Monday, June 13, 2016

It's time to check in with each other again

Sunday sucked. I woke up to news notifications on my phone about the massacre in Orlando. I turned on the TV and yelled "Nooooooo" when I found out the shooting happened at a gay club.

I gasped, along with members of the media, as the death toll jumped from 20 to 50 during a press conference.

I wept as I started reading about the victims. I cried hearing about the mother who was getting text messages from her son, who later died in the attack. The victim's words "Mommy I love you" brought on so many sad, painful emotions.

I could go on and on, but I'm sure you've already read and taken in every printed and spoken word about Orlando, whether it be opinion, fact, or snarky remark on Twitter.

So let me get to my main point - please check in again on your LGBT/SSA loved ones, friends, acquaintances, enemies, etc.

Find out how they're doing. If they want to express their anger, listen. If they want a hug, give it to them. Tell them you love them. It's not a time to judge. And don't you dare use the words "Love the sinner, hate the sin" in any shape or form.

I use the word 'again' in the title of this blog post, as I first made this suggestion right after the policy change in the LDS Church. You can't compare the two events, but the repercussions among the LDS LGBT community are the same. Mohos are hurting. Mohos in the closet may be terrified at the thought of coming out. Recently out Mohos may feel unsafe as they experiment with dating in public. There are many differences of opinion and outlook when it comes to LGBT/SSA members of the church. But this is the time for everyone to come together in unity and strength - setting aside those differences.

My condolences to the family and friends of those involved in this horrible, senseless attack.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Bye LDS Church. I am done.

All these thoughts have been in my head for the last couple weeks. I'm just gonna put it all out there! Here goes.

I do not consider myself a member of the LDS Church anymore. I do not believe anymore. There is no place in the church for gay people. You may now call me an ex-Mormon. I am done.

In this post, I hope to explain my transition, plus I have a few messages for those I've followed over the years.

Simply being gay wasn't a good enough reason to leave

(Please note that these feelings I'm about to share were well before the policy change and Bednar saying I don't exist.)

I once believed that leaving the church for the sole reason of being gay was a cop out. This is why I stayed on the fence for so many years. Other gay Mormons stayed with the gospel. The gay guys were even marrying women. Why couldn't I?!

As I worked to reconcile being a believing member of the church with my attraction to men, I befriended (via email) Dad's Primal Scream. We emailed a couple times. I read, dissected, and pondered all his blog posts. I love the way he writes and his vantage point of being both gay and LDS. BUT, there was a section of his blog that I refused to touch: Why I Left Mormonism. I was so enthralled by all his other posts, I was afraid his exit story would influence me as well. I WANTED to believe in the church. I was making a huge sacrifice by squashing all these gay feelings and staying diligent to the organization I gave two years of my life for, plus many, many hours on Sundays and other random days of the week. I was happy to be a CTR-ring-wearing-Mormon (on the outside.)

Losing the faith

If you've read my blog from the beginning, you've probably noticed a change in my attitude towards my own religion. My negativity for the church and its practices has slowly increased. In the span of three years, I've gone from full activity to the church with callings, to 'taking a break,' to non believing ex-Mormon status. (I have not officially resigned yet, but plan to do so.)  

Shelf breaking

The 'breaking of the shelf' is a term former Mormons use when they realize the church isn't true. I recently came to the conclusion that there's no place in the LDS Church for gay people, but I still needed that extra proof, or icing on the cake. I had to know, through my own research, the church is false. So I went back to the "Why I Left Mormonism" post by Dad's Primal Scream. I read the CES Letter. I read and had healthy discussions with the folks at the ExMormon Reddit forum - who are amazing people, BTW. Each piece of truth about the church slowly broke my shelf - leading me to where I am now - a nonbeliever. Even if I wasn't gay, I feel I'd lose my belief in the church through all the research I've done.

The change in policy was the final straw. It made me so angry. If I were closer to Utah, I would have likely participated in the mass resignation event. Even during my "break," I hoped the church would somehow make nice with us Mohos. (or simply leave us alone.) But no, for every step forward, there were 10 steps back. The church ain't true and they continue to treat gay people like crap  lead gay members to suicide.

I AM DONE.

To the folks at Affirmation/Mormons Building Bridges/Mama Dragons 

I love you all. I really do. I love that you provide a safe haven for LGBT Mormons. I love that there are straight parents defending their gay children. I love that so many of you wore rainbow ties and pins today in connection with Pride month. I love it that you come out in full force of love and support when a Moho gets kicked to the curb by their parents, or even scarier, contemplates suicide. Keep doing what you're doing.

But to those hoping to change the Brethren's mind on how the church treats/accepts gay people, I feel your words are falling on deaf ears. I know in my lifetime, nothing will change. And as we've seen in the past year, it's only gotten worse. To those who remain active AND date someone of the same sex, please choose one and forget the other. (And since my theme of this post has been there's no place in the church for gay people, I think you know where I'm going.)

To the folks at North Star 

We've had a hate/strong dislike relationship over the years. The organization has some amazing members. There are also members who are self-loathing homophobes who are literally poisoning the younger members with their rhetoric. (Oh, you also have a few poster child(ren) who are doing stuff you'd probably not be happy about.) :)

I do love the fact you've slowly separated from People Can Change and other gay conversion therapies. (If I had to come up with one positive thing to say, that would be it.)  But due to your indirect association with Evergreen, you will ALWAYS be seen as the group that tries to convert gay people to straight. Every time an news article is posted about North Star, there's always a comment that suggests, "aren't you guys that group that tries to change gay people to straight and encourage marriage to the opposite sex?"      

