Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Giving Our Lives for Ransom

I did not know Todd Ransom, nor the other gay Mormons who have given their lives up recently as their last measure of sacrifice. But I have talked to my friends, his friends, people whose lives he had touched for good, and seen the outpouring of love online in the days following the news of his suicide to know what a remarkable young man he was.

I cannot assume the reasoning for giving up his life was based purely on the conflict between being gay and Mormon. But it had to certainly play a large part. His last post “Sunrise - accept this offering - Sunrise” brings me to tears. I know all too well the clash of the mind, heart and soul while trying to reconcile one’s being with the seemingly incompatible spiritual beliefs the Mormon faith teaches. I was ready to sacrifice my own life in a different way, by forcing myself to marry a woman, in order to show my last measure of devotion to the eternal plan I had been taught. Hardly even knowing him, I would have been there for Todd in every way I possibly could before he made his final sacrifice.

As gay Mormons, we are extraordinarily familiar with the concept of sacrifice in order to find favor with our religion and our God. Many of us have denied who we are, our happiness and our well-being in order to find spiritual comfort and acceptance to a strictly held view of righteousness. Many of us would gladly pay a steep ransom for the sure knowledge that our souls were saved in the life to come. Unfortunately, too many think the heavy price of that ransom can only be paid with their lives.

Let’s give of our souls in service for that ransom. Let’s try harder to be a true friend to those who are struggling. Let’s try harder to be more open and express our own needs and weaknesses. Let’s try harder to help open the eyes of those we come in contact with to show them we are as deserving of God’s love and mercy as anyone else. Let’s try harder to provide refuge for the weary, for those who have known anguish, self-loathing and grief, for those who feel they have been rejected for no other reason than who they are.

We are all imperfect individuals, but that does not decrease our capacity to love. I know of no other group of people as needing of the loving embrace of acceptance and support as our fellow gay brothers and lesbian sisters in the Mormon church. Though we may rail about why the church and many of its members chose to ignore this issue as lives are lost, and though we may publicly march to send a loud message of tolerance and understanding, we must face the fact that change comes slowly.

Because progress is measured in glacial increments when it comes to the church and homosexuality, it falls to us to create the safe haven so many gay Mormons desperately need. It falls to us to not let our own insecurities and quick judgments get in the way of offering our friendship and love to every one of God’s children. It falls to us to convey to our fellow gay Mormons that they are not alone, that they are loved and that they are accepted because one suicide, let alone three, is too many.

Let’s give our lives for Ransom.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Family Reunion

I have a few posts I still need to write that come chronologically before the three in this series including an amazing first date, the genesis of the MoHo Map, coming out to my best friend, attending NYC Pride and meeting several other MoHo bloggers. But because of the significance of the events that have happened recently, I have decided to abandon the timeline for a bit to share my coming out story.

- - -

The days leading up to my trip home for the family reunion were tortuous. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I was so busy, yet at the same time I couldn’t accomplish anything. My mind was awash with playing out the scenario in my head when I would come out to my parents. Some people have asked why I have been so intent on telling them, and I think that it is because I do consider family to be one of the biggest joys in my life. I knew that letting them into my life would be difficult, but at the same time a relief. I had never really been open with them before in terms of emotions and feelings, so I didn’t know what to expect.

I don’t get involved in anything until I have researched it out and have some knowledge of what is to come. So either to my benefit or detriment, I had researched many people’s coming out experiences and then prepared for each and every situation I could think of just in case. I told myself that I would prepare for the worst and hope for the best, though I genuinely expected the worst. I tried to incorporate many of these issues into my coming out letter, that way I could establish a firm foundation of expectations with my parents.

