I have recently been corresponding with a young man who is going through a moment that I think bears some attention. I think there are some important lessons here for us all. He writes:
"My main struggle hasn't been my sexuality per se, but with falling in love with someone in the church who I believe is also gay but who is hell bent on trying not to be. This person prides himself on being my best friend but he's spent his whole life running from what's clearly inside him that he's just never able to let anyone really get close to him. We share an apartment together as well, and it's a minor miracle that he and I have gotten as close as we have. I'm really the only one he ever has been close with, until recently that is.
He met a girl who's 23 (he's 30 this month) this past September and he claims he's head over heels in love with her, so much so that they've set a wedding date. They're scheduled to be married in the spring of this year. I've been in agony over this, and I know I shouldn't but it's tough not to be. I really feel a connection with him and I know he does with me but he's so brainwashed by the church that he's determined to take this path. I'm at my wit's end. In the meantime, I have to "pretend" I'm ok with this. He wants me to be best man at the wedding (he has no idea of my feelings for him, although so many others who know of my sexuality say it's written all over my face, as are his feelings for me, which aren't nearly as overt). I just recently came out to him, hoping it would strike a chord in him and get him thinking about his own sexuality, but instead he posted on facebook the absolute next day that he was "definitely in love with Kim (who is his fianceé).
What advice would you give me? I feel like I may be losing him to his new wife because of the f*cking Mormon guilt trip that's placed on him. It's things like this that make me feel so bitter towards the church, and I don't want to feel that way. I have so many people who are Mormons that I care deeply about and turning on the church or having negative feelings towards it feels like I'm turning on them as well."
Because I have been recently moving, I wasn't able to respond for a couple of weeks. Recently I did respond asking him to catch me up on what was going on so I could send him my thoughts if he still wanted to confer. He added:
"The situation at hand hasn't changed that much except that his time away has increased more and more. During the time he is around, he has been more snappish and short with me for some reason for which I can't explain. When I have called him up on it, he tries to tell me that "it's how I'm receiving what he's saying and not how it's delivered" (a regurgitated, recycled Mormon saying that members use when they're called up on something that they can no longer substantiate, something I'm sure you're well aware of). When that doesn't work, he'll say he's just under stress with all the wedding plans. Whatever...
At one point he stated that his relationship was a gift from Heavenly Father and it took all of my will to not ask him why this relationship from God has him acting in a way that's not Christlike. Interesting irony, no?
What's more, my temple recommend expired this past July and I've made no efforts to get it renewed. Nor have I kept up with my tithing since then (finding out about how the church spends its tithing/offerings put a stop to that, for sure). The thing is, when he first asked me to be best man, he wanted me there for his sealing as well (why is it that I can't type "sealing" without rolling my eyes?) and I came clean as to my current temple status. He encouraged me to talk to the bishop and I haven't made plans yet to do so, although I will at some point. Either way I'm caught in between because I would like to be there at his important moment because I love him but I also don't want to be there to witness his sealing to someone else. I should be the one he's being betrothed to.
Interestingly enough, when I mentioned the sealing just this past weekend, he seemed more indifferent than before about my presence there, as if it would be no skin off his teeth if I wasn't there. I don't know if it's because he really feels that way or if it's because, knowing what he knows now, he doesn't think I'd ever get back into the temple and is just resigned to the fact that I won't be there."
"This is a lot. I completely understand what you are feeling, but I have never been in this exact situation to be honest. I have had MANY friends get married to women, but never anyone that I was in love with-- I did know a guy who I had a crush on and he sort of admitted he was gay and it was hard for me to see him dating these insipid girls who were running around BYU, I wished he was dating me of course, but by the time he actually got married it was years later and I had gotten over my crush.
