Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gays and

Last week's release of the new website,, was met with a variety of reactions, ranging from positive spin to a visceral attack on the church and the people still loyal to it. These reactions are telling of the anxiety and interest in homosexuality in the church.

In the virtual realm of the web, there are various competing positions, some complementary, some diametrically opposed, as to how one is to be "Mormon and gay." There are lots of Mormon and gay.coms, facebook groups, blogs, all representing their various takes on the seemingly impossible and insolvable problem. Speaking from my own position, I can say that I first reacted emotionally to an official church website. "The church is finally welcoming gays!" "It's accepting that I'm gay."

For various months of my life, I stood immobilized by a triangle relationship of being Mormon, gay, and married. There was no resolution to all three; something had to give. After unsuccessfully trying to erase being gay through therapy, prayer, fasting, Evergreen, and marriage (and failing), I realized I had to renegotiate this conflict on new terms; I had to accept that I was gay and that wasn't going to change. 

The new website offers, I think, a more acceptable position. Accepting (finally) scientific consensus on the immutability of homosexuality, the church instead simply maintains a moral position that behavior and not being is wrong. This is progress. It sets a new baseline from which to talk about homosexuality in the church. It prevents destructive behavior like SOCE (sexual orientation conversion efforts aka reparative therapy) and discourages MOM's (Mixed-Orientation Marriages). Quick caveat, I'm not saying that all these marriages are doomed, I'm just saying it's a risky undertaking given the high divorce rate of such couples (and my own experience).

But though the position the website takes is more acceptable, it is ultimately untenable. How can you separate doing and being in a culture where you are constantly taught you are what you do ("By their fruits ye shall know them")? How can you be gay but not do "gay things"? For my grandpa, I wasn't gay if I didn't "act" on it. But I was gay before any action on my part. That message is you can be born gay, and even if you can't change, you're still suppose to fit and and try to be as straight as possible. Or at least not "act" gay. 

The problem with the website, which became clear to me after my initial excitement faded, is that the church's acceptance is conditional. You can only be part of the club if you come in on our terms, which are celibacy and a commitment to upholding our heterocentric view of the universe.

I for one refuse to be partially accepted for who I am. And now that I've had some time and I'm in a relationship, I know that much of the information I was fed about promiscuity, AIDS, etc. was distorted or just plain wrong.  From this position, it's hard to look at the website as much progress. The central problem remains, that gays (and other LGBTQ's ) are relegated to a sub category, where we aren't accepted for who we are but for who we can theoretically be; straight members just like everyone else in the next life.

I know that this position will be appealing to many gay Mormons. I know at some point I believed this, and even desired it with all my heart. I wanted to be like everyone else, to be accepted by my family. But you can't compromise yourself to be what other people want you to be. At some point, you have to get over the fact that you've been shamed into submission to a heteronormative universe, that worse, is extremely patriarchal, and openly and proudly so.

Mormon culture makes it hard to be gay. It's hard enough to be gay even if you aren't Mormon, though the doctrinal and cultural forces that pressure you to fit a norm make difference that much more difficult. As more and more people open up about their experiences it becomes clearer and clearer the anguish people have gone through trying to come to terms being Mormon and gay. A lot of us end up becoming healthy well-adjusted individuals. But others turn to excessive drinking, risky sexual behaviors, and dangerous drug use. I want to be clear that this isn't because they're gay. They're trying to cope with the shame they've been made to feel for being different, and rather than facing their demons, try to escape that pain and shame through these behaviors.

In other words, we need support. Many of us need the church, but the church doesn't offer us what we need. I had to come to this realization the hard way. The church offers you some of what you need. And the gay community may not provide you all you need. A partner, or a wife, will never provide you all you need. The only way to get what you need is by taking care of yourself, and being willing to go and look places you've never been before to meet those needs. I think we all have a different path to do that, but looking for the church to change and provide what we need through a new website is naive.

The church needs to accept, or at the least stop demonizing, those who are openly gay and in relationships of love. That's the only true progress that can be had. And we can help by not demonizing other gay people. If we would reach out to each other, change could happen. But the shame placed upon us by a heteronormative society makes it all that much harder. And feeling like we don't belong in the gay community cuts us off from the support we could receive there. I think that's what's behind all the gay and mormon.coms, finding a space in between.

One might ask what any gay person is doing in such an environment, a criticism popular among those who are "outside" the (LDS) church but still ever commenting on issues pertaining to it. But one can hardly blame them for the criticism or their participation in the debate.  I think their continued participation in various Mormon Stories or Moho or other web communities shows that participation in Mormondom goes far beyond doctrine, practice, or ideology. It's family, it's community, it's politics (especially in Utah). For most people, there is no way to fully get away from it. Thus, while some might tell us to shut up and leave well enough alone, we simply can't. The church affects our lives, and even a conscious decision to resign from the church is evidence of the influence being Mormon had and has over our lives.