I had previously ordered “No More Goodbyes” and “In Quiet Desperation” in preparation as well. I had read through NMG very quickly, my heart both aching and celebrating with each story. I am a very empathetic person. I tend to genuinely feel the emotions of my friends and close acquaintances and sincerely wish and hope the best for each of them. The stories in NMG were so simple yet so profound that I told myself that when I came out to my parents I would give them a copy of the book. (I even wrote the author, Carol Lynn Pearson, thanking her for the tool I thought would soften the blow for them.)

For all intents and purposes, I let time get away from me and I wasn’t able to finish my letter to the degree of liking I preferred. I knew I was working on a document that would define my existence and act as a launching pad for the future. Yes, I would be there in person to answer questions, but this letter would be left behind, something that could be added to family history. I like writing. I wanted to get it right. But it was all over the place. I couldn’t tie it all together. I was also surprised at how difficult it was to write because it encompassed a topic of such a personal nature. I could only work on it a little at a time, though the pressure was growing the days before the flight. I didn’t finish it in time.

The night before the trip, I packed my suitcase and only got about three hours of sleep. Then before I knew it I was off to work on the subway with my things. I don’t even remember what I did that day. I probably was working to get things in order so they wouldn’t fall through the cracks while I was gone. Never before had I taken off more than two days of work in a row, so I was looking forward to the break, but I was just watching the clock waiting for the shuttle that would take me to the airport. The time came, I bid my coworkers farewell and, with a deep breath, took off on what seemed like the greatest adventure of my life.

- - -

The airport was chaotic, the flight overbooked. The airline offered two hundred dollars to reschedule, but I told myself they would have to add another zero on the end for me to even begin to consider rescheduling. I don’t think I could endure the waiting anymore than I absolutely had to. Once aboard the delayed flight, I tried to relax and read the rest of IQD. I bought the book to read ahead of my mom because I knew once I came out to her, she would head to Deseret Book. Knowing this would be what she would find, I wanted to read it preemptively.

I had read and loved the beginning part about Stuart Matis. But the second part I found difficult to read. I don’t know if it was the attitude of the arguments or my unease and lack of sleep, but I found the writing to be labored and excessive, almost to the point of bemoaning same gender attraction with sackcloth and ashes. Needless to say, I didn’t get through the end. I think I dosed off for a few minutes, but I was still stressed and just wanted the flight to end.

Four hours later after landing, I ran to baggage claim and waited for my suitcase to turn the corner of the carousel when a particularly attractive guy chose to stand right in front of me. I am hesitant to say this, but looking at him and feeling at least the superficial attraction that eye-candy garners, I still felt a bit guilty and ashamed of that reaction. I brushed it off like I always did, and when my bag appeared, I grabbed it and headed for the parking lot without looking back.

My dad had come to pick me up and was there waiting. I loaded my things into the backseat and then hopped into the front, sharing a smile and a quick hug before we headed off. My dad is one of the most loving, gentle and caring souls I know, and it was refreshing to see him again. The conversation beyond initial pleasantries mostly focused on my physical appearance.

I hadn’t seen him in six months, and in that time I had come out to myself and subsequently lost 45 pounds. I am actually still losing the weight. I realize that I had used weight as a protection mechanism against me accepting who I was. I reasoned that if I hated myself, so would everyone else. I had also wanted to punish my body for feeling the way it did. (Luckily, I am no longer in that tragic state of mind and am on my way to feeling and looking great!)

On the way home we did have an interesting exchange. Between my mom and dad, I had supposed that my dad would be more agreeable to accepting my coming out news initially. I had actually been dropping subtle hints in the weeks leading up to the family reunion to prepare him. As he was driving, I mentioned in passing how great it was to be home. He replied that I would always be welcome at home. Seeing this as a perfect opportunity to prepare him further, I lightly replied, “I’ll hold you to that.” He gave me an awkward glance and a smile and the conversation moved on until we reached the house.

