VOICES OF HOPE
Jack Kettering knows that a change of heart is always possible when he turns to Christ for help. He has learned that some of the most important things in life are family, deep friendships, and the courage to be true to himself. Jack trusts that he will receive the help he needs as often as he places his trust in the Lord.
Full Interview (45 Minutes)
Highlights Interview (13 Minutes)
THE WAY I SEE IT
Looking back, the first real memory starts when I was five. There was an old truck cover in my friend’s backyard. As two innocent little boys, we would crawl under the truck cover and we would talk, hug, and just enjoy being around each other. From a very early age, I felt attracted to other boys; although at such a young age it was certainly not romantic feelings. One of my early memories was bathing with my stepbrothers. There was nothing sexual; it was just young boys having fun. I loved it! Frankly I think I must have loved it too much because our parents made us stop bathing together. When I think of that time in my life I felt so free. I was so curious about other men.
In elementary school, I liked hanging out with both boys and girls. I had a friend who was a girl and I really liked her; I remember we would spend time just sitting under the tree and picking flowers trying to tie them together to make a bracelet or a necklace. I just enjoyed spending time with her. Then I started to get made fun of by the other guys because I was hanging out with this girl. I remember feeling like I was doing something wrong wanting to spend time with her. I felt ashamed and went to go talk to my mom about it. She did her best to explain how sometimes people say hurtful things and that I just had to not listen. But I still carried that shame and fear; like I didn’t fit in with other boys because of the things I was doing.
Middle school was when things really started to change for me. I became so much more aware of not fitting in with other boys. I can vividly remember so many things from this age. There was a friend of mine that was caught with another boy his age. They were camping in the back yard of his house and both boys had their hands down each others’ pants while they lay on the grass. His older sister came out and caught them. My friend had to go and talk to his parents about what happened. I thought to myself, “I could never do that; I would never want to go and talk to my parents about something like that.” I felt ashamed because I knew that I was attracted to other boys.
And being in middle school, things were different, I felt like I got made fun of for doing nothing. I got made fun of for simply being. Of course you can imagine what it was like growing up with a name like Jack. I was so self-conscious. I was afraid to go in and take showers after playing sports. I was worried that I would get caught staring at other guys in the shower, or that I would get a boner! When there were physical fitness tests at school, I can remember thinking, “I don’t want to go do that. I can’t keep up with the other boys or do what they do. They are so much more athletic than I am. People are going to see that I am fat and uncoordinated.”
Oh, I had such anxiety! Sometimes I would rather miss the school bus and walk ten miles to school than get a ride and be there on time for PE. I was most fearful of having to play basketball. The funny thing is, it wasn’t the basketball itself. I was actually okay at playing football and basketball, but the thought of having to go shirts or skins was terrifying for me. I was so afraid that once my shirt came off I was going to be told I was a girl because I was a fat and I had boobs. Even if I went swimming I would wear a shirt. I was so ashamed of my body and how it looked and how other boys would judge me. I remember hating t-shirts because it was so easy for people to see that my chest was different. I thought to myself, I have to wear multiple shirts in order to keep my chest from being so noticeable. I told myself, as long as I have a shirt on no one will notice me.
I started feeling isolated from the other guys. I felt like I wasn’t athletic, I wasn’t manly and I didn’t fit in. So I told myself that if I just went to PE, didn’t take a shower, and if I could change quickly before the other guys were out of the shower; then no one would notice me. It’s sad for me to look back and realize that I think it was my goal simply not to be noticed.
As much as I feared the locker room and showers, I can remember liking the locker room for only one reason. Here I could check out all the other guys without anyone noticing or thinking that I was weird for wanting to look at other guys. I was starting to feel both separated and desperately wanting to connect with other boys at this point.
This whole line of thinking and desperately wanting to connect followed me into high school. I remember my sophomore year. I had transferred to a different high school. I found myself drawn to one guy in particular. I really liked this guy; he was really cool, very laid-back and relaxed. I think I was drawn to both is laid-back vibe and his rebelliousness. Other guys also seemed to be drawn to him. I was sort of desperate for him to be my friend. I remember we had algebra class together and he was in my group. I remember him turning to me for help and it felt so good just to have someone noticing me. Honestly at this point, I felt like I was just desperate for any guys to be my friends. I think this was about the time that I started feeling something sexual towards other guys. I felt so confused. These guys that I just wanted to be friends with, now all of a sudden I wanted to have sex with them.
