VOICES OF HOPE
Justin grew up as a member of the Church in Mesa, Arizona and is now a student at Brigham Young University majoring in commercial music. He has a passion for music of all kinds (especially contemporary a cappella) and enjoys singing, playing the piano, and spending time with those he loves. In his words, same-sex attraction has been the vehicle by which he was brought to God. Since returning home from serving for two years in the Massachusetts Boston Mission, the main theme of his life has been learning to rely on the Lord in all he does. By taking things one day at a time, Justin has ultimately come to develop a personal relationship with the Savior and trust in Heavenly Father’s plan for him.
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Laying there in bed, staring at the ceiling, I listened to the deep and steady breathing of the man lying next to me. Although so much of my life was uncertain and I was feeling very afraid, in that moment there were two things that I knew to be true: I loved him, and I loved God. So much of me wanted what was just within my reach, but I knew I couldn’t continue down the path I was on and still serve a mission. The Holy Spirit had manifested the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ to me and promised me eternal joy if I were to simply remain faithful to the Lord. Yet, this boy made me feel more loved and more alive than I had ever been before. I longed to be with him, but I couldn’t deny the reality that there was no way for me to walk both of these paths. This was the tipping point of nearly nineteen years of life; I knew that I was going to have to make a choice.
I always felt different than the kids I met at church or school as I grew up in Mesa, Arizona; I seemed to be more sensitive, more compassionate, and more artistic than the children around me. Relating to girls was always easier for me for a variety of reasons, but I constantly found myself to be more interested in other boys. I longed to be like them and belong with them, but never discovered how to become “one of them.”
That desire for same-sex friendship and companionship has been in my life for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories from childhood involve being bullied or teased. I was an easy target because my emotions were always near the surface. I often felt like an outcast and spent much of my time at home helping my mother around the house. From a young age, I also assisted in caring for my sister who has cerebral palsy. I loved helping and had a mostly happy life at home, despite many problems with my peers. My father traveled for work each week and thus was not around much, though he tried to be a good father and always protected and provided for us.
The first time I noticed an explicit attraction to another male was at 12 years of age, and I refused to let myself think about it. I was terrified that someone would find out I felt this way, so I shoved away any and every thought of liking other guys. Being in the locker room for PE classes during junior high only piqued my curiosity while also heightening my paranoia. I resolved that no one could ever find out about this. Besides, I couldn’t be gay! I’m a good little Mormon boy, I repeatedly thought, and good little Mormon boys don’t feel that way about other boys.
I lived in denial throughout adolescence. I never allowed anyone to get close to me; all the while these feelings lurked in the back of my mind. This isolation led to the use of (and an eventual addiction to) homosexual pornography, which I rationalized, convincing myself that it was okay because they weren’t women and I was only jealous of their bodies. Through these images, videos, and other materials, I developed intense shame related to my own body image and felt like I was never enough. As I grew older, I found a distaste within myself for anything that was stereotypically masculine: camping, team sports, crude humor, super heroes, beef jerky – you name it. I strongly resisted the world’s view of masculinity and often made it a point to go against societal norms.
The loneliness, the negative self-image, the pornography use, and the stereotypes compounded upon each other, fueling my feelings of same-sex attraction. I had a very difficult time keeping them locked up within the recesses of my mind and faced some poignant emotional struggles in high school. My desire for male friends was as strong as ever, my relationship with my dad was rocky, and I did my best to cope with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
While in this period of youth and adolescence, I went to church and seminary regularly and tried my best to live righteously. Even still, the flames of faith within me were only fueled by kindling; there were many spiritual experiences which helped to create the spark I needed, but a real testimony never truly caught fire. Many adults, including my teachers, ward members, and friends of my parents thought I was an exemplary young man. I was sure, however, that if they really knew who I was and what I was going through, they wouldn’t want their younger sons looking up to me.
