|I am gay; Jo is straight. We are best friends|
I was twenty years-old in 2007 when I moved to Provo, Utah from my home town just a few miles to the south. It was not too long after that Jo and I started hanging out again. I had just recently become active again in my faith—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)—after straying from my religion for a year or so to pursue a promiscuous, sexually-active lifestyle in the local gay community. I thought at the time that willingly disobeying the commandments of God and teachings of my Church would bring me the missing happiness I sought and fill the void that resided in me from being torn between my homosexual attractions and my faith. After undergoing much counsel with my ecclesiastical leaders and engaging in a rough process of repentance and reconciliation, I moved to Provo to start a new life in a new town and give myself a fresh start.
Jo was a frequent guest in my humble apartment for the nearly-three-years I lived there, and at one point he was my roommate for a time. Our relationship had become strong, but I longed to express myself to him in deeper, more meaningful ways. For many gay men who feel the need to hide their sexuality, the act of confessing their attractions to loved ones can be a nerve-wracking, but freeing experience. At that time, though, I was very nervous about revealing my homosexuality to people whom I thought might be hurt or offended by my attractions. Jo is as heterosexual as they come, and I was worried that any homophobic feelings he might have—which are so often typical for straight men—might affect our friendship.
|"In Quiet Desperation," published by |
Deseret Book Co.
At the time I had recently bought a book entitled, “In Quiet Desperation,” written by three Latter-day Saint individuals who were significantly affected by the issue of same-gender attraction—a father and mother with a gay son, and a single man who was himself attracted to his same gender. I had been reading the book in my living room one night, and was expecting Jo to come over sometime that evening. While straightening up the room, I realized that the book was still on the floor next to the couch, and I went to snatch it up and hide it before Jo arrived. But then I stopped and thought that this might be the perfect opportunity to let Jo find out that I was gay without having to actually to make an outright confession. So, I left the book where it was. I said a little prayer, and waited.
When Jo arrived, we sat on the couch and talked for a bit. At some point, he noticed the book on the floor and picked it up. I remember faking surprise to cover up the mixture of delight and anxiety I was feeling at that moment. He looked at it for a moment and asked what it was. I told him it was a book for individuals with same-gender attraction. “Is there something you want to tell me?” he chuckled. I admitted to Jo then that I was gay. I don’t quite remember all that was said after that, but I know that he told me that it didn’t change anything between us. I was still his friend, and his knowing my sexuality didn’t make a difference to our friendship.
Jo and I were able to talk openly about my attractions from then on; though for a few years he would become a little irritated any time I lost sight of my tact and over-expressed my lustful desires for another man. His discomfort seemed to disappear, though, the closer we became. We joked easily about the quirks that homosexuality brings to my life and personality, and it always felt so good to laugh about issues that for so long brought more tears than anything. My relationship with Jo has stood the test of time and has persevered through trials that he and I have both individually experienced and shared with each other; presently he is one of my dearest, most beloved friends. Our years of friendship and our openness with each other has formed the strongest bond of brotherly love I have ever felt with a straight man—I dare say that it even rivals the relationships that I have with my own biological brothers, to whom I still have never vocally confirmed my homosexuality. Jo and I have grown completely comfortable and relaxed around each other, and we share a lot of untypical male-to-male affection and behavior.
|I put my hand under Jo's shirt and scratched his|
back while he played the guitar and we sang.
On Thanksgiving Day this year, after sharing dinner and festivities with our families, Jo and I met up at his apartment to spend some time together, just the two of us. Between his daily responsibilities and mine, we hadn’t seen each other in a while. I kicked off my shoes and lay on his bed, while he sat on the edge next to me, playing his guitar. After a few moments I put my hand up his shirt and vigorously scratched his back, which is something he enjoys. He sang songs as he played his guitar, and I hummed along to the ones I knew. Music is our common passion, and we really bond this way. He played several songs and simple tunes, and by the end I was just gently rubbing the bare skin of his back with my open palm.
I don’t know what made this experience different from many, many similar ones in the past, but I suddenly felt an outpouring of the deep, special love that Jo and I have shared for so long. It was purely platonic, absolutely rooted in true concern, admiration, and friendship; there was nothing sexual or inappropriate about it. It was almost surprising to me, considering that during high school I had a bit of a crush on him; and even though the crush had been gone for years, slowly fading away as our post-high-school friendship grew, in that moment in Jo’s room I struggled to even recall any previous enamored feelings.