There were times that I just didn’t feel like I belonged, even at home. I had so many step-brothers and they all seemed to get along. I desperately wanted to be friends with my step brothers. I felt like if I could be accepted by them that I would be okay. I saw just how well they all got along. Especially the relationship the twins had. I saw them argue and fight, but they were always together. I knew that after the fight they would still be hanging out with each other. And they always seemed to have friends to go play with. I remember thinking that they were always gone doing something with friends. How badly I longed for that type of friendship.
I had a friend that was really good friends with another guy. They were both straight and loved to hang out with girls. They were constantly talking about who they wanted to date next. I saw just how close their friendship was and I longed just to hang out with them. Sometimes he would go to his buddies’ house for days at a time. Their friendship seemed amazing to me. One day someone made up a rumor that he and his friend were talking about giving each other blowjobs. Supposedly one person was listening in on a phone conversation that they were having. Somehow his family found out, then rumors at church and kids at seminary found out. It seemed like people just ostracized him at that point. He lost all his friends…people made fun of him. Those rumors were so impactful; they changed so many aspects of his life. I know he felt ridiculed, and outcast because of it. I knew these two guys and there was no way that they were doing anything together. They were both too interested in girls and dating to be having any interest in each other. But worst of all I thought to myself, Holy crap!! This guy is straight and these are only rumors and look what happened to him!
My friend’s experience struck such deep fear into me. I started thinking, “if any rumors even close to that started about me, I wouldn’t be able to make up excuses that it wasn’t me!” I actually had those feelings of wanting to do something sexual with another man. If people found that out, it would be the end of me. I knew I had to hide. I felt so ashamed knowing that deep down, I actually had those feelings and if anyone ever found out about them, things would be twice as bad for me as they were for my friend; because those experiences could actually be real for me. I think the reason it was so impactful for me at the time was because I was actually having similar experiences.
I quickly realized I needed to bury these feelings down deep and not let anyone ever come close to finding out about my secret. From then on, I was very aware of my mannerisms. I made sure that I walked straight and talked straight so I wouldn’t have to worry that my friends would figure out I was gay. At this point in my life I didn’t even really know what gay was. I just knew that I was drawn to men and I just wanted to be around them. This internal conflict came up multiple times in my life. I was shy, but I really wanted friends. However, I was afraid that if I made friends, they would soon find out my secret. This consumed my life for quite some time. Scouts? If I went on a camping trip, and people spent time with me, they would surely find out I was gay. They would notice that I was different. I wanted to sit near them and put my arm around them, just have some meaningful connection. When other boys wanted to go skinny dipping…I so desperately wanted to go, yet I shied away. Scouts and skinny dipping, these activities are so normal, I wanted to join in so I could feel like one of the guys. But my experience so far had yielded two things. First these guys would see my body and comment that I had boobs and would make fun of me. Secondly, I feared the potential of getting a boner due to skinny dipping and seeing my friends naked.
I soon came to realize that I was not like other guys and I didn’t fit in with playing sports and lifting weights, talking about girls and sex. I didn’t know how to relate to other guys. So I started to develop intellectually. I told myself I was better than the other guys. I was smarter and I didn’t need to have them as friends anyway, because they weren’t as good as me. I was nicer to my parents and a perfect child. I listened and was responsible. I didn’t need to have friends that were going out and doing guy stuff; that was beneath me. I had my parents and their adult friends. Who needs friends your own age when you can relate to real adults? At least that was the lie I told myself to make it through.
During high school I started making some guy friends. This was the time that I was trying to figure out my dilemma of what I was going to do with my sexuality. I wanted to be a member of the church and yet I knew that I was attracted to men. I knew I was sitting with guys and they were looking at women and I was busy checking out the other guys. Even at that age, I could tell that what I really wanted was closeness with men. I longed to have a best friend; someone that I could spend time with and love, and they would love me back. I can be honest and say sometimes I would think about a guy in a sexual way, but a lot of what was really going on for me was simply wanting to feel close to men; to feel like I was one of them.