And yet their criticism sometimes fails to take into account the complex environment that LGBIT people have in the church, and the intricacies of a personal faith journey to reconcile spiritual witnesses, personal convictions, and family and community realities. For some people, there is no outside the church, and rather than encouraging a one size fits all solution, would better serve by talking about their own experiences and helping people see the various options and paths rather than prescribing a path for other people, (a habit, likely left over from service or experience in the church, where an awful lot of that happens). Though some may object to being included, "big tent" Mormonism has a place and includes many of us on the fringe who never really know where our place is inside or outside the church.  And in this vulnerable, border position, in which many of us find ourselves, let's make sure we make room for other who don't agree with everything we say or do. After all, we're trying to get away from the exclusivity and narrow mindedness that, unfortunately, sometimes exists within the communities we come from.

(Edited and Re-posted 1-15-2013)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Moving (Forward)

What a strange journey it's been these last two years. I went from being married, separated, then divorced, to being in a committed relationship, and am now living with my boyfriend.

For some reason, during the holidays, things get more intense emotionally for me. It brings up a lot of issues that tend to stay tucked away, like my relationship with church, my family, and my ex-wife. It's been hard for me not to look back to a time where I thought I had all the answers, where I thought I knew my plan.

I lived for a time naively, never really questioning the assumptions I'd made that therapy and Evergreen had helped me diminish my same-sex attraction. But then reality hit me. I couldn't hide the fact that I was gay from myself or my wife anymore. We both knew it, but it was something we didn't want to acknowledge.  I've talked a lot about that in this blog, and I'd like to revisit that more sometime with time and perspective. But for now I want to talk about moving forward.

After months of feeling like I was doing nothing to make things better, I finally decided to get out to church today. Not an LDS church. The First Congregational Church. It felt really good, to walk into a place where I'm welcome, affirmed, and celebrated as a human being. To me, that's what Jesus taught, the true message of the gospel, to love and welcome and affirm each other. 

For months I've felt without a home or a center. I think after the pain I've been through, I'm hesitant to recreate that sense of family and home, after trying so hard to do so, only to find out that it was an illusion. Sometimes I've been trying to go it alone. This is somewhat selfish of me, as there are many around me with open welcoming arms ready to embrace me as I am.  I think it's good to develop resilience and independence. But we're social animals, and we need community, support, love, and family.I'm grateful for the people who provide that for me. I need to embrace them, and thank them, and show them how much I appreciate that.

Now I'm in a relationship, and trying to move forward with my life. At times though, I let the past, anniversaries, holidays, all of that, get in the way. Like Lot's wife, I look back, towards "Sodom and Gomorrah", a place where I was unwilling to move in spite of the problems I knew were there, unable or unwilling to acknowledge my doubts and questions about my faith and sexuality because they would force me to do something about them. I have. I've acted. I've left that place and I can't look back now. I don't think I'll be turned into a pillar of salt or anything, but looking back hurts me. It prevents me from living in the present, from going forward; it's a dark depressing place, and not the place for someone given the chances that I have to be happy with a wonderful man and with a wonderful life. 

As I look to my past, growing up Mormon was in many ways a beautiful thing. My service, my mission, learning Spanish, going to BYU, teaching at the MTC, have all been things that have profoundly influenced my life. But the LDS church is not presently a welcoming place for me or other LGBT people. I appreciate the efforts to make it so. I feel welcome in this in between space that people are trying to create to make church welcoming for all and make our communities more welcoming. But there will always be struggle and conflict and disagreement on this issue. I think that's healthy, because there are a lot of things for the church and it's members to come to terms with on this question. But I don't know that it's a place I can call home anymore.

My family home is still not a place where I am totally welcome and accepted. It's getting better, and I don't mean to discredit the effort or the progress that's been made.  But  there's a reason I didn't go home for Thanksgiving, and Christmas may be difficult. I can't make everyone ok with me being in a relationship, and I can't force my partner to go into an environment where we aren't totally welcome and accepted for who we are. There are people in my family who welcome me, and us, with loving arms. But some people won't change, and likely will not change for years to come. 

And so it's time to create a new home. When the Mormon pioneers felt persecuted, they had to leave their homes in Kirtland, Missouri, and Nauvoo. They fought to create home wherever they were, despite the persecutions they endured for their beliefs and lifestyle. But ultimately, none of those places were safe. They preferred to go West, and create a new home rather than continue to fight and die in their old one.

For a long time, I've been in exile, and I've longed for home. Part of the reason holidays are hard is that longing.  I've been unwilling to find a new home. But after wandering in the desert, it's time to find a new home. That doesn't mean I abandon everyone or everything that made those places home, but it does mean being independent and free to go to new places where I haven't allowed myself to go before. It's time to create home rather than waiting for a home to be created for me. And together with my partner, that's exactly what I need to do. I can't stay stuck in the past forever. It's time to move forward.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Coming Out Day

One year ago I came out on facebook. It was October 11, national coming out day. I came to a point in my life where I simply could no longer live my life by what other people expected of me.

