April 16, 2013

A Long Time In Coming...

Recently, I've been thinking very little of my SSA. Sometimes, I go days without thinking about it. As a result, it doesn't feel like the extremely heavy thing that it once was.


Also, in quite possibly an unrelated subject, I had a really interesting experience at Church last Sunday. I was visiting a friends' family ward in Utah. Being a new married couple ward, of something like that, there were a lot of couples and strollers. During Sacrament Meeting, we sat behind a couple with their 3 year old son in between them. I remember that at first, the boy was being very funny and that's all he was to me, just somebody's funny kid. But the more I watched him being silly, the more a feeling kept coming up in my chest.


Now, when I talk to most people, I usually tell them that I don't want marriage or kids or any of that nonsense. It saves times and it saves me having to confront the fact that even if I did want those things, they aren't available at this exact moment. But the more I saw this boy, the more I realized that what I wanted, more than anything in the world, was a son. A little boy who was part me and part my wife, who, when people looked at him, they would say, "He looks just like you!"


Yeah, I want kids... But never more than that moment had I known how much I wanted them. So, overwhelmed with the feeling that I had been trying to repress all these years, I began to cry. It was too much! I now knew that I wanted children and yet I couldn’t have them! The friends I came with understood at once and tried to console me, but I was inconsolable. So to distract myself, I opened my phone thinking that I would play a game or something. But for some reason, the Scripture Mastery app I have. Opening it, I went to the first one that my blurry eyes could locate. This is what I read:


“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”


And those cold tears which I had been shedding out of ache suddenly turned warm. Suddenly the Spirit told me that while I may not be in a place where such a thing is obtainable currently, it is, nevertheless, obtainable.

November 25, 2012

The Story Continues... Part 3

When I first heard about Journey into Manhood, or simply JiM, I was apprehensive to say the least. I didn’t know much about it but what I did know freaked me out. There were about 30 men, called journeyers, and 20 staff. Most, if not all, were men who experienced SSA. And we were going to be camping…

Okay, I’m not totally brilliant, as you’ve probably realized from earlier posts, but 30 guys who all experience same sex attraction all bunking together? Dude! You’re asking for trouble!

Well, I carpooled down with another journeyer, which was a little scary. No, the guy wasn’t scary, but I was just nervous. But all of that went away when within ten minutes of our drive we popped on some show tunes and starting singing. (Yes, some stereotypes are accurate.) By the time we arrived in Southern California, we were already brothers. And that was exactly how it was as the guys started showing up. We weren’t allowed to get too much into the area yet, so we hung out in the parking lot, laughing and chatting as if none of us were anxious for the unknown things to come.

Now, I’m not allowed to talk a whole lot about the specifics of that weekend, but let me tell you this. I have never felt and accepted and reciprocated love like I did there. I had 50 men who all understood what I was going through. I learned a great deal about how I see people, how I label (judge) them even before knowing anything about them, what it is that scares me about people, and most importantly, why.
There were a lot of activities we did, we got to play, and cry, and work, and role play, and cry, and laugh until it hurt, and cry… Yeah, I cried a lot. In fact, I continually thought that I was all cried out and so volunteered myself for things only to realize that, nope, I still had plenty of tears left in me.
During the weekend, I discovered that we were made up of many different people. There were deeply religious people of all faiths, and some who believed in no deity. There were people from other countries and ethnicities. And there were even guys there who did not experience SSA at all! Think of that! Guys who knew full well that they were going to be in a position where the majority of the men present had SSA. If it were me, I’d be a little worried. But when I asked the guy why he came he told me, “I want to be a better husband and father.”
And when it came time to leave, I didn’t want to go. I cried on the shoulder of one of the guys and told him that I wish we could do this forever. It was just so packed with love and understanding and wisdom that going back into the crummy real world scared the crap out of me! But eventually, our time was up and it was time to go.
I’ve thought a lot about my time during that weekend, reflecting on things learned, friendships made, and how wonderful it was to be alive. I’ve never experienced a lot of the things some of the guys at my JiM weekend have. I’ve never been married with children only to inform my family years later that I was attracted to the same sex. I have never been physically bullied to the point where hospitalization was necessary. Nor have I ever been totally alone, ostracized by my friends and family because I was attracted to men, even though there was no action towards those attractions. But it didn’t seem to matter. At no point did it seem like anyone was comparing their problems to others. We related, sure. But the sharing was pure and unadulterated.
I would recommend JiM to anyone, LDS or no, straight or no. This is an experience that will help you become a better man, a stronger husband, and a more loving father. JiM changed my life, ladies and gents, and I’m a better person for it.


