Saturday, May 27, 2006
The answer is that it has, in fact, been a long time coming.
Faith and doubt co-existed in my mind for many years. When I came home from my mission, I went into a brief period of inactivity. It didn't last long, but I was able to come out of it in part because I discovered the world of Sunstone and Dialogue and connected to other Mormons who were willing to acknowledge their doubts and difficulties, but who were also able to stay commited and faithful to the Church. That's what I wanted, and that's what I was ultimately able to do.
The absence of big conversion moment didn't really bother me. I knew other people who also had never had that big moment. And I had had smaller moments that seemed to confirm for me the path that I was on. I felt God speak to me when my relationship with K turned romantic. I felt the Lord work through me when I was young men's president in Chicago. And K and I both felt drawn to Brooklyn after graduate school, and we quickly became deeply involved in church service when we moved there.
Indeed, one year after we arrived, I was called as bishop. And I know as much as I know anything that my call to serve as bishop came from God. I knew it was going to happen five weeks before I was asked to meet with the stake president. The Lord told me it was going to happen. He told me to prepare.
I needed that calling. It was an affirmation to me that I was loved of God. When the call came I was certain that my homosexuality was no longer an issue. There was nothing that I needed to repent of, and K and I had started our family and felt content with life. I was still aware of my attraction to men at that point--I certainly noticed attractive men wherever I went--but it seemed managable and being gay just didn't fit with the life I was building for myself.
I cherished my experience as bishop. I felt like I was able to help a lot of people, and that, in turn, helped me to stay focused on the things that seemed to matter most. I was able to set aside my "issues," which ranged from my struggles with my sexuality to various questions in Mormon history to doubts about the historicity of the Book of Mormon. None of that seemed to matter when I was actively engaged in service, and I was inspired by the study that being a good bishop demanded.
And still, I wasn't well. I blamed other things for my struggles--issues from my childhood and with my parents, job troubles, even sleep deprivation (by 2002, I had two small children). But really, I felt like I was living a lie each day--that by simply not acknowledging my struggles with identity and sexuality, I was living a life that was utterly lacking in integrity. It wore on me.
As the day of my release as bishop came last year, I was filled with dread. I didn't know how I would be able to go on with the life I had built for myself. I felt my faith slipping and the doubts taking over. And the biggest doubt was the defining one--homosexuality. I just didn't believe what the Church was teaching about what it was and how to deal with it. And I didn't believe it because it didn't match with the reality of my own experience. It didn't match with my own intimate, personal truth. As I spiraled downward, the faith that I knew began to unravel very quickly. Once I accepted a truth about who I was that conflicted with what the Chruch taught, I began to question just about everything else that had troubled me over the years.
Coming out to K was a profoundly spiritual experience. We connected in a way that I can only describe as divine. The Lord allowed us to understand each other in a way that was truly miraculous. And I began to feel the presence of God in my life in a way that I hadn't before. I began to feel affirmed and loved as I was and not as I had tried and failed to make myself be.
A defining moment came for me when I went with K to a church service at a Protestant church here in our hometown in December. During the course of worship I was moved to tears several times. I can't even remember now what the pastor said that brought me to tears, but I remember very distinctly the sense of unconditional love I felt from God as I sat through the service. For the first time in my life I sat through a church worship service and didn't berate myself for my failings, particularly the "failing" of my sexuality. I felt the Spirit of God wash over me in a way that it rarely had in my life and I felt the Spirit whisper to me, simply, "I love you as you are."
That was a turning point for me. It essentially solidified my decision to leave the LDS Church, because I knew that I would never get to a place of acceptance about my sexuality and identity if I returned. In that moment, I felt that my life was a gift from God, not a cross to bear.
Bishop J took me to task for abandoning my testimony. I understand why he sees it that way, and why so many who have known me over the years have seen it that way. But that's not what happened. My faith changed. As I got to know myself better and accept the reality of my sexual orientation, I heard God speak to me in a new and different way.
