Ira Glass interviewed a gay Mormon (Benny) on This American Life about his first crush and the lengths he went to to confront the person he was crushing on. The episode (#450) is titled So Crazy it Just Might Work. You can listen to it here.
Several themes are confronted in the interview. One is acknowledging to yourself that you aren’t attracted to women but to men. This part of the episode was like a walk down memory lane and helped me recall the time of life when I was uncertain about what was going on in the attraction/orientation department. Fortunately it was a long process for me. I realized early on that my peers talked about girls the way I felt about guys. It took some time before I was able to say “I’m gay” out loud, a little more time before I could write it to another person, even more time before I could say it to another person. And it’s taken decades to get to the point where it no longer matters to me what people think. Even then, I have occasional relapses. The first person I officially came out to (after my parents) was my friend “Jewel” in 9th grade. She was the only non-Mormon friend I had at the time. I wrote it to her in a note during geography class, and our teacher quickly confiscated the note after she read it. To this day I’m not sure whether the teacher read the note or threw it away.
Another theme touched on in the interview is dealing with your first crush and figuring out what all of that means. I don’t think I developed any real crushes until after my teenage years. At least not the kind of crush Benny referred to–the type of crush that completely consumes you. And even then, that crush paled in comparison to how I felt/feel about Dan. Early on in our relationship I used every free moment to keep in contact with Dan whether via text messages, email, or sneaking away from work or school for a break. Like Benny, I was (and still am) willing to pack up and head out at the drop of the hat if it meant I could see Dan. It’s funny what love does to you.
A theme that neither Benny nor Ira Glass discuss in great detail is what it’s like to be gay, in the closet, Mormon, and in love. I have a great deal of compassion for openly gay (believing) Mormons. It’s a difficult place to be in and no one really tells you how to process the feelings associated with crushes. Often times it feels like nothing really adds up: gay feelings are supposed to be carnal and devilish and not at all the same feelings you hear straight people sing about on the radio. God would never let you feel for another man the way straight people feel for each other. The feelings must be lust and must be fabricated by the devil himself; he’s trying to catch you in one of his snares. Other times it feels like no one really understands: the real gays seem to be on guard and maybe even threatened by your presence and/or religiosity, other gay Mormons seems to be defensive about why they aren’t open with family and friends, and the regular (straight) Mormons can’t always wrap their minds around the gay.
And that’s part of the story that’s super interesting. Benny lived with a straight, believing Mormon roommate named Parker who seemed completely supportive and understanding of Benny as he figured things out. Parker was willing to go pretty great (literal) distances with Benny to help him figure out the gay crush thing. That’s not something you hear about much. You’ll understand a little better when you learn what Parker was willing to go for his gay Mormon friend Benny on This American Life–something so crazy it just might work.