First off, thanks to Abelard for making this the theme this month. I think it's kind of interesting and ironic that he would pick this for October, because it's been a year now since I acknowledged to myself the truth of who I am. It's a good chance to reflect on where I've been during the last year.
How did you get to where you are today?
It's been a painful process, that's for sure. For a lot of my life, I thought there was something wrong with me. During junior high and high school especially, when being a teenager is all about how you compare with everyone else, I felt very different. I would look at my sister and at the other girls my age and I just knew that I wasn't like them. But I never really had a reason that could explain it.
I spent my first year of college at Westminster College in Salt Lake. Coming from a very conservative town and a high school where 90% of the student body was enrolled in LDS Seminary, it was a very eye-opening experience. I took a philosophy class and one day we had a discussion about gay marriage and things along those lines. That class got me thinking, and that's the first time I wondered to myself if I might be gay. As a nineteen year old, it wasn't something I was ready for, and it scared me. I was scared of what it would mean for me if it was true. So I buried it beneath anything else I could.
I met my husband in early 2003. We dated for about five months before we got engaged and were then engaged for six months before we were married in 2004. We got married in the Salt Lake Temple. Marriage was not easy for me. I was more than happy to blame it on my emotional/mental health issues, and so was my husband. Intimacy was anything but easy. Every single time we would have sex, I would end up in tears, because it just felt wrong. There were other issues too, but we really shouldn't have gotten married. We divorced about a month before our 2nd anniversary. I think it was being married that really made me take a close look at who I am though. If it wasn't for that, I don't know if I would have had the courage to say that I'm gay.
I came out to myself in October 2008. I didn't tell anyone until February of this year. But as I've let more people in and felt their support, acceptance, and love, it's become easier for me to be who I am. I've only recently told my family and they are struggling with it. But I can't blame them. I struggled with it for a very long time too.
Are you happy with where you are?
I wouldn't say I'm necessarily happy, but I'm feeling better about what I'm doing and how I see myself. I've always struggled with self-compassion. I knew though that if I couldn't accept myself I could never expect anyone else to, so that has been something I've had to learn to do. But I'm glad I have. And I think the more I can be at ease with myself and be happy with who I am, the easier it will be for people around me to feel that too. I'm a work in progress, but I'm definitely progressing, and I'm happy with that.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
I don't think about the distant future a whole lot. I hope though that I'll still be with my girlfriend. She's absolutely amazing to me and I have completely fallen in love with her. I hope that I will have the support of my family, but if I don't, as painful as that will be, I know that I'll be okay, because I'm finally living for myself.
What roadblocks do you have and/or have you overcome?
The biggest roadblock for me is just part of my nature. I am a HUGE people pleaser and have always been, most often at my own expense. So trying to be who I am in spite of what others may say or think has been really difficult. Being gay in this day and age is easier than it has been, but it's definitely not easy, especially when you're surrounded by Utah Mormons. But I've finally realized that the opinion that should matter most to me is my own.
What advice do you have for others following a similar path?
As alone as you might feel, you're not. Through the miracle of the internet, there are people all over who can help you and support you if you feel like there's no one in your daily life who can. Find whatever resources you can to support you. Know that there are days that are better than others and there will always be people who care about you, even if it's someone you only know by a screen name.
What advice do you have for family and friends?
Like I mentioned before, this is a painful process. As much as it might pain you to hear that someone you know and love is gay, I promise you that it hasn't been a walk in the park for that someone either. No doubt it has taken them a lot of sleepless nights, fighting through moments of fear and panic, and soul-searching thought before they were able to come out to you. I know with my family, they will never understand, and I won't ask them to. I just want their love and support, not their judgment. The rest of the world certainly has no problem judging me, and there will always be people ready and willing to share their opinions in harsh terms.
Be willing to get more information. Look into finding supportive and accurate resources. Above all though, remember that we are still your son or daughter, brother or sister, and the only thing that really changes is that we trust you more with our lives than we did before, because we're letting you in.