So I came out. To everyone. A lot of people were extremely supportive.Others were less than excited that I was sharing something so "personal" on facebook. But the important thing isn't what those people think. And so many people were happy to be part of something I was sharing with them about myself.

Coming out isn't about them. It's about you. It's about you being ok with being gay. It's about you being ok with being different.

So much of my life has revolved around that decision. Not the one to post a few words on facebook, but to live my life by what I know to be true instead of letting other people define me.

I've been with my boyfriend for 8 months now. We started living together last month. I'm so happy, it's hard to put in words.

But what I can say is that none of this would have been possible if I let my fears get the best of me. It's not easy, standing up to my family and (though not very many fall in this category) friends who are against my "lifestyle." It hasn't been easy to talk to my parents and have them get used to it.

But things do get better. My Mom invited us to Thanksgiving and Christmas, at home. I know that part of her doesn't accept things, but she's grown so much, and come to love me for who I am rather than who she thought I was or wants me to be. I hope she'll come to love him too, in her way. That might be a longer process. But it's really not possible to have a relationship with my parents that somehow excludes this important part of my life.

 I know there is a lot of hurt in our community, in the gay community (and yes, it exists), in the Mormon community, and especially in the Gay Mormon community. But beneath all that pain, I think most of us love each other, and are trying to sort the rest out. My Mom is the last person I expected to come around to me being gay. But she even apologized for her ignorance, and for what happened. Change has to happen. Things can't continue how they've been. Luckily, things are working out for the best for me. I know some aren't so lucky. But if you aren't so lucky, don't give up. There are so many of us that would love to put our arms around you and help you up, figure out what to do. And if we are going to be serious about preventing suicide, or the even more prevalent depression in our community, then we've got to do that.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Evergreen, Sept. 11th, and SB 1172

Eleven years ago, following the events of September 11th, I attended the Evergreen International Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah with my Dad. As the Evergreen conference approaches again, I feel it appropriate to say that I condemn efforts to change sexual orientation, especially for youth who are in a vulnerable position.

A few weeks ago, I volunteered to speak with Equality California to lend my support to the law, SB 1172, that would make sexual orientation conversion therapy illegal. Here is a video of that interview:

All of us have to come to terms with being gay, or gay and Mormon, or gay, Mormon, and married in our own way. There's isn't one way to "be gay," there is no one size fits all "homosexual lifestyle" and no one is forced to do anything they are uncomfortable with. But whatever choices we make, trying to pretend like our attractions, desires, feelings, will go away, or that they are wrong, is unhealthy, harmful, and dangerous. Everybody deserves a chance to make choices, have agency, rather than be coerced or manipulated into therapy or a path that they wouldn't have chosen had they had that freedom.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Chickens and Weeds

So a lot has happened since I last posted. Our president has come out in support of gay marriage. DOMA is on the rocks after a lot of court challenges. Also a gay married man has compared himself to a unicorn and a chicken sandwich has been vilified as the ultimate symbol of bigotry-(or sign of free speech, depending on who you talk to).

While I have reservations about Chick-fil-a association with the Family Research Council and Exodus, the fact that a bigoted man made some off the cuff remarks about gay people is no shocker to me. Especially since he made them to an audience he thought he could safely say it to, the Baptist Press. 

But somehow these controversies have overshadowed the significant legal and cultural progress towards equality. So a CEO made an idiot of himself and simultaneously became a beacon for religious freedom. 

Another important matter, which has become an obsession both for the Moho community and the nation at large (or at least it feels that way on facebook) is one Mr. Josh Weed.

While undoubtedly his relationship with his wife is unique and special, the circumstances are not. How many of us have read blogs of married gay men or now divorced gay men? How many of us have been married gay men at one point?

He loves his wife. He's already incredibly aware that he's gay. He's a therapist and seems to understand what sexual orientation is. And for this, I commend him. He is educating people who otherwise wouldn't listen that homosexuality exists, that there is something called sexual orientation, and that it matters. In many ways I see him as an ally, though I'm sure the personal attacks against him and his wife make him more reticent to come to terms with "the gay community."

I do however, have a beef (no pun intended) with Mr. Weed's presentation and characterization of homosexuality. He continually refers to in his posts to a "homosexual lifestyle." I know what he means. He means men having intimate sexual relations with other men, or women with women (although it seems he's mostly referring to men). While he may intend no harm, his words connote a of dismissal of that lifestyle as somehow inferior.

Being gay isn't a lifestyle. There are lot's of "heterosexual lifestyles" and it's the same with "homosexual" or "bisexual" or "asexual" ones as well. My lifestyle really isn't that different from other people. Ok, being a grad student and spending hours reading Latin American literature for a career could be called an "alternative lifestyle" but the fact that I'm gay isn't that different. The fact that I have a boyfriend, that we go to movies, go out to eat, talk to each other on the phone, and yes, sleep in the same bed, does not really qualify as anything extraordinary. It isn't all that "queer" or strange to do any of those things. 