I was mauled by my mom and my older sister the moment I stepped out of the car. (I had avoided mentioning the weight loss to anyone in the family and hadn’t posted any recent pictures of myself just so I could enjoy this moment.) They both were amazed with how I looked and wanted to know my secret and what diet I was on. I wasn’t about to tell them that the secret was coming out to myself and accepting who I was, but I managed to put together some answer about not being on a diet but simply being aware of what I ate, controlling portion sizes and recognizing when I was full. They were incredulous when I told them I had not exercised one bit to achieve the weight loss. My mom, always the one to be happy with children making healthy changes, was beside herself, though was a bit sad because she had gotten a shirt two sizes too big for me for the family photo. I told her not to worry about it and that we would make it work.

We talked for a bit, enjoying the family being together again. I relish our family conversations. I never laugh so hard as when I do when I am with my family. The conversations are intellectual, joyful and exciting. Only getting together once or twice a year, we also have a lot to talk about. I was trying to enjoy it, thinking it may be one of the last normal conversations I’d have with them. I was determined to enjoy the next four days before I came out, appreciating every moment because I was convinced everything would change once I did. I went to bed that night both smiling over being with my close ones again and frowning at the sadness and conflict my news might mean to that familial unit.

- - -

The next morning we drove two hours to my uncle’s house. My uncle travels with his family during the summer and leaves behind a beautiful home complete with saltwater pool and slide, spa, basketball court, fire pits, barbeque, massive flat panel television and surround sound, pool table, foosball, air hockey and more. I was appreciative of everything to distract me from my own thoughts of dread. (I also secretly believe that my mom used the pool as an excuse to get us away from the city where we grew up just so we wouldn’t be tempted to meet up with any friends and thus steal time away from the reunion. She is an empty nester and wants to make the most of her family time, bless her heart.)

The days were full of family activities like swimming, cooking, eating out, a water balloon fight, picnicking, going to a movie, celebrating a birthday, fireworks, playing card and board games, crafts and many more fun-filled excursions. My mom had created a whole schedule listing activities by the hour just to make sure we maximized the time we had together. Some of the non-traditional activities included a thirty-course blind palette taste test, a patriotic flag ceremony and devotional, a Deseret Industries thrift store scavenger hunt and a family fireside on patriarchal blessings. (Yeah, we are weird but in a good way, and we have a ton of fun!)

I am glad we had so much scheduled fun because waiting until the last day to come out would have been unbearable had I not had planned activities to get me there. My family could tell something was up anyway. I was breaking out, something I do more when I am stressed. And this time it was bad. I wasn’t sleeping at all. I tried, but I was worrying so much and trying to work on my letter. I was texting more than usual (mostly to you fellow bloggers) to the point where my family thought I had a secret girlfriend (how wrong they were). I know I had wanted to enjoy the last few days of normalcy with my family, but I was beginning to think I should have just done it at first because I was slowly tearing myself apart, to the verge of breaking down.

On one of our excursions, we headed to an old pioneer valley for church and a picnic lunch. There is antique chapel and a congregation that still meets there so we went for Sacrament Meeting. It was the Fourth of July and the day before I was planning on coming out. The service was very pleasant and quaint. After the sacrament had been distributed, the member of the bishopric who was conducting got up to start the testimony portion of the meeting. As is custom, he started with his own testimony which included some patriotic themes to honor the holiday. It was all perfectly fine until I heard the phrase, “and I know that the country is currently run by people influenced by the devil...” It just went downhill from there.

The one thing I had going for me about coming out to my parents is that they are both members of the Democratic Party. Being a bit more open-minded than the usual conservative, cookie-cutter Mormon, I had hoped that this open-mindedness would extend to their only son. After a lovely picnic I was in the car with my mom on the way home. I brought up the interesting testimony which led to a fantastic political discussion including a conversation about the prejudices felt by Mormons who are Democrats living in conservative areas. I took the opportunity to ask my Mom there was anything on the Democratic platform that she did not agree with. Without skipping a beat, she responded “Gay marriage.”

