My name is Johnny Barfuss. I am a quilter and artist living in Salt Lake City. I grew up in Bountiful, Utah aka. the land Zion. I always knew that I was different from other kids, but never labeled myself as “gay”. I remember having crushes on the cute boys in elementary school and wishing that kissing tag meant kissing boys instead of girls. I just always remember liking boys instead of girls. But, growing up I didn’t associate myself with the word gay, because my Mom hated gay people. My sister’s best friend from high school was gay – and i remember her saying just horrible things about him – like we couldn’t shop at his store, because that would be supporting gay people. When Ellen Degeneres came out my Mom called her Ellen “degenerate.” So, I couldn’t possible be gay. My Mom hated gay people so much – so either I wasn’t gay or she hated me – that was the only way I could see it. So, my earliest memories of coming to terms with who I am were based in shame and self-hatred.
I “came out” when I was about 27, which I call the “church” coming out… meaning, I told my friends and family that I “have these feelings, but i’m going to fight it.” etc. etc. The Evergreen coming out. I was in and out of Church disciplinary councils since a few years after my mission for different things, but I remained active in the church. I once had someone tell me that I was more active than many members of the church. I had a really hard time just leaving the church, like I saw so many others do. I really loved the church. In 2008 – when the Prop. 8 thing was going on, I was really bothered by the way the church was handling things. I couldn’t understand why there were phone call parties organized in Utah to call people in California and tell them how to vote. I was about 35 at the time. I was studying Interior design at Weber State. I had friends who i could just “be” myself around. I get really excited about things like fabrics and colors. I remember in the spring time everyone in church was wearing their Easter best and I was telling people how much I loved their ties or their skirts… and I had someone in Elder’s Quorum give me a look like: calm it down. I realized that it wasn’t ok for me to be ME inside the culture of the church.
So, I sold everything I owned and moved to Colorado to go to school. It was then that I really came out and could say the words; I’m gay. I pretty much left the church at that time. My feelings of trying to fit in the church’s mold were shame and self-hatred. I finally grew tired of hating myself and hating who I am.
I thought of returning to the church a few years ago. I attended a great single’s ward. But the options for being in the church as I see it, aren’t all that great. I have a big heart and a lot of love to give. I don’t believe that a Loving Heavenly Father would create his Children to be gay, and then command them to live alone for the rest of their lives. I have two things that I believe in. Men are that they might have joy, and It is not good for man to be alone. I personally find great joy in loving others, and i can’t imagine living the rest of my life alone.
I never even dreamed of marrying a man and having a family with a husband because it was just not even a possibility. Since the marriage laws have changed and I’ve seen my best friends get married, It’s given me hope that I too can have that.
I think the biggest thing that members of the Church can do is to just try to show unconditional love to anyone and everyone. I know now that if I wanted to attend church in my old ward, I would be gladly welcome there.
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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.