I sat on an ottoman wedged in the corner of the wine bar. It was after hours and I was providing support to one of our directors as he shot a focus group for a local ad agency. The shoot pretty much ran itself so my support ended up being more of the moral variety. It was a multi-night job and I spent most of the time surfing the internet and writing on my laptop. The groups, which consisted of African-American women of different age ranges were interesting to listen to…at first. The uncomfortable ottoman mixed with my own natural predisposition for boredom set me off in search of websites that featured shiny new gadgets of the plug-in variety.
When the moderator asked the women what an Obama victory would mean to them, I looked up from my screen. I was curious to hear the opinion of the election from the perspective of a Southern middle-class African-American woman. Many of the answers I anticipated. Words like, “empowerment”, “hope”, and “affirmation” were said. One unexpected word I heard was “anxiety”. The moderator asked the woman to clarify her statement, she continued to say, “Barack Obama is our chance to prove ourselves. If he is elected and fails, it will be devastating for African-Americans and who knows when we will get another shot?”
I knew what I was getting into with this blog. I fully intended to be an example of someone who was living as an active member of the church, but I have a very uncomfortable, shifting-my-chair feeling when people look to me as a “poster boy” for gay Mormons. Because, quite simply:
What if I fail?
What if, after a couple years of writing on this blog, I put up the post “It’s been a great ride, but I’m leaving the church”? What if it gets to a point where I feel like I have to hide my shortcomings in order to publicly maintain the image of, “Yes, you too can be gay and Mormon. Ask me how!” What if I meet some guy named Jason and move to Canada to get married? What then? Wouldn’t it negate everything that I have said?
When I think about it, I started this blog with the intention of letting straight Mormons know what it was like to be a gay Mormon. If I end up failing (in the sense that I leave behind my membership in the church), I believe it is important to record that as well. Sometimes gay Mormons leave the church, it is a part of the issue that we can’t ignore. The story of the ones who leave is as important as the story of the ones who stay.
Okay, take a deep breath. Don’t read too much into this; I’m not going anywhere and still believe the church is true like I always have. Bosom burning and all. But my point is, I am an example of gay Mormons only as much as you are an example of straight Mormons. We’re all flawed. I sometimes forget to pray at night, my home teaching frequency could be better (much better), and I could probably stand to be more reverent in Elder’s Quorum. Flawed. If we look to anyone other than the Savior for an example of perfection, we will be sorely disappointed. Every single time. I’m positive there have been less than charitable moments even in the Monson household.
I guess this is my Charles Barkley moment. “I am not a role-model!” and all that.
Okay, now this is the part where I put my ego in check. In the past several months at least four or five authors of the moho blogs I follow have publicly come out of the closet and stayed in the church. I didn’t start the trend; I just jumped on it. If any gay Mormon can be identified as starting the ball rolling towards an open dialog on homosexuality and Mormonism, it would arguably be Ty Mansfield (who I have never met, but like to refer to as the Mormon “Grand High Gay”) when he co-authored the book In Quiet Desperation. I haven’t read it (still), but the fact that it existed and some guy put his real name on it helped me in the process of my own coming out. In turn, I don’t look to him as a role model, but I do respect the courage he has demonstrated. In short, I realize that I am only one voice in a growing number of publicly gay Mormons and am excited at the prospect of an openness in the church when it comes the issue of sexuality and what happens when it is of the “homo” variety.
What if we fail?
What if we succeed?
Can you imagine an environment where a parent’s worst fear isn’t that “my child will be gay”? Where a teenager doesn’t fear the reaction of his Priest’s quorum to the news that he isn’t really into the new Laurel that moved in? Where the single gay adult feels his talents and perspectives are wanted, even needed, by the families in his ward? Where no one feels like they need to hide who they are in order to feel loved by their fellow Saints?
We’ve come a long ways towards this (a long ways) but we have quite a ways to go. There will be some casualties. Some of us will fall by the wayside. Some of us will leave the church and become bitter and angry. Some of us will leave the church and become happy. Some of us will stay. Whatever the risks, this current “fad” of openness is one band(covered)wagon that I want to be on.
I don’t really look at it terms of failure or success.
