Friday, April 8, 2016

Six Years Out

Six years ago, I came out on this blog. It feels like yesterday and, simultaneously, a lifetime ago.

It feels like yesterday that I started to brave the online world with how I truly felt. Seems only yesterday that I reached out to other gay Mormon bloggers (who I am still friends with today). Seems only yesterday that I was wrestling with two halves of me, not knowing that I could be complete and whole as a distinct individual. Seems only yesterday that the world was simpler, black and white, and easier.

Yet, I look back over the past six years and I am floored by how much has happened and how distant my old life seems. Going to church with my family (when I have the chance) seems foreign to me with only a hint of distant familiarity. My old thoughts and thinking patterns seem labored and heavy compared to the lightness I experience today while contemplating life. It seems a lifetime ago that I discovered the world has so many colors, hues and diversity that makes it truly beautiful.

The world has changed. Gay marriage is now legal. Slowly, there is more acceptance in the world. Information is readily available and communication is easy for anyone needing love, support or help. I've had close gay couples who are dear friends marry (some divorce), adopt children and start their own families. It seems that a lifetime of change has happened in only a few short years.

We still have a long way to go. Policies change, laws are introduced, intolerance still exists. But we are stronger together. We cannot become complacent and forget where we have come from only a few short years ago. Yet we can also celebrate all we have accomplished and push forward, including making personal progress, enhancing friendships and building up the community we have created.

Six years ago I came out on this blog. And in what seems like both a brief moment in time and vast era of change, I've never been happier.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Five Years Out

Five years out. I can hardly believe it myself.

A half decade of truly being me! In the past five years, I’ve been on such a journey. From helping out the gay Mormon community to then focusing more on my own health and stability, I’ve found that true happiness comes from both serving others and from within. And I’m happier than ever.

I’m going through so much change right now, but change is good. It
keeps you humble and moving forward. Everything is up in the air right now—my job, where I live, what my future may hold. But the one thing that has been constant is the close circle of friends and family who support me through everything. I even still have friends I met from this very blog.

That’s why I still keep this blog up even though most of the Mohosphere seems to have migrated to Facebook and beyond. Every year I look back, read through my posts and see how far I have come. And if it can be helpful at all in other people’s pursuit of peace, then all the better.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Four Years Out: My Bachelor's Degree in Being Gay

I can't believe it has been four years since I came out to myself. Four years of learning who I am again. Four years of wonderful new experiences. Four years of education about what that means for the rest of my life. Today, I receive my bachelor's degree in being gay.

Like any other four-year degree, I've had my ups and downs. I've had some of the best teachers--my family and friends--who have taught me about love and who helped support me through it all. I've also had the hard professor of life teach me about bigotry, hate and misunderstanding. More than anything though, I've learned how to experience joy--my own and that of others--and live authentically, striving to be my best self everyday.

I like the person I've become, and I'm proud of my heritage. I'm proud to be a gay Mormon. I'm proud of the way my family has grown to accept me. I'm proud that I have been able to give back to the community in my own way, from deeply personal relationships to helping out a number of gay/Mormon organizations.

I certainly haven't learned everything yet--there is so much more to come. So I've decided to carry on and pursue an advanced degree in being gay. I just hope it doesn't take four more years to graduate with honors by finding a husband!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Three Years Out

It has been three years to the day since I came out to myself. Three years since I first said the words, “Hello world. I am a Mormon young man who is attracted to other men.” Three years of happiness and sadness, triumph and failure, ups and downs, as any full life tends to have.

I’ve come out to everyone. I’ve lived an authentic life. I’ve organized advocacy groups and counseled those in urgent need. I’ve discussed the needs of gay Mormons in the White House. I’ve been to Pride celebrations in four different cities. I’ve celebrated with people as they marry their same-sex partners. I’ve been surprised by allies I never expected. I’ve made some of the best friends in my life. And I’ve been in love.

On the other hand, I’ve been defriended for advocating marriage equality. I’ve experienced a militant bishop and attended church less regularly. I’ve lost the ability to go to the temple over technicalities. I’ve cried because sometimes I still don’t understand why I am. And I’ve suffered heartbreak that stings.

To me, the positives outweigh the negatives. I’m still standing and smiling. I’m still the same person I’ve always been. I’m still the son/friend/uncle/coworker who strives to be good and helps others be happy. And I’m still growing, learning and loving.

The best part about coming out has been the conversations with family, friends and even strangers, bearing my soul and providing a familiar face for the issues that homosexuality and religion raise. Eyes have been opened, hearts warmed and tears shed.

