Tuesday, October 16, 2012

On the Path to a Brighter Day

I have always found it difficult to open myself up to other people. I am the type of person who feels confident talking about anything--unless it is how I feel. The other night, a friend and I spoke about how developing lasting relationships requires us to open ourselves up to vulnerability and take the risk of trusting someone else. Both of us have had experiences in life that make it difficult for us to take the risk of trusting other people. I could tell that she needed to feel trust, and I knew that I needed to learn to trust others, so I took the risk and opened up. I told her about my my fears in life and even about my experience with same-gender attraction (SSA). I explained how this has impacted the way I view relationships and at times lessened my hope for the future. But I also shared the relationship that I have developed with God and how I have come to know Him better. She took it wonderfully and I think she left feeling strengthened, trusted, and valued. I left feeling more secure in who I am and more prepared to open myself up like that in the future.

Through this conversation I gained a valuable friend and acquired a few important insights. First, it was a demonstration of how far I have come over these past 6 months. When I first began this journey I could not even bear to admit this part of my identity even to myself. The very thought sent me into weeks of near paralyzing despair. As I continued on my journey I learned to accept myself more fully and open myself up to other people in small ways--a priesthood leader here, a friend there, and eventually my parents. Each time, however, it was shared out of a sense of self-preservation, social duty, or a desire for support and companionship. This time, though, my motivation was to help and lift another person. It was a special opportunity to utilize my unique experiences, trials, and struggles as a means of strengthening someone else. For the first time, I was able to see my experience with SSA as a stepping stone to overcoming personal weakness and a tool for helping someone else on their path of progression, rather than solely a personal stumbling block on my road to eventual perfection. 

Secondly, I gained a deeper recognition of the ways which my experiences over these past 6 months have shaped my life for the better. There has been so much darkness, but it has helped me to recognize and appreciate the light. God has an intimate awareness of my specific needs. He knows the attributes which I lack most and sees my divine potential. Because of this, He knows exactly what trials and experiences I need to have to overcome my weaknesses, and I believe that living with same-sex attraction is one of the trials that God chose for me so that I could develop in a very specific, individual way.

I feel closer to God than I have ever felt before. I hear His voice more clearly when He speaks. I recognize the feel of His hand as it guides me through the night and shapes me into who He intends me to be. One of my favorite scriptures has always been 1 John 4:19 "We love Him, because He first loved us." At times I have felt such feelings of worthlessness and depression that I felt that I didn't deserve anyone's love--especially God's. I was weak, broken, and useless. But somehow, beyond all comprehension, He still loved me. He will always love me. And because of that, I will always love Him.

I am closer to God I could ever have been if I did not deal with the burden of same-sex attraction. I could not be who I am today with out it. It has refined me. I have felt a lot of things about my experience with same-gender attraction over that last months and years, but for the first time, I was able to view it as a blessing.

These realizations were powerful and profound, but I recognize there will still be difficulties on the road ahead. There will be tears, heartache, and loneliness. There could not be growth and development with out it. I do know, however, that I will never have to walk it alone, and neither will anyone who is willing to reach out to God in trust. He will never leave us, though sometimes we may leave Him. I love Him, and I trust that He will lead all of down the path to a brighter day.

Your friend,


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

“What if the Curse Doesn't Get Broken? What if the Curse Can Never Be Broken?”

The other day I caught a small part of a movie that has been on my mind lately. It triggered some thoughts that I think are important to explore. I must however, begin with a caution. I have never seen this movie in its entirety. The basis for this piece comes from my experience with a 10 minute portion of the film and a quick examination of a few plot summaries.
The film was “Penelope,” and it is the story of a girl who is born with a pig nose as a result of a curse placed on her family long ago. When the curse was placed her family was promised that it could be broken when “one of her own” came to love her. The story follows the experiences of this girl, Penelope, and her journey to come to terms with her disfigured body.
At one point, a boy named Max meets her and is intrigued by the beauty of her personality. When he sees her in person, however, he is caught off guard by her disfigured face. As he leaves in the confusion, Penelope stops him and the following conversation occurs:
Penelope: “But this isn't me, the real me is inside here somewhere just waiting to get out and you can make that happen and once the curse is broken I'll be just like anybody else.”
Max: “What if the curse doesn't get broken? What if the curse can never be broken?”
Penelope: “Then I'll kill myself. I promise, I promise I will.”
While my situation, and most of our situations, are different from the physical deformity that Penelope faced, I feel that this conversation carries some of the feelings that individuals with any significant struggle, including same-gender attraction, experience.
One of the hardest challenges I have faced in my life is this very question-“What if the curse doesn't get broken? What if the curse can never be broken?” For a long time, and even occasionally now, I have looked on my struggles with same-gender attraction as a curse. I lived my life without facing this issue because I couldn't bear to answer this one critical question.
To be completely honest, when I first began this long and difficult journey my answer was not unlike hers-“Then I'll kill myself. I promise, I promise I will.” There was a hopelessness and a darkness that was almost consuming. My foundation was built upon sand and when my world shifted everything crumbled.
The beautiful thing is that my answer is different now. Do I still wish that I could carry another burden?


 Do I feel the fatigue and weariness that comes from moving forward with no end in sight?


