Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Gay Mormon Coming Out (Jimmy Hales)

My personal Spring Awakening began January, 2012.

So today has arrived.  G-day.  I have officially come out.  Wow.  A year ago I didn't even think of myself as being gay; denial owned my face.  But I was getting older, 3 of my 5 roommates here at BYU were engaged and the majority of my closest friends were already married.  The only people at parties were freshmen and sophomores, and the things they did at the parties were boring.  Personally I feel like an OK dancer, but "Just Dance" kept giving me the lowest score at the party.  Why did people go to these lame things?  Oh, to get a date.

Then suddenly I had a thought:
'I feel like I should make movies again like I did in high school.  Sounds good to me.'

$2,000 later...
Shooting my first official YouTube video January, 2012.  It was pretty meh, but a great start.

Up till then, I had gone to a party to either hang with my besties or take part in the oober fun game.  Pick up on girls?  Pssssshhhhhh.  Now all of my besties were married and all the games sucked.

But here I was, older than everyone, and lonely.  Parties lacked the fun factor and I had no release for my social behavior.  Was I just getting old?  I've always been the loud funny guy, the class clown, and even the annoying guy that won't shut up.  Maybe I've finally embraced the nature that comes with my field of study, Computer Science.  Ummmm, no.  I refuse to become like the majority of the people in my major.  I'll keep a good hand on my charisma thank you very much.  So what was it?

I only dated when I needed an excuse to eat at a restaurant that I really wanted to eat at.  The girls I took out were my friends and I loved them, but the thought of doing anything more than hug them fell short of the thought of cuddling with my cute dog Rykar.  But that guy over there sure is neat...

My cute dog Rykar.
Could it be that I'm...?  No.  Impossible.  You NEVER hear about good Mormon guys that are like that.  Surely, if it were a possibility then I would have at least heard mention of it being a possibility at least once in the history of my life in church.  I'm just not going to think more about this, or rather, I guess I'm not supposed to think more about this, so I won't.

I was wrong.

Ignorance is the biggest problem.

Another church meeting.  Another rebuke for being that single young man that isn't doing his duty.  Oh that poor single sister that always dreamed of one day getting married.  It's because of me she's single.  I'm bad.  I need to repent.  All the doors were closing and the lights were going out, and now it's all my fault?  Put these feelings of shame on top of my feelings of loneliness and expect me to be excited about life?  Suddenly life wasn't as fun as it used to be.  I was in a very bad place.  That grave over there has never looked so appealing, until now.

My testimony kept me alive.

Sometime during Winter semester 2012.
Tithing settlement.
"So, are you dating anyone."
"Nope." I shamelessly replied.
"Well that's not good." my bishop said.
"I don't want to date anyone."  Then my bishop looked at me,
"Do you experience feelings of same-gender attraction?"  What?!  All I said is I don't want to date anyone, how does he...?  'This is real.  Oh gosh, this is very real.'  I paused a good while.  I looked at my bishop and in a weak voice replied,
"Yeah."  I had never wanted to die more than that moment.  Finally realizing the fact.  Affirming the fact.  Loathing the fact.  Breaking through the denial was almost more than I could take.  A few words were exchanged and then my bishop looked at me and with genuine empathy said,
"That sucks."

It was exactly what I needed to hear.  I needed empathy.  I need empathy.  He didn't make the mistake and tell me to have hope or that one day I still might get married.  Either one of those approaches would have thrust me out the door.  My bishop is a man of God.  The topic was relatively new to him and I feel he did well with it.  He is a man of God, with the gift of discernment that I haven't seen before.  He truly understood that I must be passing through hell and still have a long way to go.  As long as he knew that, then that was enough for me.  Not only did this bishop give me empathy, it's because of him I was able to take that first step.  I was finally headed away from the lie that enveloped my life, and was now headed towards who I really was.  I had a long way to go.

I trudged through the doldrums life had become.  'Ok, what now?   Hum dee dum dee dum.  Whoa, what's this?  I didn't see this one coming.  A BYU It Gets Better better video?  There are other gay people at BYU?  That's a relief. I guess I'm not the aberration I thought I was.  I guess I'll just keep on living in the closet with the comfort that there are others like me.  I've made it this far right?  I can do it forever.'

Summer, summer, suuuuuummmmmmmmer.  I kept myself busy.  I had a few jobs and worked hard.  I played hard. Summer was awesome.  I made videos, had some way fun jobs, ran a half marathon, and took my annual road trip to California with my best friends to visit my sister who, at the time, was one of the two ambassadors for Disneyland.  Life was good.
My brother did run the race with his prom date.  No, his prom date was not my sister whom you see here.

A video we made.  We covered a song by my favorite band, "Radwimps."

