Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Practice Letter To My Siblings

*For those interested, I have three older brothers and one older sister. They are all faithful, active members of the LDS Church, all married with children. I was fairly close with all my brothers, but I was the closest with my sister. She and my mother are the only ones in the family who know I am gay.

My beloved brothers and sweetest sister, the time for me to be completely honest with you, you whom I lovingly call my family, has come. My entire life I have smothered a great part of myself, supressing not only my thoughts and tongue, but my longing heart as well. Neatly put, I "suffer" from Same-Gender Attraction. I've always hated that "diagnosis." It describes a disease, something you kill with chemicals and antibiotics. Unfortunately, homosexuality, contrary to certain beliefs, has no antidote.

Let's try this again: I am gay.

Funny how three such tiny words have been the source of so much pain throughout my short life. I cannot count on all our fingers and toes combined how many times this word has cut me, whether from bullying classmates or even inside the walls of my own home, igniting a rage of self-loathing and sadness. I denied each and every accusation, going so far as to kiss the girls just to get them off my back.

I will spare you the tedious details of my tormented adolescence, and instead, present to you my present here and now.

When I returned home from my mission, equipped with the armor of God in its shiniest and sturdiest form, I also returned home to a conflict I left unresolved. I thought, as so many do, that if I served the Lord with all my heart, might, mind and strength that my "tendencies" would be vanquished, conquered, forgotten. I prayed for that daily, pouring my whole being into a vocation that would never be answered. It wasn't until later, much later, that I gained greater insight on the matter and realized my feeble cries for complete metamorphosis were in vain; God does not simply revoke someone's soul and send a new model. That's not how life works.

Believe me, I've read many a sermon, talk and study on the matter of homosexuality. Often, my efforts in finding answers only left me more conflicted and confused. Elder Holland even said himself, "Some things, including the cause of your feelings, we may never know in this life." That's not the kind of council one wants to hear for any trial, let alone one that is as heavily debated, scrutinized and misunderstood as homosexuality.

The first few months after my mission were fine; the fire of missionary work that still burned in my heart allowed me to coast for a while. Time, as it always does, eventually extinguishes that flame, requiring us to light a new, brighter one. Scripture study became frustrating; prayer, lazy and intent-less; even church meetings weighed me down-- it seemed every lesson, talk and testimony was about one thing: marriage.

Put yourself in my shoes. Imagine an upbringing submersed in a religion as family centered as ours is. Now imagine the crippling realization a boy of only eleven years old would face when he finally acknowledges the foreign feelings growing inside him. Would you ignore those feelings? Would you deny that they are even real? Would you carry on through life as though that realization had never occurred? I did. I tried, at least. There comes a point, though, when even the best actors must break character.

What of my testimony, my faith in the Gospel? Those things are still intact, but there is definitely room for improvement. For the longest time I let my spirituality crumble under the weight of this burden and I began distancing myself from the church because it made me feel so miserably alone and provided little hope for my future. I firmly believe one of my greatest gifts and callings in this life is to love. I felt it growing up, I felt it on my mission, and now, as an adult, I feel an unequaled desire to love and be loved by another. I refuse to have that gift relegated to simple acts of service and charity. Love is life. Life is love. I choose to live. And by so doing, I have chosen someone to live and love with.

It was not easy, and it will come at a price. This I understand. My decision to enjoy an enriched life of companionship over a muted life of celibacy is one that could easily compromise other important relationships, like family. I am fully prepared to face the rejection and misunderstanding that so often accompanies a gay man's decision to embrace his sexuality. I don't expect you to understand. I would, however, pray for your support and compassion. If we could trade hearts for a day, you might not be so quick to judge.

I wish to be more open with each of you. I want nothing more than to have "the talk" with each of you individually, where you ask me questions, I bear my soul, explain my actions, but I know that some of you may not want anything to do with "it." To you I say: I have made up my mind and heart and you're going to have to deal with "it" one way or another. I have never been more secure, content and excited in my entire life. You might recall a similar feeling when you met your current spouse.

I love each of you tremendously and can't think of four more important individuals in my life. You each mean so much to me and the role you play in my life is irreplaceable. Know that I believe in a loving Heavenly Father who has a unique plan prepared for each of us, and sometimes life unfolds in mysterious and unforeseen ways. To that end I testify that Jesus is the Christ, an unblemished example of pure charity and love. He knows me and the desires of my heart fully and when that day comes, I will bow down before Him in humility and say without shame, "Lord, I have done my best."

With all the love I possess,