In his 6000+ word post, he says that every choice he makes is couched in loss. And this is what makes me saddest about Josh's post. He doesn't seem to see the validity or possibility of any other choice. Not truly. I'm fine if he, and his wife, choose to be married, have kids, be open about their relationship. But I'm not ok with the way his example is being used to push gay men into marriage or the way it is being used to somehow invalidate these relationships of love that exist between two people, who happen to be of the same gender. There is so much to be gained by this choice. And that's what he doesn't seem to get about my "homosexual lifestyle."

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Video Blog

A few months ago, I made a series of videos to talk about my experiences growing up in the church being gay, Evergreen, getting married, and getting divorced.  Bear with me, as this is my first attempt to do something like this (you'll notice for example that I get cut off by my ipod at the end of each video). There are four total, and you can access the rest of them if you click here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My so-called (ex-gay) therapy

I need to finish reading for my seminars. I am a graduate student after all.

Instead, all I can think about is the article I read here on "My So-Called Ex-gay Life."

I lived this.

My Dad sat me down, and told me that he'd done some research, and that same-sex attraction was probably a result of a number of things including his relationship with me. It was by Dr. Nicolosi, a pioneer in the theory of reparative therapy. I read the book, and it told me that my sexual attractions were a fragmentation of my desire for wholeness and masculinity. I was focusing on one characteristic of another person, and because of that was sexualizing it. If I could have a fulfilling non-sexual relationship with a same sex partner, my feelings would diminish.

I told my Bishop a few months before that I was gay. I wanted to go to BYU, but didn't know if I should because I didn't think they would accept me if I were gay. It was 2001.

As I drove across town to meet with a therapist, I wondered what he'd see. He asked me about my parents. About my Mom. And then about my Dad. He then told me he was dyslexic, and that he overcame that challenge to get a license as a therapist. He told me I was likely gay because of my relationship with my Dad.

My Dad was the reason? That upset me. My Dad had been bishop, and while at times he had been absent, I felt horrible thinking that because of how I was raised I was gay. When I went back to see the Bishop, I told him I didn't want to see the therapist anymore. He said I could see another therapist if I wanted, and he'd still pay for it.

So I drove again across town, in a different direction, to start therapy. What did I think about me being gay? I told her I didn't know why I was gay. I had read that sometimes people had repressed memories of abuse, and maybe that was why. Maybe I remembered something. She told me that maybe that was it. We did hypnotherapy.

Maybe I just wanted attention or affection from men. Other cultures were much more tolerant of same-sex affection, and maybe I just was reflecting my need for that. It didn't mean that I was gay.

At the same time, I came out to my guidance counselor and two of my teachers. One of them gave me a book about a Christian minister who got married even though he thought he was gay, and how he had to fantasize about guys to have sex, and how he ended up getting divorced. I didn't want that to be me.

 One night while I was thinking about this, my Mom knocked on my door and asked what I was doing. It was 2 AM, and I was up late at the computer, reading about homosexuality. I knew I was gay. I didn't know what to say. The next day I went into their room, they sat me down, and I told them I was gay.

A few months later, I had switched therapists. After reading Nicolosi's book, I decided to try it. Maybe I could fix my broken Dad syndrome or my deficiencies and become straight. Or maybe it was a problem with my Mom?  Maybe I could become less gay. Maybe it was possible. In therapy, I read some articles about homosexuality being from a triangle relationship with my parents. If I could someone cross over some bridge that I had missed as a child and get close to my Dad, I could undo my unwanted same-sex attraction. When my Dad offerend to take me to Evergreen, I said yes. I read their website, and he said he knew someone who used the program.

We went in September of 2001. We had to drive because it was just after Sep. 11 and the planes had been grounded. When I got to the conference in the Joseph Smith Memorial building, I was intimidated. I was meeting a lot of gay Mormons. I wondered what they were like. I listened to the panels attently, hearing testimonials about the horrors of the gay lifestlye. Endless hookups, infidelities, diseases. It sounded awful.

My Dad bought me a few books, including the workbook for men. I hardly cracked it open at first. What was the root of my attractions? I didn't know. Was I molested? Having a problem in my same-sex relationship? Broken from faulty parenting?

Finally, something told me that I needed to leave home. I went to BYU-Idaho, books hidden carefully so no one would see, and began to analyze and try to get to the bottom of my same-sex attractions. What caused them? Could the atonement heal me?

I read about sexual abuse, and healing from it. I couldn't remember, but it seemed like maybe it had happened. I came out to a friend. I told him I struggled with same-sex attraction. I went to religion classes and spent long hours in the chapel on campus, or in the gardens, thinking, praying, trying to understand how God could help me overcome my same-sex attraction. It was lonely, but luckily I had some good dormmates. That should help me get over my deficiency in male relationships, right? I spent as much time as I could with everyone. I bonded. I wanted to be like the rest of the guys.

