Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ghosts of Birthdays Past

21st Birthday (2012)

Up until a few years ago, I didn't really care about my birthday. Quite honestly, without friends to celebrate it with, your birthday is just like any other day of the year. With today as my birthday and I plan on having people over tonight, I wanted to kind of reflect on how far I've come, even just focusing on that one day per year: January 31.

2012 (age 21) -- About 3 months before, I'd returned from Calgary and I was still dealing with that. However, FINALLY I was 21. Now I was the age of a normal RM (as opposed to 19 and 20). My best friend was still in Chile, but fortunately I had other friends that I'd made the year before that I could get together with. And so it was... I got together with Michael, Mario, Ian, Eric, Scott, Joey and a few others and we went to Wingers for dinner. Definitely helped to be around people who cared about me and wanted me to be happy on my birthday.

2011 (age 20) -- I remember it being a really crazy day. Class at 10:00, work from 11:00-2:30, class at 4:00, another class from 5:00-7:00, and then FHE. So between that and having to do homework, I'd told Eric that I wasn't really planning anything for my birthday. Not willing to put up with my self-isolation, got together with Melissa and they brought over cake and ice cream. Only a minute after they came into the apartment with Emalee (who Eric was engaged to at the time) and Melissa's roommates, Justin and his roommates came running in from the apartment above mine. That night, I remember Eric saying something to me along the lines of "Don't ever forget how many people love you."

2010 (age 19) -- Braden was visiting and the day started in the threshold of my door. At midnight, Juliana and Michelle were there to wish me happy birthday from the other side of the door. Later (after sleeping for the night), we went to church and I actually missed Sunday School and Priesthood because I was waiting for my stake presidency interview for my mission. That being said... by the time we left church that day, my mission papers were submitted and I was so excited (I had no idea how long I'd be waiting). And later, we had cake with Juliana and Becca.

2009 (age 18) -- The first time since elementary school that I really had people to spend my birthday with. I went into the city to have a party with some friends from my stake, including my cousin Kyre. It was a bunch of fun... a good change compared to the year before.

17th Birthday (2008)
2008 (age 17) -- If there is anyone that can insult you really badly by forgetting your birthday, it's the school administration, who have a list of birthdays. During morning announcements when they usually announce birthdays, they didn't say anything. No birthdays. Really? Ouch! The day didn't go very well after that either. Instead of working that day, I ended up going to my mom's work and finding a place to cry and release my emotions. My brother Jared called that night to wish me happy birthday (which meant a lot to me) and my family had cake to celebrate with a family friend from our ward.

Over the years I have seen the Lord bless me with better and better people in my life. He has taught me and loved me through those He's put in my path. Four years ago, I didn't believe I could ever have good guy friends. Now I have so many. What can I say more than I've already said? I have great friends and I know that it's because of the Lord's mercy and love that they are in my life.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Grateful to Be Autistic

I showed my autism a lot more
when I was younger
I kind of want to switch gears today a bit, after talking about so much SSA stuff. Instead, I want to talk about something else that has affected my life a lot. It’s been a while since I really talked about it on here, but I’ve been thinking about this post for a while. Some of you who haven’t known me very long may not know this, but I have high-functioning autism (Asperger’s Syndrome). My autism affected me more when I was younger, since I’ve learned to live with it.  However, kind of like with my post about being grateful for my same-sex attraction, I wanted to do one about why I’m grateful for my autism.

To be honest, three years ago when I was waiting for my mission call and the mission department delayed it… and delayed it… and delayed it because of my autism, I was not fond of it. In fact, I hated that there was anything about me that was abnormal (at that time, I was in a period of denial about my SSA too). In the end, I waited a month and a half, whereas the other guys in my ward were waiting two weeks. To this day, when I see things like the meme below (taken from BYU Memes) I want to start ranting about how short they really have to wait (but that’s a post and a rant for another day). However, recently, as I’ve learned to be grateful for my SSA, I’ve also learned to be grateful for my autism.

