Introductions are sometimes tricky.
Ideally, they take place when the two people who have never met are brought together by a third party who knows them both. This isn't always possible. No one likes to walk into a situation for the first time with someone and face them cold and blind. We've all been there, dumbly staring at the other person, looking for words beyond the initial handshake. Awkward!
That's kinda like what a first blog post feels like.
What are the first things you need to know about me? (That is if anyone is reading this at all!)
The basics are simple.
First, I'm a Mormon!
Don't worry. There won't be many sermons here.
Not every post will deal with my Latter-day Saintliness, or lack there of, however I can't escape the fact that the Church looms large in my life. Its the context for most everything else about me, for good or for bad. It's set in my DNA. Chart my genetic code and you'll find it matches the sheet music for Come Come Ye Saints. All the way back in 1831, the missionary who introduced my family to the gospel, and baptized my my first ancestor was Joseph Smith himself. My family helped cleared the temple land in Kirtland, narrowly escaped tar and feathers in Independence, and rode beside Joseph and Hyrum to Carthage. As a child these were the fables told at my bedside, not ones by Aesop.
None of this is a secret to anyone who knows me, while the next basic truth about me is known to few.
Second, I am gay.
Its still somewhat odd to just say it out like that, but its true! No doubt about it. I am homosexual.
I clung to the idea that I was just confused. Perhaps I was asexual, or at worst bisexual, but GAY?!!! It was unthinkable! How did that happen? I was a good kid. I kept out of trouble, never swore, paid 10% of my lawn mowing money back in tithing. How could I have carelessly stumbled onto this wayward path? It was agonizing -- the truth was soul killing. I pity the frightened boy I once was, and in retrospect cannot understand how my spiritual leaders were so naive and ill-prepared to offer guidance. (Don't get me started. we'll get into this later I'm sure.)
At thirteen the reality of my situation was clear, and I became desperate no one find out. I banished any hint of stereotypical gay mannerisms or behavior, and developed a straight act that was airtight. Not even the finest tuned gaydar could detect a thing. It still wasn't enough to erase the fear that someone might see something else behind my careful presentation.
The bulk of this time was spent alone. I withdrew from people, and immersed myself in constant prayer and scripture study, reading The Bible twice, and the contents of the Triple Combination more than 4 times, all in the space of my 9th grade year. I begged to be healed, and was bewildered to find it had no effect whatsoever on my sexual desire toward other guys. How could that be? I had been assured that if I just put in the work, and have enough faith in the Savior I'd notice some kind of improvement. After all, I had a pamphlet by a General Authority, tucked away hidden, that said my problem was simple selfishness. Still, no matter how repentant I was, and no matter what joy I denied myself, I experienced no change in sexuality.
Even masturbation was strictly off limits. Like other Mormon boys I was told to whistle a hymn when temptations became overwhelming. I complied exactly, and as a result I knew every hymn in the book note for note. The desires, on the other hand, had to go somewhere, and soon they backed up like bad plumbing. Powerful and vivid, the wet dreams hit like a tsunami while I slept, and had me changing my sheets 2 or 3 times a week. They felt amazing, and of course I felt guilty for enjoying them, but controlling them was out of my hands... so to speak.
So! Here I am! Mormon and queer! Two things no one in their right mind would never choose to be at the same time. If I could give one up and focus on the other that would be great, but I can't. I've tried to stop being gay, and for a time I've even attempted to take the Church out of my life, but I can't shake myself loose from either. I can't deny that I'm gay, any more than I can deny I'm Mormon. They are both part of me through and through to the core. Like the child King Solomon ordered to be cut in half, it is too great an amputation to cut one half from the other. It can't be done.
Other gay friends have left the Church over the years. For some the journey was easier than for others, and I find myself strangely envious of their ability to create a new life for themselves. The truth is I too might follow them across the theological border in a second if it were not for one inconvenient fact: I have a testimony. My heart tells me my place is to stay and somehow work for change from within. Who knows what the attitude might be toward homosexuals within the Church in twenty years, but I know that unless at least a few of us stay, change will be an even longer time coming.
Whew! This ended up a far longer than any introduction has any business being. I really should go back and edit this rant down to something manageable, but I'll probably just let it stand as is. There's a lot more I should tell you about myself, but there's no need to dump it all in one post.
More to come later!