Tuesday, October 30

Transparency and Fear

I'm talking with someone. We're catching up on life, laughing, and we just ran out of small talk. The conversation is about to switch gears.

And I'm afraid.

Telling people about (Gay) Mormon Guy has connected me with a fear I didn't know I had. I find myself tripping over words, trying to figure out the best way to speak, and afraid.

I'm not afraid of many things. Usually I can think through my feelings and let fear go. I just try to think of the worst possible outcome, and then come to grips with the fact that it isn't all that bad. "How could I be happy even if that happened?" And the worst possible isn't necessarily probably.

That's what gave me the courage to talk to people on my mission, or to ask a girl out when I knew she was interested but didn't really know what to do.

I guess I am afraid of some things. Afraid of being a stumbling block in someone's life. Or not being a good friend or doing something wrong that impacts the people I love. And that's the fear that comes out.

I'm afraid of being so totally open. Laying everything in my life out to display... because somewhere deep inside myself, I remember what it was like when I first saw it all laid out.

For a long time I couldn't love myself. I was never good enough, and nothing I could do was enough to make up for the shortfalls I saw in the mirror. I could serve others, know that God loved me... but it took me a long time to love myself and really understand who I was - behind the talents and trials and blessings and gifts and environmental factors... to see the real me.

I guess the fear I've felt is fear that the people I love will have the same reaction that I did. That they'll look at me, see my faults and flaws and failings, and think that I'm not worth it. As I write this, I know that's completely inaccurate. My family and people around me love me more than I could ever communicate. But I also don't think that I'm the only one who has had that belief.

Courage is doing something even when I'm afraid. But the Lord doesn't ask me to have courage. He asks me to have faith. Faith is one step further - losing fear entirely. Which means that I still have a ways to go. But at least I'm getting closer.

Saturday, October 27

Abridging All of (Gay) Mormon Guy

One of the takeaways from talking to my family is that they don't want to have to read 300 posts spanning two-and-a-half years to understand how same-sex attraction factors into my life. They want a few articles that give them a broad overview of all the topics at hand.

So I'm compiling a list of the most worthwhile posts from my blog and official Church sites. I want to be somewhat concise yet touch the breadth of emotions that my blog covers.

Obviously, I'd love your feedback.

If you were (or are) just learning about same-gender attraction and its impact on me as your brother/cousin/nephew/neighbor/teacher/student/classmate/colleague/boss/friend... would these articles be enough to help you get a grasp on what's happening in my life?

Once the list is ironed out, I'll probably make it into an Introduction/Start Here page. I've needed one of those.

Blog Posts:
A Curse? A Trial? A Blessing in Disguise?
Proposition 8. And all related issues
Just a Touch of His Robe...
A Light Inside the Tunnel
President Packer's Talk... From a (Gay) Mormon Perspective
But If Not...
One Today at a Time
Bigoted, Hateful, and Homophobic
Kissing Guys
Homosexuality Isn't Just About Sexuality
Childhood memories

Church Resources:
God Loveth His Children
Same-Gender Attraction (official statement of the Church; interview with Elder Oaks & Wickman)

Oh. And my timeline for Phase 2 & 3 of merging worlds (close friends, then people who are actively involved in my life) may have gotten shorter. I forgot to ask my bishop not to mention it to anyone.

Friday, October 26

"Nothing Has Changed."

I told my bishop this week (for those who have followed long enough to remember last time, yes, this is a different bishop). I felt like he should know before I began telling people in the ward, personally or through social media.

He didn't give me any advice or ask any worthiness questions. He obliquely expressed gratitude for his opportunity to watch people come back into full fellowship, and mentioned that I wasn't the only one with SSA in the ward. Then he asked if I was too busy in the ward (which I think means that he wants to release me from a calling or two), and said, "I just want you to know that nothing has changed."

Something in that shocked me. Most people thus far have had some type of defensive or negative or advice-giving or something reaction. But something else was grateful for a leader who trusts me.

Then tonight I told some of my siblings. They didn't say much... or really anything at all... so I can't accurately interpret how they took the news. It may be the same for them as it was with my bishop - nothing has changed. They see a little more clearly into my life and the decisions I make, but I'm still the same Mormon Guy I was yesterday. It was a lot easier, and quieter, than I had imagined.

Thursday, October 25

Crucial Conversations

In preparation for merging worlds, I'm reading a book called "Crucial Conversations." I've heard some good things about it and, if there's a high-stakes conversation in my life, it's this one.

On the first pages, the book describes a "Crucial Conversation" as one with three key aspects:
1. Stakes are high
2. Opinions vary
3. Emotions run strong

I don't know if merging worlds really counts in that aspect - at least not in my case. Stakes are high and emotions run strong, but differing opinions? I guess that since I've had years to process how same-gender attraction and the gospel fit together, and those close to me haven't had the same opportunity, it's possible... or pretty likely, if my past experiences hold true, that our opinions will differ. Yeah, it's a crucial conversation.