Reason #1: Being autistic has helped me become and enjoy being genuine and authentic. Yes, authenticity needs its boundaries; otherwise it can drive some people away, because they’re not prepared for it. However, there are so many people who are scared of showing people who they really are. Me, it’s natural and it’s liberating.

Reason #2: For me, honesty also seems natural. In fact, I feel like I have an overdeveloped sense of guilt, in some ways. However, that can be good, because it means I’m not likely to lie. In fact, if I ever tell you I plan on doing something with you, I probably mean it (so don’t offer if you don’t mean it). If I don’t want to, I’ll attempt to talk my way out of it. So in a way, my autism has helped me to be open and honest with those around me.

Reason #3: Part of being autistic is noticing patterns. I think this has helped me in learning foreign languages. This semester, I’m living at the FLSR (Foreign Language Student Residence) at BYU, in order to improve my Spanish. I look back on my experiences with learning languages (I also took French throughout middle school and high school) and while my peers have had a hard time with conjugations and stuff, it felt straight forward: languages are patterns. My listening comprehension may take some work, but yeah, that’s okay. I suppose this isn’t always the case with autistic people, but I like to think it helps me with the many conjugations of verbs in Spanish that my classmates find difficult.

Reason #4: People with autism tend to be hyper-focused on stuff. For example, when I was younger, I was hyper-focused on Pokémon, Digimon, or whatever other personal fad I was going through. Now, it seems to be more on the same-sex attraction thing. However, I’d like to argue that it’s not as much about the SSA as it is about what the SSA has taught me about families. I’ve been learning about dealing with my SSA recently and in doing so I’ve learned a lot about myself and I’ve also become aware of how much Satan is attacking the family. This has led me to my new major, Family Studies, and has led me to want to pursue a career in Marriage and Family therapy. I think being hyper-focused on the family is far from a negative trait.

Like with my SSA, through the Atonement, I have learned to become okay with my autism. In fact, I’ve even begun to enjoy it. And that’s why I always say that it’s because of the Atonement that it gets better.

Autism Awareness is represented by multicolored puzzle
pieces to represent its complex nature. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Prepared For Us

To follow-up last night’s post, I have some good news. Alex talked to his roommate and explained to him about his SSA. His roommate was understanding and told Alex that his girlfriend’s dad is a psychiatrist, who has many clients that deal with SSA. After Alex told me that, I sent him a text back saying “Funny how people are prepared like that, huh?”

It made me think about all of the “coincidences” that I’ve experienced along the way. I’ve been very conscious of them since I came home from Toronto, but even more so since I started participating in the LDS SSA community. As if I need any proof, I’m going to share a few examples.

Justin is the one right behind me in the red shirt
Let’s start with Justin, my old roommate. First off, before he even knew about my SSA, there were “coincidences” just surrounding him. (1) He served in the same mission as my older brother, Brett, though they barely overlapped. (2) My first Sunday in that ward (long before he was my roommate) he just happened to be the Mission Prep teacher and as we later found out (3) my home teacher. Now for the good stuff. I lived with Justin during summer 2011 before I left for my trial mission in Calgary. I’ve mentioned this before, but when I told him about my SSA, just chuckled (which utterly confused me) and said “Spencer, I think we were supposed to be roommates.” After that, he proceeded to tell me about investigators and companions who dealt with combinations of anxiety, Aspergers, SSA, etc. In that way, Justin was prepared to be my roommate when I needed him.

Me, Caleb, Juliana, Becca, and
Steve at Caleb and Juliana's reception
Now to another example. As I’ve mentioned before, after receiving the prompting to begin blogging about my SSA, I decided that I needed to make a list of people I had to tell before I outed myself to the world, because I wanted them to hear it from me and not from Facebook. On that list was my good friend Juliana. Though we had had rocky times in our friendship in the year previous, I still considered her a very close friend. It was around mid-September. I’d told Juliana I wanted to talk and because I’d been so vague about it she was kind of worrying about what was going on. Finally, we were able to meet up and we talked, we caught up on life, and I told her about my SSA. I’ve gotta say, she was one of the people I was most worried about telling, because of how rocky things had been earlier that year. However, things could have not gone better. Later that day, in fact, Juliana texted me and told me that her husband, Caleb, had actually done some gospel-based research about SSA in the past (I had given her permission to tell Caleb). What a coincidence, huh? Her husband already had some understanding on the subject. What are the odds?

