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Monday, July 13, 2015

Confessions of a School Boy Misfit

I honestly don't know what all I am going to talk about in this post. I just felt like there was more for me to say, and open up about. So with this post I decided to come up with a title and I am just going to type and see what comes out.

I was born gay. When I say that what do you think about? Do you see a child sitting around thinking about sex? For some reason that is the main thing people think about when they hear that someone is gay. Why is that? Or if someone is transgender the first thing people think about is what their "down there" looks like when it's really no bodies business. I grew up in an amazing LDS family. I have three wonderful sisters who for the most part we have all gotten along pretty well. We would always play house, play with barbies, do eachothers hair, I may have even tried on a dress or two. I think the first time I had anything remotely close to a crush on a boy was in kindergarten. We kids would always chase each other, usually the boys would chase the girls. I however found it enjoyable to chase the boys. Once they were cornered in the bathroom they received a kiss on the cheek. I only remember that happening once or twice, and for some reason I was never told on. If I was to be told on I see the end result being a bad one. Now don't get me wrong, I had crushes on girls too. At that age you don't think about sex, you don't even really think about the body at all in that way, you just simply think someone is cute. I knew though that being in an LDS family and growing up in a Christian church you are told that marriage is only between a man and a woman so why on earth would I tell anyone that I had crushes on boys and girls? Instead I would just tell people about my girl crushes.

Skip ahead to a new year and a new school. I was now in the first grade at another elementary school. I remember this boy, I forget his name though. I always felt threatened by him and it was almost like he had some sort of a hold on me. He kissed me on the lips in the middle of the grass field once or twice. I don't remember liking it. I remember feeling kind of scared actually. Knowing what the church teaches I knew I better not tell anyone what happened. So I just kept it to myself. I was so relieved the day that he left our school never to come back. After that I never really had any issues except for the occasional mockery, name calling, and loneliness. I never had a close guy friend in elementary school, Jr. high, and high school. I always felt extremely awkward around any guys. So I only made friends with girls. My girls had my back and it felt nice. I felt like I belonged somewhere, except I wasn't where guys are supposed to be. Boys were supposed to be out on the field playing ball, or shooting hoops, maybe even playing tether ball or something. Instead I was with the ladies on the playground talking about whatever we wanted. Sometimes we would swing on the swings, or create a new club. We also would always make great friends with the playground assistants. I remember dreading recess at some moments. If the girls were gone, I literally had no one. So I walked around. I would try to kill time and I could not wait for the whistle to blow. I was so excited to start Jr. high because there would be no recess! I didn't have to worry about being alone, or being sad... I was sure wrong though.

When I started Jr. High I had a few close friends from elementary school who I would sit with. That only lasts for so long though before everyone begins to find where they fit in. Except for me. I didn't fit in at all. I had a few "friends" I  would find while I was walking around. Usually people I shared classes with. Then I would feel the awkwardness and I would leave. You should have seen me in P.E Oh my goodness was that awkward or what. Have me in a locker room full of guys while I'm trying my hardest to seem "straight". I definitely seemed as straight as a circle. Just looking at me was a dead give away. Guys were constantly asking if I was gay, I got that literally every day at school, in the locker room, even in public places. This was about the time that the rumors began that I discussed in my earlier posts. I'll skip that though so we don't have to go through the depressing details again.

Both of my years in Jr high kind of blend together, nothing really changed from one year or the other. I do remember however, every girl I thought was pretty (even in highschool) I would immediately say I had a crush on them. I wanted so bad to be in a relationship so I could give off a straight persona. I never had a girlfriend though, not until highschool.

I think the best year of high school was my freshman year. Everyone is awkward and you are all getting used to the new school. I loved freshman year. We were all on an equal playing field almost. I even joined the student senate which is a part of student council. I helped plan dances and put up the decorations, we also planned the homecoming floats. I had alot of fun that year. From sophomore year on it was pretty much the same story as Jr high. I did have more friends though, and I established a few amazingly close, life long friendships with a few girls in my high school years. I was able to blow off some rumors because I was so used to hearing it but I think it was Jr and senior year I was done hearing it and that's when I began cutting my wrists to relieve the pain I was feeling on the inside. It really helped me being in EVIT though, for those of you who don't know. EVIT is a trade school for high school kids to go to for free and get training in various professions. I chose baking. I met so many amazing, open minded, loving individuals who welcomed me with open arms. I never came out to them but I am positive that they knew, but they didn't care! I was almost in culture shock because I was so used to how I felt at my high school. I feel like I should explain though, I was in seminary and I had church activities and lots of amazing friends, but I was still so dead set on having a close guy friend. Just a friend, that's all I wanted. I had all the girlfriends you could ask for but I desperately just wanted a guy or two who liked the things that I liked and we could be platonic friends. I rember there being a few nights were both my parents held me while I cried. I felt like I was broken. Something had to be wrong with me right? I never told anybody that I found guys attractive until after I graduated highschool. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I came out. Would my adolescent years have been easier? Nobody will ever know, and frankly it doesnt matter. What happened happened. Sure, people said and did things to me that had a negative impact for a time, but I also made it worse by speculating what everyone thought of me.

