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.