One more story… actually, this one is more of an idea, since it hasn’t happened yet. I was talking with Calvin once about this actually. Having known women like Danielle Mansfield and Lolly Weed and knowing how much of a strain SSA could put on a marriage, I feel as though the women who marry men with SSA have to be pretty amazing, charitable, Christ-like women. Exceptional even. And I believe that God will prepare one of His daughters to be that for me, to bless me throughout my life and throughout the eternities.

I’m sure if I sat here long enough I could think of even more stories to tell you. However, I’ve already told you so many, remember? Steve, James, Thomas, and Alex. No, none of these are exactly proof of what I’ve been saying. There will always be people will attribute the hand of the Lord to coincidence. However, I don’t believe in such a myth. I believe in the Lord. I believe in His plan. I believe in the Atonement, the means by which our most trying times can make things get better.

Shame, Faith, Fear, and Joy

Another late night blog post. This one is for Alex. Tonight, he is extremely scared that his roommate has inadvertently learned about his SSA. As such, Alex is having a hard time. He’s scared to talk to his roommate about it, but he also is scared to just wait and hope for it to blow over. In the midst of that, he has been dealing with shame surrounding his SSA these last few days, which I didn’t realize.

In texting me about his fears and his shame, Alex said to me “I don’t want to deal with this! Why What awful thing did I do before this life to merit dealing with such a terrible punishment? I just want to be normal! I just want to be happy… I haven’t been truly happy for years. What does God want from me now? Sometimes I just wish God would just let me be.” My heart broke getting these texts from Alex after I left his place. I’ve been there… I think many members of the church with SSA have been there… we struggle with “Why would God give me something so controversial?” However, there is no simple answer to that question.

I don’t know why I have this attraction to men. I don’t know why the Lord gave it to me. However, there are some things I do know. Number one: If I serve God and love Him, all things will work together for my good. Number two: I know that every trial I go through will give me experience and will benefit me in the end. In may not be soon, Alex, but as you continue to follow the Lord, you will begin to see your SSA as a blessing more and as a curse less. Number three: Our purpose here in this life, and God’s purpose for sending us here, is to make us happy and give us joy. He will NEVER give us anything that is intended to cause us misery if we give it time. Yes, things are hard and we get sad and hurt sometimes, but no, we don’t have to stay that way. Number four: Jesus Christ, our Older Brother, our Savior, and our Redeemer, felt all the sadness, pain, hurt, and shame that we go through in this life. The beautiful thing about that is that He could have learned how that hurt and shame felt through the Spirit, but He chose to experience it for Himself because He loves YOU so much. He is your friend and He will never abandon you.

I wish I could formulate my words better, but it is past 1:00 AM and all I can do right now is to bear my testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. And there is no way I know better to bear testimony of it than how I have already done, by referencing scripture. The Lord loves you and that will NEVER change. To Alex, everything will be okay. To everyone else, please keep Alex in your prayers.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

All is Well in Zion?

Wow! It’s kinda late, but I wanted to write this post, so here we go. This morning, I was reading in 2 Nephi 28 for my scripture study. Verse 21 caught my attention. In the past, I’ve had discussions with one of my friends (let’s call him Calvin) about problems we’ve seen in the church. One concern he’s brought up is that (especially in priesthood) we act as though none of us have problems.

All is well in Zion?

Let me tell you, those people couldn’t be more wrong. If I can be blunt, what kind of rock do you have to live under to realize how many problems we have in the church? In our quorums? It irks me at times to have lessons about home teaching in elders quorum and hear some guy say that it’s more important for us to home teach the girls we’re assigned to than the guys. Really? I’ve heard that viewpoint explained that it’s because the girls don’t have roommates who can provide a priesthood blessing. That may be a reason to ensure that the girls get home taught. However, it’s not good enough for me.

