Idaho Fireside Thoughts

I attended the fireside in Idaho Falls last night, which I found very interesting.  There were some things that I liked about it, and others that I didn’t.  Overall, though, I’m happy that it happened.  The fact that homosexuality was able to be discussed in such a setting is enough to make me feel that things are being done and meaningful strides are being taken on all sides of the issue.

To those who helped plan this fireside, I thank you for doing so.  Creating a place in which this could be openly discusses was so helpful.  I feel that overall it was well received and that it was extremely helpful to a lot of people.  Please do not take anything I say that might be slightly negative personally.

The fireside was set up to resemble a conference.  It began with an opening session in which a few speakers presented the topic of homosexuality.  After the speakers, different groups were held:  a group for gay men, a group for gay women, a group for friends and family, and a group for priesthood leaders.  In these groups, two talks were given, and then a Q&A session was held.  After the Q&A session was complete, everyone met together again and there were a few more speakers, again discussing the topic of homosexuality.

Near the beginning of the fireside, a speaker addressed the use of different terms used when discussing homosexuality, and it was again mentioned in the last talk.  I’m glad this happened, but I feel there needs to be more understanding of interchangeable terms.  If someone prefers to say that they are gay, they shouldn’t be looked down upon for doing so.  In the same way, if a person feels more comfortable saying the are same-sex attracted or same gender attracted, they shouldn’t be looked down upon for that either.  Some general authorities have said that using the word “gay” shouldn’t happen because it signifies that someone is not only attracted to their own gender, but that they are acting out on their attractions.  I disagree.  I have almost always told people I was “gay” because that was just easier than labeling myself in a way that made it sound like I had a disease.  That is my personal preference, but I don’t want people to here me say that I am “gay”, and assume this or that about me.  In short, I feel that it would be best to say something along the lines of “please be understanding as we discuss the topic at hand that the words ‘gay’ and ‘same-sex or same-gender attracted’ may be used interchangeably, and that neither one defines what a person is doing with their attraction”.

I liked that we were able to split into different groups, and I liked the groups that were available.  I feel like all need to be addressed in different ways.  I don’t know that I agree with how they were discussed in the fireside, so I would like to make my comments on how I feel they need to be dealt with.  I wanted to do so by discussing them by the different groups, but after writing this, I have found that so many things cross over into different areas, that it would be easier to just write them all in one area.

I understand why the church takes the stance on homosexuality that it does, and at official church functions, I would expect the church’s stance on the subject to be presented.  I don’t expect the church to change because that would also mean that fundamental LDS doctrines would also have to change.  I don’t think, though, that the church should talk about how those who choose to live a life contrary to those teaching will never be happy, that they will not inherit the Celestial Kingdom, etc.  Really, I don’t think we definitely know what will happen to anyone who is living a life contrary to the church’s teaching.  That’s up to God, and we have absolutely no say in that, so why speculate now.

The focus of the conversation should be that of love.  Not only that God loves us, but that we are loved by church leaders and members.  I think that members of the church want to be understanding, but because of the stereotype surrounding homosexuality, gays and lesbians are seen as only one thing and that image can be a strange and scary one.  If gays and lesbians within the church can know that they are loved by many others, that would help us so much.

There isn’t one right answer for everyone.  There are things personally that I will never advocate, but I will never tell anyone to not try it out either.  For example, I will never advocate change therapy.  If someone were to come to me and tell me they wanted to try it out, I would tell them what I believe are the pros and cons of such (fairly, I hope), and then support them with whatever decision they make.  Some people have been able to find happiness in single life, others have found happiness in marriage to the opposite gender, and some have found therapy helpful.  There are choices that I feel are better, but everyone is different and some answers will work better for them than they will for others.

Priesthood leaders should follow the doctrines of the church.  In my opinion, those are vague, but there are some very definite doctrines surrounding homosexuality.  According to LDS.org:  “People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves… gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. If they violate the law of chastity and the moral standards of the Church, then they are subject to the discipline of the Church, just as others are” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, Nov. 1998, 71).  That is it.  Do not make it more or less than what it is.  Don’t make anyone feel less than humane for having these attractions, especially when they haven’t acted on them.  When someone has acted out on their attractions, the issue becomes one of chastity.  React to what they have done in the same way you would react to someone who is straight and had done the same thing.

To all members of the church, whether you are gay, straight, a bishop, a mother, a friend, are anyone else.  Please be understanding and loving.  No one is perfect.  Everyone has problems they are working on, yourself included.  No matter what you believe about homosexuality, please love those who experience it.  We don’t expect you to understand it or to agree or disagree with our actions.  We just want to feel like we have a place in the church and that we belong there, no matter what we have done.  Church is to be a place to feel peace, solace, and love.  If fear and even slight dislike towards people because of their situations is present, we don’t want to be there.  Life is already hard enough, let’s not add to the pressure.  We want to be loved and we want to be understood.  Please help us help you do that.