I began doing things that guys do. I got into an agriculture class and started in FFA (Future Farmers of America). I lived on an orange orchard and had farm work to do, so I was driving the tractor and tilling fields. I raised a pig and a steer. All of the sudden I was starting to see men like my grandfather taking an interest in me. He was so proud that I was getting into raising steers, because he was a cattleman. He raised cattle and trained horses. I even went to work for my grandfather in the iron industry. I felt so manly doing that work. My dad also started paying attention to me and helping me work on my car. My dad and I rebuilt an entire engine together. I didn’t even care about that. I just wanted to spend time with my dad.
During high school, my dad got divorced, and my mom moved to Missouri. At that time I didn’t really care, because my dad and I had moved in together after his divorce. We got an apartment right by the high school. It worked out so great because it was like his divorce coincided with my mom moving to Missouri. I was adamantly against moving in the middle of high school since things were finally turning around for me. Life seemed to be going great. I remember this time because I had a couple friends. One friend was a farm guy, and I thought that was so manly. He would even come over and help me with the tractor and teach me some things. Simply because he and I were friends, I finally felt like I was part of the man club; that I finally belonged. I had another friend too that raised cattle. He would come and help me out when I needed some advice or help. I was really starting to feel like I had found a place in the world. I had a teacher that recognized something in me. Even though I was very shy at the time, he asked me if I wanted to be on the Parliamentary Procedure team. We would go on road trips as a team. I kind of broke out of my shell at this point. I really started feeling like I had friends and I really enjoyed high school. This lasted for a couple years. Then after graduation some of my good friends were gone and doing their own thing.
Then right after high school my dad decided to get re-married. This was disastrous for me personally. I felt like I had spent so many years vying for my dad’s attention. And for a couple years, just he and I living together, I felt like I was finally getting the attention that I longed for both from my dad and my friends. And now, here he goes getting remarried, and giving all of his undivided attention to his wife. This was kind of the beginning of a downward spiral for me.
After high school I started hanging out with a different crowd. I think I was desperately trying to hang on to that high school feeling, because the friends I made were still in high school. I started doing things just so I could fit in. This one girl that I knew, I really liked her and her boyfriend. So I began spending all my time with them. Then at one point, I think I realized that I was a third wheel. And honestly, though I loved spending time with them, they wanted their alone time. Things became awkward. I realized that I needed to do something else to fit in. So I started dating one of my friends’ sisters.
It’s sort of odd, dating. I knew I had no desire to date women, but I also wanted to fit in. And I figured out that if no one saw me dating, then surely they would think something was wrong. But my friends’ sister was fun. We had a lot of good times together. I even remember being dared to kiss her. I felt so afraid; I didn’t know what to do. I knew that if I didn’t kiss her people would wonder what was wrong with me. So I mustered up the courage and went for it. It was so awkward. And on top of that I felt like everyone was watching me. This girl liked more rough guys. So she really enjoyed the motorcycle rides. She was also into tattoos and piercings. After hearing about them so often and being curious myself, I started to think, “I wonder if anyone would even notice if I got a tattoo or a piercing?” My friends thought it was such a great idea. They were pushing me towards it. So this one day I took my girlfriend and I went to a tattoo parlor. I decided I wanted to get my tongue pierced. I didn’t really want to get it pierced for myself, or for acceptance from my friends. I wanted to get it pierced to see if my dad would notice me. I felt so invisible at this time in my life.
Though I still had some friends I didn’t feel like I belonged. I had lost that feeling that I had in high school. Honestly, I didn’t feel like there was any point in being alive. I remember having a motorcycle, I would drive so fast that I felt like I could have died, but I didn’t care. I remember multiple times, driving this van and thinking….hmmmm maybe I could just drive it into a bridge pillar. No one would notice; no one would care. I even lost my license because of my reckless driving. I felt so lost and unsure of what the future would look like for me.
I was trying to figure out if my dad actually cared about me or not, if he actually loved me or not. I decided that I had pierced my tongue and he hadn’t noticed, so I came up with a plan; I even set up this sort of elaborate way to test it. I had this normal routine that I would do every day. At the time I was working 2 full-time jobs so when I was home I would simply go into my room and lock my door and play some music until I fell asleep. I broke the routine by packing all of my stuff into boxes and placed them in the center of my room. I also left the door open so that anyone could look in. I knew that my dad had to pass my room and I desperately hoped he would see that there were only boxes and a bed in my room and that would provoke him to ask a question, or acknowledge it in some way.
