I’ve changed. A lot, perhaps, since coming out. Today I realized: I didn’t use to be this way.
There are lots of opinions, articles, stories, thoughts, facts, and arguments about same-sex attraction and being gay or queer. A lot of them talk about the culture, the promiscuity, the lifestyle, the permissiveness, the pride festivals, the glitter, the skin, and the leather. As I sit here thinking about my group of friends, my outlook on life, my belief in God, my relationship with the Church, the mission I served, how I feel about BYU, I know that a lot has changed in the past couple of years.
A few days ago I took the Myers-Briggs personality test. I’ve taken it several times before. Each time, it didn’t seem to quite fit me. I felt like something was off – that it wasn’t fully acknowledging the complexity or nuance of my personality. Each time I took it, I got a different response – depending on the mood I was in, the people who had asked me to take the test, or the activities in my life at the time. Sometimes I was feeling social, extroverted, and energetic and that would reflect in my results. Sometimes I was feeling lonely and not understood, contemplative and reserved, and my results would show that as well. Sometimes the results would pick up on my curiosity and thirst for knowledge and understanding. Rarely, did it seem, would it register a high priority for interpersonal connection or emotional expression. My longtime best friend who I have known since high school would often comment on how detached and unfeeling I could seem. Didn’t I get happy or sad or angry? Weren’t there things that I longed for with the depth of my soul? This is not to imply that I was a grey and lifeless teenager – by most accounts I think I had a friendly and engaging personality. I was just even-keeled I would explain. And so as I looked over my profile results, I thought about how enmeshed in the gay scene I had become.
I’ve been to pride festivals, been to clubs, marched in a parade, gotten heavily involved in the leadership of an LGBT organization, and nearly chained myself to the state capitol doors in protest. Two years ago the thought of identifying myself as gay wracked me with enormous anxiety. How much had I changed? How different was I? Where had the shy, quiet, humble, reserved individual gone that I used to be? I’ll tell you.
Only one thing changed.
I had learned to love.
Quite frankly, that’s all that had happened. I had had the unique experience of falling in love. Everyone experiences love in different ways, and I’m not here to tell you that your experience does or does not qualify as love, but what changed for me is that I could say that I had loved. It didn’t even require a relationship or a reciprocation of interest, but that I had, for the first time in my life, allowed myself to love someone. To put their needs before mine. To be more invested in their happiness than my own. To be willing to compromise my own specific and ambitious career and life goals for the good of the relationship. To cherish and value their strengths and character qualities a level of magnitude more than their flaws and defects. To love as Christ did: to see them for their infinite and eternal potential, and not for their earthly and mortal limitations.
And so, in my results, I now valued personal connection immensely. People with my personality type ‘are known for their uninhibited and unshakable devotion to the people to whom they’ve committed their hearts and see relationships are a joyous process – a chance to connect with another soul.’
The truth is, I had always been prone to curiosity and leadership and activism. I had been an occasionally shy and awkward teenager, sure, but who hasn’t been? The only thing that had really changed was my ability and my willingness to open my soul up to those around me. Whether it be friendships or romantic interests or even in academic and professional settings, I had unearthed a part of my heart that longed for connection and understanding. And in so doing, I had become comfortable with allowing others to know me more intimately and more completely.
There is no such thing as a ‘gay lifestyle’ and I haven’t ‘become a part of it.’ To condense and extrapolate my experience as someone who’s attracted to men into such a tawdry and tired slogan doesn’t do anyone justice. I haven’t changed because I suddenly feel so impassioned about LGBT rights. I’ve changed because I’ve become comfortable enough in my own skin to allow myself to dance when I hear music and smile when I’m in love. I’ve changed by allowing myself to feel enough to cry, and be strong enough for when someone else needs my shoulder.
I didn’t use to be this way.