She qualified her comments by saying that she thought that they had the right to be together and that there were many loving partnerships with good people, but that the Plan of Salvation was about the family unit being sealed in the temple, which a gay couple simply could not do. I was a little dismayed but I understood where she was coming from. Family to her is everything, and a celestial family bound for the eternities has always been her unabashed goal. The conversation moved on to other topics, but my mind remained on what she had said. I wondered if her views would change at all learning about me, or if she would always be saddened for the family she expected but might not attain. I wondered if she would ever be able to support me getting married to another man.

That night was the worst. I was worried and nauseous. I was up until 5 AM finishing my letter, thinking, praying, worrying, fidgeting and pacing. I was having second thoughts. Why was I doing this? Did I want to change everything? Were my feelings all that important in the eternal scheme of things? Was my happiness worth the sadness of my family? After a few calls to some friends (where I went into the garage to make sure I wasn’t heard at all), I calmed down and regained a level head, but I was still worried and exhausted. I was wrestling with myself, wrestling with the exact wording of the letter and wrestling with the decision to come out that I had thought I already made. Finishing the letter, I read it over once quickly to proofread it, posted it online and then collapsed onto the bed. In the chaos of my mind, sleep came slowly.

- - -

My sister knocked on my door early at 6 AM, asking if I were going on the sunrise hike. I grumbled that I wouldn’t be. I was, however, meeting an old friend for an early breakfast because that was the only time we could coordinate our schedules to do so. I roused myself, took a quick shower and headed out to an IHOP that was close by. I took my letter on a flash drive so I could print it somewhere in town because the house had no printer I could use. After a lovely breakfast, I drove around the city endlessly to find some store that was open.

Because of the federal holiday, all of the FedEx, Kinkos and OfficeMax stores were closed as were the libraries and every other place I thought might have a printer for customer use. I started to think I would go crazy, having invested so much into writing this letter that I could not print! I finally found a Staples where the only employee there graciously printed out three copies of the letter for me. (I am pretty sure he got a good look at what it contained, but at this point I was just happy to have a physical copy I could give to my parents.)

I got home and stashed the letters in my luggage along with NMG. I then proceeded to pack my things, just in case I needed to make a quick exit that evening. I didn’t think I would have another chance later in the day. Hearing the tales of the gorgeous sunrise hike coming from down the hallway, I joined my family as they returned and tried to act as if everything was normal for the rest of the morning.

At some point, I made it my goal to tell my dad I needed to talk to him and Mom alone later that day. It was an awkward conversation because I had never really asked for anything like it before. He agreed, of course, and I proceeded to tell him that Mom might not enjoy the conversation too much and that I needed his help to perhaps step in and maintain the peace. This statement alone probably caused him to worry even more by the look on his face. I told him not to worry and that it was only a precaution. I don’t think that worked. He looked worried the rest of the day.

Later in the afternoon, I was helping my mom with the laundry and I mentioned to her that I would like to speak to her and Dad privately sometime. She immediately responded quite emphatically, “I hope it isn’t bad. I can’t handle anything bad right now.” I wept on the inside. I took a beat and forced a smile. I don’t know where I got the strength from, but I replied that it was something good and left to go be alone to recompose myself.

I don’t remember much about that afternoon. I was in a daze. I might have gone swimming or played some games. I don’t know. I was doing a lot of thinking and worrying. I had already told my parents I wanted to talk, so there was really no going back at this point. I was lost in a stupor of thought while sitting in the living room when all of a sudden my pensive musings were broken by my mom addressing me, asking, “How about now?”

I snapped out of my daze to the realization I was alone with my parents in the living room. Everyone else had, amazingly enough, gone outside to play in the pool. I had supposed the conversation would happen later that night, not at that moment. It was so early still! My heart started beating out of control. I had to catch my breath. Thoughts raced through my mind. Was I ready for this? Can I blow off the whole thing? Where can I run and hide? Could I survive this? How would things change? Would my parents still love me? I was about to find out, right then.