I stopped playing my music at night. I didn’t get into any of my boxes. I just let them be there for like two weeks. I had already decided that if he didn’t notice or say anything, then I would just leave. So the day came. My friends knew my plan, leave California and fly to Missouri. My girlfriends’ mom was the one waiting to give me a ride to the airport; ticket in hand. Sure enough, no one noticed. Sadly I wrote a note on a torn piece of paper, “Dear Dad, moved to moms’.”
Once I moved to my mom’s there was no way for my dad to get ahold of me. My mom was living in Missouri with no running water, electricity or a cell phone. That place had no modern-day convenience. It made me feel like I was living on Gilligan’s Island. If I wanted to make a phone call, there was a drive up phone 5 miles away. So there was no real way for my dad to get ahold of me. And I was still mad at my dad so I just left things the way they were for several months.
Living in Missouri was a great experience for me, though I didn’t really like it at the time. My mom had told me before I left California that I was more than welcome to come and live with her, under one condition; that I serve a mission. I thought to myself, “YEAH RIGHT!” I figured I would just move there and figure things out. When I first arrived in Missouri, I started feeling a storm of emotions. I was glad to be out of California. But at the same time I was really sad to leave my friends. I missed modern-day conveniences so much. I felt like I was again in a place that I didn’t have any friends and still was unsure what my next step in life was. I ended up just trying to pass the time for a while and adjust to my new surroundings.
I worked hard building a house, tilling the soil and taking care of livestock. We were out in the middle of nowhere, so I would go four-wheeling on the property. One morning when I woke up, there were these two guys at the house installing insulation. It turned out they were the missionaries, taking their day off to help us out. Turns out they had been coming over and helped build the house way before I got there. These guys were young, and fun. I really liked these elders. They were so down to earth. I ended up going out with them once in a while. The something changed. I knew the missionaries were poor, so I went grocery shopping and delivered it to them. That night they made me dinner and we just got to hang out like guys do. After that, I started going out with them all the time. I loved it! These guys definitely influenced my decision to serve. Finally I decided I wanted to serve a mission. I knew that if I was going to serve a mission, I was also going to have to call my dad.
The call was really short. I told him I had decided to serve a mission and I wanted him to know. That was all. I let him know that I didn’t care if he came or if he wanted to come see me or not. I simply wanted him to know. I didn’t give him a way to get in touch with me. I just left it there. A couple more months went by and I prepared and received a mission call. Once I received my call I realized that I had important decisions to make. So I decided to call my dad again.
This call was a little different. I told him that I was going to serve in the Fresno, California mission, and I when I would be leaving. It was still a very matter of fact conversation. Eventually my dad came out to Missouri. I remember that after he drove up the driveway, he got out of the car and immediately vomited. I asked him if he was okay. He said that he was somewhat nervous and that he had also been fasting. We hugged and then I went to go get my stuff so that we could make the trip the temple.
On the car ride he started out by telling me that he had fasted on the way here from California. That he didn’t really know what to say. He told me that after I left he didn’t know what to think or why I had left. He went around and started asking people if they knew why I had left. I really had mixed feelings about the situation. At first I felt bad hearing that my dad had gone through this whole process of trying to piece together what had happened. But another part of me was glad to see that he was willing to put in some time and effort into trying to understand me better. I wish that he had done this while I was still in California. I think at that point I realized that what I did had made an impact on my dad. And that this experience had changed both of us. It made me see things a little differently. I realized that my dad did care. I was glad to see that he was willing to express these things to me.
I left on a mission, and the mission was great. I loved it! I had companions that really felt like brothers. I had a mission president that noticed me and knew who I was. The association with other men was so good for me too. I felt like I belonged I really felt like I fit in and had a place in the world. The missionaries that I was associated with really spent time with me. Even playing basketball was fun with them because I knew they loved me and it wasn’t about me being the best or worst player on the team. It was about being a member of the same team. I would have amazing late night discussions with companions and other missionaries that lived in the same apartment. We would sometimes go on splits together just because we were friends that wanted to spend time together. Our companions would go to bed and we would just stay up so late talking and lying on the couch together. Sometimes I would go into this Elders room and I would just lay in his bed with him. It was just guys that were comfortable with themselves. I didn’t really struggle with my same gender attraction (SGA) on the mission. There was this one area where four of us living together, and all of us got along really well. We would wrestle sometimes. But better than that, sometimes when I was talking to this one elder he would reach over with his fingers and just pull at my arm hair. Sometimes when we were chatting I would come and lay next to him, lay my head on his lap. This elder loved me and I felt like such a member of the man club because of having his love and because of the simple things he would do like touching my arm.
