You ever feel uneasy, like somethings not quite right? I’m sure most people have, though I imagine that it comes and goes. Not for me. I have had that feeling for most of my life. It wasn’t until recently that I started to learn why.
First off, I hate uncertainty. I am usually very decisive, opting to dive into something that I like or want, even if it means muddling around until I figure things out. When I’m uncertain I feel lost and anxious. Right now I’m uncertain. And I hate it.
But that’s about to change.
I grew up in a conservative home, in a family of nine. It was fun, crazy, and I felt lost a bit with so many siblings. Still, I had tons of freedom, and my parents were very encouraging of the things that I liked to do. Except when it came to my sexuality.
Don’t get me wrong, they were great parents, loving, hardworking, and I knew that they would do anything for me, if I was in need.
The problem was our faith. While growing up, I was taught that homosexuality is a sin. Actually, an abomination. Pick any other nasty word and you’ve nailed it. Now, the church taught that just having an attraction towards the same sex was a sin, not the acting on it, or living a “gay lifestyle,” being gay was flat out wrong. The solution for those struggling with same sex desire: pray more intently, have faith, and at some point marry someone of the opposite sex. Sounds barbaric to me now. Several leaders even advocated aversion therapy, something that science has since debunked. It just doesn’t work. You can’t take someone who is gay and magically make them straight.
Now, if I was gay, I might have suffered as many others did during this period. But I am Bi, which meant that I was confused. Did I like girls or boys? Both really, but I pretended that I only liked girls. I wouldn’t even admit it to myself.
I knew that I was different from my peers. Until my late teens I didn’t like sports, I loved art, and am a great artist, if I do say so myself, and I was sensitive, crying at the drop of a hat until my dad called me a “baby,” which is when I started hiding my feelings. Then, I was skinny, gaunt really, but very good looking, with long black eyelashes, that ladies gushed over, dark brows, deep blue eyes and golden hair. I looked young, younger than my age, and pretty. I wanted bigger muscles, and to look older, but I had to wait until later.
Anyway, because of my attraction to guys I felt unsettled. I struggled with anxiety, which became crippling for a time. And because I felt that I was not good enough, that there was something wrong with me, I started to rebel. I skipped school, experimented with drugs, and eventually my parents kicked me out.
The drugs and parties helped temporarily. I hung out with people like myself, delinquents who usually had problems at home. But over time the novelty wore off. The people that came to the parties had serious issues. At one point I looked around a room full of addicts, and kids wanting to be cool, and had the thought, “If I were to die right now, nobody here would care.” And they wouldn’t. We were all pretty selfish, and some of the users were hardcore. I had had enough.
So, I begged my parents to let me come home. I wanted to be clean and I was. But my anxiety, which was temporarily masked, flared to life. I became hypersensitive, tense, and jittery. No, it wasn’t withdrawals, as I mainly smoked pot, and drank occasionally, but it was something else. Uncertainty.
School became too much to bare. At one point I went to see a school counselor, and broke down sobbing, exclaiming, “I can’t take this anymore!” She brought in another counselor, and as I was talking, they both shared a look, as if to say, “What do we do?” That’s when I was through. I left school and became a dropout.
Home was safe, but not for long. It was comfortable at first, but then I holed up in my room, opting to come out at night, sleeping during the day. I was agoraphobic. Talking to people was a challenge, even my family.
I knew I needed to die. Death would be a welcome break from my living hell. I believed that I was broken, and that I would never live a normal life. But death didn’t come, not for trying though. I tried to cut my wrists, but it hurt too much (I did say that I was sensitive). Then, I had my neighbor buy me sleeping pills. I downed them all, but threw up. I even attempted going without food or water. A friend visited me during this time and said that I looked dead. “If only,” I thought.
Eventually, the urge to eat and drink was too much and I gave in. I was a failure, broken, I felt unworthy of being loved, and I couldn’t even kill myself.
But that would all change, except for the suicide.
Then, I heard about night school. My friend told me that I could get my diploma quickly if I was motivated. Plus, that’s where the misfits finished school. I signed up right away.
The first day/night was hell. I hadn’t been out of my home for months, and I slinked out, shuffling to the bus stop. Every noise was overwhelming, intense and loud. Plus, it felt like people were looking at me. Somehow, I believed, they knew that I was fake, nervous, ready to snap. At school I felt a little better when I saw my classmates. They were all shades of nonconforming, like me. Still, the lights were bright and it was unnerving when anyone even looked at me.
But something happened when I made it home. I opened the front door, stepped in, and shut it behind me with a great sigh. Then, it hit me. I realized that you don’t have to feel good to function or to get what you want. I forced myself to suffer through the night, and I made it. Prior to that day I had often asked, “Why do I have to deal with _____?” But after that moment my questions changed, I started to ask, “What do I want?”
My world opened up to new possibilities. I was almost 18, so I planned a skydiving trip. On the day of my trip my dad drove me, and mom ran out at the last minute with tears in her eyes, pleading, “Please don’t go skydiving!”
“I have to go, mom.” I replied. And I did.
Next, I thought about Spanish. I loved the language and wanted to speak it fluently, but had a hard time learning it in the states. So, I decided that I had to live in another country. Working two jobs, I scrimped and saved. During that time I asked around and searched for a country to live in. A friend is Peruvian, and, after checking, his family back home said I could stay there. But I learned about a terrorist organization, called the Shinning Path, that killed Americans, so the trip was cancelled. Then, a friend of a friend helped me contact someone in Argentina. We arranged a stay, but the family also cancelled at the last moment. I was devastated. I had the money that I needed, but my trip kept getting pushed back. Still, I knew that I needed to learn Spanish, and was certain that I would, it was only a matter of time. I spoke again with a counselor, the same one from high school. I told her about my dream to move to a Spanish speaking country and she mentioned Costa Rica. After some digging, I knew it was the place. I found a family to host me, and immediately flew South.