All is well in Zion? No.

Palmyra Temple (July 2012)
What is it with our society that tells that that we can’t have problems? Even in the church, where we’re taught that each of us will experience trials. Yet, it seems so common that I see people around BYU that have smiles almost surgically plastered to their face in a way that I honestly don’t believe they’re happy. Pride? Is that the problem? We can’t look weak? Or do people really believe that there aren’t problems? Are many of us actually in denial?

All is well in Zion? Not even close.

I have friends who deal with pornography problems. I have friends who deal with depression and anxiety. I have friends who are stressed out on a daily basis by their classes. I have friends who are distressed by family problems. I have friends who are lonely because, despite their efforts, they are single. I have friends who have been down because of a bad breakup. Am I saying that we should announce our struggles and our problems over the pulpit during testimony meeting? No. I’ve been guilty of that; I’ve been prompted to mention my SSA over the pulpit while bearing my testimony (usually in reference to something it has taught me about the Atonement). However, we should be able to be authentic with those we trust. All of us have friends (even if your only friend is your bishop, you have a friend). Why not be a little vulnerable and feel the support that comes from being authentic with those we love? Being vulnerable and being authentic is scary (trust me; I’ve had some VERY scary days because of it).

As I finish off this post, I’m not sure what to really say. Don’t let the adversary let you believe all is perfect and Zion has no problems. That was never part of the Lord’s definition of Zion. In fact, the most Zion-like places I’ve been have been full of people that have been open to each other about their flaws and have been authentic with each other. However, at the same time, don’t be distressed. Things may not be perfect; we live in a fallen world. The amazing thing about that is that that is why Jesus Christ performed the Atonement, so that we could find that peace amongst affliction and so that we can have hope that it gets better.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Spencer's Lesson For Me (by Garrett)

What I’m writing is something Spencer has taught me over the years. It’s not any one specific thing that he did—it’s more like something that he has consistently done throughout the entire time I’ve known him.

But first, I need to give a little backstory:

I gave up on having good friendships with guys around freshman year of high school (around age 15), when the majority of my best friends got involved in things they shouldn’t have. When my family and I moved from Arizona to Florida, it made that detachment from them easier. When I started over again in Florida, I only became friends with guys on the surface level, really. The guys I got to know were just someone to see once in a while, have campouts and some fun with, but no real getting to know any of them. They came and went just as I left Florida and moved (yet again) to Michigan.

The same thing happened there. With my disillusionment of not really wanting to make friends with guys, and with my skyrocketing interest in girls, my focus during my last 2 years of high school naturally shifted to flirting, dating, and how to treat a girl well. I found girls thrilling, and loved going from one to the other—sometimes getting into a relationship, sometimes staying as friends, and sometimes becoming something “in-between.” I loved it. I made life-long friends with these girls and learned lessons about the dynamics of love. During this time, I had very few guys that I hung out with outside of the Young Men program in church. I found it hard for myself to trust others--girl or guy--and felt it better to remain “independent” and to not get too emotionally attached. And since at church I always heard about us guys needing to always treat girls well, and how we needed to date them, I felt justified in my coldness to other guys.

But after high school, things soon changed.

When I met Spencer at the start of freshman year at BYU, he slowly but surely reestablished the kind of solid friendship with guys that I didn’t know I had been missing.

I remember one of the nights in the beginning of fall semester, I had been planning on going with Spencer and a bunch of other guys from our ward to see a football game—but I noticed that Spencer wasn’t all that willing to go. I felt prompted to stay with him instead of going to see the game.

So I did. And throughout that year, I got to see what having a “pretty much we’re brothers” kind of friend was like again.

I took to heart what I had learned from Spencer freshman year, and used it with my companions on my mission, and it really helped me to get along with them and make friendships with them. I learned how to trust friends again, and I learned the importance of having friends trusting you. 