I did have one elder that I lived with ask me one time if I had ever had gay thoughts. But of course I was way too afraid to tell him yes. I served well and the mission came to an end. I went back to Missouri, stayed there for a while and realized my time in Missouri had ended. I wanted to broaden my horizons and see what the world had to offer me. I decided to move to Idaho and attend Rick’s College. After a while I realized I didn’t like living in Idaho. I didn’t have a car and shopping for groceries in the snow was just hell. School was hard too, I dove in way too deep; I wasn’t passing any of my classes. My living situation was not great either. The guy in my room would wave a gun around. And he would try and tell me that I couldn’t be in the room with his TV and watch what he was watching. Once again, I felt like I wasn’t fitting in. So I picked up and moved to California. I started working and just living life day-to-day. I was working on Sunday so that made it easier not to go to church. I was starting to go inactive. I wasn’t reading my scriptures or saying my prayers. I was working on the navy base and was seeing men around me, noticing them constantly. This was the first time I remember being so breathlessly drawn to men and thinking, “I have got to get this part of me figured out!”
Before my mission there was always that thought of, “Well if I screw up there’s no way I will be able to serve a mission.” But now that the mission was over, I felt like there wasn’t anything stopping me. So I started flirting like crazy with men. Eventually I did some things that led me to lose my temple recommend. The feelings from that time in my life, I can vividly remember. I knew that I had offended God. I knew that I did something that He was not happy with. It was so palpable that the other man (who wasn’t a member of the church) could feel it…it was so intense. That feeling helped me to go talk to my bishop.
Eventually I figured I needed to talk to someone. I thought of a friend that I had made in the mission field, who was a counselor. I called her and we set up a time to meet. I took my mom along with me as though we were just going to see a friend and she was going to visit some people from my mission. It was a long 4-hour drive. Driving up the mountain, I felt so much anxiety. I didn’t know how Meredith and I would get time alone. I also couldn’t be certain that I would have the courage to talk to her. I tried to figure out if she would be able to understand what it’s like to be a man and have this issue. I had so many doubts and fears running through my head. And of course her family was there also, so we all had dinner together. Then Meredith, ever so gracefully just got up from the table and said, “Jack, would you like to go on a walk with me?” She and I left my mom and her husband by themselves, as we went out for our “walk.” I found myself both scared to open up and share with Meredith. But I also had these warm comfortable feelings, knowing that we got along so well and she was so very inviting and open. We talked and I shared things with her. At this point in my life I had only shared my struggles with SGA with the bishop. Meredith definitely got the all-out version, and I loved what she had to say. She said, “Jack, I have counseled a lot of men in your situation. I could give you some therapy and I could help you out. But I have to tell you in all my experience it really comes down to a choice. It’s the choice of what you are going to do with those attractions.”
I took that and ran with it! I felt like I had to come to a point of decision. So I decide maybe the next step was to pray. It had been so long since I prayed. I decided to read my scriptures and start praying again. I came to the conclusion and made a promise to God. I told him that I was going to change my life. I was going to do what He wanted me to do and that because of that; I wanted to start over.
It still took me a while to figure out what I was going to do. I began reconnecting with old friends, especially ones from the mission field. When I talked to them, they made Utah sound like paradise. I figured I could move there and already have a bunch of good friends. After deliberating for a while and praying about what to do, I decided that I was going to move to Utah. I soon quit my job and moved to Utah to start school. But by the time I arrived, the friends that I had planned on meeting up with had either moved away or got married.
After I moved, I realized that I had changed locations, but I wasn’t really doing anything differently. I went back to the drawing board and realized that moving was not enough to change me as a person. I needed to start doing some things differently. I began focusing on reading my scriptures and praying. I started attending a singles ward. I soon realized that I was really craving friendship. One night I prayed and told God that I needed help to change, I needed a friend that could love me and help me. I remember it wasn’t too long after one of my mission companions from Florida moved to Utah, and I ended up meeting two guys; both named Jake.
