Sunday, June 26


The Sunday School discussion today began with a question - what gift do you want most in life? I began thinking about what I would ask God for, today, if He gave me the opportunity to ask for anything. Sort of deep stuff, if you ask me - not something that I can conjure on the spot. I mean, there are things that might be nice, but what would I really want? Greater faith? A greater ability to find people who need my help? Guidance in making decisions in my life or having an effect on the world? Then I realized that all the rest of the gifts desired by my classmates as they were singled out were physical objects. A pink car. A moped. A pet. My ward realizes that I'm... um... incredibly passionate about the gospel, but I didn't want to make people feel awkward... or make them think that I was holier-than-thou... Long story short, when I was suddenly called upon, I didn't have an answer ready that I thought would match the theme and was actually something I wanted, so the class decided that I wanted a wife. That's a single's ward for you - always focusing on marriage. The wish was actually accurate, and definitely in line with what the prophets and God want for me someday.

I've wanted to grow up and be a husband and a dad since I was a little kid. To be the epitome of romance to my wife, surround her with beautiful things, and spend late nights planning out our lives together and talking about the wonders of the universe. To wake up in the middle of the night and let my wife sleep while I hold a crying baby... and then hours later watching him sleep quietly in my arms. To be there for my children when they skin their knees, or fail a test, or when they triumph over the world and can tie their own shoes or walk home from school without getting lost. To be there, waiting, after their first date, and to see them gain a love of life and a passion for being in the world. To lift them from depression and teach them the gospel and walk with them late at night, just talking about God and His hand in all things.

When I got back from my mission, I wanted nothing more than to find a wife and get married. It didn't happen, and for a while I've felt a mixture of guilt, hot jealousy, frustration, despair, longing, optimism... my emotions shifted from one side to the other. 

But as the class went on, I realized that my burning desire to get married and have a family didn't have nearly so poignant a flame as it did in the past. Yeah, I still find myself jealous of the "you make me into a better person and I love being around you" monologues that come at the end of novels and film, but somewhere, deep inside me, I think I am finally becoming okay with following the Lord's timetable, instead of pleading with Him to consider mine. I've begun to honestly believe what the Lord promises - that the righteous will receive ALL blessings at His hand, in His due time. I used to be afraid of not getting married... afraid of being alone for the rest of my life... afraid of never being a father or a husband. But the Lord promises that every man who is righteous will fall in love, find a wife, be sealed in the temple, and have children - whether in this life or the next. And, as long as I am doing my best, God will take care of me and give me every blessing I need.

I'd love to find a girl tomorrow and fall madly in love with her. I want to have a family here and give everything to them. And I believe that it will happen. But whether or not it happens today or tomorrow or in a hundred years doesn't change the decisions I make in the meantime to keep the commandments and rely on the Lord. And it doesn't change the fact that I can be happy - no matter what does or doesn't happen in life... and that I can move forward from wherever I am to become better.

Wednesday, June 22

Meaning in Patience

Across the US, rain has drenched cities, causing massive flooding filling reservoirs beyond capacity. The cool, wet weather and late frosts prolonged spring into early June, and for a while the only things blooming were small, scraggly, but definitely green. Then, in a burst of prolonged sunlight, summer came... and with it a very unique set of circumstances.

Usually, spring gardens bloom in sequence. Crocuses, forget-me-nots, early daffodils and miniature tulips, larger tulips and apple blossoms, lilacs and day lilies and massive bearded irises. But this year, it didn't happen that way. The long, cloudy weather meant that, for months at a time, none were blooming... and then, all at an instant, everything bloomed at once. Irises in the same bed as crocuses, tulips, and daffodils - something I've never seen before. Roses backed by those same flowers, instead of being flocked by the green after-blooms of foliage. And when the day lilies finally bloom, with their blooming season they'll probably bloom until November.

I think that if I compare myself to a garden plot, it's pretty telling in my life. For most of my life, I would have given anything to be "normal" - to fit in to any group of people. Here on (Gay) Mormon Guy I only share a facet of my life; you can be sure that I'm probably the strangest person you've never met. I looked around and saw flowers blooming in everyone else's lives... everything going right, with no apparent difficulties on their parts. And my garden? Um. It's definitely green. I have a strong testimony and a faithful conviction of the truth. But the flowers and fruit that are in other gardens are conspicuously absent, and I'd really rather not be like the fig tree that Christ cursed when Summer was nigh.

