Part 2—Where the gays are suddenly everywhere. . .
Over the course of the next few posts, I’m going to be writing my generic ‘coming out’ story. But first, I just wanted to clarify why. To be entirely honest, I don’t love the idea of writing something like this. But as I’ve thought about the other posts I would prefer to write, understanding the coming out part is often essential.
Additionally, I think there’s some value in having as many of these stories as possible available online. There are already a lot of them, but the more that exist, the easier it becomes—particularly for young LGBT individuals from faith communities—to recognize that there are an infinite number of different roads our stories might take.
So I admitted to myself that I was gay. What the hell was supposed to happen next?
First of all, I suddenly found myself drowning in homosexuality wherever I looked.
To be fair, part of that was not unusual. I read Mormon blogs voraciously—and on the liberal ones, homosexuality, gay rights, marriage equality, etc. are all pretty constant fodder. Especially in the days after a General Conference weekend, when every talk is analyzed and debated. On top of that, this was all happening just as the Internet was debating Indiana’s religious freedom bill. In short, homosexuality was a hot topic on the websites I would normally be visiting anyway.
But it quickly went beyond that. While watching TV, an ad featuring Jason Wu talking about daring to be different popped up. Go watch it. It’s a pretty standard, boring car commercial. But it had me freaking out. While sitting in class, my professor somehow managed to analogize net neutrality to the sexual orientation spectrum. I don’t know how. It was a stretch. But I just sat there thinking what is happening?!? While riding on a bus, I overhear a couple of gay guys discussing dates they’ve been on recently. I just felt like I was surrounded.
The pinnacle of these experiences—because obviously it would work out this way—happened while I was inside the temple. I had begun my nervous breakdown on Sunday. I waited all the way until Tuesday to go to the temple.
I walk in, get changed, enter the first room (which was almost completely empty) and sit down next to the most flamboyant man I have ever seen inside a temple. His hair is brown and red and blond and just a bit pink, half shaved, the other half pulled into a ma bun. Let’s be honest, I am at this point 100% in the temple hoping to just escape for a little bit, but this man immediately engages me in conversation. In his late thirties or forties, friendly, engaging, a bit effeminate.
Once the temple film started and we stopped chatting, I began immediately obsessing about him. I tried—really, really hard—to understand if that guy’s presence there was some kind of message; that I should spend my life celibate, like I can only assume he was?
But what primarily ran through my head instead, was “I don’t want your life.” I couldn’t do it; I couldn’t be forty years old, alone, and clearly, obviously gay, coming to the temple on a Tuesday night.
I sat in the celestial room praying, for a long time. There were, in fairness, other things on my mind as well, but the question of what route I should be taking—and whether the strange man in the temple was supposed to mean anything—consumed most of my time.
At one point, I did have a very odd thought flash through my mind in a way that certainly resembled earlier answers to prayers I had received. I believe in God, and I believe in prayer, and I believe I have received answers to prayers before. For just a moment, I felt something that evoked the same emotional sensation of earlier answers. I knew it was incorrect, and spent the rest of the way home trying to tell myself not to get my hopes up. But I had the sudden thought that I should go read my patriarchal blessing again, because perhaps in discussing marriage, it never specifies that I would marry a woman.
Like I said, that’s not at all true. Even if I had not read it in awhile, sitting there in the temple, I could remember the specific points where it references marriage—in one spot, I am instructed to pray carefully about marriage, because the decision affects not just me but future generations; in another spot, it says if I am faithful, my spouse and I will enter heaven together. But sitting in the temple, the thought quite out of the blue occurred to me that “Maybe the phrasing is totally gender neutral. Maybe it references ‘woman who will be the mother of your children’ in a way that could just mean, essentially, a surrogate. Maybe it uses words like ‘spouse’ and ‘partner,’ without referring to their sex.”
It was such an unusual thought that it certainly felt like an answer to a prayer. Still, I felt I would have noticed something like that, so I tried to carefully check my enthusiasm. When I got home and looked, sure enough, the blessing was as hetero as ever: The first reference instructs me to prayerfully choose “a young lady to be your wife and the mother of your children.” (Though the latter reference is, by contrast, technically gender neutral, promising that I’ll be heading to heaven with my “eternal companion”.)
I don’t know what to make of the whole experience. It’s certainly the only thing resembling an ‘answer’ that I felt I got, at least the first time I returned to the temple. Still the answer was clearly inaccurate—despite what I suddenly felt, my blessing refers very clearly to ‘young lady’ and ‘wife.’
One thing I am grateful for regarding the entire experience is that I had plenty of time and space to figure things out. In those first few days, I felt like my world was crashing around me. But I had a sibling getting married in the temple several months later. I knew, no matter what, that I would do nothing that would cost me my temple recommend until after attending that wedding. That knowledge allowed me to pump the brakes on my mental breakdown and ensured I wouldn’t do anything rash. It gave me time to calm down.
On the other hand, once I had calmed down, I was somewhat overwhelmed by a sense of stagnation. I knew in my bones that coming out to the people around me and dating men was a step I had to take—but I also felt I had a six month moratorium on taking those steps. That was hard.
Amidst the stress of planning a wedding, I resolved not to come out to my family until after it was over. In the meantime, I planned small, concrete steps I could take to help myself feel as though I was moving forward, beginning by figuring out who—if not yet my family—I could talk to.