16 February 2011

PE: Responses to my coming out

As many of you know, I sent an email out to my extended family weeks ago where I came out to them. Awhile later, I sent out this letter to friends where I came out to them. I wanted to share with you some excerpts from the responses and reactions I have received from both family and friends.

Extended Family

"I hope you know that being "Gay" will NEVER EVER be a reason for me not to love you nor is it a reason to  discontinue having a relationship with you. My home will ALWAYS be a place where you and your significant other will be welcomed with open arms and NO JUDGMENT!!!!! I am Very happy to hear that your Mom, Dad & sisters all took your coming out as well as they did. It saved me a trip to California to set them straight!!! I LOVE YOU JONNY!! Gay or straight it makes no difference to me or my family....we accept you just as you are."

"Your uncle and I want you to know that we love you unconditionally!  You are still our nephew and we have always been proud of you and your accomplishments.  It breaks my heart to hear how you've been hurting and the pain you have gone through."

"Jonathan, I love you Kido. It is good to here from you, I'm glad your year has turned around! and your future is looking bright, congratulations on your graduation. just be yourself and know that you have a lot of loving understanding family that love you and want you to be happy . just so you know , I don't think any less of you due to your sexuality and hope for happiness in all you do and strive to accomplish in your life."

"FINALLY!  (I knew...)  :-) I am so glad you came out and more importantly that you did not take your life.  I am so sorry you were in such a dark place back in August.  I was not raised in the church and feel like I am a little more open minded that most members.  Sexuality is one area I have a lot of questions on regarding the scriptures and the church's stance. Anyway, I am proud of you!  Way to be true to yourself and for your bravery in "coming out."  You are a wonderful man and I just know you have a lot to live for!  If you ever need anything, know that your Uncle and I are here for you!"

"I appreciate your 4 life style views on your blog video.  It made my understanding of your decision so clear.  You are an amazing young man, I hope you find everything you are looking for, We all deserve that!  You and your significant other will always be welcome in our home and at our family gatherings. I always enjoy seeing you.  I don't think anyone can break the strong bond of love that we have for one another in this family of ours!"

"My family were with me when I read your letter & watched your video & it made my girls want to get to know you even more so you will be receiving friend requests on face book from them soon."

"I have loved you since the day you were born and will always love you. If I know my kids they will be the same. I felt nothing but love when i read your letter. It breaks my heart to hear you had such a hard time in August. Come see us soon, you are always welcome. The saddest thing is that you won't get to experience some things, but you'll have other experiences that bring you joy and we will share them with you. If anyone doesn't feel the way I do their name will be crossed off the dinner guest list before your name will." (from my Grandma... typed after a phone call)


"As an active married, LDS Christian, straight, business man you are welcome in my home, next to me in church and hopefully on work projects in the future."

"I know it took a lot to write this email, and I want you to know that it doesn't change my views on you as my friend. And as my friend, just know that I will continue to pray for you and love you."

"I'm sure you might get responses to this email that are both good and bad. Please don't let the bad affect you. Heavenly Father loves all his children equally, and that's all that matters. What better friend can you have than Him?"

"My beliefs about homosexuality are found in my testimony of the family proclamation, but I hope you know that is not a judgment to you or any other person. Heaven knows we don't have all the answers and I'm certainly in no position to pass any kind of judgment. I guess I'm trying to say that I hope you don't feel any sense of rejection or that my feelings of friendship have changed in any way and I would hope no one would!! Anyways you're amazing and I for sure
want to hang out/ kick it on the dance floor soon!!"

"First and foremost I don't care what you believe in or what your sexuality is you will always be a friend of mine."

"I think you know that we are bound to have some fundamental differences in beliefs on this issue, but know that that doesn't make me love you any less as a friend. I can promise you that. I'm sorry that I wasn't there for you when you were having such a hard time. I know that you're a good person. You have been for as long as I have known you. I sincerely hope that this gives you the peace you have been looking for."

"I have so many friends in the gay community and the importance of support and speaking openly about these issues to teach and learn is so very important, and so very life saving."

"So, I just read your email. I was honestly surprised. When are you free? I would love to see you, and not just because of this news, but because I haven't seen you in a long while. Let me know when we can get together."

