It’s been an interesting week.
I have a very close friend who went into the hospital a week ago for a mysterious dizziness that appeared out of nowhere and hasn’t subsided. She has other health problems, none of which seemed to be the cause. This new symptom left her feeling as despondent as her sunny demeanor and excellent perspective would allow (which is not much). But still, one could tell that she was depressed to have another trial to bear.
I know this girl well and I know that something that distracts her from her own pain is genuine concern for others. She finds it legitimately therapeutic to preoccupy herself with how she can help those who need it.
It was with this knowledge in mind that I decided to tell her I was gay. I was in her hospital room and told her I had something to tell her. I gave the necessary preamble and dropped the bomb. In no small amount of pain, she sat up in her bed and scooted closer to me so she could hug me and hold my hand. As I helped her back onto her pillow, she said, “GMP, I’m so sorry. I wish I could take this from you.” I understood her perspective, as I reciprocated it with her trials.
However, her words, while well-meaning and rooted in genuine love for me, show a very slight lack of understanding, and while it would be a hard decision, if she could choose to take this situation from me, I’m not sure I’d let her.
Being a gay Mormon has put me into two very different, but very beautiful social groups.
On the one side, there are my gay brothers and sisters who fight, tooth and nail, for the right to love. The gay community, at its core, is founded on the touchstones of love, tolerance and mutual respect. There may be stereotypical displays of promiscuity and drug culture, but deep in the heart of every LGBTQ man or woman is the desire to love and respect those around them and to feel that respect reciprocated.
On the other side are the Mormons, a community known for its filial devotion to what is right and just and true in the universe. The Mormons theoretically take joy in spiritual well-being, stable family values and obedience to eternal laws and God’s commandments
And in the middle of these two seemingly disparate groups is me and scores of others like me, trying to find the correct balance between the two, without sitting on the fence or being lukewarm stew.
Each group gets unfairly labeled by the other: the gays are a godless, depraved folk and the Mormons are loveless, judgmental zealots out for blood. But without the influence of both groups, I would not have learned how to love and respect others (which I am still working on), nor would I have learned how to fight for what is just and true (which I am REALLY still working on).
Those of us who are gay Mormons are really lucky. We come from a background that has us uniquely equipped to empathize with others, yet encourage and uplift them. That’s not to say people of other faiths are incapable of being uplifting, nor is it to imply that straight people cannot love, but the fact is that our unique religious and social cultures have germinated some of the most loving, kindhearted people I have ever met. I am proud to call myself among them and aspire to be more like them, both in their love for others and their love for God.
So, the next time you wish you could remove someone’s trial, just consider: what beauty would they give up in the exchange? As much as I wish my life (and the lives of any who struggle) was easier, these experiences have changed me for the better, and I’d submit that the same is true of almost everyone.
Keep moving forward.