The story this week, readers, is in the questions.
I am a 26-year-old returned missionary, have a temple recommend, serve in the Elder’s Quorum presidency in my singles ward, and am attracted to men. Without detailing the entire melodramatic saga, I’ve been dealing with this issue my entire life, but it has really consumed a lot of my attention, energy, and vitality in the last four years. I made some pretty intense missteps in my efforts to come to some level of catharsis, and was consequently disfellowshipped. I was reinstated, and have served as faithfully as I know how in every calling I’ve had. I’ve been involved in LDS-oriented organizations helping to support active members of the church who are gay. In short, I’m giving it my all. I feel forgiven of the mistakes I made years ago, and am assured I’m in good standing with God.
Yet, I haven’t been happy.
I met a great guy recently, a BYU grad student, who is in very much the same boat. We connected both on this issue and many other commonalities, and we’ve started spending much of our spare time together. He has become my closest friend and confidant. While we haven’t gotten involved in any way that would compromise either our church membership or his standing in school, I realized one morning that I had a de facto boyfriend. Scarier still: I loved him, and was ok with that. He has since communicated with me that he reciprocates those feelings.
And yet, I’m not happy.
There’s something about being a gay Mormon that makes you feel that joy’s simply not part of the equation. Either I stay involved in the family-oriented church I very much believe in, single and isolated, surrounded by families, or I pursue a relationship I desperately want, yet that would alienate me from my family, my friends, and worst, the surety of my personal convictions. No road seems viable. And two different poles of my soul are tugging ferociously toward opposite directions. I’m not suicidal, but have known three men who have taken their lives, and scores of others who’ve made attempts. Everyone thinks these kinds of deaths are results of bullying, bigotry, or bias. In truth, for many men like me, death seems like a pleasant relief from the grind of life’s contradictions.
Despite our insistence to the contrary, gay Mormons don’t have a corner on the suffering market. How could my pain even begin to compare to some of the crucibles others face? We all have our Gethsemanes. I’m certain my current one is light compared to many others. The difficulty I face is an unsettling feeling there is no path through this; all paths seem to lead to the same sense of cut-off damnation. Four years of learning, growth, and effort have been beneficial, yet seemed only to wield more question, more uncertainty. Any advice for a guy being torn in two?
I attended BYU-I for a little over a year, two actual semesters that were split up by taking a couple online classes during a winter semester. And it was brutal. I never felt like I belonged and homophobic attitudes were around every corner; in mutiple FHEs, in various RM attitudes and constantly amongst both conservative and liberal conversations. My first semester there, I was a girl that was anxious all the time that someone was going to find out. I made up boyfriends left and right and pretended that I thought a boy was cute or that eternal marriage in the temple was a reality I saw in my own future. Second semester was a different story. After I came out to my parents and various friends, I had built up a support system of mormons and non-mormons. I had done some serious soul searching. And I had taken a lot of drugs to curb my own feelings of isolation and inadequacies, as I had seen them. When second semester rolled around, I wasnt the girl out to please everyone I came in contact with. But I also wasnt one to be openly gay. I feared being kicked out and I feared being excommunicated. But there was an honesty that time.
After that semester I didnt go back. And now I feel torn. I feel so confused. I enjoy the Mormon community and the friends that I have made there. I think the church offers great guidance and support in a lot of areas and a general sense of love that is rare to find. My whole family is active, including both extended families (minus a few cousins.) Ive tried the inactive route. But how does a gay person experience a fully active Mormon lifestyle? I don’t feel condemned for being gay, or that it is something I must seek and strive to change within me. And the more I have accepted it, the less bouts of depression I have.
Is there any hope for this one day to be reconciled? Or will this be a constant battle I fight for the rest of my life?
Dear Brother DK and Sister KS:
I have absolutely no idea what I’d do if I were in your shoes. I am humbled that you even wrote me. This is one of those weeks where I hope people will just read your letters and begin to grapple with what it means to be a gay Mormon.
I also hope you both take a minute to watch this just-released “It Gets Better” video made at BYU. The filmmaker is Kendall Wilcox. Please visit the site for his forthcoming movie Far Between to access more videos and resources. You should also know about an upcoming gathering of LGBTQ/SSA Mormons and their allies, April 20 – 22 in Washington, D.C. More info is here.
I believe in a loving and powerful God. I believe that God loves you just as much as God loves me. I believe as the Book of Mormon teaches that “man is that he might have joy.” And I am a follower of Jesus. This Easter weekend it struck me that the message of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection story, the meaning of the atonement is that it does get better.
I don’t know how. But I am willing to walk alongside you and learn.
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