Yesterday I had lunch with someone I consider a dear friend and one of the very best Mormons I know. He is kind, caring, compassionate, and tolerant. He is faithful, but not dogmatic. As we have talked about difficult issues over the years, I have always felt that he has carefully examined all sides. He seeks understanding for its own sake. He acknowledges that sometimes there are gaps in our understanding or that teaching and reality don't always seem to line up as nicely as we would like.
So it was no surprise to me when he told me yesterday that though he is sad to see me leave the Church and thinks that it is in a very real way the wrong thing for me to do, he also understands as well as he thinks a faithful straight Mormon guy can why I have made the decision to no longer associate with the Church. He then told me that what has been really hard about my coming out is not that I'm gay (which he seems genuinely okay with), or even that KK and I are spliltting up (though he seems less okay with that), but that I have decided to leave the Church.
This puzzles me.
I have heard this from others in comments here on the blog. I have heard it in e-mails from friends and family ("I hope that in time you will return to the fullness of the gospel.") . I have heard it in phone calls ("I know that you have a testimony that the Church is true and I hope you'll return to it one day."). Anonymous Jerk and others have been pointed in telling me that I have broken my covenants and that the path I am on now leads only to unhappiness. "I hope you find what you are looking for, " I hear. "But you won't," seems to be the unspoken conclusion from many.
On one level, I understand this. These are expressions of faith and testimony offered in love and conviction. These comments come from people that I know genuinely believe that the best--and often only--path to true happiness is found within the teachings of the LDS Church, which includes marriage and commitment to covenants.
But mostly I'm puzzled.
To those who think the choices I am making now are wrong and lead nowhere but unhappiness, I ask this, in all sincerity: What should I do?
Each time I ask this question, I get no answer. I'm told what I shouldn't do, but no one seems willing or able to tell me what I should do.
First, marriage. I don't know how KK and I could stay married. We had reached a very unhappy place in our marriage before I came out. And while coming out opened up new (and old) lines of communication between us that restored much of our relationship, I came to realize that I could never feel as though I was free of the self loathing I felt for so long unless I was able to live a gay life (life--not lifestyle). What could we go back to?
I know other mixed orientation couples that are trying to make it work. Those I know most intimately have had tremendous challenges and I think the jury is still very much out on whether or not they can--or even should--continue to try to make it work. I'm acquainted with other gay married Mormon men here in the gay bloggernacle, some of whom seem to be having greater success. Yet even there, there seems to be so much angst.
The research KK and I have done into mixed orientation marriages suggests that most of those that last do so because a) their is openness in the marriage and b) the gay spouse at some point is permitted to pursue same-sex relationships on the side. Are there exceptions here? Absolutely. Is this the life I want? Absolutely not. Is it the life KK wants? Absolutely not.
Next, faith and testimony. I simply don't know how to stay in the Church. The underlying assumption in LDS thinking about homosexuality is that it is aberrant and wrong and must never be acted on. Could I live life as a celibate gay LDS man? No, I don't think I could. And it's not because of the sex. It's because it would require me to think of myself as somehow defective (even if it's not my fault). I feel as though I could only stay Mormon if were willing to accept that my homosexuality is a pathology, akin to alcoholism, compulsive gambling or some other affliction that draws one into sinful behavior. Plus, my faith shattered last year. And as I have put it back together, it is something new, something more symbolic and metaphoric and less literal. Something not quite Mormon anymore.
I've been accused of constructing a new belief system to justify my new identity and (again, largely unspoken, but implied) my sinful behavior. Why then do I feel a sense of integrity I've never had before? Why do I feel fundamentally honest in a way that I never have before? Why do I feel God's love in a way that I never have before? How can what I feel now fit with what the Church teaches and expects of me?
Someone take up the challenge here, because I really want to know. If you think what I am doing is wrong and will lead only to sadness, offer me something better. Share a possibility I haven't considered. Tell me how you think I can be happy (and gay--because that's not going to change).
Let's bring this back to choice. I have choices. Being gay isn't one of them, but what I do with it certainly is. I am making what I believe to be the best choices I can for myself and my family. Are there better choices here?
I await your responses.