Costa Rica was amazing! The people are as warm as the strong sun down there. They welcomed me and I continued to grow, becoming less self conscious. My Spanish quickly grew. After a few months I started dreaming in Spanish, and after seven months I returned home, fluent.
I felt alive! I knew my dreams were within reach. At home, I easily fell in with my brother’s friends. They all attended the church that I had abandoned, and invited me to its different activities. I felt welcomed and became active in my church again.
As was the custom for the young men of our church after high school, many left to serve two year missions. I met with the bishop of our congregation, who is like a pastor. We spoke often, and in private, about what I had been up to. I confessed that I was attracted to guys, and he was sympathetic to me. At one meeting, he told me that I should serve a mission. That was a shock. I had confessed all the juicy details of my shady teenage years, and was surprised that he thought I should still serve. After thinking about it for a few weeks, I came back and agreed.
I have always been a spiritual person. I believe that God answers prayers, and loves everyone, but I still thought that He made an exception with me. How could He love someone like me who was attracted to guys and had made so many mistakes? Accepting the call with faith, since I was uncertain, I jumped in anyway.
The mission was amazing, difficult, demanding, and rewarding! At first, it was hard to get over myself. I was incredibly self conscious, comparing myself to others and their abilities, and always coming up short. But after awhile, I started focusing on others, serving them, finding ways to help them. When I did this a miracle happened. I began to change. I went from a self centered scared boy to a more confident young man. You may have heard the saying, “When you lift others, you lift yourself.” That is so true. I grew so much serving others, in South Florida, and came to love the people that I met. I would have given anything to help them.
When I came home I fell in love with a beautiful red head, we married, and now have four crazy kids. I still have anxiety, but it is manageable with medication, counseling, and exercise.
Alright, I went fast over the last part. Here is what you need to know about that: I believed that I was cured from my “gayness.” I married, I love my wife, I’m dedicated to my family, and I’m incredibly driven. Everything is fine, right?
Not quite. The anxiety is annoying, and I am still attracted to guys. That’s the problem, or so I thought.
Today, we have been married for twenty years. I am 46, but still look younger than my age. Plus, I am vain, which is why I posted the picture that I took of myself the other day.
A few months ago, I admitted to myself, and my wife, that I am attracted to men. She flipped. Then she calmed down. I wouldn’t have expected anything less. Before we were married, I gave here the seedy details of my past, giving her the option to leave if she was inclined. I confessed that I had “experimented” with guys but told her that that was in the past.
Shortly after, we separated. Not because I’m Bi, but because we both suck and good communication. It took marriage counseling to teach us to how to correctly talk again. I don’t know why, but it’s still a struggle. I can talk with my guy friends and say anything and they shrug it off, but if I don’t watch what I say around my wife it’s a battle. It is getting better.
After I came out, I started attending a support group for LGBTs that want to come out, or learn about the process. It’s great to attend and listen to others talk about the same crap that I have gone through. It’s also sad to hear that others have gone, or are going through the same crap that I went through.
Today, and here is the uncertainty, I am not sure where I stand with my faith. My church has changed it’s stance with the LGBT community, saying that if you are celibate, are not in a same-sex relationship you can be a member of the church. They have made it clear that everyone is welcome, whether you are in a gay relationship or not, which I am thrilled about. But I have a problem with some of the doctrine. If you are in a gay relationship you will most likely be excommunicated, and if your child wants to be baptized then he/she may not do so until they turn 18 and disavow the parent’s relationship.
Then, the church has changed it’s stance on gays. They call it same-sex attraction, wanting to differentiate the desire from the lifestyle. Still, I call myself Bi. The change is welcome, from the hard line militant approach that having gay thoughts is an abomination. Previously, the church stated that homosexual thoughts came from deviant behavior, bad parenting, masturbation, etc., but that one is not born with the tendency. Today, they admit that they aren’t quite sure, and that someone could be born with it. Hallelujah!
My wife asked me what I was looking for the other day, during a discussion about the church. I said that I want an apology. Not for me. I don’t feel like a victim in the least. Others have suffered more than I. Gays that were tricked into aversion therapy by ill-informed leaders, or told that marriage would solve their gayness, or having gay thoughts was sinful. I have been taught about repentance, and I believe in it. When you make a mistake, it is your responsibility to make amends and clear it up. Only when you take responsibility can you move on.
I believe that the church caused so much harm to the LGBT members and the community, even if by accident, and it needs to be cleared up. I would love to hear, “We are so sorry for the pain that we caused because of our policies, and we cannot understand the depth of pain that many of our members have felt because of it. We wish that things could have been different, but since we can’t, please accept our humble apology. That’s it. I don’t want money for my struggles. I want closure.
One leader, and I don’t know if this is a common belief, said something like, “We don’t make apologies for the past. We look to the future.” Really, you’re our leader, who teaches repentance and you don’t want to repent?
I am mad. More than that I am hurt. The church has been a great place, that taught me to serve, treat others with respect, and I have grown as I have done so. But I can’t forget about my LGBT brothers and sisters. I am torn. Do I leave the culture that I was raised in, that has done so much good, or ignore what I see as a dark stain in history, that continues to spill into the future? It seems that being Bi is not compatible with my religion, and I hate it.
That is why I am uncertain.