Thursday, March 27, 2014

My Gay Story [part 3]

A continuation of my story. Originally written 29 October 2013. 
Read part 1 / en español
Read part 2 / en español
Read part 3 / en español

The biggest turning point in my attitude and hope occurred as I was serving as Sunday School President over spring/summer terms at BYU. I prepared a lesson on Joseph Smith's experience in Liberty Jail, focusing on section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants. I had read this section many, many times before, but for some reason this time it was different. I put myself in Joseph's place. Abraham had his Mount Moriah, Jesus had his Gethsemane, Joseph had his liberty jail, I have my same-gender attraction. Abraham offers up his son on the altar, and Jehovah sends his voice through an angel. Jesus, in agony, prays more earnestly, and the Father sends an angel, strengthening Him. Joseph offers his plea, and the Lord sends His voice. I pray, and God answers me similar to how He answered Joseph: first He comforts Joseph with an eternal perspective. Then He gives Joseph some key instruction:
Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands. Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee, neither charge thee with transgression, as they did Job.
Joseph, TURN TO YOUR FRIENDS. I melted. I have never really reached out to anyone for emotional support, ever. I'm a pretty independent person. What is a friend supposed to do? To be? What is a FRIEND? By the Lord's definition, do I have any FRIENDS? A quick search on for 'friend' in the Doctrine and Covenants brings a list.

Rafiki means friend in Swahili. Also, he gives
good knocks on the head at opportune
moments, as a friend should.
So a friend is exactly what Jesus Christ considers us. A friend stands by you, offers a warm heart and friendly hands, does not contend against you, does not charge you with transgression (judge), and offers comfort and joy. No matter what. The Lord gives us friends and family for that purpose. He reminded Joseph of this, and He reminded me of this. I had to consider how to turn to my friends. I felt it as a commandment directly to me, piercing straight into my heart: DAN: Turn to your friends. This is what I gave them to you for!  But I was stubborn: I'm independent! Cue the humbling knock on the head (think Rafiki, which ironically means FRIEND in Swahili!)
So I began my journey considering my 'friends'. How do I ask for support? Do I be vague and just ask for prayers in my behalf? Do I come out to them? To whom? When? How? I let it stew for a couple of months. 

Summer term ended and circumstances allowed for me to return home to Illinois for a week and a half before starting fall semester again. I was determined to act on that prompting. 

At the shooting range with good friends
back home. We went shooting twice in the
week and a half I was home...and yes, I did
shoot more than just a staple gun--I'm particularly
fond of my mom's Glock :D

I had an enjoyable week at home, but this experience was gnawing at the back of my brain. Remember me? I'm still here! I waited until the night before I was to head back out to BYU. I sat down on a couch in our living room and just waited until my mom came in to the room and sat down too. I asked to talk. 

While I was home, my brother Brian was
able to visit from New York! Diesel, the
family dog, knew his place in the car.

We did, and I shared my experience of same-gender attraction with her. It's hard enough to face it alone the first time you realize it. Then it's harder to tell someone else. And it's even harder to watch your mother deal with it. We shed tears together, talked about it, and talked some more. My mom is a great FRIEND, by all definitions.

My mom is the best friend anyone
could ask for. Also she's a great shot. 

Dan Bunker

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My Gay Story [part 2]

A continuation of my story. Originally written 29 October 2013. 
Read part 1 / en español
Read part 2 / en español
Read part 3 / en español

For so long I've felt like Abraham, climbing Mount Moriah, building an altar, preparing to give my sacrifice to the Lord, for I love Him. But for so long I've been waiting for His approval of my sacrifice. 
Abraham yielding his greatest sacrifice

I would put what I thought was my greatest sacrifice on the altar and kneel and wait. Nothing. Flustered, I took it back off and swapped it out for something else. Surely this would be the right sacrifice. Kneel and wait. Nothing. Magnify calling. Nope. Try to do my part in making a blended family work. Nada. Serve a mission. Zilch. Full tithe, service, love, charity, scripture study, faith, fasting, you name it. All good things to offer the Lord, but none were the one required for my Abrahamic Test. I started thinking harder. It's mighty hard to place something on the altar that you deny possession of. Especially when deep down you know you might have it, and the Lord definitely knows you have it. So this has been my experience lately: soul-searching and acknowledging possession of something the Lord requires of me. A path that I do not know. This is my required offering unto the Lord upon the altar.

