Growing up gay and Mormon has been both confusing and difficult for me. I wrestled with two different parts of my identity that seemed incompatible. At a very young age - about six or seven - I remember feeling an attraction towards masculinity. This didn’t affect me much until I was twelve and that childish fascination turned into sexual attraction. My parents and brother found out that I was gay early on. I remember the horrible feeling of seeing my mom’s life filled with sleeplessness nights, tears and worry for her little boy. Through my teenage years, my mindset was that my sexuality was a trial of faith to overcome. I wished so desperately for some prayer I could say or some act of faith large enough to make it all go away.
At a low point, my dad shared Ether 12:27 from the Book of Mormon with me and it became my mantra. “And if men come unto [Christ], [He] will show unto them their weakness…If they humble themselves before [Him], and have faith in [Him], then will [He] make weak things become strong unto them.” I believed that my weakness was my sexuality and I hoped that one day the Lord would turn that weakness into a strength by allowing me to be sexually attracted to women. While I always maintained an outwardly positive attitude, the reality of my circumstances made me feel lonely and isolated. I watched as my friends and siblings dated, and I could not have felt more alone. My sexuality became something that I hated about myself. It was the impurity that had to be refined, the shaft of the wheat that had to be cast off.
In serving an LDS mission, I hoped that the sacrifice would finally be great enough to merit a miracle. Upon return to Ogden, I tried dating women more seriously and was only met with disappointment. I could not bring myself to feel an intimate attraction towards any of them and eventually gave up. I realized that this was more than a trial of my faith, it was a reality that would not change. For the following two years, I struggled with depression and anxiety. Thankfully, I never came to the point of self-harm because of the constant love and support of my family. I wanted a meaningful relationship with someone, and yet, I wanted so badly to not be gay. It was still a part of me that I could not accept.
Things began to change, however, over the course of many months and because of many talks with my parents, siblings, and friends. In February of this year, I decided to come out, understanding the sacrifice it would bring with my religion and many of my relationships. I believe that a young person identifying as LGBTQ sets them on a journey that envelops the whole family on a course to discover exactly what that means for both the individual but also the family as a unit. I am grateful that my family chose to make that difficult journey with me, and it has ultimately led us to be stronger and more united. My path is only bearable because I have them at my side.
As I move forward I am learning to accept my sexuality as an essential part of who I am, not because I chose it but because of circumstances I was not able to change. The term LGBTQ is no longer something for me to be ashamed and afraid of. Rather, it is a strength and requires courage and determination to live in society openly. I would like to add my voice to LGBTQ Mormons, post-Mormons, and those not affiliated with the LDS church who seek to draw attention to and find a solution for the serious problem of teen suicide in Utah. In order to move forward, religious leaders and the LGBTQ community must seek common ground and radically change how LGBTQ topics are addressed. I would hope that new generations will grow up understanding what it means to be LGBTQ, without feeling shame or feeling as though they have to hide it. Change is needed so that LGBTQ teens grow up with positive images of themselves and have supportive, loving networks. LGBTQ topics must not be taboo or pushed off the table, and the question of how we, as a community, may form a more supportive and accepting society must be sought.