I went on a mission, like all my friends did. I told my leaders that I struggled with same-sex attraction, but they told me that because I hadn't acted on it (I had held a guy's hand, but that was it) I could go. I was elated. I got to the MTC. More same-sex relationships, healthy, non-sexual ones, as I'd been told I should seek from Evergreen and Nicolosi, that would help heal my brokenness.

I was doing fine. But then it got to me. What if I felt something for my companions? I felt attractions. Was I a sinner? Was I evil? I was trying wasn't I. I wrote a letter to the First Presidency. I remember learning that it was advised against, but I wanted assurance that I was ok to be a missionary. They wrote my back and told me that "any tendencies can be overcome through the atonement of Christ. After an interview with my branch president, I was clear to go on a mission.

I met my Mission President. He seemed great. I was excited. I was learning Spanish. I was a missionary. I prayed, I worked hard. I felt guilty breaking rules. I started "slipping up" thinking about guys, and I told my mission president. I ordered books on compulsive sexual behavior. I met a therapist in the mission field who told me that "Jesus may have struggled with the same temptation." I was in awe. I'm sure my companion was freaked out by the situation, even though he didn't know what was going on.

I eventually told another missionary I was gay. I was in the gay district of Dallas, and I was worried that it would influence me. I say guys holding hands down the street. I even ran into a gay pride parade. I prayed to God to get me out of there. I knew that there were gay members of the church, and I wanted to reach out to them, but didn't know how.

I got my wish. I got sent to Nacogdoches Texas, and I tried to be as strictly obedient as I could. I prayed every night that God would someday let me get married. I prayed in my closet for a long time, pouring my heart out to God to take this away. I wanted to be whole. If Jesus could heal the sick, he could heal me.

I came home from my mission. I transferred to BYU in Provo. I had the chance to start a new life, to get married. And I did.

I went out every weekend with girls, trying to show God that I was trying. Why wasn't it working? Maybe I just hadn't found the right girl. I went back to Evergreen, and I interrogated the people there about getting married. Could they have a honeymoon? One of them told me a story about how nervous he was, but that he prayed and that everything worked fine.

As I was leaving, I met a girl at the conference and asked for her number. Her brother was gay, and she thought it would be good for me to try to date a girl. I was excited to have my first kiss, and first girlfriend. But it didn't feel right somehow. And I knew she wanted to get married. I didn't.

I dated a few other girls, but never seriously. It never got to the girlfriend stage or I broke it off right after it did.

And then I met her, the girl I married. It was the best date I'd ever been on. We were so cute, someone bought us a fried ice-cream for free. I took her on a second date on the back of my scooter. I spent every day with her. She asked why we weren't dating yet. I said, well we should, shouldn't we? I felt like this could be it. This could be the one.

If you've read the blog you'll know the rest of that story. I got married, I got divorced. I came out to my family. I thought that I had everything that I wanted. I was married. My goal, my dream, was coming true.

But I ask myself, a year later, so what happened?

There's no real easy answer. But one night, around Christmas of 2010, I had a dream about a guy. It wasn't the first time, but it wasn't something that happened all that often.I knew that wasn't that big of a deal , but I was worried. So I started looking on the internet for resources for married gay men. I started posting, chatting, I read Bill Bradshaw's work. I found blogs, I read stories. It was the anti-ex gay cure I needed. I read testimonials, and realized I'd been lied to. That wasn't science. Those stories of a cure often ended in failure, divorce. And I was scared.

And I realized, that I was still gay. My reparative therapy had never worked.

So what was I supposed to do about it? I didn't want to go to church that day. I didn't know what to feel. I felt so disillusioned by everything. I felt so lost. Who was I? Why was I doing this to our marriage? Why was I doubting my faith?

I wrote her a letter. I didn't know what to say. I was freaked out. I told her I was still gay. I told her I needed therapy, I'd been really depressed. She agreed, even though we were worried what they would say.  I was scared they'd tell me I should accept myself as gay. I cried. And cried. And cried. I came out to a few friends at school. They were blown away. Wasn't I Mormon? And married? My wife asked me if I wanted a divorce. At first I said no.

 And then I told her I realized I didn't feel for her what she felt for me. She was silent. An hour went by. And then she cried. I rarely saw her cry. I rarely saw her this upset, and it tore me up. A few weeks later, I told her that I thought we should get divorced. The next day I told her I wasn't ready for that. That I needed more time. But she was. It was over. She left a few weeks later. I didn't know what to do.I was so lost. I thought about suicide. No one would accept me

Except that they did. No, my bishops and my parents didn't accept my decision or the fact that I was gay. But my brothers and most of my friends did. Even my wife did, as much as she could.

Holding onto the hope that I could change held me back. I was fine being in the church, I was fine getting married, I was fine doing everything until I realized, I couldn't change. I needed to live with that. And it was hard. Really hard to give up that dream. To let that part of myself die. The false self.

