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.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Coming Out, Part 4

What happened next is what I had always secretly hoped for. We talked.

It felt like such a relief after years of forced silence on my part. I did not say everything, but I wanted to establish a foundation of understanding for the future. I opened up like never before.

We discussed my experiences growing up, what my reality was like, the church, single and prominent members (Sheri Dew, I am looking at you), priesthood leadership, if and when I should tell other family members as well as many other things.

One of the most significant things happened when my mom apologized for pressuring me to date, to marry and to give her grandchildren. She said she was just trying to be a good mom and the things she said were not meant to be malicious in any way. I replied that I knew they weren't malicious and that my coming out to them was not motivated by anger or intended to be malicious either.

I said I was done hiding and that if the occasion presented itself to use their best judgement to decide to tell anyone else. I asked that I be able to tell my sisters but aside from that, I trusted them.

Both of my parents expressed their sorrow for what I had been going through and how hard life had been living with the secret alone. They both were sad for the difficult path that lay before me, but were encouraged that I was finding more happiness.

Suddenly, there was a knock on the door and we were suddenly thrown back into the timeline rather than suspended in conversation as the door swung open. My older sister came in to grab something out of the room, not even noticing what had just taken place and left door open as she exited, only a slightly curious look on her face.

With that, the conversation was over. We could feel it. Not a tear had been shed. I gave them both a great big hug for being the amazing parents they are. In that moment, a hug was exactly what I needed. Accepting love from my parents, freely given.

I went back to the old decorative church pew I had been sitting on, aware of the ironic connection between me baring my soul and the origin of that seat. I retrieved the copy of "No More Goodbyes" I had intended to give them, but I took it with me as I exited the room. They didn't need it yet. I'll save it for a day when things become a bit more difficult in their eyes (like a relationship).

I bounded out of the room, with newfound happiness, energy and freedom I had not experienced ever before. I felt light as a feather, the burden shared. The knots and butterflies in my stomach were gone.

My older sister saw me leave the room with the book in my hand and asked what it was. Smiling to myself as I headed up the stairs to my room to process, I replied without looking back, "Just something I am reading."

Friday, January 28, 2011

Coming Out, Part 3

My mom finished reading the letter first. She is the speed reader in the family and tears through volumes of books every year. She had a look on her face that I could not quite read - one of wanting to express motherly love and sorrow at the same time, all while controlling her emotions to remain objective. She wanted to talk right then, but I insisted that my dad be able to finish reading the letter before we talked.

To make chit chat for a bit, my mom then casually asked who my fifth grade teacher was because I had mentioned in my letter I had consciously known I was gay since the that grade. I was again thrown off by a question from my mom. At first I thought she was trying to place blame on why I was gay and it had something to do with my poor fifth grade teacher (I knew I was gay well before that, I just didn't know the word associated with it), but I realized quickly that she just wanted to have some context of the stage in my life when it all began. I casually replied to her query right as my dad finished reading the letter.

Seeing him lift his head I was all of a sudden acutely conscious of how much I needed their acceptance. I needed them to acknowledge what I had been through and who I really was. My parents are my best friends. I do not know what I would do without them. I had waited so long to come out because I didn't want to disappoint them or cause them any strife or harm.

At that moment I was the most vulnerable I have ever been in my life. The risk was taken, my deepest secret exposed. I had opened up the tender inside of my soul taking what seemed like the greatest leap of faith over the widest chasm of doubt of my existence, and I would either fly or fall. I recalled all of the stories I had heard of friends coming out to their parents, the rejection, the heartbreak, the closemindedness, and said one last silent prayer before the trajectory of my own story was determined.

My dad, with his metered voice said, "I have considered before now and made the decision long ago that my children will always be welcome in our home no matter what. Horizon, you will always be welcome no matter what. You are family."

I was flying. My heart lept for joy. I would not be kicked out. I would not have to run into the night with tears in my eyes. It wasn't a tacit endorsement of what my life might become, but it was a positive beginning point.