It has been three years since I came out. I’m only at the beginning of my journey, and the road ahead is still unknown. But now, I know I am not alone and that makes all the difference.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Two Years Out

Two years out today! Hooray! Best decision I've ever made in my life. I realize that I have not updated this blog in a whole year. (Sorry about that!) But what a year it has been!

In the brief few minutes before I miss my anniversary date for posting this, I wanted to share that this past year has been the best of my life. Yes it had ups and downs, but I am happier and healthier than I ever have been.

Time permitting, I'll try to write down more of my story. It is worth telling. I have enjoyed meeting so many of you, and I am so thankful for this community. You are all so wonderful!

To summarize my entire last year, I can simply say this: it does get better. :)

Friday, April 8, 2011

One Year Out

Today is my one year anniversary that I started blogging just after coming out to myself. I am happier, healthier and on my way up.

What a year it has been! Because I have been so busy and have not been able to write the anniversary post that I want to (and that I still will), I'll leave you with a taste of this yummy concoction.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Coming Out to an Apostle

Thanks for everyone's thoughts and opinions on what Elder Bednar said (or did not say) regarding homosexuality. I tend to remain generally optimistic, based on a one-on-one interaction I had with him following the fireside.

We had the chance to shake his hand afterwards, and since I was near the front of the chapel, I took the opportunity to line up to say hello to him in person. Most people were just shaking his hand and moving on, but I wanted to say something to him.

I wanted to send a polite, meaningful message that might alter his perspective slightly or open up his eyes on the issue that he could eventually report back to the Twelve on. I didn't have much time to think, but when I approached him I shook his hand, thanked him for his earlier comments and then said something along these lines:

"As someone who is gay and active in the church, who is doctrinally grounded to the extent that I am capable of understanding, who is temple worthy, who serves the Lord and those around me, making friends and doing what I can whenever I can to help, I just wanted to convey to you how hard and lonely a road that life is."

He took me by the hand, looked me in the eye and told me that he can't understand how hard it is or can be, but that the First Presidency and Twelve are acutely aware of what is happening. He commended me for not letting the world define me, for realizing my divine heritage and for my integrity. I then moved on in the line.

In public meetings, I believe general authorities must maintain a consistent message across the board. In their personal ministries, they can be more open and compassionate. I hope that in the near future the wider consistent message and the compassionate personal response can merge to better uplift gay members of the church.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Elder Bednar on Homosexuality

On Friday, I had the opportunity to attend a fireside for Young Single Adults in New York. Elder David A. Bednar was the featured speaker, and he decided to have an open forum question and answer period. (For those of you reading who may not be Mormon, Elder Bednar is a member of the modern Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and a special witness of he is a pretty big deal.)

I got there about 45 minutes early and the room was quickly filling up. One of my friends had saved me a seat in the front, and so I joined her on the pew. I settled in and removed a piece of paper from my bag that had the question I wanted to ask written on it.

Thank you so much for all of your suggestions as to what I should ask Elder Bednar. I took a little from each of you and came up with a question that I thought would be a good one for him to answer that was not accusatory or offensive but more inquisitive and genuine.

Here was my my question.
I believe that sexuality is not a conscious choice in this life. I have a question with two parts. 1) How does homosexuality fit in the plan of salvation, and 2) what is the church specifically doing on a general level to better support and uplift the thousands of our gay brothers and sisters, both active and inactive, who are in need spiritually, socially and emotionally?

I realized that by asking the question I was going to essentially out myself to the whole audience of young single adults from three stakes. Yes, I was nervous, but I had made the choice and wanted to hear his answer. (I teased my straight friend about her asking the question for me, and she said she couldn't do it with a straight face.)

I am coming up on being out to myself for a year now (wow!) and really don't mind people knowing about me being gay, so I raised my hand at every opportunity, hoping to be called on. But I wasn't.

The audience was packed with raised hands, and only a few were picked to ask a question since each answer lasted from 10 to 20 minutes. I was a little disappointed because I was ready to take that step and ask the question that would establish myself publicly as a gay Mormon.

However, I did get to hear him talk on the subject for nearly 12 minutes. One of the last questions asked from an ASL interpreter was about homosexuality. (Sidenote: the ASL sign for gay/homosexual is putting the thumb and forefinger on your chin, like signing the letter G and tapping it on your chin. Very cool.)

I have included the transcript of that question and his comments below as well as an audio recording. Please remember that Elder Bednar's comments were said to a specific and relatively small group and would not be in any way official statements from the church. This should be simply classified on his thoughts on homosexuality.

