I've known I was "different" since kindergarten. Instead of having a first crush on the little girl across the street, I wanted to kiss the boy next door. One mid-summer afternoon when he and I were alone behind the garage, I grabbed him, pulled him close and planted a quick one squarely on his lips. In return, he slugged me in the stomach and ran home crying.
That experience delivered an indelible message to me about whom and what I was. The bottom line—I wasn’t like everyone else. At a time in my life when all I wanted was to fit in, I didn’t. I didn’t think like the other boys, talk like the other boys, or act like the other boys. Despite my best efforts, I was different. I knew it and they knew it, too. The best thing for me to do, I thought, was to try to bury the truth or ignore it, whatever worked.
The situation came to a head some years later at summer camp. Lenny Wilson, my best friend, confided in me one night as we were waiting to fall asleep, that he figured I liked boys. In a casual supportive way, he advised me that Bruce Casavettes liked boys, too, and that I should get to know him better.
Rather than calm my fears, Lenny’s advice was terrifying. The secret I had tried for so long to ignore or hide in the darkest corners of my life was obvious to Lenny and so must be obvious to everyone. I was frantic.
As I confronted my fears, a solution gradually developed in the back of my mind—a solution that while short on integrity, seemed to served me well for the remainder of my adolescence and young adulthood. I did whatever it took to be like every male I knew. I played the rough games, dated an endless number of girls with whom I made-out at any opportunity, and kept my eyes unfocused and my groin strategically covered whenever I was in the locker room.
It was about this time that I discovered the LDS Church. From my first contact with the missionaries, its doctrine and message rang true to me. It made sense and gave me comfort for my future. Regarding my secret, the assurance of its leaders that if I did the right things, I would start thinking and feeling the right thoughts gave me hope. Based on this hope, I strove even harder to be “normal”.
What did this mean? It meant that I played games that I didn’t like, dated dozens of girls I wasn’t attracted to, went to Brigham Young University, and served an LDS mission. Immediately upon my return from my mission, I met and fell in love with a beautiful young woman who I quickly married. Because I wanted a family and because I knew that fathering offspring would make me “normal”, five children were born to us, one after the other.
What I eventually discovered, however, was that I was not becoming “normal”. I continued to fantasize as vividly as ever about men, to yearn for their bodies, their touch and their love. My devotion to my wife was real, but was more akin to the feelings one has for a best and precious friend, enriching, but ultimately not fulfilling.
After four or five years of marriage, I finally told my wife the truth. I told her I was gay.
To my surprise, she was understanding and supportive. Because we were both devoted to our relationship and to our children, we made a firm commitment to do what it took to make things work. I figured that that was the best life could provide and regardless of how empty and alone I might feel at the core, it was my responsibility to soldier on and "man up."
As the years have passed, soldiering on became more difficult. Finally, last spring when our last child moved from home, I decided to face things straight on. I told my wife that I could no longer live a lie. While I didn't want to destroy our family and give up the life we've built, I told her that I needed to fill the emotional void that had been leaving me empty.
And so over the last year I've made a number of gay friends and have attempted to deal with my sexuality more constructively. Although my wife is understandably concerned about how all this will impact our marriage and my commitment to the Church, she is supportive.
I'm not a bitter or angry person. I have always figured that a full life requires a series of sacrifices. When I see how good my children are and think about the deep friendship I have with my wife, I feel all in all my sacrifices have been worthwhile.
It's time now to move forward, to begin filling the void. What that means and where that takes me only heaven knows. I am confident, however, that it will ultimately lead me to joy and isn't that the greatest gift life has to offer?