My mom conveyed similar wonderful support quoting my letter that I was, in fact, the same son she knew that morning and that nothing would change that. She told me that her fear was that I would want to abandon the family because of being gay. I exclaimed that my biggest fear was being cast out of the family for being gay! (It just goes to show how important family is to us, that both of our greatest fears was losing it.)

In that instant, the burden I had carried my whole life. the weight that pulled me down, was shared and instantly became lighter. The knots inside my stomach loosened and I found myself breathing again as if I hadn't taken a breath since I entered the room. It was so wonderful to be exposed to the light and finally be my true self without the fears that had so traumatized my whole existence.

We talked some more, but for the first time in the longest time, I was happy.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Coming Out, Part 2

The mood was instantly serious and the room went deathly quiet as I handed two thick white envelopes to each of my parents. Watching them remove and unfold the stapled papers and start reading was perhaps even more difficult than giving them the letter in the first place. This was it. They were about to know everything about me.

The rustling of the papers as they read was torturous noise as I sat in the silent room and watched. I analyzed their faces as they read. Having worked so hard composing that letter, I knew the three magic words "I am gay" were about halfway down the first page. I expected some reaction, an exclamation or outbust of tears when they read those words. But each of them read through turning the page without reaction, just the same look of stoic concern on their faces.

I was taken a bit off guard at this. I had expected some reaction, not simply no reaction. Though I had asked them to read the letter all the way through before commenting, I didn't actually expect that to happen! In my life, I prepare for the worst and hope for the best. I had faith in my parents' reactions, but I was ready to make a quick getaway if I needed to. The waiting for a reaction was gnawing at my insides.

Then my mom did something I had not prepared for at all: she giggled.

Hearing that sound completely threw me off. How was I supposed to react to that? Did she really just make that sound? I hadn't even considered that reaction beforehand as a possibility so I didn't prepare for it. I was befuddled.

What did she find humorous in this serious matter? Was she laughing because she didn't know how to react? Was it a nervous laugh? Didn't she realize how serious this moment was?

I broke the silence and somewhat accusingly asked, "What?" being unable to calm my mind.

"Oh, I just read where you wrote that living in New York didn't make you gay. I know that. I just thought it was a little funny," she replied.

I smiled out of exasperation as the tension lifted. I didn't respond. I couldn't respond. The silence continued and she kept on reading.

In that instant, in comparison to the angst and torture I had put myself through the whole week of the family reunion and my whole life before that, I experienced the first inking of a feeling I had not expected but yearned for so deeply: hope.

That was the first sentence my mom ever said about me being gay, and she said it with a smile.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Coming Out, Part 1

The following post continues my coming out story immediately after the events described here.

When I entered my parents room, I sat down on an old decorative church pew from an ancestor’s pioneer home, my dad sitting in an armchair to my left, my mom laying on the bed to my right. Sitting on the hard wood, l bowed my head an looked at the floor, contemplating the momentary semblance of piety. I almost felt like I was in a confession about to share my true soul for the first time. I couldn’t quite force myself to look up.

The air was filled with a nervous tension based on the awkward conversations I had with my parents earlier asking them if I could talk to them. I was sure they could hear the beating of my pounding heart reverberating throughout the room. My chest felt as if it might explode from the intense pressure.

Putting the book “No More Goodbyes” and the copies of the coming out letters I had printed on the floor next to me, I raised my head and timidly looked up at my parents. I couldn't quite read their faces. A combination of concern mixed with a decent attempt to look unconcerned was evident in their faces. I felt similarly conflicted. I was going to tell them I was gay, and there was no going back.

This was the moment I had geared up for but still I felt woefully unprepared. Everything was about to change. I took a deep breath trying to calm the tempest within me and then began to speak.

I tried to open with some sort of lighthearted remark to let some of the pressure out of the room but failed spectacularly. I managed to get a smile from my mom which calmed my nerves slightly. Seeing my parents smile had always made me feel comfortable, and it was the brief glimpse of normalcy I needed to continue.

Glancing back and forth from my mom to my dad, I thanked them for what wonderful parents they were and for their never ending love and support. I knew that once I started speaking, things would get easier, so I forged ahead though I felt like I was recklessly running toward a drop off of unfathomable depth.