"As I finished reading the email my heart went out to you and I will not judge you. I know tons of members and other people outside of the church will I guess you can say give you a hard time but who are they to judge. It's your life and you choose how to live it. I love you as a friend and always will."

"Jonathan, you are so totally going to hell. Just kidding man. That took a lot of guts, and I applaud your honesty with yourself and with us."

"I have been very confused by this whole "issue" for lack of a better word.  It has been bothering me for quite some time - because I believe that God loves all of his children with such a pure deep love that turning our backs on "the minority", as you put it, leaving them to fend for themselves, telling them that they just need to choose to be good felt inherently wrong.  Your letter was like a warm cushy hug from heaven.  I literally felt God's love and reassurance in it, because God does love all of his children.  He doesn't pick and choose - He loves all of us with that same warm love."


So as you can see... the most negative reaction I've received is simply that another person disagrees with me. But everyone has made sure that I know they love me and that nothing changes that love and friendship. Also, it has generally brought me closer to others. People are interested in catching up or getting to know me better because of my honesty. I have really been very fortunate as I have come out and told people that I am gay.

13 February 2011

THT: Updates

I've been pretty silent over the past week. I apologize. I've become very busy with things... mostly work. Starting a career is no easy thing.

I've had some really important and meaningful conversations over the past few days with people from all walks of life. They all have different ideas about God and religion. All have been devout members of the church at one point or another. If you have seen 8: The Mormon Proposition, I met with the mother (Linda Stay) and father of the boy that gets married in the film. There were six of us there total and we sat talking in a little cafe in St. George for almost 4 hours. Linda and her husband are wonderful, loving people. Something I have come to love is the connection I feel with people now. It doesn't matter what their situation in life is or what their beliefs are, I can connect on a very real and personal level.

Something we all had in common is that we were all hurt pretty significantly by the church. We have all dealt with that in different ways and are all on different paths. But despite all that, it is amazing to feel the love, the sincerity, and the deep belief that radiates from these people. Their love is real. Their pain is real.

I talked to my mom about her thoughts on my facing the church. It is a hard thing for her to consider. If I were to be excommunicated, she isn't sure how she'd handle that. She isn't sure how she could trust the church or its leaders. At the same time she doesn't want me to resign. She also understands that I feel the need to face this. She thinks about me and my situation and what it means every day. She is having to come to grips with her beliefs just like I have been having to. The difference is that I have friends and people to talk to about it. She has no one. She's tried to talk to a friend who has a son that is gay, but has found that that topic is closed for discussion with her. I will probably tell her about Linda today and see if she wants to talk to her.

After this week and the many discussions I've had, I am unsure about how to proceed with the church. I understand completely why people would choose to resign. It is interesting how many experiences I've had this last week since coming to the conclusion that I wanted to face the church that have been very relevant. I think that perhaps this will take more time than I initially thought. As strong as I sometimes feel that I am and as prepared as I think I might be, the truth is, I am not bulletproof. Certain things cut me deep. Things can still be said that tear my world apart and make me doubt myself. I can still be thrown back into that world of darkness and confusion if I am not careful. Whenever that happens (which isn't often by any means), it doesn't last long. But it is enough to remind me of the horrible place (mentally, emotionally, and spiritually) that I found myself in after years of self-hate. I am still on the path to healing. Am I ready for another blow?

05 February 2011

THT: I think I'm ready to face the church

January was an interesting month for me as I began the transition to the "real world." That transition isn't exactly complete, but I am optimistic and excited for the future. I love that scripture "consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin." It brings me such comfort and I am reminded that I don't need to worry about how things will work out as long as I am doing what I feel is right. I've never really had to worry about money. I mean, things have been tight... and I am poorer now than ever, but I have never gone hungry or without shelter or warmth.

I've been sick lately. I caught the flu a couple weeks ago. Now I have some throat thing. But I feel that I am on the upswing and now that I've gotten all my sickness out of the way for the year, it should be a healthy 11 months haha. I don't typically get sick. Maybe once a year. So here's hoping.

Now that I've come out to basically all my family and friends, the last cloud hanging over me is the church. It is like unfinished business. I don't like leaving things unfinished. It makes me feel lazy and fill me with regret. Today I felt this strong urge to face that unfinished business. A friend of mine was recently called to a church court. It was supposed to be tomorrow, but he has work. I don't think it matters how prepared you are for that, it always hurts. No one likes to be punished for something they are not guilty of. When you've had personal witnesses to assure you that your life decisions are not evil and that the Lord supports you, that is exactly how it feels to be exed.

