From my aunt:
When do you leave for Malta? Isn't it in the spring? coming up pretty soon.
I guess that I'll get right into why I am sending this email. No beating around the bush. I want you to know that I love you and I have loved you since you were a little boy. Your big baby doll eyes, your cute little smile. I was going to search through my old photos just to refresh my memory. I've thought about writing you several times before, but hesitated for many reasons. I hope you will read and accept this email in the way that I am sending it, but if not... I am still going to send it. Anyway, I went to the temple this morning to do initiatory work and when the temple worker was talking about the purpose & power of the garment to protect us from evil, for some reason a picture of you popped into my mind--standing in the middle of a battlefield, but you had taken off your armor and were totally unprotected. The thought made me physically feel sick and afraid, but mostly my heart just ached.
You would probably be very surprised to know how many prayers are being offered in your behalf...how many people care about you and are worried about you. I'm not sure where you're at in the 'feeling' process, but I hope that you will accept this note for what it is...my witness of truth. I know that I can't say anything to you that you probably haven't thought about yourself at some time in your life. You know the gospel better than most. You served an honorable mission as far as I know. You have studied and lived the gospel all of your life until now. I'll tell you straight up that you are headed in the wrong direction if you are looking for happiness! There is no way you can be happy and fight against God and his plan. Do you know anyone that lives a homosexual life that is truly happy in 1 year? 2 years? 5 years? 10 years? There may be some positive feeling(s), but in cannot be happiness. I have never had to deal with the situation you are in, but one thing I know...Happiness only comes from being obedient to God's commandments! There is no other way! All is not lost, there is always hope, there is always repentance, there is always the atonement. And, by the way, there is always love from your family and from God.
That's it...the words/feelings from the heart of your aunt that loves you very much, and always will!
I know where you are coming from and understand your perspective. I know that you are doing what you believe is right and what you think is best for me. So I will do my best to respond in the same manner, knowing that we love and care about each other’s well being. I don't want to seem like I am being combatant or argumentative, but I DO want you to hear my perspective, even if you may never understand it. I have been tough experiences that have shaped my understanding, and since you haven't had these experiences, it might be difficult for you to understand. You believe your understanding to be the right one, and you want to help me the way you would liked to have me help you. But I want you to recall the lesson you taught me years ago: The Platinum Rule - do unto others as they would have you do unto them. Hopefully I can give you a better idea of how you can best respect my perspective and treat me likewise.
First - the garment. I am sure you can understand that I wouldn't feel comfortable wearing a piece of clothing that is symbolic of covenants I have made that I no longer wish to be held to. I believe their purpose and power, but I have a greater understanding of my Heavenly Father that has given me resolve to be comfortable depending on other forms of protection in this "battle of life." This might be clearer as I explain more of my perspective below.
Second - Your care for me and your testimony. It means so much to me that you worry about me and care about me so much. I love your testimony. I want you to know that I appreciate all of that. I really do. But there are other ways you can show you care for me that will actually make me feel like you care about me. Like listening to me and being happy for the happiness I have found. I know your perspective is that of the church's stand. So is mine. But I have additional perspectives that change everything that you fortunately (and unfortunately) do not have.
Third - My testimony. My testimony was shaped similarly to yours for many years. But since early adolescence, I have had to battle some things I wouldn't even begin to scratch if I tried to explain them. Because of that, I have had to weigh in my mind what people (in the church and outside the church) were telling me, versus what was REALLY happening to me. My testimony encompasses 90% of your own testimony. Unfortunately, the remaining 10% (which is extremely vital to the church) did not ever bring me the happiness or witness the church claimed it did. That was very hard for me. I had to decide whether to follow the false testimony I had, knowing that it would bring the same result it has my whole life: despair, fear, etc... Or I could change something. So I changed something. I wanted to find happiness - can you blame me? Finally I found the missing piece in my life. Life made sense. I had something to live for. I know what love really feels like, now. Now I know that God has a purpose for me on this earth that is very unique. He didn't send me here to suffer and wait to die before I could experience the happiness that 96% of the world can experience here (legitimately). He wants us all to be happy in this life, and the next. Don't you want that for your own children?
