Hope For The Future

I’ve gotten to a place in blogging that I don’t know what to blog about.  I don’t want to vent my frustrations here, and I already have another blog for that.  I feel like I’ve said what I’ve wanted to say as far as helping out other members of the church with homosexual attractions.  I kind of want to write to regular members of the church to help them be more understanding, but I don’t know what to say and I don’t want to come off as someone who thinks they are on expert on homosexuality in Mormonism.  All I have to offer is my perspective.

I was thinking today about my family and how well they’ve taken everything.  They have all been so supportive and will always be so supportive.  I started thinking about my older sister and her children.  They are very inquisitive, and I know that they will eventually ask why I’m not married, and when the time is right, they will have to explain that I’m gay, but that’s fine.  Who knows what other doors that will open… 🙂

As this was going through my mind, I started thinking about what I would want them to say.  This also lead me to wonder about what my family has learned (not what I have taught them, necessarily, but just learned) from having a gay family member.

I hope that when the topic comes up, they will talk openly and honestly about it.  That is how the taboo surrounding the topic is formed.  We we speak in vague generalities, people become confused and scared.  We show that we are afraid of what might happen if we tell them too much.  I trust that my family members will know the right degree of which to tell their kids.  I hope that they will be willing to talk to me about it and let me talk to them.  I hope that they will teach them to love everybody regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, belief system, nationality, etc.  I know they will, but I hope they make a conscious effort to do so.  I hope they teach their children correct thoughts.  I don’t want my nieces and nephews to be afraid of me or think I will molest them.

Even further, I hope that they will teach acceptance and to embrace diversity.  I know they will teach them right from wrong and that “acting on homosexuality” is not a part of God’s plan.  I hope they teach them to love gays anyway, no matter what choices they are making.  I hope that they teach their kids that it is absolutely unacceptable to use any derogatory or inappropriate words like fag, queer, nigger, or retard.  I hope most of all, though, that they will teach their kids to stand up for what is right.  I want members of my family to stop any kind of bashing whether it be gay bashing, church bashing, or anything like that.

I want them to correct someone when that someone says that something is ‘gay’ when they really mean to say that something is stupid.

I want them to stand up for the kid on the playground the other kids call a fagot because he isn’t good at sports.

I want them to stop the cycle of hate against people who are “different”.

I want my family to be able to talk openly with others about the fact that they have a gay brother, brother-in-law, or uncle and not be ashamed.  I’m not ashamed of it, and I hope they aren’t either.

I want them to take the time to learn the truth about homosexuality (I’m hoping to write something about the truth and myths about gays).  I don’t care if they are for or against gay rights or whatever.  I just want them to know what they believe and to let people know.  This is how understanding will spread.

I think they already know these things, but in case they didn’t, this is what I want.

I Think I’m Gay. Now What? (Mormon Edition)

So, you think you might be gay and you are a member of the LDS church (or a member of any faith that discourages homosexuality).  What do you do now?

I remember asking myself that question.  I don’t want to claim to have all the answers, but I would like to write about what I have learned and might be of benefit.  Here is what I found:

  • “There is nothing wrong with you. … You are not sick, and you are not wrong, and God does not hate you,” (Harvey Milk).  These are things you absolutely must realize.  Just because you are attracted to people of your same gender does not mean that you are sick or wrong or that God hates you.  It doesn’t mean that you are evil, that you don’t have enough faith, or that your testimony isn’t strong enough.  None of that is true.  Everyone has their own trials.  Some people are born with debilitating illness, while others seem to have constant road blocks.  No matter how hard we try to hide our problems, we all have them, and as Elder Packer has said, “…there is more equality in this testing than sometimes we suspect” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Choice,” Ensign, Nov 1980, 20).
  • You are not alone.  There thousands of members of the church that feel attracted to their own gender.  One of the most important realizations I made was that I was not alone.  I was so relieved when I figured this out.  When I made this realization, I was able to figure out that I could remain active in the church if I desired to do so and that I wouldn’t be excommunicated for having a problem.  Some great ways to find people who want to keep their connections with the church are through North Star, Evergreen, and LDS Family Services.
  • Find some way to express yourself in writing in an anonymous/semi-anonymous way that will allow you to receive feedback from others.  There are probably several ways to do this, but the two best ways I have to do this is through blogging or North Star discussions.  Here are some differences between the two:
  • Blogging:  When you have a blog, you are able to write whatever you want.  There are no rules or boundaries that you have to worry about.  If you want to rant and rave about your frustrations just to get them out, you can.  With a blog, you can control comments.  If you don’t want any comments on a certain post (or any posts at all), you can turn that off.  If you want to moderate comments, you can do that.  If you want to be able to post something and then take it down you can.  What happens on your blog is completely up to you.  The problem (or maybe a benefit) with blogging is that you might not have anyone read what you write.  If you are looking for feedback, blogging makes that difficult until you have built a following (sounds kind of cultish, huh?).  The best way to do that is to comment on other blogs and to let Abelard Enigma know that you have a blog so that he can post it in the MoHo Directory.
  • North Star:  North Star is great because you can address multiple forums (young adults, men, women, parents, etc.) on the topic of homosexuality in the church.  Because North Star is a support group, there are certain guidelines that must be met when writing.  These guidelines help to create a safe environment.  You’ll be able to get a lot of feedback from people that are trying to stay close to the church (where blogging opens you up to the entire world).
  • I personally recommend doing both, but the important thing is to do what feels right for you.

