VOICES OF HOPE
JOSHUA & ALYSSA
Joshua graduated in computational linguistics and currently works as a software engineer for Systran doing machine translation. He enjoys running and playing ultimate Frisbee and serves as a Sunday School teacher. Alyssa graduated in chemical engineering and works part time as a process engineer for Sapphire Energy, which creates biofuels from algae. She enjoys cooking and gardening and serves as a den mother. They were married in the Oakland temple, and currently live in San Diego, where they enjoy going to the beach, dancing, hiking and taking care of their son. They attribute their happy marriage to open and honest communication, dealing with problems head on, and most importantly, the healing available through the atonement.
Full Interview (39 Minutes)
Highlights Interview (12 Minutes)
THE TRANSFORMING POWER OF BLESSINGS
God has blessed me in many ways, including the blessing of same-sex attraction. I didn’t always feel that way. I used to be ashamed of my attractions and didn’t want to acknowledge them, but God has used them to teach me. Through my attractions I have gained my greatest blessings; my wonderful wife and son, and a deep understanding and testimony of the gospel. I am grateful for God’s tender mercies that I have received throughout my life.
I was raised in a wonderful LDS family. My parents have always made family a top priority and have gone out of their way to make sure I knew they loved me. I had no doubt that my family would always love and support me. Through word and deed, they taught me the commandments of God, and the things I needed to do to achieve happiness. I prayed about the things that taught me, and I knew that what they taught me was true. It was this knowledge of the truthfulness of the gospel, and the love and support of my family, which helped me to navigate the difficulties I have faced throughout my life.
I always knew I was different than the other boys. They didn’t like the things that I liked, they didn’t talk the way that I talked, and they didn’t act the way I acted. Some of them would pick on me and call me names. Instead of just accepting the fact that they were different, I started thinking something was wrong with me. I yearned to be accepted by the other boys. I started beating myself up for being different. I even started questioning my masculinity.
The hardest part was when puberty hit, and the other guys started liking girls. They would talk about girls and joke about them. I didn’t understand their interest and I thought their jokes were crude. I felt left out. I told myself I was just a late bloomer, and I would someday feel what the other guys were feeling. I dated girls, and I enjoyed spending time with them. Most of my friends were girls. I just became very uneasy and uncomfortable whenever there was any type of romantic element to the relationship. I became more and more aware that I was not like the other guys, and it was painful. I really wanted to be part of the male culture, but I didn’t feel like I belonged. I felt alone and scared. I started fantasizing about being loved and accepted by the other guys. Eventually, those fantasies took on a sexual nature. That scared and embarrassed me, and I went to great lengths, including hiding and lying, to make sure no one knew about them.
The Internet started taking off about the time I went to BYU. It was very new and exciting. Within seconds you could read or see anything you wanted to. As I began to realize the possibilities, my carnal side took over. I wanted to be part of the male culture. I wanted men to open up and be vulnerable with me. I wanted to see guys. I knew I wasn’t supposed to look at women, but I rationalized that this was different. Besides, looking at men made me numb inside, and that dulled the pain. I would do anything to dull the pain. Pornography led to other destructive behaviors.
I didn’t know what to do. How was I supposed to work on overcoming gay pornography, without addressing the fact that I might be gay? I didn’t even want to think about that, let alone face it.
Sometimes God has a way of compelling you to be humble. I was caught. The facade I had worked on building up came crashing down. I was kicked out of BYU and the apartment where I was living. My festering wound was left exposed, and my family saw it in all its ugliness. My destructive behaviors were a major disappointment for them. I loved them and had worked so hard to never disappoint them. I wanted to hide in the deepest corner of the Earth, but there was no putting back up the facade. I had hit bottom.
God wanted me back. He needed me to realize that I needed to change my course. He needed me to realize that I needed him. God had used these things to humble me, and I started the long road back. Rather than running from my issues, I began dealing with them head on. I started proactively seeking help. I met with several bishops. Every single one assured me that God still loved me. They taught me how to use the atonement more perfectly. I began to learn how to rely on my Savior.
I started getting professional counseling. I was fortunate to live in Provo, Utah, where one of the leading therapists dealing with same-sex attraction was practicing. He had specialized in helping people like me. He helped me address the pain I was feeling, instead of trying to cover it up. He helped me gain self-confidence and gave me the tools to overcome my addictions, such as the need for software to monitor my internet access. He also helped me see my attractions in a new light, which helped me approach my attractions realistically.
