By Chris Christensen (also posted gayfathers.org)
Have you ever been in a situation where the choices that were made in a given situation were totally wrong, these decisions were made without your input, they made you uneasy (maybe even angry), you had that sinking feeling inside that this path had so many flaws, that it was sure to fail. These experiences could be at work, in your personal life, or situations in your community.
Many of us have had these experiences…….remember back when these situations happened…..were there emotions, judgments, choices, feelings that you can recall? Are there triggers that bring these things to your mind? How did you resolve these situations? Are these things still present in your life?
I had one of these experiences that continues to impact my life.
I remember sitting on a bench in Edinburgh, Scotland. I was talking to Joseph F. McConkie. It was the end of June 1991. I was preparing to fly home to Idaho in a few days. He said that I had finished my mission to the people of Scotland honorably. I had been paired with a companion for 2 years. My next transfer home (to Idaho) required me to find another companion. I was to find that person to marry, take her to the temple and create a family. That was the only way to true happiness.
I struggled my whole mission with my sexuality. I remember deriding myself in my journal time and time again, telling myself to fix my broken-self!! The shame and guilt were immeasurable. I needed to cure myself. I was told I would find infinite happiness abiding by this mans’ counsel. I made the deliberate choice to be straight. For most of my life I have seen sexuality as a choice. I did EXACTLY as was counseled. I proposed to my (then) best friend 6 days after returning home. She accepted. We were married 7 weeks after that.
To find happiness, to cure myself, to stop these feelings of grief, guilt and shame…..I made the choice to take this path. These things were promised me…..to FIX me. I experienced those feelings of anger, flaws in the system, uneasiness….but persevered. I remember the first night we stayed in our small apartment, lying awake crying. I cried because I did not know if I could see this through. I had that sinking feeling in my gut. I was doing something that did not come natural to me. I was making a choice. I should have ran, far far away at that moment…….but I had faith in a system, that I found out later was flawed.
Quote from mormonsandgays.org:
“No one fully knows the root causes of same-sex attraction. Each experience is different. Latter-day Saints recognize the enormous complexity of this matter. We simply don’t have all the answers. Attraction to those of the same sex, however, should not be viewed as a disease or illness. We must not judge anyone for the feelings they experience. Members of the Church who have same-sex attractions, but don’t act on them, can continue to enjoy full fellowship in the church, which includes holding the priesthood, carrying out callings, and attending the temple. Unlike in times past, the Church does not necessarily advise those with same-sex attraction to marry those of the opposite sex. Same-sex attraction itself is not a sin, but yielding to it is. However, through repentance Jesus Christ will offer forgiveness.”
I was in a perfect system that was incapable of handling my situation. Now I have consequences associated with my current life. I still have GOBS of guilt and shame in multiple ways.
- I still have guilt and shame associated with my “gayness”. These feelings are intertwined with my very being and have been for 42 years. It is difficult to unravel every one of these feelings and experiences. It will take time to evaluate each of these feelings, triggers, and learned behaviors to finally rid myself of this type of guilt and shame.
- I have a new found guilt and shame, these are associated with the consequences of my choices and how they fit with my natural inclinations of love and the expression of those feelings. I have been separated from an individual that I cared about for years, but now I cannot have those feelings because I am being authentic with myself and those around me. It was declared to me by this individual that I could not care for her any more. I have 6 wonderful children caught up in this guilt, shame, change, ostracized from a religious structure (not individuals within that structure) that wanted me married in an unnatural state…..but now declares that I am OK as an individual but cannot express that love to anyone of the same gender. TOTAL mixed messages!! I am gay and do not think it sensible for an organization to dictate who I love.
- I have deep remorse for my children. I was their rock for years, now I sometimes feel like a failure and a bystander in their lives. Primarily because that religious structure has NO place for me, which placed an immediate chasm between my own flesh and blood. I am reminded of a statement from an influential person in the lives of my children to their mother, “you need to make Chris obsolete in the children’s lives”. We are all caught in this in-between state with limited resolution or outcome, because the root issue (being gay) is at odds with a flawed religious culture.
- I do not need forgiveness for who I am. I need acceptance for my potential. I yearn for a system that is accepting, loving, compassionate, welcoming, and NOT guilt ridden. I have many individuals that express these things to me, but the system holds me at arms length. This is NOT a social issue for me, this is a very personal, real, and daily experience for me.
If I seem to get passionate about this, you now know why. Think of the scenario at the first of this entry. You know something was/is wrong with a certain situation…..now you have found a voice to change that situation. What would you do?