To my Mormon friends: I honor and respect your faith. Many of you have written to me and told me that I helped stengthen your faith and testimony. That makes me happy. That was what I genuinely trying to do when I was a bishop and a believing Mormon. I'm sorry if the path I have chosen now has upset some that knew me before. I really, truly am. But K and I have tried to stay close to God through all of this, and we believe that he has guided us through this difficult year and continues to guide us now.
Friday, May 26, 2006
When K suggested that I include a link to my blog with the coming out/getting divorced e-mail we sent to family and friends earlier in the week, I thought it seemed like a good idea. It would allow us to share with these loved ones some of what we have been through over the past several months. I have also expressed to K and many of my friends that I don't want to cut myself off from my Mormon past, but I'd rather stay engaged and see how sharing my experiences as a gay Mormon could further understanding of gay issues in the Church. The blog seemed a good way to do that.
Instead, it seems that people are hurt. I apologize for any hurt I have caused. That has not been my intention.
And it turns out K and I are feeling hurt, too. I've been vilified as spiritually depraved, of weak character, and selfish. I've been mocked for sharing my coming out experiences. I've been accused of justifying my immoral choices and hedonistic "lifestyle" (which is interesting, since I still live with my children and K).
I have also been defended and honored.
It's been a little overwhelming, so I'm introducing some new ground rules for discussion.
Moderation has been turned on. I will not moderate for viewpoint. If you want to criticize as Bishop J did, that's fine. I'll pass it through moderation and we'll get it posted. Anonymous comments, however, will not be posted. Abusive and hateful comments will not be posted. If you know me and you want to make a comment but don't wish to do so publicly, you can e-mail me.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
I use the term "recovering" because that is very much what I am doing. My own Mormon experience, while deeply fulfilling and enrichening at so many points and in so many settings, was also a source of pain for me. Deeply personal pain. I became Mormon in part because I thought it would help me not be gay. I thought it would be a path to overcome my homosexuality and to have the kind of life I longed for as a child and adolescent.
One of my most haunting memories of being young and gay occured just hours after I was baptized. I was with a male friend and I found myself feeling very attracted to him. Just a few hours after my sins had been washed clean! I was so upset. And I sat down and picked up my copy of The Miracle of Forgiveness, given to me by a sister missionary at my baptism. President Kimball condemns homosexuality in the very strongest terms in that book, compares it to bestiality and calls it unnatural and a sin next to murder. I don't know how else to describe how that hit me except to say that I was devastated.
But I was able to move on and do the best I could to be a good Mormon. I loved the Chruch, I loved to serve, and I loved the people I knew there. And when K and I started to develop a romantic relationship, I was so relieved. It seemed I wasn't gay after all! But my attraction didn't go away. It simply coexisted with my love for and life with K.
Throughout my life I would dive into the literature of homosexuality when I had the chance and read whatever I could about clinical treatment or how to manage it or overcome it. I spent hours on the websites of Evergreen International and NARTH. I prayed that God would change me. He didn't. So I prayed God would give me the stength to endure. For awhile I did. But about two years ago, my prayers changed. I prayed God would just take me. Better dead than gay. Better dead than to devastate my wife and children. Better dead than to betray the Church I loved, that told me I should either change or endure when I couldn't seem to do either. By this time last year I couldn't imagine myself old. I was sure I'd be dead long before I was elderly.
So I am recovering. I am recovering from the hurt I felt as a deeply closeted gay man trying my best to live the life I was told would bring me the greatest and eternal happiness. Some of that hurt is self inflicted. Some of it is not.
Homosexuality and Mormonism do not coexist easily. For those who knew me as an active Mormon and church leader (I served as a bishop for five years, until spring of last year), this has been especially difficult news to swallow, particularly since it is coupled with my decision to leave the Church and to make public my doubts and evolved beliefs. Some people have been hurt. I accept that. Indeed, I'm sorry for it.
I received an e-mail from a friend who, I think, speaks for many and have decided to post it here for that reason. He served as bishop of another ward at the same time I did, and we were good friends.
K has reacted to his letter and to a comment from an anonymous poster. In time, I'll respond as well. But not today. Not yet.
(Posted with the author's permission.)
