Hi, I’m McKay, and like many of you, I was raised believing homosexuality was “wrong”, “sinful”, and “unnatural.”  I had heard and parroted all sorts of well-intentioned yet incredibly harmful phrases like “hate the sin, love the sinner.

I was never outwardly hateful of LGBTQ+ people, but internally I definitely harbored a lot of negative feelings. Unfortunately, many of these ideas became even more cemented in my mind when I was sexually harassed, then assaulted and abused by my mission companion while serving as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Side note – I later learned sexually predatory behavior generally has nothing to do with sexual orientation but everything to do with power dynamics… a discussion for another day!)

My belief that homosexuality was negative began to change when I met Wes. I’m a musician and three years ago I was in between bands, Wes is also a musician and he was looking for a more permanent artist to join his band. That was the beginning of our bromance! Before you get too many ideas…this is a story of how a single friendship healed my heart and taught me how to love more completely and unconditionally.

After our very first band practice together, I remember sticking around and chatting with Wes. He told me that he was gay – followed immediately by “I’m not attracted to you, don’t worry” (talk about an ego deflation, haha!).

Though questioning my faith already by this point, I was still pretty entrenched in many ways. I recall saying something to the effect of “that’s alright man, I accept and love everyone. Love the sinner, hate the sin am I right?!” Yeah, sorry for that one dude!

Luckily, Wes is one of the most empathetic and caring people I’ve ever known, so he took the time to explain how that was harmful and began to shed more light on some of the struggles of being gay (and being gay in the LDS church). It was a light bulb moment for me. There I was, 23 years old and for the first time considering that perhaps everything I’d been taught and believed about gay people was… wrong.

It was the first of many such conversations.

I learned about electroshock conversion therapy at BYU which continued until the ‘90s – leaving many with permanent burn scars on their bodies and some with scars even on their genitals. Some killed themselves because of it. I learned about how difficult it is for so many to reconcile faith and belief with the truest version of themselves and how the promise of being “fixed” in the afterlife leads many to kill themselves rather than live a life where they feel they’ll never be fully accepted by their families, communities, church and society. I learned about Stonewall. I learned about the challenges of mixed orientation marriages. I learned. I listened. I leaned into the discomfort of hearing things that challenged my beliefs. And because of that… I began to love.

To Wesley’s credit, he never tried to convince me to leave or stay in the church – my faith journey was very multifaceted and very much my own (and it’s all on Mormon Stories Podcast if you want to hear it!) – he simply listened to me and my perspectives, and in turn shared his experiences and feelings. That sort of vulnerable and honest communication has a powerful way of bringing us together as humans and allowing us to see each other with more love, empathy and understanding. I guess you could say that love and compassion for people is a big part of what led me out of the church.

How could I stay in an organization that actively supported and funded political movements & laws to discriminate against people (and still does)?

How could I stay somewhere that love and “true happiness” was conditional?

How could I support an organization that continued to do and say such harmful things that led LGBT+ kids to fucking kill themselves?!

I couldn’t any longer. Not in good conscience.

I no longer believed nor wanted to stay by January 2020, but as many of you know, leaving the church can be incredibly scary & devastating. I felt stuck.

And once again, Wes was right there with me for it all. We’d talk and vent and laugh and cry and write songs until late into the night many times. We’ve shared the stage more times now than I can count or even remember, and it just keeps getting better. I got to know Wes more and saw how amazing and GOOD of a human being he is.

It began to dawn on me that that gay people weren’t “evil” or “scary” or “messed up” or “dirty” or “groomers” or any of those things… they’re normal, healthy, beautiful, loving, wonderful people! Even while my heart was breaking… it was healing, too. I owe a lot of that to Wes, and his example.

SO. I guess what I’m trying to say through this rambling caption is that this once deeply indoctrinated, internally homophobic heterosexual dude is PROUD to be an ally, PROUD to be friends with Wes and many more LGBTQ+ people! I am PROUD to be associated and stand with this community – and so incredibly grateful to have learned so much about real love, acceptance, and true happiness from you all.

Happy pride month! LOVE WINS!

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