My life is a series of choices, and I’m going to make the choices that seem like the right ones for me, hopefully following the guidance of the Spirit. I believe that most in my situation try to do pretty much the same thing. Some have chosen to stay in the Church, some have chosen to leave. Some have chosen marriage, some to remain single. And none of those choices is really even permanent–any of them can be changed in the future.
I don’t intend my blog (or my life) to be an example of the “right” way to do things. I just live my life and record in my blog things that seem important to me, in the hopes that the record of my decisions (good or bad) will help others. I hope to help others who face similar challenges to make the choices that are right for them (which may or may not be the choices I would have made), and I hope to help others who don’t understand these challenges to learn a little about them, in the hope that they can develop greater understanding and empathy.
If I’ve helped any gay Mormon be more comfortable with who he/she is, or if I’ve helped any straight Mormon understand just a little bit better what it means to be a gay member of the Church, I’ve succeeded.
You know, Scott’s expressed what I’ve felt for a while, too. I have to remember that I’m just as flawed as the next guy…and I have to move forward my own ways with the light of the gospel guiding me.
I think the attitude you’re taking to your blog, Clint, is a healthy one.
Clint, Thank you for today’s post. Last night, a mother wrote the following on my blog: “My bishop kept telling me that there are many men in the church who are dealing with this issue, but happily married. I kept saying, “Where? Where are they? If they are dealing with this successfully then why are they not telling us about it from the pulpit? Why are they not giving the youth of the church, hiding this about themselves, hope? If they are able to do this successfully, why is it a secret?!” He had no answer for me.’
‘It is my feeling that it is the group of you, gay and married, who need to come out of the closet. Are you doing anything wrong? No! You are trying to live the gospel to the best of your ability. Why should that be shameful? Why can we not teach the youth of the church that a certain percentage of the population is going to deal with this issue and it’s ok. It’s the choices you make that are at issue, not who you are.
The fact that you have kept your “secret” from your brother, who is/has struggled with the same issue for so long, says something about the church and I don’t think it’s something positive. It makes me sad. I hope you can come to the place someday, that you are comfortable speaking about this struggle with everyone who wants to hear it.”
The church is in need of people like you, Scott, Ty, and others who are willing to publicly share their stories. In so doing, there are always risks of potential “failure” that might follow periods of great strength. Someone who looks to you for an example might be disappointed, let down. But your stories of struggle, successes and failures are real and great lessons can be learned from them. Take David, in the Bible, he ultimately fell, but who can discount the good he accomplished and the example he was up to the point of his fall. Even the story of his fall and his remorse afterward is inspirational and instructive.
I too worry about falling again. I have done it before, and feel very vulnerable to doing it again. If that happens, will I have the courage to let others know about it? After coming back into fellowship, I was terrified of failure, still am. I promised my wife that I would never lie to her again. Having said that, I asked her, “What if I fall again?” I needed to know what her reaction would be if I fell and was totally honest with her about it. I will forever be grateful for her response, “We will just start over again.” Isn’t that the hope the atonement gives? I am grateful for her love and spiritual understanding.
God knows our hearts, He knows the burdens we bear. He will not abandon us if we fall. He will be waiting for our hearts to turn again to Him.
You are an excellent example of one who is clinging to the rod. I pray you (we) can hold on. If not, your story, like David’s, will still be one of hope, instruction, and inspiration.
Ditto to what Bravonne said.
No matter what happens to you in the future (and I pray for you often), you will still have made a difference in my life right now. I have never read a non-scriptural account that has made more of a difference in my life than your blog.
Clint, congratulations! You’re BiV’s “Blog of the Month!” That’s a big Bloggernacle honour! :)
@TFD – I knew I smelled a traffic spike around here. Welcome, to everyone from BiV’s blog.
@Carolyn – Oh, wow.
@Bravone – I don’t fault anyone for staying in the closet because of their own sense of privacy. What I don’t support is people who want to be out, but stay in because they feel like they have to.
@Kengo B., and @Scott – I’ve discovered while keeping various blogs and such that my intent is not always a factor in how people use my words. This is especially true for Soy. For example, there were people for and against Prop 8 linking to my blog using me as an example to prove their point. …Which was weird…and confusing. While we may assume that our lives are our own, we, by virtue of simply saying who we are, become open to public scrutiny and criticism. That is the nature of being involved with such a controversial issue. The queerosphere is littered with defunct moho blogs of guys who couldn’t take the pressure anymore (including a couple blogs of my own).
