Saturday, November 6, 2010

Y Mountain

Today I was deeply saddened to learn of another of our gay brothers who took his own life in an act of deperation caused by conflict with family and Church. This has been happening for years, but has seldom been discussed openly by communities and members of the Church.  National attention has recently been brought to bear on the horrific suicide rates of gay youth and young adults, and there is beginning to be an ourpouring of sympathy, pleas for tolerance, and calls for an end to gay bashing and bullying. This is long, long overdue!! There is also an ever growing series of  "It Gets Better" videos circulating on the web - many taped by celebrities or other notables - trying to get the message out to young people that they are loved, they are OK, and their life is precious (see link below).

This subject is an especially emotional one for me, and is something I haven't often discusssed in the past. But I feel prompted to tell my story of how close I came to becoming one of the fallen...

Soon after I returned from my mission I decided I should leave home and attend BYU, which was far, far away in the West. I had broken up with my girlfriend (yes, I did try dating but was horrible at it - wonder why?) and decided there was really no one else around that interested me. Many of my friends were heading off to the Y, and I thought it sounded like a sensible thing to follow along. So I did. I left with no money, no job, no place to stay, and had not even been accepted at the school. Plus my parents completely disapproved - but that did not stop me. Once in Provo I settled in, found a nice place to stay, found a fantastic job, and applied for the fall semester. Later that summer I was accepted, and was also awarded a Dean's Scholarship. I was thrilled! Things were looking up.

And things did go well - for a while. But deep inside me the homosexual attractions that I had supressed for so long were beginning to well up and ooze out. I had been in deep denial about this part of myself since I was - well, very young. I was first attracted to men when I was exposed to pornography at about the age of 7 or 8, and continued to indulge in male porn through my teenage years; but I did not recognize it for what it was. I thought I was just curious about my body and the process of changing into a man. I also had completely suppressed the memories of my childhood molestation by an older boy, which had happened when I was 8 or 9. Anyway, now I was away from home, on my own, and for the first time there began to be a crack in the iron dam I had built around my sexuality.

Late in the spring semester, it happened. I started to look at other men when I was in the shower with them at the gym or at work. I started looking for porn, pictures of nude men anywhere and everywhere I could find them. I was obsessed. I became filled with guilt and anguish over this, and could not reconcile it. Why was I doing this? What did this mean? How could I think like that?? Then one day - out of nowhere - I remembered being molested as a child! That part of my life I had supressed so completely now came back vividly to my memory along with a tidal wave of guilt! In horror, the thought came to me that I had not been worthy to go on my mission. I also thought about looking at all that male porn and I was faced with a new thought - I might actually be a homosexual. How could I be!? I felt desperate, conflicted, and anguished! I thought my life was over! I thought I would be excommunicated! In this desperation and confusion I went to my Bishop in tears and poured out my heart to him. And then something happened that almost killed me. My Bishop looked at me and said  "I knew you had a problem with "that" from the minute I laid eyes on you". I went numb. I went cold. I knew at that moment he had a problem dealing with homosexuality. He sent me home comfortless. I got home and threw myself on the bed and sobbed for hours. I felt like I was falling into utter blackness. In our next meeting I again poured out my soul to him and told him of my fears. To my surprise he told me we did not need to meet any more. He told me when we passed in the halls at Church I was to give him a "thumbs up" if things were OK. There was no counseling. No effort to help me or comfort me. This man either did not want to help me or did not know how to help me. I think at this time I had some sort of breakdown, and my life kind of fell apart. I didn't finish my classes that semester at school and I lost my scholarship. I dropped out of school. I was a wreck. My parents were furious at me, and I had no friends to turn to and no where else to go. In this darkness the self-loathing I had been experiencing took a deadly turn.

At the time I came out to this Bishop there was no positive message for homosexuals in the Church. The book of the day was 'The Miracle of Forgiveness', and its famous chapter on the Crime Against Nature was fodder for my battered self esteem, negative ego, and pathological self-loathing. I was an abomination. I was a fag. I was a leper. I was unnatural and unholy. And I had no one to turn to. So in this desperate state I made a decision to end the pain I was in. End it now, before I disgraced my family and became a hiss and a by-word. Even in this state I wanted to conceal the truth of my life, so I decided I would make my suicide look like an accident. It was still early enough in the spring that the weather was cold - especially up in the mountains, and I decided that I would hike up to the highest elevations and allow myself to freeze to death. It would be easy to make it look accidental. I had seen accounts on TV of hikers getting lost in the mountains and freezing to death. You just get exhausted, fall asleep, and never wake up. That was my plan.

Two days later I announced to a room mate that I "just might climb up Y Mountain that afternoon". I guess I wanted someone to know where to look for my body when I turned up missing. I took everything out of my wallet except my drivers license, a library card, and a couple of other useless items and put the rest in a spare wallet I kept in the dresser. I wanted just enough information on me so they could identify my remains, yet have the contents of my wallet seem "normal" - excluding anything of monetary value. Don't ask me why I was concerned about money at the time. Then I donned a very light windbreaker which might seem adequate for a cool spring day, but which would be completely inadequate in the freezing nighttime mountain air. Thus prepared, I set off on foot for Y Mountain.

I don't really remember what I was thinking about as started that journey. I guess my mind was numb at that point. I was a zombie on a mission of self destruction. Somewhere along the way, however, the Lord intervened in my behalf.  I cannot say why, but I know I was being rescued. I can only describe what happened next as a vision that opened up in my mind. It was as clear as any photograph. I saw my parents, and they were greiving in a way I had never seen before - wracked with uncontrollable anguish. Their pain was extreme, and it broke my heart to see it. In a moment I realized what they were greiving over -  it was ME! This was what the result would be if I continued up Y Mountain. This was the hurt and anguish I was about to cause! The power of that image stopped me in my tracks as if I had been slapped awake. I realized that I was indeed loved, and deeply so. I realized that even though my parents could not possibly understand what I was going through, they DID love me! And they loved me unconditionally. I knew that absolutely.

And so I turned back. I turned back. I could not continue with my suicidal plans. I knew, somehow, it would get better. And for me it did get better. Not quickly, not without more trials and anguish, but it did get better. I hope telling this story might somehow help another who is struggling and in pain. IT WILL GET BETTER! I can testify to that. You are a beloved Son or Daughter of God. Your life is precious beyond measure. Believe that, and believe in yourself.

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Gay LDS Actor said...

I really appreciate your sharing this. I think it's a great testament of God's love for you (and for each of us) and hopefully will be a help and a boon to those who may be struggling right now.

Brian said...

This is a very moving story. I'm sorry you had to go through that trauma and I'm very glad you survived.

Neal said...

Gay LDS and Brian, thanks for your kind words and support.

recover and thrive said...

thanks for sharing. I too had a bishop who didn't seem to care....luckily I had my wife to be with me when I told him.