My name is Rachel Arteta, but I go by Arty in most spaces. I’m currently in school working on my Family Sciences degree in hopes to move on to be a LMFT. My favorite thing to do is sit around a table with friends or even someone new and have a bite to eat and just talk. I like to hear people’s stories and learn what makes them tick.
I came out to everyone on Facebook on November 20th, 2016; I was 24. At that point I felt that many people already knew or had their suspicions. I found out that I was gay when I was 18. I say found out because I had led a pretty sheltered life I guess and thought ‘gay’ was only something men did. After talking to some work friends and opening up to them about my feelings around certain things I discovered that I was in fact, gay. As soon as I had put a name to it there was almost a rush of relief mixed with terror and a sudden realization of all the things I thought were strange about myself but now made sense. I could recognize the beginnings of those feelings in 5th grade, but could see the differences in me even before then.
I had wanted to serve a mission ever since I was a little girl in primary. So when I realized that I was gay, I was worried and I fought it with all that I was. I kept it to myself for a little over a year, but then the announcement came out that the ages for missionaries to start was lowered. When I went to tell my bishop about wanting to serve a mission, I told him that I was gay as well. It was the hardest thing for me to say out loud and I didn’t have any plans to do so again, because I hated this part of me. When I got home though, I couldn’t contain myself. It was as though God needed me to tell my parents right then, so I did. At the time I told them I would fight it forever and that all I knew about it was that I didn’t choose to be that way. Anyway, longer story short, I ended up taking almost 7 years to be completely ok with who I was and who I loved.
My journey with the church is still one in progress. I started out staying active despite everything fighting against me, but when I realized that I was going to be excommunicated for what was deemed apostasy, my testimony crumbled. I’ve been working hard to rebuild it, because I still believe in the gospel. I love the members who started off with certain opinions but were willing to learn and love. I love the members who might still hold certain beliefs opposite of mine, but still treat me with love, dignity, and respect. That is what it means to be Christlike. I love the hymns that have brought peace to my heavy soul on many occasions. I love how the church, ideally, has a place for everyone. Yet, I struggle with the policies of the Church. They truly hurt me to my core. I was an active member, a tithe and offerings payer, a follower of commandments and statutes. Except that I loved a woman. If she had been a male I would have been an active temple attender. But the policy says I am an apostate, and that if I were to have children, they could not enjoy the blessings of the Holy Ghost or true fellowship of the church. I struggle listening to general conference anymore as some of the men called to lead the church continue to say hurtful and what sometimes feels like hateful things about me and people like me. I struggle with the idea that despite my testimony and my deep-rooted love of the Savior, I can’t share my testimony, thoughts, or experiences in church settings because I am marked as an apostate.
I need people to know that I love my God, and that I still want nothing more than to serve Him. I need people to know that I am the same person in value and worthiness as I was before they knew I was gay. The only things that have changed are that I am stronger, I have more faith and hope, and I feel more whole than I have ever felt. And finally, I would hope people could know that I still have things that I can add to the community of the church, that I can help build the kingdom, and I feel that God would want that for me, too.
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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.