In one of my first blog posts, I said a gay man should never marry a woman. I loosened my stance over the years and thought if two people truly love each other, they can do what they want. (And extra bonus points for those in a mixed-orientation marriage who can support those in a same-sex relationship.) Now I don't know what to think. What happens if the gay man married to a straight women (or gay woman married to a straight man) loses the faith like I did? Do they feel stuck in their marriage? What if they realize that gay is OK, and would rather be with someone of the same sex.

I feel North Star got a big kick in the pants after the TLC controversy, and I hope the group continues to disintegrate into oblivion. If you must find support among the LGBT Mormon community, please stick with MBB and Affirmation.

My big F-U to the LDS Church 

This happened in the strangest of all places: My first real date with a guy. All my life, the church hinted homosexuality was wrong, that I wasn't supposed to have these feelings, I should suppress them and just date women. So I did. After so many years of dating the wrong gender, I had my first date with a guy in my 30s. Yes, that's right, in my freakin' 30s. F-U LDS Church.

I felt stuff I never felt before with that first dude date. I had butterflies beforehand. He got to the restaurant before me, and as I walked to the door I thought, 'Can he see me? What does he think of me? Do I look OK? Do my clothes look nice?' I felt comfortable during the date. I was able to be myself. I smiled the whole time. I felt all tingly inside. I enjoyed walking downtown after dinner. I loved chatting. I loved the genuine hug at the end. I thought about him and the date the whole drive home. I was still smiling. I loved his text at the end of the night. I loved thinking about him the next morning. Half my life I dated women, and never had one of these feelings. (In my weeks of contemplating this post, it's this paragraph that makes me the most emotional.)

At times I feel childish to put the blame on the church for keeping me from these tingly feelings. But since Mormonism had such a massive impact on my life, that yes, I do feel it's appropriate to place the blame here. F-U LDS Church.

Family reaction

After coming out as gay, I came out as a nonbeliever of the church. (And you thought coming out of one closet was tough!) Everyone was supportive. Some are active, some aren't. But all gave me the same love and compassion from when I came out as gay. No one told me to 'just read my scriptures and fast and pray and you'll want to go back.' It was basically, 'whatever makes you happy.' Some were surprised I lasted so long in the church. Even straight members think there's no place in the church for gay people.

Happiness 

I have the same feelings now that many ex-Mormons have. Life is so much better outside of the church. Gone is the stress of 3-hour meetings on Sunday and finding time to Home Teach. I now have two whole days to do whatever I want during the weekend. It's nice having that extra 10% back. I loved getting rid of garments. (I've kinda become an underwear snob now!! Makes up for nearly 13 years of wearing the same thing!) I love going out on dates with guys, and not feel the guilt and shame the LDS Church shoved at me all my life. I think it would have been difficult to rid these things "just because I'm gay." Knowing the church is a big lie made it easier (and worth it.)

Through my posts, I've made several references to "wasted time" as I sat on the fence of full LDS involvement and being gay. While I could bitch and complain about all those years of confusion, that doesn't bring me happiness. But looking ahead to the future does.

What now?

I will continue to live my life as a gay ex-Mormon. I used to only feel comfortable around other Moho's or gay ex-Mormons, but my social and dating circle has grown tremendously since leaving the church. It's nice to have conversations with people without bringing up religion.

I will continue to share my story and experiences. And as always, I'm here to chat privately about whatever is on your mind.

But if you're on the fence like I was, don't waste your time. Study the resources I used that led to my disbelief and go from there. You can do it.  

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Whatever happened to....

Recently, I got a Facebook friend request from someone I didn't know. We had some mutual friends and I used to live in her city, and since I'm a nice guy, I accepted. Almost immediately, she sent random greetings via Facebook Messenger. And when I didn't respond right away she sent question marks (???). (ProTip: Don't do this.) And if that wasn't annoying enough, she then proceeded to video call me via Messenger. I freaked. I unfriended then blocked her.

This FB stranger incident kinda indirectly made me think of some other conversations I've had with Mohos.

Since starting this blog, I've had several people reach out. I've made it clear that anyone can contact me with whatever issues they want to chat about. They have questions, they're alone, they're on the fence of church and sexuality, they need a listening ear, etc. Several pen pal friendships have popped up, all thanks to this blog. I'm extremely grateful for all the Mohos I've "met." And while folks are asking for advice, turns out the person on the other end will teach me a thing or two. Some of the conversations were simple, while others got pretty deep. Some learned my true identity and I learned theirs.

However, a few of these conversations ended abruptly. The emails stop. I rack my brain trying to figure out what happened. Do they not need my help anymore? Do they think I'll be upset because they've changed their mind on what side of the fence they're on? (I won't be.) Do they find me annoying? Are they worried about losing their anonymity? I get nervous when the conversations stop because I'm worried about their wellbeing.

I had one guy email me, severely depressed, and I carefully wrote back with what I felt was an appropriate response, only to never hear from him again. He used an alias email/name, so there was no way to check up on him. I hope he's OK.

On special occasions, (e.g. Christmas), I'll write a brief message to the former pen pals, a simple hello and hope you're well, and again, will hear nothing in return. I hope they're OK.

I hope I don't come across as the annoying girl on Facebook. I just know that some gay Mormons are delicate and could use a little check-in here and there. We all could use a little support while going through these crazy lives. Sometimes I wish they would respond with, "I'm good" or "I've moved on" or "I just don't have time to write anymore" rather than simply ignoring me. (Note that not all conversations are like this. Some have a mutual understanding of "We're good" and there's no need to continue communicating.)

The same goes for some Moho bloggers. They've stopped writing and I think 'whatever happened to....'

