My name is Jordan—I work as the Chief Programming Officer at Encircle. I truly believe that everyone’s story is equally as important and equally as true, and I admire everyone for being willing to listen and to share this experience with me. What I am going to talk about and share with you is from my own perspective and it is my own truth. It’s a part of me that most people don’t know the full extent of. I am going to be vulnerable about that part of me today, and I think that it will be worth it.
I was born and raised in Las Vegas. My parents divorced before I was born, and I spent the majority of my time growing up with my mom—and she was my best friend. I loved spending time with her more than anyone else. If I could choose between hanging out with friends or going to dinner with my mom, it would be my mom every time. She was the most incredible woman I had ever seen—she worked tirelessly as a single mom to give me a life full of opportunities and privilege that I didn’t even realize that I had growing up. She motivated me to become a successful, hard-working, independent young woman. She raised me in the LDS church and taught me valuable life lessons about Christ and about His love for me. And on top of everything, she was a blast to be around. She taught me how to waterski, she loves ziplining—she was just incredible. Right after I graduated from high school, she was called to be the Beehives teacher in Young Women’s, and every Sunday after sacrament meeting would end, all of the beehives would just run to her—she exuded this love and this grace, and people just wanted to exist in the same space as her. We were really close for pretty much my whole life.
I was 21 when I really came to terms with my sexuality and who I was. When I came out to my mom, I have to admit that I wasn’t in the best place. I was on a string of highs and lows, and I had never felt so depressed and so alone. Even when people tried to be there for me, I pushed them away. I felt worthless. When I told my mom, her response wasn’t one of disbelief—she actually wasn’t surprised at all, and after she told me that, the conversation just ended. After I hung up the phone, I just remember sitting on the floor crying for hours. I look back at that moment and see how desperately I wanted my mom to just tell me that she loved me no matter what. That we were going to figure this out together. That she was there for me. That she would always be there for me.
I realize that that my mom had her own process she needed to go through, and I don’t blame her for not giving me the perfect response. However, nearly 3 years later as I stand in front of you today, I still long to hear those words from her.
After having multiple heated and tearful conversations with my mom about my sexuality, my religion, and what my future would look like, I think I just hit a breaking point. I had never felt so rejected. My mom was my best friend. I needed her. I needed her unconditional love. And I don’t feel like she gave that to me.
During my coming out process and sort of figuring out who I was and who I wanted to be, I wrote my mom letters, letters that I never gave her and still have yet to give her, but the letters just gave me the space to tell her how I was feeling without actually telling her and risking receiving that feeling of rejection that I had felt so many times. I’d like to read you a part of what I wrote from a couple years ago. I think it’s the best way to really describe what I was feeling and what I needed from her.
I wrote this letter to her on February 17, 2016. I had come out to her November of 2015 so it had been a few months since everything came out and I had just recently started dating my now wife, Aimee.
Something happens every single day that I want to tell you, that I want to talk to you about. Most of the time though, I feel like I can’t tell you. Not because I don’t want to, but because I know you don’t want to hear it. I hope someday that you do want to listen to me, that you want to know about my life and the happy parts of it. Today is a really good day. Aimee and I went and drank hot chocolate and watched our favorite TV show. It’s pretty incredible how loved and cared about she makes me feel. I feel like I don’t have to do things to constantly impress her, to make her proud, to show her how capable I am in school or at work. I’m enough for her. Just me. Alone. Without anything else. I’ve never known what that’s like before. I wish I could call and tell you more about what that feels like.
You’ve made it clear that you don’t feel as if you know me anymore, which brings tears to my eyes and a knife to my stomach. I’ve always been me, Mom, and I always will be. I’ve been through things that have shaped me into the person I am and the person I have yet to become, but those things have not nor will not change who I am at my core as a human being. I’ll always be your daughter. I’ll always love your cheesecake and hate vegetables. I’ll always cry in frustration when I can’t master a skill in less than an hour. I’ll always be motivated, hard-working, and dedicated. I’ll always be bad at taking out the trash and cleaning up my room. I’ll always get overly emotional when I have to make big decisions. I’ll always have my same sense of humor. I’ll always be me. Always. I hope more than anything that you see that one day. I love you.
