Identi-ME

By Jake Taylor

Introduction:

Tony Kushner raises many issues of identity within his play, Angels in America. The play focuses on Prior’s struggle to deal with the disease to which he has succumbed. Nevertheless, the story follows several other characters and how they deal with homosexuality and individual versus communal identity. This raises the question as to what truly identifies us as us. Is it our gender? Is it our occupation? Is it our religion? Our sexuality? Maybe the best way to define who we are is a blend of all of these different exterior and interior aspects of our lives. However, what happens when there is a conflict between who we are and who we want to be? What about the conflict of identifying with two different concepts that have no seemingly possible means of coexisting? This struggle is precisely what we see in the character Joe Pitt. Joe is a Mormon Republican lawyer who is struggling with his marriage because of his closeted homosexuality. Joe becomes increasingly depressed and reckless. We see as his life falls apart, yet we never see a true recovery. We never come to terms with what happens to Joe, only that his ideology seems to block his possibility for progress.

My Story:

I immediately identified with this character, finding myself in a very similar personal predicament. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon). I grew up attending church every Sunday, participating in youth programs, and serving as part of Seminary Council during high school. When I was 19 years old, I left my family and friends to serve a full-time mission in Costa Rica for two years of my life. I dedicated my heart, might, mind, and strength to furthering the gospel of Jesus Christ. I truly believe it was the best two years for my life. I learned so much about who I am and what I want to become. I learned life lessons I could not have learned in any other environment and I met amazing people who changed my perspective forever.

I am also gay. I realized I had “same-sex attraction” at a very young age. Nevertheless, it was not something I felt I could ever openly talk about. It was a part of myself I didn’t accept. It was a part of myself that for the longest time I hated. The church has been increasingly supportive and loving to those who “struggle” with SSA; however, I always feared this part of who I was. It remained hidden for 22 years of my life.

After my mission, I realized that this aspect was not going to change and I had to
be honest with who I am. I hated that I wasn’t what I felt was normal. I hated that I felt so alone. I hated myself. Like Joe, I became increasingly depressed and struggled for months and months until I was at my lowest point. It was then that I wrote the following poem:

REALITY
By: Jake Taylor

It creepeth in without a word and overcome my every limb, Bathed in regret and loss I hardly hear
The crowds around my entirety,
I cannot feel,
I cannot hurt,
I cannot deal and so I sink,
Sinking deeper, lower, never knowing how or when it began, Only knowing that here I am,
Numb and lonely, lost and alone,
In tears I fall to slumber and in anxiety I awake,
Learn to live a life not mine,
And hope the answer comes in time,
I never reach that point of grand finality,
But choose instead this lifeless reality.

I decided at that point to reach out and find someone like me: anyone that could share, in at least some way, the pain I was feeling. I met another amazing LDS member, Sean, who shared a similar outlook and struggle. I never expected to fall in love. I never wanted to. But I did. It was so natural and powerful and somehow spiritual. It was the easiest thing I have ever done: falling in love with him. I remember just driving with him going nowhere in particular. I remember an overwhelming feeling of happiness, an honesty that I had never yet embraced. I decided at this point I would write a much more optimistic sequel to my previous work:

REALITY: PART 2
By: Jake Taylor

And when you step into that life, a newfound hope is realized, Bathed in gratitude and respect I hardly recall the circumstances
That so abundantly plagued my existence,
A glimpse of hope,
A glimpse of change,
A glimpse of empowerment and so I rise,
Rising higher, faster, never knowing how this will end or what will become, Only knowing that I am I,
Nervous yet calm, undecided yet confident,
In smiles I fall to slumber and in yearning I awake,
An unsuspecting savior has come,
Restored a sense I call my own,
And though it is unlikely to hold finality,
I long to make this life, reality.

Though I felt happier than ever before, neither of us really knew what could become of us. The church teaches that the Lord has made it very clear that homosexuals are to be loved and not discriminated against; that it is not a sin in any way to have feelings for the same sex. It is, however, a sin to act upon those feelings. Any sexual activity outside the bonds of marriage is transgression just as it would be for a heterosexual couple. The difference is that for a gay couple there is no hope for a marriage recognized by the church who appoints such a union to man and woman only.

