Thursday, April 17, 2014

It's OK to be "Gay."

...of course, this depends on how one defines gay.  I think it merely means being attracted to the same gender; however, some others, including those with same-sex attraction (SSA), believe it refers to some choices that are outside the standards of the Church.  I tried to prove that I was right by looking up the definition of gay in the zillions of on-line dictionaries.  The definitions are all over the place, so I guess we're still at a stale mate.

Anyway, when I first realized I was gay, I was getting ready to go on a mission.  I didn't really care too much about it back then.  I still thought everything would "work out."  It seemed like every LDS guy went on a mission for two years, came back and got married shortly thereafter.  I came home from my first mission after three months for other health and personal reasons (it's actually become a great story, but one for another post).  I served for a year in the Family and Church History Mission in Salt Lake City.  During this time, my SSA became more of an issue.

I had a good bishop when I started coming to grips with my SSA, and each of my bishops ever since have been wonderful.  They didn't pretend to know all the answers, and it seemed like they were exploring with me (either that, or they were completely terrified, and I couldn't tell).  As long as I was keeping the law of chastity, I was fine.  In 2007, my bishop gave me the pamphlet, God Loveth His Children, put out by the First Presidency.  Even though the coming years would be somewhat difficult, I relied on the eternal truths discussed therein.  There are some small cultural things that have changed since the booklet's release, but the core eternal truths have remained the same, and to this day, those truths still help me get through times of discouragement.  I could quote the whole thing, and that is why I included the link above, but one of my favorite sections goes as follows:

"In some circumstances a person defers marriage because he or she is not presently attracted to a member of the opposite gender....However, the perfect plan of our Father in Heaven makes provision for individuals who seek to keep His commandments but who, through no fault of their own, do not have an eternal marriage in mortal life. As we follow Heavenly Father’s plan, our bodies, feelings, and desires will be perfected in the next life so that every one of God’s children may find joy in a family consisting of a husband, a wife, and children."

Now, as much as I value those truths, there was one part of that paragraph that I left out, and it is this:  "While many Latter-day Saints, through individual effort, the exercise of faith, and reliance upon the enabling power of the Atonement, overcome same-gender attraction in mortality, others may not be free of this challenge in this life."  I don't wish to criticize, but some concepts like these sort of shaped the next several years for me...and it was difficult.  I was in the mindset of needing to work to overcome these feelings.  After all, I knew of members with SSA who were married, and I thought that was the end-all goal.

I was referred to a therapist to help me with my SSA, along with depression, anxiety, pornography and all that fun stuff.  I wanted someone to tell me how to fix my homosexual tendencies, because I certainly didn't know what to do.  He shared some good tools and coping mechanisms for dealing with SSA, and possibly changing my orientation.  All I could do was try to follow the counsel I was given.  The counseling helped me in understanding pornography and related addictions (which have been huge trials in and of themselves...anyone who's had experience with those issues could tell you that); however, it didn't do much for my attractions.  For a long time, I thought my addiction and my SSA were inseparable.  I thought that in trying to overcome my addiction that I would eventually develop feelings for girls.  I floated throughout the rest of my college career going on some awkward dates here and there.  Don't get me wrong, I love my girlfriends, and we did fun things, but I just didn't feel like I was getting anywhere as far as attraction goes.

Since then, I've come out to a lot of people, including members of my previous and current wards.  The support has been astounding.  No one has been negative towards me (and if so, they've kept it to themselves so far).  I've even met many other Latter-day Saints who experience SSA and are doing their best to keep the commandments.  They have been such an inspiration to me, and I've been getting a lot of needs met just by socializing with and finding other guys who understand how I feel.  Even after all these wonderful blessings, I still had a hard time letting go of the notion that heterosexual feelings were "good" and homosexual feelings were "bad."  I still thought that as long as I wasn't married, then my progression was halted.  Not to mention...I was also depressed at the possibility of being alone for the rest of my life.

In just the past few weeks, I've been blessed with some wonderful spiritual experiences combined with darts from the adversary.  It's interesting how Satan will try to tempt us right before receiving some much-needed personal revelation.  I'll try to be vague, because these experiences are sacred, but I feel like they need to be shared.  A few weeks ago, I was at an event where I saw a couple of my guy friends.  I longed to be close to them and hug them.  Even though I'm OK with doing those things, I felt guilty, telling myself things like, "I shouldn't be having these feelings!"  Right then, the Spirit smacked me over the head (figuratively speaking, but it would have been hilarious otherwise) and said, "ALEX, YOU'RE GAY!  OF COURSE YOU HAVE THESE FEELINGS!"