On experience, in particular, has always stuck with me. After a particularly rough and emotional day, I knelt down by my bed and begged the Lord to make Himself known to me. “If You’re even there,” I prayed, “do You love me? Do You know what I’m going through? Do You even care?” Almost instantaneously, I felt warmth and light spread through my body. I collapsed on my side and sobbed as I felt true, divine love fill my soul for the first time. It felt as if He was there with me, holding me in His arms. This experience was real. It was tangible, and I cannot deny it. In the years to come, I would reflect back on this single moment whenever things got dark and difficult. Even in my despair, I would always know that God loved me.
Leaving the Nest
After graduating high school, I left home for Flagstaff, Arizona to attend Northern Arizona University as a student in voice and music education. I had a plan to complete my freshman year, then immediately serve a mission. Being a missionary was never something I particularly wanted to do. I didn’t have anything against the idea though, and I never had a reason not to go. It was just what boys did when they turned nineteen, and so I planned my life around that. However, being in a new environment began to change things. Flagstaff is a fairly liberal place, and I was making a lot of new friends. I loved the school and wanted to stay, and so I started to question the thought of serving a mission after that first year.
One of the most motivating factors to postpone my mission was a guy I met whom I will refer to him as Jesse for my purposes here. Jesse and I were in the same program, and so we had most of our classes together. I spent practically all of my free time with him as well. After a few weeks, I started noticing a change in the way I felt around him. I found myself wanting to be around him whenever I could. I was constantly seeking his approval, and being physically close to him energized me in a way that I had never felt before. At the forefront of my mind I thought I had made a really great friend, the “best friend” whom I had longed for during the course of my adolescence. Deep down, though, I knew that my physical and emotional attachment to him were both signs of a stronger desire.
I became concerned about the way I was feeling, and called up a good friend from high school who was also a member of the Church. She and I chatted about what I was experiencing in a nonchalant sort of way; I didn’t want her to think anything serious had happened, and I didn’t want to admit to her that I was falling in love with him. (Perhaps it would be more accurate to say, I didn’t want to admit to myself that I was falling in love with him.) She asked me a simple question: “When you’re around him, do you feel enlightened and uplifted?” I said “yes,” even though I honestly wasn’t so sure about that answer. She went on to talk about how I just might not be used to the presence of male friends who were a positive influence in my life. She said that if I felt closer to the Spirit because of him, then our relationship was a blessing. I pretended to be relieved and thanked her for her insight, but after I hung up the phone I knew I had some serious soul-searching to do.
Around this time, Jesse started hanging out with another guy who was a couple of years ahead of us in our program. He would talk about this other guy all the time, and make jokes about how they were practically dating because of how much time they spent together. I became very jealous of this other guy and latched onto Jesse even tighter. I was suspicious that something actually was going on between them, even though I had no solid evidence. Jesse wasn’t openly and actively gay; for all I knew he was straight. Later on, it was confirmed to me by a mutual friend that the two of them were indeed dating. The jealousy I felt in this moment was what finally forced me to confront the facts: not only did I have feelings for another man, but for the first time in my life I had to openly acknowledge to myself that I was attracted to men.
Thanksgiving was a couple of weeks later, and while I was at home I felt prompted to talk with an acquaintance from high school who I knew was gay. He was different than other gay men I had met; he was less flamboyant and more masculine than my closed-minded high school self would have anticipated. I met him at a local café and opened up to him about everything I was feeling. He was compassionate and understanding of what I was going through, and reassured me that everyone in the LGBT community has to come to terms with it in their own way. He naturally felt that I should act on what I was feeling for Jesse, but he encouraged me to love and accept myself regardless of what I decided to do. His support and kindness was so valuable to me in that moment of fear and vulnerability. This conversation marked the beginning of my struggle for self-acceptance.
