And, Suddenly, My Life Made a Lot More Sense
I need to be my actual self from now on. I’ve gotten whatever it was I was going to get from not doing that.
When I was living in Oklahoma, I was so depressed I was worried I was just going to not wake up one day. That was the main factor that drove my need to find a job somewhere else. At that time, I promised myself that, once I got out of there, I’d go see a therapist, because I hadn’t before, and it was time to pull out some stops.
So, once I got to Logan, I started doing that. One thing that came from those seven or eight sessions that made a lot of sense to me was the suggestion that I needed to be more open with more people and start having *real friendships* — deep relationships with people to whom I could and would relate anything and be honest about myself.
I started experimenting with that and was intrigued to discover that I could tell people how I felt and what I wanted without them disliking me for it. It occurred to me that a thing I’ve heard said of me — that I’m “hard to get to know” — isn’t really upside. I was that way because I tried hard not to be open with people, in part because I haven’t considered my self, whatever that is, valid or worth knowing.
This line of thinking hit a critical point in fall 2019 when I went to the funeral of my cousin, who had shot himself. I barely knew my cousin, but the funeral experience put me in a deep funk for three months. Not because I was sad for him and his family (not that I wasn’t), but because it made me feel despondent for myself. During the funeral, the main takeaway was just how well his family and friends knew and loved him. His wife wanted him to know, wherever he was, that she wasn’t mad, that she understood why he had to leave, that he’d completed everything he’d needed to do in life, and that she loved him. All I could think of was how I had no one in my knew me well enough to feel that way about me. So I recommitted to figuring out how to go about being more authentically (and openly) myself.
In the meantime, particularly once Pres. Monson died, church had become increasingly less appealing. The things I had been benefitting from at church started being diminished by new church and stake policies — in particular, it felt like my calling in the young men’s organization, which I loved and learned a lot from, was diminishing. I couldn’t think of any other calling or thing I could do in the church that would still feel worthwhile and provide my membership meaning. Other actions and statements by church leadership seemed silly and Orwellian. It felt to me like the church was maintaining its hold on the membership through fear and confirmation bias, which didn’t fit my idea of how God would run things.
It became clear to me that the church was not a place where someone who wanted to think and perceive reality for himself was wanted.
So, about in October 2019, before general conference, I was thinking maybe it was time to leave the church. I was sincerely pondering (I know, right?) this possibility and considered that I might get an answer through conference as to whether there was reason to stay. Then, during the conference, the church’s president announced the dissolution of YM presidencies (and, thus, the end of my calling), and, as Mormon as this sounds, that seemed like an answer. So, given this and some other thoughts and observations I’d been having, I planned on fading away from church as soon as I moved to the new house in the summer.
And then, in March, COVID happened. Given that there was therefore no functioning ward to miss me, this moved the timeline up. Packed up the garments, started thinking of myself in terms of a post-Mormon life. It was weirdly exciting given the lack of people to share it with. I like to think it was exciting because I wasn’t pretending to be someone I wasn’t. I didn’t have to say things I didn’t mean (“Yes, conference was wonderful!”), didn’t have to hold my tongue to avoid offending, and I could experiment with life however I needed to. Anyway, it felt good, like parking at the trailhead, unbuckling the seatbelt, and running off into the green toward the rivers and the waterfalls. It felt like it was okay to finally try being myself without having to look over my shoulder to make sure no one was watching.
Then, a couple months of quarantined boredom later (June 2020), it occurred to me that, if I wanted to really be authentic with myself — and, therefore, other people, and, therefore, possibly be both known and loved for who I actually am — there was something else I’d kept buried all my life that needed to be exhumed and looked at. So I downloaded some apps and started exploring the possibility that I might be gay.
Browsing these apps resulted in the sort of hormone rush that I think most people don’t have after age 18. I had never felt anything like it. This intense hormonally fueled excitement lasted about a week and a half, which was incredible, and it started to seem like maybe I wasn’t a fundamentally broken person after all and that maybe there was a path for me to not feel alone forever. It felt like the light at the end of a tunnel I’d long assumed I was just going to die in.
A week or so later, I met a guy for lunch for the first time as a not-quite-date and just talked to him. I let myself think about whether I wanted anything more from him than that. I was surprised that I did — my body wanted something that my brain wasn’t even involved in. I’d never felt that before. Nothing happened that day, but it was an emotionally overwhelming thing to realize that I might actually be alive.
A couple days after that, a local guy I met on an app wanted to go hiking with me. I told him that, just fyi, I didn’t know myself really, but sure. About a mile and a half into the hike, I asked if I could kiss him, just to see how it felt. It was breathtaking. It was the first time I ever understood why people liked kissing. I’d never had that feeling before. I didn’t know that an experience could feel that way. My life suddenly made a lot more sense.
Other things have happened since then, and this isn’t brand new to me any more. The hormones have tempered, not every guy I’ve met has been 100% awesome, and, as it turns out, self-repressing for 48 years makes certain things more difficult than you want them to be. On the other hand, it’s really, really good to exist. It’s good to not be hiding anything, and it’s good to want something. Sometimes, I look in the mirror nowadays and am happy to see who’s looking back at me. I find myself looking forward to what might happen tomorrow.
So: I’m gay. And whatever else it is that I actually am, I’m getting closer to being it.