I also hope I don't come across as clingy. When someone reaches out to me, I immediately become interested. I care about this person. I want them to be happy. I'll do anything I can to provide sound advice or my opinion. Gay Mormons are a rare breed so I cherish every pen pal friendship. But after days, months, or yes, even years of writing, it hurts when the conversation ends with no explanation. And BTW, I have never and will never just send other Mohos question marks. :)

Am I overreacting? Am I acting like a high schooler?

Or should I just be like Elsa and 'Let it go?'






Tuesday, March 29, 2016

OMG I can't believe you ate breakfast at Cracker Barrel... on a Sunday?!?!?!

When a Facebook friend posts a photo on a Sunday from a restaurant or other retail establishment, I love digging through the comments looking for "that guy." You know, the guy (or girl) who either directly or very subtly calls out the OP for 'breaking the Sabbath.'

Try it next time your cousin posts a pic on Sunday from the dairy aisle of Wal Mart. I bet you a dollar you'll find in the comment section either "On a Sunday?!?!?!" (directly) or "Ahh. So that's where Elders Quorum was meeting today." (indirectly)

I love it when the OP actually takes a moment to respond to the passive aggressive commenter. Sometimes, they'll say "That pic was taken on Saturday." Sometimes, they'll say, "Yeah, so?!" But I'm sure the OP would rather respond with a simple "F%&# you."

Same thing happens when someone posts a heartwarming video of Ellen DeGeneres doing something really nice. There's always "that guy" who has to bring up her sexuality in a negative way. "Well, Ellen's nice and all, but I can't support her lifestyle." *eye roll*

Every time I see comments like these, I just wanted to get inside the commenters head. What are they trying to accomplish with the condescending comments? Do they think they're fulfilling a Priesthood (or Relief Society) duty by calling out people doing stuff on Sunday? Are they just trying to be funny? (They never come across as a comedian; just a big jerk!) Are they looking for details so they can tattle to their leaders, or make it the topic of an upcoming Sacrament meeting talk.

I knew a guy who refused to watch football on Sunday. Fine with me. Do what you want. But he took every open opportunity to tell people that he doesn't watch football on Sunday. Priesthood lessons, FHE gatherings, random chitchats. After the 3rd or 4th time I heard it, it got a little annoying. Don't even think about inviting him to a Super Bowl party; you'll get quite an earful. We, his friends and acquaintances, started to feel uncomfortable, and even a little guilty since we all watched football on Sunday. Again, what fulfillment was this guy getting by always telling people that he never watched football on the Sabbath Day?

I respect what you choose to do and not do on Sundays - and to my Jewish friends - on Saturday.  :) There's just no need to call out others for how they decide to spend the day.



Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Who are you? Part 5 - All in the family

Time for another round of "Who are you?" This little segment I started gives other Moho's the chance to share their story, anonymously. No pesky video cameras and sappy music - just written, unedited content. As you've read previous stories, you can probably relate to a few details here and there. But the below story has a unique characteristic - the author has two gay brothers. I've heard of a gay twin, or another gay immediate family member, but have never 'met' anyone with two gay brothers. I based my questions off that fact and below are his answers. 

If all this storytelling gets you riled up, I'd love to hear yours. Use the Contact Form on the right (or email me) and I'll ask you similar questions. 

Here we go! ----- 

Q. Explain your correlation/involvement to the Moho blogging community.
A. Until recently I was only semi-aware of Moho blogging.  I knew it existed, but I never really had anything prompt me to go investigate it. Within the last year or so I saw a video someone posted on Facebook about Far Between that interested me, so I started watching those interviews.  I mainly watched the ones with the young guys that were around my own age because they were cute and I could identify with some of their experiences.   
Since interviews on that site don’t get uploaded that often and I still wanted to hear more people’s stories, I started Facebook stalking friends of friends who I knew were gay Mormons and discovered the USGA Facebook group at BYU. So then I started Facebook stalking all those people. Eventually I found that that really wasn’t satisfying my desire to hear personal experiences where I could identify with other gay Mormons, so that’s when I searched “gay Mormon blog” and found The Moho community.