What I Am And What I’m Not

I know there are a lot of misconceptions out there about homosexuals, and I want to clear that up.  A lot of this will be directed to anyone who reads this, but some will be directed towards Mormons.

The Readers Digest Version of what I want to say can be summed up in this clip:

  • I did not choose to be gay.  You didn’t choose to be straight.  You didn’t choose to have blonde or brown or red hair.  You didn’t choose to be left or right handed.  There are a lot of different theories about the causes of homosexuality and some may be closer to the truth than others.  It also depends on the person.  For me, I think it is biological factors.  As long as I can remember, I’ve been attracted to guys.  I remember having a crush on Prince Charles from the Faerie Tale Theater version (which was Matthew Broderick….really though, who didn’t have a crush on him?).  There are other things that may have contributed throughout my life, but overall I believe I was born this way.  I know saying I was born this way will rub a lot of people the wrong way.  Why would God create me like this?  Why would he make me into something that has such tendencies to go against his plan?  I have a handicapped brother.  Why did God create him the way he is?  He was born with so many problems and won’t be able to procreate either.  This seemingly goes against his plan too, doesn’t it?  And don’t we all have tendencies to go against His plan?  We all want to sin.  Having the desire to sin doesn’t make you bad or a sinner.  It makes you human.  I am just as normal as anyone else.
  • I’m not going to change.  When I first started coming out, I prayed and prayed about the possibility of change, and even started looking into reparitive therapy.  I finally received an answer by the spirit that told me that God didn’t want me to change.  He made me this way and I needed to learn from it.  He has no plans of changing me.  That doesn’t mean I don’t believe he can.  I believe he can, but doesn’t want me to change.  Does God have the power to take away my brothers disability?  Absolutely!  Does that mean he will?  Probably not in this life.  Am I okay with this?  Yes.  Furthermore, reparitive therapy tends to cause more damage than good.  One so strongly believes that if they do this and that, they will change.  After spending years and years of working the steps they were told to work, they may have become a better person with more self control, but the attractions are still they, even if they are hiding it.  Realizing they have spent years trying to fix themselves only to see little or no change brings a feeling of failure.
  • I don’t have sex in bathrooms.  I would be lying if I were to say that doesn’t happen.  It does.  And in parks.  And in other public places.  I think it’s gross and inappropriate.  But I recognize that it does happen, and maybe with more frequency in the “gay community” than anywhere else.  My personal thoughts on this are that this has come about as a result of our culture.  Let me give an example of a thought process that might occur in a mans mind that would drive him to do this:   I really want to have sex with a man but I don’t want to admit that I’m gay > what will people think if they find me having sex with another guy > if I can find a discreet place to have sex (like a bathroom, car, or park), I won’t have to worry about getting caught or about what others will think.  I also think people seeking to have sexual encounters with strangers are sex addicts more than anything.
  • I’m not a pedophile.  In fact, most gays aren’t.  That was used as a scare tactic in the 50’s and has since carried over to today.  Most pedophiles actually identify as straight.  Some with most male on male rape.  It has less to do with sexual attraction than it does with an inner struggle of feeling power over another person.
  • If you are a guy, that doesn’t mean I’m attracted to you.  You are attracted to certain people, as am I.  You might like blonde girls with long legs and large breasts.  I happen to be attracted to clean cut gay guys with dark hair that are around my same build.  I’m not usually attracted to straight guys, so you don’t need to worry anyway.
  • I’m human.  I’m a person.  I like to eat food, ride my bike, hike, learn new things, and meet new people.  I also happen to prefer the company of men.  I’m still a human, and I still have feelings.  I am just like anyone else.  You’d probably be surprised how many of us there are out there, even in your own ward.  Happy Guessing!  🙂

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.

To The Person Who Found my Blog by Searching For: “If I’m a Mormon, Do I Have to Stop Being Friends with my Gay Best Friend?”

Whew!  That was a really long title!

So, as you can tell from the title, someone found my blog by doing a search for “If I’m a a Mormon, do I have to stop being friends with my gay best friend?”.  I hope whoever searched for that will read this, because it is written for them.

The Answer:  No.

I kind of wanted to just stop right there, but I feel like there needs to be an explanation too.

Of course, the LDS church views same-sex relationships as wrong, and because of that, many members of the church view any form of homosexuality as evil or gross.  Because we are expected to “avoid the very appearance of evil”, many members of the church think they should reject any thing or person that has the appearance of evil….like a gay person.