And the best part was, my mission helped me in turn be a better friend to Spencer when I got back, and prepared me to be supportive for when he told me about his SSA.

Thanks to Spencer, I have a healthier balance between romance and friendships with women, and commradery with men. I can once again relish the kinds of friendships I had lost as a kid—doing funny and silly things, talking about hard and difficult things, talking about girls, talking about this, talking about that, and always taking care of each other.

Now we get to the lesson: that, more than anything, is what Spencer has taught me—that we are all here as brothers, children of our Heavenly Father, no matter what we struggle with (SSA or not), and we’re here to watch out for each other. Henry B. Eyring talks about this during a talk in the April 2009 General Conference, where in Priesthood Session he compares that responsibility to a group of soldiers who gave their lives to protect their fallen comrades during a battle in Somalia. President Eyring said of these men:  

“The courage to act and their selfless service came from feeling that they were responsible for the lives, the happiness, and the safety of comrades. Such a feeling of responsibility for others is at the heart of faithful priesthood service.” (“Man Down!” –April 2009 Priesthood Session)
That is the kind of spirit that Spencer demonstrates, through daily and quiet actions, and it’s one that I’ve tried to apply as I’ve gained more and more guy friends along the way. As I’ve done so, I’ve become a better man. I will forever be grateful that Spencer is an excellent example of being a brother’s keeper.
To those who have SSA: remember you still have gifts—gifts that even your SSA might give you, and you can bless the lives of everyone you have around you with those gifts. As a straight friend, I have been blessed immensely because of the gifts Spencer has inherited.
I add my testimony & my voice to the several others that Jesus Christ is Our Savior, and our perfect example. He came to our rescue. Through Him, no matter what path of life you’re on, it will get better, if you let His Atonement make it better.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

About a month and a half ago, the Church released a new website entitled “Love One Another: A Discussion on Same-Sex Attraction”. I’d heard about this website a couple weeks before its release, but I was still blown away by it!

The very top of the website begins with words from Elder Oaks and Elder Christofferson, clarifying the Church’s position on homosexuality. I loved what Elder Oaks had to say! He mentions that the Church’s view of homosexual activity hasn’t changed and isn’t changing. From a public relations perspective, it would be easier to accept homosexuality, but that can’t happen, because it’s God’s law and not ours. I have heard many people express opinions like “It’s only a matter of time until the Church changes its policy about gay marriage.” Honestly, these comments break my heart. I can understand why someone would yearn for that to be the case… because the alternative could mean living alone as a single adult throughout the rest of their life.

The rest of the website goes over several topics (including “Our Common Humanity”, “Love One Another—The Great Christian Imperative”, “An Eternal Perspective”, “Being True to Religious Beliefs”, and “Hope”) and each section includes videos of people who experience same-sex attraction, spouses of those individuals, and parents and grandparents of them. The stories and feelings that they share are tender and powerful to me.

Of course I was happy to see my hero, Ty Mansfield, among those individuals. In a ten-minute clip, he shares his story and his journey to finding reconciliation between his sexuality and his faith. One thing that he addresses which rings true with me is the need to release himself from cultural expectations. I’ll be honest, sometimes (often) it gets annoying to hear people (especially leaders) harp on us about dating and marriage here at BYU (personally, I don’t think it does any good). To me it just tends to weight me down and remind me of how far I am from getting there. Yes I’ve been attracted to women before, but I still feel very far from that goal.

However, I like what Ty says… this is between me and God. Yes, that’s the expectations around me. But no, that’s not necessarily what God expects of me right now. He knows I want to get married and I believe that as I follow the Spirit, I’ll get there on the Lord’s timetable. I love the way that Ty phrased the impression he’d had: “Just stay with me.” Live each day and focus on staying close to the Lord and what He wants you to do and you’ll get to where He wants you to be.