I went to church with my family that weekend, and the bishop made an impromptu decision to have all of the college students who were home visiting for the holiday come up and bear their testimonies. When it was my turn, I walked up to the pulpit and stood for a moment before saying anything. I was paralyzed with uncertainty, but I knew I had to say something. I opened my mouth and started repeating the phrases I knew I was “supposed” to say about Jesus Christ, the Church, the Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith; I didn’t believe a single word that left my mouth. No one seemed to notice or care what I was saying, but I still felt incredibly nervous about the whole thing.
After returning to NAU, I began to “come out” to a small number of friends from high school one at a time. I also talked to a couple of friendly, openly-gay guys from my collegiate choir to get their advice and their perspective on things. Despite the support, love, and encouragement of these people, I was more lost and confused than ever. I desperately tried to figure out my life and, even though I didn’t really want to, I continued to go to my student ward out of habit rather than devotion. I would go to parties under the guise of being the designated driver, when all I really wanted was the physical affection that Jesse would only give me if he was drunk and his inhibitions were gone. He continued his “secret” relationship with the other guy, and my heart was all sorts of torn-up about my entire situation. I had so many questions about the gospel and about who I was that I didn’t know what I believed in. I didn’t know what I wanted out of life anymore.
Gaining a Witness
Mercifully, the semester ended and I traveled home for Christmas break. My thoughts and feelings were really weighing on me. I decided that I needed to find out once and for all if the gospel was true, if I was to serve a mission, and what that would all mean for me in regards to my experiences with same-sex attraction. The only thing I was sure of was that God lived and that He loved me. I figured if I did what I had always been advised to do when I wanted an answer, He would respond. I spent a day fasting, praying, and reading from my scriptures in my room. I felt the Spirit strongly that day for the first time in months, and I came away with a witness of the reality and divinity of Jesus Christ as the Savior and the desire to share that simple knowledge with others. I still didn’t know for sure what I believed about the details of the Church, but I knew that I needed to serve a mission after finishing the following semester of school.
When I returned to NAU in January, I met with the bishop of my student ward to start my mission papers. He truly was a great bishop, but I didn’t mention any of the problems I was having in regards to same-sex attraction at this point. I started filling out the paperwork online that evening, but I froze up as soon as the anxiety of trying to deal with same-sex attraction while on a mission entered my mind. I quickly closed my laptop and quite literally ran away from it as the panic washed over me.
Things continued to escalate and by the time February hit, I was experiencing a full conflict between my sexuality and my faith. I knew that I needed and wanted to serve a mission, but I was falling for Jesse and it felt wrong to turn my back on the LGBT community. These two halves of myself could not coexist peacefully; I knew that I would not be able to fully live out one of those halves without completely sacrificing the other. I fell into a hopeless depression that lasted for weeks, and suicidal thoughts returned to my mind. Things understandably came to a head during Pride Week, which was held in the middle of that month. NAU hosted several speakers, held activities, and even invited the “NO H8” campaign to set up a photo shoot on campus.
During that trying and triggering week, I had the seemingly random impression to tell my bishop about what I was struggling with. For a couple of days, I fretted about where this feeling came from. My initial thought was that the bishop would be able to help me sort through things, but then I was worried that the prompting might be from Satan. Telling the bishop could mean being disqualified from serving a mission, and that would be one less missionary for the Adversary to be concerned with. At one point in my musings I came to the realization that no matter the case, Satan would never try and convince me to see my bishop. The Spirit confirmed this truth to me, and I knew in my heart that only good things could come of that visit. I knew that he was at the institute building that night conducting interviews, so I worked up the courage and made a last-minute appointment with him. My bishop assured me that having these feelings was no cause for repentance and that I was still worthy to serve a mission. With his encouragement and a priesthood blessing, I continued to fill out my mission papers.
The Tipping Point
As all of this was happening, Jesse and I decided to join a few of our friends for a trip over Spring break. We were going to be the only boys in the group, so we shared a hotel room. The first night quickly became a moment that has been branded in my memory as the moment when I made a distinct decision concerning my testimony and my sexuality.