Boating with friends.  All of my friends are Asian, but you already figured that one out by now.
Knott's Berry Farm with the fam.

For one of my jobs I was a youth counselor for a large group of Chinese High School students.
Running a 10K in Orange County with my sister and friends.
Road trip with best friends.
...but what goes up must come down.

Fall semester 2012
"The chronic abyss of my life's happiness." - Jimmy Hales

Thrown back into school.  New roommates.  New ward.  FHE (Family Home Evening).  FHE is just a free dating service; not interested.  My classes were great.  Cyber security, Computer Ethics, P of GP, Intro to Dance, Computer UX.  I had more time on my hands than I thought I would though.  Randomly, I wanted to buy a green screen and some lights, so I did.

It's my turn.
I live in a studio that has a bed.  I'm thinking about getting a futon.
I'd go to school, put on my front, then come back to my apartment.  Anyone on campus would have thought my life was perfect, that I pretty much had everything going for me.  Almost.  When I stepped off campus I seized to exist.  Social life, I had none.  'This is harder than I was expecting, and it's only been a month or two.  Can I keep it up?'

October 2012.  General Conference hooray!  I love GC.  I listened/watched the sessions and got a lot out of them.  This is when Elder Anderson became one of my heroes.  He spoke of the poor single sisters that wished they could marry, but couldn't because yadda yadda yadda.  I rolled my eyes, but I understand I really shouldn't.  I have a sister who is single, though once married, and in her 30's, so I really do sympathize for these women.  But THEN Elder Anderson mentioned a young man who won't marry, that he experiences same-gender attraction.  'Could this be?  A shout out to people like me in General Conference?!'  Sure, it wasn't much, but it's a start right?

"Better late than never I guess." - My Dad

Priesthood session arrived.  It's a great meeting, but I've always kind of dreaded it.  Why?  Well, men and women have different roles in the church and in life.  At the priesthood session you might expect to hear talks on marriage, pornography, or the need to get married or something.  These are all very very important, but I don't need to hear them, with an exception to pornography that is.

Pornography is damaging to anyone, I have a testimony of this.  However, whenever I get the pornography talk, they so often stress how it will destroy your relationship with your spouse, and in the end tear your family apart.  If you're not married, then it will damage the relationship of you and your future spouse.  I believe all of this is true and that members of the church need to hear such counsel.  You can see where I'm getting at.  I've grown up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Straight Saints.  So is it OK if I look at pornography?  It isn't, but the harmful effects don't seem as significant with me right?  Wrong.  Instead I have to go digging to find these answers.  'Is this really what is expected of the church's gay members, to go digging, by themselves, for the same teachings that are being shoved into everyone else's faces?  I'm feeling a little left out.'

This is just ONE example of something that might confuse a gay member of the church and perhaps send them running.  Not me.  My testimony is hear to stay.  However, to those gays who have left the church... I can't blame them.

It's hard to be a saint when you don't know how to be one.

Before I headed to a nearby chapel on foot to attend priesthood session, I said a prayer.  I was feeling very low.  I was incredibly lonely and nobody had the slightest idea that I was.  In my prayer, I prayed that God would send someone to me.  I didn't care who or for what reason, I simply needed human interaction.  I got off my knees and opened my front door and standing there was some dude I don't recall ever seeing before.  He was fiddling with his phone and looked somewhat confused.  He was from Chile.  He asked if I was going to priesthood session and if he could join me.  All prayers are answered, but this one was granted.

After the meeting I returned to my apartment.  I wanted to die.  I cried.  I never cry.  I had a special experience in my room that night, and in the end knew I was where I was supposed to be.

My birthday.  Still October.  Sunday.  Literally not a soul on BYU campus knew it was my birthday.  Oh big deal, I know, but considering my circumstances this was not helping my already horrible mood.  I took the sacrament and then left immediately after.  I never do this, but going to church all alone on my birthday didn't sound fun.  I got in my car and drove aimlessly until I found myself at the top of some mountain.  I felt like Nephi.
Taken at location  40°28'44.16"N 111°35'2.45"W

What is expected of a gay member of the church?  Again, I had to go digging.  This was starting to piss me off.  Does the church want gay members to run away and never look back?  I might have thought so. I decided to send a message via Facebook to one of the guys that was in the BYU It Gets Better video.  The messages were brief, but communicating with another gay person like me was a bit surreal.  Wow, I'm so lame.  His words were, "Certainly, the policy is celibacy..."  I didn't believe him.  Surely there were other restrictions that applied right?