After moving to California, I went on a weekend retreat with other men with same-sex attraction. It was scary walking in. Everyone would know about my attractions. I felt completely exposed, and the fact that everyone else was in the same situation did not seem to help. Although it was scary, it taught me how to be comfortable with who I was. I met so many amazing men who were confident and stalwart in the gospel. It gave me hope that I could be like that too. The activities helped me look inside myself and better understand how I worked. They challenged the way I viewed things, especially my concepts of masculinity and femininity. They helped me embrace the more masculine parts of me, and taught me to seek out activities that helped me feel more masculine. They opened my eyes and helped me start to change what I was too afraid to change before.
My new friends introduced me to several support groups. I was no longer alone on my journey. I had friends I could turn to when I was having a rough time, or I had questions, or I just needed someone to talk to. I was able to bring my parents to one of the group’s conferences, which changed the way they viewed same-sex attractions. This experience gave them the tools to know how best to support me.
I know I was given these tools at this time in my life by a loving Heavenly Father to help me deal with the challenges I was facing. While I had been making a lot of progress in some respects, I was also backtracking in others. Now that I was no longer at BYU, I was in an environment that openly encouraged same-sex relationships. There were guys who were interested in me, and were willing to be open and vulnerable with me, and it felt so good to be close to other men. Here I could do more and do it more openly than at BYU. I made some mistakes, but now I knew where to turn.
Part of the problem was that I couldn’t turn to my friends because outside my family and the SSA community, none of my other friends knew what I was dealing with. Through therapy and support groups, I was learning that there was no need to feel ashamed for merely having same-sex attractions, but I hadn’t completely internalized that yet. I hid my attractions and acted as if they were something to be ashamed of. I was generally a very open person, and hiding something that was such a core part of who I was, seemed wrong.
I was assigned to give a talk in Church about the love of God. As I reflected on my life, I realized one of the best ways that I learned about God’s love was through my same-sex attractions. I felt prompted to share my story with my single adult ward. The thought of having my friends find out about my attractions flooded me with feelings of shame and fear, but I realized that God wanted me to face that shame. I would never get over the shame as long as I acted as if my attractions were shameful.
I was shocked with how incredibly supportive my ward was. When I finished with my talk, I was surrounded by friends wanting to hug me and offer their support. My fears that I would not be accepted “if only they knew” were definitively proven false. I never heard one negative comment nor felt excluded because of my same-sex attractions. I served in my callings and participated in the activities like before, but now I was doing it without my mask. I felt closer to my friends, and for the first time in years, the friendships felt genuine.
My two biggest concerns in coming out to the ward was that I would not be able to find roommates (my name was on the lease, and I could not afford to pay the whole rent) and that no one would want to date me. Both were proven false. Several guys from the ward were anxious to move in as soon as there were vacancies. I was also surprised how much easier dating became. Whenever I had tried to date girls previously, I was always filled with fear and anxiety. That was completely gone now. I was now free to be myself while dating, and that was fun. Things would progress well until the subject of intimacy was brought up. I still had no desire to kiss the girls I was dating.
This was about the time that our courts here in California legalized same-sex marriage. Many people shared stories of how their opposite-sex marriages had failed. The general consensus seemed to be that these marriages were doomed for failure. I reflected upon my own failures in dating and began to fear they might be right. While I had accepted that my same-sex attractions might never go away, I wasn’t completely prepared to accept that I might remain single for my whole life. For the next several months, I wrestled with the very real possibility of a lifetime of celibacy. I had made so much progress, and I had found so much happiness, yet I was still lonely. As I weighed the outcomes I decided I would rather be celibate, and have the Holy Ghost with me, than be without the Holy Ghost. I renewed my resolve to follow God no matter what, even if that meant being celibate.
It wasn’t long after making this commitment that I went to a salsa dance. There, I met an amazing woman by the name of Alyssa. We spent the whole evening together dancing the night away. Things just seemed to click with her. I got her number, and we started seeing each other on a regular basis. I had only kissed one female before, but by the second date, I found myself wanting to kiss her. It was just a peck, but it was magical.
I found myself with the task of figuring out how to tell her about my attractions. I was already pretty open, but I wanted her to get to know me without any preconceived notions. I was going on a week-long trip a month later, so I decided to tell her when I got back. I didn’t want her to second guess herself while I was away for such a long time.