Today, looking at gardens, I'm again realizing that the Lord always has a purpose in His designs. This year, a late spring and heavy rains left gardens bare of flowers and fruit... but only a few months later, those same conditions made summer gorgeous. I think the same thing is happening in my life. Maybe right now all my dreams are on hold. I don't have a wife, kids, and the love that I watch blossom around me. Those who don't know in my life are probably wondering what is taking so long. But someday it will happen. The flowers will bloom, summer will come, and all my dreams will come true. It won't be today, but I know that it will happen. The Lord has promised that every blessing will be given to the faithful in His own due time. And in the meantime I'm enjoying the rain.

Wednesday, June 8

When No One Understands... Or Cares

Living with same-sex attraction has been a lifelong series of ups and downs... and the time I spend down is pretty awful. Right now, my life is in order and I feel like I am on top of the world. But tomorrow, or the next day, it could very well start to spiral downward into an inevitable crumble into pieces... with or without my permission or any action on my part.

I have clinical depression that is unrelated to being attracted to guys or the rigor or stress of societal structures... which only adds to the conflict. When I write while I'm depressed, my writing is... somewhat depressing. So I thought I'd reflect on my feelings and then what gets me up and out while I'm currently not in the hole.

Sometimes I feel totally and completely worthless. Like no one could ever love me, even if they wanted to... and that if anyone knew about my struggles and the real me, they would reject me in an instant. I feel like everyone around me spends time with me just because they have to. People read this blog because they have nothing better to do. And even my family would disown or at least ignore me if it were allowed by Church standards.

In those moments, I don't want to talk with anyone. I don't want to do anything. And my mind wanders and offers me alternatives that could ease my pain - choices of addictions that could easily numb and soothe into an amnesia to cover my tears. If I give in, then I feel even worse. And even if I don't give in, finding the strength to pray for help and live my own life the way I want to, the pain is still there. It really doesn't make sense to ever give in... and thankfully I've developed habits that have kept me safe.

For me, peace only comes through the Spirit - from God. I can exercise until I'm exhausted, give service until I'm broke, organize activities and do missionary work... but ultimately the healing comes from God - not from any individual thing that I do.

I felt that way not that long ago. I had run out of coping strategies and finally found myself, at the end of the day, at the temple... asking the Lord to give me peace in the midst of the chaos. I asked, and asked, and asked, and asked... and then, as I was listening, He suggested that I pray for others - that I focus my thoughts on them. I did... and spent the next half hour praying for people, by name, asking for specific blessings on their behalf. By the time I left the Celestial Room, and had finished writing names on the prayer roll, my face was streaked with tears. And as I walked outside, I realized that a burden had been lifted from my heart. Somewhere, between my fervent pleas and the exit door, the Lord had given me the peace I needed... as I had focused on others, and sought the Lord in their behalf.

That's the one thing that always gives me hope and lifts me from the depths - finding some way to lift another. Seeing a need, and being able to fill it. Being a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, a teacher, a friend. Somehow, my own problems disappear when I pray for others and reflect on their pain.

And then the days go on and the world is beautiful. Depression can be beaten, over time, and with help, on a continuum. And even if it doesn't go away or respond to clinical efforts, I can still live and breathe and find peace and joy in life - which is the same as living with attraction to guys... and all the emotional baggage that accompanies it. Peace, joy, happiness, love, hope, faith, salvation - it's all available to me. Yeah, it'll take a lifetime of hard work. Yes, it may not happen as I want or in my timeframe. But the sun always comes out, one day after another. The clouds always clear from my sorrows. There is hope shining brightly before me, and I know that deliverance is nigh... because God is with me, at my side, through it all - even when it feels like no one understands... or cares.

Saturday, June 4

Homosexuality Isn't Just About Sexuality

"Diagnosing" same-sex attraction relies on biological signs - men who are sexually attracted to other men, and not to women, and vice versa. But as I've lived and learned from my life, I've realized that same-sex attraction, especially for faithful Mormon members, is not just about physical urges. Sexual attraction only tells part of the story.

When a good Mormon guy is dating a girl, he is usually looking for "chemistry" on multiple levels. Physical attraction - which is somewhat arbitrary and often independent of any third-party assessment of beauty. Intellectual attraction - the desire and ability to understand, know, and share the mind and thoughts of another. Emotional attraction - the desire and ability to understand and share their feelings, hopes, dreams, passions, and loves.