Here is the truth-- you can't stop him from doing this and if you try it will only make him push you away. I will tell you from experience that some of these guys do this and then realize what a mistake it was and end up getting divorced in less than 5 years. I have seen some go as long as 8, and I have seen some that are still going on today. Some seem to be succeeding greatly in the marriage, though to be honest its impossible to tell what is really going on in another person's marriage. A lot of guys in our situation need to do this for their own sense of "effort". If a gay guy is going to leave the church at some point, it is certainly more powerful to the haters to say-- 'I WAS MARRIED FOR X number of years and I know it was wrong for me. Don't tell me this and that because I tried it and it didn't work.' One of my closest friends (actually the guy who encouraged me to make my video blog) is just getting out of a pretty sticky divorce. He was married for about 3.5 years to a woman. So here's the thing. He knows on some level what you feel for him. He is going to have to push you away a little bit at least in order to make this marriage happen-- in order to "receive this gift from God" if you will. If you pit yourself against this marriage you will lose. You can't stand up against the pressure the the culture of mormonism and the guilt/fear rhetoric that we grew up in and expect to win. No matter how much he loves you back, he has to choose the church right now. If you decide to embrace this and be a supportive friend even though you think it is a mistake, then you both benefit. He gets to continue to have a gay friend that he can confide in, and if his marriage does dissolve or go under, you will be there to help him pick up the pieces. My friend needed a lot of help and comfort, and I was able to be there! I wasn't in love with my friend, so maybe you are saying it was probably easier for me to stand by him. The truth is he really separated himself from me during the year he got married. After he was settled into things he got back in touch with me. I would like to help you get through this, but you have a lot of choices, and none of them are easy!
Now the last thing I want to say is this-- we need to talk about YOU. Now I don't know to what extent, but you need to realize that continuing to focus yourself on him and his life does your life a disservice. If you can move forward on your own path (a much wiser one than your friend is taking in my opinion).. dating, exploring, etc. and searching for someone who is available and ready to love another man, then you will feel even more free to be there for your friend in his marriage. Let him do this-- he clearly craves this fight that he is drawing to himself. You will be happier if you move yourself forward and focus on what you can do to create the life you want. As much as you feel for him, there is a disconnect in loving someone who is not ready to love you back.. or someone who is unwilling to acknowledge their love for you in this case and is marrying someone else. DONT fall into the trap of basing your self-esteem or your attractiveness on whether or not he chooses you. That would literally be like saying-- Im going to let a giant stomp on me and I'll hate myself if he crushes me. Thats a self defeating behavior. Whatever you may want from this-- he is going to choose this marriage because HE NEEDS THIS MARRIAGE. Don't pit yourself against this desire of his because you will make yourself the loser in the situation. Let him do this-- be his friend-- and focus on YOUR LIFE and how you can start today to create the one you want. If you go to the temple or not-- set the intention today that you will start to move your own life forward. When we are living our life, we feel a lot less affected by the choices of others. Truly living has a powerful effect on the human spirit. We are not immune to the sticks and stones of the world, but we are certainly more prepared to let them bounce away harmlessly."
I would also like to add that it can be so easy for us-- those in and out of the church-- to start to feel bitterness toward the church. I believe that we are being marginalized as gay men and women in the church. While new statements saying "We honestly don't know why people are gay" have become more prevalent in talks and press releases from church leaders, the fact remains that we are not able to be fully embraced in the church as gay people if we are pursuing a same sex relationship, or even if we are legally and lawfully married to a same sex spouse. If we keep our sexuality and our feelings in check, we are at least allowed to sit at the back of the bus. Maybe that's enough. I don't think so. ALL THAT BEING SAID, we have to live our lives in a way that does not allow our frustration to turn to anger and our anger to bitterness. Of course we are frustrated! We are not the only ones who feel marginalized and ignored. People feel frustrated EVERY DAY by things in their lives. We always have the choice. Real power or fake power. Fake power to me: taking our frustration, embarrassment and fear and moulding it into a sword of anger and bitterness and then swinging wildly at anything in our path. Real power to me: taking our frustration, embarrassment and fear and feeling it-- sharing it in a spirit of love and compassion-- and releasing it to the Light when the time comes. Emotions pass through us to teach. If we hold onto them and use them as sources of power they stop teaching us and start infecting us. Be teachable and be then able to release when the time comes. Don't curse the dark room, light a candle.
I believe that the true balm to every ailment in this life is living our life happily. If we go after what we want in our short time on earth, we will always feel that we are engaged in something meaningful and authentic. What I want is not what you want. Only YOU can be the one to pursue authentic LIFE and LIVING.