Accepting that this is what fate had in store for me, I responded affirmatively and said I would meet them in their room shortly after getting something from mine. Once in my room, I quickly sent out a mass text for support. I checked the many encouraging and loving comments on my letter I posted online and then fell to my knees and offered a quick prayer. I retrieved the letters and the book when my phone started to fill with additional thoughts of love and strength from many of you. I was invigorated and made the determination to go through with it and actually come out.

Leaving my phone behind so I wouldn’t be distracted, I headed to my parent’s room. My hands shaking and clinging to the letter for dear life, I tried to take a few deep breaths to calm the butterflies in my stomach and to get my heart the oxygen it needed because it was pounding so quickly. Everything was about to change. For better or for worse, my and my parent’s realities would never be the same once I told them I was gay. I was seconds away from having the most important conversation of my life.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Week of Happiness

The past week of being out and open with my parents and getting to know my true self has been pure bliss.

The comfort of being gay, open and myself has been enveloping while the relief of the weight being shared is simply glorious. I don’t remember ever being this happy.

I just got home from the two-week journey (with a red-eye flight and a day of work included). Though I am exhausted, the trip was one of the most worthwhile things I have ever done in my life.

I cannot wait to write about the story of my coming out, parental reactions, meeting many of you fellow bloggers, lots of experiential firsts and some follow-up conversations with my parents (in addition to all of the other posts I owe you). I have a lot of writing to do!

But at this instant, I must rest. So look forward to a flood of posts coming up soon.

Happy One Week Anniversary!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Parent’s Reaction to My Coming Out

Good news! I wanted to let you all know that coming out to my parents went very well. I am happier now than I think I have ever been. Thanks you so much for your love and support!

It was much harder than I thought it would be, but they reacted so amazingly well. I cannot describe the relief I feel.

I am going to write a dedicated post on the whole experience as soon as I get the chance, but I wanted to update you all in the interim on the good news. Yay!

Monday, July 5, 2010

My Coming Out Letter

Here it is. My coming out letter. I haven't had the time I wanted or needed to really go over this, but here is what my parents are going to read this evening while I am in the room, ready to answer any questions they may have and give them a copy of "No More Goodbyes."

This has been one of the most difficult, personal things I have ever written, and I appreciate all of your love, support and help that has gotten me this far.

- - -

Dear Mom and Dad,

I have been writing this letter for 15 years. I have started and stopped many times, finished and deleted it over and over, and now I am trying again.

I love you so much! I cannot describe how much our family means to me. You are the biggest support in my life, and the pillars of strength that you provide have been crucial. Thank you for raising me to be a good person, who seeks for the best in everyone and every situation. Thank you for raising me to love the Lord and His church. Thank you for the amazing job you have done. I don't know how you do everything you do. You are great examples for me to live up to. I love you.

All my life, I have always wanted to please you as your son. Your respect means the world to me. One of my biggest fears in life is disappointing you, you mean that much to me. I would never want to cause you any grief or heartache. I have always tried to be a good son and bring you joy. I have never wanted to let you down. Please know that giving you this letter is by far the hardest thing I have ever done.

All my life I have been guarded about my feelings. I am sure you have noticed. I don't open up. I don't share too much information about me personally besides the some of the week-to-week activities of my life. Much of this is because I don't like feeling vulnerable, and these mechanisms have been ones of defense and protection. I don’t open up because I don’t completely understand what is going on, and there is a clarion reason why.

I am sharing with you something that is at my very core, something that I have hidden from the world, something that defines me, something that only the Lord and I know about and have conversed about regularly, if not daily. I am not sure if you have ever suspected, or maybe this will shock you, I do not know.

Mom and Dad, I am gay. I have consciously known since I was in the fifth grade, and before that I was innocent enough to not realize it wasn't normal. Most importantly, I did not choose to be gay. It is the way I am, the way I have always been and the way I have felt since I can remember. It is my reality.

