As I've mentioned... I've kind of come out in waves since August 2010. First it was a few close friends who were immediately part of my life. They saw me through the hell I went through as I waged war against myself, praying to God it wasn't true. Then it was my immediate family. Then it was my extended family. Now it is friends who I feel have either been a significant part of my life at some point or who have left very significant impressions on me as genuine people. Everyone included... I'd say I have now informed around 200 people by letter. You know, it doesn't matter how many times I've done it, or how many people I tell... hitting that "send" button or having that conversation is always begun with eyes closed or a deep breath. There is always the sad fear that tomorrow I will have one less friend. But then I remember the reasons why I am telling people and I realize that those reasons are far better than any reasons I have to say nothing. Here is the text of the latest letter sent to friends:
To My Friends:
I don't typically write updates to everyone on my life… perhaps I will start, but 2010 was a big year for me and there is quite a lot to tell. If you are reading this, it means that I truly value your friendship and although we may be separated by land or sea or years of silence, I will always be grateful for the part you have played in my life. I hope we will always maintain our friendship and that eventually we may cross paths again one day. You may have been a friend from childhood, from school or from church. I may have met you in this country or another. But please know that you have touched my life in significant ways.
I graduated from Brigham Young University at the end of 2010 with a degree in film. It may seem late to some of you since many of you have already gone further in your education, but I did take a 2-year break from school to serve a mission for my church in Korea as many of you remember. I worked on several student projects while at school, the most well-known to date being the promotional ad that I worked on with 9 others for the BYU library called "New Spice."
For now I reside in Utah in Salt Lake Valley where I do freelance work. My biggest job right now is producing commercials for a Utah craft store chain, but I am also working with a new social media site to produce video content. Since I am just starting out earning my living as a filmmaker, I will be working another job to provide stable income while I start building a clientele. I am excited to start life after college and am looking forward to all of the challenges and curve balls it is sure to bring.
As good as the year sounds, 2010 was also the most emotionally, spiritually, and mentally draining to date. In fact, I almost didn't make it past August. The truth is, the first three quarters of the year was pretty much hell and in August I had made the decision and assembled a plan to take my life and you would have been receiving a very different letter. But don't fret. I am still here and I am happier than ever! Surely you expect me to explain myself and the reasons I became so hopeless.
Some of you already know… others may have wondered, but the truth is, I am gay. I always have been and always will be. I almost extinguished my life rather than to accept that. For some of you, this revelation may not be a big deal. But for the majority, it is huge. I grew up Mormon. My whole family/extended family is Mormon. I served a mission. Went to a Mormon-owned University. Mormons don't look to happily upon gay people. This was why it took me 25 years before I could accept it. I didn't want it. I didn't believe it. I thought I could ignore it, hide it, and even hate it out of me. The result was very dangerous. All I succeeded in doing was hating myself.
I thought that if I were good enough. If I could prove to God that I was good that he would "cure" me. So I tried. I did all the right things. I did what I was supposed to. I tried dating girls. But the cure never came. Years passed. Instead what happened is I became disillusioned with God and religion. I was angry at him. What more did I have to do? What more could I do? Did I not deserve a blessing? An answer? Was I THAT repugnant? When I realized that there was no miracle for me… no God who would answer my prayers, I saw very few choices:
I could continue living as I had been. Denying part of myself… hating myself… slowly killing my emotions, my spirit, everything that brings any sense of life to the body. But that is exactly what brought me to this point in my life.
I could abandon my beliefs and my religion. My family and my friends. Live my life as a gay man but live believing I would go to hell for it. Sure, maybe it wouldn't be so, but it could be. I had already spent enough of my time that year in hell to know that I didn't want to risk that.
I could kill myself. The last choice I'd ever have to make. Maybe it was a bad decision… but it was only one decision. One sin instead of the multitude I might rack up living as a gay man… and surely better than the living hell I was experiencing.
But guess what? I did get my miracle. My answer came. in those last black moments of my life, I found the peace I had been begging God for my entire life. It just came with an answer I was never willing to hear before. I am not broken. I am not ill. There is nothing wrong with me! The love I feel and yearn for is real and meaningful and GOOD and God loves me for exactly who I am and how I love! Oh how I wish I had been able to hear this sooner.