There was only one bed in our room, and we decided without much thought or discussion to share it. Jesse seemed to be flaunting his body for me as he walked around the room, brushing his teeth and getting ready for bed. Eventually I flipped the light off and crawled into the covers; he joined me, and after a couple of moments rolled over and pulled me in towards him. As the “big spoon,” he held me there and at once I felt warm, loved, and so good. I had never experienced this kind of touch before, and it was invigorating. But after only a few seconds, he began to move against my body in such a way that I knew he was making sexual advances on me.
I panicked. I was torn between wanting to be with him so that I could experience more of the powerful sensations I was feeling and knowing in my heart that going any further would result in the loss of the chance to serve a mission. The Spirit gave me one final warning before departing; I knew that my actions had driven Him away, and I was left feeling afraid and cold inside. Jesse began to make another move to clarify his intentions, and I knew that I needed to make a decision right then of what would happen. In that split second, two very real paths seemed to open up before me in my mind: one where I dated men and found a measure of happiness in that life, and the other where I held true to the gospel and discovered the blessings that the Lord had in store for me.
Without taking time to think, I chose the latter. I countered Jesse’s move and brought his advances to a halt. Once he realized what I was communicating, he let go of me and turned over to face away from me without saying a word. I rolled over and held him out of a desire for closeness instead of sex, and we eventually fell asleep. This moment has served as a landmark in my life – this was the instant that I chose Christ and my covenants over my desires for same-sex relationships.
Jesse didn’t like my decision very much, though he never explicitly said so. He wasn’t exactly rude or mean to me, but he certainly treated me differently for the rest of the trip. Things weren’t ever the same again after that. It seemed as if when I was around, he lost his patience with me more often and more quickly. When I realized what was going on, I was intensely hurt to have only been wanted for his sexual pleasure and fulfillment.
I spent the remainder of that semester at NAU by myself as I finished up my mission papers and tried to live worthily. Even though I knew I had made the right choice, it was still very difficult to deal with the loss of someone whom I really loved. I knew that everything was going to be okay, but I was miserable and hopeless for the moment as I looked at the potential of being single and struggling with these feelings for the rest of my life. A handful of people I knew, some from high school and some from NAU, made it clear to me that they didn’t approve of my decision to live the gospel and stay in the Church. These so-called “friends” didn’t want anything to do with me now, and the loneliness only added to the difficulties I was facing.
After the semester ended, I moved home and continued my mission preparations with my home ward bishop. With his love, compassion, and support, I began to work through everything and repent of my wrongdoings. I began to meet with him weekly, and he encouraged me in my efforts to live righteously. I still had a hard time finding hope, and it felt like I was merely trudging through life rather than living with a purpose.
One day, I was shopping in Deseret Book for random mission supplies. As I walked down an aisle of books, I felt the Spirit firmly but gently give me the specific instructions to stop, turn to the right, look at the third shelf down, and pick up the second book from the far right. It turned out to be In Quiet Desperation: Understanding the Challenge of Same-Gender Attraction by Fred and Marilyn Matis and Ty Mansfield. Amazed by the specific direction I had received from the Spirit, I purchased a copy and began to read it once I got home that afternoon. This book helped me gain the eternal, gospel perspective on the topic that I longed for in addition to a real, grounding sense of hope in Christ that I really needed at that time. I really only knew what hope was from an academic standpoint before reading In Quiet Desperation; it was not something I truly understood or had experienced in my life. I could have provided a dictionary definition and probably would have given a satisfactory talk in sacrament meeting on it, but it wasn’t until I read this book that I started to find true hope and meaning. I discovered that I didn’t have to be doomed to depression and fear as I trudged through life on my own. Instead, I came to see that I could find true joy and peace through my Savior despite my particular set of challenges.
