Hey everyone, my name’s Brad. I’m a Utah native, but much of the past decade has been spent living outside of the Jello Belt. I lived in the DC area for four years and South Korea for another four years. As happy as I am to be back in Utah, I am truly grateful that I was able to spend some time away. I love random road trips, hiking in the summer, and hibernating in the winter.
At the time of this writing, I’m 33. Though I’ve known I was gay for a long time – I remember having romantic feelings for a certain male, simian video game character when I was 9 – I didn’t tell anyone till I was 18. Even then, it was spoken in the form of, “I think I might be gay.” For the next 7 years, I convinced myself that I was a late bloomer, that liking girls was a skill I’d have to learn/earn. At age 25, I started to accept that being gay was a part of me. For ANOTHER 7 years (I’m a bit stubborn), I figured that I’d either stay celibate or that I’d experience some sort of physiological El Niño. Neither happened. At age 32, I went on a date with a guy for the first time. Felt feelings. Suddenly, the celibate/”maybe-something-will-change” options seemed like they weren’t the only options for me.
Growing up, never at any point did my parents indicate that they would have been ashamed if I came out. But I didn’t for a long time; in my own mind, since there were several challenges that my siblings dealt with, the self-narrative was this: it was up to me to do everything “right.” When I finally told my mom (at age 25), my biggest worry was that I was depriving her of the chance to be a grandmother, because she’d be a bomb granny; at the time, I wasn’t thinking of all the ways children could be part of my life. She assured me that she just wanted me to be happy.
It definitely took me time to be open to people at church about my sexuality. When I was younger, I do remember worrying about being ostracized, but by the time I finally started being more open with being out, many of the people I told were in my branch in Korea. I felt very close with them, and at that point (age 32), if anyone had any negative feedback for me, I frankly didn’t care.
I haven’t been to church in several months. There’s plenty that I struggle with. Something interesting happened during my first date with a guy; though it was just dinner, it was also the first time in a long time that I experienced a surge in libido. Almost simultaneously, something else happened; if my testimony was like the framework of a house, then the libido surge I experienced was like an earthquake. Several timbers fell. Some were demolished. It would take too much time to explain (and I’ve probably been droning for long enough ?), but suffice it to say that it made me reexamine my belief system more critically. I decided that I am capable of making good decisions and being a decent (albeit imperfect) human being independent of a religious institution.
This said, I do not regret my years of activity in the church. I was able to serve a mission in Hawaii and get some incredible cultural exposure. I made friends and connections that have been invaluable. I took part in service opportunities, and I was put in roles that stretched me and taught me about myself. I appreciate those experiences while still acknowledging that I can serve and grow without needing to be active in church.
Regarding my experiences in coming out to others, I often say that I’ve won the lottery. Several of my friends (active LDS, inactive LDS, never-even-close-to-LDS) have become closer friends as I’ve shared this part of my life with them. I’ve received very little in terms of outright judgment and criticism. In fact, it has opened doors for many of my friends to be open about things that are near and dear to them, and I love that it’s brought many of my friends and me closer.
A relevant note here: Everyone who comes out deserves the same amount of love that I’ve received, in my opinion, and it really throws me off when I hear about people being rejected or second-guessed by their communities.
Another thing that I think is important: I don’t believe that believing the experiences of LGBT people should negate from the faith of anyone. What I DO hope happens is a shift in dialogue in religious settings. For example, I would love a world in which youth advisors, while teaching lessons about dating, mention that some people may be attracted to the same sex or may have a different experience than the norm…acknowledgement, in other words. And an expression of love to those (and all) youth. I don’t think anyone would be harmed in this scenario; on the other hand, a life (or lives) may be saved.
Life is a collection of snapshots, and I realize that those images change overtime, sometimes subtly, sometimes drastically. Thanks for reading through this snapshot of me at this particular moment.
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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.