November 9, 2012

The Story Continues... Part 2

I must have read the article in LDS Living at least ten times that day, scouring it for every drop of substance. When you’re thirsty, even the smallest drop is substantial. In the end, I learned a great deal about the family highlighted in the magazine. The husband’s name is Ty Mansfield, your average Mormon guy who served a mission, went to college, and wanted to establish himself. He also experienced SSA (Same Sex Attraction). For years, he said, he’d wanted to settle down, marry, and have a family but due to his attractions, it didn’t look promising. Eventually, he got to the point where he didn’t feel any huge obligation or pressure from society to get married.

Wow, I thought. That’s exactly where I am.

But then something interesting happened. Through a spiritual experience, he was told that even though he didn’t think that marriage was altogether an option for him at that time, he could still be preparing himself to become a husband and father. After all, the timing of the Lord is not necessarily what we want it to be.

And so Ty began dating. At first, he was just going through the motions, not feeling any which way about the girls he was dating until he began dating a girl named Danielle. Long story short, they both started having feelings for each other that far superseded anything they’d felt ever before.

While I had been reading their story, the name of Ty Mansfield kept ringing bells in my head. As much as I tried dissuading myself, I knew that I recognized the name from somewhere. And it wasn’t until Danielle began to give her story that it all clicked into place.

From the moment Danielle had met Ty, she pretty much knew he was the one for her. But because of the distance between them (she was going to school at BYU and he in Texas), they didn’t get to see each other as much as they would have liked. During one of these dry spells, Danielle spotted a book in a book store. It was strangely appealing to her since it featured a decently attractive man with a black censoring bar across his eyes. The book was called, “In Quiet Desperation.” I may have mentioned it before. I read the first half of it but, at that time, I wasn’t in a very good place and it didn’t sit well with me. But guess who the author was?

That’s right! Danielle picked up the cover and saw it was written by Ty Mansfield. Interested, she bought the copy and read it. I don’t remember how the conversation came up about the book or his SSA or any of that, but what really matters is that they were still in love with each other. Despite all the other junk floating around, including a lot of negativity from the gay community and heat from the press, they got married in the Temple.

Well, me being me, I found Ty on Facebook (which is what it’s for, thank you very much) and began writing to him. I told him how inspired I was by his story and told him a little of my own. I settled into my chair, prepared to wait out an anxious three days until someone as cool as Ty would even notice that some little peon of a person sent him a message.

He replied within the hour.

Something I have learned about Ty is not only the fact that he doesn’t consider himself anything special, but he makes it a priority to reach out to people, no matter how significant they might consider themselves.

Me. I’m talking about me. Heh!

Anyways, Ty cofounded this group for LDS guys who also experience SSA. The group is there to provide support, as well as insights and help if desired. The group is called North Star. I joined the day I heard of it. At once, I realized that I was not alone. There were lots of guys dealing with just about the exact same feelings I was, suicide and all. And just like that, I was connected. I wasn’t fine again, or even moderately stable, but I was in a much better place.

One of the moderators of the group sent me a message online. Turns out he lives just north of me and wanted to welcome me to North Star. More than that, he wanted to introduce something to me to something that will go down in my mind as just as life changing as the day I joined the Church…

November 8, 2012

The Story Continues... Part 1

Not all that long ago, I was seriously contemplating taking my own life. I had made plans on how and when I would do it and was in the process of writing my reasons so that my family and friends would understand better. I knew, though, that complete understanding would most likely never come.

