Monday, January 16, 2012

I Have a Dream (Romans 1:16)

Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.
(January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968)

49 years ago this year Martin Luther King, Jr. told the world about the dream he had, that his "four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Today we honor the memory of a man who had incredible insight and helped bring about miracles of equality for his race. I cannot think of a better way to honor him than to take a little time to fight for many of the same principles that he espoused: namely, the idea of love for those who are different, especially as one who has faced a bit of persecution for being who he is.

I've mentioned before the great irony of being a faithful latter-day saint experiencing same-sex attraction: you tend to feel persecution sometimes on two fronts. Indeed, there are reasons why this blog is anonymous, and the foremost reason is because I know there are individuals in my life who simply wouldn't speak to me anymore if they knew. I'm dead serious. It is sad that even within the Church there are still those who cannot accept us as regular human beings. Paranoia still rules many thoughts. Some misconceptions I've heard honestly perpetuated among some Church members within the last month (I'm not making these up!):

*Those who have thought homosexual thoughts ever in their lives cannot receive the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom.
*Same-sex attraction comes about purely as the result of sin, or not living as fully righteously as you could have. It means the person has neglected their soul enough to let it be warped into such an unnatural state.
*Same-sex attraction is merely a choice, and those who have made that choice need to repent and stop trying to be different for the sake of attention.
*Those who are same-gender attracted cannot take the sacrament. (Some even think they shouldn't be allowed to come to Church, lest they corrupt the youth).

I have a dream that one day I could be open about my SSA and be judged not by who I find attractive, but by the content of my character. The statements above bring me to a topic I have come to feel very strongly about as I've gotten to know others who experience what I do. That topic is Shame. When people say statements like those above, it perpetuates depression and shame among those who are SSA. These misconceptions succeed in making the individual feel that they are condemned and responsible for inclinations beyond their choosing. This negates agency and seems to predestine the individual. Sounds a lot like Satan's plan to me...

That said, I must add that on the whole I am actually very optimistic about where the majority of Church members are on this issue. I think most do not hold the views expressed above and are extremely loving not only of those like me who stay in the Church while experiencing same-sex attraction, but also of those who choose to leave and pursue a homosexual partner. This is wonderful, because Christ simply commanded us to love everyone. I can state that I believe homosexual acts to be a sin we must avoid, and thus choose to avoid it myself, without hating those who make a different choice. But I hope that others respect my choice as well. And here I confront the other major front of the battle: the false rhetoric and hate speech of those in the LGBT community who condemn me for choosing to live an active latter-day saint lifestyle, and I fear there is much less progress on this front.

Many have called the gay rights movement the "new civil rights" movement of our day. There are many things I both agree and disagree with in that comparison, but even some within the gay community don't want full equality granted to everyone. To some of them, I am considered a traitor who undermines everything they are or believe in. That has never been my intent. I have tried never to take an anti-homosexual stance on this blog; rather, I have merely tried to affirm my own approach to the issue and declare that my set of values and choices in light of my attractions are just as valid and meaningful as those of anyone else. I don't wish to offend, but I also don't wish to be misunderstood, and I certainly won't stand being marginalized. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth;" (Romans 1:16). If I won't let members of the Church cause me to feel shame for my attractions, then I am most certainly not about to let anybody make me feel shame for the gospel.

I think what people don't realize is that I stay in the Church not because of cultural pressure, but because I know that it is true. I didn't always. But I have been blessed with a deep and abiding testimony of the truth with many strong spiritual witnesses of its validity. I find great happiness in it, and a deep sense of identity. I speak with God in prayer every morning and night, and He comforts me. I wouldn't trade that joy for anything. But there are those who say I must, or else I'm worthy of the discrimination that they themselves fight so hard against. I've been accused of not being a real person, of not being truly gay/SSA, and many other claims just as erroneous, if not more so, than those listed above coming from the other direction. On this front I'm told that I'm just a brainwashed drone without the courage to stand up for the sexual experiences that would supposedly make me happier. Above all, it seems that many tend to resent me for saying that staying righteous is possible. They have to disagree because it didn't work for them, so they have to tell themselves it cannot work for anyone. So they focus huge amounts of energy, and often large sums of money on attacking the Church, and especially gay Mormons who choose to stick with the Church. And the biggest lie they perpetuate is that they've "never seen it work before;" that eventually we all fall down. (SO FALSE! I know online literally hundreds of the faithful who've stuck with it and many are now older and even retired, and very happy.) And so on this front I am judged to be a coward and/or a liar. Well, I have a dream that one day I can be judged not for my religious beliefs and convictions, but for the content of my character.