But as I've been reading, I've realized that this book has a much wider application. It may help me have valuable conversations with my family, but the real takeaway is in the conversation about gay rights, morality, and the world at large.

One of the first items the book highlights is the pursuit of open communication. Its basic tenet is that great decisions are made when all those involved communicate clearly, honestly, and respectfully. So the book begins by identifying conversational tactics that destroy open communication. They're divided generally into two groups - "violence" and "silence" - and extend to far more actions than I originally thought. Silence may be silence, but also not sharing what you honestly believe in the right forum, or not openly engaging in conversation because you are afraid of confrontation. Violence includes the obvious, extends to name-calling (any use of the word homophobic falls under this category, as do any any other derogatory terms used by either side), but it also includes intimidation, focusing only on your side, exaggeration, and controlling the conversation to subvert honest communication.

Controlling the conversation.

Controlling the conversation is something that I've done here on (Gay) Mormon Guy. I've wanted to create a safe environment, and I found myself looking at seemingly exclusive paradigms. Do I create an environment of complete safety - the kind of place I wanted to find when I was looking for answers - or do I moderate a more open forum of ideas from all sides? While I can see plenty of concepts in Crucial Conversations that others could apply, this hit home.

Before, in my mind, I felt I had to choose between the two. And each appealed to a different audience. On the one hand, safety for the people who were searching for answers, faith, and hope. On the other hand, discussions for the greater community at large. But maybe there doesn't need to be a dichotomy. It can be somewhere that meets both needs.

Silence and violence in conversations - name-calling, withdrawal, controlling the conversation, skewing facts, focusing only on one side - often come from fear and distrust. Fear that no one is listening, or distrust that they really care, which pushes us to shout. Fear of retribution, or distrust of others' motives and ability, and so we're silent. And, in fearing, we do the things we fear in others.

But, behind our fear, I think we have the same purpose in wanting to speak.

We want to do everything we can to help men and women, with same-sex attraction and without, find happiness. We want them to feel worthwhile, to make choices that will truly lead them to joy, and to give them the tools to overcome the obstacles that stand in their way.

We have a unified purpose. But how we see that purpose fulfilled then dictates the differences in our actions. One believes that happiness comes from the family as ordained by God, and writes Proposition 8 to support that. Another believes that happiness comes from societal affirmation, and opposes that same action. But at their core, they are seeking the same peace.

I realize that tossing off my own inclinations and fears will take a lot more work. I'm afraid of posting hurtful comments and then having to moderate a backlash of comments just as bad. Of setting a precedent of quick responses, then getting a 3-page article full of inaccuracies, biases, or logical flaws that I don't have time to point out. Of not being heard. But fear can be replaced with faith... and that's enough.

First step? My comment policy is changed. No swearing, graphic content, or outbound links to sites that support anti-Mormon ideals. I'll post comments when I read them. Then I'll do my best to make this a place where you can feel safe, and ask you to do the same. Safe enough that you don't need to call names, exaggerate, or withdraw because of fear or distrust... but instead to honestly work out your own salvation in the search for truth.

Monday, October 22


I'm concerned about how my mission companions will take this.

The first part of the issue is that we're not close. With a few of them, I'll make a phone call and I'm pretty sure they'll understand. In some cases, I don't have any current contact info and haven't spoken with them since the mission. Calling them up to tell them anything - let alone discussing same-sex attraction - would be a major effort. Which means that whatever information they get is going to be largely nonspecific and probably without the ability to give lots of context.

The second is that I really, really, don't want them to look back at our relationship and see me in a different light. But I'm realizing that's somewhat out of my control. If we don't have a strong relationship right now, then maybe that's even a blessing - I don't have a lot to lose.

And at least one of my mission buddies is somewhat opposed to the world of being faithful with SSA. He came out a few years after the mission and, around the time of Proposition 8, didn't seem very happy with people who opposed the sanctification of gay marriage. That was before (Gay) Mormon Guy, but I found myself wondering what his response would be if I shared my honest views... and the experiences that brought them to life.

Interesting. Again, I begin writing with a seeming dilemma at hand, and it sorts itself out in a few minutes of text on a screen. That's pretty amazing. And I'm not as concerned anymore.

Thursday, October 18

Merging Worlds

I haven't been here on (G)MG lately. My life has pulled me in a thousand directions and I find myself with barely enough time to sit and think... let alone write something sublime.

But today something happened that I need to record, and at least some of you will want to know.

I made the decision to merge my worlds.