But what's happened since has been amazing. I came out on National Coming out day on Facebook. I started blogging. I started meeting people. And talking. I read a book called The Velvet Rage. It talks about overcoming the shame of being a gay man in a straight man's world. It moved me. I realized I had been shamed my whole life for being different. I'd been shamed even by therapists and church and family, people who I went to for help, just because I was different.

Things started falling into place. I met someone. I fell in love.I'm so happy. I have felt so much pain for so long, that to have a relationship with someone who cares, that I can give myself to, is amazing. I care about my ex-wife so much. But as hard as I tried I could not be the person that she needed me to be. And she couldn't be the person I needed. We had to accept that and move on. It was hard. It was painful, and agonizing, and lonely sometimes.

But I made it. And I think she will too. At least I hope so.

I unequivocally stand against reparative therapy. It has done untold harm to not just me but to my family.  But there is hope. It doesn't break you, it just makes you feel you are broken. You have to reject that. To survive. And you have to reject all the other people who tell you you are less than, or broken. You have to know that you were always whole. And that God loves you for who you are. I once prayed in agony, and felt stronger than I ever have that it was ok that I was gay. I believe Him. And I trust Him. And I know that it does get better. But it only gets better if you reach out and get the right help. Going to the wrong sources only makes it worse.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Dear Mom,

I'm in a relationship now. I've been hesitant to tell you this because of the way I almost certainly know you'll react to this news. But it would be impossible for me to have a meaningful relationship with you and not let you know about an important part of my life.

I love you very much. But unless you are willing to accept that I'm gay and treat me and my boyfriend with the respect we deserve I will not come home for Christmas, Thanksgiving, my birthday. I'm going to give you space to deal with your emotions. But I will not allow your intolerace to affect my happiness. I will not tolerate any attempt to hurt my relationship or guilt me into any action I am uncomfortable with.

You are my Mom and you mean the world to me. But I can't be false with you or anyone. I can't pretend that this doesn't exist and I won't allow you to pretend that I don't exist or that my relationship with another human being exists. It is an important part of me and my life, and unless you can respect that, I don't know how we are going to have a meaningful relationship.

I am going to honor you know by not listening to ideas or prejudices that I know to be wrong and evil. I hope some day you will pray to God and ask him to tell you the truth so that you can have your eyes opened. I know you love me and will always love me, and I will love you. But I will not accept any attempt to hurt or damage my growing relationship and potential family. If you want to be a part of it, I will gladly accept you.


Note: This isn't the letter I actually sent. I agreed to let my brother tell my Mom that I'm dating someone. After a few days, she wrote me and told me she didn't know what to say and that how she felt was not quite resolved. Here is my response:

I'm happier than I've ever been. I wish that you would just be happy for me that my needs are being met and that I feel fulfilled in a relationship of trust, love, and commitment with another person. How you feel and what you think won't change or affect that, but I've been hesitant to talk to you because I was worried how you'd react. I hope that you will treat both him and me with respect. I want you to know that I will not tolerate any disrespect towards him, and I will hang up the phone or end the conversation (or ignore a message/letter/e-mail) if it turns to that. 

Wouldn't it be nice to live in a world where your son dates someone, a genuinely good person, and you feel happy for them? I know that if I'm ever a father I will. I'm going to love my son or daughter and I'm going to feel happy for them when things bring them joy and happiness. I'm going to want to share in them. And I'm going to love them, and tell them how happy I am for them, and how proud I am to have them as my child. I'm going to want to be there if they get married, and I'm going to want to share in their life, their joys, their sorrows, their pains. It shouldn't matter what gender or sexual orientation your children are or what gender or sexual orientation who they love are.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

One year of blogging

One year ago today I sat down at my laptop, my cat crawling over the keyboard, in a trailer home that was owned by my wife's family. While she was sleeping I had been reading blogs by Gay Mormons, describing their experiences. For years I had no idea that there existed a world out there where people shared intimate experiences and difficulties, pains, and trials. That world is constantly changing. Some come, some go, some blogs fade into oblivion. Mine has at times in fits of rage been taken down. I've thought about deleting it, ignoring it, leaving it.

But I haven't.

I feel like I have more to say about this world of gay, bi, and otherwise curious bloggers and readers. If nothing else, I feel the need to express how I feel, explore my thoughts, put them down on the page (this time a virtual web page) and come back. It all seems so jumbled and emotional at first, but it starts to make sense over time.

The point is that I'm in a very different place than I was a year ago. Literally, I'm sitting at my friend's house, her cats crawling over the keyboard, in an apartment in Riverside. But mnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn (thank you Bruno)
But emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, things are different.