I share this with you under complete confidence and would hope you hold this information to yourselves only and not tell anyone else, including all family, relatives and acquaintances for the moment. Please let me handle telling them and anyone else at my own pace and in my own way.

It has taken me a lifetime to begin to understand it and I don’t fully. I don’t think I ever will. I am just coming to terms with it. I have never been attracted to women. Before, I thought it was out of respect and admiration of the female gender that I never wanted to pursue someone, hold hands or kiss. Now I understand that my heart just wasn’t in it. I have never been in love.

I want to share a brief glimpse with you of what my life has been like. I do this so you can really know me. I am the same person, you just know more about me and hopefully this will lead to an openness of love between us. I really hope it will.

Growing up in the church as a closeted gay young man has been beyond difficult, nearly impossible. I have always denied the attractions I felt, thinking if I was a better person or more holy or more dedicated to the church the feelings would go away. I have cried and pleaded with the Lord until my knees were bloody that he change me, that he heal me of the terrible burden I had been dealt. I have cried to Him in tears nightly asking why I was the way I was. Through all my dedication, work and devotion, I have never been changed and I still feel the way I do.

In the church, I am taught that part of me is evil, that part of me is beyond forgivable, that I have a sickness to be cured, a malady that can be purged, that the part of me I had no choice in becoming is bad. I have been pressured into silence and fear that I could not openly discuss this issue. The church ignores it mostly. But I wanted to make very clear to you that I have never consciously chosen to do wrong. To me, it is as ridiculous as saying that everyone who is born with green eyes is sinful. I have never chosen to be gay.

I am a good person. I am faithful and God-fearing. I am a servant. I am a good son. I am a good brother. I am a good uncle. I am a worker. I am temple worthy. I am a believer. I am the same person you knew this morning. But I am not happy.

I have experienced happiness through our family, through the joys of others, through the gospel and through good times and experiences. But deep down inside, I’ve had only the outward appearance of happiness because I have been miserable to my core. The gnawing of my feelings was ever-present. At every moment of the day, during every waking hour, I could never escape who I was.

I have been bottled up, not truly ever able to be myself. The church teaches me that I have a disease that can be healed, a wrong that can be righted, a burden that is to be carried throughout my life until I die and will be straightened out. Instead of addressing the personal issue of me being gay, the church classifies me as suffering same sex attraction or same gender attraction. Those terms remove the humanity and seem cold and clinical to me.

Because of what I was taught and the gospel that I believe in, I have hated myself since I can remember. I hated that I didn’t fit in with the eternal plan. I hated that I couldn’t be myself. I hated my appearance. I hated looking into the mirror. I never understood how anyone could remotely like or want to be around a creature as wretched as I. My spirit has always been at war with my body. I tried to punish my body for feeling and reacting the way it did. I gained weight purposely as a defense mechanism so I would continue to hate myself.

Having known so long, but never admitting I was gay, I created emotional and physical walls around me to protect myself from ever being true to myself. My support system is my family and the church. I even work around members and used that as a way to stay hidden from the world though I was there in plain sight. I actually think being a closeted gay man has enhanced my ability to empathize and perform the tasks at my work which require so much careful wording and subtlety.

However, I was not being honest with myself or you. Not everything in my life been as peachy as I have painted it. In the darkness of my divided nature, I have suffered through many bouts of depression and fleeting thoughts of suicide. Please do not be worried. I know there is too much to live for, too much good that needs to be done, too much love that needs to be offered and too much service that needs to be performed for those malicious thoughts to last more than an instant. I like life, family and the gospel too much to give up that easily.

In the church, I have been encouraged to marry the gay out of me. I was convinced if I tried harder I could change. I have hoped that finding the right girl might ignite a spark that would erase the feelings I have always known. I did and have done everything right. I forced myself to believe that if I could just get married to a girl then I would be committed enough to the gospel truths I know to continue to be faithful, make things work and do my very best to be the fantastic husband and father I know I can be. I so very much desire the peace of mind of having a place in the eternities.

