When I was six or seven my uncle got tickets to the Barnum and Bailey circus and took me and my sister along with his family. It was awesome! I don’t remember much very much of it now, but I do remember the trapeze artists. They were incredible to me. They were so high up in the air and were doing the craziest spins and flips and were absolutely fearless. It was both terrifying and thrilling to watch. When it was all over and we were on our way back home, I mentioned to my uncle that I would NEVER do something so dangerous. How could they even begin to try it? They didn’t even have a net!
My uncle explained to me that they used a safety net when they practiced. If they ever happened to fall while they were learning, they had the support of the net to catch them and keep them safe. Then finally, when the routine was perfected, they could perform without the net – trusting in the knowledge and skills that they had acquired through countless hours of practice.
As I have thought about this blog I have been sending emails to close friends of mine and have invited them to read and let me know what they think. As my e-mails and phone calls have been returned, I have realized that I myself have a support net. This group of people has created a net of safety that I can bounce off of when I am having hard times. They have all given me good advice and encouraging words, but most importantly they have given me love. We all need this! This struggle can be so confusing. And we know so little about it. As we go through life trying to learn what our attractions mean and how to deal with them, we will be weak. We will feel overwhelmed. We may feel like we are falling. THAT is why you need a good support net.
In a message about same gender attraction, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, one of the twelve apostles of our church, said this about supporting people with same gender struggles:
“Through Christ and his church, those who struggle can obtain help. This help comes through fasting and prayer, through the truths of the gospel, through church attendance and service, through the counsel of inspired leaders, and, where necessary, through professional assistance with problems that require such help. Another important source of help is the strengthening influence of loving brothers and sisters. All should understand that persons (and their family members) struggling with the burden of same-sex attraction are in special need of the love and encouragement that is a clear responsibility of Church members, who have signified by covenant their willingness ‘to bear one another’s burdens’ (Mosiah 18:8) ‘and so fulfil the law of Christ’ (Gal. 6:2).”
I want to echo something he said. It is all well and good to have friends to talk to. It really does help. I am so grateful for all of my friends who have helped and supported me through this trial. But it is SO important to remember family. These are the people who love us the most. They want us to be happy. It can be scary. Even terrifying. But parents are loving. And while it is possible that they might be shocked or even upset for a time, they will do all they can to learn to love and accept you.
I had quite a bit of trouble with my own family at first. Things spiraled out of control rather quickly once they knew I was attracted to men. But Heavenly Father is kind, and with time he has helped us mend many wounds. Things are so much better with my family. I know my parents love me. And I love them. My siblings are kind and supportive. Sometimes I don’t think they fully understand me, but they do all that they can to accept me and give me the love that I need. Many of my friends have shared their own feelings of same gender attraction with their families, and they are so glad they did. Most of them said their parents were accepting and supportive from the start. It seems to me that my situation was very much the exception and not the rule! So I encourage you to speak to your families. If need be, ask a close friend who knows about your struggle to be there with you. Know that your family loves you and that they will realize that you are the same person they have always known.
There is one more person I want to mention. He is VITAL to the success of any safety net, and the central strength of it. He is Jesus Christ. He knows and understands your struggle better than anyone else. Even amongst people with same gender attraction, there are differences. We can never fully understand each other’s individual weaknesses and fears. But Christ does. Through him we can find the peace and love that can carry us safely wherever we need to go.
President Gordon B. Hinckley shared this testimony of the power or Christ: “As members of the Church of Jesus Christ, ours is a ministry of healing, with a duty to bind the wounds and ease the pain of those who suffer. Upon a world afflicted with greed and contention, upon families distressed by argument and selfishness, upon individuals burdened with sin and troubles and sorrows, I invoke the healing power of Christ, giving my witness of its efficacy and wonder. I testify of Him who is the great source of healing. He is the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world, ‘The Sun of Righteousness,’ who came ‘with healing in his wings.’ ”
Find those wings. Let them support you. Let them bring you closer to others who can also lift you and bring you safely back to where you need to be. That is the strength of a safety net. This is the power of Jesus Christ.