I came out to two professors that semester, both of which are totally cool with it all.  In one of those professor's classes, I had an assignment to ask a genuine question I had, and then do research to answer it.  My question was:

"What does the Lord expect of those who deal with same-gender attraction to avoid?  Aside from knowing that sexual relations are prohibited outside of marriage between a man and a woman, what other restrictions apply?  Are there any official statements about boundaries or is it left to bishops to decide?"

I have a great love for the professor who gave me this assignment.  She was incredibly loving and helpful.  I cannot repay her for the help she gave me, but I know she will one day be compensated.

Elder Holland, in the Oct. 2007 Ensign said, "Unfortunately, some people believe they have all the answers now and declare their opinions far and wide.  Fortunately, such people do not speak for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."  I think this is very important.  This gives room for bishops and Stake Presidents to give personal counsel to individuals who need it.  There is no "one size fits all" answer here.  Also, Bishops are still learning too.

I've told four bishops now.  Two seemed to avoid the topic.  Others have showed concern, but one in particular (that I spoke of earlier) was incredibly helpful.  Bishops are but men; they aren't perfect.  If we are patient with each other, the Spirit of God will help bishops give counsel and help members receive their counsel    You may need to be more patient than you're comfortable with.  Don't let the result of another person falling short affect your personal relationship with God, but don't be so quick to scoff at counsel you don't agree with.  They may be right.  Be patient.  Pray.

Elder Holland continues, "You see, same-gender attraction is not a sin, but acting on those feelings is -- just as it would be with heterosexual feelings."

In the church's official pamphlet, God Loveth His Children, it says for gays to "Set wise boundaries..."

I guess the guy I messaged on Facebook was right.

I go to BYU and live the honor code because I said I would.  I entirely loathe the BYU honor code.  Latter-day Pharisees Unite anyone?  I'm most bitter about how they are so quick to give gays restrictions to the point where we can't do ANYTHING, yet do absolutely NOTHING to offer us any kind of help or comfort.  That makes us feel really good.  You wonder why I can't wait to get out of this place?  I would have left a long time ago, but God insists I stay.  I guess I'll just endure the LDPU a little bit longer.

On an academic side of things, I feel like I'm getting an absolutely stellar education.  My professors are incredible.

Oh, and if any of you were wondering, I served my mission in Melbourne Australia, Nov. 2006 - 08', Mandarin Chinese speaking.  It was an absolutely incredible experience that I literally would not trade for anything.  
At a district meeting in Boxhill.

I finally decided I would tell someone, or come out to someone.  At this point only former bishops and some guy I had never met knew I was gay.  I turned to Sherylee.  I met her when I was 12 and is one of the most best of friends I've ever had.  I took her to prom both sophomore year and senior year of high school.

Sophomore Year
Senior Year

Like, she seriously had no idea that I was gay.  Is it not obvious by looking at those pictures? And let's be honest, I'm a single guy in my 20's who blogs... oh, she is so great.  After I told Sherylee, I told my good friend from college Brenna.  I'm the second guy Brenna's ever kissed.  What?  I actually have it on video BAHAHA!!!

I previously played the straight guy so well, I was terrified to start coming out.  Two girls who knew me VERY well were utterly floored at the news.  Blah.

It was at this point in time I thought to capture the rest of my "coming outs" on video.  I didn't get my dad, sister, or buddy Steve on video, but everyone else most definitely was caught on video.  I had the idea initially in October.  Here is an exerpt to an email to Sherylee dated Oct. 1, 2012:

Either she hated the idea or just forgot to address it in her response to that email haha!  Meh.  Later on I mentioned the idea to my sister Jolie, who then reinforced the idea.  She has her masters in directing from Chapman University, so I took her urge to make the video a bit more serious.  It could potentially be really good.

I told my sister Jolie I was gay just minutes before this was taken.  I told her in the car just after leaving my mom's wedding :)
Me, Sister Jolie, Dad, Brother Dallin, Sister Christy, Bro-in law Ben

The first person I captured on video was my sister Christy, second was my friend Chloe.  I captured all of the coming out reactions over the time frame from December 2012 - February 2013.

Chloe is God sent.  She was the only one at BYU who knew I was gay for a long while (Sherylee was elsewhere).  She was the only one I could be myself around.  We would sit and talk to each other about our boy troubles (or lack thereof).  Talking casually about gay stuff was new to both of us.  In the beginning, every time I mentioned that I thought a certain guy was cute we would snicker like little morons.  She was the best person to have gone through that stage of life with.  I met her in 2009 when we spent a semester abroad studying at Nanjing University in China.
Fall 2009 With Chloe on a Chinese game show in Nanjing.

It was spending time with Chloe that allowed me time to get over myself.  I could finally embrace the fact that I was gay.  Openly talking to Chloe about guys I liked became normal.  I was finally back in a good place.

