Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Acceptance: Love the Journey

I have spent the last three weeks in Salt Lake City, Utah and I had no idea how much I was going to learn while I was there. I am admittedly not a fan of mormondom right now so the fact I spent three weeks in the heart of the kingdom and survived surprises me.

I auditioned for a special opera program back in March and I was thrilled when I got accepted. This program is an amazing opportunity as it gives rare voice types much needed training and support. I was so excited to attend until I found out it was going to held in Salt Lake City. I knew this program would be a huge opportunity for me but I never could have imaged how much it would help me learn about myself.

About a week into the program I decided I was going to tell some of the friends I had made that I am gay. Needless to say this was not a major event for them because almost all of the people I told were not surprised that I was gay they were surprised that I knew I am gay. The common answer when I told people was that they already knew they just weren't sure that I was aware of my sexual orientation. Talk about a relief. I became very comfortable with these people and we had so many quality conversations. They were intrigued by my being Mormon, gay, and married to a woman. I have never thought of myself as being a brave or adventurous person but my friends in this program kept telling me that I was so brave for coming out to my wife and being honest with those around me. I have to be honest even after they told me this I still didn't really accept the idea of me being brave, until I came out to my best friend and his wife.

I have been friends with this guy since I was twelve years old.  We have always been close and I knew that I wanted to come out to him first of all of my childhood friends and even before my family. The process of coming out to people has been interesting to me. I get a definite feeling when it is time to share my secret with others. I have come out to 22 people now and each time I distinctly knew the right time. For my best friend the day came and I knew I was ready and that I would share with him. It took me an hour to work up the courage to tell him. We had spent the car ride together discussing his personal issues with the church right now and even had cycled through his thoughts on people being gay. He has always been very liberal minded and even about 9 years ago he turned to me in mid conversation and blurted out that it was ok if I was gay because he would still be my friend. I shrugged off this comment because I wasn't gay...hahaha. But this comment stuck with me even though he didn't remember making it. The time had arrived and I gathered up all my courage, after I had discussed my issues with the church with him, and told him that my issues stemmed from one thing. I had the issues I had because I am gay. He was surprised but then immediately said that it didn't matter to him at all and he was happy that I had shared the truth with him. Over the course of a few days I disclosed everything to him and his wife. She was super supportive as well and they both called me brave for coming out and sharing my struggles with them. I still didn't want to accept that I was brave but after a few days I began to feel that I have been. I may not be as brave as a solider but for my life I am brave.

Lessons learned:
Through the course of the past three weeks I have learned how much better life can be when you accept who you are and share your complete self with those around you. I had no secrets from all of my opera friends and it felt fantastic. They loved and accepted me for who I am. I didn't have any pretenses to keep up at all. I just got to be me, honest me. I have never felt so free in my entire life and I learned that freedom helps me find happiness.

I didn't think of myself as a different person but there was one guy in this program who has known me for two years and he told me that he couldn't believe how different I was. He was shocked after we talked more extensively and he began to understand where I was emotionally for the last few years. He was so supportive and has offered to be a constant contact to help me when things get rough. I learned through him how important it is to be true to yourself so that others can get to know you fully.

I learned that being gay and out is not nearly as traumatic as I thought it would be.

I never once went to church while I was in Salt Lake and I was happy. I always thought that not going to church would make me feel horrible but it was reversed. I took a group of people to temple square one Sunday and we went to Music and the Spoke word. This trip happened after I had come out to pretty much all of the program participants and nearly two weeks into my trip. Throughout the entire program I just couldn't shake how horrible I was beginning to feel. As we walked around temple square the feeling intensified. One of my friends that was with me asked if I was ok. I explained that all of this was making me feel horrible. Suicidal thoughts has begun to resurface, thoughts I haven't had since I came out to my wife six months ago. I was miserable and it was at church headquarters that I began to have these feelings again. A place supposedly filled with the spirit and I was feeling ill, both physically and emotionally. I realized that while I was on temple square I began to contemplate how I was going to go home and go back into the closet and put on the same old fa├žade that I had been maintaining for years. These feelings helped me realize that I can no longer continue to do this, I must be fully out in order to find true self acceptance and in order to nurture my beliefs. I no longer feel that the church is the place for me because it will not allow me to believe what I do, nor will it allow me to be who I feel I need to be.

My final day at this program was fantastic. I had wonderful friends surrounding me that day who came to support me as I sang at the final concert. I was fortunate to even have a fellow moho come and my best friend and his wife. It was great to look out in the audience and see them as I sang. Later that evening I was able to go out with some of these people and I had a wonderful time. That night made me love life more fully. I cannot remember a time when I felt so accepted and loved by those around me. I realized that night that for me being gay is truly a blessing and living as a gay man will not be horrible but could be a source of great joy ( especially if I can maintain the friendships with those who were with me that night). I learned that I love being a gay man.

I am grateful for the experiences I was able to have through the course of these last three weeks. I feel like I am finally fully accepting myself and that I am no longer as concerned about what others will think about who I really am.  Through all of this I realized that I am finally on the right path to self acceptance and I am loving this journey.