If I have spoken boldly to two audiences, it's because I feel very strongly about my subject. But I repeat that I bear no ill will for either party I've addressed. I also fully recognize that just as not all Church members espouse the silly claims I listed, neither do all gays and lesbians hold deep prejudices against me. But even to those who do, I offer love.

Let's return to the civil rights comparison. I served my mission in a place where racism was still all too common. I became a very passionate advocate for racial equality and an adversary to the dragon of racism on my mission. When I got home, I watched a movie I had missed while I was out called Hairspray. Many of you have probably seen it. I knew before it began that it was a chipper musical starring John Travolta as a large woman, but I had no idea that the major theme of the film was racism. I've mentioned in previous posts how embarrassed I am about the fact that I cry easily in movies. Well, Hairspray really took the cake. Keep in mind I had been home for maybe 2 weeks when I watched it, and so I was in that emotionally unstable RM stage to begin with. So when the film ended up being about an issue that had grown to be so important to me on my mission...well, let's just say... I bawled. Like a baby. I still love that movie, and it still makes me cry. And yes, I feel silly crying during Hairspray. Anyway, in the middle, there is a song sung by Queen Latifah called "I Know Where I've Been." Some of the lyrics describe well the struggle of the cause I'm speaking about. Here's an excerpt:

There's a cry
In the distance
It's a voice
That comes from deep within
There's a cry
Asking why
I pray the answer's up ahead
Yeah, 'Cause I know where I've been

There's a road
We've been travelin'
Lost so many on the way
But the riches
Will be plenty
Worth the price
The price we had to pay

There's a dream
In the future
There's a struggle
That we have yet to win
And there's pride
In my heart
'Cause I know
Where I'm going
Yes I do!
And I know where I've been

I don't care if some tell me I chose my attractions and need to repent to gain salvation. I know otherwise. I don't care if some tell me I'm a liar. I know otherwise. I don't care if some tell me I'm not really happy. I know otherwise. I don't care if some tell me that I'm not a real person. I certainly know otherwise! I know where I've been. And, as the song says, there is a long road and many have been lost along the way. But there is a dream of winning the struggle. "And there's pride in my heart, 'Cause I know where I'm going." I have no shame of the gospel, nor of being attracted to men. That said, there is one more topic I've got to address: my anonymity.

Some of you who have asked me how I can honestly proclaim a message that there is no need for shame in SSA when I write an anonymous blog, hiding behind my pseudonym. That question does not offend me, because it is actually a very valid concern. Honestly, there are some fantastic strong members of the Church out there who are very public and have even written wonderful books. (If you don't know who Ty Mansfield is, search him RIGHT NOW). There is a strong need for public faces to our special cross-section demographic of the LGBT community with the faithful LDS community. A part of me would love to be one of those faces. I think it would genuinely surprise a lot of people, but also give a lot of hope to see that a very normal, but also very lucky and successful guy like me experiences same-sex attraction. I think it could turn heads and do a lot of good to help heal some of those lingering fallacious public perceptions of this problem.

But I can't. It isn't a matter of shame. It is primarily because there are people very close and very important to me who unfortunately perhaps ascribe to some of those misconceptions and aren't ready yet. I don't hold that against them. I love them dearly and trust that in time they will be able to alter their views. Above all, there can be lots of complications and prejudice faced when people "come out" so to speak. I've not told anyone yet who I didn't feel spiritually prompted to. I've talked a lot with the Lord on this subject and trust that if/when He ever wants/needs me to be more public that He'll let me know. Maybe that won't ever be. I don't know. I'll trust Him. But for now I hope that you can understand that there are many complicated reasons why I simply cannot forfeit my anonymity right now, and the Lord has told me that's the right course for me. I would also caution AGAINST coming out public if the reason is merely to create drama or draw attention (we all feel that way sometimes! don't give in!). Be sure to be prayerful, and you can be sure that the Lord will let you know the correct course for you. Keeping a family relation in tact may be more important in your life right now than being able to help change public perceptions of SSA.

I have a dream that one day we will conquer the prejudices from all sides that make this subject so unfortunately taboo that it requires anonymity in the first place. I would remind you what I've said in another post: that we won't win the battle against hate/ignorance with hate and ignorance! THE ANSWER IS LOVE! As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

My best,


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