In my continued quest to share the not-so-public stories of fellow Moho's, I bring you Part 2. However, this story does not involve a Moho. (Say what?!) I've learned that not all readers to this blog are Mormon and gay! Who would've thunk.
I was contacted by an awesome guy who called himself a "moderately-secular Jew" and my curiosity piqued. I tossed out a few questions and below you'll read his story. It's so interesting to learn about someone who grew up in a different environment, but how similar our stories can be. (All his answers are great, but I especially like the response to the next-to-last question.)
I really love doing this. I hope you'll share your story with me as well.
Q. Briefly explain your correlation to the Moho community.
A. Well, when I was first coming out for real, I was Googling around and somehow found myself on a Moho blog. Quite frankly, it was really interesting and it was linked to lots of other similar blogs. I've always really loved personal narratives (This American Life, The Moth, etc.) and they were basically people going through something similar to what I was going through, but in very different circumstances. I guess it put things in perspective. After reading them for a while, I became use to the terminology and it has sort of remained something interesting and very human to read when I'm procrastinating. I sometimes feel a bit like I'm invading your community, so I tend to try not to be too involved other than reading.
Q. As a non-Mormon, what attracted you to all the gay Mormon bloggers?
A. Oh, well, I guess this is a bit complicated. So, I was raised in a relatively secular Jewish family and lived in an area where no one was particularly religious, regardless of what religion they were. I've always been interested in religion in general and more conservative forms of Christianity in particular. It's just very different than what I grew up in, so it's interesting to hear that perspective. That was probably what came to mind when I stumbled on a moho blog. I guess I've learned in time from bloggers how different Mormonism is and I've gained an appreciation for it. I think it's pretty neat for a lot of reasons: It's uniquely American, it's based around a very organized form of community, and it gives really practical implications for how to live your life. I don't think it's for me, but it's definitely interesting.
Q. Explain your coming out experience.
A. It sort of went in two phases. I first told some people at a party in high school. A friend asked me if I was gay, I think as a joke, but I had been thinking of telling people anyway, so I made myself spit out yes and then burst into tears. While my then-girlfriend (!) was consoling me, I made my brother call my parents and tell them. They weren't angry, but they were concerned that I hadn't thought it through and and a psychologist friend of theirs recommended that I see a therapist who focused on teen identity issues. He kept trying to convince me that there was no reason to lock down my identity and that it would come in time. I was scared and wasn't really in the fighting mood, so I just stayed closeted for the rest of high school.
When I got to my very liberal college, I quickly realized that any trepidation I had would have to take a backseat to my desire to date some of the very beautiful gay men that seemed to be everywhere. With the help of a support group, I told my friends and my immediate family, which by that point was pretty uneventful. It was stressful for the first year or so because I didn't really have anyone to confide in other than my support group (probably one reason why I really appreciated the Moho blogs), but after that, it was good.
Q. What's your status right now? (Single, in a relationship, etc.) Are you happy?
A. I'm married. I met my husband seven years ago, less than a year after I came out. We had both just gotten out of other relationships and he claimed he could never see us together, but after a few months of hanging out together every day, he finally came around. We got married last summer in a big, casual, outdoor ceremony with my older brother officiating, our other brothers as best men, and our parents holding the poles of the chuppah (it's a wedding canopy that represents your new household).
I'm really very happy. My husband is great - he's odd and delightful. We live in a gay-ish part of a big city, where a lot of our friends are in walking distance and my cousins are close by. I have a job I really like, where I'm out and where my husband comes to hang out with my office. I had thought at one point that being gay would prevent me from working in most sectors, but in reality, turns out you can do just fine as a gay guy in the defense industry. Things are good with my family and I still have almost all my old friends. I've also made a lot of new friends, primarily through work and rock climbing, which I do with a gay group.
Q. What advice do you have for Moho's who may be struggling with their sexuality and trying to balance church attendance?
A. I am wildly unqualified to give advice on this - I got more religious when I came out. Here's my best shot: So, when I was a senior in college, there was a big argument in my religious community about a reading of the sexual prohibitions in Leviticus at an important occasion. It was a long story and the outcome was fine, but it left me with a bad taste in my mouth about how some people in the community wanted to preserve an unimportant tradition at the expense of the dignity of their gay peers, against the advice of our rabbi. At the same time, my boyfriend was going through a serious crisis and the only time we could really relax together was Friday night, when I was usually at prayers. Things were also getting very serious between us and I began to realize I would have to make some concessions to make a life with the non-Jewish guy I loved (intermarriage is still taboo for Jews, much more so than homosexuality).
I ultimately decided that I had to approach religion on my own terms or it wouldn't be a source of joy for me anymore. If I skipped Sabbath prayers to have a family dinner with him, so be it. I could make decisions on an ad hoc basis without worrying how religious or non-religious it makes me.
I've found that has worked really well for me. I realize it's a lot harder to approach Mormonism on your own terms, but I think it's at least a helpful way to conceptualize it.
Q. Anything else you'd like to add?
A. Whoever you are and whatever you're facing, you're not the first and you're not the only one. People can get so wrapped up in the idea that they are unique or in an unusual situation. In truth, everyone around you has been in a slightly unique situation and they all got out okay. Take strength in the fact that others have faced the same thing and move forward to whatever that might be.