Going back to being closeted was not easy. I started feeling stress again. Kissing became more and more difficult and awkward until I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. She sensed I was stressed. Right before I left on my trip, she sat me down and asked me what was going on. I knew I couldn’t hide anymore, so I told her about my attractions. That opened up a floodgate of emotions, and we talked the rest of the night. It felt so good to be open that I almost didn’t care if she broke up with me. Fortunately for me, she took the revelation very well. It helped explain a lot of things for her. As she prayed and pondered about it, she felt good and decided to continue the relationship.
That was a major turning point in our relationship. It was such a relief to be myself. It allowed me to be vulnerable, and open up to her in ways I hadn’t been able to open up to anyone else. It was hard talking about difficult issues, such as lust and pornography, but it built a trust and a bond that have been the foundation of our relationship. As I grew closer to her emotionally, I found that my physical attractions grew for her as well. I became more curious, and being physical with her became more fun. While I enjoyed it, there still wasn’t that energy and drive that I had for men. There was something missing.
I started having the impression that I was supposed to start praying about marriage. That was not what I was expecting. I knew I was not ready for marriage. We had only been dating for a few months. I was very happy with our emotional intimacy, but I was not as sexually attracted to her as I had hoped or wanted to be. I wasn’t even completely convinced marriage was a possibility for me. All of the fears about failed marriages came back. I resisted that temptation and refused to even ask God what His will was. Still, the impression persisted. I fought and I fought that impression. I argued with God and I pleaded with God. Still, the impression persisted. I finally tried bargaining with God. I asked Him if it would be enough to simply ask if I should proceed with the relationship as if I were going to get married. That way, I wouldn’t be committing myself to anything. God said it was enough. As soon as I asked, I was filled with peace. My fears were wiped away, and I knew I was supposed to plan on marrying Alyssa.
I was surprised how much this revelation changed our relationship. Previously, I was constantly weighing the pros and cons of our relationship, trying to decide whether it would be worth it to continue. Now I was able to completely stop that, and I started looking at things in the long term. There were no more deal breakers, and breaking off the relationship was no longer an option. I felt free to go forward and just accept whatever happened. It gave me a new drive to get to know her better, without reservation.
This new energy carried over to physical intimacy. I no longer had any reservations about being intimate with her, since we were going to be together forever. For the first time with a woman, I had to stop myself from going further in order to keep the relationship worthy of the temple. I was shocked. I felt I was ready for marriage. I prayed and God confirmed it was the right time. After knowing each other for just over a year, we were sealed in the Oakland temple.
I knew having same-sex attraction would bring some difficulty into marriage. I figured our sex life would suffer, but I thought there was enough sexual attraction to get by. Although I knew sex was an important part of marriage, I also knew that it was not the only part.
Again, I was wrong. Our sex life has been amazing from day one. There was no awkwardness or need for adjustment. It was just pure and beautiful. I think a lot of it has to do with the foundation we built for ourselves. She knew the real me from early on in the relationship. She had accepted me completely, and I was completely comfortable with her.
We have put our relationship as a high priority in our marriage. We have tried to have companionship inventory every week, where we talk about how each of us are doing. We talk about a variety of things during these sessions. We have made sure it does not focus solely on either one of us, or about same-sex attraction. We talk about our needs, and then work together as a couple to meet those needs. For me, I have realized that it is still very important for me to do the things that I learned about during therapy, such as getting guy time and doing things that make me feel masculine, like sports and exercise. She needs to feel pursued. I found as I allow myself to take care of my needs, I have more energy to pursue her with the drive that she deserves.
Our marriage has not been perfect. We have made mistakes and have really hurt each other. However, it is through those mistakes that we have learned humility, and how desperately we are dependent upon the grace of Christ. We have learned how to repent and how to forgive. We have learned how wonderful marriage can be if we both work at it, and are willing to submit to God in all things.
I used to be very ashamed of my attractions. I used to lie and hide to cover them up. Now I see what a great blessing they are. God has taught me so much through my attractions. He has broken me, but with that brokenness, came humility and a broken heart. He brought me down so I could realize that I would follow him no matter what. He taught me how weak I was and how much I needed my Savior. He was made me more aware of suffering. I have learned compassion and understanding for my fellow man.
He has also turned my weaknesses into strengths. While he hasn’t taken away my same-sex attractions, he has decreased them to where they are manageable. I am attracted to my wife and she is the only woman I ever care to be attracted to. My attractions have strengthened my marriage. They have strengthened my testimony.
I know God lives and He loves us. I have depended on Him and we have worked together intimately. I know He loves all of His children, and he wants all of us to be happy and live with Him again. I am thankful for the commandments. I am thankful for the Church. I love Him and I will serve Him forever.