I was ready to get married. I was willing to do it. I was willing to live with my secret my whole life long to live the normal approved life I have always wanted. My senior year at BYU, I decided that I was going to make the ultimate sacrifice to deny my feelings and get married. I made the commitment. I bought the ring. I went to the temple and sought the confirmation from the Lord that the choice I had made was correct and approved of. I prayed, fasted and pleaded, showing the lord that I was willing to do anything for him and sacrifice anything to fit into the plan. But I did not receive the calming answer once I presented my decision.

I had a stupor of thought. I felt bad about the marriage. I was so confused and lost, I didn’t understand. I thought that I had presented before the Lord was the right thing, part of the plan and the way things were going to be. But I simply felt that the marriage wasn’t right and I was frustrated that my offering to the Lord was not being accepted. I went back to the temple every day for two weeks straight, trying to ascertain the will of the Lord, to find my place and gain approval for the path I had determined would fit what I had been taught and knew to be true.

In frustration at the answer I had received, I called you, Dad, in tears from the Provo temple parking lot and poured out to you more than I ever had before. The closest I ever came to telling you about my feelings was on that night, when I told you that my really only concern about the marriage was that I just didn't find her attractive. You calmed me. You helped me organize my thoughts and see the pros and the cons of each aspect of the marriage decision. You gave me great reasons to go through with it. You also said that there was no ticking time bomb, which was exactly how I felt.

I was overwhelmed by the pressures of the church and of getting married at BYU. I was overwhelmed by family pressures to wed. I was overwhelmed by my own desire to fit in and be normal. When you said there was no ticking time bomb to getting married, the spirit flowed into me and confirmed that to me with such force. I was so surprised with the answer but accepted it. You said exactly what I needed to hear.

Looking back, I am glad I didn’t get married my last year at BYU. Even though I was willing to devote everything to it, I have since come to the realization that getting married would be unfair to my wife because I could never truly love her to the fullest potential. But then, I supposed that I simply had not chosen the right person and the confirmation I sought was denied because I had not found the person I was meant to be with yet.

Graduating from BYU, I tried to fill my time up with so many other things so I wouldn't have the time to think about my predicament. I dedicated myself completely to different causes so I could work my feelings into submission. I determined that since I couldn't change my feelings, I would just ignore them. I have become so good at compartmentalizing the pain and grief I feel that I don't know how to truly feel anymore.

I continued dating, trying to find the person who the Lord would accept me marrying. Moving to New York, I still pleaded with the Lord to change me so I could live up to His and your expectations of me. I cried myself to sleep most nights thinking that if only I were better I could be made whole. I read my scriptures, went to church and went to the temple regularly, all searching for the answers I desired. I was still avoiding my feelings, keeping them hidden and secret. I didn’t understand, I still don’t, the “whys” of the attractions I feel.

About four months ago, I reached a point of desperation. It wasn’t caused by anything in particular but by the combined experience and emotions of a lifetime of internal turmoil. Within my conflicted nature, I felt so alone. I felt like I could never tell you. I felt like I could never be accepted. I felt rejected by the church. I felt lost and confused and went to the only place where I knew I could attempt to sort things out before anything rash occurred.

I fled to the temple out of concern for my own well-being and safety. Once there, I fell to my callused knees and prayed harder than ever before for the Lord to remove my burden, to be changed so I could be normal, so I could be free from the pitiful, rejected, pathetic, unlovable, deplorable, wretched, unwanted outcast I was. I cried, my heart broken, no longer wanting to be me, no longer wanting to fight, no longer wanting to live.