As soon as Gus moved to Utah, I started basically living at his house during the week. I would only see my place on the weekend. Gus had roommates that were both friends and family. We spent so much time together. We would go eat, go out to clubs and dances. It felt so good to be around these guys. I was one of them. I forgot what it was like not to belong. I was quickly making friends.
One of the Jakes worked at Dick’s Sporting Goods, and he told me, “dude it’s your first winter, come buy a jacket from me at work, I can get you a deal.” I told him, “there’s no way I could afford it.” So he said, “you know I was thinking; I collect coats, why don’t I just give you one of mine?” And he literally took the coat off his back and gave it to me. I put it on and it was still warm. I felt so loved. I felt so connected! Here was a good-looking guy that was straight, and he did that for me. I was amazed.
The other Jake lived in Ogden and we met in the singles ward. He invited me to singles ward activities and institute. He also invited me to come and hang out with some of his other friends. We all started hanging out together. I also started making friends in the singles ward. It was great because some of the guys from the ward were also in my classes. We would study together and end up having long conversations. I really felt like the connection I had with these men was so impactful for me. I felt like I had such acceptance. Even with all these friends and feeling loved and accepted, I still felt like there was this side to me; the side that if they knew they would stop being my friend.
I decided to start searching online for support. At this point in my life I felt like I was the only guy on the face of the earth that struggled with SGA and was trying to remain faithful in the church. I finally found this guy named Ty Mansfield. He had just written a book entitled, “In Quiet Desperation.” I thought to myself, “how fitting is that title?” He invited me to dinner with some friends at Fred and Marilyn Matis’ house. I felt so fearful, I was sitting in my car for a while before I got the courage to go knock on the door. Ty answered the door and Fred and Marilyn gave me a hug. I had such mixed feelings about this. I knew that the people I was seeing knew my secret, a secret that I had kept from the world for so long. And yet, here they were hugging me and inviting me in with open arms and warm embraces. It was something I felt I had never experienced before. And along with that, I saw these men that I could tell loved each other. They were physically close to one another. They seemed unafraid to express affection towards one another, giving hugs so openly and freely. I felt like I needed to just remain silent and take it all in. I was so amazed to meet other men that were on my same path. They were both dealing with same gender attraction and trying to live according to Gods’ commandments. It was truly an awesome experience.
It was because of this and other experiences that I decided it was time for me to start taking a leap of faith and share my struggles with the friends that I already had. One night I pulled Jake aside, I asked if I could hold his hand. I am sure he thought it was weird, but he said yes anyway. I felt so afraid; I feared losing a friend that I cared so much about. We talked about it for hours. Mainly I remember starting out feeling intense anxiety and leaving feeling comfort and love. I decided that I was going to just start telling my friends. I did it one-by-one, making time to have the conversation with my friends. I lost a couple friends by telling them my secret. Having friends that knew that side of me; that still loved and accepted me, was amazing.
A few years later, I moved to Florida to continue my education, and things were just different for me. Again, I lost that sense of connection and friendship that I longed for. Here is was in a new place and though I was surrounded by people, I felt totally alone. I needed friends, so I would call my old friends back in Utah. But connection over the phone fell far short of what I was used to. I had hit a plateau. I knew that I had moved and made good friends. I had started on a trek that made me more comfortable with who I am. Yet I knew deep down there was still more changes that needed to be made. I started feeling this inner yearning for wanting my life to feel different. I felt like I needed to do more to help myself get to where I wanted to be. But I didn’t quite know how to go about that.
One day I was talking to a friend and they mentioned Journey into Manhood (JIM). For some reason I had heard about it years before but I just didn’t think it would be helpful. I kept telling myself that God had helped me to get where I am and He will help me to get where He wants me to be. I didn’t think there was any other help or way to make my life any different. I knew that if God wanted me to change that He would make it happen. On top of that I knew that my journey was a life time and how would it be possible for one to “Journey into Manhood” in one weekend. It seemed so ludicrous. Finally it was August and I started thinking about JIM. I think my heart started to be softened. I began thinking that maybe there was something to be gained from going to the weekend. I felt like going to JIM was the right next step for me, so I went in Florida, December 2008. It was amazing!! JIM was literally a life altering experience. I think that was the first time that I could see the healing power of the Atonement in action. I had never felt as connected to other men as I did that weekend. Hearing their stories and sharing in their experiences created an ineffable bond. I also felt like I had gained tools that would help me going forward.