I want people to know that it is not because of the LDS religion, or because of the Christian belief that marriage is only between a man and a woman that sent me into depression, and a downward spiral of suicidal thoughts. It may have added confusion, and some frustration for me internally, but the main thing that I was effected by was how my peers treated me. Nobody should have to get to the point were they are used to being talked down to. I think the main thing I was confused about growing up was the future. To be honest the thought of being intimate with a woman freaked me out. Yet, I was telling people I was going to marry a woman. It was only inevitable for me to officially come out as gay though because I would not be able to put a woman through a marriage to a gay man if I wasn't attracted to her in that way. I feel like that would cause doubt and self esteem problems for both of us, not to mention the mockery she may recieve, or our kids may recieve. I decided that it was best for me not to marry a woman and to save an individual from heartache and heartbreak.

I dont know why I shared all of that, but it definitely felt good to just release it. I hope that people can relate to a point, and know that you are never the only one in the school or your surroundings who is going through something difficult. Would I go back in time and change what was said about me? Change what people did to me? Change the rumors I heard for multiple years? Change how people saw me? No. My past is filled with hurt, and pain. It is also filled with strength that I gained, strong friendships that I built with amazing people, and now the confidence to be who I am today. I hated who I was years ago, but I'm telling you that with time and patience you will grow and become stronger. You will hit a few bumps in the road, but thats all they are. You go over them and you are back on the smooth road again. I love my life so much. Yes I still struggle with depression, yes I have anxiety, but its controllable. I am able to talk myself down when I get in a bad place mentally, I am able to open up to people. Heck I even blog to all of you! I would have never thought of opening up so publicly on the internet but I think that is what has helped me out the most. I may have had a hard past, but I know there are many many more people who have had it alot worse. I would not change  what happened to me at all. If I did that then I wouldn't be who I am today and I like who I am today. I am a stronger person because of my trials. Thank you for letting me open up to you, I hope my words have been helpful to someone.

Until next time,

Zac

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

From Hate to Hope

Over the last week or so, I have really had to get my thoughts and feelings in line in order to discuss them. On June 30, 2015 the first presidency of the LDS church released a letter in response to the June 26, 2015 Supreme Court ruling legalizing same sex marriage. If you are interested in reading the full letter here is the link (LDS Newsroom). Originally when I read the letter, I got sick. The letter bothered me. I was upset with how it was worded, how I felt it made us gays look to the other members of the church. I was also concerned for how fully active members would treat us LGBTQ members of the church. I know for the most part I can feel comfortable in my family ward. I have many friends married and unmarried, my age, and some older. I am not necessarily concerned for myself or how I may be directly treated because all the essential people in my life have welcomed me with open arms. I do feel pain for the other people who don't have my situation. Either their parents disowned them, they are homeless, their ward family has shunned them, sometimes their bishop may even shun them. I know there are people out there and I let those feelings get to my heart. I don't see how people can be that hateful and I ache on the inside because I know I can't help them see the light. This post may seem negative in the beginning but bare with me. My attitude changes.

So back on the topic of the letter. I felt like the tone of the letter was simply just regurgitating the teaching that marriage is only sanctioned by God if it is between a man and a woman. This was to be expected. I didn't have any hope or feeling that the church doctrine would change. I just hoped that the letter would have made it more clear that there ARE members everywhere who are either SSA and staying active in the church, or members who live authentically and live with the one who they love. Some people may not understand the frustration I and many others felt when this letter was first released, and thats ok. Be glad that you dont have to worry about this stuff. At the same time though it would be nice if LGBTQ individuals could be taken out of the "sinful" category. It is not the same as alcoholism, it is not an abortion, Homosexuality is not about sex, it is not a sin that you openly commit. It is more than that. These are hormones, emotions, actual feelings, and legitimate attraction to the same sex. None of the sins they categorize homosexuality with have any of those. You choose to have sex, you choose to have an abortion (in some cases it is necessary), you choose to become alcoholic (unless its genetics). How can you compare how you feel about people to how someone sees alcohol? Alcoholism is an addiction. Not an attraction.