Last night, I read your e-mail about coming out. It was forwarded to me by someone, and is certainly making the rounds (which will not surprise you). I’m sure by now you’re used to the reaction that many of us who knew you as Bishop have had. At first, of course, I was shocked. Then, deeply saddened. I am so very sorry to hear about the end of your marriage. It’s particularly sad to hear about the inner pain and anguish that you have been experiencing all these years, as you’ve secretly battled these tendencies and desires. I am convinced that no one who does not struggle as you have can fully understand the scope and magnitude of the inner-war that’s been raging inside you all this time.
I so enjoyed the friendship that you and I shared as we served together as bishop. I always felt that you and I had a special relationship, not just because we were called at the same time and then were released within a few months of each other, but also because our personalities and humor seemed to blend so well. I truly treasure the memory of our association during that time.
After reading your letter, I followed the link you included to your blog, and I proceeded to read just about everything you had written there about your experience of coming out as a gay man. I didn’t know that you struggled so much with your faith, and had so many doubts about the truthfulness of the restored gospel. In your blog, you talk about never having had a “big conversion experience, a moment when I felt God speaking to me and confirming the truth of all things, as Moroni promises”.
I felt sad when I read that. I know that there are probably many members of the church who can relate to that statement, many whom, like you, may not have had a significant “conversion experience”.
I don’t know what makes the difference in someone’s life, why one person can have a profound witness and another feel uncertain. When I joined the church 12 years ago, I had a profound witness by the power of the Holy Ghost that the church was true. It was a feeling that I had never experienced before, and I could never deny it. Since then, I have had several similar confirming witnesses of the truthfulness of the restored gospel, including a sacred witness that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.
I’m not for a moment suggesting this makes me in any way better or more worthy than anyone else, and of course these experiences are not a daily occurrence. But they have happened often enough to create a spiritual reservoir that has sustained me through times of trial and difficulty. If, as you say, you really were not in possession of such a testimony, I can certainly understand how painful and difficult your life must have been these past years.
Now you and I have been good friends. I would like to continue our friendship. But in order for our friendship to continue I have to say some things to you. Just as you felt the need so deeply to express yourself, and felt a tremendous sense of relief about doing so, I too must take this opportunity to get some things out. If I can’t speak my peace now, we’ll never be able to be friends again, because I’ll always have these feelings buried inside me.
So here goes...
I was very disturbed by some of your statements about the church, and about how your faith has changed. It will come as no surprise to you that I and many others are deeply troubled by such a public renouncement of your testimony in the church.
Some of the things you write on your blog are, frankly, heartbreaking and disappointing. Your coming out e-mail (with the link to your blog that you included) is being forwarded to many members of the church in the stake. I’m sure you knew this would happen. I wonder, did you consider that some of the content of the blog might be emotionally devastating to people you once served as bishop? (You label yourself a “recovering” Mormon, which suggests that our religion is a disease of some kind, or an addiction, like alcoholism.)
In your blog, you talk a lot about your new religious beliefs. You say “I do not believe that there is one true church--churches are creations of men.”
It seems to me that this is very convenient. If, as you say, all church’s are “the creation of men”, then all of us can simply invent our own religion, each of us recreating God in our own image, to suit our needs. And of course, that’s exactly what you’ve done: “I'm content to think of my beliefs as my own rather than a part of any system or formal theology. My faith is part Mormon, part liberal Protestant, probably even a little Catholic, with a healthy dose of agnosticism tossed into the mix.”
You’re certainly free to invent your own personal theology, one that most accommodates your new “identity”, but what does that have to do with truth? Something doesn’t become true simply because you or I choose to believe it. If I choose to believe that the sun revolves around the earth, does my belief somehow make it “true”? Of course not. Real truth, eternal truth, has nothing to do with what we chose to believe. Truth stands independent. It is the same yesterday, today, and forever. That is what makes it so precious and sought for.
From my point of view, you seem to have constructed an entirely new belief system, almost overnight. This new belief system is not based not on any sense of eternal truth. It’s primary purpose is simply the validation of your new gay identity.