Fourth - my feelings. I was told that marriage in the temple with a woman was the only way to be happy and to receive Salvation. It sounded great. Except the woman part. It seemed completely unnatural to me to be intimate and affectionate with a woman, let alone create children with one. In fact, it makes me physically ill to think about it. Just imagine yourself sharing a passionate kiss with your relief society president or counselor. Yuck, right? I mean, you love the woman to death, and would marry them if they were a handsome man (and you were both single), but otherwise it's disgusting. That is how I feel about women, too. My parents weren't abusive. I had no sexual experiences as a child or an adolescent. There is nothing to really point to why I prefer boys. In fact, it really doesn't even matter why I feel the way I do. I just... do. And completely by no fault of my own. Which means God allowed it. Do I hate him for it? No. I know He loves me. I always have known that. If not, I would probably have hung myself years ago. There would have been no purpose to living... knowing that I am an abomination to God and if I acted on my feelings I would go to hell. But if I didn't act on these feelings, I would be forever alone... a living hell. No God or spouse to ever comfort me. I have received confirmation from God for me (and me only) that the path I am taking is the one I need to take right now for some reason.
Fifth - God and his plan. I'm not fighting against God at all. And His plan? God does have a plan for me. I fit in it somewhere. But if you keep an eternal perspective, who is to say that the plan is the same for everyone on this earth? If this earth is so short of time, who is to say how much of the plan takes place after this life? I feel that over eternity, God will give me the same opportunities you have to have the same blessings you hope to have. And who am I to say the plan He has given for my life now is wrong? I have been doing trying to do the "right thing" for years... denying who I am, how I feel, and what everyone had told me was wrong. How thoughtless of me to deny the person God made me to be! Since embracing what has always been right to me, despite the social and religious norms, I haven't been happier. You just have to take my word for it and be happy for me. You may have thought I was happy living the "gospel" as you know it, but I was pretending to be happy. I was pretending that everything was ok. I was pretending to be something I was not. The gospel to me is living a life the Savior would. How could I do that if I was so focused on myself and my "evil" attractions? I tried to distract myself from these "unworthy" feelings by playing computer games and other wasteful uses of time. Who knows what good I could have been doing in the world had I been happy accepting my nature back then. Now that I am free from the bonds of expectations, I can do anything. I can finally REALLY focus on others and help them. Actually be Christ-like. Before, I felt like I was lying to myself and everyone... teaching something to people that didn't make natural sense to me. But now I know that everyone is different, even within sexual orientations. Now I can contribute more to the world being myself, rather than denying who I was meant to be. This is God's plan for me. I hope that I can reach out the hundreds of thousands of other gay Mormons that lack the understanding and support they need from their family. I wish I had that.
Sixth - Happy gays. Gay means happy, right? (I say this in a happy-jokey tone) Of course you haven't heard of any happy endings with gay couples! You don't live in a gay community! In fact you live in a biased society that considers such relationships evil. No one in that community would dare share stories of happily ever after for a gay couple. I, however, have been associated with others like me that have been forced to think heavily about life in their early years. We DO tell success stories. We DO know of happy gay couples that have worked thought the social struggles of rejection. There ARE gay couples that last YEARS. Of course due to a predominantly heterosexual population, the numbers are much smaller... but the ratios of break ups to lasting relationships aren't much different than that of straight people. There is just as much conflict and heartache with heterosexuals (if not more) as there is with any gay relationship. In fact gays probably treat relationships with more respect and care than straights because they have been denied relationships for so many years.
Seventh - repentance. There are all the R's to repentance, the 12 step program... etc. One of those steps is regret. Guilt. Godly sorrow. I feel bad when I watch an inappropriate movie, see/read explicit material, hurt others, etc. But the one thing I have NEVER felt ANY guilt for is sharing love and affection with those I am attracted to. Would you in your circumstance? No. Being straight is normal to you. You don't know anything different. You are told it is ok. Same for me and guys. Except the being told it is ok part. I did not choose to be the way I am. Why would anyone choose to be opposite of the social norm and be rejected by their closest friends and family because of it? Did you choose to be straight? And if I didn't choose to be the way I am, why should I be guilty about it? We're not talking about murder, stealing, sleeping around, doing drugs, etc. We're talking about looking for a committed, loving relationship with someone they can emotionally and physically appreciate and be attracted to. Is that so much to ask for? I can't say I’ve done everything right on this new path, but I am learning just as much as a straight person would. But the end goal is just the same as yours. Would you or God deny that of me?