After he put his guitar away, he laid close next to me on the bed, and we just talked about everything and nothing. I could feel the warmth of his body near me, and breathe in his clean, masculine scent. But I didn’t want him. It was so satisfying, but never arousing. And I realized so clearly then just how important my relationship with Jo was. Our bond helped to satisfy the innate longing in my mind and heart for another man. Every long, tight hug, every intimate conversation or music jam session, every back scratch or shoulder massage filled that void that I still retain some small part of by choosing not to be romantically or sexually involved with a man.
|Our society today thinks that men don't show|
affection with one another, unless they are gay.
I understood in that moment that all of the complicated psychological reasons suggested as being behind the issue of same-sex attraction—feelings of inadequacy towards men; troubled relationships with male patriarchal figures; lack of consistent, appropriate male-to-male affection, etc.—were all met in this amazing relationship with Jo. And I didn’t have to feel ashamed. I was doing nothing wrong, and neither was he. If anything, we were doing it right! Our society’s gender norms and male stereotypes definitely tell us otherwise: “Men don’t show affection with other men—that’s gay!” And the fact that Jo is undoubtedly 110% straight makes the affection between us that much more satisfying for some reason.
Perhaps it’s because I know that we will never take our affection too far, even if I was still attracted to him. Or maybe it’s because it isn’t as difficult to get love and affection from a fellow gay man as it is from a straight one; certainly I have many gay male friends with whom I am very affectionate. But either way, I saw that I was getting all the male attention, male acceptance, male understanding, and male love that I need, while maintaining a seemingly-perfect Christlike love for another human being. Not lust. Not desire. Not passion. Just the purest form of love, just as the Savior Jesus Christ commanded His disciples, and all of us, to have.
|The brotherly love Jo and I share is a powerful|
influence on many aspects of my well-being.
Jo and I have never been strangers to saying “I love you” to each other, but hearing him say those familiar words again in that moment, in such a heartfelt and sincere way, seemed to fill my heart to overflowing, and solidify our bond even more. I thought to myself that I don’t ever need a boyfriend—I have Jo. It made me chuckle a little, but it was true. There was nothing more that I needed from another man that my best friend didn’t already provide. And he probably never knew the extent of it, and even I don’t think I fully did either, until that night.
On one occasion a while back, Jo and I were talking over burgers and fries, like so many other common hang-outs together. In between bites, he suddenly stated, “Wade, you’re like my angel.” I was a little surprised, and chuckled a bit. But he insisted that he and I were meant to be friends, and suggested that our friendship existed everlastingly in heaven before we came to this earth. He said he knew that I was placed in his life for a reason—to be a guiding light and an example, and he declared that he didn’t know what he would do without me in his life. It greatly flattered me, and made me glad that I had such an influence on him, and I agreed with everything he said.
|My relationship with Jo satisfies my|
need for male affection and bonding.
But as I’ve pondered my relationship with Jo since that inspiring Thanksgiving night, I’ve come to the conclusion that one of us certainly is an angel to the other. But who’s to say that it isn’t Jo instead? In all these years since I’ve come back to the LDS Church, I would suggest that in fact it is Jo who has been one of the most influential people in my life, and an anchor in helping me to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. I do not downplay Jo’s love for me, however, and his compliments and affection continue to feed the longing within me for the love of another man. But as Jo says I have helped him along life’s sometimes troubled paths, I have realized just how pinnacle Jo’s offerings have been in filling that void within me. As the ancient-American prophet, Alma, so eloquently stated, “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.” Indeed, I believe that Jo’s openness with affection all these years has helped me little by little to not seek out male affection from more inappropriate sources.
Certainly I do not mean to imply that my internal desires for male bonding on intimate levels are what rule me—like a driving addiction needing a frequent “fix." Certainly Jo’s friendship has always been much more than just that, and I feel that I have risen above many of the lustful yearnings that plagued me more in the past. In fact, I had to learn for myself years ago that a night of sensual intimacy with a man, no matter how romantic or titillating, did not complement my need for male affection as I thought it would. So often after such experiences, the void would remain, and even feel more piercing than before. That is why I have sought and found fulfillment for these drives and needs in more acceptable and appropriate ways—ways that are not only satisfying to me, but acceptable to my Heavenly Father and Savior.
|When same-sex romance is not an|
option, gay men need male friends
who can love and understand them.
