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Sunday, November 7, 2010

You know who I am

In the fall of 2009, I was approached by my Stake President to help put together a stake-wide program to LDS members to help them better understand and become more educated about gay Mormons. I happily agreed.

Initially, I chose to remain anonymous and have this read by a long-standing, well respected heterosexual member of our ward. The reasons for this were twofold: First, I did not want the messenger to cloud the message itself. Outing myself in front of my ward could have detracted from the intent and impact of my message. Second, and perhaps more important, members of the church got to hear someone who was "just like them"  deliver a message from someone often considered "the other."
 
Little did I know at the time, but this work would soon become a major focus of my life, and this is the writing that started it all. I am now an openly gay, active Latter-Day Saint. From those small, first steps with the Oakland and Berkeley, CA wards, grew a passion and a direction for my life that I didn't even know I had. How grateful I am.

Enjoy.



You know who I am. You have sat next to me in meetings. You have greeted me with warmth and enthusiasm when I’ve come to church. You have heard my voice in prayer.

Yet, I wonder how many of you would treat me less kindly if you knew the truth of who I really am. I wonder if you would judge me—however mildly, however inadvertently, however silently.

Being honest about who I am has seldom led to a positive outcome. In my home, my father told me that my being gay was his ultimate fear, and my ultimate failure. My mother told me it would have been better for her if I’d been born dead than gay. Growing up, I was scorned on the playground, and ridiculed and bullied in the classroom. I have been fired from jobs because I am gay. At times, even though I had done nothing that would have disqualified me, I have been told by Church leaders that I am unworthy of ever taking the Sacrament. I have been told that I will never work with the youth of the Church. I have been told in meetings that it is because of people like me that the AIDS pandemic has come upon the Earth—that my sins are bringing punishment upon the wicked and the sinless alike.

It has not been an easy path, nor a path I would wish for anyone. But it is my path. And it has made me who I am today. I am, in fact, grateful for being gay. It has given me levels of compassion, understanding, patience, and forgiveness that I would never have developed otherwise.

Many Sundays, I look out at you across the congregation: young families, with your brood of wonderful and rambunctious children; mid-life couples with your fledgling children, offering them support as they leave the nest; husbands and wives who’ve shared this earthly path together for years, with your memories of lifelong love and companionship. And I know I will never have those things. If I am to live by Church doctrine, I am relegated to a life of solitude, and my sentence is to grow old and leave this world alone.

Those are painful realizations for me. Yet when the Sacrament is passed, when I bow my head and speak my sorrow to my Heavenly Father, something grand happens. Almost without exception, a feeling washes over me from deep inside my soul. A tender, warm, yet powerful feeling—and an unmistakable voice that tells me, “You belong here.” Not when I have it all figured out, not if I could become straight, not when I know all the answers—but today, right here, right now. With you. That, my dear brothers and sisters, is why I am Mormon. Because I belong here.

Being a child of my Heavenly Father was not a choice. Being gay is not a choice. Both things simply are. Both things are intertwined into the DNA of my soul so deeply that you could not extricate one from the other without destroying who I am. They are, in fact, who I am.

I am a gay Latter Day Saint.

I don’t want pity. To pity me is to make me a victim. I want understanding. To understand me, is to love me as an equal.

I don’t want tolerance. If I am tolerated, I am disliked or feared in some way. I want respect as a fellow striving child of God—an equal in His eyes.

I don’t want acceptance. To accept me is to graciously grant me the favor of your company. To accept me is to marginalize me with the assumption that I am less than you. I am your peer. I am neither above you nor below you.

I don’t want judgment. My path may be different than yours, but it is a plan built for me by a power greater than any of us. To judge me is to judge the designer of that path.

I don’t want to be labeled as “afflicted” or “suffering” or “struggling.” I do not have an illness that requires my soul be mended. I want to be recognized, like you, as a whole person, just as my Heavenly Father made me. I have suffered no affliction by His hand; I have, however, suffered affliction at the hands of others, including my brothers and sisters in the gospel.

I do not want to be viewed as a mistake. My path on this Earth was prescribed uniquely for me, just as yours was for you. It was designed to give me the experiences I need to grow as a child of my Heavenly Father. To view me as a mistake is to view Him as a maker of mistakes.

