My name is Ryder Nielson, I am from Sacramento, California. I am an outgoing, animal loving, energetic, gay 21 year old. I love anything and everything outdoors and anything relating to agriculture. I’m currently studying agriculture science and absolutely love it.
Growing up, I always knew I was different. I come from a large blended LDS family and have been blessed with lots of adventures, laughter, and love. I have been extremely blessed in my life with such an amazing extended family. When I was about 11 years old, I began to see I was different from other boys. Growing up with mostly brothers, I had always felt like I was the black sheep of my family. I was never really into sports, and always had other interests, the older I got though, I realized I was the black sheep because I liked boys. I was different from my brothers, all who I had looked to since I was little.
I had always tried my hardest to push those thoughts away and remember telling myself that I don’t like boys. I felt so much fear and felt so unworthy of love because of those feelings. Being a member, I felt like I had to be this specific person and fit in this mold. I was terrified by my feelings towards men.
While in high school and as the age of a mission came closer, I began to tell myself if I served honorably, I would be cured. I battled internally and prayed for months on end to like girls and for Christ to change me. I also prayed whether or not should serve a mission. Eventually, I realized I needed to serve a mission. In 2017, I was called to serve in the Tampico, Mexico mission, which was the best and most worthwhile year of my entire life. While on my mission, I had the chance to serve along side some of the most amazing people, and I served with my entire heart. I grew so much love for the Mexican people and for my Heavenly Father, I created a home in Tampico.
At about 9 months out and near Mother’s Day, I sent a talk to my wonderful mom by Jeffery R. Holland called “Behold Thy Mother” where it talks about how wonderful moms are and later on about a gay son and his relationship with mom. I didn’t quite read the whole thing and I sent it to my mom not knowing about the part with the gay son. During that week, I felt strongly that I needed to talk with my mission president about me being gay and that I wanted to return home.
I had never actually admitted to myself I was gay until I was on my mission, I always knew deep down, but I couldn’t bring myself to write it in any journal or tell anyone because of the shame I felt. I finally counseled with my mission president and he told me we would both pray about whether I should stay in the mission or not. The next Monday, I got an email from my mom who told me she thought I was gay and that it was completely okay if I was and that she loved me no matter what. I finally felt free, I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. I specifically remember one night on my mission feeling so sad about never being able to tell my family I was gay and just sobbing because I felt that if they knew they real me, they wouldn’t love me anymore. Looking back, I realized how wrong I was and how sending my mom that talk was the best way for me to come out.
A little over a month and a half later, the decision was made for me to return home in July of 2018. 6 months later in January of 2019, I finally came out publicly and let everyone know who I truly am. I am blessed with such an understanding and loving family and friends who stand by side no matter what. I had never felt happier and more free in my entire life, because I could finally be me.
Reflecting on this past year of me being out, it was one of the hardest years of my life in terms of figuring out how to balance being gay and the Church. I love the Church and I understand how difficult it can be for members to understand me. I wish I could help them realize that I am still me, I am still the same person I have always been. I wish members could see that it’s not as a black and white as it seems or as easy to live a celibate life as Church leaders make it out to be. I’ve come to realize that I will always be loved by my Heavenly Father no matter which path I choose. I used to feel to ashamed and so angry toward my Heavenly Father for creating me gay, but I’ve come to understand, I am so grateful to be gay, but most importantly I’m grateful to me.
I am still active in the Church and I honestly do not know where life will take me, I hope it is filled with love and joy. One thing I do know is that I will always be the most authentic me I can be. For those reading this, choose joy, and choose to be you. Be one hundred percent authentically, yourself. You are worth it.
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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.