Hi! My name is Christian Toelupe (Toy-Loop-“A”). I’m half Samoan and half Caucasian. I was born and raised in Utah. I’m the oldest of 4 boys – 2 queens, and 2 straights. I was raised in Payson, graduated from High School in 2015, and am now currently enrolled at the University of Utah studying Clinical Social Work. I also do a lot of music as a hobby… check me out! Search “O Le Miti”.
I grew up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was born under the covenant, went to church for the longest time, went to seminary, graduated from seminary, I even served a mission! #PCEM (Philippines Cebu East Mission) Serving a mission part was 100% my choice, no force from my parents. I served an honorable, full 2 year mission from 2015 to 2017. Since the beginning of the year 2018, I stopped going church. Why?
SO I’M GAY!!! I’ve known since I was very, VERY young that I was attracted to boys, I just didn’t have a word for it – I did in the 3rd grade when a classmate introduced the word “gay” to me. I grew up very queer, my parents could see it, my whole family could see it… so it obviously was no secret. OBVIOUSLY. However, just because of the climate from where I’m from, and due to how media portrays how LGBTQIA people are treated, I stayed in the closet for the longest time, pretended to have crushes on girls, courted girls, went to the dances with girls, my dates’ mothers even told my mom how much their daughters enjoyed going out with me. Aside from being an amazing, fun date, it was really hard being gay AND playing the straight-boy, faithful member of the church.
Growing up, especially in the church’s young men’s program was especially tough. Lessons on the Law of Chastity, lessons on marriage, comments made in church concerning LGBTQIA issues, all of these things were really hard to take in Sunday, after Sunday. There was an instance where one of my young men’s leader expressed how he has a friend who’s a guy, and was sexually abused by another guy. He said that the abuse confused his friend and now his friend thinks he’s gay. Not to get personal (or to have you sympathize, I’m past this now) I myself am a survivor of sexual abuse, so hearing this at like age 16, 17, I began to question, “Am I gay because of what happened to me? That’s what people are saying… I HATE MYSELF! I HATE MY PERPRETATOR! IT’S HIS FAULT I’M GAY!”
I tried to so hard to change my sexual orientation. I went through my own means of “conversion therapy”, and this took many forms including “pray the gay away” – I even fasted, asking specifically to have the attractions taken away. Nothing! Finally, I came out to my parents both within a week of each other, a week before Father’s Day actually, 2014. I had a good discussion with my mom – she’s bomb by the way. We talked about it and she very kindly said, “Honey, you’ve been very gay before the abuse happened.”
This was a crucial pivotal moment in my life. Why? The ONLY reason why I could not accept my attractions was because I attached what my young men’s leader had said about sexual abuse to being gay. After my mom said this, I was able to let go and accept my sexual orientation. However, this still didn’t answer my question. Why am I gay? If my sexuality is NOT caused by the abuse, then why am I gay? After talking with my mom about it, praying for a long time about it, I had an “Ah-ha!” moment on my mission. If you can recall the hymn, I am a Child of God, that is what answered my prayers. I am a beautiful child of God. I am not of Satan, as many members and leaders have tried to explain to me for a long while. God is my creator – eternal truth.
Back to me coming out to my parents, it was after that, that I decided to serve a mission – best decision ever, one of the more difficult things I’ve done in my life, however it was also the most rewarding thing ever. I had about the same experience as many of the returned missionaries you’ve met, however the only thing that makes my story unique is that I’m gay! Yes, this changes the story a lot. Let me explain why.
While on my mission, I faced much opposition, as do many missionaries, however my opposition was different. I’ve mentioned before that my queerness is pretty obvious, it was just as obvious as I was serving. I had many companions approach me about me being too feminine. I was told, “Elder, don’t cross your legs. Elder, cut down on the singing. Elder, is there a reason why you talk so high? Is it natural?” One of my companions thought it would be helpful during companionship inventory to mirror me, act like me, and show me what it’s like to interact with me. Long story short, I got offended, and was hurt.
On the flip side, I had two companions who I was completely open and honest with, my follow up trainer (also a former Assistant to President), and my first junior companion (also my batch from Manila MTC). My follow up trainer encouraged me to sing to everyone, and would lecture me on the consequences of what would happen if I didn’t sing, “Elder, do you remember the parable of the ten talents?” he also said, “When people reject us, you’re going to sing.” I kid you not, there was not one day I didn’t sing at least 10 times for people. My junior companion, he would purposely take me to the queer less active members, and the queer investigators he had found. When I asked him why he said, “You’re the only one who can relate to them. I know the other elders, they will not teach them. But with you, yeah, we’ll teach them.” As cheeky as that sounds, it was the sweetest thing I had the honor of witnessing by a cis-gendered heterosexual elder. Many transfers later, we met back up and that same elder made me dinner and gave me NUTELLA! He even asked me how I was doing and listened to me as I expressed the struggles I was facing as a queer missionary. Elder Ymas, if you’re reading this, thank you so much! Gihigugma tika!
Fast forward a little, my mission came to an end, and that was a struggle. When I stepped out of my mission president’s vehicle at the airport in Lapu-Lapu, I cried. The crying was purely out of fear, “What am I going to do when I get home?” thank goodness each airplane had Disney movies and Diet Coke, lots of time to contemplate. Should I marry a woman in the temple? Should I stay active in the church and stay single? Should I live my life and share it with a man? I’ve been approached by many members, and most of the advice on what I should do sound very similar. “Well, maybe if you pray harder you won’t be gay anymore.” “If you marry girl in the temple, God will bless you!” “The scriptures are clear. God said ‘Adam and Eve’, not ‘Adam and Steve’.” “You can do this! It’s not hard! God will reward you!” After experiencing enough anxiety, I’ve realized none of these things are helpful. Praying the gay away is not effective. Marrying a girl will not be fair to her, nor me, and we both deserve to be loved. Also, man is not meant to be alone. I want to help explain what it feels like to be gay and hear all these things. It is very difficult to take in. So, just take a little moment to think hypothetically with me.
Let’s turn the table. Say Adam did meet Steve, you’re heterosexual, and you walked around believing God hates you because you are straight and want to be with someone of the opposite sex? Would you still believe? Could you stand going to Elder’s Quorum, Relief Society, Sunday school, INSTITUTE as a single adult? Could you sit and listen to lessons about the Law of Chastity, Eternal Marriage, the Three Kingdoms, hear the passive-aggressive comments made from your peers, and not have anxiety, not hate yourself, not be angry with God? You walk a mile in these shoes say you could do all this without the anxiety, without the depression, without the suicidal thoughts. (I’ve never struggled with depression or suicidal thoughts, but I’ve many close to me that have, so I felt obliged to include those two factors. I do struggle with anxiety.)
The reality is that Adam did meet Eve, I am gay, and I still believe in God and Jesus Christ. I have gone through enough torture. Before my mission, I courted girls and felt very uncomfortable; during my mission, I was an equal to my fellow missionaries because we were all required to lock our hearts; I came home, and was reminded very quickly that I am not an equal, that I cannot do the same things as my fellow brothers and sisters. I could either pretend to be straight and hate myself for all eternity, stay single and live a lonely life, or leave and be my own authentic person. Many of my hetero, anti LGBTQIA peers, both young and old, have shared their opinions and solutions with me to the point where I’ve had enough anxiety attacks. I’ve heard it all, and I’ve had enough. That’s why I left.
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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.