I know that there are many same-sex attracted men of many different religions wherein homosexual activity is considered a sin. Many of these men have spent several years and countless dollars on clinical therapies and professional counseling to help them cope with the lasting effects of childhood traumas; they have also had to learn how to express their overwhelming feelings for men in ways that are appropriate for their personal well-being, while keeping their actions within the parameters of their faith. Whatever the causes of these attractions might be—and many have speculated—one outlet for these religious men who desire to stay faithful seems to be appropriate, but satisfying male-to-male contact.
I personally know men who have taken simpler steps to improve their lives by mending broken relationships with fathers and brothers, where before the relationships have caused them great turmoil. Others have opened up to straight male friends about their homosexuality, and even just confession alone can be liberating. But after this experience with Jo, I believe that the real mending of the heart and soul—the filling of the void within us—occurs after the confession, when a gay man can trustingly, confidently express himself in the company of another man in the pattern of Christlike love and concern that the Savior taught us. For some the extent to which affection is displayed does not have to be extreme. It may be a hug that satisfies one man, while open conversation about his sexuality will satisfy another. The answer, however, seems clear to me, and it is simple: An ear to listen, a mind to understand, a heart to feel, a hand to hold, and a soul that is open. I call it “positive male affirmation.”
|"Jesus Washing the Apostles' Feet" by Del Parson|
Copyright © 2002 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
If I have achieved my purpose with this post, then hopefully those who are reading will understand better just how important a friend can be. I believe that the love of friends is second only to the love of family. Greater than both of these, however, is the love of God, which was displayed through the matchless gift of His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Christ came into the world to redeem its inhabitants from sin. He brought with Him the perfect love of His Father, which love Jesus bestowed upon those whom He called His friends. And as the Lord’s disciples, we are called upon to spread that love—the love of God—to others.
On the occasion of the Jewish Passover, knowing that the fruition of His purpose as the Redeemer of the world was fast approaching, Jesus gathered His disciples together to feast. Then, after eating their traditional Passover meal, Jesus individually washed the feet of each of His twelve Apostles in an intimate display of reverence, solemnly teaching His servants, by example, of divine attributes like humility and selfless service. That night, among many other things, Jesus spoke of His love for these men, saying:
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
Jesus Christ ultimately proved that teaching by example when He atoned for their sins, and the sins of all mankind in the Garden of Gethsemane, and upon the cruel cross at Calvary’s hill, where He died to fulfill all righteousness. Our Father in Heaven does not ask us to give our lives for Him, as He required of His Son; but rather, our Father sent His Son to show us by example how to love and obey, that we may have the desire to forsake past things and let our former lives die as we take up our crosses and follow the Savior back to God’s presence. The Father gave us His Son, and the Son gave us His life. What better example of pure love can there be?
|"Journey's End" by Derek Hegsted|
Copyright © 1982-2005 by
Derek Hegsted Fine Arts, Inc.
Moreover, I feel that we need to break the misconception that affection between males is wrong, unacceptable, or something that only gay men do. To any men reading who remain unconvinced, I ask them to humbly consider this thought: If you suddenly found yourself in the presence of the Savior Jesus Christ (and may I point out that one day you will!), and you suddenly felt compelled to embrace Him tightly, to shed happy tears upon His firm shoulders, and to bathe His pierced hands and feet with your grateful kisses—do you honestly think that either you or He would be uncomfortable in that moment with fact that you were both men who were showing each other affection?
For this life, I strive to keep a relationship with my Heavenly Father and my Redeemer that I will be able to take with me beyond this mortal veil and into the heavenly realm. I want to know my Savior then, and to feel comfortable in His mighty arms because of the trust and closeness I’ve shared with Him in mortality. I am not a stranger to Him. And I don’t want Him to be a stranger to me. If more individuals, like Jo and I, can continue in the pattern of love that has been set for us by Jesus Christ, I do not see how God’s children can ever cease to be whole.
The void within me will likely always remain to some degree, but its width and depth have been reduced to near insignificance by two things: First, the richness of faith and testimony that I have nurtured since coming back to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the assurance that my lifestyle of faith brings me; and second, the remarkable relationships with wonderful people (particularly men) like Jo that act to sustain my faith and help me keep my covenants with God by giving me all the emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual attention I need. And I am especially grateful that, for this life, I have a sincere, satisfying, loving relationship with at least one man that I will never have to be ashamed of, or regret, or risk my salvation for.