Who’s afraid of the dark?

When my nephew was young, my mother asked him to go into the dark basement and get something.  Since I was a cool uncle, I went with him.  As we descended the stairs, he grew hesitant.  He looked questioningly into the darkness and held back.  As many young children are, he was afraid of the dark.  I arrogantly decided that this would be a perfect teaching opportunity.  I explained to him that things are the same in the dark as they are in the light.  I practiced some exposure therapy and prepared him, held onto him, and turned out the lights.

Earlier this week I was with some friends from my mission and they brought up an article from the Ensign (an LDS church magazine) about morality.  They started out saying what a good article it was, which I had no problem with, but then the topic turned more aggressive towards those who have opinions differing from those of the church.  I’m not out of the closet, nor do I make a point of broadcasting the fact that I do not feel comfortable supporting the church’s stance on marriage equality or the like.  So this time I just endured the verbal abuse unknowingly directed towards me.

I’m not upset at my friends for having the opinions that they do.  Everyone is free to believe and support what they will.  The insults hurt though.  They aren’t really to blame for their ignorance.  Perhaps they have just never been exposed to this situation.  Without knowing someone who is gay, I feel that it is easy to demonize them.  It is easy to see how hard it would be to understand the complexity of the life of a gay Mormon.  Without having real experience, how can I expect them to learn?  I know that they weren’t saying those things with the intent to hurt me.  I can only blame myself for not opening up to them and helping them to learn.  So why didn’t I speak up?

In those moments, the words were bubbling at the back of my throat.  But despite that I couldn’t bring myself to pop the top and spill my story out to them.  I was so afraid.  But of what?  There is no doubt that they would continue loving me even if they knew that I have differing opinions or even if they knew that I am gay.  Maybe I fear becoming one of their projects.  Three of them teach at the MTC and are frequently talking of their experiences there.  It is easy for me to see one of them taking it upon themselves to try to save me by setting me up with that one girl who will miraculously straighten me out.  I’m just not interested in that.  But is that really what stopped me?  What am I afraid of?

President Thomas S. Monson (president and prophet of the LDS church) said in a Conference some time ago that faith is the opposite of fear.  Do I lack faith? Is why I am afraid?  What is keeping me from coming out and helping others to understand better what it is to be gay and Mormon?  Not that I know really well myself, but I might know something that will help them.  And they can probably provide a fresh perspective to help me progress as well.

Coming out terrifies me, but it has to happen sometime.  It is so tortuous to live with this fear.

When I was helping my nephew with the dark, turning the light off and on, I thought that it would help him because he would understand his fear better; he would see what was really in the dark.  Though at the end of it all, it didn’t make him any less afraid of the dark.  Understanding our fears is very different from conquering them.  It’s the difference from knowing something theoretically and knowing something experimentally.

So maybe I live in the dark for a bit.

-Daniel

“I am tired of hiding and I am tired of lying by omission.” -Ellen Page 

I don’t want to be alone forever, but I can be tonight

“Roses are red, ice cream is creamy.

Please be my Valentine ’cause you’re pretty dreamy.”

BYU is just weird.  As I was reading in the Wilk (Death with Interruptions by José Saramago.  Re-reading actually.  Understanding the Portuguese it was translated from helped me understand it differently this time) two girls, freshmen undoubtedly, came tearing through and throwing candy at people.  The one aimed at me had the above note attached.  Super weird.  Also, earlier I had seen two girls in princess-like dresses (again, undoubtedly freshmen) come running through speaking in British accents.  I’m not quite sure what their purpose was.  As I left to go to class I saw a guy between the library and the Wilk holding a sign emblazoned with “Free Kisses!!”  He didn’t look like a freshman.  I don’t know what his excuse would have been.  The scarier thought?  What if it worked?

While none of the above occurrences are incredibly surprising to see at BYU (Mormons are weird), today’s excuse is Valentine’s Day.  Some title it “Singles’ Awareness Day.”  The day that everyone is supposed to find a date and do something.  A celebration of love.  My Portuguese professor was saying that it is called “O Dia dos Namorados” or “O Dia de Amistade” in Portugal.  Though it is celebrated to a less extent and in the Summer, which is a much better idea.  I like that it is also titled “Day of Friendship” thus opening it up to everyone.  Even us single people.

I’ve heard that only those who are bitterly single will call it singles’ awareness day.  Without accepting or refuting this statement and speaking only for myself, it was just a Friday.  There really is no need for me to give it any fanfare if that type of love doesn’t exist in my life.  There is being bitterly single and there is being happily single.  While I pray that it isn’t a permanent condition, for now I am okay to take myself out to dinner or to a movie or something similar.  Least stressful date ever.  I know why I am single and right now those reasons are better than the reasons to not be single.  Of course there are times that I think how nice it would be to have someone to curl up with and watch a movie.  Or a more permanent roommate that means everything to me (perk of being gay, BYU makes me live with another guy, and if I just happened to be really good friends with that guy……).  Sure it would be cool to date someone, and I won’t deny it when the time comes, but for now, I’m okay to be single.  One day that will change, but until then I will enjoy life as it is.

