I DID IT!
I actually pushed the "send" button on the email, so at this very moment my letter to the family is flowing as packets of 0's and 1's on it's way to showing up in my mom's email tomorrow when she wakes up. In a slight change of plans, I decided to just send it to her so that she and my dad could be the first to read it, and then asked them to forward it to my siblings.
Here's to hope!
Also, I'd like to thank the couple of you that I contacted directly and got some feedback from. I ended up making a few minor tweaks before I sent it off. I realized that it was too dry. I am never that dry. They wouldn't believe I wrote it if I didn't throw some lame humor in there, so I did. I think it's better than the original version. If anyone is interested, here is the final version:
I need to have an honest and frank discussion with all of you. I don't know the next time we will all be together, so I'm going to do it through this letter. Last weekend was a very emotional one for me. In some ways it was the best weekend and in others it was the worst.
I was very happy to finally meet ____. She is adorable. I was honored to be in the circle and listen to ____ blessing her on Fast Sunday. I'm also excited for ____ (sorry ____ I will always call her that, so please don't hate me, hate your husband) to arrive. I'm glad that mom finally has some grandkids to shower with her affection - and then send them home when they start crying.
I was glad to see grandpa, especially if it was for the last time. He really has gone downhill since I saw him at Christmas, and I fear that the next time I see him it may be at his funeral. I'm glad that I sat down with my video camera and interviewed him and grandma last summer. That video means a lot to me. I'll send you all a copy of it soon.
Those were the good parts of the weekend. The other parts are a little more difficult to talk about.
I think the easiest way to do this is to just come out and say it and then expound. The reason why I am still single, in spite of being the great catch that I am, is that I am physically/sexually attracted to other guys. The world uses the term gay, but I don't like that word. It connotes a certain type of lifestyle that I don't subscribe to. The church uses the terms Same-Gender Attraction and Same-Sex Attraction. I don't really like those terms either because they are too clinical and it makes it sound like a curable bacterial infection. But, since I'm much more inclined to side with the church than the world, I'll use their acronym - SSA.
I've felt this way my entire life. There's no reason behind it. I believe that I was just born this way. I can remember back to when I was very young, watching "The Electric Company" on PBS and thinking that the boys were cute. I was never sexually abused by anyone. I never suffered any type of trauma that turned me this way. It has nothing to do with the way I was raised - there's no parental fault here. This is just how I was wired up when my DNA was formed.
You may be asking about all of the girlfriends I've had during my life, and the first thing I'll say is hold out one hand so you can count all 2 of them. For the most part, I've only dated because that was what I felt I had to do. All my life I was taught that I needed to grow up, marry a wife and raise a family. So that's what I've always been striving to do, and every once in a while I do find a girl that I am attracted to and give it a go. Unfortunately, so far it hasn't worked out very well. Most guys go through life dating 100 women they are attracted to, and then deciding on the 1 to marry. My trouble is that I have to date 100,000 women to find the 100 that I am truly attracted to, and then narrow it down to the 1. It's a very long process to date 100,000 women - and it costs a lot of money.
You must be curious about if I've ever participated in the lifestyle of the gay community, and the answer is no. I have a very strong testimony of the gospel. I have had some amazing spiritual experiences that have helped me stay on the straight and narrow during times of temptation. But, I do have to say that as of late, my well of faith has felt like it's drying up. My desires for sharing my life and loving someone have not diminished with age. In fact, the yearning grows stronger with every passing year. And it gets increasingly more difficult to not go down paths that I shouldn't walk down. I study my scriptures, I pray, I go to church, I fulfill my callings, I go to the temple. I do it all. But the most basic of human needs - that of love and intimacy - is never met. And when I say intimacy, I'm not really talking about sexual intimacy. I'm mostly talking about the intimacy of sharing your life, your hopes, your ambitions, your dreams with someone else and them sharing theirself with you. I hold the hope that some day I will be married and have a family. My patriarchal blessing talks about it, and I hope that it is talking about this life and not the next. I would like to have my children grow up with the others in the family. But, if it doesn't happen in this life, I will strive to remain faithful so that in the next, the Lord will grant unto me all of those blessings. I want to stay active in the church. I know it's true. I know that I could never get spiritual satisfaction or feel at peace with myself in any other way. But I can't do this alone any more. I am weary. I need your support to keep on going.
At this point, I also need to gently, and lovingly, reprimand all of you for your insensitivity towards those we know who have chosen a gay lifestyle. There is no possible way for you to understand the turmoil that a faithful LDS member with SSA goes through. Most ailments in life have an associated prescription that a physician can give you, or a psychiatrist can counsel with you to help you overcome. There is no such thing for SSA. Our cousin, ____, and ____ who have each chosen a path that you would not select for yourself should not be judged harshly for those decisions. They are still children of God. He still loves them. His atonement can still save them. They deserve our love and hand of fellowship. You don't have to support gay marriage, you don't have to support their not following the law of chastity, you don't have to support their bitterness towards the church, but you do have to support them as human beings. You all also need to quit with the gay jokes. It gets irritating after a while.
I know this is a really big pill to swallow. I hope that in time you can come to understand the struggles I go through. I know that it may be a bit of a disappointment to you, but I think that you'll get over that when you realize that I am exactly the same person that you have known for the last 34 years. I still make lame jokes. I still love all of you. I still love Dr. Pepper, mexican food, and passing gas. That's all still the same. Nothing is different except that you know more about my personal struggles in life now, and it finally makes sense why I'm so sexy and still single. Remember that you agreed to being part of this family while in the pre-existance and we all probably knew that this was going to be my lot in life. You supported me then and I ask for that same support now.
Here are a couple of references for you to browse for more information on SSA. There are lots of questions, although most answers you'll find that you just have to figure out on your own. First, I would go to the website www.ldsresources.info (not .com, the .com site is just an online book store). I would also go ahead and pick up the book "In Quiet Desperation". I checked and you can find it in the self-help section of Deseret Book.
I decided to send this to all of you, because I'm tired of being ashamed and keeping this a secret from everyone. I have nothing to be ashamed of in much the same way that a blind person should not be ashamed that they are blind. It's not their fault or their choice to be blind, and they go on living with their impairment. I don't ask that you keep this a secret. You are free to talk or not talk about it as you feel comfortable. I have finally come to the point in my life where I feel okay talking to other people about it. If other people choose to react poorly when they find out, that's their problem. I've got the Lord on my side, and they've got ignorance and a complete lack of understanding of what the Atonement is really all about. I'm pretty sure that I'll win that one.
I could go on and on about this subject, but I will stop here. Please don't call me right away to talk about this - in fact, I probably won't answer the phone if you show up on my caller I.D. Sending this letter is probably the most difficult and gut-wrenching thing I've ever had to do, and I will also need a few days to catch my breath once I press that "send email" button. Take these next few days to study, ponder and pray about it and let it all sink in. I'll make my usual call home on Sunday night and we can talk about it then.
Also, mom and dad, I wanted you to be the first to read this. Once you have, please forward it to ____, ____, ____ and ____.
I love you all,