I am grateful that the Lord and the Brethren care enough about us, the “gay” Mormons, the minority, that they had this website created to teach us and to teach all members of the Church how to love better and how to show that charity to our brothers and sisters who have such unique trials that not everyone understands. I am grateful for the knowledge of the Atonement and that above all else, even if we have to take it one day at a time, it gets better, because of the Gospel.

PS: For any who are wondering about Alex and how it went with his parents, it couldn’t have gone better! He wrote a post about it on his blog.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

It Only Takes One

Last semester I hit a period of time (I can’t remember if it was a matter of days or weeks) in September when I got frustrated with myself. While my roommates were talking about cute girls they’d met and/or were asking out, I was mentally by myself. What was wrong with me that I didn’t notice these girls? I’ve noticed girls before. Sure, they don’t usually make my head turn every time, but I’ve had crushes on girls before. Instead of meeting girls and desiring to go out with them, I was noticing guys and fighting my attractions to them. Why was it so difficult?

It was during that time that I’d gotten into the habit of going up to Lehi for Sunday dinners with Eric and his family and getting to play with his cute daughter. One Sunday as I was leaving, I got talking to Eric about stuff that was going on (seems to happen often with us, making two-minute goodbyes last about half an hour or longer). Of course it was during one of these conversations that I told Eric what had been bothering me about my lack of attraction to women.

His advice hit me as a “duh!” answer. He reminded me that it doesn’t matter if I’m attracted to every woman. In the end, I only get to marry one anyway. As obvious as it was, I don’t think I’m the only one that could benefit from this advice. I’ve talked to other guys with same-sex attraction that have been discouraged about dating and marriage because they don’t get attracted to girls. So what, guys? No one ever said you had to be. In fact, some people find it easier not to be attracted to all women (you’ll have to check out the link to see what I meant).

At the Logan temple; If I'm single, I might
as well enjoy a few more excursions like this 
I’ll say it again though. You only marry one; you don’t need to be attracted to them all. It only takes one! Another thing Eric reminded me about is that just because you get married doesn’t mean your attractions go away (to the same or opposite sex). A married straight guy is still attracted by women other than his wife. In that sense, change (in the sense of sexual orientation) isn’t all or nothing. I know several married people with SSA that were not attracted to anyone of the opposite sex until they met their spouses.

In the meantime though, be happy with where you are. If you’re single, enjoy being single (married people miss it sometimes). If you’re married, enjoy your spouse and be grateful for him/her (you have someone very precious to take care of). Enjoy life in no matter what stage you’re in! Remember the Lord in all things you do. Look forward to the blessings He has promised you as you remain worthy and remember that He will not hold back any blessings in the eternities (including marriage) that you live worthy of. And always remember that, even if today isn’t so good, because of the Atonement, you can trust and have hope that it’ll get better.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

From Zero to Four

Let me tell you about “Alex”. He found my blog because we have a mutual friend who served in his mission. This mutual friend shared my original SSA blog post on Facebook and, from what Alex told me, it was then that he knew he couldn’t keep hiding from this for the rest of his life. And ever since my post about living authentically, Alex has been a consistent commenter on my blog (his name just shows up as “Unknown User”).

In order to reach out as an “SSA Missionary”, I gave him my email address in case he needed anything. Since then, we’ve had some great communications over email, comments, and Facebook (though that was anonymous too). During our conversations, I learned that Alex had never told anyone about his SSA. Not his parents. Not his mission president. Not his best friend. Not his bishop. No one. In a way, I felt sad, because I know how much support I’ve gained since I told Elder Call about my SSA and subsequently told my parents. The fact that he had no one made me kind of sad. However, I was grateful that I was able to be that support for him, even if I didn’t even know his real name (he let me refer to him as James).

However, something miraculous happened a couple weeks ago. While driving down to Provo for school with a friend, he felt the prompting and the confirmation that he could tell the friend he was with about his SSA. He did and was amazed at how strong of support he felt. The next day, he sent me a message saying “Spencer, I told someone!” and later that day I arranged to meet up with him in person finally. Since then, Alex told a close friend of his from his home ward and he told the mutual friend who he found my blog through.