But I don’t want to be alone forever.

-Daniel

No More

Once, there was Jake, a gay young man interested in joining the LDS Church, or any church.  Hurtful things were said and done by the members of the congregation he was to join, and these actions resulted in Jake attempting suicide.  Many people reached out to help this young man, and he lived.  Or it was too late and he didn’t.  While there is no specific “Jake,” he is everywhere.

Such things happen.  One needs only look at some of those memorialized on Affirmation to see a small representation of how much.  It’s real and it hurts when people arrive at the point where death seems to be the best option.  I know; Jake was me not too long ago.

Throughout high school I hated myself.  I didn’t understand why I didn’t get excited about girls like others seemed to.  My friends would talk about some girl, and while I could recognize that she was cute or something, it was incredibly platonic.  I didn’t get excited or giddy or anything about girls.  I didn’t feel like I was put together right.  Like I was broken.  So, I did what I assume most gay Mormons have done, or rather, tried to do.  Pray the gay away.  Scripture it away.  Fast it away.  Somehow I thought that if I was a good enough Mormon, these  feelings would disappear; I would be “fixed.”  The dissonance between who I was and who people thought I was festered within me.  It hurt so much. That was part of why, for a good deal of my teenage years I hurt myself.

Thankfully, I was so afraid of people knowing that I was depressed or gay that I never did anything that would leave a lasting mark.  I didn’t want to have to explain things to people or to lie through the scars.  During that whole time, death seemed appealing, but I couldn’t bring myself to die.  No one knew I was gay (officially) and only one friend knew about my black hole of depression.  I made it isolating, and I was so ashamed.

I’ve never been completely free of such feelings, though I now control them better.  They are like the shadow at the corner of my eye that I can never really see, nor remove.

Regardless of whether or not you support marriage equality suicide and depression are real, especially among LGBT Christians, and so rarely seriously talked about.  And while I do support marriage equality, I hate for it to become a dividing line.  1 Corinthians 1:10 says, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…that there be no divisions amoung you, but that ye be perfectly joined together….”  Perfectly loving each other.  In all the debate over the recent change in Utah’s marriage law, it’s easy to forget that behind the picketing signs and the lawyers and laws are people.  Real people.  With real feelings.  Instead of hating someone because of a differing opinion, what if there was a real effort made to understand why they have that opinion?  Instead of angry, polarized Facebook groups, maybe some open discussion.  No name calling.  No gays.  No Mormons.  Just real people.  I hope that isn’t too idealized to be real.

That is my soap-box speech for the week.  Can we not unite in this at least?

-Daniel

Love always,

Perks is done.  Not sure how I feel about this.  I need to buy this book.  Why don’t I have money?  Maybe next time I read it I will do so on the days that he writes, though that would take a year.  Just some thoughts:

  • I’ve been reading it on campus mostly.  I have an hour break in my schedule and since obviously I am not going to do homework in that hour it became my dedicated reading time.  Sometimes I see people I know.  While I was reading one day there was a girl sitting behind me that spilled her water all over the world (she was talking on the phone, and when I sat down she switched to Spanish.  Pointless, I speak Spanish).  I helped her clean it up and all (fetched napkins like a pro) and we talked a little bit, then she said good-bye to me when she left.  Normal interaction right?  Also during that time, someone from the mission sat down at the table in front of me, and there was no acknowledgment at all between us.  At first I was raging at the kid, “Wait wut…random girl says hi to me and you, who I’ve known for two and a half years says nothing?!?”  Then the realization came, I didn’t say anything either.  I don’t know how this is exactly related to reading Perks, but it feels like they are connected.
  • Wish I knew how to fight like Charlie.
  • Sometimes I can’t read this book alone.  Like when things get bad.  When I read through the section about Charlie being estranged by everyone things really got bad.  I went to a dark place reading that alone in my apartment.  So that is why I mostly read it on campus.
  • Last time I finished the book, the ending destroyed me.  Today, I was lying next to the fireplace, my roommate on the couch behind me, and I felt so good.  Interesting how that changes.  Afterwards, I just sat there staring at the book.  Not thinking, just feeling so joyful.  The best place to finish a book is always next to the fireplace.  Always.
  • This is the first book I’ve read for pleasure in two and a half years.  I’ve just been too anxious and panicky and fidgity and any other word that applies here to sit down and read.  Seeing that I can again is monumental.
  • The movie was good, first one I saw after the mission, but is different from the book in so many ways.  Probably because if they were 100% true to the book it would undoubtably be a rated R movie, and the moviemakers wanted to make the film accessible to younger audiences.  It also loses the charm of the letter writing.  But whate’er, I still liked it.

I didn’t mean for this post to be entirely dedicated to Perks, but it happened.  I’ll write about something not booky next.  Promise.

Love always,

-Daniel