For example: Now that you’ve found your new identity, Heavenly Father has lost His (“I believe in God-whatever he and/or she is”); The Savior has now become a myth (“I don't know if Jesus Christ is/was a real person.”); the prophets and no longer prophets (“deficiency in LDS theology result(s) from a deep societal and cultural bias against homosexuality, particularly among men of the generation that lead the Church.”); the scriptures are no longer to be believed (“I take the scriptures seriously, but not literally. My faith does not rest on the historicity of the Old Testament--which I believe is mostly metaphorical--or the New Testament descriptions of Christ's ministry--which I believe to be historically unreliable--or of the Book of Mormon--the historicity of which I have doubted for many years. As historical documents, they fail.”)
So, to sum up: According to your new belief system, there are now no prophets; there is no Savior; the Old Testament, New Testament, and The Book of Mormon are all not true; and Heavenly Father is no longer God.
Wow. A lot seems to have changed since you have come out. Have you considered the possibility that all things actually remain just as they always were, and that the only thing that has changed is your perspective? Is it possible that your view of things has become distorted as a result of seeing the world through the prism of your new gay identity?
On your blog, you write: “I've rejected my Mormon identity because of the conflict I perceive in keeping it while adopting a gay one”. I’m not sure I know what you mean by “Mormon identity”. From my perspective, Latter-Day Saints, rich or poor, black or white, wherever in the world they may live, are people who are trying to become like Christ. It is His—Christ’s—identity that all of us are trying to “adopt”. Isn’t the conflict you describe between your “Mormon Identity” and your new “gay” one really the conflict between the “Natural man” and Christ? The whole purpose of the gospel is the eternal process of putting off the “Natural man” so that, over time (ages, eternity) we can become like Christ. We are to take upon us His name. We are to receive His image in our countenances. It’s not about us. It’s about Him.
Perhaps the saddest statement I read on your blog was this one: “I am in control of my life, and am in the best position to know what will bring happiness to me and my family.” What a sad statement that is. Of course, it’s not true. None of us are in the “best position” to know what will bring us happiness. Heavenly Father, who knows the end from the beginning, who knows us so much better than we know ourselves, knows far better than we do what ultimately brings eternal joy and happiness.
As I was reading your letter and your blog, I just couldn’t stop thinking of something Elder Maxwell said a few years ago, and today I went and found the quote:
“Only by aligning our wills with God’s is full happiness to be found. Anything less results in a lesser portion. I am going to preach a hard doctrine to you now. The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. It is a hard doctrine, but it is true. The many other things we give to God, however nice that may be of us, are actually things He has already given us, and He has loaned them to us. But when we begin to submit ourselves by letting our wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him. And that hard doctrine lies at the center of discipleship.”
To me the overarching message of your blog is simply this: MY will be done.
I guess what it comes down to is pretty simple. The church is either true or it is not. Either Joseph Smith saw what he said he saw, or he did not. Either the Book of Mormon is a true account of a real civilization and it’s dealings with The Savior, or someone made it up. Either God and Christ were in that grove on that day or they were not. If not, then you are right and I and all I have said is wrong, and it really doesn’t matter what any of us believe. Like you, we can all just invent our own personal theology and give God whatever character and attributes we want he or she to have, and live our lives according to our own will and personal code of what we think is right and wrong—a code each of us reserves the right to continually update and modify, based on whatever circumstances we find ourselves in or in response to whatever challenges we may face.
I do not think that is true. The “hard doctrine at the center of discipleship” that Elder Maxwell referred to is that there is an Eternal Being, and He is our Heavenly Father, and as we surrender our will and allow our will to be swallowed up in His, we become like Him. We become who we were always meant to be. We become who we really are. I believe that’s the only “identity” that any of us should be interested in “adopting”.
You may think that my attitude towards your struggle with same-sex attraction is callous and insensitive. I apologize if that’s how this is coming across.
I have known many individuals in the church who struggle with same sex attraction. It is a very, very heavy cross to bear. Crosses come in all shapes and sizes. A wayward child, addiction, illness, death, depression, abuse, and on and on. I believe that each of us bears a cross. (As I’m sure you would agree, one unique perspective a bishop gains from the calling is the understanding that even those church members who seem the “strongest” on the outside often bear the heaviest crosses, sometimes silently and in secret.)
