Friday, December 3, 2010

Pre-Marriage Anguish

I used to write occasionally in my journal about my struggle with homosexuality.  Primarily, this was during my mission and during the first few years of my marriage.  Long ago, however, I went through and “sanitized” my journal, ripping out pages that contained these entries and destroying them.  I didn’t want to leave any record behind that would indicate that I was a closet homo.  (After all, I never knew when I might get hit by a bus.)

I was therefore surprised, when upon recently reviewing my journal from the seven-month (!) period between returning home from my mission and my marriage, I discovered several forthright entries that had escaped the purge.  Though I wrote in euphemisms, it is clear what I was struggling with and the anguish I felt as I was trying to decide which path to take:  marriage or a path that would likely lead to life as a gay man.  Even though these things were written years ago, I found them hauntingly relevant to what I'm going through today as I am finally accepting who I am and facing the consequences of the choice I made to get married.

I had met my wife prior to my mission and we had corresponded regularly while I was away.  We had talked about marriage and were both looking toward that very real possibility.  When I got home, we experienced an extremely tempestuous courtship that was complicated by the fact that she had moved several hundred miles away.

The real complicating factor, however – at least for me – was my struggle with what to do about my gayness.  At one point during this period, I wrote in my journal:  I am still dealing with a problem which has plagued me for some time – accepting myself as I am and acknowledging that I am sinful.” 

I guess I should pause here to point out the obvious:  I was in Mosiah territory.  I was telling myself that I needed to accept the fact that I was gay; but instead of affirming my homosexuality, I believed that homosexuality (1) was of the “natural man,” (2) made me an enemy of God, and (3) could be “cured” or, more appropriately, forgiven and washed away by the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  (The trick was to figure out how this was to be done.)  In other words, I had to accept that I was gay before I had any hope of ceasing to be gay.

I continued writing:  How proud I am!  I have such a difficult time accepting that I may be (am) bad by nature.  I wonder, “Why me?!”  “Why I am this way?  I know it’s wrong, but I’m that way by nature.”  Why can’t I be like others who seem to have such an easy time with the commandments?  It’s sometimes very easy for someone to say, “Repent!”; but it’s another thing entirely to deal with feelings, emotions and one’s very nature.”

Okay, there’s a lot that could be said about the above passage.  How dysfunctional, how warped was my thinking?!  On the one hand, I thought that if I could just accept myself as by nature (i.e., inherently) bad because I was gay (which premise, you will notice, I accepted without question), then I could be changed.  On the other hand, I nevertheless seemed to recognize that changing homosexuality was not a matter of repentance, but involved somehow being able to change one’s very nature.

When I came into the Church, I thought for a long time that my very nature had changed by accepting the Gospel.  I had convinced myself that I was really a great guy and everyone around me fed those feelings.  I was such a “special,” “special” “golden” convert.  I built myself up to the point where I felt that I was indeed special … I thought I couldn’t fall because my nature is good.  Well, I found out that I can fall …”

As I written elsewhere, I thought that joining the Church would give me a highway out of homo hell.  I basked in the love and acceptance I was given as a new convert and truly believed that I was a “golden boy” who would “go far” in the Church.  Then, I got out on my mission and started hitting some pretty monumental gay speed bumps.  By the end of my mission, I knew that I was still gay; or in my own words, I was “fallen” (and I didn’t even [get to] do anything).

I wrestled with what I should do about marrying this woman.  On the one hand, I felt like marriage would be a mistake; on the other, I thought maybe this was how God was going to “cure” me, i.e., through the love of a good woman and my own dedication to following the “priesthood path.”  In other words, “faith precedes the miracle,” and I would “receive no witness until after the trial of my faith.”  Translation:  I would have to steadfastly walk the “priesthood path,” and I would eventually discover that my same sex attraction was fading away like mist before the sun. [Ed. Note:  What an IDIOT!]

I wrote in my journal:  I am passing through hell, or so it feels like at times.  I have never come so close to feeling that everything could be lost.  I’m so very, very confused … The choices facing me are:  (1) abandon the standards I have strived to maintain for almost three years, leading to a life of inactivity and possible excommunication, or (2) marry [my wife], or (3) ? … The time has come for me to accept my past and who I am.  If I want to stay in the Church, then I’m going to have to make some compromises.  I do want to stay in the church.  I want to feel the power of the Atonement change my nature – but I know it can rarely be done overnight.”

You will note that I was considering life as a gay man.  Again, I emphasized my need to accept the fact that I was (and always had been) attracted to men, but not so that I could affirm my gayness but as a prerequisite to “feel[ing] the power of the Atonement [as it] change[d] my nature. 

In other words, I had swallowed the Church’s line:  homosexuality was a choice, and I was being confronted with a choice.  I could choose to accept the fact that I was gay, then “apply the Atonement” so that I could be changed/cleansed of this affliction; or I could choose to accept the fact that I was gay and choose to not put forth the effort to change, i.e., give in and live life as a gay man.  Or I could try to asphyxiate (to use Rob Donaldson’s term) my gayness and tell myself that I merely experienced an attraction to men which could be overcome through marriage and commitment to the priesthood path.