Also because of this book, I was led to North Star International and found community and support from the men and women there. I joined the men’s email-based discussion group, and it was life-changing to know that I wasn’t alone in my struggles. Instantly, there were hundreds of other men who not only understood what I was going through, but were also able to relate to and empathize with me, and I with them.
With each step in my spiritual progression towards serving a mission, things got more and more difficult. I could feel the efforts of the Adversary in my daily life, and it only got worse as I got my mission call and as I went through the temple to receive my endowments. During this time period, I found a scripture that greatly impacted me and has stuck with me ever since. These verses have guided me through dark times and have strengthened me in all stages of my journey:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. (Romans 8:35, 37)
This became my mantra. I had finally come to the knowledge that no matter what happens, no matter how upset or discouraged or alone I feel, Jesus Christ loves me. I had to learn to accept that my life’s path was going to look very different from that of others, but I knew that the Lord would lead me through one step at a time. Nothing can separate me from His love, and I can do more than just survive this battle – I can thrive. I can find meaning, peace, and joy in my life, and I am greater than a conqueror through His love.
My desire for marriage and fatherhood was the one thing I hadn’t looked at yet. This was something I wanted and desperately longed for; I had always loved kids and wanted a marriage and family of my own. I knew in my heart that if I was faithful, the blessing of an eternal family would be mine in the next life, but I desperately wanted to know if it would be possible for me in this life. One Sunday while in an interview with my bishop, he felt prompted to ask me if my patriarchal blessing mentioned my future wife and children in any way. I responded that it did, and he asked me to read that paragraph aloud. The Spirit filled the room the moment I started to speak: “The time will come in the not too distant future when you will have the privilege of meeting the one that you will take into one of the Lord’s temples to be sealed for time and all eternity…” As I continued to read, I felt the love of my Heavenly Father touch my heart and I began to cry. “The time will come…” I looked up to see tears in the eyes of my bishop, and he repeated the same words that the Spirit was whispering to me. “Justin,” he said, “that’s not just a nice phrase. That’s a promise from the Lord to you for this life as you live worthy of it.” This was one of the most sacred and powerful moments of my life thus far. The Spirit in the room was palpable, and I knew that what he said to me was true. There have been many times in my life since then when the knowledge of that promise was the only thing that could get me through the day.
Out in the Field
While it was excruciatingly difficult at many times, I absolutely loved my mission. Serving the Lord for two years in the Massachusetts Boston Mission was, without a doubt, the best choice I had made thus far. It was such a privilege to be an instrument in the hands of my Father in Heaven to bless the lives of His children around me. My own heart and life were changed as I witnessed the lives of others being transformed through the Atonement, and I felt closer to God than I ever had up to that time of my life. Being able to feel His love for someone else has truly left an imprint on my soul; it’s changed the way I see the world.
Same-sex attraction was certainly an issue for me during my missionary service. There was definitely the occasional attractive member or fellow Elder, but the majority of my struggles were more emotional and social in nature. Because I was around other young men 24/7, I discovered that I didn’t understand how to communicate with and relate to them. It left me in near-constant frustration and turmoil for the first several months. Over the course of my mission, however, I was blessed with a couple of incredible companions (as well as a few district and zone leaders) who loved me and showed me what brotherhood truly means. These Elders taught me to be a disciple of Christ, and I slowly began to learn how to trust other men.
My mission president also became a great strength to me. When my challenges got to be too much to bear alone, I set up an appointment with him and told him everything. I was worried that I would get sent home, but in response to it all he simply said, “Okay. So?” I’ll never forget that moment. It wasn’t an insensitive question; he truly cared about me. He saw past my attractions to men into my soul and helped me to see that these feelings didn’t define me in the slightest. He taught me that I get to decide who I’m going to be and what actions I’m going to take. Because of his support, love, and guidance, I was able to see myself the way that the Lord saw me. My life has been forever changed because of the way this servant of God mentored me and loved me.