And, of course, there are certain crosses, like yours, that are simply too heavy to bear. Why would a loving Heavenly Father place upon us a cross too heavy to carry? I believe that is the very purpose of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Relying on our own strength, we stumble and fall. But if we can learn to turn to him on a daily basis, drawing strength from the Atonement, relying upon not our own will or “willpower”, but placing our will on the altar each and every day, then, I believe, his “strength is sufficient” for us. Our hearts can change. Our very nature can change. Eventually, as our wills are swallowed up in His, our weaknesses can become our strengths. That is how we become “perfected in Christ.”
Unfortunately, the Savior does not seem to have much of a role to play in your new identity. You say that you no longer believe that Jesus Christ was real. You talk about believing in “the idea” of Jesus, and not being concerned with whether or not he actually existed. Maybe that’s because you don’t need him to be real anymore. Or maybe it’s because you just don’t want him to be.
There. I’ve said what I needed to say. I don’t believe that anything I’ve written will cause you to change your course, but I needed to express it just the same.
I sincerely wish you all the best.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Generally speaking, my Mormon friends have expressed sadness upon hearing the news of the end of my marriage and my coming out as gay. Generally speaking, my non-Mormon friends have expressed happiness for me for coming out as gay, while also acknowledging the pain associated with the loss of my marriage for both K and me. There have been exceptions to this trend, but this is where it generally breaks out.
I have been surprised to hear expressions of unconditional love and support and acceptance from people I didn't necessarily expect it from. I have been surprised by silence from others that I expected would be among the first to reach out upon hearing the news. (EDIT on May 25: This sounds harsher than I intended it. People have lives.)
All in all, this has been a very good week for me. As I have indicated before, I feel liberated.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
The sense of liberation is so empowering.
This morning I was riding a ferry boat across the Hudson River from New Jersey to my office in Manhattan, and as I did I had this overwhelming feeling of God's love. As powerfully as I have ever felt it, the Spirit whispered to me that I am on the right track and that I am doing the right thing in my life. I felt certain that coming out and starting over is the best thing not only for me, but for K and for our girls. I have been touched by the many messages of love and support I have received over the past few days, but nothing was quite as touching, affirming and validating as a note from a graduate school friend of mine, who wrote in part:
I hope you won't think me presumptuous, but as a relatively new father I couldn't help thinking about your kids last night. And it struck me that you and K, in a very basic way, have essentially saved their lives. Not their physical lives, obviously, but their emotional, mental and even spiritual lives. I've come to think more and more that secrets and an inability to face the truth (even truths far less important than one's sexuality) in relationships and families is like a toxin that if allowed to remain destroys everyone connected to it. I think you've done a wonderful job of flushing the toxin out - as a long run proposition I can't think of a greater gift to children than to provide them with an environment that is so safe and true. I'm humbled when I think of your accomplishment.I'm humbled by his love and support and his recognition that accepting myself and coming out as a gay man is a gift not only to myself, but to K and my daughters as well.
Monday, May 22, 2006
Tonight my gay best friend sent an e-mail in which he came out to his oldest and dearest friends, and to his parents. In this moment, he has been the bravest individual I've had the privilege of knowing. You are part of his support and I am grateful to all of you for being there. I believe that this blog will not remain anonymous for long, and I also strongly believe that he will be a huge strength to others in the future. I love you, H.
I love you, too, K.
She was at my side last night as I hit the SEND button and took the process of coming out to another level. I was so grateful for her support and love and encouragement.
All of my posts this week will be about coming out.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
One week after I came out to K, I had an experience that truly jumpstarted the process of liberation from the closet for me. I wrote about it a day later and just came across it again. I decided that it was worthy of posting on the blog.
September 26, 2005
Yesterday morning, I got up with my family and made all three of my girls breakfast. Bacon, eggs and waffles. K had decided to take the girlies to church. It's important for her to work out her feelings toward the church, and she doesn't think that just walking away from it is necessarily the right approach for her at this point. She wants to know if she can still feel anything there. She's done with the dogma, but she needs to know if there is anything still there for her. I understand that. I am grateful, however, that she has no problem leaving me behind at home.
