Are YOU Exploring?

Growing up as a teenager, you think you're awesome, so you act that way in any way possible and sometimes adopt an attitude of arrogance.  To say that of myself is, at the very least, a gross understatement.  People used to hate me in high school, because I had taken on more than arrogance or an I-don't-care mindset.  Rather, I had taken on an "I'm better than you and I know it" viewpoint.  Naturally, this pissed people off and drove them away,and it caused a rather profound lack of friendship in my teenage years.  Oftentimes, I still have to kick away that attitude, simply because it is so much easier to be arrogant than it is to be humble.  In pushing that away, I've discovered something valuable - striving for humility in life often leads to better relationships with everyone, especially the Savior.  Other people can share their views without fear of criticism or hostile disagreement, and Christ can teach me wisdom with less resistance and an absence of rebelliousness.  One particular facet of this really hits close to home with same-sex attraction, however. 

It's commonplace for people first realizing they experience SSA to bury it, pretend it doesn't exist, undergo shame, and the like.  These all hold a common theme of keeping it in the dark where nobody can see.  Thus, being "in the closet" actually describes this initial stage quite well.  It could even be said that those of us who struggle later with it after being "out" that we are wrestling in a temporary closet of our own personal demons.  Naturally though, we concern ourselves primarily with keeping that door closed and locked, so that even those who know of our struggle don't view the supposedly darker, uglier aspects of our battles.  Although there are several reasons why individuals like myself have done this, I think it more productive to discuss what can be done to resolve that conflict in the closet. 

Let me introduce that with a story.  Recently, I decided that my apartment looked horrendous and needed a really deep cleaning.  I proceeded to clean my bathroom, and hesitated at my closet.  You see, my closet was so messy I could barely even open the door, and it took considerable effort to even force it open.  Plus, it had all these smaller sorts of objects, and lots of papers I hadn't gone through, like, ever.  I thought to myself, "Well, I could just leave it, since I'm not really using it anyway, or I could clean it up and have some peace of mind, plus a space to use."  With that thought, I rolled up my sleeves, got some garbage bags, and cleaned for a few hours.  In my cleaning/exploration of my closet, I discovered things I'd forgotten about, and even some things I sorely needed for practical purposes.  I made some piles, and much of what I found in there went in the garbage straight off.  Other things, I was undecided about and so I left them there to re-consider at some future point.  By the time I completed my monumental task, my closet looked rather organized, and I was pleased with myself quite a lot.  However, it had created somewhat of a mess outside in my room, which was fine.  I organized all that into a garbage box, and resolved it that way.  Thus, my closet was clean and I felt happier because I'd taken the time and effort required to make it so. 

Similarly, each of us who identifies as gay or same-sex attracted arrives at a point where we know that we gotta look inside our closet and tidy things up.  There's piles of emotion, stacks of thoughts, and small little objects of our questions, desires, concerns with religious/spiritual beliefs, flagrant shame, and worry over people finding out.  All of these are legitimate issues, and all of them create conflict inside of us.  Our first instinct is to run away from the mess inside our hearts and minds, to pretend as though everything is fine or something like that.  But it sits there, maybe growing, maybe not, ever gnawing at our psyche and creating a deep craving for self-acceptance and peace.  For one reason or another, though, we squash it down and push it away.  We smile and say that our closet is neat and clean, as though some phantom Martha Stewart waltzed in and tidied it up ever so nicely while we weren't looking.  But what's the real truth?  It hurts and causes misery.  Outwardly, I used to smile and wave as though my closet were a decorated accessory on a parade float.  I'd figuratively and literally say in some form, "See?  It's just an ordinary closet, and it just means I've got some unique 'me' stuff in there.  No need to look in; I've got this."  Inwardly, though, I was freaking out, asking myself if this was some weird form of brotherly love, or if I was actually gay.  I would scold myself and tell myself that I wasn't gay, and even if I was, I had to keep it a secret.  Eventually it got so complicated to where I acknowledged it deep down, but ignored it in my conscious mind.  It became the elephant in my closet, which I refused point-blank to say was there.  And it did hurt.  It hurt like hell, because I knew deep down I wasn't being my full, authentic self.  Truth, without validation, became misery. 

Then, one day, I decided that I would throw open the doors of my closet (in private, mind you) and explore.  This time it still hurt, but it was a good kind of hurt...the sort of hurt you have when someone gives you a nice, deep massage that's just the right amount of pressure.  It releases the inflammation and tension that is causing you pain, and so it was with this.  I placed just the right amount of pressure on myself psychologically to where I was going inside my gay closet and looking around at everything.  My then-dysfunctional relationship with my father, all the bullying in my childhood, struggles with mental illness, struggles with being gay while refusing to acknowledge it, conflicts and oppositions created once I started being real about my homosexuality, and all that went under examination.  And I'll tell you, over the course of a month or so, it caused me healthy, productive pain that I wouldn't trade for anything.  I was giving truth a voice for once, and finally its spoken word could illuminate my fallacies and foolishness.  Healing in all those areas was either completed or initiated, and I started to find balance in my sexuality and with other areas, like my mental health.  Eventually, examining everything empowered me to place it neatly on the shelves of my now ever-widening door to my closet.  It culminated in me coming out to everyone on Facebook two years ago, on June 10th, 2013.  And as an added bonus, I arrived at a place where attractive men, whether physically, emotionally, or both, didn't faze me.  I could acknowledge my attraction and/or infatuation with such men, but it no longer controlled me or my actions.  Not to say I was perfect, but I could finally be at peace with this important piece of myself. 

To conclude, it's very tempting to just suppress same-sex attraction and ignore all the inner conflict it's creating.  Sometimes, it can be highly appealing to put on the masquerade of flawless socialization, as though your problems with this don't exist or aren't all that bad.  I can testify though that our Savior Jesus Christ would never deny anything about Himself, and He never did.  Christ opened Himself up to Heavenly Father, and did what was asked of Him.  Christ was real with Himself, and with others, especially at the darkest hour of His life, in the garden of Gethsemane.  He showed the Father an unequivocal willingness to do what had to be done, but seeing that bitter cup of awful, incomprehensible anguish surely must've caused His heart to ask if there was a different path to take.  This is just like what I went through when I approached my closet of homosexuality.  I knew what had to be done - the exploration of myself for the greater good - but I did not want to open that door.  But I take courage and comfort from the example of Christ, who experienced a similar feeling when He saw the burden of Gethsemane before Him.  And yet, I also testify that we, like Christ, will have an angel or a legion of angels appearing from heaven, strengthening us.  God will hold you and take your hand as you stretch it forth to open that closet door.  At that point then, the question is, are you exploring or are you just looking when you open that door?  Explore.  You'll find what you're looking for, and then some.   Until next time...

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