Ricardo knows that his feelings of same-sex attraction are not what define him as a person or as a son of God. Rather, his experiences have provided him with tools that he can use to bless others as he continues to follow the Savior.
Opening up isn’t always easy. It’s complicated and it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there. This year has been significant because I finally acknowledged that I am attracted to men. I always felt it but never really understood it, nor did I know how to live authentically. Embracing this might be difficult for some Latter-day Saints to understand. It can seem as if by embracing my same-sex attraction, I am breaking a commandment. For me, nothing can be further from the truth. That understanding and authenticity have brought peace to my life.
Let me share with you my story to illustrate how my SSA has turned from something painful and shaming into a blessing. Yes, it is a blessing!
I am happy to know in my heart that my SSA does not define me as a person or as a son of God.
It has provided me with tools that allow me to bless others as I follow the Savior.
My journey began when I was four years old. I was born and raised in Mexico City, the oldest of five kids. I grew up in a crowded place with little privacy, with lots of extended family and visitors coming and going.
Two men who happened to be living with us sexually abused me by making it seem like child’s play. At that age, I couldn’t understand what was happening. I just remember feeling connected to them through all the sensations they provoked in me. It was extremely powerful and confusing for me. It was not aggressive; on the contrary, they gave me candy and attention.
The attention was something that I craved and welcomed. Unfortunately, it was something that altered my soul and affected how I connected with and perceived men throughout my life. I’m not sure if this event was the root of my physical attractions to men, but it contributed to feelings and habits that haunted me for years afterward.
Debating the root of my feelings does not matter to me. The important thing for me is that now I can understand how this experience affected the way I saw myself as a man and as a son of God.
I always felt conflicted with my feelings of worthiness. I grew up in shame for over 40 years of my life!
Fortunately, I did grow up in a loving home. I have always been active in the Church. That has really helped me and brought me hope. With that said, I always felt unworthy of the Savior.
Growing up, I felt as though I had a different perspective and appreciation of things. I loved drawing, being creative, and understanding and appreciating beauty and the aesthetics of everything around me. I remember that I made dresses for my sisters’ dolls that I designed using paper napkins. They loved them! Of course, I had to do that away from my father’s eye. More than once my father would tell me to speak in a more manly way, to play soccer, to have a girlfriend, and to be interested in boy things. This often led to tears as I didn’t get why it was such a big deal. I wasn’t harming anyone. I know he told me these things out of love, but his comments would only further my shame and cause me to feel more different. I think that’s why I never felt safe to talk with him about my SSA feelings until now. My father was very loving and still is, but I never felt a strong connection with him, which is something we are working on.
At school I would notice attractive boys as well as some girls, but this conflict tormented me.
It was a conflict I kept secret, hidden in layers of walls that I built to protect myself.
One of those protective layers was food. At one point in my life, I weighed over 300 pounds. I did not feel attractive or confident and felt very insecure in my relationships with both men and women. This struggle also wounded my soul. I knew the Savior was there for me, but I did not know how to reach Him. The only thing that gave me courage was to visualize myself being carried by the Savior.
I attended college in the U.S., and there I struggled to know what I was feeling, especially for other men I became close with. One in particular left a hole in my soul when he left on a mission. I remember thinking and telling myself, “What in the world is going on with me? Why am I feeling this way?” I knew I needed help, but I didn’t know where to start. I got the courage to speak to a college therapist. He helped me deal with the sexual abuse, which was hard enough, but I was not ready to talk about my same-sex attraction.
By the time I was 27 years old, I began to feel I needed a larger purpose in life. I was so afraid to even consider getting married. I honestly thought I was going to be single forever. I asked Heavenly Father to help me follow the Spirit and identify the person I was supposed to marry. Shortly after that, I met my wife. I vividly remember the day we met. I felt attraction toward her from day one. She looked happy, beautiful, and confident. She also had peace in her countenance; I wanted that peace in my life too.
We began dating. At times it was emotionally hard to be with my girlfriend at a public place and find some men attractive. I hated those feelings. I felt hopeless, unworthy of her and of God. When my sweetheart and I started formalizing our relationship, I told her about my sexual abuse and my feelings for men. At the time, I didn’t have the words or the tools to explain effectively what I was feeling.
She said she was sad that I had to go through this alone, but it didn’t affect how she felt about me. However, she didn’t know to what extent my SSA had affected me. She said she loved me as I am, and the Spirit confirmed to her through personal revelation that I was the man she was to marry. We got engaged and were married in the Oakland California Temple.
I can say that throughout my life, I always felt that I needed to stay close to the Lord as best I could.
I felt, deep inside of me, that my life had a purpose regardless of my trials. Believing in this purpose gave me hope. But it wasn’t until my mid-40s that my healing process began.
It was a meeting at work that would change my life for the better. A fellow employee brought up his experience with same-sex attraction during our meeting. I remember seeing and feeling so much confidence emanating from him. He was neither apologetic nor ashamed of it. He stood tall and spoke about it as if it was no big deal. I saw a lot of peace in his eyes, and I thought,
“I want that peace. I want that freedom to be myself and not apologize for something that I did not choose.”
For the first time in my life, I was sitting across from someone I could relate to. We went to lunch, and it was great to talk with someone who understood what I was going through. We developed a friendship as I slowly began to open up and feel his support.
It has been scary to be so open about something I’ve kept secret my whole life. Yet as I have become more authentic, my confidence has soared. The response from people around me has been loving, supportive, and understanding. Some even show a sincere desire to learn more.
I’ve found that as I share my story, the Spirit is there to testify. It seems to touch hearts and minds as we come to understand that we are all children of God. No matter what we deal with, we are all worthy of the Atonement. For that I am extremely blessed.
My wife’s support has been vital in my progress. This new awareness and authenticity have changed the dynamics of our marriage. It has been challenging at times. We’ve had to learn to communicate better. We realize that neither of us can fulfill each other’s every need. It has been an adjustment for both of us as I have developed friendships to support me in my journey. She is happy that I have an enhanced confidence but has also reminded me that she needs to know she’s number one in my life. I did not realize I had changed so much through this experience.
I really needed to help her join me on my journey and make sure that she feels loved, needed, attractive, and safe.
My wife is my biggest supporter and the love of my life. She is the only one that I have built an unbreakable, eternal bond with that no one else can break. It takes work, communication, understanding, and balance as we walk through this together. Our marriage is evolving; we strengthen each other by being more authentic and true. The key to our marriage’s strength is making the Savior the center of our lives.
My journey continues. I don’t have it all figured out, but I know this new awareness, my authenticity, and my relationship with the Savior are helping us. It is great to feel worthy of the Savior’s Atonement and not feel tormented by my same-sex attraction anymore. I can see myself for who I am, a son of God, a true man worthy of the blessings of eternal life.
I now realize that nothing is broken or defective or needs to be fixed in my heart and soul.
I can say that I am experiencing the promise made to Moroni in Ether 12:27: “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
I always loved that scripture and desperately wanted to apply it to my life, but I couldn’t figure out how to convert this weakness into blessings. Now I understand that my SSA does not have to be a weakness.
I understand now that through these experiences, I have grown and can help further the Lord’s work.
His Spirit is always with me.
It has been worth it to have the courage to open up. It definitely has been!