At that moment, a huge burden was lifted.  It was as if God had been trying to tell me (probably for a long time), "Calm down, and let Me work in your life."  I realized that I am this way for a reason, and that I do not need to be ashamed.  I learned that I don't need to pretend or try to be straight.  In another excerpt from God Loveth His Children, it says, "You are best served by concentrating on the things you can presently understand and control, not wasting energy or enlarging frustration by worrying about that which God has not yet fully revealed."  That statement means so much more to me now.  This and other teachings about the eternal blessings made possible through the Atonement were sources of comfort for me all along; however, I forgot to actually believe that they applied to me personally.

As you can see, my perspective has changed immensely.  I've seen a similar change in the Church as a whole.  Indeed, there used to be some harsh things said about gay people in general.  There seemed to be a large push to overcome or suppress homosexual feelings.  Same-sex attraction (and now gender identity disorder) was once something that we had to keep quiet.  In the last few years, more people have been talking about this issue and making it less of a taboo subject.  We have resources such as mormonsandgays.org.  More members of the Church are coming out as gay or same-sex attracted.  Some of them are even married to someone of the opposite gender...and they're being open and authentic about it (see http://www.ldsvoicesofhope.org/).

I do have some pet-peeves (who doesn't) surrounding this issue and the Church.  Sometimes I hear, "The Church is softening it's position on same-sex attraction."  That may be true, but it makes it sound like gay-bashing has been part of our official doctrine.  It also makes it sound like the Church is eventually going to embrace same-sex marriage and adjust the law of chastity.  I highly doubt that.  There are too many obvious things that point to the contrary.  Maybe sometime, if I feel brave enough, I'll write about my thoughts on same-sex marriage, for they are many, and I realize that it is an extremely sensitive topic.

Some people have left their families and the Church because they "tried to live the straight life."  Some are still under the impression that they have to pretend to be straight or get married in order to remain in the Church.  I once heard one of my college professors say, "I bet the Church will eventually allow gays to be in full fellowship."  If I had been out back then, I would have proudly said, "Ummm...we already are."

If you have been offended by something said over the pulpit, please consider forgiving whoever said it, and forgive other short-sighted Church leaders.  I know that we have prophets, seers and revelators on the earth today.  I know that they teach true and righteous principles.  As imperfect people, they may not have known how to convey those teachings in the best ways, but like us, they are striving to become more Christlike as well.

The Lord is hastening His work, and He is trying to gather all of His children home.  He needs His gay children back as well.  You have a place in His Church.  There may be some people who can't comprehend the thought of having gay people in their congregations, but there will be others who welcome you with open arms.  I assure you that God loves you, and that his servants on the earth are striving to understand your situation and others like it.  I love what President Thomas S. Monson said in the April 2012 General Conference:  "Tenderly the Master speaks to these and indeed to all: 'Come back. Come up. Come in. Come home. Come unto me.'"


6 comments:

  1. Very clear and true statements, Alex. You're a role model for all of us in embracing our same-gender attraction. Thanks for being a spokesman for the truths that God is teaching you.

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  2. "ALEX, YOU'RE GAY! OF COURSE YOU HAVE THESE FEELINGS!"
    At that moment, a huge burden was lifted. It was as if God had been trying to tell me (probably for a long time), "Calm down, and let Me work in your life." I realized that I am this way for a reason, and that I do not need to be ashamed. " LOVED this and LOVE you Alex. I'm thrilled you're blogging too!

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    1. btw, "the lifestyle" is considered a pretty offensive term by a lot of gay people...if you can figure out another way to communicate what you mean, I think that would be more sensitive to people who make different choices. Laura Skaggs Dulin

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  3. The only thing that rankles my feathers is people in the church equating "same gender attraction" with "same sex attraction." They are not the same thing; your gender does not always equal your sex.

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    1. Just looked up the difference...never thought of it that way. I guess we just tend to use them interchangeably. Hope I used it correctly!

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