Q. What's life like being both gay and Mormon? 
A. As most of your readers probably know, it’s MISERABLE, but I think my experience is kind of unique.  From what I have read, a lot of gay Mormons around my age and older didn’t know a lot about being gay when they were young and did not have a lot of exposure to gay people growing up.   
When I was a kid one of my siblings told me that one of my older brothers was gay and explained what that meant and how it was bad.  It was about that time that I was starting puberty and I was shown a homoerotic picture by one of my straight brothers who thought it was funny. I still remember it, it was a picture of Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy lying in bed together, shirtless and cuddling. It really piqued my curiosity and lead me to down a path to looking at gay porn. 
It is interesting because when I was really young in elementary school I had crushes on girls and none on boys, but when I started puberty I started to have crushes on boys and not on girls.  So maybe porn does have some effect on your sexual development, but who knows.  
Anyway I don’t know a lot of the details of when my first brother came out and how my parents reacted.  I know he was bullied a lot in school and being gay might have been part of it.  I later found out when I was older that he attempted suicide and that was pretty shocking to me. He and my parents went to counseling together for a while.  I always thought it was to reconcile him being gay and them being against that, but now I think it probably had a lot to do with the suicide attempt.   
I never really asked about the details of what happened because I thought it would lead to the suspicion that I was gay.  Even now I feel like it is kind of private and not really my business and I don’t really have that great of a relationship with that brother.  I don’t remember at what point he became inactive, but he stopped going to church and became an atheist. As a kid I always had the impression that he was sinning and being bad and I did not want to be like him.  
A few years later another one of my brothers came out to my parents and they talked to me and my siblings about both off my gay brothers.  We are a little closer in age so I was more aware of what happened to him.  He came out around the time he finished high school and also at that time declared that he did not believe in God and was an atheist. My parents were again upset by this and it was difficult for them.  When my mom told me about him coming out she was crying and reiterated how bad it was, so that ingrained in me that being gay wasn’t good.   
That brother moved out right after high school to go to college and has lived on his own since.  So growing up I knew a lot about being gay through how it affected my brother’s lives and how my parents reacted.   
Sometime after my first brother came out I was on a father and son camp out with my dad and he and I went on a little hike together.  During that he asked me if I was attracted to boys.  That really made me uncomfortable because I was and I saw how my brothers being gay caused so much distress in our family. I did not want to be associated with something bad like that so I lied and said I was not.  I was not more than 10 at the time.  When I was around 11 my dad caught me looking at gay porn.  He sat me down and told me how being gay was not a sin, but acting on it was, as we always hear in the church today.   
He told me I needed to talk to the bishop and repent, so he set up an appointment for me. It was a very stressful situation for my eleven year old self to say the least.  I went through the repentance process with the bishop for looking at porn, but did not tell him I was gay.  I did not think that needed to be confessed since it is not a sin.  I avoided porn for a while, but eventually went back to it.  After that my dad didn’t talk to me about being gay for ten years until a specific event triggered me to come out to him, but I will talk about that a little later.  I assume he told my mom what happened, but to this day she has never directly talked to me about being gay.
So all through my teenage years I looked at gay porn.  I always felt guilty about it because of what you learn at church.  I tried to stop many times on my own, but I never could.  I was also kind of in denial about being gay.  I just never wanted to accept it.  I always had the idea that I would find a woman to marry who I would be attracted to.  I was pretty shy so I never felt I needed to date girls to prove I was straight and I never wanted to anyway.  I also always tried to distance myself from my gay brothers, because I saw them as not strong enough to stick with church and I did not want to be associated with that.  That was one of my biggest fears with coming out.  I felt if people knew I was gay, then I would have to stop going to church.  And I still feel like if people know I am gay they will think I am stupid for still believing and going to church.  
So pretty much until the time I was almost 21 I was trying to break my porn habit so I could go on a mission, although I was not trying that hard.  When I was 20, my desire to have a boyfriend became really strong.  I was tired of seeing all the ways straight couples got to be intimate and love each other and I couldn’t because I was gay.  I wanted that kind of companionship in my life too so I discovered a way to meet guys online.  I ended up having sex with a guy I met.  That kind of officially made me decide to not go on a mission, because there was no way I was going to confess to a bishop that I had gay sex. After that experience I tried to actually date guys so I could developed a real relationship because I did not want to just have sex with them.

Q. Are you an active, believer of the church?
A. I am still active, but I am not super involved.  I do go to church every week, but have not taken the sacrament in quite a while and I refuse to discuss any of this with my bishop.  I feel like if I ever were to get serious with someone it is likely I would stop going, but I am not sure.  
There was a time when I was actively dating guys and reading my scriptures daily, but I have not read them in almost a year.  I also still do pray every day.  I like praying and having a relationship with God.  If anything, it’s cathartic and I still for the most part believe he is real.  I never got endowed or did any of that temple business so that is not something I worry about.  I do wrestle a lot with the idea that homosexuality is immoral because everything I feel about guys is so good and positive and brings me so much joy and peace and it makes absolutely no sense that that can be bad.   
Basically I came to the decision that I will search for a male companion and try to be happy in this life and accept the punishment I receive in the next life.  I feel like to endure life while restricting yourself from companionship and love is hell and it does not make sense to me that you would have to endure hell to avoid hell.