I've given much of my life to the church. I've defended it. I've brought people in. I've tried to be an example of a good member. I've taught people about it. I've given two solid years of life to it as well as other time and resources. Much of my life experiences have come from being a member of it. Yet, because the deepest love I can feel can only be for another man, I will be cast out. It is hard not to feel thrown away and discarded. All those years of commitment and devotion and service are simply wiped away and forgotten the moment I announce that I want to spend my life with a guy and build a family with him.

But I know that God will not forget. I know that his love for me is real and his support is evident in my life. I know he will bless me and care for me even though the institution that claims to be his will revoke their blessings. That knowledge is enough for me to face the pain I will feel when I will be turned away. It will give me the confidence and the boldness to speak from my heart. It will give me the inspiration I need to prepare myself to face a room of men I have never met before in my life, but who will decide what what is best for me. I pray that God will give me the strength and power to speak in his behalf.

So, as long as I am healthy, I think next week may be the week. The beginning of the end of the life of pain, guilt, shame, and self-hate I lived for so long. And then I will finally be free. Free to love. Free to grow and learn. Free to inspire and be inspired. Free to finally be happy.

ARG: Elder Oaks & Elder Wickman on SGA - Part 10

PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Elder Wickman, when you referred earlier to missionary service, you held that out as a possibility for someone who felt same-gender attraction but didn’t act on it. President Hinckley has said that if people are faithful, they can essentially go forward as anyone else in the Church and have full fellowship. What does that really mean? Does it mean missionary service? Does it mean that someone can go to the temple, at least for those sacraments that don’t involve marriage? Does it really mean that someone with same-gender attraction so long as they’re faithful, has every opportunity to participate, to be called to service, to do all those kinds of things that anyone else can?

ELDER WICKMAN: I think the short answer to that is yes! I’d look to Elder Oaks to elaborate on that.

ELDER OAKS: President Hinckley has helped us on that subject with a clear statement that answers all questions of that nature. He said, “We love them (referring to people who have same-sex attractions) as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church.”

To me that means that a person with these inclinations, where they’re kept under control, or, if yielded to are appropriately repented of, is eligible to do anything in the Church that can be done by any member of the Church who is single. Occasionally, there’s an office, like the office of bishop, where a person must be married. But that’s rather the exception in the Church. Every teaching position, every missionary position can be held by single people. We welcome to that kind of service people who are struggling with any kind of temptation when the struggle is a good struggle and they are living so as to be appropriate teachers, or missionaries, or whatever the calling may be.

ELDER WICKMAN: Isn’t it really the significance of the Atonement in a person’s life? Doesn’t the Atonement really begin to mean something to a person when he or she is trying to face down the challenges of living, whether they be temptations or limitations? The willingness to turn to the Savior, the opportunity of going to sacrament service on a Sunday, and really participating in the ordinance of the sacrament… listening to the prayers, partaking of those sacred emblems. Those are opportunities that really help us to come within the ambit of the Savior’s Atonement. Viewed that way, then any opportunity to serve in the Church is a blessing. As has been mentioned, there is a relatively tiny handful of callings within the Church that require marriage.

ELDER OAKS: There is another point to add here, and this comes from a recent statement of the First Presidency, which is a wonderful description of our attitude in this matter: “We of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reach out with understanding and respect for individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender. We realize there may be great loneliness in their lives, but there must also be recognition of what is right before the Lord.”


ME: I've already discussed the inconsistencies that I have found within the church regarding this claim. I have several gay friends who have wanted to serve missions. If they bring up their attraction to the same sex in interviews, they are subjected to an intense investigation. They are required to have special interviews, special permission from the first presidency, and often counseling. Counselors can suggest to bishops that their missions be postponed. This happens whether or not they have acted on their feelings. Even if everything has been repented of, they must go through this long process. They are treated completely different than their straight counterparts. Does a straight 19 year old have to discuss his attractions for the opposite gender? If he has those attractions, is he subjected to special interviews and required to gain special approval and participate in counseling? No.

