My name is Jared Taylor Shum, but a lot of you call me Taylor. I am originally from California (born and raised), but attended Brigham Young University before moving to Salt Lake City during the summer of 2017.
Growing up in the San Francisco bay area, I already maintained a liberal perspective on most social issues. I have been an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community since I was a young lad, but did not become an active advocate until high school when I was more aware of the persecution the community faced.
It’s not a secret that I am “slightly” height challenged, baby faced, and have a higher voice in comparison to some of my peers. I also enjoy maintaining a good hygiene regimen, wearing clothes that fit me, and singing along with broadway musicals. To some poor unfortunate souls who are not as open minded, this was the perfect formula for a gay boy. Many individuals accussed me of being gay, ashamed, and closeted. I started to doubt my own identity due to these external pressures even though I had always been attracted to self-identifying females. I think the hardest part of hearing those comments was the fact that I was already going through and internal battle of my own (even though I didn’t know it at the time).
Both my father and grandfather were late bloomers, so we expected my journey to be the same. However, when I didn’t hit puberty around the anticipated time, we started to consult with physicians specialising in hormone and chromosomal cases. I was diagnosed with PAIS (partial androgen insensitivity syndrome) meaning that my body wasn’t responding to my sex hormone (testosterone) the way it was supposed to. The solution to this problem was to start hormone therapy treatments with synthetic testosterone injections in hopes of “jump-starting” my system into take care of itself. However, at the time of this discovery, I was almost at the height of my competitive swimming career and taking testosterone (even for medicinal reasons) would have disqualified me from competing. My physician informed us that we would have time to decide before it negatively impacted my physical health, and since life revolved around swimming at this point (and I was not ready to give it up), we decided to postpone my treatments.
I continued to swim throughout high school and during the beginning of my collegiate years. Swimming was too important for me to sacrifice…until I met Morgan (name changed for privacy reasons). As I started courting Morgan during my time at BYU, I finally made the decision to trade in my cap and goggles for needles and syringes. When I returned home to California for Christmas break, fully prepared to begin my treatments, one of my worst nightmares came to pass. While I was at a friend’s wedding evening reception, I was pulled aside by some friends and was informed that my father had been killed that morning during his morning workout. I was beyond devastated. I felt paralyzed. Needless to say, during that time of intense grief and mourning, hormone treatments were the last thing on my mind.
Months later, I returned to BYU without a family or a place to call home. I turned to Morgan for support and we started officially dating. I won’t go into all the details, but that relationship was TOXIC. After we ended it for the final time, I moved to Colorado for work. With Morgan out of the picture and my life back on track, I felt like a brand new man! However, my physical health soon began to falter. I visited a physician in Denver and discussed what my options were treatment wise (remembering that my body had a ticking clock since I had postponed hormone therapy). This physician informed me that my PAIS diagnosis was only a symptom of a different medical phenomena known as being intersex. This new found information brought me such peace and clarity, like I had finally been reunited with a missing piece that only my subconscious knew about. I started grew within the church and began strengthening my testimony again. I went through the temple and started preparing for a mission. I felt like I had all the answers to my questions and I knew where my life was headed; when in reality, all these answers would later bring more questions.
I was blessed with the opportunity to serve the people within the Indiana Indianapolis Mission. As cliché as it sounds, I met some of my best friends during my time and went through many life changing experiences. Then there was Molly (again, name changed for privacy reasons). She had come back to visit the mission and was enjoying a dessert night with one of our senior missionary couples and I happened to also be invited. She absolutely took my breath away. We started emailing and never stopped. When I was released, I made the decision to move back to Utah so I could be close to Molly and her family. I had shared every vulnerable part of myself with her. The sorrow and fatigue I carried due to my father’s passing, my physical struggles of being intersex, and how choosing the church ripped my family away from me. She was the love of my life and I just knew I was going to marry this girl. Her father, however, had a very different idea.
In March of 2018, just a handful of days before my birthday, Molly’s father made his move. He made up these incredulous lies about me and forced Molly to leave me. I fought for her, as any loving man would, but things just got worse. He started to spread these lies to my church leadership and encouraged his daughter to steal from me (which she did). I was back at rock bottom. I felt hopeless, alone, and completely broken. I didn’t want to live if it meant living without Molly. The following May, I was admitted into a mental health facility due to a suicide attempt.
I slowly and painfully began my healing process. During my time at the facility, I was diagnosed with severe depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder. I began taking prescribed medications and attended therapy sessions to learn how to deal with my mental health diagnosis. When I left, I worked with an attorney to create a boundary between myself and Molly’s family so that I could properly move on with my life.
Due to the damage done by Molly and her father, all of my ordinances within the church were annulled. According to multiple meetings with priesthood leaders, since I had not been excommunicated from the church, there were not any “next steps” for me to take membership wise. It was explained to me that I was not being excommunicated since excommunication was a disciplinary action and I had not been found of any wrongdoing; instead, my ordinances were annulled therefore making it appear as if none of my covenants had ever truly happened. I desperately fought to stay within the church and I continue to practice my faith even without the support of my appointed leaders. I firmly believe in the gospel and the doctrine that the church is based upon, but realize that since the physical embodiment of the church resides in an imperfect world, the church itself (along with its leaders) are also imperfect and thus make imperfect actions and decisions. My faith is very important to me and I wholeheartedly believe that if I continue to live my life according to the gospel, my eternal salvation will not be dictated by man made policies and judgements.
In the past year and a half, I have become immensely active in the LGBTQIA+ community. I am on the executive support team for the LOVELOUD Foundation, become heavily involved with Encircle and their amazing programs, and I am a proud member of both Equality Utah and the Human Rights Campaign. I have met some of my dearest friends within the community who have more than helped save my life on numerous occasions. I still deal with depression, but now I am properly addressing it and working with a therapist. I still have battles that I am constantly fighting, but now I know that I am not alone.
I am a relatively private person so I was very hesitant to share my story with a very open audience. I am not ashamed of who I am, but my history and identity are both very vulnerable sides of myself that I do not entrust unto others easily. My hope is that my experiences can be used to help educate people on both what it means to be intersex and also the reforms that need to be made to church policies and procedures.
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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.