Each desire for attraction comes out of an innate need for intimacy in each context - physical, emotional, and intellectual. But, like attraction, intimacy isn't a need that someone can just choose to fill, or to have filled. They have to fit the part. Intimacy - physical, intellectual, and emotional - is a specific need that can only be met in specific ways.

Now switch to my world. And realize that I am not only physically attracted to men... but intellectually and emotionally tied to them as well. Just as in the case above, my needs for intimacy are tied to gender. And trying to make them fill themselves doesn't work all that well.

I can stand next to a girl I'm dating, put my arm around her, run my fingers through her hair, and whisper in her ear. But when I do, I'm just going through the motions. Trying to light a fire that hasn't yet seen daylight. And eventually I have to give up, because my physical need for intimacy hasn't been met. 

I can sit on a staircase talking with a girl for hours, sharing everything about me and learning everything about her. But when the night is over, I still feel like I don't understand her, or like she understands me. I'm trying, but it isn't working. And eventually I have to give up, because my need for intellectual intimacy hasn't been met.

I can share my dreams, my passions, my hopes, and my fears with a girl. I can open up and show her the secrets in my heart - the things that I care about most - and talk about how the gospel and my relationship with God has made me who I am today... and listen to her do the same. But at the end of the night, I feel like a missionary - not a lover... and while I have come to love her, it's no different from the love I have for anyone else. I'm still trying, but it isn't working. And eventually I have to give up, because my need for emotional intimacy hasn't been met.

At the same time, I feel a pull towards other men... and doing any of the above things with them fills a void that always seems painfully empty. But the pull doesn't always involve powerful, passionate feelings of lust. Sometimes it's a powerful desire to understand their minds. Sometimes it's a desire to know and support their dreams and hopes and passions. But it's always a desire for intimacy in some way - a need that seems like it will never be filled any other way.

This is what the gay community is talking about when they say "homosexuality isn't about sex." It's the reason why some who live with same-sex attraction choose to have monogamous long-term relationships, and the glue that sticks them together when the physicality of that relationship ends. Homosexuality is about sexual attraction. But it's also about emotional attraction, and intellectual attraction - attractions based on basic needs which, unmet, have far more pressing effects than does celibacy.

Physical celibacy isn't a new thought for society, especially for religious people. The expectation from God is that men and women will practice complete abstinence outside of marriage between a man and a woman, and complete fidelity in marriage.

The ease of keeping that commandment, however, depends a lot on hormones and available avenues to righteously fill part of the need for physical intimacy. Once hormones turn on, most guys and girls can cuddle, hold hands, kiss, and look each other in the eyes and feel pretty good about their needs being met. But with same-sex attraction it doesn't work that way, at least not in today's society. To try to righteously fill my need for physical intimacy, I have to find ways to make do in everyday life. A handshake with someone at Church. Sitting next to a guy in class. Standing near a coworker at work. None of those sound at all romantic, and they're not. They're just as un-useful in filling my needs, but they're also all I have. Which is why pornography is such a huge problem among young men with same-sex attraction - even those who will never be sexually involved with men. At this point in my life, the only positive way I can think of meeting my needs for physical intimacy would be playing huge amounts of direct-contact sports.

So I'm physically celibate and lack physical intimacy. I try to choose the right and follow the directions of the prophets, which exclude most of the activities that people use to fill their need cup... They essentially ask me to keep my cup half empty. So I turn to the Lord and He takes care of me, as He has everyone who faces this. With Him, I can do it. He's asked me to. What isn't explicit in the talks given by the Brethren... but is perhaps even harder... is emotional and intellectual celibacy. Something that, explicitly, no one would ever wish on their worst enemy... but still happens as a side effect anyway.

You remember, talking with a girl does nothing to fill my need for emotional and intellectual intimacy. But most guys don't want or need emotional intimacy with another guy. They don't need intellectual intimacy with another guy. And, for whatever reason, many of them have significantly lower needs for intellectual and emotional needs for intimacy in the first place. One reader here put it like this: "You're asking for a relationship that some guys aren't comfortable having even with their wives." I can have passing meaningful conversations with guys, or try to share my dreams, but, again, it never fills the void.

And then I'm at a turning point. And, just as with physical intimacy, there are multiple options. There are other guys who have innate emotional and intellectual needs that match mine - other guys who live with same-sex attraction. But while finding a guy with whom to be intellectually and emotionally intimate might work, is it the best option? And what would be the guidelines?

