Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My Journey to Self Acceptance

This post will be extremely uncomfortable I forewarn you, if not for you than for me. I’m going to paint you a picture- the most graphically emotional picture my nearly 26 years of life experience can muster. The people in this picture love me and I love them. They have imperfections as do I. Rather than what’s typical for me and for others, at least in a public sense, to focus on the good and ignore the bad, I’m going to paint the dark colors to my life painting. I've lived a beautiful life- a perfectly imperfect, human life.

 I do not paint this in the hopes for pity or to show how terrible my life has been, I do this simply for the desire to let others know they’re not alone.  I think about my life and I wish in my teenage years, as I continue to wish now, that I had people who were completely real to me about the good and the bad, and yet were still confident in their character. That’s what I need as I believe people need. I need to know as I believe others do that we don’t have to buy into anyone’s facade of “happiness in perfection”. That we can be happy and completely accepting of our whole selves.

My  coming out video was the hardest thing for me up until this point in my life, but I believe this is even harder as I intend to go into the details of how I've gotten here. No one has really ever done that for me. I've never really shared a lot of what I intend to. This is my 100% authentic story:

I was born with a sensitive spirit. I've been told that my whole life, I've seen it for myself as I've noticed the keenness I have towards the presence of those around me, than I felt my peers had. I innately see people’s needs, wants and desires. I've always had the tenacity to tailor myself according to those needs. To give an example, I remember ever since I was young child that while I would pee, I would use the side of the toilet, and not actually go in the water, to avoid the sound of peeing and thus an uncomfortable feeling for those who were around me.  I've always wanted to make people as comfortable as possible. I guess that trait has been what’s fostered my love to clean, cook,  and do other domestic things that I felt would be of need in my household.

In that I also come from a very big family, the 8th of 9 kids to be exact. So I was always on the younger end, and add to that fact the inevitable truth that with such a large family, attention to each child has to be spread more thin. My parents did the best with what they had.

Because of my sensitive nature and need for approval from my family and peers, I had a very insecure childhood. I don’t blame my siblings for some of the things they said or did to me, as I was indeed very different than the norm, even in my family. I was never into manly things, such as sports, athleticism, etc as they were so adept in. Because I was different, burned forever into my mind are the names I’d be called such as “Fairy”, “Or Don Gay”. Or just simply “gay”. They were hurtful terms from people I wanted to feel respected by.  In fact I remember one song vividly where they would sing together over and over at the end of the song “From the bottom of Don Gay”. Because of such terms and my own insecurities, I kept to myself mostly, and had little to no friends. The friends I did have in elementary school and on to junior high saw my insecurity for friendship and to their imperfect advantage preyed on it. I would be the blunt of jokes; it never helped that I was Mormon in a non-Mormon community. I was the one they’d tell to go go do awful pranks (such as saying cruel things to random people or doing otherwise cruel things) and I would do it: I wanted their approval. I remember vividly one night when two of my friends told me we’d be watching a pg movie, after I told them I didn't watch rated R (because of my religion) and they expressed they wanted to. When I came back into the room to watch the movie, what came next was being tied down to the chair, as my eyes were then forced open to watch a pornographic moment of a rated R movie. I was horrified. And my self-esteem had found a new low.

When my family moved to Utah my parents have expressed since to me their worry for my ability to make friends, and because of such, had bought our families first dog. And to their credit that was my worry and fear too: that I would never have real friends. It wasn't until high school that I began to gain any sense of confidence in myself: when girls started to notice me and express their interest. I was taken back by this every time, that anyone could like me. Me the person who was so different and not anything like what the popular kids were like In a indirectly spoken sense I would flaunt my “romantic ability” to my triplet sisters. I wanted their approval of me too- but it was for them to acknowledge how superior I was, I desired to feel like I was better than everyone else.

It was around the age of 14 when I had the first curiosities and inclinations towards my sexual orientation. It started off as a curious wonder when I watched the sex ed video in 6th grade, and while watching the video realized my penis was different than the one shown (you see, I’m uncircumcised). I was never told about this and was always too afraid to ask.  So I remember the first time I researched online to see if there were others like me, because I felt so lonely in the way I was. It was from that innocent first moment that I had by accident had my first encounter with gay porn and subsequently masturbation. Those encounters came and went throughout my high school and first year of college, as I would go periods with and without it. But it was the beginning fuel to what came to be an intense disdain and hatred for myself, a hatred that I would go to all costs to keep hidden. I couldn't talk about it, as any public discourse on the subject was on how evil it was. I didn't want people to think I was evil as I had desired so very hard to be good. But it was there, secretly, and was something I tried my best to ignore. There was one moment when my triplet sister caught me in the act of watching porn, that has perhaps fueled the most embarrassment and hatred for myself then I've ever known since. I cried and begged her to leave the room to her confused credit. I still shutter thinking upon that 15 year old boy.