Every time I came out to someone it was emotionally exhausting.  I had to psych myself out before hand, find a time with them alone, pull my camera out, and hope things didn't go awry.  It drove me crazy.  After coming out to someone it was always the same episode.  Drama.  I had to act that scene out over and over again.  As I type this, there are certain people that are very close to me that I still haven't come out to, simply because I've run out of steam.  They're going to see my video and be like, "Holy ....!"  With other people, I would come out to them in a very causal matter.  Most the time they didn't believe me.  Those conversations usually ended up more serious and emotionally draining, so I stopped with them too.  My video goes up in two days.  I can't wait.

Shooting my video was very stressful.  School was taking up all my time and I felt strongly that I needed to get this video done soon.  I quit both my jobs and dropped enough credits to become a part time student.  I'm still incredibly busy, but the video was finally moving from pre-production into the production phase.

After moving my bed into the hallway, setting up my green screen & lights, and teaching a friend how to use the boom mic, I was finally shooting this thing.

When it came time to edit the footage, I ended up cutting well over half of the script.  In fact, I cut the parts that I initially thought were most important.  Similarly, while searching online for some royalty free music, I felt I should just write the music and record it myself, so I did.  That's why the music is lame.

My YouTube channel has been up for one year.  My goal of having it:  I don't really know.  I mentioned this earlier, but a year ago I felt I should get back into the video business.  My videos up to this point, were random, thrown together pieces of stuff that weren't that great.  I didn't care, for I had fun making them.  In making my various lame pieces of stuff, I built a decent skill set over the year.  I'm a one man show, and only recently felt confident that I could pull off a more serious type of video.

"G-day", that's what my roommates are calling it.  In two days I post my gay video, thus it's referred to as G-day.  Today at church I said to my roommate Ian, "Wow, today is my last day going to church as a 'straight' man."  We lightly chuckled to ourselves.

At this point, me being gay it not such a big deal to me or those close around me.  I believe, with time, it won't as big a deal to all members of the church either.  They just need opportunity to think about it, so here I am posting about it.  Every Mormon I've come out to has been awesome.  Soon enough, gay people will be able to come out and not be as afraid to do so.    However, there will always be a certain stigma attached to it to some degree, for living a lonely celibate mortal life is a taste of hell, and the possibility that a person might "fall away" is always possible.  If you know someone who has fallen away, please try to understand that they've been through hell, and that they've probably gone through hell all by themselves with little or no help.  Please love them.

The Lord will be just.

I love missionary work.  But there are some things I'm afraid to tackle.  I can't imagine being a missionary teaching openly gay people the gospel.  "When you get baptized we expect you to remain celibate until you DIE...".  Um, not so appealing.  I personally believe this is the truth, but what a hard thing to preach.  I'm not sure how to approach this one.  A little help maybe?

A video was released on YouTube which featured several openly gay BYU students. This is what gave me the final nudge to help me come out to myself, and then things went from there.

The Church is true.

I don't really have anything else to say.  I'll take a picture.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

An Excuse Not To Do Homework. Blogging :)

I sit here in my recently cleaned room, listening to the sound of Mariah Carey as I blog.  This has been quite a year and I'm really excited for what's to come.

So remember how for one year on the first of each month I buy a new Beatle's album?  Well, this month's album is:

Rubber Soul

It is a very very good album.  Wow.  So many good songs!  I'm excited to memorize all the harmonies of every song on this album during this month.  The Beatle's were musical geniuses.  I still can't believe that Paul McCartney and John Lennon were in the same band.

My brother just had his mission farewell.  He'll love the mish.  
People over at my Dad's place.
Here is the future Elder Hales, but I'm still the original.
See.  I'm the original.
Once again.

When Dallin leaves he is going to officially be replaced by this dude, Ib.

So I'm going to China!!!  I'll be developing apps to be used by blue collared workers, that will educate them and help them get better jobs and what not.  I can't wait to get to China again.  Wow.
Last time I was in China.
It's VERY interesting how life is rolling out.  The last sixth months can be perfectly well described in one hyphenated word:  Paradigm-shift.

My YouTube channel.  It sucks.  But I'm okay with that.  I'm just surprised because as lame as it is, I've had many MANY opportunities come out of it.  While I am a programmer, this opportunity to go to China came because they needed creative programmers and my YouTube channel showed that side of me.  Crazy.

I'm listening to Whitney Houston now.

Ok, list of things to do this semester:
  • Learn Kelly Clarkson's "Sober" on guitar.
  • Release my 3 "big" YouTube videos (this is huge people)
  • Run a marathon (Salt Lake City Marathon)
  • Get my visa to China
  • Make and release and app on Android
  • Master Javascript in After Effects
Well, I'm going to start coding something for school now.