I've done a lot of thinking about this topic lately. And reading. And praying. The direction from the Brethren is the same as it always has been - be morally clean... which sometimes seems like it isn't enough direction, but in reality is. It means to never put myself in places where my morals could be compromised. To never make exceptions. To stay clean. And, in my case, it definitely means that dating guys, tying physical intimacy with the intention of finding one to partner with, is not an option. I'll have to find emotional and intellectual friends the normal way, and slowly grow our friendships to find best friends to eventually and severally meet my needs. But in my case, because of other factors I won't mention here, even that won't work. Developing those intimacies hasn't worked at all - not even casually.

And so I find myself alone, without the ability to fill any of my needs - individually or severally, and yet told by the Church to be happy, for the rest of my life... with no one who understands. For a while I wondered how that would ever be possible. And then, one night in prayer, I was talking with God and I realized that, with all my pleading, I had never truly had the faith to give Him my life, say, "Thy will be done," and ask Him to help me. So I did. I asked, and for the first time in as long as I could remember... I felt peace, love, hope, joy... and the powerful mixture of feelings I'd expect would come when someone who I love completely embraces me and knows my heart and soul.

Being Mormon with same-sex attraction has far more consequences than a sexual drive directed towards men. I have specific, incredible, important psychological needs that can't be met any other way than by through a guy... and through God. But the incredible truth of the gospel, and of the power of God, is that meeting those needs, and living the gospel, and being happy, is possible in my life... even though they may never be met by a mortal... because the Lord will always prepare the way.

Friday, June 3

My Vision for (Gay) Mormon Guy

I visited a site once that had a crazy strict comment policy. Essentially, anything that didn't require intense thought to write wasn't publishable, and was rejected before it even went up. There was a minimum word count. The comments that made it through the automated approval policy were subject to public review on a 1-7 scale... and if a comment got too many low ratings, it disappeared entirely. Post too many low-rated comments, and a subscriber lost his ability to comment at all.

I'm not planning to implement a comment policy like that. The programming involved would be way more than it would be worth, and sometimes I want to leave short, meaningful comments on other sites - just because I want to thank the author. And the word count requirement in the super-strict comment forum meant that people added extra adverbs and adjectives to their posts just to pass the filter requirement.

But I've been wondering about comments recently here at (Gay) Mormon Guy... and I want to try something to see if it makes a difference.

I've thought a lot about not posting simple "thank you" comments. I almost decided today to stop posting any comments that didn't include a question or story for a week. But it's not really my goal to discourage people from expressing gratitude, or any other good feeling, when they can't think of a worthwhile question or experience. It would be like the word minimum that made people add superfluous words to their comments.

So I guess I'll settle for the next best (or maybe better) thing. Sharing the vision.

I invite comments here because I want to create an environment where people can discuss and share their own success stories of faith in their lives. I moderate comments so that people feel safe from attacks... from either side. I'm conservative on what I put here - and sometimes that means that I leave out posts from overzealous members of the Church, gay reparative therapy advocates, gay activists, anti-Mormon preachers, and a host of others. The Huffington Post has vitriolic discussions on gay activism. Exodus and NARTH have forums where you can push and be pushed your flavor of therapy. 

(Gay) Mormon Guy is different. At least, I'm trying to make it different. As much as I can, I'm trying to make it into the blog that I wish I could have read when I was 14, 15, 16... something different from what's available everywhere else... to bring me hope and help me realize that true success - combining incredible happiness, complete obedience to gospel principles, faith, and honesty, no matter what trials I face - really is possible. And not just someday when I die - now... in the midst of life and its everyday chaos.

I'm not an expert on anyone's life but my own. While the principles of the gospel are universal, the journey to success is different for a lot of people. Some come out to the world and then come back. Some find peace in their youth. For some it takes longer. Some search for years. Some people turn to therapists. Some turn to friends. Some people turn to family or anonymous strangers. I have a lot of other problems in my life that I'll never address here at (Gay) Mormon Guy... but the reality of the story is that, for me, moving toward success has been a journey that has taken most of my life... with just me and God as the passengers. (Gay) Mormon Guy is my story. And hopefully something here inspires you to turn to God, follow Him, and write your own.

Thursday, June 2

My Breath Fogged up the Glass...

