There was a time many years ago when I was first married that when I heard of someone referring to himself as a "Gay Mormon", I wrote him off as insane, and whacked out, and considered the combination of those two words as incompatible and non-existent! The thought process would go something like this:
"If he were truly "Gay" then he wouldn't be a Mormon, for everyone knows that there are no gays in the Church, for if they were, they would be excommunicated for sure, and therefore, would no longer be a "member of the Church" and thus no longer a "Mormon". "
The words to me back then were mutually exclusive. Either you were one or the other, but you couldn't be both.
Soon after I was married, I was confronted with this dilemma. It happened when "F", my dear friend from my mission, admitted to me that he was sent home from his mission because he was a "Gay Mormon". (If you go back to my posts in May 2006 I introduce you to "F" and lament his eventual death from AIDS). At that time in my life, I was trying so hard to put these "feelings" way deep into my past, trying to focus on my marriage, on our new family unit, on what was "true" and "eternal" and "me". My past experiences with "F" were in the past and I had moved on and so I didn't want to think about being "gay". I was a good and faithful "Mormon" and so I couldn't be "gay". Right?
Of course, "F" knew otherwise. He knew me! He knew me!
He tried to get me to be introduced to "Affirmation" and to accept that there were many of "us" out there that were "Gay Mormons". But I could not accept it. I could not even admit to myself that such people existed. They didn't exist in my mind, at least in the mind of who I wanted to be at that time in my life. They didn't fit the "formula" or the "label" of what I wanted to label myself as. I refused to accept it and told him so... and that was the beginning of the end between "F" and me. For in so doing, I was rejecting him for who he was. I was rejecting that he could "exist" and since he couldn't exist, then he didn't exist. And for a long time he didn't exist in my mind.
But you know, I could never forget him. I was haunted by him. I knew of his horrific death and I felt so terrible that I did nothing to help him. I did not reach out. Or at least, by the time I overcame my homophobic feelings toward him, and realized how much I truly loved him, had loved him, and wanted to love him - it was too late.
I am haunted by this memory as I think about labels that are put on people, and by the labels that I put on myself. I am haunted by the fact that I had allowed homophobic teachings and traditions to enter my thoughts and permeate my psyche to the point that I could no longer accept "F" as a person in my life, at least publicly. Secretly, I longed for him. I wanted him. But my "Church" and my "Culture" and my "Tradition" would not and could not allow it.
I am haunted by the fact that these homophobic teachings allowed "F" to lose all hope. He loved the Church and its people, the Gospel and its teachings. But when he was shunned, ostracized and abandoned by the very people and teachings he loved and truly believed in, he lost hope. He allowed himself to get to the point where he believed that God no longer loved him either, that Christ and his Atonement had no affect on him because he "didn't exist" - people like him weren't supposed to exist and thus how could God love him enough to care about him. He lost all hope! He allowed himself to destroy himself for there was nothing left in this life for him because of the "labels" and their hateful meaning that they implied toward him.
Advancing forward some twenty years and I laugh at the irony of it all. Now I have a blog where I proudly declare to an anonymous world that I am a "Gay Mormon". That I do exist! That those two words in the context of "Me" do exist together. I still can't blend them together in the cultural and religious communities as I would like to, as others have been able to do, but I have reached the point (for I'm still afraid that what happened to "F" could and would happen to me - I could still be destroyed in an instance as he was by the hatred that is still part of this cultural scene I find myself in), but I'm trying not to even care... they are just labels - words that have different meanings to different people even within this "queerosphere".
For you see, I am a gay man. And I am a Mormon. I exist.
I am Me!
I am sorry, "F". I truly am sorry. I hope you still love me enough that you can laugh with a little delight of appreciating irony that it's taken me this long, but I'm okay with what you knew and tried to teach me about "ME" all along... I will try to do a better job of letting others know of you in hopes that others won't lose this same hope.