Without further ado, here is the transcript and recording, which you can also download here:

Sister (asking verbally and in sign language): I have a question but I... [pause] Sorry, I am interpreting at the same time as asking a question.

Elder Bednar: Don’t be sorry! (laughter from audience)

Sister: My question is a really big question that I am not really sure how to ask. But in concern with homosexuality, I’ve heard people say, “Well, the same as blacks in the priesthood. It will change someday in the future.” (Which I don’t believe that. We have the Family Proclamation that says different.) But I have many friends in the church and out of the church who struggle with homosexuality and it's a huge struggle. And I just want to know what can I do to help them, and some who have chosen that lifestyle and others who are just struggling and say, "I want to get married in the temple but I can’t." So... I just... What's my place and what can I do to help them?

Elder Bednar: What a courageous question. Thank you for asking. This is another example of where it is important to be doctrinally grounded so that you’re not tossed to and fro by every doctrine of men. Now this is going to be very simple. Some of you are going to be disappointed because of the simplicity. I would encourage you to not be blinded by the simpleness of the way. Do you recall that the children of Israel could be healed if they would simply look, but because of the simpleness of the way they refused to look. And a tremendous blessing was missed.

Now let me begin with a few fundamental principles. We are agents, we are not objects. We have the capacity to act, we are not simply acted upon. We are sons and daughters of God first, foremost and always. We are not defined by sexuality. We are defined by our divine heritage.

In mortality everyone that has ever been born has some type of a thorn in the flesh. I do not want to get into chemistry, biomechanics or genetics. I’m not going there. But there are different peoples who seem to have various kinds of predispositions to various substances or other things. I don’t know where those come from, and ultimately I would suggest to you where they come from is not the most important question. The question is how do we respond to them as agents who can act and not simply be acted upon.

Paul described the fact that he had a thorn in the flesh. I have no idea what it is. Some people will have a thorn in the flesh of a particular type. Others will have another thorn in the flesh of a particular type. There are valiant, virtuous, magnificent couples that are sealed in the temple. Their only yearning is to invite children and for a reason I do not know and cannot explain, in mortality they do not have the blessing of children. And you could ask the question, “Why in the world would these two righteous young people not have this blessing?”

Well, the only thing I know is that we will live in families in eternity. For some couples, being prepared to be a family in eternity involves marriage, sealing and the birth of their own biological children. For other couples, preparation to be a family in eternity may include a sealing but not having their own biological children. I do not know why one couple is prepared one way and another couple is prepared another way. But I know that they will live in families in eternity. For that couple, that can be a thorn in the flesh.

Now, in terms of homosexuality, the issue is chastity. It matters not whether you are talking about relationships between a man and a woman or between two of the same gender, the Lord’s standard is the same: chastity.

To those who have same gender attraction, that attraction, in and of itself, is not a sin, any more than inordinate attraction to a member of the opposite sex is a sin. Now if there is dwelling on it, inappropriate evil thoughts, that is a sin. But we have the capacity to master and control those thoughts. You can cast them out, regardless of what the object is of those thoughts. We have the capacity to act and not simply be acted upon. And the standard is chastity, and virtue, and moral purity. It doesn’t change.

Now there are some people who will never perhaps overcome attraction to those of the same gender. If they honor their covenants, work to control their thoughts and do not act on the attraction, they are chaste. They can be worthy and receive temple blessings and every other blessing that is available to members of the church, because they abide by and live the law of chastity. And that is the universal standard.

There are other people who, for reasons I can’t explain, will fast and pray and that attraction may be remedied. It may be lessened. It may be eliminated. I don’t know why that occurs for some and not for others. But ultimately the issue becomes, how do we act in response to whatever the thorn in the flesh is, knowing that this life is only a portion of our eternal life and a preparation to live in eternity in families.

[To the sister:] Help me know if any of that made sense, dear sister, or did I miss some of what you were asking about.

Sister: [Pause] Yes, it makes sense. Yes, I understand. And I think that the other part of it is what can I do to help these friends?

Elder Bednar: Now consider what I just tried to outline in the answer I gave to your question. It’s in the Proclamation on the Family, it’s the principle of agency, it’s understanding the fundamentals of the doctrine of Christ restored to the earth in these latter days that focus on who we are as sons and daughters of god, why we are here upon the earth, what is the nature of the plan, what is the purpose of the plan, what is our role in the plan, and what is the nature of gender in the plan. This goes back to the dating and marriage and stuff.

