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.