That support system may only have four people in it right now, physically, but “Alex”, remember that you have the support of all of us here. You have the support of the leaders of the church. And you have the support of your Heavenly Father. He too knows about your SSA and He is proud of how you’re handling it. He knows that this learning curve you’ve been through (and that you’re still experiencing) can be draining at times, but it’s ok to feel drained at times, because He will help you.

Now to the rest of you reading this: Alex is taking a big step in this next week. His parents are going to be visiting him and he’s planning on telling them about his SSA. He is scared out of his mind, but he feels it’s what he should do. Please pray for him and feel free to leave your support for him here on the comments!

I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to help Alex and to talk with him about SSA. In some ways, he’s still in shock after telling four people (but then again, in some ways I’m still in shock that I’m blogging about it using my real name). Not every day is perfect, but I try to remember and remind myself just as much as I tell Alex that if I rely on the Atonement, it gets better.

PS: Here is a link to Alex’s blog, where he anonymously talks about his SSA.
PPS: Here’s his post about telling someone for the first time.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Now Taking Bets

This week during my LDS Marriage and Family class, my teacher mentioned a program he’d seen on television where they brought on a group of teenage/young adult stars that had committed themselves to being sexually clean. He said it began as a really great testimony of these young adults’ use of agency. However, then they brought on an “expert” (which made my professor shudder) who claimed that based on hormone levels at their age, it was impossible for them to be 100% sexually clean. Even if it wasn’t with other people, he claimed they must be sexually active in some way in order to survive.

The comment made my blood boil as it reminded me of something I’d seen on Danielle Mansfield’s Facebook wall last month… She had stumbled across comments somewhere taking bets on when her marriage to Ty and Josh and Lolly Weed’s marriage would end up in divorce. The idea in the world is that “gay” men in a heterosexual marriage will inevitably leave their wives because of their desires for other men. Call me naïve, but it doesn’t make sense to me. After all, the Lord has promised that He will give us a way to escape temptation and that He will ALWAYS provide a way for us to follow His commandments.

As I’ve mentioned before, Ty and Danielle have been receiving persecution about their marriage for years. And ever since his coming out, so have Josh and Lolly Weed. For some reason it seems that those who ask for tolerance are not able to tolerate that there are men like Ty and Josh who do not choose to live the way of the world. In addition to them, I know several men with same-sex attraction who are in heterosexual marriages. At the AMCAP conference, I actually heard one of their wives say that her marriage is better because of it, because it means that they communicate with each other better. Josh Weed said on his blog that his marriage is stronger because it was not based on attraction, but based on love and friendship. Yes, there are many stories of gay men getting married and then leaving their wives for other men. I’m not denying that. However, we have agency, the power to write our own stories and the stories I’ve seen in the LDS SSA community of those men and women who have found marriage have been written beautifully.

Yeah, people say that it’s impossible for a marriage like the Mansfield’s or the Weed’s to stay together. When I get married, people may say the same thing about me and my wife. However, no matter what gender they’re attracted to, a man and a woman, committed to each other, and committed to God can choose with certainty that it won’t happen. Yes, there’s work involved to keep that marriage together. But there’s work to keep any marriage together (side-note: there are plenty of straight couples that get divorced because one is unfaithful).

The world has its beliefs. And honestly, lots of the time, the world’s beliefs do not line up with what the Lord’s standard is. However, no matter what the world says, I have my agency to choose the path I want. Sure, I could choose a gay lifestyle, but I choose to use my agency to say no, because that’s not what I want. And it’s because of the Atonement (and through the proper use of our agency) that it gets better.

PS: My bet is that Ty and Danielle will be together through eternity, as will Josh and Lolly. And I have good odds on that. J

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Real Men Cry

I’ve always been a bit of an emotional person. In the past I’ve been kind of shameful about how emotional I can be… all the days I left high school in tears, waiting to be comforted by my parents. As if I didn’t have enough social problems, I let myself look vulnerable by doing the least manly thing possible in front of my peers: shed a tear (or many).

