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)

4 comments:

  1. Hi Spencer,
    You don't know me, but I came across your coming out post a month ago. I have also been on my own kind of emotional roller coaster ever since. I, like you am an active Latter-day Saint and a returned missionary, and have same-sex attraction. I have been consciously aware of my SSA for many years, but up until now I have sought to merely ignore it and continue my life as if I did not have it, not admitting to myself that this is a real issue I will have to deal with. I had heard that there are other members of the Church who have SSA, but as I had never personally known anybody else it seemed hard to believe that I could own up to this and continue in the gospel, so I never did truly come to grips with it. When I came across your story it troubled me, yet gave me hope at the same time. It gave me hope because it opened my eyes to the fact that I am not alone in this, and it is possible to be a faithful Mormon having these feelings. It troubled me because it made me realize that I had to somehow deal with this issue finally. I am committed to a life in accordance with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and desire nothing more than to receive all of the blessings and covenants of it. So over the last month I have read much on both the North Star and Evergreen websites, done a lot of prayer, temple attendance, and a fast to seek revelation as to what I should do. The decision that I have come to feel some peace in is that I do not need to make this public. I don't feel that need. For many reasons I also feel that sharing this with my family would do more harm than good. So I have decided to continue dealing with this privately and alone, although I know now that I am really not alone. Although I do now understand that if and when I become involved in a relationship with one of God's daughters that is moving towards marraige, I must not keep this part of myself secret from her. It would not be fair to her or to me.
    This brings me to the question I wanted to ask: you talked about authenticity. What would be your advice to a person such as myself, who has chosen to not make this part of himself public, to be able to find that same authenticity? Perhaps you will not have an answer, because your decision has been different than mine, but I wanted to know if you have any thoughts.
    Also, thank you for your initial post. It has helped me, although it is hard to confront this issue.
    Thanks.

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    1. Have you told anyone? Priesthood leaders, therapists, parents, friends? My recommendation would be to prayerfully seek out someone that you can tell. Honestly, I would never tell anyone that they HAVE to become public. Dealing with SSA is a VERY personal battle and I never though I would be public about it like this. For me, it's what I needed to do (I put 3 months of prayer into making the decision). For you, maybe telling this girl that you're dating will be what you need to do. But honestly, seek for the Lord's guidance and He will lead you to what you need to do and who you should tell. If you need any help, send me an email: spencer3101@gmail.com. Take care!

      --Spencer

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    2. Well, I'm not dating anyone now, I was only saying that if and when that does happen, then that is one person I would definately tell, but that until that happens I don't feel that I necessarily NEED to tell anyone. I guess when it feels right to tell some other friend or family member then I will do so. In a way I feel a kind of relief telling you now, though I don't know you and am posting here anonymously. It is the first time that I have had any kind of dialogue with another human being about my SSA. I guess the real reason I commented in the first place was to thank you for choosing to give the example you are giving with these posts, because it is giving me courage to face this in my own life, little by little.
      Thank you and keep letting your light so shine.

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    3. No problem. That's EXACTLY why I outed myself in the first place... I wanted to give people hope. Keep my email handy and if you ever need anything, let me know. Ok? :)

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