It was really interesting to be one of the very few straight people there. It gave me a small glimpse into how it would feel every day of your life if you have SSA--everybody else is attracted to people that you aren't attracted to and you don't really understand why. It's obviously a bit alienating, just by default. Fortunately for me, everybody was super friendly and welcoming, plus I didn't even have to worry about anyone shunning me or calling me heterosexual epithets if they found out I was straight!
Ty's presentation was really good, he talked a lot about the pre-mortal life and stressed a lot how short this life is in the eternal perspective. I have heard that a million times, but maybe because it was coming from someone for whom this life is a constant struggle to not act on his homosexual desires that it took on a new meaning for me. I can say that my respect and love for anyone who is choosing to remain celibate so that they can stay in the church grew even more after meeting many of them. At the same time, I definitely don't feel like I'm able to judge anyone who leaves the church over this issue. But the faith and determination of Ty and everyone there was amazing and definitely an example to me in all of my own struggles.
Another of Ty's points was about trying to view this challenge in his life as a blessing in some ways. He talked about how he has been able to help out a lot of other people who struggle with these issues and how it has helped him become more patient, meek, and submissive. I'd like to share the first verse (and chorus) of a song I love from a CD my dad gave me for Christmas; it's called "Both Sides Now" by Joni Mitchell, and I think it speaks beautifully to how one thing can be looked at through very different lenses:
Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I've looked at clouds that way
But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all
Great song, I recommend you go listen to it all ASAP.
It was also fun to hang out with some of the friends I had known before the fireside (as well as some others I met there) at IHOP afterwards. One thing that struck me about that was that at the fireside, it was kind of like the Sunday version of coping with SSA--spiritual, edifying, gospel-centered, etc. Then afterwards, hanging out with all these awesome guys in a totally secular environment was like looking into the day-to-day living with SSA. Just like I don't concentrate on the gospel for three hours in a row on any day except Sunday, they were just friends after the fireside--joking, laughing, sharing stories, talking about school, etc. I think both kinds of support--through the gospel directly and through good friends--are necessary for these guys to stay strong in the church. I have seen how those same two elements have been integral in keeping me active throughout the years, and I'm pretty sure the same thing will help all of my friends from the fireside too.
So, the conclusion: I fear that homosexuality is just a super taboo topic in the church. One friend I met at the fireside told me how just over a year ago he literally thought he was the only guy at BYU who struggled with SSA. I think this subject needs to come out of the shadows, because let's face it: it happens. More than you might think. And it's not just going to go away--these people are some of the most devout, honest, and hard-working Mormons I know, and they still feel attracted to members of the same sex. Their stories of endless prayers to be "changed," their thought process of "if only I work hard enough in my calling and serve well enough in Church I'll be straight" are heart-breaking because despite years of completely earnest effort, they still have SSA. Without any positive role models in their lives, without any friends who can really understand them, it makes it insanely hard to not get pessimistic and depressed.
I wanted to ask anybody who reads this blog, whether you're gay or straight, what thoughts you might have about how to make homosexuality not such a taboo topic among church members. I would first of all encourage you to talk to family and friends about it, just start discussions, try to understand all the points of view, etc. I would also encourage you to watch what you say in everyday conversation, because you don't know if one of your roommates or a member of your Elder's Quorum or your visiting teacher is struggling with this. I was also thinking about writing an article on this subject, perhaps for the BYU Political Review (although I don't want to get into the politics of the subject, so maybe that wouldn't be the best venue for it. Regardless...), to try to increase sensitivity to the topic among straight people and also to let members of the church who struggle with SSA know they're not alone. It is important that they know that there are good, active, temple-recommend carrying Mormons with SSA who they can talk to and get support from and look up to. Any ideas for how to share that? What has been your experience with this subject among church members?