How many times have we looked back into our past and wanted a do-over? For me, one big event that I want to do-over is the coming out process. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to un-do my coming out, I just should have done it sooner.
Let me back up.
Growing up as a Latter-day Saint is exactly what you think it was. Our home was not an open place to talk about feelings, sex, or anything that made my parents feel uncomfortable. We were raised with the belief that talking about difficult or taboo subjects would invite Satan into our homes to corrupt us. Yeah, we were those Mormons.
I was raised to believe I was something that I was not. I tried really really hard to not be gay, but I was, and I had no one to speak to about it. I found two places I could discuss my sexuality: God and the Internet. In my daily discussions with God, I begged him to make me feel normal. I made deals that included me trading exact obedience and church service with heterosexuality. Here are examples of the many pacts I made with God: I will go to Church, serve a mission, get married in the temple and have kids…just make me straight. God was usually pretty silent when I spoke. And He was terrible at following through with our deal. But I (and a host of Church leaders felt like this was a good plan.)
I will get back to God in a second.
The internet was the most helpful real-time resource I could find. If my parents and church leaders didn’t want to discuss my reality, then I could easily find other people who would. So I joined a few online groups and got into some chatrooms that allowed me to speak openly about my “trials.” Some of the groups were religious in nature and others were pretty worldly. I quickly learned that the LDS focused groups were a mess. The people in those groups were willing to acknowledge my same-sex attraction, but they were convinced that being gay was just a mortal trial or something that would be fixed after this life. They were just like my parents: desperate to run away from the truth in an effort to not have to make any acknowledgements. If you just hide it, or push it away you don’t have to agree that it exists. This is so unhealthy, but common in Mormonism.
For the record: private chatrooms and anonymous internet profiles are not the best places to navigate this discussion.
I did what I was told. I went on a mission. I came home honorably, and made the heartwrenching and confusing decision to date women. I had no attraction at all to women, but I needed to keep my end of the bargain. Eventually, I met a woman who I would later marry in the St. George Utah temple. My wife was my best friend, but there a very limited connection. I never told her of my attractions, because she never asked (see, this is what being raised Mormon will do to you.)
After 21 months of marriage, we decided to divorce. I couldn’t create a connection to her that felt genuine and honest. I wanted to tell her I was gay, but why bring it up if God promised to take it all away from me? Wouldn’t that be a stain on our relationship to bring up something that was just going to go away? And after 21 months of hurting her, telling her I was gay would just add fuel to that fire. We divorced on grounds that we couldn’t connect. That was it. I was once again broken.
After our divorce I wanted to publicly come out. So much of my heart yearned for the chance to be free from the shackles. It doesn’t take long for Mormon Brain in kick in and whisper, “wait, did you do EVERYTHING possible to make myself straight?” The more I thought of it, Mormon Brain could be right! Maybe I wasn’t a good enough Latter-day Saint. I know I could pray more fervently. It was possible that I could attend my church meetings with more of the spirit. I could fulfill my callings more diligently. The more I thought of it, the more my Mormon brain convinced me that God was still holding up his end of the bargain, but it was I that was failing. I was the one that wasn’t doing everything with exactness.
So, against my best judgment, I married another woman. Maybe my first wife was just the wrong fit, right? It’s possible, perhaps? The cycle started all over again. The results were the same.
Let me get to the point.
I am gay, and if you are reading this, you or someone you know is gay, too.
That gayness doesn’t go away. No amount of hiding it, non-discussion, marriage, prayer, or church service will change the fact that you are gay. None. Ever.
I married and divorced two women in an effort to change who I was. I hurt them. I hurt myself in the process. I spent a lot of my time trying to please a bishop, or my parents and never a desire to please myself or honor the God who created me.
Don’t wait to come out. I waited 31 years to finally say the words out loud and to finally say those words to other people besides myself. I lost two decades of life, and I lost love. Today, I am the happiest I have ever been. I came out. I live a quiet and healthy life with my partner and our dog. We love each other with a pure love. Our families are supportive and there is no longer a need to run away from who I am.
What in life could I do-over? Come out sooner, because my life is pretty amazing.
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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.
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