On a cosmetic level, we are very different, you and I. You have spouses, or the opportunity for spouses, I do not. You have children, or the opportunity for children, I do not. You are attracted to those of the opposite gender, I am attracted to those of my same gender.

What I want most of all is for you to look past the superficial and the cosmetic. I want you to look at what makes us the same: the simple fact that we are all children of our Heavenly Father, and we are striving day to day to understand how to best do His will, and how to return to Him. It is that simple sameness, brothers and sisters, that weighs more than all the differences in His universe.

You know who I am. You have sat next to me in meetings. You have greeted me with warmth and enthusiasm when I’ve come to Church. You have heard my voice in prayer. And now, you have heard my truth.


16 comments:

  1. I love you... and am proud to call you friend. I know that you being brought into my life was a great gift to me. I'm so proud of the man you are, and how much you give back to others that are trying to carve their paths.

    Shari

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  2. I am so proud of you, my dear friend, for being the living example of "it gets better". I can't wait to see where this journey leads you; you have so many people cheering you on.

    xoxo

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  3. I am so happy that you came into my life. We can thank Leslie for that. I am grateful that we were able to become friends as a result of our business connections and I wish you all the best on this journey of yours. Come visit me! And let me know what I can do to help you in any way. Lulu

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  4. MORMON HAPPINESS-I had a wonderful revelation a few moments ago after posting a comment to Ask a Mormon Girl by Joanna Brooks. There are probably few priethood holders that refer to her insight. Although, being an openly gay Latter Day Saint, I didn't hesitate. The members in my Ward are beginning to realize who I am. I am the Elder that will confront you, amicably of course, concering any unrighteous words or actions concerning GLBT rights. Peace Out Brosephs

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  5. I'm glad to "meet" you. Glad you have shared your thoughts and I have been inspired and touched.

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  6. i may use portions of your words one day. that was a beautifully written piece. thank you.

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  7. This is inspiring. The truth always resonates. We all want to be recognized and known for who we are. Keep speaking your truth in a clear and respectful way. Don't let anyone stifle you. Even if your parents are not supportive,you are not alone. There is a lot of ignorance out there so it will take a lot of light to dispel it.

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  8. Mitch, thank you for your courage. You are an inspiration to many of us. I know that in my life it takes courage to move forward, but I am humbled by the amount of courage and sheer fortitude your path requires. You and I are alike in so many ways. Thank you for letting your light shine.

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  9. Thanks, Actually- I only get one shot at this life, and it's my goal to do it to my very best--and bring others up through the flanks with me! I appreciate and need support of people like you, so my humble gratitude is yours, my friend!

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  10. My friend Sherri posted a link to your blog on facebook and I'm grateful she did. Your message was very well spoken and I'm glad to hear from a righteous LDS member. My sister is gay but never been LDS and she struggles with my support of a church that would deny her the right to marry. I struggle with how to stand up for my beliefs without hurting her feelings. The topic is the elephant in the room that we both avoid so as to keep our loving relationship with each other. I admire your ability to stay close to the Savior and stand up for who you are.

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  11. You have helped me so much, you have no idea. it is great to know that there's someone else who's going through the same things I am going through. Thank you

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  12. Thank you for this brilliant post! I hope that more members of the church can stand up and proudly accept the fact that there are many members of the church who are gay, lesbian or transgender.

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  13. I feel so uplifted having read this. I wish it could be circulated in every ward and stake. Not only is your experience meaningful to gays in the Church, it reminds us all that there is peace to found in facing life with humility and hope, no matter what hand we're dealt. As I'm sure you know, your life and example will make a positive difference for so so so many people. Thank you!

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  14. Wow, I'm so glad I found this essay. I have felt this way about gay members of the church for a very long time, but I've never heard it expressed by anyone else! Your strength is impressive.

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  15. Loved your Voices interview (linked below). You are a wonderful person. Keep loving and setting a good example. You're helping lots of people, even us ex-Mormons. :)

    http://mormonexpression.com/voices/2012/06/13/32-mitch-maynes-personal-faith/

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