By OztN Miller (also posted to his blog http://notsomaladroit.blogspot.ca/ )
Alt. Title: Confessions of a Straight Mormon Boy
As a Child:
I have two dads. Some people have two moms. It has always been interesting to me that I can never tell when I meet someone at school if they were raised by men or women. Man-man relationships are just as likely to produce a girl child as are woman-woman, and the same goes for boy children in both cases. And whether a boy has two moms or two dads, they all tend to gravitate more toward boy things (pretty dresses, fancy hair, cute kittens, etc.); and the girls likewise all tend to enjoy getting dirty outside and competing in sports, etc. I understand that this is a generalization, but it seems to be an accurate one. I guess it doesn’t really matter much. People are just so different anyway. What really tends to make the most difference–if anything–are things like income, education, religion, etc.
Although, you do have to be careful. It is okay for a guy like me to like sports and want to build things, especially as a child. But you can’t go overboard or people start to think you’re weird. I do boy things too; just like all the other kids I let my dads dress me up in cute dresses for church and I play with dolls with the other boys when we’re together. I love music and art, too, which I guess is kind of boyish. But I really love the more girly things. I love playing in the woods with the girls, climbing trees and swimming in the creek. One of my friend’s moms always tells my dads that this is okay for now but that I better grow out of it soon or else no one will ever take me seriously as a man. I don’t really know what he means, but for now I just enjoy who I am.
I have a problem. I don’t really like boys, and I think I may like girls. I know that sounds weird–and maybe I will grow out of it soon–but it is definitely the truth. I have been Mormon all my life (a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), and even though I am still young I have had many spiritual experiences that lead me to believe that the LDS faith is true. I love God and Jesus Christ and I want nothing more than to serve them and make them happy. But I also know that heterosexuality is wrong. Family is the most important part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and everyone knows that men and women are incapable of making children together. Ancient civilizations that embraced heterosexuality were destroyed by God. It is not right. I know that. But I can’t change the way I feel.
While most everyone around me is becoming more and more boy- or girl- crazy, I just really don’t have much interest in dating. I mean, I do… sort of. I guess I should say I have no interest in dating boys. The idea of holding hands with another boy actually makes me want to throw up a little. And it’s not like I can go around dating girls! You’ve gotta be kidding me. I’m not straight! That’s weird. That’s just wrong. And even if I wanted to, it’s not like any of the girls I know would want to date a GUY. Though there are a few straight girls at school, they are not really the type of people I would want to hang out with. The really cool girls are the ones I know from church, but they are all taking turns dating each other. None of them would ever consider being straight. What am I talking about? I’m not straight, either! That’s just weird and wrong. Isn’t it?
The worst part is that I have no one to talk to about it. My dads are hardcore Mormon and I could never admit to them that this is something I am struggling with. They would never understand. Heterosexuality is wrong. They know it. I know it. But I know that if I am faithful and if I serve and work hard then this will just go away, right? Jesus Christ can make this right, I know it. So in the meantime, I just really don’t date. The exceptions are only the occasional big group dates that all my friends go on, and then it’s easy because it is just a big hangout. I don’t have to actually “like” the guy I’m on a date with. They don’t really like me either; we just go as friends, which is great. I like friends.
My LDS Mission:
Like most 18- to 21-year-olds in the LDS church, I served a full-time mission after high school. My mission was one of the hardest times of my life. I learned a lot and many times I actually loved serving a mission, but mostly I look back on that time of my life and think of pain and sadness.
As a missionary, we are never really alone. We are always coupled to another missionary with whom we do everything–live, eat, study, teach, sleep, etc. Missionary companionships are set up in a way that would normally make the work easier and free of distractions; one guy and one girl are always put together. Every month or two, your companion changes but it is always someone of the opposite sex. I never admitted it, but for me this was often a great challenge. All of my companions were women, who were of course attracted to other women. Though we weren’t really supposed to talk about it, sometimes my companion would say something like, “Dang, it was hard to focus on the lesson that time because that girl was so attractive!” I had to pretend to not agree.
But that’s only the beginning. I was often paired up with some really awesome girls. We would spend all of our time together and in many cases, I shared very spiritual growing experiences with my companions and grew close in talking about these experiences. Sometimes we may have grown a little too close…at least for me. I admit that I actually started to fall in love with one of my companions. I tried to ignore it, and I told myself that it was wrong. Unfortunately, it was not uncommon for a companion to walk around the apartment in nothing but her underwear (or less). I hated myself for liking it. Sometimes I would just lock myself in the bathroom and cry for a long time. I would lie and tell everyone that I was okay, but I was sick inside. I hated myself.
In the end, I did get through it. Most people speak about their missions as the best time of their lives. I usually pretend like I agree, but overall my mission is not a time I look back on with too much fondness.
After my mission, I had a hard time trying to figure out what to do with my life. You hear about heterosexuals in the Mormon church, but not very often and the stories are usually not happy ones. Straight men and women do not ever serve in bishoprics or any other positions of real decision-making authority. Many times, they just pretend to be gay in order to fit in with everyone else’s expectations (a lifestyle I was getting pretty familiar with). I have heard many stories about straight men and women who pretended to be gay, got married in the temple, etc. until one day they just couldn’t handle it anymore. They finally came out and just left their families high and dry. I did not want that to be me.