These kids are ready and willing to dedicate 2 years of their lives. But instead this turns into 2 and a half or even three years as they await the approval they need. They don't know how soon it will come. They don't know if they should start school, or if it would be best to just work while they wait to hear back. This is setting them back. They are put at a disadvantage. It isn't right, and it isn't equal treatment. If you are going to say they are just as worthy to serve, they should not be treated any differently in the process to be called. By making that process more strenuous and by requiring more steps, those actions effectively void the claim that they are looked upon as being equally worthy.

While there are few callings in the church that require marriage... those are the callings where decisions are made on behalf of others. Bishops, Stake Presidents, General Authorities, anyone in the position to cast judgment or disciplinary action toward others must be married. So while single people can serve in many capacities, they are always under the direction of married men. I wonder when this became a requirement for God to call someone. It seems to me the scriptures are full of examples of men (and even women) called by God who were not necessarily married.

Finally, this comment by Elder Oaks seems backwards to me. "We realize there may be great loneliness in their lives, but there must also be recognition of what is right before the Lord." What is that scripture in Genesis? Oh yeah:
"And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone."
"Good" and "Right" are synonymous. So according to this scripture... what is right before the Lord is that man not be alone. So this sentence makes no sense to me. Loneliness was never something God wanted for his children.

04 February 2011

PE: My best friend is a straight girl

Growing up, I have always had close girl friends. For some reason, the result of repressing my sexuality made it so I was intimidated and uncomfortable around guys. But I always found myself running into the same problem over and over. Eventually, one of these female friends would fall for me. This is a common thing that seems to happen when your closest friends are straight girls.

I can talk about anything with this friend of mine. She knows my secrets. She knows my feelings and thoughts about everything. She's been there during my hard times and I've been there for hers. We've built a close relationship of trust. Anyone starting to see the problem here?

I feel like there are two parts of a relationship. One aspect is the part you control, and the other is completely out of your control. The part you control is that relationship of trust and commitment. The friendship part. It takes work and time. It must be built from the ground up. This goes for any relationship.

The other part is natural. It is inside you. It is the part that gets emotional, physical, and even spiritual fulfillment in being with the person. It is that part of you that longs to be held or to hold the person. The part of you that is completely put at ease when you are in the other one's arms. That part, you can't control... it just is.

Well... you can begin to imagine the hell it would be for this girl, who has built a friendship based on trust and love... the hard part, but who naturally longs to be held and comforted and loved physically by a man. She knows and understands and loves that I am gay. But that can't change her natural feelings. The result is a never-ending broken heart. This crushes me.

You know how it is kind of unacceptable for a married man to have single female friends or a married woman to have single male friends? The problem is if you have a friendship based on trust and love, the natural instincts of the soul desire more. Even if the married person is completely committed to his/her spouse, the single person will always hurt because he/she can't be with the person they love.

In this situation... it is as if I were the married man who had a single female friend who was very close and dear to me. I am unavailable to her... yet I am the one in her life that could complete her. At the same time, though... I am single. I am not dating anyone at the moment. So we can spend time together all we want. It is so frustrating. It is the one reason I would ever wish I was straight. The reason being that if I were straight, I could make her happy. I could give her all that she wants. And I love this girl. She is a dear dear friend and I am so blessed to have her in my life. I see why some gay men marry women. They feel that they can make this other person that they love happy, even if they can't find fulfillment in it.

At the same time... because she knows that I do not get the same fulfillment that she does when we are physically close, she pulls away... she feels unequal. She gets upset that she can't give to me what I can give to her. The reasons I have for wanting to be close to her is because I know it brings her comfort... it makes her feel safe. Knowing that I am helping her feel that way is my motivation. But when I need comfort, when I need to feel safe, I can only get that from the physical closeness to another guy. It causes her so much pain and because it causes her pain, it causes me pain. Perhaps you can begin to see why I would never marry a woman. It is for this very reason. How could I ask someone I love to live their life with a broken heart, or expect myself to live a life without ever filling my own heart? It wouldn't be fair to either of us.

With another gay man, we can both fulfill eachother's needs. We can build a relationship of love, trust and commitment. That is the part we all work to make happen. But then we can also both receive the natural fulfillment that comes from being close physically. Feeling safe and loved in eachother's arms. There is some sort of healing that happens there. Even if you are upset at the other person, a sincere embrace makes all the bad go away and it is replaced by feelings of love. Gay people need that healing just as much as anyone.