Matt here. Still not ready to finish that series I started, but getting closer.
For the last several days I’ve been full of fantasy. In the morning before work, still damp from the shower and half dressed, I’d lay on my bed and think about how life might be in two months, when I’ll be back in the US. In the breaks between classes I swept my fantasy across the backs of worksheets with a particular pen whose weight is perfect. Pages and pages of hopes and dreams looped out and hanging there, dependent on other people’s reactions to my several stateside applications.
Back in my dark days at BYU I tried to imagine a life in which I was straight/married/happy/unconflicted, and I couldn’t do it, couldn’t get my brain to make those leaps from where I was. Too far. Too bogged down. Too dark out there, too unknown.
When did the future stop being something to dread and tremble at?
Answer: January 2009. That month, with the help of my counselor, I got up the courage to take responsibility for my life and trust myself. That was the first step.
That month, I stopped going to church. I rejected the church’s claims to my body and my life. That was the second step.
Sometimes I wonder if it could have gone another way, if I could have taken a different second step. Several friends have. I wonder if I could have trusted the feeling I once confided to a friend that “everything just seems to go better when I’m reading the scriptures every day,” or the heady, burning feeling all through me when I performed my first and only live baptism. Sometimes I wonder if I would be happier in the church.
I think, though, the answer is no: I couldn’t have taken a different second step. It was distance from the church or standing still for me, because the church offered nothing for the pain. There was a lot of pain, then. Most BYU days I don’t remember individually, just as a feverish black cloud like last February when I had the flu. Stepping away from the church was my antibiotic. Stepping away from the church, I could slowly stop hurting and imagine turning twenty-one.
Now the pain is mostly gone. (Oh-my-god-the-pain-is-mostly-gone!) I can imagine turning twenty-five.
I’ll live on the west coast, said the loops on worksheets between classes. I’ll have a small, vibrant houseplant and a job I don’t hate. I’ll have my people, and more people. Books. I’ll keep learning stuff, whether languages or how to build stuff or how to make a relationship work for more than a few months.
It may not turn out anything like I imagine (the last four years sure haven’t), but because I was gay and Mormon and in a very dark place, I don’t take the act of fantasy for granted.
If you haven't read this essay by Adrienne Rich, you might want to do that.
If you have been or still are at BYU, you might want to look here.
If you haven't realized Eminem's just stopped trying, you might want to listen to "Lighters."