God's doctrine is eternal and forever." Elder Richard G. Scott gave a talk in which he said something truly amazing "The Lord sees weakness differently than rebellion. When The Lord speaks of weakness it is always with mercy." The spirit resonated in my chest - something that hasn't happened in a long time. I've been beating myself up with guilt for a long time. The Lord knows that I'm struggling, but he also knows that I AM TRYING. 

I got a phone call today that my brother's wife who was pregnant with twins had a miscarriage. My heart broke first for my brother and his wife. They've been through so much and it's taken so long for them to get pregnant. I've been feeling anger towards God and have been asking the question all day, "Hasn't our family been through enough?" 

My dear sweet mother called and comforted me and pointed out the blessings of the trials that my family has gone through over the past ten years. We've learned to talk about things, we've become closer, we truly love each other. And though her heart was breaking for my brother and his wife, she believed that this would be something they would grow and learn from. 

My mother quoted Joseph Smith "All our losses will be made up, if we are faithful." This quote very much applies to my brother and his wife as they grieve the loss of their children, but it also applies to me. Truth is, I may never get a handle on this whole gay thing, and I may never get married in this life... but it's okay. I need to get my shit together and remember that as long as I'm trying "everything will be made up in the end."

And as I sat listening to conference surrounded by my niece, and two nephews. I felt the love of my savior and the confirmation of my desire to have a family of my own. I will one day.