I had this same mindset when I got home from my mission.  Two of my best friends had married each other in the temple, and after two years of marriage, they decided to divorce because she had been cheating on him.  She started drinking and all kinds of other things.  She wanted to hang out with me a lot, but I resisted because I felt that I needed to avoid the very appearance of evil.  I had really mixed thoughts.  I wondered what people would think about me if they saw me running around with a divorcee that drinks and doesn’t go to church anymore.  I also wondered what Jesus might do in this situation.  My Mormon instinct to “avoid the very appearance of evil” told me to not hang out with her.  My thoughts what Jesus would do told me that she was in a really hard place and to lose her best friend like that would be devastating.  I chose to leave her, and in doing so, I wrote her an email telling her that I didn’t feel comfortable around her and that I needed to surround myself with good and uplifting things.  She was devastated.  I was the friend that had stuck around the longest, and now I had given up on her.  She started doing things that she probably wouldn’t have done otherwise.

After a lot of thinking and missing her, I decided that I was wrong, and that I needed to be her friend.  I didn’t care what choices she was making.  She was still one of my best friends, and I wanted to be there for her no matter what she did.

You’re gay best friend is still your best friend, and he happens to be gay.  Stick with him.  It will only strengthen your relationship.

Optimistic Realism

I would say I’m a pretty realistic person.  I really try to see things in a realistic way, give people realistic answers, have realistic expectations, and live a realistic life.

I also try to be optimistic.  This is hard for me sometimes because realistically, things don’t always turn out positively.  I think my strength in this, though, is that I find the best out of bad experiences.

I once heard that President Hinckley called himself an optimistic realist.  I want to be the same.  I find that I am happiest when I can do that.  When I can see things for what they really are but to also see them for what they can be.  This kind of goes along with the Thomas Theorem which states: “If someone defines something as being real, it is real in it’s consequences”.  When we can see somewhat for what they really are and then see them for what they might become, we are better able to treat them as they might become and they will eventually live up to that treatment.

We can do the same with situations.  Assess a situation, and try to look at it realistically (for all intents and purposes of this blog, we shall use the experience of Same Gender Attraction, or whatever it is we are calling it these days).

When I finally faced the fact that I am gay and a Mormon, I didn’t want to face the realities of it (rejection, a single/”sinful” life/life of lies, misunderstanding, hatred from self and outside sources, etc.).  It was so overwhelming.  As I came to terms with this fact, reality set in a little bit more.  I had told a few friends and family, and had positive experiences with it.  I was still scared of those realities listed above, but I also learned of other realities that come along with my experience (love, understanding, help, compassion, friendship).

Once I was able to see things in the spectrum of my reality, I was able to see things more clearly.  When I had a good grasp on what was really going on, I could make the best of my situation. I began to explore the positive possibilities of my future life – that is,  being single and all that entails – having the job I want, going where I want to go, and doing what I want to do – free of restraints I would have had otherwise.

I am optimistic about the future.  I still am not completely certain of what will come and where I might go, but I am excited about it all.  I feel like I have a realistic grasp on what my life might consist of (the positive and the negative) and I’m facing it with the best attitude I can.  I will make the best of what may come and look forward to what I will learn.

Bring it on.

The Laramie Project

Tomorrow marks 11 years from the day that Matthew Shepard was murdered.

I recently watched The Laramie Project, a movie about the aftermath of Matthew Shepards death.  It doesn’t try to show any one side of the issue.  It isn’t urging anyone to support gay rights or to hate gays.  In my opinion, it’s purpose is to show the reality of hate crimes and peoples different reactions to them.  Some people react negatively while others wake up to a sense of humanity and love.

It is an incredible, beautiful, heart wrenching movie.

Survival

When I was in high school, I went on a week long survival trip in Escalante.  I loved it.  We took 20 kids from my high school and 5 from a high school for kids that were kicked out of our high school for drug problems or violence.

When we got to Escalante, our leaders pointed to a plateau far off in the distance and said “We need to be there in 4 days.  It doesn’t matter how you get there.  Just get there somehow.”  Then the girls went one way and the boys went another.  We didn’t see the other group for those four days.  We had instant breakfast each morning, and then something along the lines of 1/2 a cup of rice or an ash cake for each meal.  We slept in caves and under the stars.  We kept our eyes on the plateau and on the fourth day, we reached the top.  We had to wait for a few hours, but shortly thereafter, the girls arrived.

We spent that afternoon hiking, and then had to spend 24 hours by ourselves with no food.  This proved extremely difficult, and I was so glad to see everyone the next day.  When we had collected everyone along the trail, we were taken to a secluded area where our leaders could talk to us.  We talked about life and how we are to go about living it.  I learned a lot from that trip, but most of all this:

It doesn’t matter how we get from point A to point B.  All that matters is that we actually get there.

I think this is so applicable to so many aspects of life.  It doesn’t matter if we go to college or learn a trade or just fall into a good career.  Heck, it doesn’t even matter if we stick to any conventional plan at all.  All that matters is that we are successful, and success is defined by the individual.

It doesn’t matter how we make it through this life.  What matters is that we do.  We all must do what will make us happiest.