Friday, November 30, 2012

I cannot come out of the closet. I am afraid...

Not a week goes by without me having an opportunity to meet at least one married man who is struggling with the process of coming out. All too often these men are overwhelmed with fear, fear of the impact a public acknowledgment of their homosexuality would have on their reputations, their families, their careers, their community standing, their businesses, and nearly every aspect of their lives.

As time passes this fear often becomes a palpable, tangible thing that seems to permeate and taint even the most mundane aspects of their lives. Sometimes it becomes so debilitating that life itself loses meaning and suicide emerges as an enticing and viable alternative to the fear and self-loathing that overwhelms them.

My heart goes out to these men. I remember the fear that gripped me when I knew that living a life of deception was no longer an option. I remember clearly the terror I felt when I considered the potential impact my decision would have on my family, my friends, reputation, position,and business.

But now, three years later, I have a different perspective. I see that most of my fears were unfounded, and that whatever price I had to pay (and there was a price) was offset many times over by the joy I have found in the result.

It is easy for us as closeted gay men to succumb to our fears and live lives of misery and shame. Too many of us remain in the closet for just that reason. Actually, the costs of a closeted life to ourselves and our families are incalculable. As John Greenleaf Whittier wrote, "“For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, 'It might have been'.”

Rather than remain immersed in fear and despair, I believe we must face forward with courage and take control of our destinies, of what we are and who we will ultimately be. I've found that in nearly every situation in my life in which I have let fear govern my behavior, I have regretted it, particularly the fear of coming out. On the other hand, when I have left fear behind and stepped off the precipice with faith that somehow I would learn to fly, I have found my wings.

I believe that as gay men, "God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." (2 Timothy 1:7). My own experience is that "I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears" (Psalm 34:4).

Bottom line, brethren, we can choose to live our lives paralyzed by fear and deception or we can live our lives in truth and liberty. As Christ said to all of us, "...the truth shall make you free."

For those of you who fear, I would encourage you at your own speed to step into the light and leave the darkness of doubt behind you. Despite the cost, I promise you will find joy as a result.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

God means for us to soar...

When I was a boy, my grandparents lived a short distance from a rancher who kept a hawk in a coup next to his chickens. He had found the bird as a chick while wandering the Wyoming back-country. Rather than leave it to die in the brush he took the raptor home and built a coup in which he kept it as a pet.

For the entirety of its life the hawk was confined by the boundaries of the coup and only experienced the company of the chickens in the adjoining cage. As time passed and the bird grew, it failed to grasp that it was a hawk. It had no interest in flight and pecked for its food in a way that was not too different from its neighbors. It had never experienced the joy of flight, let alone the opportunity to soar among the clouds and feel the overwhelming thrill of freedom. I’m sure it felt the urge to ascend to the heavens and dive to the earth. Instead of acting on these urges, the hawk accepted a passable existence within the walls of the coup, unable to fill the measure of its creation.

Today, this would never happen. You and I easily recognize the mistreatment inherent in such a situation. We understand that to force a bird of prey to live a life counter to its nature is not only cruel, but also immoral.

As a closeted gay man living in a mixed orientation marriage I often felt as though I were that hawk trapped in a coup of someone else’s making, never able to spread my wings to achieve the measure of my creation and ultimately find joy.

Mine is the typical Mormon story of the 1970’s and 80’s. While I knew I was different from other boys before I started school and realized what that difference meant as I entered puberty, I believed with all my heart that if I lived righteously, keeping the commandments diligently, with fervent faith, I would eventually be blessed with a miracle and be healed of what I had been taught were "degenerate and perverted" desires.

But the miracle never came.

After serving faithfully as a missionary, marrying virtuously in the temple and fathering five children one after another, I realized that I was what I was, a gay man struggling in what at times felt like an overwhelming situation, one that despite a wonderful and supportive wife left me feeling lonely and impure.

I could go into detail about my life as a closeted Mormon man, but my experiences are not that different from those of my brethren. Fortunately, I was able to stay faithful to my wife and children despite the loneliness and isolation that resulted. This reduced somewhat the heavy burden of guilt that so many of us tend to carry and provided at least a sense of fidelity that I otherwise found difficult to feel.

I must admit that at times, the isolation, the anger, and the self–loathing were overwhelming and the only thing what kept me from taking my life was simple fear.

It wasn’t until I came to the realization some years ago, that I was not broken, that I was inherently good, and that God loved me for who I was, not despite that fact, that I started to understand the powerful declaration of Father Lehi, "men are that they might have joy."

I can still remember praying after a particularly difficult period and feeling an overwhelming sense of calm, of comfort, of peace. I finally knew with every fiber of my being that I was acceptable to God, not because I was keeping the commandments while cloaked in the guise of a straight man, but because I was a gay man striving to find Christ and feel comfort and support in what I knew were his outstretched arms.

It was that experience that eventually gave me the strength and courage to finally be honest about who and what I am, to open the door of congruency and be the person God created me to be. It enabled me to finally find peace and feel the fullness of joy Heavenly Father envisions for each of his sons and daughters.

I want to bear witness that I know that God loves me and accepts me as his son; that he created me, a gay man, and loves me for that reason.

Adapted from the keynote address given by Allen Miller at the 
2012 Salt Lake City Circling the Wagons Conference.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Mormon myth: repent and you won't be gay!

A woman just discovered her husband had been viewing gay pornography (see post here).

In response to her request for advice, Jared91 left the following comment: "I just did a search of this post and comments. I noted the word 'repent' doesn't appear."

 In response to Jared's post, I left the following:

Jared, it is your calloused and insensitive call to repentance that ultimately drives gay people and their families from the Church. As a former bishop and gay man, I can assure you that Sarah’s husband has spent his life trying to repent of feelings he can’t control and behaviors he has adopted to try and mitigate those feelings. To date repentance as you allude to has only left him feeling broken and rejected. As a result, lectures on the power of the atonement and repentance come across as self-righteous and downright ignorant. They don’t help Sarah’s husband deal with the process of understanding or managing what is actually an integral yet darkly secret part of who he is.

 Most of us gay men readily recognize that we are different from our earliest years. We finally put a name to this difference when we reach puberty or early manhood. As Latter-day Saints, we have been taught that these feelings are perverse and unholy. As a result, the feelings are denied or repressed and we become angry and overwhelmed with a sense of guilt and unworthiness.

It isn't until we recognize that homosexual feelings are acceptable and good, that God created us as we are, and that he loves us not despite of who we are, but because of who we are, that real peace and self-acceptance begin to emerge.

The great myth that people like Jared propagate is that homosexuality is only about “carnal, sensual and devilish natures.” This myth destroys lives and drives people from God. The reality is that homosexuality is no more evil than heterosexuality and is no more unnatural.

If Sarah’s husband has anything to repent of, it is that he has failed to be honest with himself and has to this point forced himself to live a life that has left him increasingly unhappy.

Men are that they might have joy. When the Lord spoke those words through his prophet, he didn’t restrict joy to just straight people. He wants his gay sons and daughters to experience joy as well.

As Sarah’s husband faces the truth and has the courage to accept that truth, he will begin to heal, regardless of what path he eventually decides to take. The fact is, I have never met a man who once came out of the closet, wished he could go back in. Men who are out feel a sense of integrity and congruency that they miss and yearn for during their closeted lives.

When Sarah’s husband feels free to be who he truly is, he will finally feel the joy of Christ. As the Lord himself taught, it is truth that will ultimately make him free.