I guess the intent of this post was an attempt at separation of personalities from the issue, so that it wouldn’t matter if I, Ty, Scott, or the other guys out of the closet leave the church to open a gay brothel in Juarez, that the various issues are important enough to be picked up by others and advanced forward.
IQD: You should read it; it’s a remarkable book, if I do say so myself… or, if I’m the only one saying it. ;)
Your honesty is refreshing. I think that anytime I start feeling like I couldn’t fail/fall (I’m not sure I get “failure”, but I do get “falling”), the Lord let’s me be humbled. Being honest with myself about my very real weaknesses and needs, as you spoke of yours, has been crucial to maintaining a sense of peace and fulfillment, even as I resist/redirect some very real longings.
What Scott said really resonates concerning this flow of change we’re all really involved in. People experience peace and then struggle, and then conflict, and then conflict again, even as someone might feel certainty, and then doubt, and then certainty, and then doubt again. I believe all of our Sinai and wilderness moments (and the back and forth between them) is all part of our refinement. There was some discussion some time back between “gays”, “ex-gays”, “ex-ex-gays”, and then “ex-ex-ex-gays”… how many reversals does it take until someone decides they’ve found their place? Not sure, but I’m not sure it matters as much as simply execpting that there’s so little finality in this world. We’re all traveling this journey that is bound to reveal some unexpected twists and turns. And as Jenkin Lloyd Jones has said (and whom President Hinckley loved to quote), “The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”
Regardless of where you or I or Scott end up (though I expect to continue along in the direction I am), the more we can nurture a culture of openness, compassion, and authenticity among those in the Church dealing with this issue in whatever capacity, the better off will be the generations coming up behind us.
I appreciated the post; thanks for your thoughts.
Great post! I understand how you feel and have many of the same fears and joys of thinking what the future might bring for Scott and I. I find joy in the fact that right now we might be making an impact for good. I am so proud of Scott and amazed at what he has chosen to do. (And you as well!)
Thanks for another great post, Clint.
“Some of us will leave the church and become bitter and angry.”
That’s something that we all understand can happen and we always fear that it will happen to gay Mormons if they “give in.” Really, it can happen with any of us, whether gay or straight.
“Some of us will leave the church and become happy.”
I think that’s the part that a lot of us don’t get, including myself. “Wickedness never was happiness,” the saying goes. But when someone maybe does “fall by the wayside” and tells me that they’re genuinely happy and they certainly appear to be happy, then how can I really argue that? “Men are that they may have joy.” I hate to tell people how to have joy when we all experience it in different ways.
One of my favourite blogs is Gayldsactor. He’s taken a different road than you have, and yet is very commited to the Gospel. His story has been a real eye-opener for me and a lesson in compassion and understanding for the choices that some us make in our lives. It’s reminded me that in the end, the only one we have to answer to is God. If we’re at peace with our God, then that’s the main thing for me. And that’s the question we always have to ask ourselves, no matter what our circumstances or choices.
I echo Scott.
You’re on your own journey. You’ve decided to make that journey public, but the message you deliver can remain authentic even if it deviates from the path you envision.
I’m in a far different place than I ever imagined I’d be, in many ways. I didn’t marry. I never had kids. I also never found one man to settle down with. I’ve changed careers at least twice. I’ve maintained lifelong friendships with several people. I lived in Europe for many years. I live in Denver now, a city I admired as a teenager as I passed through on a cross-country trip. I’m in training to become a pharmacist – a dream since my first year of college many years ago. I’ve had a rich life.
I’ve “failed” many times. But each of those failures launched me into a new direction. Add failures and the events that follow together and they synergize to become successes. My journey has not been easy nor has it been smooth. But life is messy sometimes and perceived failure hurts.
Thanks for sharing your journey. I promise to observe without judgment.
Wow. Amazing post. I’ve had the same fears, but in totally different areas of life from you. Times when I was the example of the oddball still making it, but I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. And times when I didn’t. And times when I started over again. Printing and keeping this post. thanks.