[From the note I posted today on Facebook.]
There, I said it. It’s not an easy thing to say nor is it an easy thing to be. I’ve hidden it the majority of my life. I spent most of my adolescence trying to ‘ignore’ it, ‘repress’ it or ‘change’ it. And since I joined the Church, I’ve spent the time since trying to ‘overcome’ it.
Over the past two years, I’ve slowly started the ‘coming out’ process and it has been the most liberating experience of my life.
“Failing to acknowledge our parts keeps us from evolving… Rejecting our parts is like amputating our limbs. The more parts we deny and the longer our list of how we “should” be and behave, the more we cripple ourselves. And we do so in vain: the parts we decide we should not express eventually surface in devious, often destructive ways. This usually entails emotional or physical pain, or both…”
I have stopped acting as I “should” be and begun to be and act who I am. And I never want to go back. I never want to go back to feeling alone, unloved, different or evil. I have no need to be scared—this is who I am and who I have always been.
That’s not to say I have everything figured out or know what life has in store for me. I’m not just gay, I’m Mormon, too, and being either is hard. Being both is hell. For the most part, I still love the Church and the people in it. I love the Gospel and it’s clarion call to become less of me and more of something better. I love that within the Gospel is the power to become that ‘something better’.
Before my mission and on it, I thought that ‘better’ meant ‘normal’ or ‘straight’ or ‘heterosexual’. I thought if I worked hard and gave everything I had, that God would finally ‘fix’ me.
And He did. He gave me experiences that helped me to grow, gain perspective, become less selfish and more selfless, learn to sacrifice and understand my duty to help others. But he didn’t make me straight.
I’m not going to have a white picket fence and I’m never going to need to buy a suburban. I probably will never need to bring Cheerios or kids books to entertain my children during Sacrament meeting.
My greatest fear is that I’ll live life alone and unloved. That I’ll have a whole row to myself during Church, that I’ll only contribute to other people’s children’s mission funds, that I’ll face a lot of nights just cooking for one. I’m afraid of what happens when I lose my job or get in a car accident and have no one to hold me or tell me “everything is going to be okay”. I’m afraid I’ll have no one to share the good times, the funny stories, my dreams and secrets with.
I have hope though. Not necessarily hope that I’ll change or the Church will. But hope that life will be kind and that I’ll be able to find happiness, joy and friendship. Hope that whatever journey I end up taking, I will have friends by my side and that never again I’ll have to feel entirely different and alone.
Hope that instead of feeling ‘different’, I’ll begin to feel love.
As I’ve ‘come out’ to a few close friends I’ve been greatly encouraged. I’m grateful for an Elder’s Quorum president who isn’t afraid to talk to me about ‘it’ and tries more than anything to empathize. Grateful for a friend whose first reaction was to say “I know” and embrace me in a hug. Grateful for a straight guy who doesn’t mind that by hanging out with me, people think he’s probably gay, too. Grateful for an Institute teacher who is willing to share the burden with me. Grateful for a guy, who most people would consider homophobic, who gave me a blessing and a hug. Grateful for meeting a young man who I barely knew that showed me that I wasn’t, in fact, alone in the world.
I’m not sure anyone is going to be entirely surprised by this (if the Backstreet Boys didn’t give it away, maybe it was my affinity for Banana Republic or Broadway musicals). Sorry I didn’t tell you sooner. Sorry that I hid so much of me for so long.
This is me: an avid pop music fan, a pizza-delivering finance graduate, a return missionary, a kid with a crush on Justin Timberlake, a guy who really wants to be something better than he is.
It’s nice to finally introduce myself to you.
Mark Ryan Johnson
Mark Ryan Johnson