But can I see past the imperfections, deformities, and challenges to see the inner beauty?
Sometimes it is still hard to face the future. Sometimes it is even hard to face the present. But each and every day I am better able to face my reality. My challenges don't only make me unique-they make me better.
Which brings us back to that original question: “What if the curse doesn't get broken? What if the curse can never be broken?” 
Then I will move forward.
I will move upwards.
I will develop myself in every way I can.
I will help other people navigate through this treacherous water.
I will be a positive influence in the lives of my friends, family, and community.
I will look myself in the mirror and love me for my imperfections and weaknesses.
It is time for me to stop waiting and hoping for something to take away my curse so that the real me can be free. It is time for me to stop wishing I could be like everyone else. It is time for me to end the war against my own self.
What if the curse doesn't get broken? Then perhaps it wasn't a curse at all.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Reflections on the Road Ahead

The conference this weekend was wonderful. Each and every session was enlightening and brought a measure of peace I haven't felt in a long while. I went into conference with a few specific questions, and while I did not get direct answers to all of them, I felt that I had gained the strength and guidance on how I could eventually reach these answers. I was able to spend some time with my family, which was wonderful. It is the first time we have been together since I talked to them about everything, and it was so good to be able to be comfortable around them. They are wonderful and I love them.
It really has been a blessed weekend and I should be filling incredible right now. For some reason, however, I feel more vulnerable than I have in a long time. I don't know what it is. I started feeling it on the drive home from conference and it has been building ever since. I feel insecure and claustrophobic around everyone, while simultaneously desperately hoping that someone will hold me and tell me everything will be alright. I want understanding without explanation. I want companionship, but believe it is unattainable. I want to rest but the road is so long.
The darkest part has already passed, though, and I am feeling better. The feelings of vulnerability and confusion are still there, but they led me to a critical revelation. As I went for a drive to seek out a feeling of safety I headed towards the temple. As I drove, I prayed to God and expressed the desires of my heart. In the past, I have always most intensely desired to be free from my struggles. I wanted to be fixed, and I wanted it now. As I have learned to trust God more on my journey, I eventually relinquished the timetable, but the desire was still the same. I progressed from wanting to free from unwanted attractions immediately to wanting to be free on God's time.
Tonight, however, a miracle occurred. The desire of my heart was to know what God wanted me to do. For the first time my deepest desire is to know God's will-no matter what it is.
While I still face dark feelings and insecurities, I find comfort in knowing that I am slowly learning to align my will with God's. I am learning to remove the pavilions that I have built which separate me from God. I do not know what lies on the road ahead. I do know, however, that I can trust God to lead me if I seek it diligently enough. And for perhaps the first time in my life, I want to know His will strongly enough that I will do what I need to to receive His guidance.
So no, I did not receive the direct answers that I was seeking after this General Conference. But I did gain a stronger desire to continually seek His will, and perhaps that is a greater gift than I could have imagined asking for.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

On the Subject of Audience

Recently, I have been feeling a strong desire to really begin writing again. I have always been fairly diligent in writing the events of the day and some of my thoughts, triumphs, and struggles, but it has been a while since I have used writing as a medium for self discovery. It has played the role of a reporter instead of an investigator. I think this was necessary because I spent so much time working through self discovery that there were some truths that I did not want to explore more fully. In some ways, I feel like I am finally prepared to begin an exploration of who I am.
Another driving force that I have experienced recently is a strong desire to reach out to others. I mean that in many different ways, but specifically I feel a call to expand my voice somehow on the subject of same-gender attraction. As I sat in the temple yesterday pondering on what that would mean, I felt that the idea and the concept is correct, but I will have to keep waiting and working to understand the specifics. Until then, I plan to use writing as a vehicle to begin my preparations toward reaching out to others on this subject. I have found great strength and comfort in reading the experiences of others on their individual blogs. In essence, this is a blog for myself; if I can help others in any way by my honest reflections that is an incredible added benefit.
One point that I feel must be addressed first is the concept of audience. In any form of writing the audience is critical. It shapes the words we use and the experiences we give. Reflecting backwards, I realized there was a dramatic shift in the audience I was writing to in my personal journal. Growing up, I always wrote in my journal with the idea that someday my family or future children would read it. This belief caused me to portray the facts of my life in a very optimistic light. If you were to read my teenage journal you would think that I had everything under control and figured out. My life was ideal. If there was an occasional difficulty that arose, I always viewed it in an eternal perspective and relished the opportunity to grow. You would think that I had no insecurities or doubts. In essence, you would get a picture of who I was and what I believed, but it would be a shallow and an incomplete picture.
Today, things are different. I believe that life is more complicated and difficult than it was in my youth, but that is not the real reason for the change in writing. Many of the problems I face now were present then; I just chose to ignore or hide them. As I have considered what could have caused this sudden change, I realized that it is because I am writing to a different audience. Before, I was writing to my ideal future children. Now, I write to my real future children.
There is a big difference.
I have come to realize that every person has real, personal, and difficult challenges. I have even come to accept that these challenges are essential to our growth and development. The ideal audience I used to write to did not have challenges. Their faith was strong enough to overcome any obstacle. They would never wander the night wondering who they were and how much longer they could go on.
I no longer write to these children; instead, I write to the real children of my future.
It is strange–now that I am completely honest with myself, I realize there is a good chance that I will not have children. The real children I write to now may never exist, but I now recognize that my ideal children could never exist.
I want whoever reads my journal to know me-not just the ideal, but false, image I have portrayed. I want them to know what I wish I knew. I want them to experience my reality so they can face theirs.
In the Book of Mormon we are taught an important lesson about reality. Jacob teaches us that the Spirit “speaketh of things as they really care, and of things as they really will be.” He doesn't speak of illusions and ideals. He is with us in the trenches, teaching us as we face our personal and difficult realities. If I have any hope of imbuing my weak words with power, I must do so by presenting things as they really are.