    • Meet other people.  Meeting others will allow you to deepen the realization that you aren’t alone.  Meeting others might feel a little bit risky.  Believe me, I felt the same way.  Why would I want to meet other guys that might be attracted to me when I’m trying to not act on my homosexuality?  Doing so will help you to be able to talk to people that know what you are going through.  Being completely understood is priceless.  There are some really great ways to meet people such as Evergreen/LDS Family Services, Matis Firesides, Logansides, and other gatherings.  These programs are set up to provide a safe atmosphere in which people can meet and talk about what they are going through.  ***A WORD OF WARNING*** I mentioned that meeting people might be risky, and I will confess that it is.  It is very low risk, in my opinion, but there is still the risk that you might meet someone that you are attracted to and they are attracted to you, and that you will want to pursue some kind of relationship.  That risk is there.  Recognize it and move on.  Meeting people will be one of the best things you can ever do for yourself.  (I started by attending a support group at LDS Family Services and then attended the Matis Fireside, which I felt was a good way to transition into things because I was able to go to the fireside with friends instead of going by myself).
    • Decide who you will tell about your attractions.  This is something that is a completely individual choice.  I think it is important to tell at least one straight person.  This is important so that you can have someone who doesn’t understand what you are going through give you feedback from another angle than those that understand your struggle.

    I also think it is important to tell your parents.  I know that there are situations in which one might not feel comfortable telling their parents.  I know of one guy that doesn’t want to tell his parents, and after hearing their background, I think I quite agree with him.  I think it would be too much for them.  That being said, I think almost all parents will try to be understanding and at least deserve to know.  Telling your parents will result in one of three outcomes:

    • They will support you in whatever decision you make.  This is the response I got.  My parents encourage me to remain with the church, but told me that if I were to ever bring a boy home with me, they would welcome him as they would anyone else.  This outcome is rare, but it does happen.
    • They will be loving and understanding, and will express their strong desire to have you remain associated with the church.  They may encourage you to continue to date members of the opposite gender.  They will always love you, but if you choose to act on your attraction to the same gender, you will have to face their consequences (which could range from severe disappointment and strain on the relationship to being kicked out of the family).  This, I believe, is the most common reaction.
    • They will be upset.  This doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.  Some parents will think you are choosing to be attracted to your same gender.  Some will think that you thinking you are gay means that you will become a pedophile, a drag queen, and/or a slut.

    Telling your parents you are gay will be hard for them.  No parent wants to hear that their child is gay.  It probably won’t be the end of the world to them though.  In my experience, I have found that most people are very understanding.  They are willing to admit that they don’t know much about homosexuality or what it is like to experience it, but they will try to be understanding.  Some people may feel like they should treat you different, but if you treat them the same as you always have, they will usually treat you the same.  I have also found that it is easier to talk about it with them if you can joke about it.

    When deciding who to tell, I recommend starting off with someone that you know will respond in a positive way.  My first friend I told had been home from her mission for about 8 months when I told her.  She was one of my best friends in high school and we had been through a lot together.  She came home from her mission early because she had a parasite that was making her incredibly sick.  After a week of being home, she told me that she had been struggling with depression for the last few years and had resorted to cutting and was occasionally suicidal.  I, along with her parents, were the only people that knew what was going on.  She was later admitted to the psychiatric ward of a hospital and was able to receive treatment that helped her more than any medicine could.  I knew that I could tell her of my attractions because she had trusted me with such a big secret.  She responded so well and I’m so grateful that I told her.  She and her husband have been extremely supportive of me and I have been able to turn to them many times for help.  Sharing such an intimate secret caused our relationship to deepen and to grow, and I now trust her more than almost anyone.

    • Do what is right for you.  Throughout the whole process of coming to terms with your homosexuality, you need to always follow what you feel will be best for you.  I will never tell anyone would they should or shouldn’t do.  I learned this lesson early on.  There was a boy that kept a blog.  It was really depressing to read.  He talked about how he hated himself and how he thought about killing himself, and it was all because he felt attracted to his same gender.  He finally decided to start dating guys.  When he got into a serious relationship, he was happier than he had been in his entire life.  He was finally able to love himself.  That is what worked for him.  It may not be what is right for you, and what is right for you may not have been right for him.  Everyone needs to be able to do what is best for them, and we are to leave the judgment to God.

