I wrote an article about a month ago titled, “my struggle with being mormon and having same-sex attraction.” As I’ve pondered on this article recently, I realized that I don’t like the title I gave it. A more apt name for that article may have been, “why I choose to stay mormon” or “my experiences as a ‘gay’ mormon.” I realized this week that the struggle of being LDS and also attracted to men is what I needed to write about. The picture used at the head of this article is symbolic of that struggle. It depicts a man standing in the middle of a road with one foot on each side of the divide. That man can represent countless people who find themselves standing in two worlds that are very divisive and separate. Ours is the task to straddle that line and figure out how we can coexist in both. That is the struggle. The experiences here are not exclusive to anyone who is Mormon. I am sure that many people of faith in the LBGTQIA+ Community will be able to relate to the frustrations and struggles that come with my situation.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (also called Mormons) has a very close-knit, family-oriented community. In this community, there is a very specific set of standards that members are expected to uphold. I understand respect and personally choose to follow these standards (to the best of my ability). Acting on feelings of attraction to people of the same gender is not allowed, nor is obviously having a homosexual relationship. Because of these standards in the church, I choose to refrain from having a homosexual relationship. Even with this being the case, I am open with those in my church about my attraction towards other men. I just don’t act on it (anymore anyway).
Most of the members I have found to be very kind and compassionate to my circumstances, but that only goes so far. They don’t actually understand my situation. How can they? They don’t know what it’s like to have an intense feeling of desire inside that can NEVER be acted upon. A desire that doesn’t feel wrong, either. There is for most people an eventuality that there will come a time where it is acceptable for them to engage in intimate sexual relations that are considered appropriate. This does not come for many LDS people who struggle with same-sex attraction. They can potentially spend their whole life having to live a celibate lifestyle, never getting married, never having children, all the while having an intense attraction towards a sex that is prohibited. They long for something that can never be obtained while also remaining in good fellowship with the church.
Here’s how the emotional conflict worked for me, and I know for others as well:
You desperately want this feeling of attraction to go away. You spend countless nights praying, begging God that He will take this trial from you. Why can’t you just be like everybody else? You want it more than almost life itself, so why doesn’t it ever happen? Why can’t you just change? What did you do wrong? It kills you inside that you don’t have many answers. The pain is almost unbearable. You cry yourself to sleep; you cry in the shower; you cry in your car, and you cry often whenever you are alone. If you are lucky, you eventually train yourself to become numb to the pain you feel so that you stop crying so much. Nonetheless, you don’t understand how life can be worth living if you’re just going to spend your whole existence at odds with a religion that is very special to you.
When I’m really being cynical, I sometimes wonder if the people in my church would be so kind and accepting to me if I had made the decision to remain in the gay lifestyle. I feel like much of the offers for the support I am given are superficial. I have some amazing friends that have really held me up in times of desperation, and it didn’t matter if they understood my struggle or not. However, there are many others who seem to say “we support you!” when they don’t really mean it. They just like the idea of you; a “gay” man who chooses to live the standards of the gospel. You are an example they can give to their friends who try to say that such a person doesn’t exist, that you’re just a myth, like a unicorn or something. When it comes to needing to talk or needing some other kind of support though, they aren’t really there to help. They laud you only because you’re doing what fits within their moral code of conduct. If you went a different path, some folks wouldn’t be so nice.
You really wonder why you stay in the church at all, but then you remember the way you feel. It is the ever constant feeling inside of you that burns with a power you can’t fully describe that keeps you around. It’s a feeling that you can’t shake. These people may not be perfect, and they may not understand you, but you aren’t there for them. You are there for Christ because you know this is His church and it’s where you need to be.
When looking for needed support, the LGBTQIA+ Community isn’t always better. They don’t understand your situation any more than the people at church. Many of them think it’s ridiculous that you want to belong to a church with the Mormons anyways. Why would you want to be involved with a bunch of bigots? Why can’t you just embrace who you are? There isn’t anything wrong with you and it’s not right for you to deny or suppress your sexual attraction to appease a ridiculous hetero-patriarchal organization. You shouldn’t want to change who you are, or try to bury it down deep where you can try to pretend it doesn’t exist.
