Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Coming Out in the LDS Church
The author of (Gay) Mormon Guy was kind enough to write to me sharing his feelings and experiences after revealing his identity to friends and loved ones, and how things have changed, or not changed, now that they know.
The most common question I’ve had since letting my worlds collide is this: “What has it been like? How have people responded?”
The answer is different from what I expected it would be.
Not much has happened, and not much has changed.
I guess I should add some caveats to that statement. Most people who have contacted me were surprised when I shared this part of my life, and a handful of close family members were concerned when they realized that I was sharing it publicly – for the whole world to see. But beyond a few concerns, everyone was supportive and loving… which isn’t really a difference from how they acted before November. My classmates and professors tell me that they admire me. Okay. A few more people in my life have shared their personal stories and struggles with me, and a few others have asked for advice for their family and friends. But beyond the first conversations I had with them, the topic hasn’t come up.
If I look just at a list of things that have transpired, a lot has happened. I’ve tried to throw myself into a new environment with the hope that I can make a difference… and maybe see a difference in my life. I attended a conference sponsored by the Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists on attraction research, was filmed as part of the Voices of Hope project, performed at a Christmas fireside for North Star, met dozens of members of the community, and talked with people that before I had only ever heard of. But it still feels like life hasn’t changed at all.
I wonder why. I mean, most of the people I’ve known who came out did so and suddenly “felt amazing” – like they had a new lease on life. Their relationships seemed more real, their life more worthwhile, whatever. Granted, I didn’t share this part of my life to get closer to people… but somewhere inside I guess I expected the same thing to happen to me. I have a really hard time getting close to people. Making friends is almost impossible… and keeping them is even harder. Somewhere I believed that being more open and honest would make it easier for me to get close to people and develop real friendships. Maybe not having absolutely everything about my life available for public perusal was an obstacle in relationships. And maybe for some people it is. But I definitely don’t feel that way.
Part of it might be because I have a blog. I had a classmate remark that someone had talked to him about my blog, after reading for a few hours… and yet had never talked to me about his experience. Why? But I guess maybe it makes sense - if you can get inside my head vicariously, and find out everything that I think on the subject without ever having to ask potentially awkward questions, why go to the real person?
I think that most of the reason why nothing has changed comes from the reality that I have much larger obstacles in my ability to connect with people. Whether from autism or something else, I feel like I’m always an outsider. At support group events, at church, at family gatherings, at school, at MBA council meetings… everywhere I go, I feel like a little kid in a group of grown-ups, or someone visiting from out of town. Interesting, a bit peculiar, and maybe even enlightening. But at the end of the day, I’m still someone on the outside looking in. And that hasn’t changed with the simple revelation that I’m attracted to guys. If anything, that revelation has seemed to make it harder for people to relate to me, and me to them.
So that’s what has changed. Not much. People know who I am, I’ve met a handful of people in the community, and now I have no secrets. But sharing my identity didn’t solve any of the relationship problems I was facing, nor did it suddenly provide me with an ability to work through my hardest times in life.
But even if it didn’t solve my relationships, it was worth it. The few people whose lives I’ve been able to touch… the few people who’ve been lifted in some way – that made it worthwhile.