On December 8, 2021 Tom Christofferson posted on Facebook that he was going to begin dating men while maintaining the same dating standards that heterosexual Latter-day Saint couples follow. A number of my straight friends heard this news and asked me, “Why would he date if he knew he couldn’t get married? That doesn’t make any sense.” Then on January 15, 2022 David Archuleta posted a 50 minute video on Instagram explaining the conflict he feels as an LGBT Latter-day Saint. I listened to the whole thing. One thing he said multiple times is, “I don’t want a partner so I can have sex. I want someone to share my life with. This isn’t about sex.” That really resonated with me.
I’m not advocating for any specific relationships here. I’m really not trying to tell anyone what to do with their lives. I’m just going to explain why I want a partner and why I don’t have one. I’m often pointed to as a “single, celibate gay member of the Church” and I’d like to provide another window into what that’s like.
In December 2013 Jordan and I started texting a lot. I wasn’t dating men or looking for a relationship with a man, we just met and clicked super well. It all just sort of happened. At the time I hadn’t come out to him and he hadn’t come out to me. In my mind this was just a friendship. One day he texted me that he was going to a friend’s cabin and would be out of service for a whole day and not to miss him too much. I told him to have a good time and then missed him too much.
The next day my phone dinged more than a dozen times in a row. The first message was from Jordan: “Since I can’t text you while I’m here, I’m going to write out all the things I want to text you and send them when I get service.” Then I read through multiple hilarious texts and I felt a feeling inside of me that I had never felt with any of the women I had dated. I felt loved and wanted and it was awesome. Jordan was thinking about me and wishing I was with him. It felt like I was his person and I liked being his person.
|Jordan's Skype face|
Two and a half years after things with Jordan ended the desire I had to have a partner still hadn’t gone away. There was this guy I had a crush on that I really wanted to ask out. He was handsome, funny, successful, a homeowner, all the things that typically make someone attractive. So 32 year old me set up a meeting with my bishop to ask about platonically dating guys. Not dating seeking to get married, but dating for companionship. This was in Arizona so the BYU Honor Code wasn’t on either of our minds. I wrote the following in my journal about the meeting with my bishop: “His basic response was, ‘You marry who you date.’ By that he meant that I shouldn’t date because it could lead to a same-sex marriage. This was the first time a church leader hasn’t encouraged me to marry a woman in this kind of setting, but instead said very clearly that I should stay single. It hurt more than I was expecting. I guess I shouldn’t have expected him to say anything different, but it still hurt.” A few sentences later I wrote: “Is staying [in the Church] even a viable option? Yes, it is, but it super sucks sometimes.” I decided not to date and never even told this guy I had a crush on him (although if he reads this he might figure it out).
Later I was back at BYU as a student where I knew same-sex dating was prohibited and I 100% followed that rule. If I’m anything, I’m a rule follower. I had been away from BYU for six years and had had significant things happen in the interim that had helped me mature as a person. When I was a younger, closeted BYU student I would look at couples holding hands on campus and be mad at them. Maybe hurt is a better word. I was jealous that they could pursue the relationships they wanted and I wasn’t allowed that same opportunity. Now in my 30s I would see these young couples on campus and think, I hope you don’t take for granted how lucky you are.
So I couldn't marry a man and I couldn’t date a man, but I also had tried very unsuccessfully to marry a woman and I didn’t want to be alone forever so what options did I have left for companionship? I decided I would settle for just a best friend that would also function like a partner. We wouldn’t date, but we’d also do everything together and, like, buy a house together or something. How is that different from dating? I don’t know, but this is what my brain was figuring out. And then it worked! I found the guy. He just showed up in my ward one day. He was also a BYU student, seemed to have similar life goals, I thought he was cute and cool, and by some miracle he thought I was cute and cool, too!
|This is my backyard, but you get the idea|
Now I’m 37 going on 38 and I’m still partnerless. I have a super full life that I really love and I’m genuinely happy. But the desire to have a partner has never gone away nor do I expect it to. So what is a gay Latter-day Saint to do who wants companionship in his life but who can’t marry a woman and can’t date or marry a man? Many (and I mean many) Church leaders and members have counseled me to marry a woman and just not have a sexual relationship. “Marriage is about more than sex,” they say, “so you can get married to a woman and not have sex.” I agree with David Archuleta that I’m not seeking a partnership for sex. But these same people when I say that I’d be okay with a nonsexual, but committed relationship to a man are suddenly horrified at the very thought of two men loving each other. It’s like they can’t quite understand what it means for me to be gay.