    Live and Let Live

    If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

    – Joseph Smith

    How do we treat those who hold different standards than we do?

    I’ve thought about this a lot in my life, particularly since returning home from my mission.  Those who have served a mission will be able to relate to coming home and feeling like everyone in your family and circle of friends is going to hell.  I did.  One of the earliest things I remember after coming home was going to an “Office Party”, where my friends watched the newest episode of The Office (now one of my favorite TV shows).  The particular episode they were watching that week was Gay Witch Hunt (ironic, I know).  I couldn’t believe that my friends would actually enjoy watching something I had deemed to be so sinful.  And my family didn’t have family prayer every night?  What?  I was really frustrated.

    That was 3 years ago, and things have changed a lot.  I’ve been put in situations where I have had to think about my standards and how I react when someone close to me is not living the they should.  I hope my friend L will forgive me for using her as an example of this.  I won’t go into great detail though.  L came to a point in her life where she was making some drastic changes and, in my opinion at that time, was being stupid.  She was no longer living many of the “gospel standards”, and it seemed she was doing so in a form of rebellion – doing this just to do so.  This was really hard for me.  I began to distance myself from her by avoiding her emails, texts, and phone calls.  She knew what was going on, but wanted to talk about it.  Finally, I emailed her and very bluntly told her that I no longer wanted to be around her.  This was very hard for her because everyone else had done the same thing, and now her best friend of 6 years was turning his back on her.  She had no other friends.

    I had a strong internal battle going on in my mind.  Why did I feel the need to do this?  She wasn’t hurting me or bringing me down, was she?  No, she wasn’t.  I had to ask myself, in the most cliché way possible, “What would Jesus do?” .  He would love her and try to help her in any way he could.  This ate away at me, but I still didn’t feel comfortable being with her.  She wasn’t living the standards. Since then, our friendship has healed, I see her often, and we are still best friends.

    I have since then learned some things about standards and how I believe we should treat those who are not living “the standards”.

    I believe it is so important to realize that everyone is different.  Duh, I know.  But really…no one is the same.  We all have our own challenges, strengths, ways to bless people, etc.  God knows our hearts, and I will let him be the judge (at least, I try not to take that role, but it still happens).  That is why I will never tell someone how to live their life.  I don’t know what they are going through.  (I used to be kind of upset when those who struggle with SGA would give in and “live the lifestyle”, as we tend to say.  Now I have realized that some people will be happier “living the lifestyle” (I use that term loosely, by the way) than they would be in the church.  And if that is how they feel, then I am happy for them because they are happy.  That is the same thing with my friends L and K, that I mentioned in my last post.  They are happier out of the church then they are in the church).

    Now to finally get to the point of all this rambling.  I have been learning that I need to hold people to their standards, and not my own or anybody else.  I of course believe that my morals and standards are the best, but that is only because they are best for me.  My standards aren’t for anyone but me.  I do believe that most people will be happy living the standards of the LDS church, but there are other ways to feel at peace with yourself too.  If anything, living the LDS standards will keep you safe and drama free. 🙂 Anyway, what I mean to say is this:  Hold people to their own standards.  I think that we ought to hold everyone to some kind of moral standard (that C.S. Lewis refers to as the Law of Human Nature) that includes things such as the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Past that, though, live and let live.  When a friend isn’t living the way I would, I try not to be so hasty to turn my back on them.  Rather, I try to help them live what they believe.  When a friend says “I’m okay with drinking, I just don’t want to get wasted”, I hold them to that standard.  I try to think of them and their pursuit of happiness, and if I feel like they might be doing something that goes against their personal moral code, I express concern and try to remind them of their goals.  Goals may change and I must change my assessment of their situation.

    This is now how I try to interact with people.  I will respect any choice that doesn’t inhibit someone from living with their own basic rights, and I try to be sentimental of every situation.

    Now That She Knows: Part I

    First of all, I apologize for those of you who have been waiting patiently for an update on how things are with L and I.  And before I keep writing, I decided that I need to give her a real name for my blog since I write about her so much.  I’ll call her Cookie.  I know that may seem cheesy, but it isn’t.  I don’t do cheesy.  One you meet her and learn more about her, it will make sense.

    So…..on to what you want to know about.

    I actually didn’t talk to her on Sunday like I was planning to.  It happened Saturday night after I got off work at 10.  I told her that I needed to talk to her about something really important and that I didn’t want to mess with any Mother’s Day plans she may have had, so if she wanted to talk that night we could.  She said that she wanted to, and then I got really nervous.  I knew it was the right time to do it, but I was still nervous.