By divine design, by divine design, as a part of the father’s plan, there are differences between male and female spirits. A part of the plan is for a male and a female spirit to progress together towards the blessings of family in eternity. That’s the reason for those simple statements in the Proclamation. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and the Family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. That’s just foundational and fundamental.

And when we see and understand that, you don’t talk about marriage as a sociological institution, and the benefit that it has for a community or a nation. It is a doctrinal, foundational bedrock truth. How do spirits get from premortality to mortality in preparation for living in families in eternity? The authorized channel for those spirits to come into mortality, obtain a physical body of flesh and bone, is marriage between a man and a woman, and only in a marriage between a man and a woman. God has said that is the channel.

Well that gets pretty clear in a world that has a lot of sophistry explaining a whole bunch of things. God’s plan is pretty straightforward and pretty clear, and all of our debate is not going to change it. That’s His plan.

So your question about what can you do? Get doctrinally grounded. Focus on the fundamentals, and don’t be seduced by the voices and philosophies of man. And you can only avoid that seduction if you are doctrinally grounded.

[To the sister:] Did that respond?

Sister: [Pause] Yeah.

Elder Bednar: You don’t sound sure.

Sister: It’s because I’m wondering what I can do to help my friends who are… like, I am doctrinally grounded myself. Do I suggest to them to become more doctrinally grounded as well?

Elder Bednar: K, now I am going to push back on you a little bit.

Sister: K.

Elder Bednar: It sounds like you are asking, “Well tell me the four things that I am supposed to do.” [Sister: Yes.] I’m not going to do that. You get that for yourself. Once you get doctrinally grounded, you can’t go give it to them. Don’t try to give them a list of “well here’s the four things you need to do.”

In the right way at the right time, you’ll be able to give a reason for the hope that is within you. You’ve heard that in the New Testament. Well, when they say, ”Well, you’ve got goofy ideas about this. Well, where do your goofy ideas come from?” They come from the foundation, the fundamentals of the restored gospel. And you’re able to simply and clearly explain and testify. And then encourage them to go and do thou likewise.

So I’m not going to give you a prescription of what you do to them. You get it and then you help them so they can get it for themselves, not borrow it from you, get it for themselves.

[To the sister:] Did we get it this time?

Sister: Yes.

Elder Bednar: All right. Good. [Laughter from audience.] Terrific question.

I am not commenting on my thoughts about what Elder Bednar said at this particular moment. I will post on that later, along with a little detail on a one-on-one interaction I had with him. Needless to say, it has caused personal reflection and some pensive soul searching.

I would, however, love to hear your comments, asking that they remain respectful in this open forum for discussion.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Help: Ask an Apostle a Direct Question

I have the opportunity to go to a Q&A fireside on Friday with Elder Bednar. What question should I ask, if any?

- Horizon

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Coming Out, Part 5

I'd finally done it. After all of the anxiety, self-loathing, guilt, fear, trepidation and uncertainty, I told my parents I was gay.

And I was still ok.

I hadn't been kicked out. I wasn't rejected. I wasn't cast out of the family.

I was loved. I was accepted. I was still me.

I cannot accurately describe the feelings I experienced in that moment. After a lifetime in the desert, it was a cool drink of water. After years of carrying burdens almost incapable of bearing, it was a suddenly lightened load. It was a shout of joy, a needed relief, a celebration of life, a moment of zen, and a manifestation of love and acceptance.

The feeling was akin to the divine love I felt in the temple when I asked God if He accepted me as His gay son. My earthly parents had accepted me too.

Dropping to my knees in my room, I offered a prayer of gratitude. I always prepare for the the worst and hope for the best, and the near best had happened. That prayer was said through tears of joy.

I was giddy. I was thrilled. I was enthralled. I was humbled. I was happy.

I messaged my friends who had offered their best sentiments before, wanting to share the amazing news with them. There is no way I could have gotten through without their constant support. I smiled as their responses of joy came back. They had all been waiting in eager anticipation. I was glad I was heading to Salt Lake the next day to meet some of them for the first time.

Glancing at my packed suitcase, I laughed softly at myself. I had been so worried to the point of being sick, and now it all seemed so silly. Of course my parents accepted me. I was their son! Why hadn't I told them years ago!?!

I headed back downstairs to be with my family, finally feeling normal for the first time that entire reunion. I was smiling again, I was myself again.

Thinking to myself, I knew the path ahead would not always be easy. Hard decisions await me in my future along with heartbreak and grief as well as joy and happiness. But I was at peace knowing I had a foundation of godly and familial love as I took another step forward in my journey across the moving horizon.