The things I'm going to say are going to offend some people, trigger others, and possibly make everybody super uncomfortable. Apparently all of that is irrelevant, however, because I know I need to write this post. I believe we all need to confront this discomfort.
So, to preface, please understand that I am writing from a place of love. I am writing this out because I am sharing a story that is never talked about, which leaves people feeling like they're alone when they are not. In the wake of Friday's Supreme Court ruling, I feel like this story is even more important than it was before, because while many people are rejoicing, I fear there is a hidden group of people that will be driven into an even more difficult place than they were before. I want to be a voice for that group even though it scares the pants off me. If this post can "proclaim peace" to one solitary soul, it's worth it to me.
Here's my story: During my early adolescence, the only truly accurate way to describe my sexuality is that it was super repressedly homosexual. I knew I wasn't attracted to men; on the contrary, I was afraid of them, and not in the hormonal giddy way--I was straight-up afraid. I knew my body was attracted to women, but my spirit viscerally rejected this reality. Perhaps my religious background played a large part in this reaction, but I do believe a core part of my eternal self rejected what my hormones were saying. Regardless, my young teenage self entered a steep depression as I struggled with the impossible-seeming dichotomy of being Mormon and gay. I experienced what I assume are typical teenage feelings of being unloved and unlovable, but the focal point for these feelings was God. For some reason, a knowledge of God's existence is the one bit of faith that I was born with and cannot divorce myself from, so I never questioned God being there; I just knew he didn't love me, which made sense, because I was utterly unworthy of being loved. I got it. I wasn't angry at him, just deeply, deeply sad. Feeling like you are of no value is not an okay place to be, as I'm sure most people can attest.
Over several years, I did the normal gay-Christian-teenager routine of bargaining with God to MAKE ME STRAIGHT ALREADY: praying incessantly, reading scriptures, checking all the boxes and just pleeeeading with him to take away this disgusting, horrible part of myself. Shockingly, it didn't work. So I went to Plan B, which was to stop praying altogether because God obviously didn't want to hear from me (because, duh, I was so gross). This is when the depression got really bad, and I entered a very dark period. I know what self-loathing is, and it made me long for the previous times of just feeling dead inside.
Miraculously, and I mean miraculously, during one particularly awful night, something inside me snapped, and I rolled onto my knees in desperation. I told God that I was done, that I accepted who and what I was, and that even though he didn't and couldn't love me, I would do what I could to live a good life, which meant being alone. I would be okay with that. I could do it. I just couldn't do this anymore. [Huge disclaimer: I actually had very few experiences with family or church that contributed to these beliefs. My family was and is phenomenal. I understood on an intellectual level the Church's position on homosexuality, which was and is that attraction is not a sin, but acting on it is. For some reason, however, I was convinced I was the exception, and I was a monster. I just wanted to make it clear that I don't blame anyone for how I felt]. I went to bed feeling better--peaceful, almost. And I started praying again.
A few nights or weeks later, I had one of the most sacred experiences of my life, and because of its sacred nature, I will describe it only briefly. As I prayed one night, God let me know that I had been wrong and that he loved me with a ferocity and a tenderness I could not imagine. He always had, and he always would. Feeling that love changed me forever, and it was an experience I will never be able to deny. I am precious to God, no matter what. Every one of us is loved beyond comprehension, and I so wish everyone could know that in their core. Please seek that witness. It will change your life.
And I stayed "gay," although I hesitate to plaster an identity on myself based on sexuality, because I've never felt such an identity and have no desire for others to peg me with one. And it was okay. Painful, but okay.
And then one day I woke up with a big fat crush on a boy. Never were so many grateful prayers said for hormones doing their jobs. I spent the rest of high school as a shameless flirt. I had a boyfriend I legitimately loved, and I had crushes on a million boys; I was also still primarily attracted to women. This was a very confusing place to be, but I didn't care, because I could stinking like boys. It felt like a superpower. I would get married, and I would raise a family. I would be "normal," as far as anyone would know. The rest didn't matter.
By the time I went to college, I'd pretty much figured out how to ignore the part of myself that didn't fit my straight profile. I was a girl, and I liked boys. Fine.