On another occasion, during an interview with him, we both had the same prompting from the Holy Ghost: I needed to come out to my parents. We set up a time for me to call them from the mission home that weekend, and with him by my side I told my parents through my sobs every detail of what I had been going through over the past several years. Sharing that with them was one of the most difficult (as well as one of the most rewarding) things I’ve ever done. I found that the Spirit had been working on my parents for quite a while to prepare them to receive this information. Although they didn’t fully understand, they expressed their love for me and offered their unconditional support. I was amazed at how well the conversation went, and I’m grateful to my parents for their continued efforts to understand and help me however they can.
The specific impression came to me two or three times during my mission that the Lord was preparing me to be a witness for Him in the trials I faced. It first came as I read the following scripture during my personal study one morning:
Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation . . . Behold, verily I say unto you, for this cause I have sent you—that you might be obedient, and that your hearts might be prepared to bear testimony of the things which are to come. (Doctrine and Covenants 58:3, 6)
Initially I was confused and scared, but as the promptings came again at other times I began to see that the Lord had a work for me to do. At that time I didn’t know what this work would be, but I could feel His hand in my life preparing me for it.
Eventually the time came for me to return home. Surprisingly, I didn’t have a rough transition back into “normal life.” I was feeling very good about everything in my life. I had just completed my mission, and I knew that I had the promised blessings of the Lord coming. Reentering the same environment that I left at NAU would have only been asking for trouble, and so I made the decision to transfer to Brigham Young University. I also felt like I didn’t want to be constantly reminded of my past and current feelings of same-sex attraction, so I decided not to join North Star again. My mind was made up that I would go to BYU, start school, and begin dating girls without any further complications; I really should have seen what was coming.
Finding My Way
Immediately after moving to Provo, I had a week-long anxiety attack. I had the nagging, paranoid thought that every girl around me was checking me out and sizing me up as a potential suitor. During that first week of classes, I lost ten pounds; I couldn’t eat and I barely slept. I started seeing a counselor and was able to get the situation under control. He worked with me on my fears surrounding dating, and I tried to learn to accept myself. All of the confidence I had as I left my mission was gone, and it felt like I had to rebuild myself from the ground up.
That semester was spent feeling alone and afraid, despite making new friends and having a couple of great guys as my roommates. There were many times when I wanted to tell them what I was going through, but I was too scared that they would abandon me if I told them about it. I discovered the Voices of Hope website in those dark months. The testimonies there brought me a great amount of strength and comfort; again, I was too afraid to reach out and be vulnerable. I felt so stuck. In my prayers each night, I pleaded with God for help. I was desperate for something, anything to get me through this to a point where I could live without the ongoing shame, anxiety, and frustration of being attracted to men in a culture that demanded I get married to a woman as soon as possible.
One night, as I prayed while my emotions were particularly poignant, the Spirit reminded me of a moment from a video on Voices of Hope. The young man in the video had talked about attending a “Faith and Feelings” conference; I felt prompted to search for it on the internet and see if another one was coming up. I didn’t find that specific conference, but I did find the website for the first annual conference for North Star International. I felt a push within me to register for and attend the conference, even though I knew that doing so would mean other people would find out that I experience same-sex attraction. After I submitted my registration, I felt a new kind of peace within me. It was a calm confidence, accompanied by the Spirit as well as a slight twinge of nervousness.
This type of peace has become a regular part of my life as I have learned to rely on the Lord from day to day. I’ve done plenty of things that I once found terrifying, which just goes to show that anything is possible with the Lord on your side. He led me to attend the North Star conference, where I met so many wonderful people and made a lot of new friends. I faced my fears and came to see that I do need that sense of community and support in my life. He also led me to attend Journey Into Manhood, an experiential weekend by People Can Change. The emotional and therapeutic work I did there was groundbreaking for me. I was able to release the guilt, shame, and self-hatred that had built up over the years of pain, denial, and fear. It didn’t suddenly make everything easy – instead, it changed everything in my life for the better and gave me tools to approach my problems from a place of honor and genuine strength. For me, attending Journey Into Manhood was the first step down the path towards joy and ultimate fulfillment.