I'm not going to say that my life is easy. But I'm not the same afraid, closeted guy I was then. I'm not advocating coming out as some sort of magic panacea, but it's done me a lot of good. All that fear that people will find out I'm gay is gone. I still experience moments where I wonder, should I disclose that I'm gay? But it's not the same kind of crap I put up with for years where I was morbidly afraid of people finding out my secret.

Dating kind of sucks. I've basically only got my feet wet, and I can tell you that it's going to be a long, painful process. There are some additional complications to gay dating that I won't get into in this post, but to sum it up, guys are still jerks sometimes, whether gay or straight.

The thing I want to say though is that it gets better. A platitude, I know, but a powerful one. I was once very much depressed, and even suicidal, because I couldn't see how I could possibly live between two things tearing me apart, one my faith, and the other, my sense of self. Knowing I was different was difficult. Realizing that no amount of praying, fasting, tithe paying, obedience, blessings, etc. was going to change my sexual orientation was a very important step for me to take in my life. And one with, in some ways, devastating consequences.

I knew when I got married that i was doing it for love. I know that when I went into the temple and knelt on that altar, I was not being false or pretending. But there was so much I didn't know. I had no idea what a marriage really looked like, what sex was, what a relationship was. I was naive. And part of what lead me there in the first place, was believing on some level that God had lessened my "unwanted same-sex attraction." Well he didn't. And no amount of denying or pretending or repressing could get rid of that. Part of me wants to say, so what? You still loved her. It's not all that different for any monogamous relationship where you give up the desire to be with other people, even very attractive ones, so that you can build a life with another person. That's part of what love, commitment and all that is about. I'm still fairly old-fashioned as far as all that goes. But another part of me says, yeah, but you never had the chance to live any other way. To know what holding a man would be like, coming home and having him put his arms around you, and say I love you.

It's not about the sex. I promise. Being gay goes down to a much deeper, core level. If it was just about sex, I wouldn't really bother telling people. But because gay has a much deeper implication than my private behavior in the bedroom, I come out to people. Not to throw it in people's faces, or make them squirm, but to say, I'm here. I'm different. It's ok. I'd like to be treated the same and not have to pretend I'm exactly like you, heterosexual and into girls the same way you are. Being gay in a straight man's world is hard sometimes, and the cost of not fitting in is pretty high, depending on what circles you're in. Or at least it was. We're becoming a more progressive, tolerant world, but we're not there yet. And in the LDS church, the same rigid hierarchy and stereotypes exist. To be a good priesthood holder I must be married, have kids, do my duty. I must be straight or at least act like it.

If that were all it was, it'd be pretty hard. But being in the church as a gay man goes far beyond that. If you do venture out of your shell, you are told that to act on your desires would be evil, that you should try to live a celibate life or possibly get married. You are effectively made to feel like you are a second-class citizen with a disability that God has afflicted you with to test and try you. People are way past the "this is a choice" rhetoric (well, for the most part) and it's time we got past it too. It takes more than arguing that I was born this way to get accepted. After all, African-Americans, or any other minority are born that way, and are still discriminated against all the time.

At some point, you have to ask yourself if is worth it to put up with all of that. I don't know. In many ways, I see my relationship with the church as an abusive relationship where I've been told to put my desires and even my needs below the needs of my family or church. I've been broken down psychologically to believe I was damaged goods in need of repair, that because I wasn't manly enough I had become gay. I've been pushed into marriage only to end in divorce, hurting not only myself, but my now ex-wife, who was my best friend in the world and is still very dear to me. I don't know if I can just forget all that crap. I do long for a community, and I think that's partly why I blog. I still go to church and I feel something there, a connection. But it's hard to not worry that the same thing won't happen again. How long will it take before my bishop sits me down and wonders why I'm not dating, or what happened in my divorce? How many times do I have to hear from the pulpit that Prop 8 was Christian service doing the Lord's will, or that gays are destroying the family, or that I can't go to heaven without being married. Should I run from it?

No. I'm done running.

I'm not exactly sure where this journey will take me. But I'm a very different man from the person I was a year ago. And that's a very good thing. I've made mistakes, but I've learned from them. And I'm going forward, confident, self-assured, but humbled by the daunting task of being a gay Mormon in a world that doesn't understand either of those things very well at all.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

I'm a Mormon, I think

The last year of my life was crazy, difficult, life-changing, and a lot of words I'd rather not put on this blog. I can't say that I'm sorry it's over, but I've learned a lot and I've re-examined my life in a serious way.

So where am I now? Better. I'm better able to react to my family, to the difficulties of life, to the stress of being in a graduate study while getting divorced/coming out/going through serious challenges to my faith. It's not as if I've processed any of those things completely, but the intensity, fear, and panic have subsided to give place to calm, reassurance, patience, and faith that things will indeed get better.

But they aren't easy. And whenever I think life is suddenly perfect, something happens to set things askew again. I wonder if that is by divine design or simply part of just existing and being in the world. But I digress.

Getting back to the point, I ask myself, where am I now?

One of the most pressing issues on my mind right now is, what is my future relationship with the LDS (Mormon) church?

