Sunday, July 17

Questions / Answers

gave a Q&A Fireside tonight in my ward. We got through most of them, but I promised I'd answer the rest of the questions we didn't have time to cover in person here on (G)MG. Here they all are.

How do you stay strong, and what advice would you give to someone with similar struggles?

I stay strong one day at a time. When temptation comes, I try to get physically away if possible - get up and get moving - or I drop to my knees and pray for help until it passes. What advice? Focus on being as good as you can be, love yourself, forgive yourself, and be willing to let yourself get back up when you fall. Look forward instead of back. Let God take care of your problems instead of worrying about them yourself. Serve others and follow God, and trust that He will make it all work out, even and especially if you don't understand.

What do you do to help you through the downs of your depression?

I don't have depression anymore. But I learned a bunch of coping skills. Some were better - playing a piano outside my home for hours, or forcing myself to exercise until I almost dropped dead. But those required effort that I couldn't always summon. Sometimes I would play video games because they could keep me from turning to addiction for relief, and from wanting to die, for long enough that when I finished I could go to sleep. The best things? People who pulled me out - who came to my house and got me up and took me somewhere they could show me love, doing something I usually enjoy. It didn't make me happy, but people are far better at distracting or coping than even video games. But that didn't happen often.

From your blog experience and interactions, do you feel most people with same-sex attraction want to get married to the opposite gender... or is that too difficult and complicated?

I know that, in my case, I just want to love, be loved, and have a family. There were definitely times that, if I could have snapped my fingers and fallen in love, I would have done it. Marriage has people strongly on both sides. And yet, at least from my limited perspective, getting married seems to be far less important than loving/being loved/having kids in the faithful, Mormon, same-sex attraction community. There are lots of men and women with same-sex attraction who make the decision to be married, and plenty who also decide that waiting on the Lord for that miracle (which may not even happen in this life) isn't worth it. At the beginning of their journey, I think most members of the Church want to be married in the temple, even if they don't understand how it will be possible. As they become more disenchanted with the gospel, it seems like that desire lessens greatly.

Would you say there's a connection between pornography, bipolar, and same-gender attraction? Or are they all different?

I definitely think they're both - totally separate parts of life, but totally interconnected in my life. The lows of bipolar could trigger intense temptations to pornography. Exposure to pornography could influence temptations in same-sex attraction. A lack of understanding about same-sex attraction, or feelings of guilt about pornography, could potentially trigger depressive mood swings. And yet each one can also act completely independently, even in opposition to the direction in which the others are traveling.

What has been the response from the gay community about your blog / choice to live Church standards?

I get ridiculed by people sometimes who claim that my decision to be true to God is not "authentic" to who I "really" am. When I began blogging, some people didn't think I was real at all. One person claimed I was a group of BYU professors, another wrote that I was probably a General Authority undercover. Obviously both were far from the truth. Some people have told me that my existence is a major threat - since I'm faithfully religious, still single, and only attracted to men - apparently my life invalidates some of the assumptions underlying their own. Most probably don't even know I exist, and some reach out to me with questions - wanting to better understand their religious friends or family.

Would you adopt? How do you plan on facing that issue?

I want to have my own kids. Yes, I'd adopt if I needed to, but I'm not going to marry a woman if I'm not interested in having a family with her (and all the prerequisites to making that happen). That wouldn't be fair to me or to her.

How has your life changed since you learned you were attracted to men, and accepted that as part of your life?

I'm a lot more forgiving of myself now. I used to treat myself incredibly harshly. Now I realize that I make mistakes, but so does everyone. The important thing is getting back up and trying again. Another thing that's changed is that I also have a really hard time dating. I used to date a ton. Since I've shared my experiences openly, I haven't gone on dates with many people. It was a lot easier to just not have to say anything - now I feel like I'd have to explain, "I'm not physically attracted to you, but I thought I'd ask you out anyway." - and that just doesn't sound appealing.

I heard it a gay guy who married a friend of his (girl) even though he wasn't attracted to her. What do you think about that? Right/wrong? Would you consider doing that?

Marriage is a totally personal choice. Other than the requirement of man and woman, there are tons of variables in each one. I know that for me, I feel that I'll need to be deeply attracted to a woman to be able to marry her - so I feel I have to wait until I fall in love. It's possible that this guy got a spiritual confirmation that she was the right person even though there wasn't attraction... but I'd be wary. Marriages with same-sex attraction are incredibly difficult even with love and attraction. Without it, they may be beginning one step closer to potential problems.

Do you think viewing pornography led you to be attracted to men?

I don't. I was only ever attracted to the same sex. But the fact that I chose pornography about same-sex relationships, and never viewed or read pornographic material involving women, was actually exacerbated by cultural norms. I learned in Church that women's bodies were sacred and that pornography was seeing them naked. I wasn't ever taught that men's bodies were sacred, and no one ever spoke about male pornography... and so there were times that I honestly told myself (pretty convincingly) that what I was doing wasn't as bad, because there were no women involved.

How have you been able to overcome social difficulties with autism?

For me, the biggest key to overcoming my social failures is having a "role" to play. At Church, I'm a greeter - so I talk with people. I'm a ward missionary. At work, I actually created my own role - one that focuses on the things I love to do best. In relationships.... Um... I'm awful. I can communicate well with people until they get to a certain point of closeness, and then often communication is really hard. My best friend and I have tons of trouble communicating. One thing that has helped, though, is to learn how other people communicate. Just look up autism and social dynamics studies like priming, peer pressure, sarcasm, honesty, candor... it was really eye-opening for me to realize how different "normal" was from my own experience.

My brother just left the Church. How do I answer when he criticizes the Church and its doctrine?

Just bear testimony. Use first person and talk about your own experiences. Don't ever try to conjecture about what someone else feels or why they did what they did. Pray for guidance. And sometimes, if the Spirit prompts you, just be quiet. If your brother already knows your feelings, he might just be looking for a confrontation. Soft words, or silence, can be golden.

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