This is part of a series of letters to those who may feel lost. Sometimes when we are down, discovering something in the mailbox is just the thing.
It reminds us that we aren’t as alone as we think.
Today I write to a young man in pain because his inner yearnings contradict with his inner understandings.
Let’s call him Charlie.
Hi, my name is Greg and I’m pushing 50, if you can believe it. I can’t. I guess to someone your age that would make me ancient; my kids would probably agree. Of course, since I haven’t ever grown up, I don’t really feel that old myself.
I guess it’s all relative, isn’t it?
Relativity applies to so many things in life. Things that at one point are incredibly overwhelming can become, over time, something manageable.
And even enjoyable sometimes.
Let me explain:
I’ve always been attracted to the same sex. Of course when I was a teenager NO ONE ever talked about such things. I knew I was different, and all the other kids could see it too. I tried to grow a thick skin.
Yeah, that didn’t work so well for me.
But it wasn’t all bad. I had great friends and felt safe within our circle.
Safe, but still different.
I think it would be even more difficult now to be figuring out these feelings and impulses when part of the world is telling you it is something to learn to control, and the other part of the world is telling you to just let go and live.
Hmmm. Who to listen to – isn’t that one of the big questions?
I would imagine that just about everyone you know has an opinion on the matter.
And a solution.
Those are the things that can drive us the craziest, right? The thought that if you just “follow steps 1, 2, and 3 then it will all work out and you won’t really be different anymore” is more insulting than helpful.
At the end of the day, your personal struggle is just that: personal and intimate and confusing.
A young man once shared with me that he was certain that if he just waited long enough Heavenly Father would “come around” on gay temple marriages, just as He (perceptually) did on polygamy and the priesthood being available to all worthy males.
My guess is that you’ve wondered something similar. You’re not alone in that secret wish.
Or even secret prayer.
It can be a cold dash of reality when we realize the futility of asking for a “yes” answer to a request that we already know the answer to be “no”, no matter how many times we ask or how badly we want it.
The arguments for continuing to question if this really is God’s answer seem to make a lot of sense:
- Love is love, no matter who it is between
- If God truly loves us, he wouldn’t give us these biologic yearnings that feel so right and then tell us that they are wrong to act on
- It’s better to be in an honest relationship than one that would appear to be a sham
- You’ve seen many people married in the temple who aren’t happy – how can that be any better than a gay marriage that is happy?
- If you want to be true to yourself, then you must embrace these real feelings and seek homosexual relationships
I won’t insult you with all of the rational responses to these questions. I’m sure you’ve heard them ad nauseam. In fact, you are probably able to shrug off most of these as mere debatable points in an argument.
But, the one that seems to tear your soul apart is hearing people tell you to be true to yourself.
To be your true self.
There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just put it bluntly: You are going to have to decide what criteria you choose to define who you are.
These tough choices always start with questions, don’t they?
- What does it mean to be true to yourself?
- Why do you feel this longing for something you’ve been taught is wrong?
- Why would God do this to you?
That’s the real question, isn’t it?
Deep inside you have always wanted to do and be what your Heavenly Father wanted you to do and be, and as a kid this has made you happy. You’ve also been taught that those who struggle but are faithful are blessed and miracles will follow them.
This is completely true.
However, when blessings and miracles may have been promised, but you still feel the same inside about the same sex, it doesn’t feel like those teachings added up any more.
You’ve done your part, right? Why isn’t He doing His?
Again, why would He do this to you?
The short answer?
So you could choose your true self.
At the end of the day, none of us have to do anything we don’t really want to do. I know that sounds a bit hollow to a 17-year old living in his/her parent’s home and has a jillion rules that must be obeyed.
But it’s still true.
You can choose to fight every rule and make your parent’s life as miserable as possible. You can punish your siblings with confusion about why they have to do one thing while you are doing another. You can withdraw more and more, seeking easy validation for your frustration from other young people who are just as frustrated.
You can choose to trust your parents. You can choose to trust what used to make you feel peaceful as you pursued with vigor the blessings of the gospel. You can choose to trust that there are things that you just won’t understand right now.
But here’s the big one: you can choose to trust that your true self is stronger than your biologic wirings.
That’s what I did.
And still do.
At 49, same-sex attraction hasn’t magically disappeared. I still get sideswiped with that familiar call to embrace something that just feels so natural to me.
My blessings and miracles never came in the form of taking away a part of me.
Instead, they came in the form of adding to that part that I have chosen to be my true self.
And you know what?
I really like my true self.
You’re only beginning your journey of choosing just who you are going to be.
So, in the meantime, cut yourself some slack.
I often wonder why we feel we need to make critical life decisions so young. The brain doesn’t develop its ability to make decisions until we are around 26. Can you imagine peers telling you that you not only need to choose what work you want to do for the rest of your life RIGHT NOW, but you also must be actively taking classes and working on internships to immerse yourself in that program?
And there’s no going back – not if you want to be true to yourself.
It’s okay to understand that it’s just as impossible to make such important decisions regarding sexuality right now.
It’s more evident now than ever that teens need good friends right now.
The truth is it’s simply too early in your young life to be making intimate sexual connections right now – no matter who you are. Your body may feel ready, but your mind and emotions haven’t caught up yet.
Okay, as usual I’ve babbled on and on, and if you are even still reading at this point, please know that I don’t pretend to have all the answers, or have everything figured out.
What I do know is that every time I try my best to do what I have been taught that Heavenly Father wants me to do, I’m happy.
When I don’t, I’m not.
With a life complicated by SSA, mental illness, physical health oddities, and on and on and on, it really has become that simple for me.
It can be for you too.
Simple doesn’t mean easy. Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest.
Your true self is pretty darn tough. Remember, you chose it to be.