My name is Isaac! I grew up in Blackfoot, ID where I have an awesome family and amazing friends. I would guess most people would look at my upbringing and say it was pretty good. School seemed to come easy enough. I made lots of friends and was liked by my teachers. I played sports and was on our high school soccer team. I obnoxiously cheered with other students at football games. I was in student government and a bunch of different clubs. I wrote HAGS (Have a great summer) on my friend’s yearbooks after seeing how many times we each showed up in them. Overall, high school was pretty enjoyable and I fit in well and was even respected by most of my peers. However, my life took a pretty drastic change shortly after graduating. Not that anyone outside of my own head would know it, but a confusing battle I didn’t even understand was occurring inside me. Shortly after graduation I began the long process of coming to terms with being gay.
I didn’t actually think I was gay for a long time. In fact, people would occasionally ask me if I was gay while I was growing up and I would respond with a certain, “No, I am not gay.” This would be followed by an awkward apology or joke to make the situation better. To those people who asked, I guess you knew before I did because I genuinely didn’t know I was gay at that time. I hear people say they knew form a young age they were “different.” I had no idea. I think I was Naïve about it and always pushed those feelings to some deep dark abysmal crevice in the back of my mind. I couldn’t come to terms with it. I just couldn’t. I ignored those feelings and pushed through life. After graduation I went to college at Brigham Young University, made lots of friends, and served a mission in Chile. I remember having a prompting and a thought about two months before I came home from Chile. It literally came out of nowhere. However, I heard a voice in my head say, “You will have to learn how to deal with these feelings.” I knew that prompting was addressing my attraction to men, but I still ignored it. Being gay was not going to fit into my life plan, so I figured I could work around it.
When I came back to BYU, I was convinced that I would find a girl and we would be married for time and all eternity. However, I quickly realized that dating was not fun. Especially when you go on group dates and you find yourself more attracted to the other guys in the group than your date. I still hadn’t consciously admitted to myself yet that I was gay. The day I knew I had to do something about all of this may seem insignificant, but it had a huge impact on me. It was the day I held open the door for some random guy who I thought was cute. I got butterflies in my stomach and felt a wave of dread come over me. I realized that these feelings I couldn’t just ignore or make go away anymore. They were constantly resurfacing. They came so naturally to me, whereas I never felt anything for the girls I was trying to date. I remember being devastated as I finally admitted to myself I was gay. I didn’t know what to think of myself. I didn’t know what to do. I was scared. I walked over to a computer in the library and sat down and stared at a blank monitor for 30 minutes trying not to mentally breakdown in public. I didn’t know how this would affect my life. I thought my family would still love me, but what if they didn’t. I hoped my friends would never find out because I felt like I was broken. I couldn’t comprehend how this would affect my life in the church. I didn’t know anything and I felt so alone because I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t want anyone to know. Outwardly I tried to exemplify a happy person. However, I struggled with self-confidence. I didn’t like who I was.
I didn’t want to be gay, but it was something out of my control. I pushed myself away from any real friendships with guys because I didn’t want them to find out and treat me differently. I thought if they “found out” I would be rejected. I felt so uncomfortable in my own skin. I definitely tried to avoid playing sports even though that was something I enjoyed in high school. I thought that because I was gay there was a certain life style that I had to live. I was completely overwhelmed and navigating these feelings by myself really affected me in a negative way. I didn’t know how to cope with my feelings in a healthy way and life became really hard and I needed help.
Fast forward a few years, I eventually got to a point where I had to get help or go insane trying to ignore my feelings. So I slowly started opening up to family, friends, priesthood leaders, and professional therapists. I also got on my knees every day and talked with God about it. I feel like my connection with God has grown so much over the past few years. I also have discovered a lot about myself and am happy to say I am in a much better place. Now, a lot of my family and friends either know or are finding out that I am gay. I have received so much love and support along the road. I do have to admit that there have been rough patches. I think culturally we live in a place where people have been taught to have a negative perspective towards the LGBT community. Conversations about being gay are avoided because people do not know what to say about it. While beginning conversations about my journey with different people, I often sensed internal conflict within myself and those who I communicated with. However, finding a safe place to express all of what was bottled up inside of me and a willingness for open-minded conversations with family, friends, priesthood leaders, professional therapists, and most importantly God have helped smooth out some of the roughness.
I would encourage anyone reading this who would like to learn more about the LGBT community to try and become informed by reaching out to someone and learning from them. I would love to be a resource for you. I do not claim any expertise at all in the subject because I am still learning, but I am approachable and can point you in a direction that may help you understand more about the LGBT community.
In the past I have to admit that I thought it was wrong to be involved in any way with the LGBT community. I remember being surprised while attending a BYU ethics class when a student broached the subject of attending his gay friend’s wedding. The professor asked what the dilemma was. The student didn’t know if attending his friend’s wedding was inappropriate because of the doctrine of the church. The professor then responded something like, “Of course, you would go. Why wouldn’t you support a friend making an important life step?” I soon realized that the LGBT community should not be a them vs us mentality.
One of my toughest personal challenges is finding where I exist with my spirituality and sexuality. I feel like I have a them vs us complex living inside me. However, I actually have made some headway. I still actively go to church. I also have started dating men. Finding a balance with my beliefs and sexuality has been one of the most difficult challenges of my life. It continues to be difficult, but I finally feel like I can breathe. I do not propose the path I have chosen to be the right path for others. I also do not propose that my decisions do not have consequences. The first question people like to ask me when they know I am gay is, “How do you feel about the church?” Some may see my decision as lukewarm, but I am just honestly doing the best I can. Yes, I have started dating men, but I also strive to be a disciple of Christ and do good in the world. I hope people can see that, but at least I am confident that God knows who I am.
Earlier I mentioned that some of my conversations were a little “rough,” but in my prayers I have never felt a diminished amount of love from God nor condemnation. I have also felt compassion and understanding. I don’t know how my journey will end, but I am confident it will work out because that has been my answer to prayer over and over again. You don’t have to take my word for it. I would encourage you to start thinking and praying about LGBT needs and see where it leads you.
For the longest time, I was so terrified of people finding out that I was gay. I didn’t want to be rejected by the people and community I love. However, I should have been more afraid of how much I rejected myself. I put so much unnecessary pressure on myself. Now, I am at a much better place. I no longer shame myself. I am happy with who I am and who I am becoming. I feel hope for my future, which is very new feeling for me. The idea of living a long life used to be a burden to be carried, but now I am excited for a very long life. I hope those who are struggling can find a safe place and those who struggle to understand can learn to create a safe place. I like the concept of learning to love better because this is a two-way street. We all need to love better. We are all children of God and regardless of our personal beliefs we are invited to love, so why not learn to love better?
Want to read another story like this one?
CLICK HERE for more!
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.