Here’s a brief paragraph from my book that bears repeating: “In recent years I’ve started to say ‘orientation’ more than ‘sexual orienation.’ Yes, I am sexually attracted to men and not to women, but it’s about so much more than that. I’m also emotionally oriented towards men, and romantically oriented towards men, and intellectually oriented towards men, and even spiritually oriented towards men. All the parts of me that yearn for connection are directed towards men. And I don’t feel that same orientation towards women. I think I’d make a great husband, but man, it would be hard if I weren't physically, emotionally, romantically, intellectually, or spiritually attracted to my wife. Hard for me, but perhaps even harder for her if she were physically, emotionally, romantically, intellectually, and spiritually attracted to me and knew that those feelings were not reciprocated.” The quote is on page 48 (it felt presumptuous to cite myself in APA style in a blog post).
I mean it when I say that the desire for a partner has never gone away. In the fall of 2019 I was praying and telling God about my desire to have a partner and in response I felt prompted to write a book. When I finished the first draft of the book in January 2020 I again prayed about my longing for a partner and then felt prompted to start the “Questions from the Closet” podcast. Once that was up and running I again prayed about a partner in April 2020 and felt inspired to start a diversity class at BYU. A year into that I yet again prayed for a partner and felt inspiration to plan the BYU Belong concert. When that was over I decided that if I prayed for a partner again God was just going to give me more to do.
I know I am supposed to be single now. I know that. I know that just like I know that the Book of Mormon is true and that I have Heavenly Parents who love me. Why am I supposed to be single? I don’t super know, but my hunch is that right now I’m not meant to have a me-focused life. Not having a partner means I have so much time to give to others which is why I so freely give my time to those who ask for it. Perhaps having a partner would get in the way of the work I feel called to do to build Zion. And maybe some day the purpose of my life will shift from this big, outward focused life to one that is more about me. I don’t know. But I know I’m living my best life right now.
|Charlotte and I|
So if you’re confused about why Tom would start dating men, or why David is considering pursuing marriage to a man, or why I tried to find a platonic best friend, consider the times you’ve been loved by a partner. What was it like to have someone you could count on? What was it like to have someone who would be there for you? What was it like to think about tomorrow and not wonder if you were going to have someone to spend it with? What does that kind of stability feel like? From the brief times I’ve had it it feels pretty good.
Now imagine that you were told that you couldn’t have the kind of partnership you wanted. You weren’t even allowed to try for it. What kind of mental gymnastics and rationalizations would you entertain to just have something similar to what you were yearning for?
Remember that guy from a few paragraphs ago that lost interest in me when he got to know me better? Well, I shared this post with him to make sure it was okay to share that story and he sent me this insightful comment: “A car needs gasoline to run, but it also needs five other liquids to work (oil, transmission fluid, etc.). Just because my gas tank (or friendship) tank is full doesn’t mean that my car can run. We each have spiritual needs, romantic needs, physical needs, etc. And it really hurts when people metaphorically tell us, ‘You have a full tank of gas. That’s enough.’ Well, it isn’t. Having a person, a special one makes such a difference. A shocking difference! And it’s not about sex. It’s about having a person who consistently and genuinely cares about being there and listening to the things that don’t really matter but that matter very much.”
I’m not lonely. I’m really not. I have a wide breadth of friendships that are super important to me. But what I’m lacking is that one, deep intimate relationship. It’s odd that life can be so full and still feel incomplete at times. I know Tom well and I love him dearly. He’s been a great mentor, friend, and support to me. And I honor his agency to take the path that feels right to him. I don’t know David much at all, but I’m sure that if I did I’d love him as much as I love Tom. Two very good men who are striving to make the right choices. And if you want to add me to that number, you have three men who are trying their best to do what is right and who are making different choices. I have not chosen to date men, but I completely understand why they have.