Hi, I’m Scott. I’m originally from upstate New York (Saugerties). I was raised Catholic until age 8, when my parents joined the Mormon church. At age 10, we moved to the Austin, Texas area and moved every 2-3 years after that. Growing up in the church in what is called “the mission field” is a VERY different experience than someone raised in a Mormon-heavy location.
For example, my parents got baptized in the swimming pool in our back yard, for lack of a working baptismal font within 100 miles. Our “meeting house” was sometimes an actual house (Indiana) where the garage was converted into the sacrament room, relief society was held in the dining room, etc.
In Kentucky, we met in a converted used auto parts store, etc. In some ways it was easier being in the church in these areas, because you really had to all chip in and help or things didn’t get accomplished. We also clung to each other in high school, knowing how unique our experience was and would be (no caffeine, no drinking, no sex, no dating until 16).
I was in a small town in Kentucky when I was abused by a family friend and this had an impact on my sexuality. Until this point in my life, I had only expressed interest in girls, however I was only 12 years old; I was naïve and inexperienced.
Fast forward to 18 and it’s time to go on a mission. I didn’t want to go on a mission, I didn’t know if I believed. I was tortured by what had happened when I was 12 and felt I was “not clean” enough to serve. My parents and community pressured me pretty hard, so I submitted my papers and was “called” to serve in the Netherlands/Belgium Mission. I was more excited about living in Europe, but accepted the call and went to the Temple.
I went to the temple in early 1990, the temple ceremony of the time included the “penalty action” and the invitatories were also creepy as hell. After my temple experience, I couldn’t sleep for DAYS and again expressed concern about going on a mission.
FSG set in (fear, shame and guilt) and I went.
I had a GREAT time and was very successful (I’m sad about that now). I came home and my parents had moved, AGAIN, to North Carolina. I met a friend that was also coming off his mission at the same time, and his family had moved to North Carolina as well. We became FAST friends. I found him attractive, but stuffed my feelings, because of FSG.
My friend eventually came out to me and started dating another of my friends. I remained closeted—and in good standing (unfortunately) with the Church.
I decided to take a job with American Airlines in the reservations department. This new job meant that I had free flights to fly the world. This job would allow me to visit Paris, DC or LA on my days off. Later, I decided to transfer to a new American Airlines office opening in Tucson AZ. It was in Arizona that I was exposed to a lot of gay men and it was there that I decided it was okay for me to date men.
Dating men felt VERY guilty all the time because I was living a double life. I was 21 years old and living in constant fear that my double life would be exposed.
Fear, shame and guilt eventually got the best of me, so I repented and went back to church, because you can’t go to the celestial kingdom, unless you are married in the temple to a woman.
While trying to live the teachings of Mormonism, I experienced a couple of failed engagements with women—these dating experiences led me to ultimately meet the mother of my child.
I was honest with her, I told her upfront that I had dated men in the past, expressing to her that I had fully repented. We got married in the temple and raised our child in the Church.
When our child turned 14 things changed so much for us. Our child came out as transgender. As parents we thought the best thing we could do was to continue to go to church. Our belief that the Church had the answers to best help our daughter faded when our daughter called us from the church bathroom in tears.
The pain, the dissonance, the confusion wasn’t helping. It wasn’t long after that bathroom experience that we left the church. We were out.
That was six years ago. We fully supported our daughter and made sure she had the things (including therapy) she needed. She is brilliant and tested out of high school early at 17. She won the Harvard Invitational for Speech and Debate in Duo Interpretation and got a scholarship to Lewis and Clark in Oregon.
The pandemic was horrible for all of us. My wife and I both lost our jobs and were told we needed to come back to church to pay tithing in order to get financial help. My daughter’s school closed down and she had to come home. We all were stuck in a house, in new city to us (Dallas) and spend 24/7 together. It was difficult at times and made us closer at times.
While in Dallas, during the pandemic, my wife and I decided to separate and move into different family houses in Utah. I went through massive therapy with EMDR and was able to work through A LOT of things, including my past with the church, FSG, the abuse and my sexuality. I came out to my wife and we decided to divorce and have been very amicable and have co-parented well.
I slowly came out to family and close friends.
Our daughter moved to Colorado and got into a very toxic relationship. She soon started self-medicating with substances. We helped her as much as we could, but her anxiety and depression made it hard for her to work or even to leave the house much. She finally decided that she needed to get out of that relationship and move to Baltimore to be with someone she had been in contact with for 6 years. She was happy there, but still struggling with anxiety, depression and continued self-medicating. After three months of living there, she lost her battle with mental health and took her own life.
You can only imagine the pain we have been in and the well-wishes from family and friends still in the church ‘Families are Forever!” Through this all, I finally unpacked all the things I had stacked on my church shelf for later investigation (Blacks and the Priesthood, The November Policy, Polygamy, Old white dudes marrying young girls that have never been married, prophets murdering people, etc.) My parents were MORE upset about me leaving the church than me coming out, lol.
Before my daughter died, I decided that I needed to give back to the Queer community and started volunteering at Encircle House in Provo. I chose Provo because I had heard that it’s especially tough for Queer youth down there, living within the confines of the church. I loved to sit with the Trans Kids in the art room and would make casual conversation. I would ask, “How was your day?” The answers were horrifying. One of them had tested the waters, letting their mom know that there was new trans kid at school, while really talking about themselves. The Mom reacted very negatively, telling her child that trans people are an abomination, that they should “avoid the appearance of evil” and stay way from the new kid. Little did the mom know that she just called her own child an abomination and evil. My heart broke for these humans! How difficult it must be to get these messages at home, at school and at church? Basically, all day, every day.
I later learned that Utah has the highest suicide rate for young people, in the NATION. I thought about our daughter and how she was removed from the church, had an amazing school environment, where she was totally accepted and loved. Also, as parents, we loved and supported her with everything we had. Yet, she still didn’t make it.
She worked in fast food or retail and had to deal with public ridicule, people snickering or whispering about her appearance. Which lead to anxiety and depression and not being able to hold a job.
I tell my story for several reasons. 1. My abuse was not noticed and was not dealt with appropriately, when I advised my church leaders. 2. I was forced to stuff my feelings and authentic self, so that I could be in Heaven with my family for all eternity. 3. My Daughter suffered and ultimately died because of the Mormon Church’s and the world’s view on her as a person.
I only hope that people will look within and be aware. LOVE your child, NO MATTER WHAT. That is all that is needed, LOVE. Stop with the fear, shame and guilt. Let people be who they are and support them with LOVE. Don’t blindly trust authority and/or Priesthood Holders, they make mistakes too and abuse others. Finally, be an ally. Volunteer at places like Encircle House. Put a safe space sticker on your car, your office, your classroom or your front door. It doesn’t take away from your own worthiness or values, to love and support others. This is what Christ truly taught.
Lives are at stake.
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