It's been on my mind for a while. The possibility has, at least. But it was never really an option because my anonymity was God-defined. The Lord told me to protect my anonymity at all costs... so only He could rescind that instruction - or especially tell me to do the opposite.

It struck a chord when Quintin L Cook spoke a few months ago about being real, but I realized that his comments were to safeguard morality - not to demoralize those who live dual righteous lives. It has come as a thought a dozen, a thousand times, as I've thought about it perhaps being easier to live one life than to have a busy reality alongside an unknown, yet still busy alter-ego named Mormon Guy.

But none of those are the reasons why. The last few weeks I've slowly realized that, as Mormon Guy, I can do good in the anonymous space of (G)MG... but as myself, I, perhaps, could do a little more. Merging my worlds is the next step in finding ways to make the world a better place.

There are a thousand reasons not to. It could destroy what little exists of my social life. Turn away people close to me. Mar me professionally. Make it close to impossible to get a date. Put my family into a moral bind as they work through finding the hand of the Lord for themselves - they fiercely love me, and I'm pretty sure the shock would turn into frustration and a sense of injustice. Shower me with real live hate mail. Immerse my family in a contentious discussion they've never imagined. Inject me into the midst of contention. Make it harder for people - in real life and online - to forgive my faults, and easier to see them. And potentially make any experience with guys loaded and frustrating. (Part of me wants to punch any guy who asks me if I'm attracted to them in the gut.)

But even though it's terrifying, the potential of reaching one more person - helping one more person not commit suicide - physical or spiritual - would make all the pain worth it.

So today I made the decision and turned to the Heavens for confirmation. And, for the first time, I felt peace.

I'm not going to call it coming out, because, for me, that statement carries deep connotations that I don't want associated with my life. I'm not asking my family or friends to be more understanding of who I am. This may be much harder on them than on me. I'm not trying to make a statement to the world or get out of the stress of dating or whatever. I'm simply opening the door of my life both ways... and I have faith that it will allow me to be a greater influence for good.

It's not going to happen today. Or tomorrow. I have to tell my family, and that's going to take some time. Thankfully, I already know how I'm going to do it - I'll just tell them about this blog, give them a few specific posts to read (or verbally explain the concepts), and then answer whatever questions they have. Then I need to tell the other people in my life. But someday, at least according to the plan, I'll merge my worlds entirely. And then everyone will be able to see the hand of God in the aspects of my life.

In the meantime, do any of you have any good ideas (that's vague - these can be just random ideas that have no testing, or anecdotal advice, though references to scripture or talks would be great) of how to tell people in the second group - those who aren't close friends, but are still involved in my life? I have the blog to use as context, but I've had some really bad experiences in the past with fallout. How would you want to know?

Sunday, October 14

Inspiration from General Conference

Conference was amazing. From the announcement of missionary age changes, to talks on missionary work, to the focus on faith in the public forum, I loved it all. The people I was watching with were amazed that I spent 10 hours on Twitter (@gaymormonguy). (none of them even know how to get on Twitter)

The talks, music, and atmosphere were great. But here and there were moments that made everything else pale in comparison. Moments when it seemed like God Himself was speaking to me. Answering my prayers. Addressing my unspoken needs. The moving words of a Christian battle hymn that made me feel loved and included and whole. A phrase in a talk that gave me the strength to make important decisions in my life. And the overwhelming feeling that God cared and was actively involved in my life.

I've had a bunch of questions recently, many related to how my life would be different if I dropped my name here on (G)MG. How it would impact my ability to help people I know personally. How it would affect my relationships and professional life. How it would influence my Church service. How I would deal with stigmatization from the media or others. How I would tell my family. How/if I would tell the people I know in everyday life. I don't think that some of them would even want to know. How it would change my voice in the world as a missionary.

The feeling I got at Conference, in response to the overwhelming questions in my mind, was simple. Follow God, do what you know is right no matter how hard, have faith, pour out your soul to the Lord, and everything will work out for the best. So I'm not as worried. If someday He decides that my anonymity isn't necessary anymore, and Mormon Guy has a name and telephone number, I'll let Him answer all the questions.

I'm incredibly grateful for living prophets and apostles... and for a gospel that applies to me, personally, and can give me direction along the pathway of life. It gives me hope in the darkness, light throughout life, and meaning and joy each passing day. It colors my Sunday school lessons, brightens my smile in scripture study, and opens my heart to listen and understand those around me. I'm grateful for the countless circumstances that have given me a chance to become who I am today - same-sex attraction, family, culture, upbringing, talents, trials... but I am grateful most of all that I've had these experiences within the perspective of the gospel. There is no better place to learn the truth, no better place to understand myself than learning from God Himself... and here, in His Church, I see and feel His hand.