I've never been suicidal, though I understand how someone with this experience could be, and I try not to judge those who have attempted it. I've never thought "I just can't live up to what the Lord expects of me, I'm not good enough," which is a thought that many have. I have made mistakes, yes, committed sins, yes. The thing is, I believe in repentance. 

The Book of Mormon Title page explains its purpose: to convince us that we are never cast off forever because of Christ and His Atonement. Simply put, I believe that is the purpose of all scripture: to persuade us that we aren't cast off. If we are convinced of this, we will repent and come unto Christ. 

The thoughts that I have had more recently have been ones like "Okay, now that you've repented, don't do anything to screw it up." I would try and bug God with "Hey, ya know, if you're cool with it and all, I wouldn't mind if you said my time was up here 'cause I'm doin' pretty good right now." 

A friend of a friend wrote me the following message, which impacted my outlook on this experience:

Dear Brother, [Your friend] has told me a little bit about you. Not your name or anything specific, just that you know that you're gay and how hard that can be in the church. I felt like reaching out to you. I'm sure you have wonderful people in your life and an email from a stranger can't mean much. But I just wanted to be another voice. I wanted to share with you that I love you. I know that our Heavenly Father loves you completely. He loves you exactly as you are. If you were the only person in the world to ever take part in the atonement, the Savior would have suffered it all just for you, because you're worth it.
As I shared some thoughts with another friend, he told me, "You're God's little boy. He'll take care of
I'm God's little boy

People like these two have helped me gain a new perspective. Now I've started to have better thoughts of "Oh, this is my purpose, my path. I can do this."

Dan Bunker

Thursday, March 6, 2014

My Gay Story [part 1]

Mexico City, Mexico. September 2010-2012
This is the coming-out post that I wrote first but never published. Instead, I wrote this post. Now, I feel more comfortable sharing this experience.

Originally written 29 October 2013:
My life has been going full-steam ahead, with hardly any time to breathe. I got off the mission and hit life hard. It's a bit like riding the moving walkway in the Chicago O'Hare airport (or really any airport) where you're running on it to go really fast and then it ends. You keep running but you're not going fast anymore. It just FEELS inefficient, even though you're moving as fast as your legs can carry you.

Achieving High Goals - Eagle Scout
The past two weeks for me have been really difficult. I'm gay. Wait...What? Yeah, that's what I thought too. Raised in the church, you are taught to set high goals, inspired to achieve them, full-steam ahead. The mission accelerated that. Then you get off the moving walkway and real life starts. I've seen great friends, mission companions, and ward members dating, getting engaged, and getting married. Full-steam ahead. I've been in this surreal dream since my teenage years, wondering when this "straight" thing was supposed to happen to me. Sure, as a teenager, your hormones are raging and you don't really understand your feelings, right? Reality check: those feelings become fixed rather quickly. I didn't know that. I was waiting for so long to make sense of all the 'set boundaries, don't date until you're 16, bridle your passions, obey the law of chastity' counsel. Sure they made logical sense to me, but not emotional sense. Was it hard for other guys to keep clean thoughts around girls? I didn't seem to have a problem with it. It was the physical features of guys that were interesting to me (I didn't know that was called 'being gay' haha). I only realized a short time ago (leading up to my writing this) that, yes, I am attracted to men and not women. And I realized the term for it: gay. Homosexual. Same-Sex attraction. Same-gender attraction. Whatever you call it, it's the same thing in my opinion.

Switching to Computer Science, Bioinformatics Emphasis
So when I realized this, the duly-named blog title was my reaction: Wait...What? Imagine getting through 3 years of college in a degree program, then suddenly you realize...this isn't for me. You switch majors to one that requires you to recalculate all of your goals, the what, the when, the how. That is what this has been like for me. I was wary at first, but then I accepted it and intend to start going full-steam again. 

What helped me most recently in the transition from being wary to acceptance was a hymn sung by the ward choir at church, particularly the first verse:
It may not be on a mountain height, or over a stormy sea, it may not be on the battle's front my Lord may have need of me. But if, by a still, small voice he calls, to paths that I do not know, I'll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine, "I'll go where you want me to go"...
For so long I was preparing for the battle's front, for the mountain height, for the stormy sea. The Lord calls many, many people to these places. I was taught my priesthood duties, how to treat women, how to be a good father and husband. But recently, the Lord with a still small voice has called me to paths that I do not know.  What is my answer? What do I do? Where do I go? What do I say? I'll say what You want me to say, do what you want me to do, be what you want me to be, dear Lord. ...Savior, if Thou wilt be my guide, though dark and rugged the way, I'll... I will. That is the only answer.

Dan Bunker