Typically, my audience of choice speaks to the general public, or LGBT+ Mormons, their friends, and their families. But, the Spirit whispered to me it was time to speak to a different and very specific audience - heterosexual men, or "straight guys". Although I've touched on many of the principles soon to be discussed, it has only been in passing...a sort of brief glance at these little truths here and there that I have found to be significant. But, I have never previous gathered them together, for either lack of thought or lack of divine direction. Today, though, I know it is what Heavenly Father would have me speak about, to use my voice for this subject so frequently discussed among LGBT+ Mormon men. To begin...
To my straight guy friends out there, or just you general heterosexual dudes, read on intently for a moment. Stick with me for a couple paragraphs, because I'm painting a picture here for all of you. ;) Let's consider a hypothetical circumstance together, which would never happen in all of eternity because of the unchangeable nature of God. Say that one day, the Church announces you are only allowed to date, steady date, marry, and have sex with other men. You are now forbidden to engage in anything but friendship with women, no matter what the circumstances. Allow that to sink in for a little while, both in your mind and in your heart. Consider the consequences of such a decision in your life, how you would feel, and what it would mean for your church membership. Perhaps you are asking yourself how you could even begin to consider marriage to a woman, and telling yourself that now your dreams for a traditional family are completely shattered. Maybe you'd even begin to question the 1st Presidency and Quorum of the 12 Apostles, asking if they actually are speaking with God and receiving genuine revelation for the Church. Indeed, you might even begin to experience anger, guilt, shame, confusion, despair, depression, and other notably negative emotions. Now, return to reality, where you are blessed by your sexual orientation. You don't have these challenges looming in your face every day, relentlessly demanding your attention and almost stealing away your faith in Jesus Christ. But, us LGBT+ Mormons do.
Turn again to your imagination, and take yet another journey with me. Imagine that you have just met some really cool dude. You like him a lot, feel like you have a good deal in common, and think it would be amazing to get to know him better as a friend. So, you approach him wherever it is you met, be it school, work, Institute class, whatever. It's always at least a bit unsettling to be emotionally vulnerable like that and put yourself out there, but you shrug your doubts and fears off because after all, he's just a guy, right? You start talking to this cool guy you'd like to be friends with, and halfway through the conversation, he kinda interrupts you and says, "No offense, but I don't really make friends with guys who wear Converse shoes. It feels like they are making some kind of romantic or sexual advance on me." You stare at him, and then laugh because you think it's a joke. But he's like, "No dude, I'm not kidding. Thanks for the offer, but I'll see you later, k? Bye." And he walks off, leaving you there in total bewilderment. "What kind of guy judges someone by the brand of their shoes?" you ask yourself. And so, with disappointment and probably at least a bit of hurt, you also walk off, not understanding what shoes have to do with brotherly love and bro bonding. All you wanted was another guy to hang with, to be "one of the boys"...why does this ridiculous standard matter so much?
In all reality, these bizarre, hypothetical situations do offer practical application in both understanding and genuinely loving your LGBT+ Mormon/non-Mormon brothers as Christ would love them. Most especially, those men who identify as gay or bisexual. Let me explain. In the first example, this was to shift your viewpoint to understand from a personal level how it feels every day for gay (and possible bi) Mormon dudes like myself. All those possible scenarios, doubts, feelings, frustrations, etc are real challenges I have struggled with either on difficult occasions like the policy change, or every day as a natural consequence to my chosen path of discipleship. And, as you can well imagine, that isn't a comprehensive list. If you know a gay or bi dude who has left the Church, or is leaving the Church, or even is just voicing frustrations, they should sound familiar if you re-read my words and return to that vivid, uncharted place of your whole world being turned upside-down. It is not wise, nor is it charitable, to tell LGBT+ guys in or out of the Church that God will "fix" their sexuality, that marriage can help with it, or any of those other falsehoods Satan spreads among us. If you truly would lead your LGBT+ Mormon/non-Mormon friends and family back to Christ, study out in your heart and mind how to best show them charity each and every day. I have heard it said bluntly and truthfully that people will gather to where they feel they are loved the most. If someone comes out to you, seeks your advice, or desires your friendship, extend God's love every time, without fail.
Speaking of friendship, let's address that point real quick. A pair of shoes worn or not worn would be a terribly judgmental and ludicrous way to filter out potential friends in your life. Similarly, the sexual identity of "straight" does not need to be some all-determining factor in whether someone is your friend. And, from a more subtle viewpoint, nor does it need to be cause for withholding love or one-on-one quality time from a guy who is gay, bisexual, or whatever. Guys sometimes fear us gay and bisexual men because of "getting hit on", or "possibly being seduced". Or, it could be that they fear the opinions of others far too much, thinking that maybe their other straight friends will question their sexuality just because of spending time with a gay or bisexual man. Surprisingly, guys, almost all LGBT+ guys will respect your orientation as a heterosexual because they know as intelligent beings that you're not going to swing another way. Not to mention, we respect your "straight-ness" because we understand that (if we were going to) there'd be no chance of anything happening, either sexually or romantically. Guys, we are friends with lesbians and know them well. That's like us being overly sensitive and/or protective, because we are watching for a time when you'll hit on and/or seduce one of our lesbian friends. That's ridiculous, isn't it? Furthermore, most of us are decent people who wouldn't dare to be so disrespectful and out of line. Again, you don't do that with lesbians if you know their orientation. Why would we do it with you, knowing your orientation? That's beyond rude. It's appalling.
And speaking to withholding love or quality time, some guys of mine have feared that if they hug me or give me a quick massage, it'll be arousing or cause inner conflict. Let me share something. Even if a man is gay or bisexual, and is out there doing all kinds of crazy stuff with men, that doesn't necessarily mean that your touch will somehow arouse him, or shake up his feelings. He might have a partner or husband already, he might not be attracted to you, and the list goes on. In my case, where I am abstaining from romance and sex with men, that is coming from a different angle. You see, I choose that path and as a result, I have emotional needs of closeness and physical affection with other men, in pure ways. So, I seek that out with other guys to meet my needs and avoid any kind of slip-up with a new gay dating life or sexual immorality. In essence, if you are comfortable being touchy-feely with your straight bros, you should with an LGBT+ Mormon guy like me or my friends. In giving that, you actually help lessen the power of homosexual lust and other temptations we experience daily. This is because you are, in that small time, meeting those essential needs your rainbow friend has for male love and acceptance. You're helping him be faithful, in your way. And there's not much that needs to be said for spending one-on-one time with him, because all these same principles apply. Surely your spirit led you to this man in part because you believed him to be of good moral character. An unexpected coming out the closet should not change that, if you're choosing love.
Guys, love your brothers as Christ loves you. He doesn't see your sexual orientation or any of your particular thorns in the flesh, for that matter. He sees you as His sons, capable of so much more than what you are presently doing. Live up to that potential in this beautiful experience with your brothers, and help them live up to their potential with the perfect love of our Savior, Jesus Christ. John the Beloved urged us to "try the spirits", and I have no doubt that almost every gay, bisexual, transgender, etc man you run into will pleasantly and joyfully surprise you with the beauty of their spirits. Try the spirits of your rainbow brothers, and learn of them. Love them, even as your Elder Brother loves you, and learn something from what you have once feared, but now want to become acquainted with. It's a different world, but I promise it's a decision you'll not regret. Until next time...love you, my brothers.