Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Early Years

I was always a little different. I was the kid in elementary school who would bring fresh picked flowers to my teachers simply because I was taught to value the fact that they were of a profession that would ensure my future success. I was always sensitive, and kind to the kids other kids picked on. I remember one day specifically, when my mom and I gave a ride home to one of the girls who was a favorite class scapegoat. My mom told me, “It’s a good thing you’re nice to her, because one day she is going to grow up and be beautiful and she’ll remember you were nice to her.” Funny as it may be, that girl grew up to be one of my closest friends, model gorgeous, and now lives in Russia with her millionaire father.

I’m not trying to say that every sensitive, kind, flower-bearing man is gay, simply that, in my case, these traits came easily to me as a direct result of my feeling “different.” As I look back on it, it wasn’t these traits that MADE me different; they were just the RESULT of something I already was. I think that it is important for me to make that distinction. That isn’t to say that all homosexuals possess these traits – but now I’m getting off topic.

I’m pretty sure the first time I became aware of my sexuality was around age 12. I remember feeling my first twinge of guilt around this age when I was ordained a deacon; I had recently had my first erotic dream – which included a cameo appearance by my best friend’s younger brother. I was so terrified of church discipline (I was sure I would be kicked to the curb if I dared tell anyone about the dream, let alone about the fact that I was, indeed, genuinely attracted to him) that I simply learned to keep my mouth shut, all the while starting down a destructive path of self-loathing.

I promised myself that no matter what I would simply follow the gospel that I had been taught. I compartmentalized my feelings, and thought if I just ignored them they would go away. I continually read my scriptures, attended the temple regularly, read the church magazines before anything else, and was active in seminary, boy scouts, and young men’s. I had great experiences with dating. I prayed at least six times a day. I literally did everything I could think of that the church told me to do – not only because I believed the gospel, but because I wanted to distract myself from the ever bulging mental box in which I had sealed my feelings.

I discovered early on that I could relieve some pressure if I dabbled in pornography. This, surprisingly, I did not feel I needed to hide from my priesthood leaders, and spoke to them often regarding the issue. They never asked what KIND of pornography I was viewing, and I never volunteered the information during my teen years. I have to admit that I was a bit shocked that I never lost my temple recommend, continued to be called to leadership positions, and eventually, was called to serve a mission.

My story will continue there, next week...

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