I still remember this day, 3 years ago...even what I was doing around 1:30 on that day that changed everything. It was my sister's birthday, June 10th, and she was turning 14. Lazily I sat around on the couch, playing Super Smash Bros. on the Wii, trying to beat my previous record of how many characters I'd destroyed. My sister, as I recall, played a bit with me, and I do remember having a lot of fun with her. We tended to team up against annoying opponents on the game, totally annihilating anyone who stood in our way. :) Not long after Aspenn, the birthday girl, stopped playing video games with me, I got kind of restless. And, I will never forget what happened next. The Spirit gave me the craziest prompting I think I've ever had - mostly because I wasn't ready, and otherwise because I did not see what good it would do. I was prompted to post a statement on Facebook about being gay and Mormon, so that others would be touched by what I said. At first, even though I'm a very bold, confident man, I resisted that prompting very strongly. I said to myself (or maybe to the Spirit, or both), "You know, there is absolutely NO point to me doing this. And, who knows how people are going to react?!" But, for the next few hours, the Spirit kept nudging, poking, and prodding me to do it. Finally, I yielded. "Here goes my reputation," I said, then half-seriously, "but I guess there's nothing wrong with blowing it to hell for God's purposes." My hands sweaty and shaking, I sat down at my parents' kitchen table after requesting to use my father's laptop. With a pounding heart, I simply began to type, because I had NO idea what to plan on saying. I just let it all out, explaining to everyone that I was gay, was still going to stay strong with the LDS Church, and that the Lord had asked me to reveal it. How I wished I hadn't been asked to do it! But, the response of love I got was overwhelming. Indeed, as I just now took the time to read the post from 3 years ago, I am overwhelmed by joy and gratitude, seeing all the people who loved me back then, and who still love me now. In this post, I just want to discuss where I've come from, and then tie that back into what I normally speak about, that is, a helpful principle or two for my LGBT+ Mormon friends.
Though like 95% of the responses to me coming out on Facebook were positive, I had at least one that was pretty ugly. My great-uncle messaged me privately, accusing me of being a "fraud" and "untrue to myself", because of my religiously devout attitude. Because it was such an emotionally raw time, I am not proud to say my reaction was pretty negative. I fought back with both religious and logical messages, defending where I was coming from and pushing him away. Eventually, I blocked him on Facebook because I could not handle it anymore. That ended, but that certainly wasn't the end of things. You see, a handful of friends started acting different when they asked about my Facebook post. They still acted weird about it even after I explained where I was coming from. Needless to say, those friends are not my friends anymore. I firmly believe Proverbs 17:17, which says, "A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity". That is my philosophy I live by with friendship, and nobody gets an exception. Naturally, I apply it with wisdom, but I do not give people room to be ignorant and callous to the point of personal self-injury. I simply release such people into the world, allowing them to do as they will without harming me any longer. To continue, though, let me just expound on a few other negative moments. I am not going to paint my journey with being a gay Mormon man all pretty and pristine. It has been anything but that in the last 3 years. I've had friends tell me they did not want to hang out 1 on 1, despite knowing my character for a while, and then be rejected by those same friends. I was banned from the Ogden Institute partly due to homophobia (see my last post), and I've had people gossip about me when I have been disfellowshipped from the Church. There have been friends and family who have believed it inappropriate to hang out with guy friends alone, or some who have said I could "choose" to be straight, or to "reduce" my attractions simply by willpower. And, shortly after this Facebook post business, the Spirit prompted me to come out to my ward in sacrament meeting. Some gossiped about me in my ward when I did that, which didn't surprise me when a friend told me about that years later. I had a feeling it was happening anyway, but I held my head up high.