From an identity, cultural aspect, I can say I'm a Mormon with confidence. My ancestors crossed the plains, came over sea to go to Utah. My family is Mormon. I get being Mormon.

From a belief point of view, I have a harder time. I sometimes apply words like "heretic" "unorthodox" "crazy" and "queer," to myself. (and yes queer is supposed to have a double meaning.) But I don't know how well my beliefs match up to any sort of belief system or dogma. I'm pretty open minded. Some of my beliefs match up nicely. Others (including marriage equality) do not.

From a behavior point of view, I'm not so Mormon. It isn't as if I went off the deep end or anything (although drinking coffee is pretty crazy man, I was wired for like 2 hours!). But joking aside, I don't feel the same sort of obligation as I did before to follow the rules. That isn't to say the code of conduct isn't admirable, and even healthy. I still feel some guilt from time to time, but I guess the way I view my behavior is different. Maybe this goes more with belief, but my behavior and the way I view my behavior is a lot different. Part of this is to give myself the freedom to explore relationships. And part of it is a natural process of questioning faith, that I think is healthy. I fear that many people, when they come across things that challenge their faith, abandon the structure as well. But some of those things are really healthy safeguards to health, happiness, and mental sanity. I think it's best to strike a balance, not getting overwhelmed with guilt which I no longer view as wrong, but also not just saying it's alright to do whatever now that I'm not as orthodox.

But moving beyond the "Do not" or "Thou shalt not" category of Mormonism, there are a lot of things I don't do that Mormons often do. I don't go to church, I don't pay tithing, I don't do home teaching, I don't go to Ward socials, I don't read scriptures. I do pray. I do meditate and study. I do try to treat others kindly. I do reflect on Christ's teachings. I even believe that most if not all of what "the Brethren" say is for the good of humanity. There are some disagreements I may have, but I can completely support husbands treating their wives with respect, love, honor. I can support honesty, and integrity. I can get behind service and charity.

In many ways, I wish I could be a full fledged Mormon. I was comfortable in those shoes. And even if I was a bit non-traditional, it wasn't until the "cognitive dissonance" (see here) of feeling inadequate, left out of the plan of salvation, discriminated against, hated, ridiculed (none to my face, just people saying things unaware) that I really started to question my participation at church. It makes me wonder if having an at church coming out would help. I don't know. I don't know what if anything to say to my new bishop (apparently the ward split on me while I was "away"). But I wonder if I could go to church, participate in the things I like, ignore the things I don't. I'm a lot less delicate now that I've had some time to grieve the loss of my marriage, and grow into my own skin. I guess the question is what if any value will I derive from it? What harm, if any, could it do, does it do? I think if it's not helpful, there really isn't a reason to go, other than to help those that are struggling, questioning, believing they are alone. They aren't.

One issue is if other people will accept me as Mormon. I'm not as worried about this as I used to be. A more important issue is how I view myself. What does it mean to me to be Mormon? How am I a Mormon? Why am I a Mormon?

Another is my formal standing with the LDS church. I don't often go to church, but do I want to? Partly yes. What do I say to my bishops, EQP's, etc. It seems the "I'm gay" works pretty well for keeping them at bay. It's sort of like, "oh well we get why he doesn't go to church?" Isn't that kind of unfortunate? I mean it's sort of nice to be left alone, but sort of diconcerting as well. As if they don't really see where I would fit either, or they would rather just let it go than question why things are the way they are. I would like to be accepted by them. And maybe this is something I should give up. Because it doesn't matter anymore whether they accept me. Still, no one likes to feel ostracized and rejected for who they are. There is a strong tendency and pressure to conformity, and being a gay liberal Mormon makes it difficult to fit in. I think trying to fit in can be extremely harmful in this case, especially given the harm it's done to me trying to do so in the past.

I believe though that the church is not the enemy. You could argue the institution is in some sort of vague sense, but even then, I have to be fair and say they do as much good as harm, at least from my perspective. Once I let my anger subside a bit, I've come to recognize this more and more. And no person is at fault really for the problems. No one in the day to day church is at fault for historical inaccuracies, prejudice, racism, homophobia, patriarchy, sexism, heterosexism. These are cultural forces in all society, that unfortunately are uniquely concentrated within a Mormon context, and even sometimes backed up by "doctrine" (although this point is debatable. One could say that any statement supporting these things is not doctrinal. After all Christ was an example of love and compassion, none of these things). I have to say, living in California instead of Utah, racism, homophobia, and even patriarchy are not as widely practiced or accepted. The liberal Mormons I come across are great people, and people I could unite in heart and soul with. I just don't know how exactly to band them together with them in a meaningful way without the conservative orthodoxy getting their knickers in a bunch. I suppose blogging, Mormon Stories, et. al. is a beginning step. And I really appreciate it. It means a lot to me to feel part of the tribe again instead of cast out, for something largely if not completely outside of my control.