So it was this conundrum I dealt with, writing a few times in my journal about the fear that I might be gay, or depicting out my own homosexual fantasies. There was one time when the next door neighbors I was friends with happened to be reading one of these entries, when I became super embarrassed, ripped the pages and stormed off crying. It was one charitable woman, I have no shame in mentioning, Trina Smith, who then took me in her arms, hugged me, and shared the book “You are Special” for the first time and then told me I was special. That moment meant the world to me.

But oh how I hated myself so. And because of such hatred acted out irrationally, including one time wrecking one of my parents car while I went “joy riding”. They were so worried about me at that point. My whole family was. I was so embarrassed. One name I was called at that moment, which was “Jekyll and Hyde”, stuck with me with such great shame, and has been stuck ever since with self disgust.  You see, my family has come a long way from where they’re from. We are much more openly affectionate (Ie hugs and verbally saying “I love you”) now then it was back then. Those type of formalities did not exist- and I don’t blame my parents. All you have to do is look at their family history they come from and not help but feel proud for how much they've improved on. But a 15 year old me was not about to step into my families shoes. I hated myself. I remember I used to cut myself, and how I showed it off proudly to one friend (as I would make up other dramatic untrue stories about myself) just so she would feel sorry for me. I wanted someone to feel sorry for me.

Growing up in the large family I did, I also experienced the pressure of being compared to my older siblings. They are wonderful, accomplished people. Particularly I was often compared (or I would compare myself) to my two oldest brothers, I felt I was constantly told to be like them and that they had everything together.  Many of my teenage journal entries almost come off as worship to them, saying things like “if I was half the man they were” or “I’ll never be as good as they are” type of sentiments. I couldn't see them as anything but perfect and myself as anything but evil, wanting to be good.

I guess another indication of my sensitivity and need to be accepted was regarding my weight. I was the guy who in nutrition class, admired the times we’d speak about “anorexic” people, because they had the capability to starve themselves to look better. Oh how I wanted to look thin. I am naturally larger built as a Clark and I hated that.  In my senior year of high school it was of such personal pressure that I dropped 40 lbs and got my skinniest. My mom could see something was up, and would express her worry about me being anorexic, but there was never a time to talk openly about it. If I was open about that I had to be open about everything else, and it was just not something we did in my family or I could do for myself.  That desire to be the perfect body continues to thrive on in my mind, albeit now I feel I've got a healthy grip on it

But I did gain some confidence and I gained more of that when I went on my mission for the Church. My homosexual feelings there seemed to thankfully be put on the back burner the whole time. At the beginning of the mission they did play a poignant part, where I had almost went home. Being completely by myself, away from all I knew, not understanding anything that was going on around me or having the commodities I once had known, was hard. And thinking that I would have to do it for 2 years felt like a nightmare. I got a tension headache that was constantly there that lasted for 2 months. At one point I panicked so much about it all that I had a “panic attack” during sacrament meeting and was immediately shipped to the mission capital. I had scans done, saw a doctor and a psychiatrist. Even then I did not have the trust in anyone to answer truthfully to the questions of whether I was gay or if I had any desire or thought to commit suicide. I did. But I held off, and I was blessed by the hand of God with the most charitable mission companion and president. Those two, Elder Hansen and Presidente Peterson are still some of my most favored people, who have forever changed my life for the better. So it seemed to go away and while I was very selfish in my mission, I worked hard, gained more self-confidence and became better.  

So I came home from my mission, a true changed man I felt, but still with the ignored fear in the background that everything I had done for good wasn't enough, because of the gay desires I’d felt.  I always thought it would be something to “go away” that God would forgive me of in the next life. I never saw myself addressing it at all in this life, only that it went away upon me getting married. I had lied in all my previous church interviews concerning my shortcomings, again because I couldn't fathom the thought of anyone associating me with being gay.  But oh how the guilt weighed on me, and only grew over time.

I’ve chronicled before how I desperately tried to pursue a romantic relationship with a woman.  It never seemed to work for me. I wanted the “perfect” woman as I thought outwardly that I was the “perfect” man. Or I guess I thought in finding the “perfect” woman it would somehow also make me what I wanted to be. But to my fortune nothing ever came to be. I did everything I possibly could to be the perfect person I wanted to be, which never was ever good enough for me.

It was November 2012 when at the prospect of graduating BYU next semester still single, weighed so on me. I was that “perfect boy” in so many people’s eyes, all of whom couldn't understand how I could not be married yet. But I knew. I could not nearly contain the hatred and shame I had held for myself all my life.