I told them that I had been through a lot of self-reflection recently as evidenced by my visible stress, breaking out, not being able to concentrate and really not being myself the past several days. It was then that I said I was about to tell them why.

I paused as my voice broke, but I could not stop or my voice would fail me. I tried to sound confident and not have my voice waver or falter any more. I told them that my significant weight loss also factored into what I was going to share with them and that it was one of the many positive things resulting from what I was going through.

Realizing that my eyes had drifted again to the floor where my letters were, I paused and looked up again wondering what was going through their minds. We had never really talked this frankly before. I didn't know what to expect from them. Could they guess what was coming? Did they already suspect? I could tell that they were trying so hard to be open and keep a smile on their faces.

I said I had written a letter explaining everything that I would like them to read. My mom perked up a bit at this because she loves receiving and reading notes and letters from her children. I was a little wary of how her emotions would change and wondered how this letter would rank among the ones she holds onto for keepsakes. I picked up the envelopes off the carpet, the paper vibrating in my shaking hands.

Asking them to read through the whole letter before asking any questions, I said the last thing they would ever hear from their only son before they knew. Almost tearing up, I said, "I love you. Giving you this letter is the hardest thing I have done in my life."

Friday, January 21, 2011


It has been exactly six months to the day that I last posted.

I am sorry I have been gone so long! At first, this break was not planned or intentional. It just happened because of an uptick of my day-to-day responsibilities (and quite possibly me discovering the game Angry Birds during my daily commute). However, the delay in posting turned into a sabbatical from blogging for a few important reasons.

In the past half-year, I have still been heavily involved in the gay Mormon community but my blog has not been the primary vehicle of my interactions. Instead of hiding behind the words on a website, I am experiencing life first hand. This blog initially was a sounding board for thoughts, ideas and feelings as I processed one of the biggest decisions and subsequent paradigm shifts of my life. The words were a manifestation of the transition as I learned to accept who I was – who I am.

On a smaller scale, I started worrying too much about the quality of my own writing. So many of you so eloquently voice your heartfelt experiences and reasoned arguments that I want to put my best effort into participating in our community. I hold myself to high standards especially when it comes to writing. One of the primary things I do every day is write and edit. Before when composing an entry I would work on it for quite some time, and if I couldn't get a sentence just right I would agonize over publishing it until I was happy with the cadence, flow, beat and structure of each post.

If you will forgive me, I am going to try to post more regularly but I am going to spend less time agonizing over every word. I apologize if some of the edges of my future posts are a little rougher than what I have published before, but I celebrate my imperfections because I am an imperfect person.

One of the primary reasons for the break was because I spread myself too thin. Balancing an ever-demanding job with everything that I wanted to do in my personal life became too much of a juggling act. Work days became long and arduous. Free time to think and reflect became a rarity. My priorities were challenged due to my limited time. Pensive moments and blogging fell through the cracks in my schedule.

Additionally, I wanted to do everything I possibly could to help the community. I helped create the MoHo Map and continue to maintain it, offered to help administer the MoHo Directory, attempted to write book entries on gay Mormon issues and helped organize a potential new community for the advancement of gay acceptance within the church. With everything that was happening in addition to my work and church responsibilities, I couldn’t really do my best in any of them so the time I invested into blogging was sacrificed in order for me to concentrate on other priorities.

So much has happened in six months. One of the benefits of this sabbatical is that it has created a buffer of time on this blog because events started moving quickly and I simply could not keep up in real time. At first, I was using this blog primarily as a journaling function. It will continue to serve that role as well as being a place for discussion and reflection of both yours and the humorous and serious thoughts running through my mind.

Still, the mission of this blog remains as it has been from the beginning: celebrate the good, create beneficial connections and relationships, promote the positive, be as uplifting and helpful to others as possible as we take this journey together.

The collective voice of this community has immense value. I think I can give back and contribute more to the running dialogue that I have benefitted so much from before. I love telling stories and I have some to finish up and some new ones to tell.

You are all amazing. Some of my best friends have originated through this blog and I hope to meet many more of you.

Horizon is back!