During the next few months, the summer of 2014, I built friendships within the North Star community and found it incredibly liberating to be able to talk openly with my new friends about what I was going through. It was amazing to have that level of empathy and understanding. For those months, I started identifying as gay. I feel like I needed to identify that way for a while so that I could really learn to trust, love, and accept myself just the way I was. I still felt connected to the Spirit in my life, but eventually the label I had assigned to myself didn’t fit me anymore. When school started up again in the fall, it began to feel like identifying as gay was limiting my spiritual growth. Labels can mean different things to different people, but at that point in my life I needed to shed that particular classification and make myself ready to adopt the identity the Lord was preparing for me.
Since then, it’s been a journey of one step at a time and one day at a time. I’ve had to learn how to trust the Lord in the same way the children of Israel did as He provided them with manna. They were to collect only enough for that day and trust that He would give them enough for the next day on the next day. I have learned so much by surrendering control and handing the reins of my life over to Him. I’m never quite sure what He has in store for me, but I know that He is holding my hand and walking this journey with me.
Attending the temple, praying regularly, reading the scriptures, listening to talks from General Conference, and taking time to search within myself have all been critical to my progression. I also had to learn to be alright with the possibility that I could be single for the rest of my mortal life. I had to accept the various “But if not” situations and questions I was presented with before He could begin leading me into His blessings and plans. I don’t know when marriage will happen for me, but I know that it will in this life. I’ve released myself from the burden of worldly expectations and accepted the reality that things are simply going to be different for me. And that’s okay.
Seeing a personal therapist and participating in a support group have been integral parts of my personal journey. I was also able to attend Journey Beyond, a more in-depth experiential weekend by People Can Change, in August 2015. I’ve worked through a lot of my deeply-seated emotional issues and although I believe this will be a lifelong journey, I have made a lot of progress. I’ve allowed myself to notice and appreciate attractive men rather than running away from them, either literally or figuratively. I’ve learned to separate sexual attractions from the real, underlying, and healthy desires that they stem from. I am learning how to navigate my relationships with women, and I’m beginning to step into the fear of dating that has plagued me for years. I’ve been able to connect with my inherent, divine masculinity and learn what it truly means to be a man in God’s eyes.
Men are no longer a source of mystery, confusion, fear, anxiety, and frustration for me. Discovering how to develop real same-sex friendships has altered the way I view men, and those relationships have become uplifting and empowering for me. For the first time in my life, my best friends are men. Their brotherhood, love, and support have played an important and powerful role in my healing, and I hold these men close to my heart. I joined North Star again and I continue to find it to be a place of camaraderie and fellowship. Having friends who deal with similar difficulties and circumstances in life while still holding fast to their faith helps me to feel understood and accepted. Being able to openly joke about shared experiences with those who can relate has proved to me that laughter can indeed be one of the greatest medicines available.
The Lord has given me support, strength, and peace as I have turned to Him in my daily life. He is my Light and my Song. He has called me to be a witness for Him in this work, and I will forever place my covenants and discipleship above all that I do. I am far from perfect; things are still difficult and I have bad days from time to time, but I have placed my trust in the Lord. He leads me to green pastures and still waters. He has snatched me out of darkness and turmoil and delivered me from sin and despair. He has built me up and given me hope in my life “precept upon precept . . . line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (Isaiah 28:10). I am still learning, but there is no better Teacher that I know.
My experiences with same-sex attraction have brought me to my knees and thus have made me into the man I am today as I have sought the Lord in my struggles. Through Him, I know I can do all things. This journey takes patience, determination, and endurance, but “we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” I know that with God, I will be victorious. Nothing can separate me from His love, and because of Him, I have hope.