 It was a solemn winter. I was stuck in my apartment at BYU during the winter break, alone, when things reached the worst point for me. After viewing some sexual material I then made the jerk reaction to post a craigslist ad and I set up to meet a guy in the park late at night to do things with him. I went to that park, and circled it several times, but never stopped (as I saw the guys car parked there). I went home- but how close I had gotten to do something weighed so shamefully on my mind. It was then I made the decision to kill myself. There was no way I could live with myself.

 I watched “Prayers for Bobby” which had me bawling. I had heard a similar phrase of “I never wanted a gay son” several times in my mind. I then began to research all the gay suicides I could find, and gathered up enough emotional evidence to feel I had been a victim my whole life and a complete tragedy. I took a belt to my bedroom cloak closet and then in one instant, stuck my head into it. I was there for a good 30 seconds, on the urge of passing out, when I took myself out. I couldn't do it. I was too afraid. Afraid that life actually had something better for me than what I felt at that moment. That tiny shred of belief has to this point kept me from the several attempts, some more or less dramatic, at killing myself. But I tell ya many times that that desire is still very real. It’s a dangerous mindset to get in to think about killing yourself. I find that any small thing that goes wrong for me almost instantly begins to fuel that desire again to end my life. Such is one of my thorns in the flesh.

But I lived on, thankfully. I had one particular roommate who was a particular savior to me. But my hatred was still there. I had lived, but I needed to then do something about it. So I came out to two of my sisters, under the understanding that I was doing everything I could to follow the Church, to soften the blow. It was also this moment I started to date guys. My hatred went on in other forms. I spent countless hours just telling myself how much I hated myself; I would go in the shower and just cry for time on end. Anytime I would go out with a boy, or even think about doing something with one, I would pound my head into the wall until it bruised, telling myself over and over how disgusting I was. It was then I also took more to cutting, keeping mainly to my arms. I would do anything I could to abuse myself, for I felt there was no way a person like me, who had been living such a double life, could live with any sense of worth.

And the self-abuse raged on. It found it’s form in dating multiple men at the same time, lying, and letting others take advantage of me (such as sex) that were not particularly my will, but I was so dead inside I didn't care anymore. I was already going to hell. It's a frightening feeling, to feel empty, broken, hopeless. 

School became less and less important. I hardly attended class at all, even up to my last year. I would sleep in, crawl in a ball in my bedroom and just cry. I’d get to work late(which caused more problems), stay up late cramming last minute for tests, and I was sick, tired, and hollow. A completely broken, hollow man. I saw no hope. Suicide was always on my mind and the thought of spending one more day of life always felt more than I could bear. That picture I had gained of the perfect person, the one that was meant to go all the way to the top ( I legitimately saw myself as an apostle of the Church, or wanted to believe I’d be), with the perfect kids, job and wife, was gone. And would never come back.

Then to make the story shorter Derek came into my life, at just the right time. And as noted by the journal entries I've previously shared, was a struggle to commit to. To love. To have around at all. And yet he was patient enough to persevere, and I believe God kept giving me the strength to keep putting one step in front of the other in the dark.

It’s been the biggest miracle of my life to come out to my family and friends. I've noticed how it’s made those around me more loving towards me, accepting of others, and also accepting of themselves. I’m so glad to have made those hard decisions to do it- I don’t want to picture life in any other way.

It’s been in my vulnerable decisions to open up to others, particularly regarding this thing concerning my sexuality that I always hated, that has given me the self-confidence I always wanted. And the ability to love myself for me. All of me. And to do things not to please others, but to please myself. I feel happy, inside and out- and it's the most wonderful feeling alive to experience.

There has been so much good to my life, which I hope to also mention in future posts on my blog. But that is not the only side to my life. This side shown here is just as real as all else now, and will be part of my life story.

Again I wish to emphasize and express gratitude for where I’m at now, which is in a good place. I am so thankful, for enduring, for trying to be better, and for being gay, which has allowed me to grow in a capacity I could have never done without it. This is a 24/7 battle that is mine to face and I know there is much heartache and despair in my future as much as there is joy, as perfection and imperfection. And I commit to do my best to embrace it all as I've attempted to do in this blog post.

I believe in love, I believe I can make a difference,  I believe I am worthy of love.

And that’s my story. For now.


  1. Thank you for sharing your story. It's not easy being authentic when we are always trying to live someone else's ideal.

  2. Bryan, Thanks for your post, I can relate to some of what you have experienced. Sometimes finding our place in life is very difficult, especially in the Church. Continue to grow and you will find peace. You have friends out there who do care and are willing to wrap their arms around you and show it. Wish we could all have your level of bravery.

  3. Bryan, thank you for sharing such a intimate look into your life. I can relate to a few things. I hurt at some of the things you had to endure. I am excited for your strength in where and who you are now.

    1. Thanks so much Trevor. I appreciate your love.