To the teenager attracted to the same sex

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.

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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.

Dear 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?

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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.

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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.

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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?

For example:

  • 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.

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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.

Or,

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.

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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.

Ludicrous.

It’s okay to understand that it’s just as impossible to make such important decisions regarding sexuality right now.

silhouette8In the meantime, just go out with friends (male and female) and do the kind of fun things 17 year olds deserve to do. That’s my recommendation to all youth, both hetero- and homosexual.

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.

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Simple doesn’t mean easy. Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest.

That’s okay.

Your true self is pretty darn tough. Remember, you chose it to be.

Greg

9 thoughts on “To the teenager attracted to the same sex”

  1. Greg, for the record, I never guessed. I never thought you were “different” either. Funny how perceptions work. I just knew you were a great guy, fun to hang out with, had a lot of energy, and are a dear friend from whom I learned much–and still do.
    Onward and Upward!

    1. I’m still learning a lot from you. You impress the heck out of me with your determination and drive to build your successful business. Not many of us can do that. You have made your family’s lives better because of it. Yes, onward and upward.

  2. I’m sorry but I do not agree with your statement. My brother is gay & was told to live right & choose God by his bishop. He went to counseling because he was convinced something was wrong with him & he would spend eternity in hell if he didn’t push those urged & feelings away. He tried dating women & even got engaged but eventually realized he would never truly be happy & it would just not be fair to the girl he was engaged to & had become his best friend. We are all wired to love the way God wants us too & it’s not our place to judge nor try & change someone. Gay marriage & relationships are just as important as a straight marriage & relationship. God loves all his children & if a gay marriage isn’t allowed in the LDS temple then so be it, not all temple marriages are honest. I know ppl who have gotten married in the temple to please their families but they live a life of sin, but once again it’s not my place to judge. The only person I do judge who had been allowed to be married in the temple & accepted fully in the LDS faith is the girl who sexually molested my daughter & 25 other children. I think I may have forgotten to mention that I am LDS.
    So as I end my rambling rant, I beg you all to stop trying to convince our children, neighbors, family, & friends that they can get married & push those feeling away. 1- they will never truly be happy & the spouse & children will suffer 2- this is why our young LGBT community has such high sucicide rate.

    1. Desie, thanks for taking the time to share your feelings and experiences. I’m sorry that your brother has such a hard road. I am happy for him if he has found happiness. I am heartsick that your daughter and so many other children have suffered unimaginable horror of sexual abuse. I hope that they are getting the help and support they deserve to find peace. They are what matter now.

      One of the great things about life is that we can actually disagree with each other. If we all had to agree, then that would be Satan’s plan – and I can’t imagine anyone who would want that. At the end of the day, I am completely at peace about my life and wife and family and making the daily choice to not live a homosexual lifestyle. It doesn’t really matter whether others agree with me or not, because I know that I’m happy as are my wife and children. It’s not something I’m trying desperately to “prove” to people to somehow rationalize my life. So, in fact, you really can’t make the statement that “they will never truly be happy and the spouse and children will suffer.” My family is living proof that we can.

      The reason I share my story is not to convince anyone. If someone disagrees with me, then just ignore me. But I have also heard from many who have found hope and strength in our story and also want to choose this path. If I can help them, then I want to.

      Perhaps the blog that I will post on Monday may help clear up some of the things that frustrate you. I agree, going to counseling and forcing yourself to live a life that makes you want to scream inside is wrong. “Man is that he might have joy.” We aren’t taught that people who live a gay life will spend eternity in hell. We are taught that to live in the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom we must obey ALL of God’s commandments. Obedience to commandments is completely voluntary. Also, accepting what is and what isn’t a commandment is voluntary.

      I accept that ALL of the commandments that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches are truly from God. I accept that I can’t have a happy temple marriage and a gay marriage at the same time. So I have chosen.

      Truthfully, this is a choice that everyone who is wired this way must make, one way or the other. In my experience, the desperation that leads to suicide happens most often when the individual doesn’t feel that they are allowed to choose for themselves, or when they want to choose both. Once they are free to embrace their own decisions and feel back in control of their lives, then the desperation eases and they can start to move forward. Having also spent time in the psych ward for suicidal and homicidal issues I know of which I speak.

      I certainly have no judgmental feelings for those who have chosen differently than I have, just as I would hope that they don’t have judgmental feelings towards me.

      Please continue to share your feelings. I would imagine that there are more things on which we agree than those on which we don’t. And on those which we don’t – we can choose to respect each other anyway.

      Thank you Desie.

      Greg

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