Lately, the world–and some of the church–has started to open up more and to talk more freely about heterosexuality. Many people in the church are even starting to admit that it may not be a conscious choice to be straight. Generally, I think people are starting to be more sensitive about it. But what if you are a straight man in the church? What are your options, really? You can just marry a man and try to make it work; You can stay single and celibate your entire life; you can try to let go and live a heterosexual lifestyle but try to still hold on to your faith somehow; or just forget about the church. None of these options sounds very great to me.
I focus hard on my studies and still try to be just a normal guy. I have tried to date a little more–I have had a few close guy friends who I have even tried to hold hands with–but it always just feels weird and wrong. Usually those friendships disappear pretty quickly. Many of my girl friends will often tell me about the cute guys they know that like me. I try to sound interested, or play it off that none of those guys are my type. But no one knows how I really feel about it–that no guy will ever be my type. If only those girls knew that it was THEM who I was really dreaming about.
I stay married to my work lately, and definitely don’t date much (if at all). I should feel pretty safe with that lifestyle because it is not abnormal for a professional person of my age to be too preoccupied with work for romance–except that I’m Mormon. In Mormon culture, most people are married by now and having children. I have all but missed the boat on that one. Approaching 30 now, I am no closer to wanting to marry another man than I was 10 years ago. But how desperately I crave companionship. I do want someone to share my life with, and to have a family with. But in all my fantasies about the ideal life, I always imagine myself with a woman.
Why would God make me this way? I just want to be myself! This is not fair! I have lived all my life following the commandments and building faith in Jesus Christ and His Gospel and Atonement. And for what!? I’m miserable. It’s not like I am obsessed with sex or anything; I just want to love a woman who loves me back. That doesn’t make me a pervert, does it?! That’s no different than any gay woman out there… Except that I am not a gay woman. I am straight man. I hate my life and I hate myself for feeling this way. I want to be strong and faithful, but it just doesn’t seem worth it anymore…
I have been on my own for years now. I have a steady job and I can take care of myself. I decided it was time to stop faking so much about myself, and if my friends and family won’t accept me for who I really am then I don’t want or need them anyway. If I need to, I can find new friends. I am good at making friends. I tried to hold on to the belief that I would eventually marry a man in the temple and somehow learn to be happy, but I just don’t think that is possible. I have decided to come out for good.
God knows me and what I am going through. Family and love are the most important parts of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Surely He will understand that I desperately need the type of loving relationship that so many people have, the type of relationship that I have always been kept so far from approaching.
I still love God and Jesus Christ and the LDS Church, but it just doesn’t make sense anymore to keep going every week. No one in the church will understand or accept me; it will just make things more difficult for everyone if I try…and secretly, I am still kind of ashamed of the whole thing. I am becoming more comfortable with my new straight lifestyle, but the last thing I am ready to do is boldly show off my new self in front of my old church acquaintances. I will just have to keep my faith in my heart for now.
I am happier now than I ever have been! I am still working at my regular job, which I love even more now that I can go to work everyday and not lie to everyone about who I really am. And I actually have a steady girlfriend. We met through a friend of a friend that knew we were both straight. At first I was nervous about how to approach the whole straight dating thing, but once I met her and we started talking it was just so natural and easy.
She is smart, funny, and WAY attractive. She is caring and patient and she makes me want to be a better person. She makes me laugh, and helps me to truly appreciate all of the good things in life. She loves all the things that are important to me: being with and helping other people, enjoying music, working hard, etc. We are a perfect match for each other: what one of us lacks, the other makes up for. I am no longer sad and bitter inside. I am free. I am happy.
My girlfriend and I make each other happy. But we are a straight couple. Sometimes people still look at us weird when we go out together in public (sometimes with outright disgust). It really doesn’t bother us though, because we are in love. We want to share the rest of our lives together and have the kinds of things I always dreamed of having. We want a family. Marriage and adoption by heterosexual couples is still not easy–and it is actually still not legal in most states–but it is getting easier and we have hope for the future.
The best part of our relationship is that she loves God and Jesus Christ as much as I do. She makes me want to be a better disciple of Jesus Christ, and helps me to become the kind of person that I am trying to be. Maybe someday we will be completely accepted for who we are, maybe not. For today, I know that we are doing the best that we can to follow Christ and be happy. We know it and we know that God knows it, and we can’t ask for anything more than that.
This is the full-article version of a seven-part blog series. I would guess that it is hard for a heterosexual person to imagine what life would be like if they were gay. I have written this in an attempt to put myself in the shoes of someone who has grown up gay and Mormon, and I have likely revealed a lot more about myself than I intended. I chose to set this story in the Mormon culture because it is one that is the most familiar to me–but I would think that many of the principles involved above are common for people in other faith-based cultures as well.
OztN is an economics graduate with a minor in communications from BYU and is currently pursuing an economics PhD from Washington State University. He attributes most of the happiness in his life to his amazing wife and two children.
(Admin note: Check out this moving dramatization of a similar scenario)