My name is Amy, though I often go by Ames. I grew up in Utah and spent my childhood climbing trees, playing basketball and soccer, pretending I was Han Solo or Luke Skywalker, and wanting shoes from the boys section.
I still occasionally do some of those things.
I was about 12 or 13 when I realized I was different from the other kids my age. I didn’t have the words, but I somehow knew I wasn’t the same.
I had the briefest moment at 19 when I thought being gay could be what was “wrong” with me, but I didn’t want to open that door. I’m not sure where it came from but I thought that if I was gay, I would lose my family, I was a horrible person, and I would never be forgiven. None of that sounded like fun, so I buried the thought and tried to carry on.
I was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but church was a tricky thing for me. Besides the fact that I hate dresses and skirts and can’t walk in shoes with any sort of elevation, I didn’t feel spiritual things when I was there.
I thought I must be doing something wrong, even though I was trying to follow the road laid out for me by my religion. I had some other issues going on with my mental health, but my lack of spiritual feeling made it far too easy to believe that whatever was wrong with me had pushed me beyond the reach of God’s Spirit and love.
Since church was more of a stressful experience than a helpful one, I eventually stopped going. It was a tough decision to stay home on Sundays, mostly because I’m such a people pleaser, but it was the first of many difficult decisions that helped me turn my life into something I wanted to keep. Being away from church also gave me the space I needed to finally admit that I’m gay.
I took my coming out process very slowly, probably because the Prop 8 campaign was going on at the time (procrastination for the win). It wasn’t easy, but finally acknowledging this piece of myself helped bring the rest of my life into focus. Over the next few years, I went back to school and earned my degree, married my wonderful wife, and started a new career. My relationships with religion and spiritual things remained complicated, but manageable.
But that completely changed in November 2015 when the exclusionary policy was leaked.
I was devastated. I still considered myself to be LDS and now my church was calling me an apostate. The implications and connotation of that word played directly into my long-held beliefs that my soul was beyond redemption. It hurt much more than I expected, I was angry, and I wished I had never been a Mormon. It was a really difficult place for me.
A few short months later, I had a friend who unfortunately ended his life. He wasn’t gay or LDS but the religion he was raised in contributed to his pain. I love him and I wish his situation could have been different – and I didn’t want to hold on to the same enduring pain around religion.
At the same time, a very dear friend of mine was finishing up her first year of choir school and soon began singing with the Tabernacle Choir. I had this thought come to me that maybe I should watch the Choir’s weekly broadcast (Music & the Spoken Word) to help me work through some of my feelings.
The idea was a bit strange but I’ve always known that music is good for me, and this had the added benefit of supporting my friend in doing something she loved.
It turned into so much more than I expected. During one of the first times I watched, out of nowhere, I was given the most sacred experience I’ve ever known. I don’t know if God was making up for lost time or if this was always how it was supposed to happen, but I was completely unprepared. My exact response was a stunned “whoa” and to burst into tears.
What I felt didn’t match up at all with my perception of God. I had believed for so long that He didn’t want me or anything to do with me. When I shared what had happened with my friend, she said that she thought it meant God loved me, and He wanted me to know He loved me.
I didn’t believe her. I didn’t know how.
Since then though, she has shared her Choir experience with me and we’ve both been blessed. I’m not sure she would have auditioned if she knew beforehand how much feeling the Spirit could freak me out at times, but she’s the friend I wish every non-traditional and/or gay Mormon had. She’s not afraid to walk with me. She lets me question everything without making me feel faithless. She’s always given me guidance without judgment. She’s an amazing example of Christ-like love and the faith I hope to one day have. We learn from each other because we see our differences as a good thing. And because of that, I now know that she was right…God does love me, and He always has.
Now that the Policy has been changed is just another reminder that this path comes with tricky moments. I think faith is a road that looks different for everyone and mine feels a little fragile right now. But even when it seems like I’m falling, I can’t deny that I’ve been guided to where I am today and I have to trust that I won’t be left to walk alone…even if I’m wearing shoes from the boys section.
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This In My Own Words story is a contribution from Let’s Love Better, a Facebook group dedicated to helping people learn to better share love, while fostering an atmosphere of understanding. When we know better, we do better.