They don’t understand that this isn’t about “denying” who you really are. In fact, if someone is trying to do that, to pretend they aren’t attracted to a person of the same sex, they are going to find themselves in serious emotional conflict with perhaps dire spiritual consequences. Whatever we choose, we should be honest with at least ourselves that we struggle with same-sex attraction.
This about a lot more. This is about keeping ourselves aligned with the Will of God (and of course that brings up another whole can of worms). Why would God want you to deny who you really are? God made you, didn’t He? So what’s wrong with you? How can love between any two people be wrong?
You don’t have answers to all of their questions, but you still feel sure in your decision (most days) to remain apart of the LDS Faith.
They don’t agree with your decision, and they don’t support it. Many times they may choose to not associate with you if you are firm in your decision to remain a faithful member of the church. Other times, they stick around only to dissuade from your cause. Eventually though, often times, but not always, these “friends” all leave too.
You find yourself again in the same situation over and over. You are alone with nobody who understands you, and you don’t know what to do. You really just might be some kind of freak.
I felt this way, that’s for sure. It wasn’t until I met one of my best friends that these feelings of loneliness started to leave. I wanted to be apart of the church, but I didn’t expect it to change its standards. I was going to try to live the teachings of the gospel no matter what… but I needed help, and I couldn’t find another man who was attracted to other men and also wanted this. They had all left the church or were quietly waiting for a time when the church would be different, but nonetheless, they wanted a gay relationship. But, that wasn’t what I wanted.
This friend who I met was the first person (of later many) who wanted the exact same things I did. He was an enormous support for me and helped to continue to strive for my spiritual goals. It didn’t make everything all of a sudden easier, but it was more bearable. I finally was okay (for the most part) with who I was.
Everyone isn’t as lucky as me to find a friend who can relate to your experiences and see you through the difficulties of life. I have come to understand though, that being alone, and stuck between these two worlds, that of the LDS faith, and the LGBTQIA+ Community is something that has to be stopped. These two worlds, to a degree, must come together. We have to tread carefully no doubt, but we don’t get the luxury to really remove ourselves from one or the other. To one degree or another, they are both needed and apart of who we are. There are elements of support that can be found in both places in the right circumstances. You may not be able to go to one person for all of your needs, but you can probably find a few people who can help with different pieces. These worlds don’t need to be exclusive from each other, and they shouldn’t be. The people in them may not agree on everything or almost anything, but there shouldn’t be as much animosity against each other as I sometimes feel there is. That’s another part of the problem. You feel caught in the middle of this feud and you don’t entirely know which side to choose… but the point is you shouldn’t have to choose a side. Each group represents a piece of who you are (to varying degrees). If anyone on either side is truly capable of compassion and understanding, then they need to be accepting of a life that doesn’t fall perfectly in their ideals. The world is already full of enough contention as it is, and what we need more is love, not more hate. But for love to be able to flourish, it requires people to be more understanding of another’s circumstances, whether they agree with them or not.
All I know is, I belong to very different worlds. These worlds may never entirely coexist peacefully, but I have to peacefully coexist in both. Embracing who I am is one of the most important things I have to do in this life to remove unnecessary pain and struggle. There are enough trials with life, that the struggle over who I am shouldn’t be one of them.
I know who I am. I am a spiritual son of a Heavenly Father who loves me, in spite of my shortcomings and many sins. I am a man who is attracted to other men, who doesn’t know if he will ever get married and has come to accept it. I am a Mormon who is striving so hard to align myself with all the standards of the church and make all the necessary covenants with God that need to be made. I am a human being, compromised of lots of pieces of things that don’t seem to all go together, but they do. I am proud of who am.
I make no apologies for the life I choose every day to live, and neither should you.