All sorts of music plays around me each day. I love Christian music for its messages, classical music for its predictable turns and powerful harmonies, Gospel music because it brings back memories of singing... Someone once told me I had the right stuff to be in a choir that sang Gospel, so I tried out and somehow made it in. I only stayed with the choir for one performance, and of that I remember "I'll Be Your Bridge Over Troubled Water." I love music from musicals and movies - as long as it's clean - and, like a couple million others, I love the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. And Christmas music... but not the commercial Christmas music. I like the religious music, and I end up playing it all year long, though I try to be cognizant of others, so it just takes shape in my car and a few random Pandora stations when I find the time.

Right now, though, I've got the song that includes the title of this post stuck in my head, with a somewhat absurd image of someone looking at himself in a mirror, upside down... and I find myself wondering if people really do that, or if it was just hyperbole for the song because it was an interesting image that rhymed, or if they've tried and then just decided to grab a flashlight and shine it in the mirror... which is what I've always done.

Then I find myself wondering how people do a lot of things. If they'll look in a mirror upside down, then I could imagine people doing many other things without choosing the most effective... or maybe just for a different reason than the one I would do it. How do people pray? Read the scriptures? What do they do to prepare for Sunday School or the lessons in Priesthood? What do they do when temptations hit them, or when they feel overwhelmed or burned out or concerned for friends? And what pushes them to make those choices? Something inside? People outside? Their relationship with God?

And, perhaps the most important, what do they do if their choices don't end up working out? A friend once taught me that it is more important to do the right thing, and to know the right thing, and to believe the right thing... than to be right. So if I find I can't see myself in a fogged mirror, or if I pray to God and have asked the wrong question for the answer I need, or if I find myself surrounded by people who totally don't understand... what do I do? Hopefully, I can always find ways to see the optimistic side - to draw a face and laugh or to learn more about God from the experiences I have each day.

Wednesday, June 1

For Better or Worse... In Sickness... and Depression

I had a history teacher who was incredibly passionate in high school. He seemed slightly crazy and would bring up incredibly random facts and ideologies, then find ways to convince us of their application to life. Amid recommendations to read "The Last of the Argonauts" and attend obscure, questionable theatrical performances, he introduced us to biorhythms... and gave us each a chart with the task of mapping out our own individual biorhythm and corresponding highs and lows.

I remember my curiosity being piqued... it makes sense that the mind and body follows discrete patterns... but is there an actual way to track them, outside of the stuff that girls do? I definitely wondered if there was anything real about biorhythms, and tossed myself headfirst.

The first problem I ran into was inherent bias - the placebo effect. If I chart my own biorhythm, it's much more likely to become true if I think it's a plausible explanation for mental, spiritual, physical, or emotional health. And it's more likely to be false if I disbelieve it in the first place. Unfortunately, I've never had the opportunity to have someone else track my moods and performance over time and match them to my "official" biorhythm according to the normal equations... but ultimately that's not totally relevant. What my teacher was trying to explain was the importance of understanding when to fly and when to fall back - the natural ups and downs of life and how to best use them.

I hit a massive down this week. On a bunch of levels. All at once. It would have been the bottom of all my biorhythms - the day that the charts told me to stay inside and plan nothing important. It was Memorial Day. So I found myself feeling like my head would explode, my brain turn to mush, and my whole body would freeze (wrapped in a dozen blankets), while simultaneously having to cancel holiday plans because I couldn't stop crying. Craziness. My depression has ceased to really be detrimental on my overall attitude, but it still makes me wonder about it all. The thought was more than a little absurd - here I am, able to tell my body to do pretty much anything I want, and yet I find myself crying for absolutely no reason and totally unable to stop. And when I've been crying for hours, posting and responding to comments is no longer at the top of my list.

Something this had made me wonder about is the huge amount of uncertainty that will come when I eventually find a wife. I probably won't find someone as messed up as I am (since the blog here at (Gay) Mormon Guy doesn't even scratch the surface of my problems)... but everyone faces trials. Everyone has difficulties. And everyone has things the Lord has or will ask them to consecrate beyond their personal will. I guess I just wonder what those things will be like for the girl I'll someday marry. What's her story of learning to trust and rely on God? Of coming to know who He is? Of finding peace in the doctrines of the gospel as they bring perspective to everything in life? How did she realize that all things, even potentially complicated or hard things like same-sex attraction, can be for our good and give us experience if we "endure it well," "love God... and serve Him"?

Someday I'll find a girl to marry. And we'll promise to each other and to God to love and support each other - whether or not health comes... Whether or not our dreams come true. We'll make the commitment, and rely on the Lord, finding peace and hope and happiness in the truth that the gospel brings each day.