Yesterday marked the first anniversary of this blog: one year ago, the persona of Invictus Pilgrim was born. When I first started my blog, I could not have foreseen where it would go and what it would mean, not only to me but to others as well. I began writing as a means to free long-imprisoned thoughts, to express long-suppressed emotions and to explore long-forbidden lands in my psyche and soul. I could not and did not foresee the extent to which my writing would not only prove therapeutic for me, but also expressive of others’ unexpressed thoughts and emotions.
One year later, I am humbled, yet proud, that this blog has had almost 140,000 page views in the past year and has 102 “official” followers, along with many others who read the blog without enrolling as a follower. The blog has evolved over the past year, as have I, and will continue to do so as I myself continue to experience growth and insights along the path of my journey.
As I wrote in one of my first posts, the name of my blog was chosen for several reasons. First, I am very fond of the poem Invictus, which features in the film by the same name as the chief source of inspiration to Nelson Mandela during his many years in prison, and which was also a favorite of President Gordon B. Hinckley, as well as of others close to me.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
The title of the poem means “Unconquered” in Latin. It was written by 19th century poet William Ernest Henley as a demonstration of his resilience following the amputation of his foot due to tubercular infection when he was 25.
Henley was a famous atheist, and 19th-century Mormon apostle Orson F. Whitney wrote a retort to the poem which, President Gordon B. Hinckley commented, “[missed] the point of the original poem, that each individual gets to decide how to respond to the things he can't control in this life.” In his 2000 First Presidency Christmas Devotional address, President Hinckley said of Invictus, “It is a great poem. It places upon the individual the responsibility for what he does with his life. Through these many years, when I have been faced with difficult choices I have repeated these stirring words.”
A year ago, I wrote: “I am at a point in my life when I finally have to take responsibility for affirming an essential part of who I am. I am a son of God. I have an “unconquerable soul” and I must now decide, in President Hinckley’s words, how to respond to this thing I can’t control: the presence in my life of this orientation (the inception of which was beyond my control). I have made that decision. I have decided to embrace it because I have come to accept that to deny and repress this fundamental aspect of my identity any longer renders me a cipher.”
I then described the thinking behind the second appellation of my blog, i.e., “pilgrim”: “In making this decision, in taking this responsibility, I am very much a pilgrim on a journey. I don’t know what the destination is. That’s not really important to me right now. What is important is the journey, and that I have begun.”
And what a journey it has been!
I have written many times over the course of the past year about trials, difficulties, sadness, anger and heartache, all of which have been, and will no doubt continue to be, a part of this journey. But today, I want to say boldly, confidently and with joy in my heart that I do not regret embarking about this journey.
A year ago, my homosexuality was a secret which I had not yet fully and openly shared with anyone. The only person who knew anything of my attraction to men was my wife; I had divulged this secret to her before our marriage.
Today, however, I can confidently state - and have no hesitation in doing so - that I am a gay man. I feel happier within myself, more confident, more at peace, than I have at any other time in my life. True, there are trials, there are difficulties … but those trials and difficulties were to a certain extent unavoidable, and are to significant degree caused by others who tenaciously cling to the concepts that homosexuality is a choice and is “immoral”. This causes me sadness; but as I work to eliminate my own internalized homophobia, I find myself able to become more compassionate toward those who are still trapped in ways of thinking that I myself embraced for most of my life.
To mark the first anniversary of my blog, I will in the coming week be reposting (along with updated commentary) certain posts from this past year that are particularly meaningful to me and which have caused me to reflect anew as I mark this milepost in my journey. Meanwhile, I stumbled across the following video this past week which I thought appropriate to mark Invictus Pilgrim’s first birthday (move over Victor Borge).
Before getting to that, however, I want to thank all those who have been such a support to me during this past year, whether as personal friends, cyber-friends or merely those who have commented on my blog. Thank you. Thank you. Without your support, I wouldn’t be where I am today. And in particular, I'd like to thank MoHoHawaii, who has been there since the very first post, providing support and encouragement, counsel, wisdom and insight. Thanks.