You see, my point in blogging about such ugly behavior is not to get people to pity me. Far from it. I want to illustrate that I have been through some pretty hellish stuff with my sexuality, in and out of the Church, and that nobody should use it as a crutch. Believe me, being bipolar, and having dealt with anxiety, depression, and a profound lack of social skills, I understand that journeying with this can be inexplicably difficult and heart-wrenching. But, everyone is journeying on a hard journey, and being gay is NOT harder than other life experiences, religious or not. Nobody has a harder difficulty than another, because opposition is tailored to a person's ability to bear it. What one man deals with, another could not, and vice versa. Doesn't mean one is "stronger" or "more righteous" or "better" than the other, not at all. Beyond that, I want to illustrate with those words and upcoming words that ANYONE can progress and grow in beauty with their sexual orientation. ANYONE can forget the haters, turn their back on gossipy people, and search out the family and friends who will support them! I don't give a crap if you're LDS, Buddhist, Muslim, or atheist, if you're LGBT+ you have something to contribute to society! And you have beauty within, more than you might realize or give yourself credit for. There is power in claiming this rainbow-colored piece of yourself, and saying, "Yeah, I'm (insert identity here), but I am owning it and telling myself today that I can be confident in it! I can love people, and make a difference!" I am of the firm conviction - and you'll see why as you read on - that God has sent LGBT+ people into this world to show us all how to love, and to live in a way that is pleasing to God. If you have ever been at a gathering of good-mannered, civilized LGBT+ people, the spirit of love there is overwhelming. My rainbow-hearted people are friendly, good-natured, and welcoming to all who attend their gatherings, from what I have seen, provided they are also being at least respectful, if not of the same spirit themselves.
Now, I want to share some moments of beauty, which (for the most part) I have seldom told to anyone. I believe the Lord wants me to share them with all of you, my readers, so please read them with a heart committed to be respectful. My first experience dates back to when I was really first realizing I was gay. At the Ogden Institute, through choir, I had met a man named Ryan who is literally one of the most Christlike men I have ever been blessed to know. He and I bonded pretty quickly, and he would sometimes invite me over to his house. Trouble was, I wasn't sure what my sexuality meant, and I also was VERY bipolar back then. Notwithstanding this, though, I rarely saw any anger or frustration from Ryan, even when I'd show up at his house at like 10pm during the semester, or when I asked for a priesthood blessing like twice a month. He was one of the first people I came out to, and even then, he still let me rest my head on his shoulder as he did homework, and still let me hug him quite often. I loved him, so much. Though he did get married after almost 2 years of knowing him, I knew the Lord had sent him into my life. His love helped temper some of the temptations I dealt with back then, caused by both my sexuality and unchecked mental illness. Another time, about a year ago, I met a beautiful man (both inside and out) named David. After I started hanging out with David, because he was handsome and very, very kind, I started to get a crush on him. David wanted to hang out with me, and invited me one Sunday to go to a festival with him, after church. I did, but on the way, I got all jittery and kinda depressed about my crush, and I requested to go home. The Spirit urged me to speak with David about it, and I resisted. Eventually, though, I yielded as I was getting out of the car. I told David privately what I was feeling, and when I was done, he said, "You don't need to worry at all about being someone else around me. I'm still your friend, and I still love you man." Then, he brought me in for a hug, and held me for a little bit. In that moment, I loved him more than I can express. Then, we went to the festival and had a marvelous time.
I have had even more beautiful experiences since, but I am not really in a place to share them. Such experiences only warrant sharing in very, very special moments, and this isn't one of them. Suffice it to say though, that God has given me platonic, godly male to male affection, both emotional and physical, which I sought since I first realized I was gay at 18. Never did I believe I could obtain such closeness with men, though I did thirst after and yearn for it constantly. But, it was when I started to love myself as a gay man, as well as a devout Mormon, that I arrived at a good enough place emotionally and socially where God deemed me ready to handle such friendships. I reflect on my journey, from 2013 to now, and I see a man who used to shame himself for lack of friends, get down on himself because of mental illness, and worse. I see a man who cried out for intimacy with friends and even family, and did not obtain it because he was not yet prepared to venture forward into such uncharted, deep waters. Now, I see a man who is confident, surrounded by amazing guy friends and girl friends, and who reaches out with compassion to those plagued by mental illness, because he is stable himself. I think back to that day 3 years ago, and I bless God for urging me to share of myself, because I have had people indicate they were blessed by me coming out on Facebook, and by starting my blog which I was prompted to start immediately following my coming out post. And, while helping so many others by my boldness, I have helped myself perhaps more than anyone else. This blog and my regular posts about my sexuality help me to navigate the occasionally confusing and anxiety-provoking journey it is. I have explored so many nooks and crannies about this spiritual and sexual journey that I almost feel like I've satisfied the majority of questions anyone could have. But, because life marches on and changes to my view, I keep asking questions and keep exploring answers. Thank you for reading, my dear friends. I love you guys! Until next time...