    I picked her up after work and we drove to the Logan Temple.  I had told her that I wanted the right feeling while we were talking, and so I asked her to pray.  She did, and I was already crying.  I expected that I would cry more than she did, so I wasn’t really surprised that I was already crying.  I could tell that she was confused.  I had told her in an earlier text that it didn’t have to do with our relationship or my personal worthiness, but just something important.  She had thought maybe I was moving, but now it was obvious it was much more than that.  After the prayer, I just sat there and cried for about a minute.

    And then I came out.  I told her that I wasn’t expecting any certain reaction from her and all I wanted from her was to have an open heart.  She did, and she didn’t give me any reaction really.  I told her everything I could think of saying at that point, and when I was done, she didn’t say anything.  I was finally able to look at her (because I hadn’t been able to look at her up until this point), and she was crying.  Not a lot, but there were definitely tears.  I asked her if she had any questions, and she said that she did, but didn’t know where to begin.  She was definitely overwhelmed.  We/I talked a little bit longer, and I asked her to not talk to anyone who didn’t know about it for a week.  I didn’t want her to tell her mom if she felt like she wanted to until things had sunk in.  I also told her that I didn’t want her to make any decisions about our relationship for about a week.  We went back to my house and walked around the neighborhood and the park near our house.  We talked a little bit about my SGA, but we talked about other things.  We held hands, and then she hugged me and told me that she loved me so much.  That was SO helpful.  We talked a little bit here and there, but she was still numb to everything.

    We talked on Sunday a little bit after church, but we were with her family, so we didn’t talk too much about it.  She went to her grandmother’s house for mother’s day, and I went home.  I had a few friends that know the both of us check in with her and see if she needed to talk.  When she got back, we went to S.’s house for a music night.  Almost everyone there was a MoHo or new about us.  I think it was good for her to see them in that light of things.  When I went to drop her off at her house, we started talking about some things she had been thinking about.  We talked more about what I personally experience and not so much about the generalities of SGA.  We talked about concerns that she had and how we would work through it.  She felt a lot better about things, but still had a lot on her mind.

    Last night was incredible – but I’m going to save that for another post.  I’ll write it soon, I promise!  Be patient!

    Torn

    I wonder if I’ll ever be truly happy.  There are a lot of things that bring me happiness, but I don’t know that I’ll ever feel true, encompassing happiness about where I am in my life.

    With L (my missionaries new name) coming home, I’ve thought a lot about all of this.  Sometimes I just want to be with her.  I just want to marry her now.

    Being With a Girl

    THE PROS:  I feel like I could make things work; that we could have a deep, intimate, loving relationship.  And I do think I could do that.  She makes me feel pretty good and happy.  The thought of spending the rest of my life with her seems like a good thing to do.  It is what is right. Right now is my best chance of getting married.  I don’t know that i’ll ever have this chance again.

    THE CONS:  I’m not always attracted to her.  I love being with her, but sometimes it isn’t enough.  I really like cuddling with her and holding her hand.  I’m not necessarily turned on by it, but I do like it a lot.  Kissing her does turn me on, but not the same way that just holding hands with a guy does.  I don’t want to marry her and find out that I’ll never be able to give her what she deserves.

    Being With a Guy

    THE PROS: I would love to be with someone that I’m attracted to ALL of the time, not just sometimes.  I want to be able to feel like I wouldn’t have to “make things work”.  It should just come naturally.  I can see myself being happy with that.

    THE CONS:  I will have turned away from so much of what I’ve believed and taught others about.  The gospel means so much to me.  I have made covenants in the temple that I don’t want to break.  I don’t think I could ever give that up.

    Living Single for All/Most of My Life

    THE PROS:  I wouldn’t have to worry about making anybody else happy other than myself.  I can do whatever I want.  I can spend my money on what I want to.  I can travel the world.  I can do everything I’ve ever wanted to do.  I can be myself.  I won’t have a family, but I don’t know that I really want my own family right now anyway.  I’m happy being single.

    THE CONS:  Loneliness.  I don’t want to be alone.  What if I choose this path and by the time I’m 35, I hate that I’m alone?  I could live with others, but if I did I think I would have to live with a girl.  I’m okay with that, but I don’t think my parents would like that idea very much.  They know that it would be a bad idea for me to live with a gay guy, but I think they would worry about me living with a girl too.  Weird.  I even have a few girls in mind that I’d like to live with.  I’ll be the one that ends up taking care of my aging parents and handicapped brother.  I don’t have a problem with that, but I don’t think that is how I want to spend a lot of my life.  I’m selfish like that.

    What if I choose one path and it isn’t working for me?  How will that affect other people?

    Is it better to be happy and single, or kind of happy and married?

    Will I be truly happy in any path that I pick?