"My SGA is a unique mortal gift to make the most of. I must frequently remind myself of the good qualities it has given me. Navigation within the complex forces of marriage and Church membership can draw out the best that is within me. I am challenged to develop compassion and spiritual sensitivity. I get tired and discouraged and many times get off course, but then, in the midst of the tempest when the sweet Spirit whispers, "Peace, be still", I am reminded that He knows the way and will guide me Home if I let Him."
Also at this Thanksgiving time, Beck paused to count his blessings, and expressed a similar recognition:
"Instead of bemoaning that I'm a gay man trapped in a hetero life where things don't add up right, I am grateful for the "gifts" I've been given, the "talents" that God has granted me, and the knowledge of Him whereby I can use these talents and magnify them as I seek to follow His plan. I do not bemoan that I am gay. . . I may not have a trail guide, but I have the Spirit, and I'm grateful for those promptings to keep me on the path. This is a tender mercy. "
I have been thinking similar thoughts lately. There is so much about my gayness that I have grown to appreciate and am now thankful for. I have come to realize that much of my orientation is reflected in a unique set of personality traits, most of which are really not sexually operative one way or the other. I acknowledge that throughout my life I am and have been:
- Attracted to men, and admire the masculine hero
- Desire connection and fraternity with men
- Stimulated by the power of the male form
- Hunger for intimacy and acceptance by men
- Spiritually dependent on Priesthood power
- Desire to be open and loving, to serve others
- Emotionally sensitive and vulnerable
- Empathetic to all forms of suffering and injustice
- Willing to be on the edge and question everything
- Artistic, creative and musically talented
- Lover of beauty and design
- Detail oriented and a perfectionist
- Generous and forgiving
And then a surprising thing happened to me: as I truly accepted this 'gay list' in myself, I began feeling very much more male and more connected in my brotherhood with all men. I don't have to sexualize every hunk of a man to wonder if I measure up; I may look twice at an attractive guy, but it is admiration of beauty, not longing or lust. Even though I never really believed that raw masculinity was the mark of true manhood, I allowed myself to be deluded and demoted by my insecurities. But no more! Screw all that mamsy-pamsy thinking! I'm just as good a man as anyone else, even if I don't particularly care for team sports or fast cars or sexy women. And if anyone thinks, "That's so gay," well then, let them. I can live with it. I can live with love in my heart for even the intolerant.
Being 'gay' by most standards involves a physicality that is more than characteristics of how we view and interact with the world around us. Sure, there are sexual aspects to my gayness that will never be realized because of my choice for fidelity to my wife and family and the church. I try not to dwell on the sex inherent in gay lifestyle. It's just a part of being gay that I cannot do. The world and the church react most negatively to the sexual intimacy between same sexes. But I choose to love and respect my brothers who are there though, and my hope for them is to live their lives with joy and love. I'm happy to let the Lord work out the details of their eternal lives, knowing that I am not a worthy judge, nor should I try to understand the end from the beginning. I believe true love is good enough for me and anyone else committed to faithfulness and devotion, regardless of the religious lens or culture people live in.
This brings me to the sweet and universal sentiment expressed by Elder Wirthlin in his most recent General Conference, who speaks of personal transformation by the power of love:
"True love lasts forever. It is eternally patient and forgiving. It believes, hopes, and endures all things. That is the love our Heavenly Father bears for us.
We all yearn to experience love like this. Even when we make mistakes, we hope others will love us in spite of our shortcomings—even if we don’t deserve it.
Oh, it is wonderful to know that our Heavenly Father loves us—even with all our flaws! His love is such that even should we give up on ourselves, He never will.
We see ourselves in terms of yesterday and today. Our Heavenly Father sees us in terms of forever. Although we might settle for less, Heavenly Father won’t, for He sees us as the glorious beings we are capable of becoming.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of transformation. It takes us as men and women of the earth and refines us into men and women for the eternities.
The most cherished and sacred moments of our lives are those filled with the spirit of love. The greater the measure of our love, the greater is our joy. In the end, the development of such love is the true measure of success in life.
Do you love the Lord?"
And here, I think lies the quintessential question to living gay in the world and the LDS Church. Can we answer it honestly? I must confess, "Yea Lord, thou knowest that I love thee." (John 21:16). My life of perceived weakness has become much stronger, as I focus with faith on the God-given gifts bestowed upon me. I have the love of God in my heart for all men, and I am not ashamed to feel weakly male any longer. I can feed His sheep with the talents He has blessed me, according to His direction, and shall no longer be afraid of who I am or what I might accomplish with His love.
Of all the aspects of my belief that I am most sure of, because of my experience in living with conscious faith, it is that I know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love me, the little Geckoman. And since they first loved me, I love them (1 John 4:19). And since I truly love them, then I am blessed to love others in the way I know the Lord loves me, which is as a gay man, a son of the true and living God.