I was on my knees next to my bed with my face buried into my mattress. Thoughts raced through my head and my breathing was uncontrollable. I clenched my eyes shut as I fought what I would later recognize as a panic attack. Inaudibly, I repeated over and over again, “I’m not gay. I’m not gay.”
No matter how many times I repeated the words it didn’t change anything. My stomach tightened into a rock. I would have probably felt better if I threw up, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to. I was too tense. I just felt like laying on the floor with the hope that if I was there long enough I would be completely forgotten and eventually cease to exist altogether. I was sixteen.
I had been watching a music video over our dial-up connection to the internet. It was a one hit wonder that six months later would be forgotten by nearly everyone, but I would remember it for years, because as I watched I caught myself looking at the male lead singer. I realized that I wasn’t just looking, I was looking. I freaked out and ran up into my room, closing the door behind me. Had it been the first time, I probably would have been able to write it off as curiosity, something, anything, but I knew that I was facing something that I had been trying to run away from for years. I was gay and I knew it.
Still, I tried to bury it. I told myself that it was “one of those things” and that if I didn’t think about it, it would just go away eventually. For the most part, I was successful. Throughout most of my mission, I was able to put away thoughts about my sexuality as I focused on serving the Lord.
Soon after I got off my mission, however, I found my old fears reclaiming their dominance in my mind. I dated several girls, but I was never able to think of them as more than friends – anything more felt dishonest to me, even when they knew about my situation. It was hard to see those around me getting married, having children, and continue on with their lives as I felt trapped behind. I soon sank into a deep depression and I started to feel angry with God for placing me in what I felt to be an impossible situation. I could date men and feel normal (which is how my attraction to men felt) but I would be at odds with God and my religion. If I dated and eventually married a woman, I would feel a measure of satisfaction knowing that I was following His plan for me, but I also felt I would likely grow bitter and even angrier than I already was. The third option, to live a life without a “significant other” was terrifyingly lonely to me.
Years passed as I was pulled back and forth between two choices that I didn’t want. A change came when I was in a new city. After wrestling with the issue that had been in the forefront of my mind since before I knew what “gay” was, I felt God give me a nudge by, well, not giving me a nudge at all. In a moment of revelation I felt that God loved me no matter who I was and what I did and that He truly understood my situation. I didn’t feel the anger and the hatred from Him that deep down I had expected. He just let me know that the decision was mine and no matter what I chose, that He still loved me. I recognized that there would be positive and negative consequences on both sides, but knowing that He loved and supported me allowed me to truly make a decision that was mine and not motivated by fear or self-hatred. I decided to stay in the Church and not act upon my attractions. Even though my future was uncertain, I felt peace in having made a decision that I knew to be the right one for me.
I’d like to say that it’s been easy since then, but it hasn’t. Sometimes it’s been downright miserable and there have been times that my resolve has been shaky at best. I’m not perfect and sometimes my personal outlook can get pretty grim, but as soon as the dark moments pass and the leaves on the trees become green again, I still recognize that I am on the path that I want to be on and it is the one that I chose. I now try to look at my life as an opportunity to help those around me in a way that I might not have been able to do had things been different.
Today, I’m thankful for my friends that laugh at my dumb jokes and ignore my really dumb jokes. That jam with me on Rock Band and barely cringe when I scream along to an Emo song. That indulge my overly introspective IM sessions and sit through the latest foreign film that I am infatuated with. That brighten my day with emails detailing their latest adventure. That put up with my moodiness. That watch horrible 90’s teen dramedies with me. That send me a text message saying that they miss me and make me feel needed.
I’m thankful for family that talks with me on a phone for an hour when I am bored and strolling around the park. That thinks of me as “cool” when I’m feeling very lame, indeed. That thinks I can do just about anything when I don’t feel like I am very capable at all.
If you are one of those people or if you are a part of my life in some other way, I thank you. Even thought I don’t recognize you enough, you are appreciated more than you know.