Part of me looks back at this and says, “What a f--- up!”  But a kinder, wiser part of me looks back and this, shakes his head, then tells me:  Look, you genuinely believed that the Church was true and that its teachings about homosexuality were the mind and will of God.  You were trying to apply those teachings to your life and make decisions based upon them, desperately trying to do the “right thing.”  It’s not your fault that these teachings were misguided (and uninspired) at best, wrong (and damaging) at worst; and you cannot blame yourself for putting your trust in an organization that had provided you with meaning at a time in your life when you needed it.  You were younger then, in a different time and place.  Now, you are older; now, you understand.  As you once again face choices that are tragically similar to those that confronted you years ago, you can let this understanding benefit and inform you, as well as possibly help others who may be struggling today on the same path on which you have agonized.  Ultimately, these are the only healthy choices you have. 

I like the kinder, wiser part of me.  I think I’ll take him out to lunch.


  1. Dear Invictus,

    It's nice to know you more from ur post. I wish u good luck on ur journey.

    Joned ^_^

  2. That kinder, wiser part of you is right. S

    Sorting through all this and giving us the privilege to do the same informs everyone and helps others. It helps me. The struggles with being a "sinner" and the feelings you had about marriage are meaningful to me, because I feel all mormon gays have to wade through both issues and go through a lot of dark places. For me, to have someone else's experience with these issues is very valuable.

  3. Hey Joned - How's it going?

    Apronkid - I'm glad that you find reading about my experiences useful to some degree. Other than the therapeutic value I get from working through this stuff, my main reason in sharing it is the hope that something I write may be of use to someone else. Thanks for leaving your comments.

  4. different time... different place...

    You can't judge who you were then with who you are now.

  5. Beck - I hear what you're saying. You know what, though? I find what I wrote then so interesting and relevant to me now. Sometimes I feel like Rip Van Winkle - like I've been asleep for all these years, and I'm now waking up. So what I wrote before I "went to sleep" is relevant to me now. Don't know if that makes any sense ...

  6. It makes complete sense. I've been "asleep" for decades. But, once you wake up, it is really hard to ever go back to where you were. And the gut reaction is to either beat yourself up for 1) being asleep, or 2) for waking up, or 3) both. I'm just warning against such tendencies that I've fallen into after my "sleep". I'm having to accept that that was then and this is now and what am I going to do with what I know now... and that isn't that easy, especially with all the baggage that comes with the decades of life going on while one is "asleep".

  7. Wow! Wow! Wow! Your blog is becoming a must-read. You've done a great job of describing this experience.

    It's good to hear that you have generous feelings toward the person you were. I like what Maya Angelou said (paraphrasing), We did then what we knew how to do. When we knew better, we did better.

    You were a good and decent man then, and you are a good and decent man now. You know a little more now than you did before. That's all that's changed.

    I think it's interesting that you find such relevance between the issues you faced in your twenties and the issues you face now some decades later. I think this is a deep truth. We think, when we are young, that entering a mixed-orientation marriage settles the matter of homosexuality while in fact it resolves nothing. The issues get buried but they don't go away. They haunt the marriage, and years later you can wake up and find that you more or less exactly where you were.

    I hope young people will read this blog post and understand its implications.

    [As an aside, I have a journal that I wrote during my post-mission college years that I have been avoiding opening for fear of what I might find.]

  8. Thank you, MoHoHawaii for your generous and insightful words! Not only have you understood what I was trying to convey, you have precisely identified the issue and added another layer of understanding has helped me to see the situation even more clearly.

    There is much more I could write, but I have so many thoughts and emotions running through me right now that I have to give them a little more time to mature and sort themselves out before I try to articulate them.

    Thanks again for your thoughts!

  9. Fascinating! I also prefer the kinder you and second the idea of taking him to lunch! Bon appetit!

  10. This post really resonated with me and my experiences. So many of my decisions in life have been made because of being raised in the church. I was a very strongly believing member and when I lost confidence in the church I have had to re-evaluate a lot of my life and I often have to tell myself "Look, you genuinely believed that the Church was true . . . You were trying to apply those teachings to your life and make decisions based upon them, desperately trying to do the 'right thing'." I am now trying to determine how to move forward and live a life of integrity with my current beliefs and to live without regrets. It's a long process that I'm still working through.

  11. Mister Curie - Thanks for your comments.

    I find myself now in much the same situation, i.e., of re-evaluating. I very much like your use of the phrases "live a life of integrity" and "live without regrets." These are tall orders - but, in the end, isn't that what life is really all about? And thus the quest for such lofty goals is what gives life its depth and meaning.

  12. The experience you share seems similar to that of many Mormon homosexuals I've talked with or read about- especially on the Atonement changing your nature piece (reorientation). My response to that idea is in my book and on my blog (

    Thanks for this post.