I had no idea.


When I started writing (Gay) Mormon Guy I was the anomalous outlier. No one in the Mormon community knew who I was. I just sort of burst in on the scene without any warning. What I didn't realize at the time is that most of the bloggers talking about homosexuality and faith, while perhaps anonymous to the real world, still knew people personally within the community. I also didn't realize that there was a huge group of people who would never even look for (Gay) Mormon Guy. Many of the people I met today didn't read any blogs at all.

Staying completely anonymous also meant that while I've developed tacit email and comment friendships, most of my interactions are just that - through the Internet.

Today was my first day in the world of Mormon same-sex attraction. And I'm still trying to process what happened and how I feel.

I went to the Same-Sex Attraction conference at the Provo convention center, and live-tweeted the proceedings under #ssaconf - I think I was the only person tweeting, so it should be easy to find. The conference began with a short discussion by a handful of counselors, then added in individuals and couples facing same-sex attraction. All of them had one thing in common: they believed that hope and peace and reconciliation to faith and feelings was possible within the gospel of Jesus Christ according to LDS church doctrine.

I felt it was useful to simply talk about the subject. During the breaks, though, I had issues with how to introduce myself. The problem with having a blog that is somewhat-but-not-worldwide-famous-popular is whether or not to bring it up in a conversation. There are plenty of people who haven't ever heard of it, yet also others who follow it diligently. So I wasn't sure about that. Then there's the whole issue of being hugely socially awkward in informal social settings in the first place.

But there was something else, too.

This was the first time I had met a group of people who really understood why I was blogging, who understood the things I face firsthand, and who, like me, are actively trying to move down the right path to salvation and happiness. There was an enormous amount of people there... and an enormous amount of love. Someone asked me how I felt, and I took stock... peaceful.

(As an aside, I need to apologize to the guys who tried to hug me and thank me for (G)MG at the beginning of the conference. It took me a little bit to acclimate to the environment. For most of my life I've had a hard time with physical contact. When you see me again, try again. I'll do what I can to fix the part on my side.)

After the conference I struck up a conversation with different people attending, and had a good time for a few hours until they kicked us all out of the center.

Then it was time to do Voices of Hope.

Voices of Hope is a video project. And preparing for this has been terrifying. Talking on camera, without many prompting questions, for 50 minutes, seemed incredibly daunting to me. I got my hair cut, changed, and scribbled down a few notes on a business card:

"God only gives us blessings."
"If the gospel isn't working for me, it's not a problem with the gospel. It's a problem with me or my understanding of it."
"God can fill ALL my unmet needs."

Ty Mansfield was my focus guy - I got to talk to/at him while the camera rolled. So I told my story.

Something I realized as I told my story is that I gained the perspective necessary to deal with same-sex attraction long before I even realized it was an issue. Bipolar depression and incredible emotional isolation from autistic tendencies in my teenage years pushed me to the edge of wanting to die... and when I finally gained the faith necessary to overcome that trial, I had also paved the way to understanding and reconciling same-gender attraction years down the road. It was a puzzle piece that just fit in when the time came... I never had a crisis of my faith. My worth? Yeah. But I had already proved God before in my life... and I think that gave me a huge advantage.

I don't know how compelling my story will be. Sometimes I lack emotion in my expressions, and I didn't laugh much. So it'll probably be somber and intense. Which is totally authentic, but... I guess we'll see what happens.

After the shoot I hung out with a handful of the people helping at the studio. And for a few hours I didn't worry about anything. Homework, projects, whatever... it all disappeared. Just sat on a couch and talked. It took me about 30 minutes to realize that all the guys there had their own stories of same-sex attraction. Married with kids/single/just broke up with a girl... And somehow I felt like I belonged.

I guess I had never realized how supportive a community there is for men with same-gender attraction. That there are people who understand and care... and plenty of really good upstanding guys who are actively involved in the Church and doing the right things with their lives. Truly good people, who are worth befriending no matter who you are.

I don't know what this is going to mean for me. Maybe I'll find some amazing friends who can understand at least another part of what I'm facing. Maybe I'll run into the same issues I always do in friendships - me. But either way I'm glad that the Lord pushed me in this direction... and glad to be a part of this community in real life.

PS - can someone invite me to the NorthStar Facebook group? My Facebook is Facebook.com/romanmissionary
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