Last night reminded me of this. After having a good appointment with my therapist yesterday morning, I was left emotionally vulnerable. As a result, comments from someone at work and then someone at dinner set me off and put me into tears. Neither of those people meant their words in a malicious way, but with my emotional state at the time, I was susceptible to hurt.

In talking to my anonymous pal that has been commenting on my blog (well, he’s not anonymous to me anymore), we’ll call him “Alex”, he mentioned to me a scripture study project he’d done in which he read through the four Gospels and outlined what a real man is like, based on the actions and reactions of the perfect man, Jesus Christ. To not much surprise, not much (if anything) that he recorded from this study coincided with what the world believes a man is.

In reference to the day I’d had, Alex mentioned John 11:35. A quick bit of background on the scripture: Lazarus, a close friend of the Savior, had died. Though I think He knew He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, I’m sure His heart broke because those He loved (Mary and Martha) were heartbroken about their brother’s death. Even though Martha had expressed faith in the Plan of Salvation (particularly the resurrection—verse 24), it was painful for her to think that she would never see, speak to, or hug her brother again in this life.

The Savior was able to cry and weep. And He is the perfect “manly” man. Why shouldn’t I be able to? Yes, I need to keep tabs on my emotions and not be crying all the time. But there is nothing wrong with needing to weep and cry it out when I have a bad day.

After the whole crying episode happened last night, my roommate Alejandro said to me, kind of jokingly to cheer me up, “Boys don’t cry.” My reply to him was simple, “Men do.”

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Q&A Session #2

Truth be told, I’m kinda looking for an excuse to write tonight, so I decided to pull out some questions I’ve been saving for another SSA Q&A blog post. With that said, here we go with the two questions I have for today…

Question: Doesn’t being “gay” mean you’re acting on your same-sex attraction? Isn’t that the implication of the word?
Answer: The simple answer is yes. That’s the implication. The complex answer is that it’s a word. In the end, we have our meanings behind words that may or may not match up with others’ meanings of that word. Personally, I choose not to call myself gay… ok, yes, sometimes I do, but I don’t consider myself gay… it’s just a lot easier sometimes to say “gay” instead of “same-sex attraction” (my friend David hit on that point really well on a blog post he did over two years ago). And I’ll be honest, sometimes I’ll use the word gay to catch people’s eye when I share a post on Facebook. I promise; it works. For me though, no, I do not consider myself gay. However, the label is arbitrary to some. For example, Josh Weed refers to himself as gay, even though he’s married to a woman. My friend Benjamin calls himself gay, though he has no plans to leave the church or anything of the sort. In the end, here’s the thing: “gay” is a just word and it often changes meaning depending on who’s using it, so know who you’re talking to and clarify the use of the word if necessary.

Question: How do you feel SSA plays into your eternal identity? What do you feel it will be like after this life? Will your desires be the same?
Answer: The short answer to this question is that, in my understanding, I will not be attracted to men anymore after this life. Some people counter this belief with Alma 34:34, but I’ll counter that counter with Alma 41:5. Honestly, I feel that my SSA is both a trial and a blessing in this life. It’s a trial because I’m tempted to act out with men sexually. It’s a blessing because I enjoy a non-sexual closeness with other men that most straight guys don’t, because of the homophobic mindset of our culture. I thoroughly enjoy tight hugs (not bro-hugs, with a double pat on the back before letting go, but real hugs) from other men and having another man’s arm around me at times. After this life, the SSA won’t be necessary for me to feel that closeness with other men (because there won’t be the homophobic stigma anymore). In the end, it is a refining characteristic. It has helped me develop charity, empathy, and a degree of humility. I believe it has made me more Christ-like. In that way, I suppose it will never leave me. However, the sexual attraction to men will not be a trial for me after this life anymore. I desire righteousness, so that’s what I will receive if I live worthily.

Please send me any questions you have about SSA! I want to answer them! :) Either leave them in the comments or email me (!