“Son, I need to be honest with you. I know you’re making bad life decisions right now. And you know it too.”
“Do you not understand the gospel? Have you forgotten the covenants you made?”
“Frankly, I feel like I failed you as a parent. What did we do wrong?”
“I sure hope the mean things I said about gay people didn’t hurt you, I didn’t know YOU were gay.”
I remember the night I came out to my family. It was an emotional experience, but those painful few hours were nothing compared to the decade of denial and exhausting deceit I had endured up until then. For anyone consumed by the darkness of the closet, you know all too well what life is like inside.
I’m not sure if growing up in a small Idaho town as a gay male is harder or easier than it sounds, but I guess that’s a matter of perspective. If you’re from a small town (or any heavily influenced Mormon community), you already know.
If you’re not, it’s exactly what you think.
Every day was a battle against my self-hate and insecurity, a relentless quest for acceptance. Add to that the Mormon influence in all aspects of our lives and the situation is compounded. Family life, church life, friends all revolve around a central religion who is still to this day teaching that homosexuality is ugly and its participants are apostates and deviant.
Growing up gay and Mormon was hard. I struggled. I hated it. And if you’re going through that, I know how it feels. It hurts.
As I sit and write this now, it is probably the first time I’ve ever admitted this, but I frequently thought about what it would mean to end my own life in those days. I can’t believe that I was considering that option. How might I do it? Would it hurt? Would people call me selfish?
I don’t think about the dark times in my life much anymore. It seems like a lifetime ago. It does beg the question, what can we do better? How can we prevent others from venturing down this path? As a Mormon society, are we getting it right? Are you certain that what the prophets and apostles are teaching regarding sexuality and gender identity true and correct? Is the Latter-day Saint understanding of these topics the actual will of God?
For me, things started to change when I moved away to college. It took a couple years of self-exploration, sexual experimentation, and even a few visits to my school’s therapists before I couldn’t stand it anymore. I was ready to change. To start, I strategically picked a girl to come out to. I felt close to her and I thought her reaction (good or bad) wouldn’t impact me too much, she was kind of a trial run.
One night, while watching a movie at her place, I whispered to her, “I think I’m gay.” A remarkable thing happened: she hugged me. She still loved me.
I repeated this process over the course of the next year, though I admittedly avoided telling some people, like my fraternity brothers, for as long as possible. In the end, even they didn’t care though. Most of them said they already knew. I wasn’t making front-page news.
As easy as coming out had become, among my friends, I feared telling my family. I knew I needed to tell my family. Eventually the time came to tell my parents and I feared the worst. My father is a man’s man. He’s a former bishop, stake president and mission president. My mother is kind and meek. She believes in the Church. She holds doctrine above logic.
Reflecting on that evening, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t one of the most emotionally painful experiences of my life. It was hard for my family to hear what I had to say. Hard to hear me tell them something that contradicted everything they thought they knew about my life and their own. My parents tried to be empathetic, but they raised their gospel shields to defend their faith against my real experiences. They attempted to bear their testimonies. They accused me of falling for the lies of Satan and for allowing sin in infiltrate my life. For parents who claim to be Christlike, there was very little Christ in their actions.
I cried myself to sleep that night. In the morning though, my father hugged me and said he loved me, but that it would take time for everyone to settle down. They deserved that time and I needed it too. I gave my family the time they needed. I drove back home (to school) and allowed them the opportunity to mull over my revelation. I needed them to take the time to better understand and maybe even reevaluate their beliefs.
It seemed to work.
In the many months since I came out, we have healed and our relationships are all stronger today than I ever thought they could be. My parents are doing much better now and have taken a proactive role in better understanding the experiences of the LGBTQ+ community. They are consuming podcasts, stories, events and opportunities to consider the pain and successes of our LGBTQ+ family.
It’s hard. It hurts. I know. Growing up gay and Mormon pushed me to the limit – just close enough for me to look over the edge and into the abyss. But coming out also set me free – free to be my true, unlimited self and I’ve never looked back. As is the case with most of the many LGBTQ+ people I know, coming out allowed me to close a dark chapter in my life and begin a bright future, full of confidence, happiness, and the excitement of knowing that I was finally becoming the person I have always wanted to be.
I am fulfilling the measure of my creation. And for that, I am grateful.
We want to hear your story–here’s how to share it with us!
Each Sunday we feature a new Coming Out Story on the Latter Gay Stories blog. Coming out is an important process that is different for everyone; some experiences are difficult; while others are heart-warming and inspiring. Coming out is rarely easy–but your story will help others draw inspiration from your own experience. We rely on weekly submissions to keep the Coming Out Stories alive and invite you to share your story now.