It has been an increasingly difficult battle that I have had to endure, especially this
semester coming out to family and close friends only. It’s easier in California, but in Utah my “coming out” is a slower process of explaining and reassuring. As for my identity, my beliefs have not changed. I am a Mormon. I live it. I love it. I have a strong testimony in its divinity. But I am also in love with a man. I want to be with him for the rest of my life. My battle IS my identity. Can I blend the two? Is there a way to create a path where it seems there is none? I choose to believe in hope. I am working to allow myself to be happy and remain true to my beliefs. It seems paradoxical, impossible maybe. But I am a determined person. I choose to make it work for me. I choose to define myself:

WHO AM I?
By: Jake Taylor

Am I who I am?
Am I who I need to be?
Am I what a want to be? Who is it that I am? Should I be the epitome of perfect holiness to Thee? Should I be the example to a family crushed by infamy? Could I make identity within two worlds most contrary? Or is that just hypocrisy?
Perhaps there is no way…
Do I play a part?
Do I pave a path unknown?
Do I choose to be alone? My “weakness” to be shown?
Am I to learn sacrifice and view this trial as just a vice?
Am I to reshape my mind or is there room where both may splice? Can I choose to stay with Thee and also to be true to me?
Or is that just called blasphemy?
Perhaps there is no way…
Can I make it work?
Can I strive to rise above?
Can I make the most of this? Embrace this newfound Love? Can I keep a special part without the need to break my heart?
Can I wash the stain of tears with blessings to impart? Can I be a beacon still, combine my feelings and His will? Or is that just too large a hill?
I know there is a way…
I am who I am.
I am who I need to be.
I can be what I want to be: with Him, and him, and me.
I will hold tight to testimony; stay strong in my adversity. I won’t need to leave Him for him; my eyes can finally see, I progress toward identity: defined by His great love for me, and happiness eternally,
I think I’ve found my way.
I am.

My Findings:

In an attempt to further investigate my options as a gay Mormon I did a lot of research. The most obvious options are extremely polarized and lead to only one aspect of an identity. First there is the completely celibate gay LDS member. The profile is an active church-goer who serves in various callings and is supported by friends and family. However, he is never able to learn and progress on this earth in terms of love or the intimate connection one can have with another human being. The other profile falls into the complete opposite. It is the gay LDS member who completely turns away from the church. He chooses to be true to himself, but fails to incorporate the gospel in a cohesive way. He usually falls short of many other moral standards and cultivates a bitter hate toward the church and its doctrine. As I explained earlier, I felt completely trapped and helpless for months and months. I lived in a limbo of never really choosing. Since receiving what I feel is personal guidance from a Heavenly Father who loves me, I have begun a process of self-acceptance. I have also found that I am not alone. There aren’t many, but there are active members of the church who are openly gay. I found organizations such as Mormons Building Bridges and Affirmation that give support to those who are in my exact situation. I found amazing testimonials of members who have found an even stronger personal relationship with their Savior. I have even discovered an amazing author and playwright, Carol Lynn Pearson. Pearson is an active LDS member and gay activist. After her husband came out as being gay, the two were divorced, but remained friends. Pearson’s husband contracted AIDS, and Pearson took him into her home and cared for him until he died from the illness. Her play, Facing East, explores the story of two LDS parents who cope with the reality and the issue of homophobia after their gay teenage son commits suicide. She has also written several books dealing with the issue of gay tolerance while maintaining LDS philosophy. It is inspiring to know that there is a way. For the longest time, I was lost and confused. I was lonely and hopeless. Now I feel rejuvenated and hopeful. I have found purpose in my trials and comfort in my affirmations. I can move forward. I can leave the darkness behind: lead kindly light. I can be a voice. I can make my identity known:

Lead Kindly Light: An LDS Hymn

www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnIYLEXHeFk
Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom, lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home; lead Thou me on! Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou shouldst lead me on; I loved to choose and see my path; but now lead Thou me on! I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!
So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on. O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till the night is gone, And with the morn those angel faces smile, which I Have loved long since, and lost awhile!
Meantime, along the narrow rugged path, Thyself hast trod, Lead, Savior, lead me home in childlike faith, home to my God. To rest forever after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life.