I know my thoughts may seem clustered and slightly jumbled but I have alot going through my mind. Let me take a few steps back to 2 years ago. Back when I was contemplating serving a mission. I had committed a few sins that I needed to clear up with my bishop. I was in the singles ward then and he was the new bishop in that ward. I was scared because I didn't know how he would respond to the fact that I was attracted to men. Our past bishop was slightly open minded and easy to talk to. He also was willing to learn more about the topic because he knew there was a large number of individuals in the church who needed help, love, and compassion. The conversation became more of an interrogation. My feelings and attractions were seen more as a problem and he thought that in the future I would grow out of the "gay". Around this time is when I moved. I met with my new bishop and things were great! He said he had a personal connection to the topic of SSA. I felt like I could open up. Eventually there was a point where I was depressed. This was about the time that I came close to taking my life. I was in a situation where something happened to me and it was out of my control. This made things even more difficult emotionally for me. I could not stop thinking about the razor blade. I went back to being a zombie while driving. I wanted to die. I felt like garbage. I was worthless in my eyes. I wanted to meet with him hoping to get this off my chest and to seek help and guidance. I bawled my eyes out to him, I told him everything and I felt anything but Christlike love in that moment. He immediately jumped to the conclusion that I would need to go through disciplinary council for something that I didn't do, or choose to do. My thoughts, emotions, feelings, and attractions were pushed aside and I felt worse than I did when I went in to meet with him. It was about this time that I decided I am not going in to a bishops office to talk about things that are so personal and things that were life and death for me. I was and still am at a point where I feel like I can't open up to certain individuals who don't agree with me because the whole time I'm opening up I feel as though they just see me as a sinner, someone who can still come around. They begin talking about the churches stance on things when I already know the stance. I don't need people telling me how they feel I should live my life. Each individual is different when going through this. I believe that some individuals may be able to find happiness as a gay or a lesbian living in a straight relationship. That's not me though. I know who im attracted to and what I want in terms of a happy relationship.

I have began seeing the letter more as a positive thing. I think it will be a gateway for the topic of LGBTQ individuals to be discussed more. I also pray and hope that there will be more done in the church to help the LGBTQ members to feel welcome. I know we may never be able to go through the temple, or have any of those blessings but there are other ways to help people feel welcome. We should start talking more about this issue and make it less of a taboo topic. Talking about it more does not mean that you have to change the way you believe. It's simply a way to get people to be more open minded about authentic lives that are lived all around them. Kids are growing up in a time that is so different from the past. You can only shelter them for so long now before they are "exposed" to different ways of living. There are more and more children coming out as gay, bi, and transgender. If the kids are in school or have friends who are LGBTQ they will be exposed whether the parents like it or not. I think with the church releasing this letter it is opening up many doors for people in the LGBTQ community. A few years ago we never talked about gay, or even SSA. We pushed it aside and did not acknowledge the fact that people in the church are born with those feelings and tendencies. Now the church has released a letter that mentions the words "gay" and "SSA" multiple times. Church buildings all over the world this past Sunday and next Sunday will be discussing this to great lengths. That in and of itself is a huge milestone! From this point on it will not be a weird thing to hear people talk about anything having to do with LGBT people in a LDS church building. We need to get past the point of being afraid to talk about something because it is "taboo". Homosexuality is real, people are born with those tendencies. We chose to be gay the day that you chose to be straight. Some may not understand, some may never understand. In order to understand something though you need to seek out. Some people may need to soften their hearts before they are loving and accepting. We gays need to be patient with those individuals. I have began seeing that this is as much a process for me as it is for everyone else around me. Sure, I wish people were more loving and understanding right off the bat but I think we would never grow if it was that easy. I love the gospel. Sure, some of you may roll your eyes at that statement but that's your own prerogative. If I have consequences, then I have consequences. We all are going to have consequences no matter what and we are given time in the eternities to grow, fix mistakes, and learn.

I know people may disagree with my stance on things and that's ok, because I disagree with them. This world would be so dry and boring if we all had the same opinion. There would be no point to our time on earth. Let's work harder on being more open minded and accepting on both sides of the spectrum.

Until next time,

Zac