Sometimes, I still write letters like this. Sometimes, my letters consist of what I did that day or what I feel grateful for, or what I miss about being home. I imagine what it might be like to be able to have these conversations with my mom one day in person, and I just can’t help but long for that day.
Part of the reason my mom and I were having such a hard time was because of my decision to step away from the church, as well as my decision to marry my now wife. I understand why my mom was hurting. I don’t hate her for that. I only wish that I felt like I had a space to be myself and like who I was was still important and of value to her.
The church has caused me a lot of pain, but I don’t hate it. And I don’t hate the people in it. Many of my closest friends and family members are extremely active, and it really isn’t a problem for me. Because I was raised in the church, my life and my values are very similar to my active friends’ and family members. I dream of having a family with my wife. I value authenticity, service, love, and compassion—all things that I was taught were important and Christ-like in this faith.
Many assume that since I have left the church, I don’t miss it. And that it was the easy thing to do. For me, it was the opposite. There are a number of things I miss about having the church in my life, and having a sense of belonging and community is near the top of that list.
One summer while I was at BYU, I went by myself to Italy for an internship. I was terrified. I barely spoke the language and didn’t know anyone going, but I did have this: I knew there was a ward down the street from where I was going to be living. And I knew that all I had to do was get there. I knew that if I could just get there that they would make sure that I felt safe, seen, embraced, and loved. And that is exactly what happened. They gave me that community and that sense of belonging that I had at home, and it made me feel so good. I miss that.
Until my wife and I found Encircle, we didn’t really have that same community, and we both missed it. We are currently building a home together in American Fork and we frequently discuss how nervous we are that our neighbors will be uninterested in being our friends or that they will be judgmental towards us. Having this large community of people that you know care about you and your well-being and want to know about your life—it gives human beings a sense of belonging, one that Aimee and I both dearly miss. It’s one that I long for within the church and within my own family.
When I go home to visit my mom and her side of the family, my wife is unwelcome. I go home without the single most important person in my life. I go home knowing that not one person in my family will ask how I am doing. Or how my wife is doing. I go home knowing that who I am as human being is someone that my mom thinks is gross, sinful, and wrong. If I want to see my mom and my little sister on Christmas day, I am forced to choose between seeing them and abandoning my own wife, or not being with my family at all. What kind of choice is that?
When I married Aimee, I felt like I was choosing to live my truth. 100% Jordan. For me, I had to do it. It felt right. I couldn’t lie about that. I knew what that would mean though. I felt like I had to choose between making my mom proud and feeling her love by being someone I wasn’t and potentially being miserable and suicidal forever, or potentially losing my mom forever and marrying the love of my life. Please don’t make your LGBTQ brothers and sisters choose. It leads to unbearable heartbreak. Unnecessary heartbreak.
As Dieter F. Uchtdorf says, “love is the healing balm that repairs rifts in personal and family relationships. It is the bond that unites families, communities, and nations.”
I dream of the day that I can sit down at a Sunday dinner with my wife and my mom. I dream of the day where we can sit, and laugh, and play games, and joke. I dream of the day when my wife will finally be able to meet my little sister whom she has heard so much about, and come see the home that I grew up in. I’ve had really incredible people fall into my life, my wife’s family included, and I am incredibly grateful for them. They have shown me what unconditional love and acceptance looks like. But, those people will never replace my mom. They will never replace that person that I desperately needed during the lowest points of my life, that every child wants. And they will never replace the person I still long for. As Boyd K Packer has stated, “family is the source of human happiness.”
I want to close with another part of a letter I wrote to my mom. I wrote this in November of 2016, so it had been almost a year since I had come out to my mom.
I hope you know that I still look up to you. You are one of the most incredible women I have ever met. I will always think that of you. I hope one day you realize that you never really know a person until you consider things from their point of view, until you crawl inside of their skin and walk around in it. I know this has been incredibly difficult for you, and I don’t take that lightly. Just know that I am still me. Only now, I am all of me. I am learning to embrace who I am more and more everyday, even though I know it pushes you farther and farther away from me. Living our truths is the best part of living once we realize what that truth is. I love you.
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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.