Talofa! My name is LeGrande Lolo. I’m Samoan. I love music and dancing so much, which is why I’m majoring in it. Fantasy books, writing and binge watching TV shows are addictions I don’t hide. Clothes are my obsession, friends and family are my life and food eating with napping is the greatest pastime. Art of any kind is greatly appreciated by this boy!
I first came to the realization that I was attracted to men when I was 15. Up until then I had been in heavy denial to the extent that I couldn’t even fully discern what i was feeling. I distinctly remember crying unsure of what this meant for me. I initially thought I was bisexual. But a few years later I “re-came out” as gay, I just wasn’t really attracted to girls in a physical manner at all.
I like to say that the world knew i was gay before I did and I was extremely bitter about that fact. From early childhood to early twenties I had been persecuted for being different. Teased relentlessly and excluded because I didn’t fit the mold of a typical masculine Samoan boy and it cut me to pieces. I didn’t have self confidence, I hated myself and eventually became anorexic.
With my first realization came the anger and frustration that everyone else (peers and some adults too) had stolen from me the chance to choose what I wanted to be. I felt like I had been forced into this and so didn’t want to give anyone the satisfaction of being right so I stayed closeted in an effort of pointless spite. But eventually I felt a need to be open and honest and with that came the fear.
I didn’t know how my parents, friends and leaders in the church would react and I was terrified that my world would fall apart. I started by telling a few trusted friends and was saddened that a couple of them didn’t want to hang out with me anymore. But I was blessed with unconditional love from most of them. I then spoke to my mother and gently told her that I had crushes on guys, she acknowledged it but understandably wasn’t sure about what to do with that information except express that she loved me and wanted the best for me. I soon after told my Bishop who showed forth so much gentle love and compassion for a very confused and scared teenager.
What had been my greatest fear, that my world would fall apart, proved false and I found comfort in just trying be honest. I felt promoted to serve a mission and then move to Utah afterwards for school and there found North Star and affiliated groups. After learning so much and just blossoming in a wholesome environment I then felt promoted to start a group as well. Thus “True to Me” was born as a resource for helping young adults in the lds and lgbtq world to find safety and hopefully validation.
I love the church so much and am still active. I have found a niche that few have been blessed with: a ward that knows about me and my boyfriend and who don’t judge me, love me and actively take part in my life. My only honest struggle is the dichotomy me and Matt face in wanting to keep church standards but also loving each other and wanting that level of closeness plenty of other married straight couples get to enjoy.
My life is far from perfect and I’ve had my fair share of mistreatment. It’s simply not kind, fair or respectable to bash me and my beliefs as a gay active Mormon, from either side of the spectrum: LDS or lgbtq. I’ve never been a fan of bigotry and becoming more open-minded has only solidified and increased that drive. I firmly believe that people are good but make mistakes. I firmly believe that we all have the glorious gift of choosing how we live our lives and none should have the authority to take that sacred ability away. I love being able to see diversity and mutual respect, nothing is more beautiful than that of compassionate coexistence between worlds. And it’s a blessing to exist between two worlds and accept the beauty of both.
It’s my goal to help make lgbtq life every day life. Making things the new normal. I find incredible strength from members of my ward who ask how my boyfriend is doing and care about my love life and how I’m doing. I find the motivation to be an active participant and member of society from people treating me and Matt like any other couple and not putting us on a pedestal or in a cage.
Life is far from easy. The people in the church are not perfect, I’m not perfect and there is a lot of rubbish and good things to be around. My life is a painting that keeps being added to stroke by stroke. I’m not naive enough to believe that things will always be this way, life is a dance you learn as you go, the ultimate improvisation. I’m a mess but I’m functional haha.
I get to walk a road that is not easy, but I am so happy that it’s my road to walk. I may not always be perfectly happy but I find peace and joy in the amazing support I receive. Just recently Matt and I told our parents we were dating and even though my parents aren’t entirely sure how to react they have shown forth an increase in love that proves to me that miracles are real. That I matter, that my existence means something and I have a place to belong beyond that of a token novelty and comedic relief. I am a human being, of essence, substance and worth.
And that feels pretty great.
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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.