I was beyond depression. I loathed myself and devoted a great deal of energy focused on all of my failings, weaknesses, and shortcomings. Little by little, I was convincing myself of the reasons why giving up in this form made sense.

It wasn't that I didn't have friends or family that loved me. I was incredibly popular for reasons that utterly alluded my understanding. In fact, on several instances, I had people tell me that I was the happiest person they knew. Can you believe that? Someone who was actively planning their suicide was perceived as being the happiest person in another's life. When asked why, they would say, "It's because you smile all the time and you make me want to smile with you."

At right at the lowest part of all of this, I remember feeling the impression from Heavenly Father to hold out a little longer. So I did...

It wasn't too much longer after that impression that a friend and wife of one of the counselors of my ward, presented me with a magazine. It was a copy of LDS Living and pictured a happy couple and their child on the front cover. I smiling thinly, privately envious at such people who are blessed with companionship, and told my friend, "That's a happy couple."

She looked me over. "You didn't read it, did you?" And she pointed to the side tab that explained the contents of the magazine. Under that particular article it said, "Our Story: Living with Same-Sex Attration."

I was blown away. This family? This happy family, dealt with same sex attaction? I needed to learn more. I tried to borrow the copy from my friend, but she said it was mine, and started reading it immediately.

And so began a new chapter in a book that I had been so eager to shut entirely...

September 29, 2011

Taste of Disaster...

This may very well be one of the most sensitive posts I've ever written, which, as you can imagine, says a lot. If you've followed along with my crazy stories and long pauses (which I'm sorry about), you'll know that I like to be frank. I don't see the point in beating around the bush, nor do I try to flower up something when telling it like it is works.

Some of you may be wondering what could possibly make this post so sensitive, and I understand your concern. So far, I've talked about ex-boyfriends, being molested, working at a gay bar... (Wait... did I mention that one? Oh well. Cat's out of the bag now!) I know that if I were you, I'd be wondering, "What else has this kid got up his sleeve?"

I think the reason why this particular subject will be difficult is not because of the topic's originality. In the past, I've explained how my life was before the Church, and that the gay lifestyle I was living was in the past. I talked about the struggles I am going through now, but not about present boo-boos. That's because I really haven't had any. Except this one...

"Wait! Wait! You don't have to tell us! We don't have to know!" I know that, and I'm fine with you tapping out of this post if you don't want to read on. It is personal. But I also feel it is important.

The least you need to know is that since baptism, I've tried very hard to put the past in the past, and have for the most part been successful. But every now and again I find myself struggling with the temptation to just go out and engage in the very thing I've been trying to avoid. To be totally honest, I become tempted to drive to LA and go clubbing, or go to a gay bar, or flirt with other gay guys. I want to be seen as attractive by the same people who I am attracted to. Makes sense, right?

Now, I know that this can cause some problems. Actually, it did cause some problems. A little more than a year ago, I went to visit a friend who was working at the time at a popular steak house. I sat at a table, ordered a meal, and then chatted with my friend when she found the time. It didn't take me long to realize that at the bar, which my table faced, there were four men who were making my Gay-dar go absolutely nuts. And try as I may, my eyes kept going back to the bar.

Yes, there were a lot of things I could have done. Anything from moving to another table, taking my meal to go, or even sitting on the opposite side of the table I was currently sitting at. All of those things would have worked! But I didn't do them. Instead, I was looking sheepishly over my menu at those guys. One of them apparently had a ping on his Gay-dar, because without warning, he looked in my direction. For one horrific moment, we locked eyes. My stomach began burning so I looked away, but I could tell he hadn't stopped staring. Then I could tell that all four of them were staring.

"What have I gotten myself into?" I wondered, but it was too late for that.

I wish I could tell you that I wasn't excited, but this was kind of what I had been secretly hoping for. It was the fire that I just could help but play with! And as every pyro will tell you, when you play with fire, you sometimes get burned.

Burn One came when one of the guys left his stool at the bar and actually sat himself down across from me. I was speakless. I couldn't imagine what to say, but luckily(?) for me he did all the talking. Nothing too original. Just, "Hi! Looks like a nice meal. My name is.... What's your name? Do you come here often?" I suddenly became this mute who could look anywhere except for into the eyes of the guy sitting across from me. This apparently had no affect on him. He just kept on going with his one-sided conversation.