Q. Are you out to friends and family? If you're not out, what keeps you in the closet?
A. I am partially out to my family kind of.  As mentioned before my parents found out I was gay when I was 11, but never talked to me about it again until I was 21.  I guess they were in denial about it or were just hoping, it would go away. During my teen years one of my gay brothers caught me looking at porn.  I was still uncomfortable with my sexuality so I never talked to him about it and he never brought it up.  At that time I still thought about marrying a woman so I did not want to acknowledge it to anyone. 
When I started dating guys I came out to my one of my sisters because she kept pestering me about what I was being so secretive about.  I started dating a guy for the first time ever and he was really cute and I was SUPER excited about it and wanted to share it with someone.  She is slightly younger than me and fairly understanding so I was not that worried about telling her. Although the experience was still very nerve wracking. 
Later on I started talking to a different guy.  Through talking on the phone we became really emotionally attached before we even met.  When we finally met in person I realized I was not at all attracted to him physically (his pictures were very misleading).  I handled this very poorly.  We met on a Sunday night.  I still lived with my parents so I told them I was going to a fireside, but instead I went on a date with him.  I ended up ending the date early by more or less telling him that I was not attracted to him.  I pretty much broke his heart and it made me feel like the worst person in the world.  He went home crying and I went home crying and the whole thing was horrible. When I got home in the driveway I changed back into my church clothes as if I had just gotten back from the fireside.  I went to my bedroom and after a while my dad came in and told me he saw me changing my clothes and ask why I did that. I was still super emotional about what happened and was still crying on and off so I did not have the energy to make up a lie.  
I just flat out told him I went on a date.  After a little more questioning I revealed it was with another boy.  He realized I was upset and just told me he still loved me and would talk to me about it later.  About a week later he called me into his bedroom so we could have a talk.  He reiterated what he said when I was eleven about being gay is not a sin, but acting on it is. 
Then he started to say some really insensitive and hurtful things about what would happen to me if I continued to act on my gay feelings.  I couldn’t stand to listen to him anymore so I just went back to my bedroom, locked the door and started crying.  I knew he would try to unlock the door and get in, so I put on some shoes and got ready to leave. He unlocked the door and told me he was not done talking to me.  I told him I did not want to talk about it and tried to side step him to leave.  This made him a little angry so he blocked the doorway and grabbed me to try to prevent me from leavening.  We got in to a little tussle and I ended up flinging my window open, ripping out the screen, and jumping out into the pouring rain, all while he tried to constrain me and him yelling, “You cannot live here if you are going to continue to date!” 
I walked around to the front of my house and got a small umbrella, then I just started walking.  All I had on was a sweatshirt, sweatpants, a shoe on one foot and just a sock on the other.  The other shoe had come off as I was trying to get away.  So there I was walking in the rain like that, bawling and wishing I was dead.  That was the most suicidal I have ever been.  If I would have had an easy way to kill myself at that moment I would have done it, but all I could think of doing was bludgeoning myself with a rock.  I decided that would be too difficult. I tried to figure out where I could go to get out of the rain.  I didn’t have any friends I could go to and I lived in a kind of rural area so there was nothing around but houses.  I lived near a golf course and remembered a semi-secluded bathroom at the end of one the holes so I decided to go there.  I finally got their after walking about three miles, ruminating all the way.  
By then I was pretty soaked and my shoeless foot was freezing and hurt from walking on the rough ground. I tried the door, but it was locked.  Luckily there was a 3 foot overhang so I had cover from the rain, but there was a huge puddle occupying most of that cover.  I collected a pile of pine needles and built up a mound to try to avoid sitting directly in the puddle.  It was not very effective.  Then I sat there in the cold for the next four hours and cried and ruminated and cried some more.  
While I was there my dad texted me and apologized, but I just ignored him.  My sister that I came out to also texted me and said my parents told her I was upset and that I left. She tried to talk to me, but I didn’t really want to talk.  After a while I realized I would have to go back at some point so I just tried to wait as long as I could before I went back. By the time I did go back my shoeless foot was totally numb and on my other foot, my shoe had been soaked through and also started numbing.  I eventually started walking back and by the time I got to my house I was completely drenched for head to foot and my feet and hands were totally numb from the cold.
I wanted to sneak back in through my bedroom window, but they had shut it and I could not get it open.  It had gotten dark by the time I got back and I stayed outside and watched what was going on inside through the windows.  My parents were there and they were sitting down eating dinner.  They looked really sad and it kind of made me sad. I waited outside watching them for about a half hour until they got in their car and left, I assume to go look for me.  The only other person living there at the time was one of my brothers and I don’t know how much of the confrontation he was aware of.  He mostly stayed in his room so I was not too worried about him.  I snuck in the side door got some dinner and went straight to my room.  I decided to text my dad and tell him I was home. Then I changed out of my wet clothes and ate while I waited there for them to come back.
When they got back my dad came to my door and apologized again and said he would not make me talk to him if I did not want to.  He asked me if I could come out so he could give me a hug, but I refused and he left.  Then my mom came and asked me to come out so she could hug me and I refused again.  I kind of felt guilty about that, but I was still really upset.  So they finally left me alone.  The whole next day I tried to avoid them and stay in my room.  
Each of the following days I started coming out more and talking more to my parents until things got back to normal.  I finally did let them hug me and they apologized again, but after that we acted like it never happened and that was fine with me.  
That is the story of coming out to my parents.  I did stop dating after that because I felt like I should follow their rules while I lived with them since they were still supporting me a great deal financially. And I knew they would be watching me like a hawk, so I knew it would be twice as hard to sneak around. 
So that whole experience might have sounded like fun, but wait until you hear what happened next.  When I came out to my sister I told her explicitly, EX. PLI. CIT. LY. Not to talk to anyone about it and if they asked her anything about it, I told her to lie through her bloody teeth.  And do you know what she did? You wanna know? She pretty much told everyone in my family!  So I found out later that when I was sitting in that puddle, my mom called one of my other sisters to ask her if she might know where I had gone and she told her I was gay.   
I still can’t understand how she thinks she has the right to tell anyone such personal information about me and I’m still upset that she did that.  I don’t know if she talked to any of my other siblings, but she did talk to my younger sister about it.  So my younger sister ended up thinking all my siblings knew so she sent a text to most of them explaining the situation.  I have a large immediate family and the number of children is on the high side as far as Mormon families go.  I didn’t find out what my sister did until a year after the incident.  So for a whole year I thought nobody in my family knew, while the whole time they all knew.
To be honest, I understood how that whole situation played out and so I am not that upset that my sister broke my confidence in that way.  But, recently I found out more details that made me really mad at her.  I went to visit one of my straight brothers, recently and he confronted me about being gay.  He told me that when I was young he had caught me looking at gay porn so he had known for a long time.  That was kind of awkward and uncomfortable, but it also felt good to talk openly about it with him.  Then he made a really snarky comment, mocking me for being afraid to be open with everyone about my feelings and I was like, ok, you’re the dumbest person in the world, don’t ever talk to me again.  That’s how I felt but I didn’t really say that, I just brushed it off.
Anyway, later he revealed that about a month after I came out to my sister, she had told him I had a boyfriend. And I was like, are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?! So it turns out she broke my trust from the very beginning. And remember, I told her EXPLICITLY not to tell anyone.  It just kills. I don’t understand how she could just do that.
It all worked out in the end though.  I confronted her about it and she was like, uhh… well… I ahh… I’m sorry, I just… ahh.  And I’m like, yeah you’re dumb, I know. Later as a peace offering she offered to buy me a new phone and I was like, if you really want to, but I don’t expect you to.  I guess she felt really bad, but I’m getting a new phone out of it so I am happy lol.  I’m not really that shallow, but maybe a little. ;)  Also I am kind of glad that she told all my siblings the way she did because I never really wanted to come out to them and now I don’t have to. And I am sure some of them at least suspected that I was gay anyway. 
This has become a long convoluted story, but the moral is I came out to my parents and a few of my siblings.  The rest of them were told, but I have never talked to them about it and they never talked to me about it and right now that’s how I like it.  I do have one brother that I still think doesn’t know because he was not around when this whole ordeal happened. I am not out to anyone outside of my immediate family, but who knows who they have told. I don’t really have any friends so telling them is not an issue since they don’t exist. Some people may be wondering if I already have two brothers out, what’s the big deal about me coming out. What’s one more?  It is still extremely shameful and I know how disappointing it is to my family.  It is just really hard to know that how I am and what I want in life is so disappointing to them.