In fact, we've decided that 10:00 to 1:00 on Sundays will be devoted exclusively to spiritual renewal for our family. Sometimes we'll be together for that. Sometimes we won't. But during those three hours on Sunday, we'll work on communing with God, whatever he/she is. For my spriritual renewal yesterday, I destroyed a closet.
We are about to finish our attic. But before we can do that, we have to remove an ugly old closet that was built many years ago just off of the one finished room up there.
I sent the girls off to church then went across the street to borrow a sledgehammer and crow bar from our neighbors. I went upstairs and browsed my iTunes library for some appropriate demolition music. I couldn't find any, so I browsed the Apple Music Store and bought four Def Leppard songs: Tear It Down, Demolition Man, Make Love Like a Man and Rock Rock Til you Drop.
I cleared the area around that closet. I took off my shirt. I put on some safety glasses. I turned the music on and played it LOUD. These are the words that I was listening to:
Tear it down
There's got to be a better way
Tear it down
I can't wait another day
Tear it down
With Def Leppard screaming in the background, I took the sledgehammer and beat the living shit out of that closet. I cursed at it. I yelled at it. I told it that I hated it for what it had done to me, and to K, and to my kids, and to gay men like me everywhere. I cursed that damn closet like I've never cursed anything in my life.
This is what it looked like when I was finished.
And the funny thing about this closet... it had a fairly strong wooden frame, but it was mostly just particle board held together by a few nails. It looked stronger than that to me when I started. But it came down easily and quickly. I thought the job of demolishing the closet would be much more daunting.
I cleaned up the debris after I took the closet down. I put the wood in one pile, the particle board in another, and the hardware in another. Then I took the crowbar and got rid of the last vestiges. I did not want there to be any signs of this closet once I was finished. I swept up when I was finished. And the attic seemed clean and bright.
I sat down and rested for a minute, then changed the music on the iPod. I put on the song that has become our hymn over the past few days, The Sun Song by Michael Tolcher. I walked to the space where the closet had stood. I turned the music up loud. And I danced on that spot. I danced and twirled and sang as loud as I could. I cried. Tears streamed down my face as I celebrated that open space and listened to these words:
One more beginning for as long as it lasts
A new day for the living all forgiving of the past
A heavy foot steps to the dark unknown
This is a mystery
No security of home
Here comes the sun
Over my head
Show me a path and I'll be led
I'm not afraid
I have my wings to fly away
When K came home I took her upstairs and showed her that open space where the closet once was. I showed her the pictures I took of the closet and its destruction. I gave her a hug and cried on her shoulder for a minute and told her what a nice time I had at church that morning.
Sunday, May 14, 2006
Today is Mother’s Day. It’s a special Mother’s Day because it’s the first one for our family since I came out as a gay man and since mommy and I decided that we are going to get divorced. That makes it a somewhat bittersweet day for us—happiness and some sadness all at once.
Let me explain the sadness that I feel. I sometimes feel sad that I’ve decided that I don’t want to be married to mommy anymore. She’s a remarkable woman, and she has brought a lot of happiness into my life and into the lives of the many people who love her. She’s been very supportive of me and I still feel like she’s my best friend ever. But over the last year I realized that I wasn’t as happy as I need to be because I couldn’t feel like I could be myself when married to mommy. That’s not her fault. She’s beautiful and fun to be with. But God made me in such a way that I love men and I want to spend my life and commit myself to another man, not a woman. I’m happy that I’ve made peace with that. I’m happy that I can admit that to myself and to mommy and to the two of you and the other people in my life. But I still feel some sadness about the pain that has caused our family. I feel a sense of loss.
But this letter isn’t about me or about sadness. It’s about your mommy.