Well it wasn't very long before the other three came over, all of them oozing with flattery. "What a nice shirt you've got there. Look at his dimples! Such lovely skin!" (That one I knew was a lie. I don't have horrible skin, but it's nothing to shout about either.) And it all felt really good. Finally, I was being flirted with by people I wouldn't mind flirting with back.

What made it worse was, my friend who was working there knew these guys. They were apparently regulars and they were all on good terms. So, for better or worse, I let my guard down a little. "Hey," I thought. "If they're friends of her's, they can be friends of mine." I started to open up to them. I talked openly back at them. And I flashed them that smile to which they seemed to enjoy so much.

Burn Two was when they invited us, both my friend and me, over to their house which would happen the next day. They were having a little get together, nothing special, and wanted to know if we could come. Or, at least that was the way they pitched it to us. "Nothing fancy, nothing serious. Come over and enjoy yourselves. And for heaven's sake, there is no need to worry about anything."

I felt it important to tell them that we were both activate Latter Day Saints and we didn't drink, something they were doing plenty of. I didn't want to say any more than that, hoping not to read too much into things and offend them. They thought my declaration was charming and said they had a lot of non-alcoholic drinks we'd enjoy. So, against better judgement, we agreed to go.

If I was sitting in your seat reading this, I would be either skirming in my chair or shaking my head while repeating, "Don't do it! Don't do it!" But we did go.

They had a pool and so they told us to bring our swim trunks and a towel. They provided a really good lunch and, as promised, a lot of nice non-alcoholic drinks, which was good. My friend, also a convert, was a heavy drinker before she joined the Church. One of her weaknesses is alcohol. Knowing that, prior to us arriving at their house, my friend and I made a promise to each other: neither of us would allow the other to do anything that we would be ashamed of the next day. We would physically get in the way of the other person if they tried to engage in anything bad. With that in place, about an hour into this thing, when someone (who was already a little tipsy) offered my friend alcohol, without even hesitating, I kindly thanked the woman and told her that we were okay drinking our cranberry juice.

As I said before, I like to be frank. But there is a difference between being frank and being inappropriate, and so I will skip or lightly touch on things that happened from here on in.

I regret that the promises we had made prior to coming to this event were highly ineffective. While I didn't DO anything, I allowed a lot of things to happen to me. In fact, it was the lack of response from my part that kept the problems growing and becoming worse. My friend, to her credit, never drank. But I... I was not so lucky and I got burned.

I left that place feeling like scum, like the lowest of the lowest people on the earth, like I'd falled into a vat of black tar and no amount of scrubbing would ever make me clean again. I was ashamed of myself and my so-called standards.

I knew I needed to speak with the Branch President immediately and tell him everything. (Something you should know, not this will help my image one way or another, is that I tell my bishops or branch presidents everything. In the same way in which I don't hold back to you, I don't hold back for them.) And at once, we began working on the repentance process. It took a long time, but I was eventually forgiven for that serious sin.

My point is that I could have easily avoided this situation had I not allowed myself to dwell on my past life and how I want to mingle it with my present life. I believe that I didn't start to go wrong when I went over to those guy's house, or even when I kept glancing at them from across the steak house. I know that it began, as it always begins, with my thoughts. I wanted that to happen, so it happened. And when it happened, there were no barriers that I could suddenly put in place to over-ride what deep down I really wanted to happen. It wasn't like I could suddenly dig into my backpack for those morals I like to expose to sunlight every now and then, but only when they suited me.

I believe that people are all just creatures of habit. You can shape your habits to be whatever you want them to be, but when you are faced with something, don't think for a minute that suddenly you're going to transform into this wonderful person when you haven't been doing that so far in your life. I see some people getting ready for marriage or families and they think that once they're married, they'll start reading their scriptures more regularly. And that might happen. Maybe that is a goal they'll work on to improve. But I say that more often than not, if those scriptures were not a huge priority to them then, they won't be sorely important to them later.