One of the main things that I took from JIM was the ability to look inside and see what it was or is about another man that was really attracting me. That has been so pivotal for me these past few years. I think being able to get to the root of why I am drawn to another man has helped me to have clarity moving forward. It also helps to dissipate any sexual feelings I would have toward another man.
I eventually finished my master’s degree and was unsure what to do next. I knew I couldn’t afford to stay living in Florida. I thought about moving to Washington D. C., since I knew they had great singles wards. I came to my senses and realized if I couldn’t afford Florida I certainly couldn’t afford D.C. I thought about moving back to Utah, but I had already lived there and wanted to go out and adventure. I decided that I wanted to live somewhere new, so I moved to Las Vegas.
Vegas was a lot of fun. I started going to the singles ward and I met some great friends there. We would go to the singles activities. At one point a friend and myself decided that we needed to make our own plans to invite friends over, so we initiated hot-tub Tuesdays! It was so much fun! Something different happened for me in Vegas. I actually started spending time with women because I wanted to. I felt like I spent such high-quality time with my male friends that I, I think some of my wounds around masculinity were healing. I found myself wanting to spend time dating women. This was such a new concept for me. I had dated before but it was because my friends wanted to go do something and in order to join in I had to have a double date or group date.
Though I was having fun in Vegas, I started losing hours at my job. I worked really hard, and my job was rewarding. But for some reason I kept feeling down. My friends would invite me to do things and sometimes I would use work or make up excuses not to join in. I was still afraid that they were going to see a side of me that made them think I was different. I was so afraid of not fitting in. I was fearful that they would reject me. When in reality they were so accepting and loving towards me. But I couldn’t shake that feeling of depression. Eventually I took time off work and went on a road trip to Utah for a conference weekend in October 2012. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but when I got back to Vegas I just started feeling like, “I’ve got to get out of here!” So I moved to Utah. On the drive, I had some time to think. I realized just how one-sided some of my friendships had been in the past. I made the decision then to only make friends with men that wanted to reciprocate with me. It’s amazing what happens when you find friends that want to spend time with you as much as you want to spend time with them. I found my friends initiating with me, asking to spend time with me, and vice versa.
Moving to Utah, I had also made a monumental decision for myself. I decided that I was going to allow myself to have friends that also dealt with SGA. In the past, I feared that something would go wrong or I would have sex with a guy simply because he had SGA. NOPE, totally wrong on that one! I started having friends that deal with SGA and it was so healing and fulfilling. I had friends that I didn’t have to explain things to, friends that got what I was going through innately. It was such a needed relief.
Now at this point in my life, I feel like I have found a good balance within the world of men. I have friends that are straight, both married and single, and I have friends that deal with SGA, both married and single. It’s a totally different world than the one that I grew up in. There is still some fear. There are also still some thoughts about not fitting in with the straight guys or not being able to measure up. I own those thoughts and recognize them as not true, but sometimes they are still there for me.
What I know, is that over the years things have changed and become much better for me. I used to think there was no way that I would ever get married. I just knew that I would be that cool single uncle that some kids have. I would be that one guy in the ward that is old and still single, yet no one knows why. But that has changed for me. I have done a lot of work around healing those parts of me that have been hidden for so long. I have also challenged myself to not live in fear, but to lean into the discomfort and face those fears. I have made amazing friends along the way. These men and women know my story and the love and accept me. These things have been so empowering and healing for me. I can literally see the hand of the Lord in my life. In the past two years I have really started to think that marriage is a possibility for me. And as such I am moving towards that end.
One thing I know for sure is that God lives. He knows me intimately. And most importantly I know that God loves me. I also know that Jesus Christ suffered for my sins and died for me. But to me, the most important part of the Atonement that I know; is that Jesus suffered to bring about the power of the Atonement that allows for healing and change. I believe that a change of heart is totally possible. That I know first hand.