Q. You mentioned in your first statement that you have gay brothers. What has that been like?
A. It has its positive and negative aspects.  On the one hand I feel like because they came out before me, it spared me a lot of grief that I would have had to go through if I was the only gay person in my family.   
I wasn’t totally oblivious to homosexuality when I was growing up so it made it easier to deal with.  My family was also already used to having gay family members so it dispelled a lot of fear I might have had if I did not know how they would react.  On the other hand, now I know exactly how they can react negatively to having gay family members.  
I also know firsthand what it feels like to find out you have a gay family member and how you are shocked and your opinion of them might change a little bit.  I felt the same disappointment my family did when I found out my older brothers were gay because of what I was taught and believed about it.  That is something that made me worry about coming out because I’ve experienced that same disappointment.   
I have never been particularly close to my gay brothers just because we are gay. In fact I feel like I have more often than not, avoided them as to avoid any suspicion they may cast on me of being gay. 

Q. What is your current status? (Single, in a relationship, etc.) Are you happy?
A. I am currently single, but have just recently started trying to date again.  It is just so hard because people are so scary and dating’s hard and I hate it.  But I have definitely become happier at the prospect of finding a companion.  I moved away from my parents nearly a year ago so that is no longer an issue.

Q. How do you see yourself in the future? (Staying with the church, leaving it, balance both sexuality and church, etc.) 
A. This is a tough question because I think it is really hard to say.  I still believe in the church, but I have accepted my sexuality and the consequences it may bring.  At this point I am sure I would be excommunicated, but I would never go through a disciplinary counsel to find out.  I just try to do the thing I feel I can and not worry about things that I think are too hard.  How long I can live my life with this kind of relationship to the church is unknown.

Q. Anything else you'd like to add? 
A. I would just like to say I am grateful for my loving parents and family and that we can still get along after going through difficult situations like this. This part feels like a testimony lol.
My family is really important to me and while it may seem like some of the things they do are uncaring, they are in fact very caring and are my favorite people. So that’s that.   
Also I would be interested in hearing people’s thoughts and options about my story, so if you took the time to read this please feel free to leave comments.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Why you always gotta justify everything?


Two recent events confirmed to me just how much TBM's love to justify the church.

1) The 32 LGBT Mormons who committed suicide after the new policy.

2) Elder Bednar's comments that there "are no homosexual members of the church."

I've witnessed several TBM's try to downplay the number of suicides (As if 5, 10, or 15 suicides are any better.) And others tried to harass and discredit the source. As for Bednar's comments, bloggers chose to dissect those 8 words that he said, and try to justify what he meant, including this 3,200-word post that seems to never end.

I shouldn't be surprised by all the justifying. There's a group of apologetics who justify polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, the various First Vision accounts, Joseph Smith marrying a 14-year-old, and yes, they even try to justify LGBT issues.

But with each long and tedious justification I read or witness, the more cringed I get. Even the gay TBM's participate in minor justifications that just pile up to a big mess:


LABELS

Justification: Don't call me gay, I 'struggle with same-sex attraction.'

My response: Bednar SHOULD have said "there are no members who 'struggle with same-sex attraction.'" That's the REAL truth! You do not have a disease. You will not 'overcome' same-sex attraction and turn straight. You should not hate yourself. Accept the gay.


CLOSET

Justification:
I'm not going to tell my wife I'm SSA/gay; it's none of her business.

My response: She will find out. You might as well be truthful and tell her as early as possible.


ROOMMATES  

Justification:
My roommate is also gay/SSA, but were both active, temple recommend holders, so it's all good.

My response: I don't have a problem with this, but the moment you give the stink eye to a guy moving in with his girlfriend or vice versa, I have to pull the hypocrite card. Plus, if you 'really' want to keep those temple covenants, moving in with another gay guy is a pretty dumb idea.


THE "GAY LIFESTYLE"

Justification:
My good friend has left the church and has pursued the "gay lifestyle" so we can't be friends anymore.

My response: Well that's pretty stupid. For belonging to a church that says to "love one another," you're not being a very nice person. Your friendship shouldn't change, and you should congratulate him/her on their newfound happiness.


CRUSHES

Justification:
I'm starting to develop feelings for a guy, but there's nothing gay about it. It's more of a brotherly love situation.

My response: Wrong. You are homosexually falling for someone. If the feeling is mutual, you should go out on a date!


CUDDLING

Justification:
 Cuddling is not sexual in any way; it's healthy touch.

My response: I will never understand the fascination of cuddling among the gay TBMs. They have this idea that attractions will decrease through cuddling. I obviously have a much different viewpoint (and experiences) with cuddling.


APPS

Justification: I've signed up for these gay dating apps, just to find some new friends (and nothing more.)

My response: You know who you are. (I've seen your profile!) Again, don't have a problem with this, but don't be a hypocrite.


Why justify? From what I've witnessed, it seems the gay TBMs want to get as close to the line as possible, without crossing it. ("I've been the big spoon for another dude, but we didn't have sex, so I can still hold on to that Sunday School teacher calling"... or.... "We all get naked in front of each other to overcome body image issues.")  For some, they really do cross the line (according to church standards) causing them to become depressed, they then confess to their Bishop, get disfellowshipped/excomm'd, get ordinances back, only to do the deed all over again.

