Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Dream

Even though I am now completely out in my life, and although most people who frequent this blog know who I am, I have to admit that I have maintained a certain level of anonymity for posts like this one. It is very difficult at times, and sometimes unwise, to discuss extremely personal, powerful spiritual experiences – but doing so anonymously seems a bit more practical.

When I was 14 and praying about why I should remain a member of the church, I remember having a very vivid dream. This dream is just as vivid to me today as it was the day after I had it. In it, I was show certain possibilities – things I think I needed to see at that point in time. When I woke, the feeling I had was intensely spiritual. In fact, I had never had similar feelings in my entire life… until a few nights ago.

The details of that first dream are now slightly irrelevant to this conversation, and were so personal that I won’t innumerate them here, but I do need to say that although this dream was inspiring and powerful, I now know it to mean something completely different than what I thought it did originally.

But this most recent dream… it is significant, and very applicable.

I dreamt I was at a mission reunion. Two of my very mission friends know about me and my partner Adam (in real life). They were there in this dream, as well as the hundreds of other missionaries I had the chance to serve with, to welcome into the mission field as an office missionary, and even the ones I didn’t know, but recognized their faces. The mission reunion was interesting in my dream, and although I felt at peace there, I was not comfortable.

At first I blamed this on the fact that I knew I was gay, and here I was, at a mission reunion. I thought my discomfort was because I was a sinner in the eyes of all these people – but it soon became apparent that my discomfort stemmed from something else.

I walked up to a sister companionship who were talking by themselves, only to hear them talking about me as I approached. I couldn’t hear everything, but I distinctly remember hearing the word “gay” in their conversation.

I froze, and wondered how they knew.

Suddenly, I was surrounded by all these good members of the church. They had fear and loathing in their eyes. The two friends of mine stood a little ways back, with compassion. It almost appeared like they were begging for forgiveness. Suddenly I realized that they had spilled the beans, and that everyone at this reunion knew I was gay.

On cue, one of the most flamboyant Elders in my mission field yelled “Is it true you are gay?” right in front of everyone. At first I was mortified, but then suddenly found myself in a teaching situation. I had the opportunity to explain what it meant to be gay.

Then my dream skipped, as they often do. I found myself on a barren street (one I recognized… it is the street that led to my house). No one was out, and the streets were empty. I set off home, pondering the events that took place during my “mission reunion.”

I was asking myself questions I have asked myself in life many times. “Why me?” “Why am I gay?” “Why do I constantly have to explain myself and clear up misunderstandings and misconceptions?”

In my dream I prayed, and asked God these same questions.

I admit I was surprised when a booming voice answered. Strangely, although the voice was loud and overpowering, it was also recognizable and calming. “Because I want it that way,” it said.

And then I woke up.

I must admit that I have drifted from the church over the past few years. I’ve allowed myself to make excuses to not go, and specifically have avoided places where I knew I would feel the spirit, because I was afraid of feeling guilty.

But the moment my eyes fluttered opened I felt that same, intense, overwhelming, screaming spirit I had only felt once before – when I was 14.

I don’t know why I have to go down the path I am going down. I don’t know, exactly, what it was about the experience of excommunication that I’m sure God wanted me to discover and learn from. But I do have one more piece of the puzzle. I know, beyond any doubt, that I have a job to do – even as an excommunicated Latter-Day Saint.

I am to tell my story, to teach, to explain, and to clear up misunderstandings and misconceptions.

The desire I have had to go to church, partly to just “stick it to the people” who would not want me there is not borne out of hostility. My Father wants it that way.

It was good to feel the spirit again and know that I am on the right track. It is good to know that somehow, my mission in life – whether changed from that vision of long ago or not – is somehow still being fulfilled. It is good to know that I am still capable of being a tool in the Lord’s hand.

I think I need to make a better effort to go to church… because somehow, somewhere, it is going to lead to a teaching experience. And a learning one too, I’m sure.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Respectful Group Discussion

Recently I have had the opportunity to sit down with a group of LGBT and LDS people, who have come together with kindness and respect, with hopes of building bridges, dispelling rumors, spreading truth, and, as an absolutely amazing woman put it, “just get everyone to love everyone.”

Participating members include someone from Equality Utah, a gay dad of two children, me, an active LDS husband and wife whose husband is gay and not secretive about it in his ward (although not sexually active with other men, just his wife), an ex bishop and his wife, the church lobbyist, a stake relief society president, and one of the directors at Planned Parenthood.

As I type all those people out, you would probably assume our meetings are politically charged and emotional. Strangely, they are not. In fact, the discussion moves rather fluidly, and understanding is at the heart of it.

I think the thing I am most proud of about this group is how well we all get along, and how successful we have been at presenting ideas that could cause actual change – not in doctrine, mind you, but in the way people think and approach the subject of homosexuality.

The church lobbyist has been of particular interest, because he was heavily involved in prop 8. Also, since he works in church PR, we often get the inside story, and a refreshing view of the church’s stance on a lot of issues.

For example, the recent news has had a lot of stories about the gay couple cited with trespassing for kissing on the church owned (yet public) Main Street Plaza. According to the lobbyist, the couple, indeed, was engaging in behavior that would have been questionable for either heterosexual or homosexual couples in public. He was also told that there is no video tape of the incident (contrary to many public naysayers who claim to have personal connections to church security members).

I suppose the point I’m trying to make is how important it is to have respectful dialog with people of opposing views. Even though I know there are people in this group that fundamentally disagree with me regarding issues such as marriage and family, I have no doubt that they have grown to love and respect me. Had it been me on the plaza, and one of these group members as church security, I have no doubt the outcome would have been different, and much less news worthy.

We all need to commit to discussion. We are all a member of the human family, and as such, cannot keep demeaning and vilifying those unlike ourselves. And the only way to stop the other side from vilifying you, is to discuss with them the fact that you exist… and that you love.