Sunday, November 25, 2012

The First Person

It’s time for another SSA missionary story! And oddly enough, this one happened before I outed myself. It actually happened this summer while I was getting ready and preparing myself for coming out. I guess maybe I should start with how that started, back in August of this year.

Like I think I’ve mentioned in previous posts, not even a page into the introduction of “Voices of Hope”, I had the sudden impression (before I read anything that Ty had written about speaking up) that my secret about my same-sex attraction would not be a secret for much longer. That struck me because I had NEVER planned on coming out. Sure, I’d told friends as I felt I needed to, but I never thought I’d be public (to the point where I’ve now outed myself three times in church to help me prove the point that I want to bring up). As I read on in the introduction, I felt it take hold of me and push me toward doing it. I wanted to help other people see that it’s possible to live the gospel, despite whatever challenge you’re facing!

That left me with one question. Would I do it? I wasn’t sure, but I decided to give myself some time to pray and figure it out and make sure it’s what Heavenly Father wanted me to do. I knew I had to at least tell a certain list of people in person if I could before making it public knowledge. The list filled up to probably about a dozen people, including a friend of mine (let’s call him James).

Around mid-August, I got the chance to hang out with James, so I took the chance to tell him about my SSA. After telling him about it and about why I was divulging my secret to him at that time, I was surprised to hear his response: “I’ve dealt with some of that too.”

Did I hear that right? I needed that clarified. “You deal with SSA?” I responded. The conversation proceeded well. It was amazing to me that James dealt with SSA. He said it didn’t really affect him much in his life, but it was still there. However, it blew me away more that I was the first person he’d ever told. He had never told his parents or girls he’d dated (he’s currently not married) or any of his roommates.

It made me really respect him that he had been able to deal with his SSA all the way into his twenties without telling anyone and yet he was firm in the gospel and seemed to understand (maybe more than I did) why he had SSA. I also felt really honored to be the first person he told. To me, that shows a lot of trust in a person. Two years ago, I knew that Elder Call was that person, who I trusted more than anyone else because I knew I could trust him with the secret of my SSA.

It’s amazing what the Spirit can do and how it can direct our lives, bringing us together to the people we need most in our lives. To me, it hearkens back to the original theme of this blog: for a wise purpose. We don’t know what’s going on, necessarily, but the Lord has a plan and as long as we trust in His will, we will get where we need to go.

To close, again, I want to remind you of one thing: no matter what your trials are and no matter what weaknesses you have, remember, through the Atonement, it gets better.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Authentic Me

WOW! It’s been a month since my coming out post. It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long already… on the other hand, it’s hard to believe it’s only been a month. It’s certainly been an interesting month. In addition my SSA missionary experience with Steve, I had two other SSA missionary experiences (I’ll probably write about those later). I also had the opportunity to participate in the Voices of Hope project this past weekend. WOW! What an experience! I felt so jumbled and that my video isn’t coherent, but I guess that’s what post-production is for. I also had the opportunity to attend the conference that AMCAP (Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists) put on in Provo. Such an amazing experience! I brought Steve and Garrett and both were able to learn a lot.

I’ve been reflecting a bit in the last week or so of how things have changed in the past month. I’ve had some emotional episodes, but in general I feel that I’m happier. Why is that? What’s made the difference? Honestly, the answer I’ve found is authenticity. I think this point is really well said in Tyler Moore’s story “Being my True Self” in Ty Mansfield’s book “Voices of Hope”:

“As scary as increased honesty and openness have been, it has felt great not to have to carry the load by myself. So great, in fact, that I actually started to have feelings of really liking myself, something previously totally foreign to me. Initially, I associated those feelings of self-acceptance with finally accepting that I was gay, but I’ve realized over time this was naïve. I now know that the reason I started liking myself is because I was being honest and appropriately authentic, and I felt support and love from others in that authenticity.”

I can really relate to that. I’ll be honest; October 20 (when I did my “coming out”) was the scariest day of my life. Did I expect negative responses? No, not necessarily, but putting yourself out there that much gives you what some of my friends would call a “vulnerability hangover” (basically, being so emotionally drained from divulging deep personal information, making you feel vulnerable). However, as I’ve seen and heard the responses to that post, I have felt loved and respected. Like Tyler Moor said, I feel that I’ve been able to like myself more by being able to be honest about myself and not hold back details about myself. And because I like myself more (though I still struggle with that at times) I’m happier.

I’m not saying that you should be public about all of your deep dark secrets, like I’ve been with my same-sex attraction, but I invite you to think about how you can be more authentic with the people around you. Reach out when you need help, be honest with your friends and family, BE YOURSELF. Rejoice in the good that you have and work on the stuff you don’t like. And above all else, remember that through the Atonement it gets better.

I say this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

(me and Garrett as Mario and Luigi for Halloween this year)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Voice(s) of Hope

As part of being an SSA Missionary, I wanted to start putting together a list of resources about same-sex attraction, both to help those who struggle and to help those who love those who struggle. Of course it’s not good to fixate on the problem too much, but I believe that proper understanding can and will help those who struggle with same-sex attraction feel more comfortable, understood, and welcome in the church.

I figured an appropriate resource to start with would be Ty Mansfield’s book “Voices of Hope”. Over the past couple weeks, I have been reading a lot from “Voices of Hope”. The stories I read about men and women who have dealt with same-sex attraction (in addition to several parents, spouses, and priesthood leaders) were inspiring and I could feel the Spirit testify as I read of their trials, mistakes, and eventually came to understand the healing power of the Atonement, helping them recover from the pains of sin, guilt, shame, and loneliness.

The book has six chapters, each focusing on a different theme. Each chapter begins with a doctrinal essay by some noted LDS authors (including Brad Wilcox and Robert Millet). After that, each chapter has three or four stories by someone whose life has been touched by SSA (either personally or because of someone they know that struggles). Some of the ones I found especially powerful were written by Kirk Reidman, Tyler Moore, and Jeff Bennion. One of the things I loved about Kirk’s story was the intensely personal message of hope and how he found hope in this life, despite his struggles with same-sex attraction. Tyler’s story was one that I found particularly intriguing. His story is entitled “Being My True Self”. He talked about his journey, arriving at the point that he came to understand that being true to himself did not require him to live a gay lifestyle, as many believe, because the gospel was more important to him than his sexuality.

I especially wanted to write about Voices of Hope today for a specific reason. Earlier today, I drove up to Alpine, Utah to film my video for the Voices of Hope Project. As an extension of Ty Mansfield’s book, I was filmed as I told my story about my experiences with SSA. I was very excited to participate in this endeavor as I tried to pull from my heart the lessons that I learned from my experiences and trials. I’m not sure how well it went exactly, but that’s what post-production is for right?

The website isn’t fully up yet, but this video of Ty introducing the website gives a good overview of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. I know that the gospel is the only way to find true happiness. I know that through the Atonement I can find strength and peace.

Until next time, remember that because of the Atonement, it gets better.