Why am I writing this? I'm frustrated. If my above responses were ingrained in my mind 10 years ago, I wouldn't have wasted the past decade trying to balance church and sexuality. (I use the "wasted the past decade" often in my posts and feel the need to 'justify' it here as well) :-) As I continue my journey of leaving the church, it's dawned on me how much I dislike 1) justifiers and 2) hypocrites. (And double thumbs down if you're a justifier hypocrite.) It's nice as I continue my own life, I'm able to distance myself from these types of people.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Who are you? Part 4 - Losing faith on the mission

Howdy! How's everybody doing?

Time for the next installment of your favorite Gay Mormon Southpaw segment: Who Are You? The latest interviewee, Corbin Brodie, followed me on Twitter. We started chatting, and I learned that he recently published a book on growing up gay and Mormon. I love read other Mohos' stories and was immediately intrigued and wanted to include him in my little franchise. I'm happy to provide his answers to my short interview below. (And of course if you'd like to learn more about Corbin, please check out his book!) I'm amazed at the beautiful writing talent of all who have shared their stories. (And there are more to come!)

As always, if you're interested in sharing your story, contact me using the form on your right.

Here we go...

Q. Explain your correlation/involvement to the Moho blogging community.

A. It’s a new thing for me, as I’ve increasingly seen how much gay related issues have moved to centre ground in Mormon cultural dynamics, public discourse and public relations. This has been fascinating for me to see because when I was younger and still a member it would have been inconceivable that you could openly admit to being gay and Mormon and get any other reaction than horror from members. As someone who has been there, growing up gay and Mormon and struggling through it when it was impossible to even talk about it, I felt I had something to add to the conversation.

Q. What's life been like both gay and Mormon?
A. When I was a teenager it was a nightmare. In high school I’d see that other people could date, have boyfriends/girlfriends, talk about who they liked to parents or friends, experience the romance and magic of dancing together at high school or church dances, have a smooch, and enjoy the whole wonder of it, with all its fun and excitement and clumsiness and awkwardness and heartbreak. 
Just the fact other kids could openly talk about their romantic feelings and experiences pained me because I couldn’t even do that. On top of it, there was this feeling that I had to be not just a good Mormon but an exemplary Mormon, to make up for how I was inside, and in order for God to “cure” me. It was only while on my mission in Japan that it dawned on me how ridiculous and cruel this all was and I finally accepted who I was. Since returning from my mission I’ve not had to struggle with being gay and Mormon because I stopped being Mormon. Even then I had all that lifetime of internal programming to get out of my system because Mormonism isn’t just a religion, it’s a culture, and that culture always remains a part of you.

Q.  What's your current status with the church?
A. My belief in the Church completely collapsed halfway through my mission, although I stayed the whole two years for family and other reasons. When I got home I continued to attend church for a few months, to spare my mother’s feelings for a while, but then I stopped going and have never been back and haven’t missed it at all. It would be hard for me to convey how quietly molten with anger I was by the end of my mission, and how profoundly I resented what I felt I had been robbed of while a teenager and for those two years while trapped on a mission, two years which I felt could and should have been two of the most wonderful years of my life. 
I have never bothered to officially resign from the Church and formally request my membership be cancelled, as many people have done, because whatever this institution had in its records seemed meaningless to me. I had Mormon friends “alarmed” that I’d left, who tried to “counsel” me and who were horrified that I was happily and actively gay without in any way feeling ashamed of it. I hardly knew how to respond to the condescension, blindness and arrogance in their attitudes and just ignored them completely.

Q. Are you out to friends and family?
A. I’m completely out to friends and family. I came out at one point to my brother but with my mother I simply lived openly the way I wanted to, without feeling I had to come out in any formal way. I felt I didn’t have to explain anything. There was a point not long after returning from Japan when I did come out to my straight male non-Mormon friends and although they were stunned to start with I never lost a single friend. They were great about it even though I was the only gay person they knew. If anything, the fact I was no longer hiding anything made our friendships all the more fun, open and interesting.

Q. What is your current status? (Single, in a relationship, etc.) Are you happy?
A. Until recently I’d been in a relationship for almost two years, but just before Christmas my boyfriend got offered an amazing job in the United States he couldn’t turn down so we had to call it a day (I live in the UK). So single at the moment but not planning to stay that way. I’ve had several long term boyfriends in my life who have all been some of the most beautiful human beings I’ve ever known. At the moment I’d say yes I’m happy, although I tend to think of happiness as something you experience here and there, not something you obtain and hold on to. I'd call myself very existentially satisfied.

Q. Who is your celebrity crush? 
A. Ha ha, I find it hard to get truly attracted to someone unless I know them personally and have talked to them. The UK talk show host Graham Norton is someone I think is quite cute, funny, smart and charming.

Q.  You mentioned you started losing your faith while serving a mission. What led you to the overall disbelief of the church? 
A. It was a slow, gradual process made up of different elements. Being gay was not even the main issue. Unlike many people who leave the Church, I never thought about or wrestled over doctrine, Church history, Joseph Smith issues etc. For me it was simply that the Church utterly failed to give me any spiritual connection with the cosmos. On my mission I saw so much bullying, so much fakeness, so much dishonesty, so much corporate-style salesmanship, so much hypocrisy, so much fanaticism, such clear examples of people pretending they knew things they didn’t know, that the whole miasma of belief I’d been brainwashed with as a child collapsed. Once that happened the penny dropped for me intellectually. I was very interested in history and just immediately saw that it was all man-made, that it was all made up in the 19th century. I'm pretty sure I would have left the Church even if I had not been gay.

