The idea for this post was probably a long time coming, but I definitely decided to turn it into a post, after reading Josh Weed’s post on the North Star Northern Lights blog called “Thanksgiving, SSA Style”. In a funny way, it’s something I’ve thought about quite a bit recently.
I mentioned in my original SSA post (by the way, as of today, it’s been six weeks since I did that post… wow!) that I’ve begun to see my same-sex attraction as strength and not just as a trial. Sure it can be a trial at times, resisting temptations, but how different is that from any other guy being tempted by women (for the record, I have had my attractions toward women too; they’re less frequent, but I’ve had them). So yah, this is why I’m grateful for my same-sex attraction:
- Let’s start with a silly one. Maybe it’s just a gay stereotype, but I love it that I’m “observant” of how certain colors match and play together. I really noticed this one on Thanksgiving Day actually when I was at my friend Eric’s house. I was in their bathroom and I noticed how much I liked the color coordination in there. The shower curtain complimented the wall, which complimented the towels, which complimented the countertop, which complimented the bathmat on the floor.
- Another silly one: I love that I can laugh about it. Little things come up that make me laugh about it. For example, this summer, I was driving to a ward activity with three friends: Shelby, Michelle, and Michael. I was sitting in the back of the car while Shelby drove with Michelle in the passenger seat. At the time, neither Michelle nor Shelby knew about my SSA… but Michael did. In response to something I said, Shelby shouted back, “Spencer, stop flirting with Michael.” I just looked at him, both of us with smirks on our faces, and I responded, “Don’t worry. He’s not my type.” Michael tried to diffuse the situation, but I was having too much fun with it, so I kept talking, “I’m sorry, Michael. It’s not you, it’s me.”
- Now for a serious one… I feel that I’ve gained a greater understanding of the Atonement. In seminary, I’d read the scripture Alma 7:11 a bit (“And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.”). Consciously, I understood that this meant that the Atonement covered more than just sins… that it covers our sorrows, sicknesses, and pains from this fallen world. However, it wasn’t until I started confronting my SSA and learning to work with/through it that I truly even begun to understand what that means. I’ve felt the enabling power of the Atonement more since then than ever before.
- I asked my SSA friends about why they’re grateful for their SSA. Several of them mentioned that they’re grateful for the empathy that they’ve gained from it. It’s amazing how trials and difficulties can refine us and help us develop the Christ-like attributes of compassion, love, and understanding. That being said, I know some straight guys who are empathetic and compassionate. However, it’s just amazing to me how consistently the refining attribute of SSA helps men develop a sense of empathy that they wouldn’t have otherwise.
- A couple of my friends (one of them being David, who for 3 years anonymously wrote “(Gay) Mormon Guy” before he became public) mentioned to me that they’re grateful for their SSA because it gives them the opportunity to serve others. Whether it’s because they’re helping someone else who experiences same-sex attraction or whether it’s because they’re just good at being a listening ear, I agree. It’s a great opportunity and an amazing feeling to be able to help someone in need (the joys of being an SSA Missionary). I actually think it is funny, because I was talking to one of my friends yesterday (let’s call him Lewis) about how he’s been put in the path of several people in just the past few days who he has been able to help. Lewis is still very new to the LDS SSA community, but he has a great amount of faith (he filmed for Voices of Hope, like I did, a couple weeks ago).
- Another thing that makes me grateful for my SSA is the ability I have to connect to other people. Like I mentioned in my original SSA post, I’ve noticed that because of my SSA I’m not satisfied with a “Sup, dude” kind of relationship. Of course, there are straight guys that enjoy deeper relationships with other men, but in my experience, those are rare. I’ve also been blessed to meet other strong souls who are committed to the gospel despite of (or in some cases because of) their same-sex attraction. The bond and connection I’ve felt with these men is the strongest bond of friendship and brotherhood that I’ve experienced before, especially with how short a time I’ve known many of them.
- The last one is probably one of the most powerful that I’ve learned (and that I’m still trying to internalize better). When I asked one of my friends (let’s call him Danny), he was one of the ones who brought up how much he’s been able to understand God’s infinite perfect love because of his SSA. There is so much proof of how much God loves us: “Yea, it is the love of God, which...is the most desirable above all things.” (1 Nephi 11:33), “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son…” (John 3:16), “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” (1 John 4:7)… The list could go on. Recently I’ve had a hard time loving myself. I grew up not really having any friends and the ones I did have always felt “temporary”, as if I was just there until they found someone better or cooler. I felt small, insignificant, and forgettable. It wasn’t until I got to BYU and became friends with Garrett, Juliana, and Becca that I really felt like I had friends that I could count on. Even with all the friends I have now who I treasure (Garrett (and his family, Becca, Juliana, Elder Call, Eric (and his family), Justin, Tyler, Joey, Phil, Scott, Ian, Michael, Michelle, Jeremy, Curtis, Jack… the list goes on and on) I struggle to know that all these people can really love me and are not just going to brush me aside in a few days, weeks, or months. Yes, relationships change, but love doesn’t. Something that I have at least begun to learn is how much my Heavenly Father loves me. Why should He love me? I’ve sinned, I’m flawed, and (in my opinion) I look funny… and yet He loves me despite my imperfections and because of them.
I know that God loves me. I know that He loves you. If you have any doubt of that, take a good long look in the mirror and say to your reflection “God loves you perfectly. God loves me perfectly.” It is so much harder than I could have expected, but there’s power in expressing those words. He loves you and (though I may not know you) I love you. And as always, no matter what you’re going through, through the Atonement, it gets better.