For some of you, this will be enough. For others, you may need more explanation. See… I am in a peculiar position. Mormons want me to abandon being gay and gays (and gay supporters) want me to abandon Mormonism. Here's the thing. I can no more root out the Mormon from me than I can the gay. I am both. It took me awhile before I realized that the war I was waging on myself… the war between faith and sexuality… is completely man-made. Mormons believe in Christ and his teachings. Christ is the center of all that we believe. Yet Christ did not once speak on the matter of homosexuality. In fact… the gospels, and the three volumes of scripture unique to Mormonism (Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine & Covenants) are all SILENT on the matter.
I have come to this conclusion: Homosexuality is natural. It is found throughout nature among all different species. I don't need science to tell me that it is not a choice because I did not choose this. I gave everything I could, even to the point of being willing to offer my life, so that I could be straight. It was not a choice for me. Despite the natural occurrence, homosexuals are still a significant minority. An estimated 5% or so among humans. What does history tell us about how we tend to treat minorities?
Of course you can't understand how the feelings you have for the opposite sex are the same feelings I have for the same-sex. Of course you cannot fully understand how when I am trying to be romantic with a girl it is as unnatural feeling as a straight boy trying to be romantic with another boy. It is outside of your experience. And since I am a minority, I must be weird. Perverted. Twisted.
The fact is, every man and woman, no matter how inspired, is heavily influenced by the time, environment, and the circumstances surrounding him/her. The cultural biases and prejudices of today make even the word "gay" wrong in today's church. However, ALL people necessarily have limited understanding and experience (including prophets) and therefore their concepts of what is good and true are fallible. Each person can only envision a part of our shared reality. Such partiality, when presented as the totality, can severely limit the lives who embrace it as truth.
I do not accept the idea that homosexuality is inherently evil. In fact, I know for myself that it is not because of my own experiences and the amazing good that has come into my life since embracing my sexuality. When I was doing all I could to try and deny myself and do what I was taught to be right, THAT is when I was driven furthest away from God and closest to spiritual and physical death. Accepting my sexuality and allowing myself to love and be loved has reversed that. I have grown nearer to God, more aware of his love and more full of life. Comparing my life before and after coming to terms with my being gay is like comparing night to day. I know which one a loving God would want for his son.
This intent of this letter is not to persuade you. I would never be able to manage that. I barely managed to come to grips with it myself, and I am the one that experienced it. If you are interested in anything I have to say about anything concerning sexuality or religion, please feel comfortable emailing me. I also have a blog that I have written many of my thoughts on. Feel free to visit it here.
I have met so many good gay Mormons. Many have been abandoned by their families. Many are too scared to tell anyone. Others never will and choose instead to take their lives as I almost did. This is not a rare story. These are good people with honest hearts who are suffering needlessly. I am doing all that I can to help them. Ask me if you want to know how I am doing that. All I ask is that you keep an open heart. The more I learn, the more I realize how little we understand of God. The more I experience the more ignorant I realize I am. We don't have all the answers.
I sincerely hope I haven't offended or embarrassed anyone reading this letter. I will always respect your opinions and beliefs and would hope you will show that same respect toward me. I will always consider you a friend and would love for you to continue to be a part of my life. However, I will understand and respect any decisions you make to end ties to me. That, however, will be your decision, not mine.
Many may wonder why I feel the need to tell people about this. There are several reasons. I am an honest person. I don't like to feel as if I need to pretend of lie to someone or put on an act just to stay in their favor. In the end, that drives a wedge between relationships because I am not allowing you to be involved in my real life at all. Now I can talk with you and answer questions truthfully and plainly. You also have heard this news from me… not from some mutual friend who thought he/she heard that Jonathan's sister said that blah blah blah. It is out in the open. I am not ashamed. You can talk to me about it if you want. It doesn't have to be talked about in hushed voices. There is a lot of ignorance surrounding homosexuality. If I stayed silent and never told people, I would only be supporting that ignorance. You know me well enough to know that many things that have been said about gay people are false.
I hope that is sufficient to help you begin to understand why it was important to me that I write the letter. I wish you all the best this 2011. Lets live life to its fullest and always strive for goodness!