Q. What was your immediate reaction to the Handbook policy change on gay couples and kids?
A. It didn’t surprise me. Over recent years the Church has softened its rhetoric towards homosexuality but I see that as a pure public relations exercise. Underneath it, the hostility is still there. It’s obviously shocking that even non-gay Mormon children would be made to pay the price for this hostility. What amazes me is how the Church talks about love all the time but has to be taught about love by non-Mormon society. It’s an institution which claims to have privileged access to eternal truth and a higher form of love and knowledge, yet it’s always struggling to keep up with society at large. 
It was only when non-Mormon society changed its prejudiced attitude towards black people that the Church belatedly abandoned its own bigotry. After years of terrible psychological and emotional abuse of young gay Mormons, it was only in recent decades when society became more accepting of gay people and gay equality that the Church suddenly changed its own tune and tried to – very clumsily – adopt a more “accepting” attitude. But no amount of rhetoric about love and acceptance can really disguise the hostility and callousness. 
When Dallin H. Oaks was questioned the other day about the rash of suicides in the wake of the new handbook policy, he actually had the lack of tact to say that “Nobody is sadder about a case like that than I am”. As some people have responded, “really?” He’s sadder about it than the dead young person’s parents and friends and boyfriend or girlfriend? It utterly amazes me that anyone who is gay would remain Mormon, that they would just endure the breathtaking arrogance, that they would lose their own lives because of such condescension, that they would accept such humiliation and attack on their own dignity as full spectrum human beings.

Q. What are your thoughts on Mixed Orientation Marriages?  
A. I don’t have a problem with them because, to me, people should be free to live their lives as they want to. If they aren’t hurting anyone, it’s all valid. Mixed orientation marriages, if they are about love and if the two people get a reward and spiritual satisfaction from it, are perfectly valid. I don’t understand it, but I accept it. Perhaps the only thing I’d have reservations about is if a gay person is in one for purely religious reasons, and wouldn’t be otherwise. But I still just think of it as none of my business.

Q.  You've recently published your journal entries from the mission. Give a brief summary of what we'd find in your book.  
A. My book is called The Gate and The Garden: The Apostate Journals of a Gay Mormon Missionary in Japan. It is literally the actual journals I kept on my mission, along with the short stories and poems I wrote at the same time, on that journey. I’ve changed names and where people are from and some incidental things to protect people’s privacy, and tidied up punctuation and some things like that, but otherwise it’s exactly what I wrote back then.  
What the reader will find is a very detailed documentation of how a believing 19 year old Mormon boy went on his mission, secretly believing and hoping that God would cure him of his private homosexual feelings if only he did his best and trusted in faith. It documents how bit by bit, step by step, he lost his faith in Mormonism and accepted himself as gay wholeheartedly. The second half is all about how he struggled to keep these two things concealed while surviving the whole two years for family reasons. 
It’s kind of strange that I’d been so affected by anti-gay hostility in the Church that even after I realized I didn’t believe a word of Mormonism any more, it took a while longer to be able to write about being a gay Mormon. I guess that says something right there. When I did it all came tumbling out in my journals, the whole experience of growing up gay in the Church, my feelings, my experiences. There must be so many young gay Mormons who have gone on missions and only in that crucible learned to be who they are that it surprises me I’m the first person – as far as I can tell – to actually publish journals describing that experience. 
The book is about more than this though. It gives a real feel for what a two year mission can be like on the ground. It certainly gives a lot of information about being a missionary in Japan a few decades ago. It’s also about larger issues. It’s about crossing the bridge from childhood to adulthood. It’s about discovering the joy of being who you are, not who you are told you should be. It’s about being intellectually independent. It’s also about a kind of creative awakening, with the poems and short stories I wrote as a means of self-expression while on this whole journey. I certainly feel that gay Mormons or gay ex-Mormons or gay missionaries or gay Mormons thinking of going on missions will find a lot they can relate to and if the book helps anyone struggling with these issues I would feel so happy.

Q. Any advice you'd give to the younger Moho's still in the closet? 
A. I suspect a lot of young gay Mormons who are keeping this secret about themselves are allowing other people to set the terms of how they think, how they live, how they exist as a human being. I’d suggest they start setting their own terms and flipping things the other way round. Instead of worrying that they will disappoint their family or Church members, they should allow themselves to feel disappointed that family and Church members have put them in such a position. 
Instead of feeling that their gay feelings are some kind of selfishness, they should pause to consider the selfishness of people who tell them they can’t enjoy love and intimacy while themselves enjoying it. Instead of allowing other people to tell them what “spirituality” is, they should reach deep inside themselves and feel how much genuine spirit is there, and how it ties them to the universe, and experience that awareness honestly. 
When you’re young you sometimes forget that one day you will be old. Young gay Mormons should ponder how they will feel at the end of their lives, if they’ve lived that life for other people and only too late realized they allowed those other people  - just people, with their own blindness and selfishness – to take their life from them. 
More than anything, young gay Mormons have every right to feel angry. Getting in touch with that anger - which is the voice of their own dignity - is, I think, the healthiest thing they can do, instead of letting that anger turn against them and destroy them.

Q.  Anything else you'd like to add?
A. I just want to say I have never regretted leaving the Church and living my life fully as a gay person. Gay life isn’t all fun and roses; there’s as much pain and messed-up-ness there as elsewhere. Yet I’ve met some of the most amazing beautiful people and had some of the most fulfilling relationships. 
And just living honestly and on my own terms has released so much energy for me to live richly and wholeheartedly. The value of living an authentic life and living it fully has been my pearl of great price. The older I’ve become and more experience I’ve had, the more it astonishes me I could ever have considered surrendering my life because other people told me to.