LGBT+ people in the Church and outside it don't just figure things out one day. It's a painful, tedious, and long process. Anyway, sometime into this rebellious phase, I figured out that I wasn't finding happiness in this path, either. In fact, I felt worse off than when I started. It was tarnishing my relationships with family, from lack of trust caused by late night sexual escapades, and my friendships, due to me getting addicted and sexually objectifying them. What's more, I put myself through a vicious cycle of anxiety and gratification, as I would take risks of contracting venereal disease or being injured by perfect strangers. But then, I'd get the sex I wanted, so I wouldn't care for some time. Furthermore, the guilt I experienced repeatedly from violating my deepest convictions tortured me. I was spinning further and further downward in a darkness of depression, self-loathing, sin, and worse. When I got disfellowshipped from the Church, it just made things worse. It didn't stop anything, though, since I was basically numb spiritually - or at least, becoming that way.
Stuck between a rock and a hard place, - not knowing what was fulfilling, since I'd tried religious devotion and messing around - I did not know what to do. After some serious contemplation, I figured that I was at least happier when involved with the Church, so I'd try that again. I got back in good standing again (meaning I reversed my disfellowshipped status), and decided to pursue spirituality until I figured something out that would work. Some would call this decision foolish, because it led to several years of flip-flopping back and forth between an openly gay lifestyle and religious devotion. Yet, I knew deep down what I wanted - to stay in the Church. So through a combination of personal resilience, stubbornness, and the grace of God, I found my way bit by bit. Then, because of a combination of apathy, complacency, lack of conversion after repentance, and not listening to priesthood leaders, I slipped again a few times and was disfellowshipped again. But still, I knew I wanted to stay with the Church, so I repented and this time I was wise about it.
I did everything this time around that I hadn't done before - cultivating conversion, following priesthood leaders' counsel, etc, etc. And, as part of maintaining lasting commitment to Jesus Christ, I learned how to better form intimate male friendships, what it really meant for me to have good mental health, and how I can successfully navigate goals for both mixed-orientation marriage & active involvement with the Church. It was like building a house with bricks - with a few rainbow ones thrown in here and there. ;) For the sake of writing space, I haven't included a lot of details - such information would fill up several posts. But, to add some emotional depth, let me just say a few things here. I have experienced heartbreaking rejection, harsh judgment, betrayal, terrible gossip, and worse, often because of my sexuality. For example, if you read a bit further back in my posts, you'll see the trial I endured with the Ogden LDS Institute. I have also put up with homophobia from "friends" of mine, who I ended up cutting out of my life. Beyond that, I've also struggled in varying degrees on my own, sometimes severely, other times somewhat, and often times not at all. I have dealt with doubts about marriage, sexual intimacy, children, my general testimony, and worse - like thoughts of suicide in the distant past. Some of this even occurred long after I felt I had come to a place of peace with being gay and faithfully Mormon. In short, nobody is immune...but everyone can find lasting peace.
Essentially, I have been journeying through a long, hard road with this, just like all of my other brothers and sisters in the same journey. What I have learned, however, has greatly blessed me and I am truly thankful to my Heavenly Father for allowing me to pass through this trial, aided by His grace.
A few things I have learned are:
- Love matters, more than anything or anyone else. And I can say this truthfully and accurately, because God is Love (1st John 4:8).
- Get to know those who are different than you, and then consciously choose beforehand to accept them regardless of what they tell you or how they act. This one is difficult, one I'm still working on considerably.
- The Atonement of Jesus Christ cannot change me being gay, but it certainly can cleanse me of any sin, and strengthen me under any burden. It can also change my heart overall, so I act on my sexuality in a Christ-centered way. This includes lifting up and encouraging those who feel lost and scared about being LGBT+ in a Church with a sometimes less-than-accepting culture, teaching others by example how to love with God's love consistently, and showing everyone - men especially, in fact - that emotional intimacy with men is a God-ordained, beautiful journey.
Besides all these lessons and truths I have learned, there are many more besides. I have often observed friends of mine, or even strangers who grow bitter, angry, resentful, sad, depressed, and worse simply because they feel as though God has consigned them to wander in some endless, impossible maze of pain and confusion. I empathize SO, SO much with all of these people. I truly do, because I have been there in the depths of it and frequently revisited it. In fact, I did just yesterday, if I'm truly to be honest in my writings.
And yet, I am still so grateful to be gay, because of how much I have been able to draw upon the Atonement of Christ, thus enabling Him to transform my weakness into strength (Ether 12:27). I testify that His grace IS sufficient, my brothers and sisters. If you feel far from the light emanating from your Savior, Jesus Christ, don't despair. Take heart, and know that some of the most noble of souls have risen from the depths of sin, mental illness, depression, despair, and countless other obstacles. Indeed, I would venture to say that such opposition is the platform on which great people of our Church and our world have always stood.
I'd like to close with this empowering quote, which sums up what I am trying to communicate about being grateful to be gay, a beautiful rainbow child of our Father-God:
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
Until next time, my reader-friends. I love you!!! Thanks for reading. :) :) :)