You girlies are lucky that God and nature conspired to make you her daughters. As you grow up and become big girls, then young women, and then adults, you will understand why I say that. You will be inspired by her strength and compassion. As you get older you will better understand how difficult this past year has been for her and you will learn that strength can blossom and grow in the face of adversity. You will learn that you can be graceful and kind under intense pressure. You will learn that you can always start over in your life, even when your whole world seems to be turned upside down and you’re not really sure where you fit in. You will learn how important it is to forgive. You will look at her and you will see an example of a strong, independent woman who has always allowed her love for the people around her to trump feelings of anger or resentment or bitterness. You will see a woman with a great sense of humor and a love for life.
Your mommy isn’t perfect. She makes mistakes. You’ll see that as you grow up, too. You see it sometimes now. And sometimes your mommy’s mistakes will make you angry. She can have a fiery temper sometimes. Sometimes she yells too much and her patience runs thin. But she is always trying to make herself a better person, and she’s willing to accept her imperfections and her humanity. You’ll learn from that as you grow up as well.
I think the most important thing you need to know about your mommy is that she finds the greatest joy in seeing the people in her life succeed and be happy. I’ve seen it with you girls. The times when I have seen her happiest as your mom have been when you have been happy being yourself, dancing and playing or imagining, or when you have achieved something. I’ve seen the same thing with her sisters, with her mother, with her friends, and with me. Mommy feels really joy and contentment when she sees the people she loves doing well and being happy. She wants to help all of us be the best we can be.
You will have many examples and role models in your life. You should have many because you can learn something new and different and helpful from so many different people. But I really hope that your mother will be one of your greatest and most influential role models. I just want you to know on this Mother’s Day that I honor and respect and love your mother. She’s a special woman and a special friend. Even though our family is changing now, we will always be a family. She will always be my family.
I love you girls. I hope you will grow up to be independent and strong and happy with yourselves, but I hope you’ll be a lot like your mommy, too.
All my love,
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Ever since I came out to my wife, K, and began in earnest the process of accepting myself as a gay man, we have struggled to find our way. Most people who know us think we've done a good job, both individually and as a couple, but it has been extraordinarily difficult at times. The challenge has been that it often appears that there are only two ways forward, neither of which feel right to us--to me. Whispering in one ear is the collective voice of my gay friends, telling me that I need to move out (I still live at home, in a separate part of the house) and move on as quickly as possible. It's too painful, they say, for K and I and to continue to be present in each other's lives when we need to find ourselves and when I need to begin enjoying freedom as a gay man. In the other ear is the voice of my Mormon friends and family, telling me that I need to stay in my marriage and honor my marital commitment and my temple covenants, whatever difficulties may come. I made my choice, they say, when I kneeled across from K at the altar in the Salt Lake Temple nearly eleven years ago.
I'm exaggerating for some effect here. Most of my family and friends, gay and straight, are quick to say that they can't and don't want to tell us what to do or how to move forward. But those are the two options that most people see for us. But neither has felt right to me or to K. So we've been on a quest to find a "third way" that honors the sacrifices we have made for each other, the love we continue to feel for each other and the responsibility we feel toward our children. We want to give each other the freedom to move on, but we also want to preserve that which need not be set aside. It has been both a individual and a joint quest.
I think at times we have both wondered if we are simply fooling ourselves or living in denial. We are ending our marriage and we need to start over. Maybe a clean break is what we need. Maybe we need to rip off the band aid. We've pondered this together and individually. Our lives are increasingly independent anyway.
But here's the thing. I really like K. She and I were friends before we were ever spouses and as I have gotten to know her again over the past eight months, I've rediscovered why. She's kind. She's caring. She's funny. She's smart. She's honest. She is supportive and understanding and loving not just to me but to all the people in her life. In other words, she's just the kind of straight girlfriend any gay man would die to have. How can we cut each other off without doing lasting damage to our *fabulous* friendship and the sense of family we have worked so hard to first create and now recreate?
We have to find a third way.
K and I were in Ireland together over the weekend. We planned the trip months ago but as it drew closer we weren't always sure we'd make it or that we'd actually want to go together. But as the day of departure approached, we decided we wanted to do it. Remember--we like each other a lot.