Likewise, in my thoughts, I was yearning (and sometimes desperately begging) for some situation to arise where I could feel important and attractive in the eyes of a guy for whom I felt the same. And really, substitute the gender for the appropriate replacement and isn't that what we're all searching for? (Not that I'm trying to redeem myself in any way.) But those thoughts were the habits I was forming. In my mind, I allowed that fantasy to play out, each time being more and more colorful, splendid, and meaningful. I allowed myself to actually hoping this would happen, thinking that if it really did happen, I wouldn't actually do anything. "No, I am an active Latter Day Saint. I know the Church is true. There is no way I'd do something like that." That's what I was telling myself anyways.

What actually occurred was that I was almost not a Latter Day Saint at all, and all I would have been left with would have been a testimony.

My point, if you've actually continued on with me this far, is that through small and simple things are great things brought to pass. We know that! It's scripture! But it works both ways. When we plant the seeds of destruction in our lives, we might think, "Well that's nothing! It's so small and insignificant! It won't harm me!" But I'm telling you that it will. One seed planted close to a wall can grow up and destroy the entire defence.

There are a lot of people who will complain about the strictness of the Church. They'll question their beliefs because the Church asks too much from them. They'll test their limits and walk as close to the line as they can. But I want to warn you, especially if you deal with same sex attraction, that it isn't worth it. I could easily make a list right now of the top five guys in my ward who I think are the most attractive. I could miss the days where I had intimate relations with men, recalling those times like cherished memories. I could allow my eyes to linger just a little too long on attractive men, or even try mightily to be close to them. But all these things are not innocent. They aren't helpful but rather destructive. And most importantly, they are laying the groundwork for a future fall which, like rocks in hidden in the fog, your ship will be dashed and thrown upon.

After thought... I thought I should make it clear that I am sharing this post not to make my reader feel uncomfortable, nor to share a sensitive story just for the heck of it. I tell you this personal experience because if by me sharing it you, whether you are also struggling with the same attractions I am or not, that you will learn from my example. I've heard it said that knowledge is making a mistake, learning from it, and never making that mistake. But wisdom is learning from someone else's mistake and never having to mess up in the first place. 

Flirting with the Idea of Dating, Part Two...

I’ve been meaning to update the earlier post, “Flirting with the Idea of Dating.” I have all but failed the goal of dating at least one girl a month. And perhaps that wasn't what I was needing, or maybe I need to revisit that goal in the near future. But I told you I'd keep you informed and so, for accountability's sake, I have failed miserably, hahah! I think I've been on two dates since January and it's September! And while I'd like to weakly point out that that was two more dates than I had last year, it still is a long way short of my goal for 12 dates by the end of the year. But who knows? The year isn't over! October might be the month of dating! Heh! Anyways, just wanted to keep you all informed.

September 19, 2011

Quick Problem...

Recently, as in about three minutes ago, an old friend got in touch with me via Facebook. This friend, who we'll call Spencer, used to volunteer himself in the same ambulance group that I volunteered in. We met some time ago, like 1990-something, at an event where stand-by medical folk were needed. Always being people-friendly, I engaged in conversation with Spencer and we became friends.

About three months later, the ambulance explorers, as they called us, were invited to come to a three-day campout in the mountains. It sounded very exciting and so I went. Once there, I saw Spencer again and we shared the same excitement for the campout.

During the campout, we would often talk about and do dumb things. We went streaking, snorted pixie-sticks (which is just plain stupid), and water ballooned the girls (which wasn't as stupid). We were buds, Spencer and I. So this one night, we were out walking, when suddenly... well, I'm not sure exactly how it happended, but we became intimate. I'm not tring to down-grade what happened, but it was a one time thing in which we didn't even keep in contact after that, which I'm not sure makes it better or worse, but whatever.

Anyways! This guy, Spencer, just got ahold of me on Facebook and I don't know what to do! Advice would be wonderful! If you don't want to post your comments here, you can always email me. lewis_nomad@yahoo.com

I'd appreciate it! Thanks! :)