Here's the thing: anything outside the standard heterosexual experience is traumatizing on some level. In my case, my sexuality was enormously affected by trauma. I know it's not okay to say this, but childhood sexual abuse is a major factor in many people's homosexual tendencies. I certainly don't think it's the case for everyone, but it was for me, although I didn't recognize it at all at the time. I also don't know why I was able to transition to a place of, for all intents and purposes, heterosexuality. I know that, for me, the gradual transition came as I applied myself more and more to self-love and love of God, but by no means do I think there is a "cure" for being gay. After years of research, I understand now that many, many people experience fluidity in their sexuality, particularly teenage girls, but there are also many people who solidly identify as either gay or straight from day one. It is a complicated issue.
Here is my problem. I feel like society has taken a complicated, nuanced issue and turned it into something black and white. Either you are gay or you are not. If you are gay, you must be "true to yourself" and live a gay lifestyle, or you are a self-destructive atrocity. If you are gay, there is nothing you can or should do about it, and anyone who says differently is a bigot and a hatemonger. If you are gay, celebrate it.
I would like to respectfully offer an alternative. I want to be a witness that, for me, the words that haunted me so fiercely from the First Presidency's "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" have proven true. For over a decade, I wanted to hate that document and know that it was flawed. As I have inquired and dedicated myself to obedience, however, I have acquired a burning testimony of the doctrine that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and that children are indeed entitled to birth within the bonds of that union. I know this is God's plan of happiness, even though with our limited mortal perspectives, there are a billion possible circumstances in which it feels like torture. I promise I get that. And I also promise that God doesn't lie, and when we surrender our wills, he answers our questions.
My caveat is, of course, that this is my experience. I cannot speak for others and I honestly do not know the answers to anyone else's story, but I want to make mine available to those who are struggling with these feelings. Your feelings do not have to define you. In fact, in any arena, if your feelings define you, you are probably headed for sadness at some point. Feelings are fickle and deceptive, so it is essential to find something solid to lean on. Thus far, the only something I have found to be truly constant is God. Regardless of what choices you are making, please develop a relationship with God. Please know how loved you are.
If your sexuality is causing you grief, find something bigger than it to pursue. We act like our orientation and experience with sex is the ultimate definition of who we are, and this is ludicrous. Our culture is so saturated with sex, and our obsession is completely distracting us from the biggest issues of life, such as our character and our relationships with God and family and community. This life is a tiny blip in eternity, and when we allow the difficulties of that tiny blip to be the driving forces behind the few important choices we make, I believe we enter dangerous territory. We are infinitely more powerful than the struggles we are currently facing, and we must remember that always.
If you are a teenager unwillingly feeling these feelings of same-sex attraction, know that IT IS OKAY. No matter what choices you make concerning your sexuality or anything else, for that matter, you could never be more precious to God than you are right now, and that will never change. You can't damage that love, so just get that in your head! Then understand that you didn't cause these feelings. You are not defective. God is allowing you to have this experience for a reason, so ask him what to do. Just like with everything, when we ask in faith and obedience to the light we already have, we receive. It's a law. Sometimes, like in my case, the answer comes a lot later than we would prefer, but it always comes. Be brave and follow the answers that come, remembering that you don't need every answer right this second. It's going to work out. You are taken care of.
And if you are someone who has not experienced these feelings, know that those who do are not monsters. Know that you are commanded to love everyone, even when you can't understand them. Be loving as much as you can, please.
Finally, if this post has made you feel angry or uncomfortable or ______, I have two requests. The first is that you examine what triggered those feelings. Allow yourself to sit with the discomfort for a bit in order to understand it better. I think all of us are lacking in understanding of ourselves and others when it comes to this issue. My second request is that if you see me and feel those feelings again, please just say, "Hey, I read your blog, and I feel angry or uncomfortable or ______." You will not offend me, and I would be more than happy to have an open dialogue, or not. I understand that this is a very volatile topic for many people, and the last thing I want to happen is to damage relationships with people I care about. In fact, that is the opposite of my intention, so regardless of your response, I am very willing to discuss and would like to hear your thoughts.
And with that unceremonious finale, I thank everyone for sticking with this to the end. Blessings on your heads. And, of course, sat nam.
[Follow-up post http://www.uponthemountains.com/words/take-2here]
Exploring the spiritual side of things. Brevity is not my forte.