The Future:

So where do I go from here? My journey is just beginning. There is still so much confusion and misunderstanding among the LDS community. I feel like I can be an example and a support for an amazing cause of love and acceptance. I want to seek membership in many of these causes and pave a path that will bridge the gap between Mormons and gays, and allow struggling gays the opportunity to find self-worth in an atmosphere that sometimes hinders such growth. I want to remain true and honest to myself and also to my beliefs. I am working toward an inner courage to do what I feel is right and fulfill my purpose. I stand by my belief that everything happens for a reason and that everything we endure is an opportunity for growth and knowledge. I would like to share my story. I would like to produce my story. I would like to reshape the way
Mormons feel about gays and change the way gays feel about Mormons. We are all
human. We are all brothers and sisters. We are all connected. We are all one.

I FOUND THEE
By: Jake Taylor

While wading in a pool of grief, My personal Gethsemane, And Searching o’er to find relief, A prayer is how I find Him.
Through trapped I feel, can hardly breath, So many souls around I see,
Can’t help but think it’s only me, Until at once I find Him.
Father, please, I need a way,
To gain Thy strength and not to fail, To take me back to that same day, When I firmly said, “I’ll find Him”.
As just a boy I made that plan,
And spun the globe guessing where I’d land, Preparing hard to become that man, Who would soon embark to find Him.
Father, please, I continue to plead, In humility upon my knees, As softly God assures my need, That now is the time to find Him.
The journey began many years before,
I had learned to teach or knocked these doors, And the time that I have waited for,
Has come; I now must find Him.
He is in the joy of a family saved, And happiness for success he gave, He has led me to the path he paved, That each of us may find Him.
And at times we drink that bitter cup, With the trial of faith overwhelming us, When the Darkness tempts, “Go on, give up”, I grasp in fear to find Him.
But in that time of great alarm,
It is He that grasps to take my arm, And lead me, safe, away from harm, To the place where I will find Him.
Now, each may have his stormy days, I suppose it’s just the price we pay, That each of us may one day say, “My Savior, I have found Thee”.

REALITY: PART 3 (written 1 year later)
By: Jake Taylor

I contemplate on all I’ve learned and where my life with you has gone, Bathed in awe and deepest joy, I pause to recall the miracles, That God continues to present me,
I love the Lord,
I love you, Sean,
I love the life that we’re allowed to live,
Live it fuller, live it honest, live it confident for a difference is near, Difference and purpose of LOVE and not FEAR,
Happy and Full, grateful and true,
In peace I fall to slumber then wake next to you,
My hate has ceased; replaced with love,
A miracle from the Lord above,
And now with thanks I seek finality,
In life with you—my perfect reality.

4 comments for “Identi-ME

  1. Melissa Rutter
    May 18, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Jake, I truly hope you are able to find that balance, that you and Sean get to live the life you deserve. I am a Catholic and newly Confirmed to the faith. A lot happened to me to make me decide to changed from the protestant faith and I am happier now than I have ever been. One of the many things I learned through my journey, was to never give up. At times it seemed like it was never going to happen, lots of things got in my way making it look hopeless, but it did happen and I think it was my faith that got me through it. Although this ins no way compares to all you are going through, I know that if you love Sean and he loves you, one way or another, you will find a way.

    May I commend you on such a riveting, touching and an impressively written piece. As a writer myself, we are told to write what we know and I can tell that this is from your soul. I admire your courage, your strength alone will be a beacon of light to others. You are an inspiration to all those who struggle with this battle daily and because of you others will gain the courage to be open about their true feelings. It seems as though your true journey is only just beginning.

    I wish you and Sean all the love and luck in the world, Jake. May your lives be filled with happiness and blessed with love. You will be in my prayers.

  2. May 18, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    This is beautifully written—thanks for striving to bring diversity and perspective into the LDS community. Every little bit helps in this aspect of accepting and loving others, and I as well am trying to get people in my circle of influence to open up and consider things that they haven’t considered yet about LGBT matters. Cheers!

  3. Jb
    June 5, 2014 at 10:58 pm
    • Daniel Parkinson
      June 6, 2014 at 8:10 am

      Be aware that ALL Mormon gays are pressured ALL THE TIME to marry someone of the opposite gender, and Josh Weed is often held up as an example. So your idea is not new to any gay person. You should also be aware that Josh has said publicly, (and privately) that this is option that should not be held over people’s heads, or used as a battering ram. I suggest you read more of Josh’s messages or listen to his podcast interview at MormonStories.org to get a better understanding of why he feels it was right for him, but not for every gay person. He calls it club unicorn for a reason. He also expressed regret that his story is being mis-used this way.

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