21 December 2014

New Beginnings

Winter has always been somewhat trying for me in Utah. I came here from Southern California where Christmas lights and decorations adorn houses shaded by palm trees from the warm California sun. It was not uncommon to be in a t-shirt and sunglasses on Christmas Eve. "Winter" was a thing only seen in the movies, and where winter was, Christmas was also. They were basically conjoined twins in my mind.

last year's tree
When I moved to Utah to go to BYU, I was excited for winter. I never had a "white" Christmas before and the snowfall leading up to the holidays was magical. But once Christmas ended, I was confused when the snow and cold didn't follow suit and go into storage with the other Christmas decorations. Instead the cold dragged on for months and months while the sun stayed hidden from the sky. The snow loses its magic when you look around to realize that the demise of colorful lights and cheerful sound of Christmas bells gave way to the normal grueling work-day and you realize the world has become depressingly black-and-white. The black of dormant trees stand starkly against the dirty white of old snow and the outdoors become a sort of frozen wasteland.

Today marks the winter solstice- the darkest day of the year. In the midst of getting presents wrapped and finishing Christmas preparations, I must also go through all my earthly possessions and decide what to leave behind and what to pack. It is a daunting task and it is hard to find the motivation to decide what I can do without and what I will take with me on the 2,000 mile journey that lies ahead of me. There is no snow this year- no magic. Instead, a dark sky and the sound of rain serves as a reminder of my uncertain, cloudy future.

Sean and I didn't bother with Christmas lights and decorations this year in anticipation of our move. It just seemed too daunting to put up decorations only to pack them up along with everything else. Tonight, however, we will go to his parents house and decorate the tree. It will be bitter-sweet. The colorful lights and decorations will undoubtedly bring much needed "magic" into the season, but it will also be a sharp reminder of the family I am leaving behind. Its a sobering thought that I am soon going to have to say goodbye to people who love and care about me so much.

captured in August at a dude ranch in remote Wyoming

But while it is the darkest day of the year, something else will go up along with the Christmas tree decorations tonight. It also happens to be a new moon. The end of a cycle, and a bright new beginning- the beginning of a journey back into the light. Surely, there are still dark days ahead, and the gains of each day will be small, but there is hope in knowing that there is light at the end of this tunnel. Spring will bring with it rebirth, regrowth, and a chance to decide what I will bring with me into this new cycle of life.

captured in Spring 2014 in our yard
 As part of that "house-cleaning," I intend to move my writing over to a new blog. I will continue to post here, but they will be copied from the new location. I've grappled a lot with this decision, but I feel that I need to step away from Mormonism more completely so that I can forgive and heal from my past. I've already begun un-following Mormon-themed facebook groups and have tried resisting the urge to read news related to Mormonism. My Mormon past and heritage will always be a part of me, but I no longer wish to give it power to define me. I also don't want to continue living a life where I am angry about the past and wish to live in the present where I can accept things as they are. A present where I can be at peace with who I am and where I've been. I'm trying to step away from labels that attempt to paint a picture of who I am because I feel it is incomplete and has too much resemblance to the dark black-and-white world of the bitter months of winter which I have come to dread.

my old missionary shoes
These "Gay Mormon Shoes" have served their purpose. They have taken me down paths that weren't always flattering, through stages of grief, bitterness, and anger. They have also led me to greater acceptance of myself and those I might have once thought of as "other." They have led me to my first experiences with love. They have aided me in channeling my talents into work that hopefully does good in the world. But they have become worn and tattered and cause increasing discomfort. It is time to leave them in the shadows of the darkest day of the year so that I can fully embrace the light ahead. As always, I welcome you to tag along. Once my first blog post is up at the new location, I will direct you there.

Until then, perhaps you too will discover things in life best left behind as you look to embrace the new beginnings that the journey into the light ahead promises. Have a very merry and magical Christmas.


07 December 2014

On Life and Love

When I started this blog, there were much fewer resources for LGBT Mormons. Going through my self-acceptance and coming out phase was extremely difficult and disorienting. I felt so alone and so lost and so unsure of my future. As I processed all my thoughts and emotions, I realized that there would be others like me who had no one to talk to, no one to relate to, and no resources. So I set out to become a sort of resource by sharing my story as it unfolded. At the time, I had no idea that the act of starting my blog would change my life in a very measurable way.

I used to receive emails from around the world from people who read my blog or came across my YouTube videos pretty frequently. Many times they would be emails from people who felt alone and scared and they just needed someone to talk to. Every once and awhile, when I could, I would meet people and talk to them face to face. 3 1/2 years ago, I received an email from a boy named Sean. He was going to college in LA, had recently come out, and emailed me because he was coming home to Salt Lake for the summer and wanted to know how to meet other guys who came from a Christian background.

He had come across my blog and videos and other than the fact that he was in college, I knew nothing about him. I invited him to come to a game night with a group of friends in Provo. Our relationship developed over the next few weeks and we have been together ever since. We've had a wonderful relationship and many adventures. Sean has been my rock while I navigated these new waters, and I like to think I've been his. We've always had each others' back and all the hard things in life are that much easier to deal with because of that.

There are often pivotal moments in life that we can look back on and recognize as life-changing events. More rare, however, are the points in life when you recognize very distinctly that in the present moment, you are making life-altering decisions. Now is one of those times.

Sean and I, after many tears, conversations, counseling sessions, and much thought, have decided to go separate ways at the end of the year. Sometimes real love means saying goodbye, and I believe that is true for us. It has been very difficult to accept the reality of this decision. For the first time in a long time, we are both facing a heartbreaking challenge and we wont have the other to be our rock- to get us through and hold each others' hand while we heal from the pain-- and that is absolutely terrifying.

A couple weeks after making this decision, I was offered and opportunity to do long-term work for Madison House Autism Foundation, which is located in the Washington DC area. I accepted that opportunity, and will be moving there the first week of January. It is so much to process. Not only am I experiencing my first real heartbreak and ending my first long-term relationship, I am leaving practically everything and everyone I know, packing my belongings into a car, and driving 2,000 miles away. This will be a clear point in my life where everything changed. I don't know what is in store for my future. It will be a new type of journey, another stage in this unpredictable life- and I plan on taking you all along for the ride.