Saturday, April 2, 2016

I don't "Identify" as Gay

So this is more of a random, "stuff I think about" kind of post, and I don't know how best to write it.  I keep wondering if I should continue to share my story.  I certainly don't want this to be my most prevalent attribute, and I don't want to make it a spectacle.  But as it continues to be a hot topic, and rather polarizing, I sometimes feel like I should do my part to try and fill in some of the gaps I see in understanding.

I want to talk about terminology and identity.  Sometimes I discount them as "just words," but really, they carry a lot of weight, and they mean different things to different people.  This causes a lot of misunderstanding. Furthermore, everyone has different interpretations of what "identities" and "labels" are.  I'm not so sure there is a right way to interpret these concepts (well...unless it's completely unrelated!)  It's OK to have differing beliefs about what these words mean, but it's important to understand the reasoning behind why we use them the way we do, especially for those who actually deal with same-sex attraction (or gender identity issues, and that's a different story).  We need this understanding so that we can all be more on the same page, especially from within a faithful, gospel perspective.

First off, I already know that my gayness doesn't define me.  I already know that I am a son of God and that I have eternal potential.  I already know that He seeks to bless me with all that He has, and that I will have a wife and children in His time (and not mine or anyone else').  I already know that my Savior suffered and died for me, and that He knows and understands my various pains and mistakes.  I already know that marriage between a man and a woman has been ordained by God, and I know that He has set aside the sacred powers of procreation for specific purposes.  I already know that the family plays an important role in society.  I already know that sexual attraction doesn't equal love.  I already know that the policy change last November was to preserve unity in the homes of same-sex families and to further clarify the seriousness of homosexual behavior (and outside of that, all I can say is that I'm very much at peace with it).  I already know what Elder David Bednar meant when he said "there are no homosexuals in the Church," contrary to the way many others took it.

Whatever your objections are about the terms "gay" and "homosexual," I've probably heard them, and I probably already understand them.  If that's not apparent, I hope I can better explain where I'm coming from.

I don't identify as gay.  I identify as Alex, a son of God, a son of earthly parents, a friend, a brother to four siblings.  Yet, I still use the term, "gay."  It's simply a part of who I am, equal to many other attributes that compose who I am.  When people try to lecture me about how I shouldn't "label" myself, they might as well say, "Your not bald, your a son of God!  Don't label yourself like that!"  I know full well what they mean, but that's what it sounds like.

Some people think "gay" refers only to sexual behavior or a decision to pursue that kind of lifestyle.  That's OK, but others, like me, need to be better understood.  There was a time when acknowledging "I'm gay" was actually something very healing.  It helped me start peeling more layers of the shame I had surrounding my feelings.  I know that it's been a necessary stage for many others as well.  Now, that term has kind of taken a back seat.  It's not as big of a deal, yet it's still important.  Being gay, for me, encompasses so much more than sexual attraction.  Maybe calling it "sexual orientation" is an understatement.  I can also call it "emotional orientation" or "spiritual orientation."  In fact, sexual attraction or sexual pleasure is very low on my list of things to do.  I'm not constantly lusting or wanting sex.  I know many people think this is all gay people want, but it's really not important in my book.  This terminology also describes many other aspects of who I am.

For me, being gay includes the genuine love and admiration I have for other men.  Yes, I think a lot of guys are attractive physically.  There's nothing wrong with appreciating the good looks of God's creations!  But it goes deeper than that.  I find other guys' devotion to God attractive.  I love having other friends who are gay, and who also share similar perspectives and goals in relation to the gospel.  In fact, seeing my other fabulous friends striving to keep their covenants actually makes them MORE attractive to me!  This is true also with celibate gay people from other religious denominations.  I compare my version of being gay to the relationship between David and Jonathan in the Book of Samuel, or the relationship between Jesus Christ and John the Beloved.  I've mentioned this a few times before, but I can imagine Christ holding my hand, giving me hugs, holding me in His arms.  The men I have in my life who are willing to do this are like an extension of what Jesus would do for me.  I value my friendships and the spiritual connections I have with other men (right now, these men consist mostly of other gay men, but I don't discriminate...).

This is why it is sometimes difficult to think that I'll be "healed" from this "affliction," or that I'm constantly "struggling" with same sex attraction.  I know what church leaders mean, and I know what others mean when they say this.  I do hope to be able to have a family at some point, but for me, that oversimplifies what it means for me to "be gay."  It's not just a struggle or an infirmity.  It's a blessing, a call to love in special and unique ways.  It is indeed part of my eternal identity as a son of God.

Some may not agree with what "gay" means to me.  I understand where they are coming from, and I hope I can be understood as well.