Not receiving an answer, in my frustration and anger at myself, I asked the one last question I could think of, a question that I had never thought to ask before. I had never asked this question out of fear of the answer, of myself, of being rejected by my very Creator and thus doomed to exile and outer darkness which would have been too much for me. But I had come to a point where it was the only thing left to ask.

I asked if He accepted me as I was: gay.

That very instant, I felt such a sense of overpowering love from on high that I was overcome with emotion and almost collapsed. I felt the spirit and the love and the acceptance of God so strongly that it was tangible, like an embrace of a broken child who finally understood. Upon feeling that heavenly acceptance, the relief that washed over me felt like pure joy, a sensation I had long forgotten. I cried uncontrollably with happiness at the revelation I had just received.

In that moment, I had a divinely inspired epiphany, a fundamental paradigm shift that I could be my gay self and still be loved and accepted by God. This completely new way of thinking and believing changed my whole outlook on life. I didn’t have a reason to hate myself. I didn’t have to be someone who I wasn’t. I didn’t have to hide. I was not alone.

I know that we are meant to have joy. I want to be happy. I want to love and be loved. I still don't understand. I don't think I ever will in this lifetime. I know I face some agonizing decisions in the future and I don’t know what is next. I just know that the fa├žade I have lived behind my whole life is no longer necessary. I can’t live up to my full potential behind those walls, ignoring and never addressing the issue I have compartmentalized away my entire existence.

This is me. This is why I have never opened up and always shut down at the mere mention of dating, relationships and more. Perhaps with this new knowledge you can understand me more and love me more as your son. I have been prompted to share this with you, and it has taken more courage than I have in order to do it.

I am gay. I have stopped trying to understand why. The world and the church have many differing views of the cause. It is not because of a lack of understanding of the gospel, not because of a biological aberration, not because of an emotionally distant father, not because of an overbearing mother, not because of living in New York and most definitely not because it was my choice.

Please do not think of me as selfish or as taking the easy way out. This is not the easy way. The easy way would to be continuing to deny myself in the comforting veil of ignorance. I am not coming out to spite you or purposely anger you. I have no malicious intent and would never knowingly inflict harm or grief upon you. It has worried me to no end telling you this, to the point of being physically ill. I hope that this can be a turning point in our relationship, increasing the love and support between us.

Please don’t feel ashamed of me or of yourselves. My being gay isn't because of poor parenting. I am the way I am, and I am starting to accept it rather than fight it. You are remarkable parents, my best friends and the biggest support in my life. I don’t know what I would do if you reject me. I don't know what I could do without you. I hope and pray you can still be a support and foundation in my life. I hope you don't shut me out. I am still the same person, the same loving son, the same soul. You just know me better. Now you can start to understand.

I don’t want to be miserable my whole life long. I want to be happy. I am starting to be happy and comfortable with myself. It is a journey that may take some time. I am having to learn everything all over again. Being gay is only part of who I am. You know the rest of me. I love you. I want to make you proud. And I want you to know the real me.

Once again, I implore you to not tell the rest of the family or anyone else yet. Please respect that. Right now, I don’t know what is next. I don’t know where I am being led in life. I have just accepted this myself and know difficult choices are ahead. I know that you will probably need to take some time to ponder, process and pray about this and talk it over, so I may be out of contact for a bit and there may be a time period where you and I need some space. Please take all the time you need, but know I stand ready and willing to talk like we always have at any time.

Mom, Dad, love me for who I am. Instead of being disappointed, hope for the best and be happy for me. I am happier.

Love your son,


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Tomorrow Changes Everything

I am one day away from coming out to my parents.

The family reunion is going well, though I remain very busy with all of the scheduled activities. I am still trying to finish my letter in the free moments I do have.

I am feeling nervous, scared, confident, timid, excited, afraid, proud, ashamed and everything in between.

I vacillate between wanting to tell them and having second thoughts, though I know this will be one of the few opportunities that we can have this conversation.

If there were ever a time I needed positive affirmation and some encouraging, loving thoughts, that would be now.