I had 4 choices to make:
1. I could deny my feelings and do what I was raised to do: marry a woman and create children. Would that be fair to any woman to marry someone that didn't share deep, intimate feelings for them? That only did what was necessary to have a family... or even skip sex altogether and adopt? Would any woman be ok with that? Would that be fair to the kids? To have a father that is emotionally imbalanced because he is living a way that is unnatural to him, who can never be emotionally filled on this earth? A father that could eventually break down and either leave the family or commit suicide? Think of Sue's ex husband. And their kids. Why would I ever want to do that to anyone?
2. I could live a celibate life and never have sexual relationships with anyone. I wouldn't be able to participate in many church activities or callings. Many of them require a spouse. I would be attending a church that claims marriage and family to be the happiest unit on earth... and I wouldn't have it. People would question me. I would be completely alone. No family to come home to or provide for. What am I living for? Death really. I am living to die so I can be rid of these horrid feelings and finally find happiness in a woman. Why would I want to come to a church that teaches and would have me teach about a family I could never have here? A happiness denied of me?
3. I could date and marry a man that I love. I would be socially rejected by some friends, most family, and all of the church. I would be excommunicated. If not that, denied many activities within the church. But I would come home to my man after work. I would have a husband and kids that would love me unconditionally because I am happy with who I am and have become. I am confident and an active participant and contributor to the world. I would have reason to live and move forward. I would raise my children in the church and be a part of it as much as it would let me. There would be many challenges, but at least they are external. Nothing I could immediately change, and therefore wouldn’t need to worry about. I would be happy in this life and have a hope for happiness for eternity. I could even say I KNOW I would be happy for eternity. Is that so wrong or different from you?
4. Commit suicide. End the pain. End the suffering. End the wait for the feelings I am supposed to have. End the loneliness. End the embarrassment. End the nights of crying myself to sleep. End the inquiries of my girlfriend/wife and why I don’t have one. Yeah, it *might* suck for the people that loved me, but according to the church, my first priority is my own well being. I am better off dead than alive. God will fix everything after this life. He promised he would. I would rather die now and end the hell so I can reach the heaven so adamantly proclaimed in church. Suicide is better than the hell that would come if I was gay, so what’s the problem? At least I was true to the covenants I made in the temple. That should count for something.
The choice is simple, right?
There are SOOO many different aspects of this that I can't take time to explain. I will point you to my friend's blog that covers a lot that I did not cover here. Not all of his perspectives are the same as mine. But I have had many of the same experiences he has had. Minus the supportive family.
I'm not saying my family doesn't love me, but the love is conditional. You may not think it is conditional, but when you say "I love you, but..." you are putting a condition on it. "I love you, but I do not support you in your choices and you can't bring anyone to my home that is gay like you." Is a conditional love. Of course I wouldn't put any of my family in danger or make out in front of them. You wouldn't want your straight kids doing that either. I respect that. My attraction to guys is not an addiction or a destructive habit. It is who I am. I will always respect my family. But I also demand respect from my family. If my brother or cousin (or anyone) can come over with his wife and kids, be welcomed with open arms, and sleep in the same room and bed as them, I would expect the same for me. If not, that is your choice. I respect that. Don't expect me to visit. Yes it will be hard for my family to adjust to that. Do you not think it has been a hard adjustment for me?
So, I will wrap this up. I hope I did not come off offensively. I hope that you can take what I have said seriously and consider that perhaps the way you are dealing with this is not the right way. Perhaps you should remember the "Platinum Rule." Your unconditional love for me would allow you to be happy for me when I am happy. Accept me as I am. Love my boyfriends and gay friends just as you would a girlfriend or straight friend of mine. I think you know me enough that I wouldn't choose crude, sleazy, or disrespectful friends or boyfriends. These people have parents and aunts just like your kids and my brother and I. They were raised in a Mormon culture that respects and honors the standards we all love and understand. We just like people of the same gender.
I love you, I really do. Unfortunately, responding affirmatively to your email the way you would have liked would put me back on ground zero of hell. I'd rather not go back and visit that. I hope this is educational to you, and that you can be more understanding when you meet people like me. Who knows, maybe one of your grandchildren will have to go through the same thing I am. You might want to be ready for the possibility. They may not have as high of self esteem as I did and commit suicide. Wouldn't you rather they live a happy life?
I'm not willing to argue anything. I am confident in my choice. I am willing, however, to answer questions that would help you understand more of where I am coming from. I still think of you just the same. If you can’t accept my perspective, I will wait until you can. When you do, I will be happy to come visit. I will think even more of you when you can confirm your unconditional Christ-like love for me.