5:4 THE SINGLES WARD

Salt Lake City, Utah, July ’97—Twenty-nine (and half) hours on a Greyhound bus to get from Texas to Utah. Never again, I thought! But I was buzzing with excitement the minute the bus pulled into town. I’d been anxious to see my missionary ¹ and to meet his girl at the station Downtown. I was so excited!

5—Touching the closet door on the other side of the world

4—So excited to discover Utah and see friends again—until one of them set up a date with a girl for me! But I knew that meeting a man at the Singles Ward could be magical. 

It was the first of those reunions that, since then, have occurred all over Utah, as well as in Nevada, Britain or France. Who knew we were friends for life! We even started new traditions that evening—like driving past the temple together or eating at the Pie. I fell in love with the Salt Lake temple the minute I saw it. It was that magical moment—when something you have seen in so many pictures suddenly stands in front of you in all its splendour.

And Shawn ² was there too. I had introduced him to the two self-proclaimed “black bitches” I’d traveled with (and had told me me to use those words to unsettle “that white Mormon boy!”). Shawn freaked out. The girls laughed and went to stand in line for their next bus. That was perfect!

That first evening at the Pie was perfect too. It was so good to be together with Elder Larson and with Shawn again! Elder Larson’s girlfriend was so kind and exulted such a positive energy. I’d seen several returned missionaries with girls by now. I accepted all dated, even if it wasn’t for me. And I love women: my political heroes, role models or favourite artists tend to be women. I used to feel much more comfortable around women too, so she was a good addition to our trio.

“Your date’s from our Singles ward,” Shawn explained a few days later. Now I had been fine with Shawn leaving me in his basement apartment to go see his girlfriend, Naomi, every night, but going on a double date with them was a different story! Of course, that was a thoughtful idea, but I wished I could disappear the minute the girls came out of Naomi’s house.

“Your girlfriend’s beautiful. My date is not!” I was so uncomfortable and scared to be exposed as a homosexual that I thought that uncharitable comment might help mask my lack of interest.

 

I can look at a woman and feel drawn to her for various reasons—but sexual attraction has never been one of them!

 

Today, I’d happily go on that double date, knowing could have a good time. Because I am out, there is no pressure, and I do enjoy having a beautiful female (friend) on my arm. I can also look at a woman and feel drawn to her for various reasons—but sexual attraction has never been one of them!

“Have you asked God to make you attracted to women? Have you tried hard enough,” some people ‘ask’. I tell them to imagine living in a world that expects them to date/sleep with (or marry!) someone of their own gender. Some people refuse to contemplate such a scenario, arguing that “this is not natural, and God would never ask us to do that! Besides He never gives a commandment we can’t handle!” Other people accept the challenge and after just a minute conclude that (even with a good-looking person) it would be “mad” and “quite impossible.” A few people admit that, even if God asked them to, they just could never bring themselves to it. But this “mad” and “impossible” situation is the one that was expected of me.

For our double date we went to see Evita at the movie theater, (which I enjoyed) and then we went to some family restaurant (which I didn’t enjoy). Jason held hands with his date and started kissing her. I felt so out of place. So much so that I wanted to run away from the table, far from him and his girlfriend, far from my date, far from the restaurant full of LDS families, far from the LDS youth touching hands while eating ice cream. I felt so anxious. But there was nowhere to go.

I became introspective. In my head, I found a place where I didn’t feel as alone and so vulnerable. I went back to the mall where I met Bruce. I went back to his apartment. What happened in Texas should not have happened. But it brought me comfort. ³

 

I wanted to feel I was not alone with those homosexual feelings. I wanted to talk to someone who cared

 

“I have to make a phone call,” I announced and made for the pay phone at the glass front. I had no fear this time when I dialled the number written on the receipt Bruce gave me and that I carried everywhere like a talisman. I wanted to hear his voice. I needed to feel that I was not alone with those homosexual feelings. I wanted to talk to someone who cared (even though—although naïve—I knew he didn’t). I got no answers. I went back to the table and forced a smile. I checked the time. When would this double date end?

The next day, Shawn said the girl had a good time with me. “Did she?” If she did, I wonder about the kind of guys she met at her Singles ward. I’d been to one of those in San Antonio. There had been several flash floods, so the Texan returned missionary’s Dad told me to wait in the car to check the meeting was on. He disappeared inside the red brick building as a girl parked next to us. She did not see me but I watched her pull down the driving mirror and spend five minutes applying lipstick.

I suspected she was not there to worship the Lord but for the boys. I felt jealous. It was so unfair. She could come here, date and kiss, be loved by a hot returned missionary and remain ‘worthy’ (even if her faith was lukewarm). If she married the one she fantasised about, it would be ‘holy.’ Meanwhile, my faith was hot but I’d lose my Church membership—and be damned—if I did half of that. I understood the reasons why from a theological angle but it still seemed unfair. I was so consumed with that thought and the resulting anger that the Texan returned missionary’s Dad startled me when he opened the door and announced that the meeting was on.

Someone introduced me to Dustin, “a returned missionary who served in France and returned last August!” He was so handsome that I almost fell to the ground. He shook my hand and we spent Sunday School chatting discretely. I had judged the lipstick girl on the meetinghouse parking lot, but I was the same now! Here for the boy, not so much for God!

I spoke to several nice people after meetings ended, and when I looked behind me, there he was, with his handsome face, his gorgeous smile, short dark beard and bright blue eyes. My heart paced as he walked up to me. “Tu veux sortir vendredi soir,” he asked.

Yep, I got a date! Well, not exactly a date, but it felt just as good! On the following Friday night, my last night in San Antonio, Dustin picked me up in his van—too run down to be allowed inside the gated community. We drove Downtown, went for food by the beautiful Riverwalk, and after dinner we walked in the old streets that I loved. I saw the Alamo, all lit up, one last time, like I did on my first night there when Tori Amos was on the radio.

Dustin drove us out of town. We got on a country road and then, in the heat of the night, we walked up that hill he wanted to show me. It felt amazing to be with him, walking up slowly, close to him in the dark, together under the trees, underneath the bright stars above. Just me and him. Nothing else mattered now. Nothing more needed to happen to make that moment one I will never forget.

Because of the stars above, we started talking about infinity and about God. It was too warm out there, so we walked back downhill to the car and he turned the A/C on before we hit the road. What was that song on the radio? “Possession by Sarah McLachlan”, he said. I asked him to turn it up as we got on the Interstate. It was perfect. I didn’t want that night to ever end.

Dustin invited me to his place “to play pool” but I declined because I was so bad at it. Stupid me! I was such a shy guy and I couldn’t suggest anything else. I just said that I was leaving early for Dallas. There was nowhere else he could think of, so he drove me back. I felt sad. We got to the gated community. He stopped his white van there. He gave me his address, a hug and he said it was a shame we never got to meet before last weekend. How I agreed! I had spent most of my time alone.

20 years later I posted old pictures on Facebook to mark the 20th anniversary of my Texas internship and first visit to Utah. Sadly, I didn’t have any of Dustin. I tried to look him up on Facebook and there he was. And of the few pictures I could view there was one taken the summer we met. His profile said he was married a French girl. Maybe he met her at the Singles ward too.

I was jealous. It was irrational but I did. And I had a boyfriend, and we were on a nice holiday together in some exotic destination. Perhaps it was because I knew something was missing. And I guess that’s precisely what Singles wards are about: helping Mormons find a partner who shares their values, has common goals, who can pray and worship God with them. Maybe that’s what makes that ‘date’ with Dustin one of the best I’ve ever had.

 

Some names have been changed when authorisation was not or could not be granted.

 

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