Over this past weekend in Dublin, K told me that she felt differently about me. When she looks at me, she no longer sees her husband, but her best friend who also happens to be gay and the father of her children. She sees me emerging as the happy and openly gay man that she knows I want to be. She also confronted me with my continuing inability to be open and comfortable about my identity all the time. She told me that if we genuinely want to continue the friendship then I have to be myself all the time with her and stop worrying about hurting her. I have to truly and honestly be me. She told me, in essense, that it's time to stop acting like her husband when I clearly wasn't anymore--and when I didn't want to be anymore.
Sunday we left Dublin for the day and went to the little village of Enniskerry in County Wicklow. It was a beautiful day and we wandered around and had a nice picnic lunch. Toward the end of the day we spent an hour or so in a cemetary connected to the village church. We walked around and took pictures and looked at gravestones and considered all the lives that were represented and remembered there. And we felt a connection to each other, a deep bond of friendship. K looked at me and affirmed me and told me that she wants me to be happy as a gay man. She told me that she wants me to find happiness with another man. She's done this before, but this time I let myself really feel what she was saying. Or, more accurately, I let myself feel the truth of her words. I let myself accept it without feeling a gay husband's guilt. I let myself acknowledge to her that that is what I want too.
And I told her how much I wanted her to be happy and to find someone who would love her. I told her how much I wanted to be supportive of her as she moves into a new phase of her life, and I told her how much I wanted to be a part of that, not as her husband, but as her friend and as her partner in taking care of two precious little girls.
I felt God's love wash over us. I felt the Spirit whispering to me that the course we are on is the right course for us. I felt God's witness that I should rejoice in this second chance that he has given us to live our lives more honestly. I wept as I spent time with K and as I pondered the memory of the lives and the sense of family that surrounded us in that graveyard. I saw carved in stone at the bottom of a gravemarker these simple words: "God is love."
And that's what I learned in Enniskerry, Ireland. That love--God's love--really is the third way we have been searching for and that our love for each other as deep and true friends is what will sustain us as we move into our new lives.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Monday, May 08, 2006
Monday, May 01, 2006
We are, of course, always in the process of defining ourselves, particularly as we transform and transition through the various phases of life. For a gay person emerging from the closet, this process usually involves redefining oneself, often in dramatic ways. I have spent most of my adult life defining myself as a husband, as a Mormon, and as a straight man. The tranformation to life as a former husband, a former Mormon and a gay man is well underway, but it isn't always a smooth process and I often feel unsure of where I am going.
Late last week, I traveled to San Francisco for a day of meetings for my job. I decided to stay the weekend and spend some time with a gay friend of mine. I've known him since junior high school, but it had been probably fifteen years since we had seen each other. After I started coming out, a mutual friend reconnected us and we've spent some great times catching up over the phone. When my business trip came up, I knew that I wanted to extend it into the weekend so my friend and I could hang out, have fun, and gay it up on the town.
And that is precisely what we did. I spent Thursday night, Friday night and all of the day and evening on Saturday with him, primarily in the Castro, San Francisco's famous gay quarter. It was an extraordinary experience for me. For the first time in my life I felt completely free and unburdened by my sexuality and my emerging gay identity. I walked the Castro as gay men and women in all shapes, colors and sizes walked it with me. I went to coffee shops, clothing stores, restaurants and bars and nary a straight person was to be seen. My friend introduced me to some of his friends and we talked and laughed and enjoyed each other's company until late into the night and when the time came to say goodbye all gave each other kisses and went our separate ways.
On Saturday after dinner my friend and I walked over to a pub to meet up with some other friends. Along the way my friend put his arm around me and I wrapped mine around his waist and we just walked down the street, two gay friends showing their affection for each other. We were utterly unremarkable in this setting and under these circumstances--and I found that to be quite remarkable! I felt so at ease with myself. I felt natural. I felt real and authentic and good. Indeed, if ever I wondered if being gay is just about sex, this weekend proved to me that it is not. I simply felt free to be gay, to think of myself as a man who loves other men, and to be in the company of other men who experience humanity and view the world through the same lens that I do.
Who am I? I still am struggling to figure that out, but after a great weekend in San Francisco with a long lost friend, I can say with more confidence than ever that I am a gay man.