By: Stanley Alvey | When I was a toddler, a spot started growing right above my butt. It was just a patch of white skin. I don’t remember that one. Another one started to grow on my forehead. This is the first one I remember. Someone told me that I had accidentally rubbed some of my mom’s lip gloss on my forehead and it had stained my skin. I specifically remember rummaging through the bottom drawer of the double vanity trying to find the source of my imperfection. I found a blue tube. When I took the cap off, I could twist it to reveal a clear lip balm. I had found the source, so there was no need to worry anymore.
More spots started to appear. I saw them on my knees, my ankles, my elbows, my hips, wrists, and my hands.
As I grew, I got more and more curious. Why do I have these? Why am I different than everyone else? Why does this KEEP happening, and WHY does everyone look at me like they have to stay away from me?
Eventually a doctor at the University of Utah explained it to me. “It’s vitiligo,” he said. It is triggered by some different things: sometimes the immune system in the body attacks pigment-producing cells, sometimes it is hereditary, and sometimes a triggering event happens like a sunburn, stress, or exposure to chemicals.
It came to the point where I only remembered I had it when I saw someone looking at me differently. When I was in middle school, high stress and anxiety triggered attacks on my face and my hands. I gained bright white spots around my eyes, nose, and mouth. My hands went from spots on the knuckles to being completely covered besides a couple spots on the backside.
As I entered high school, I become acutely aware of my sexuality. I desperately wanted to change it. I was overweight, covered in unwanted white spots, riddle with depression and anxiety, and inside I felt completely broken.
When I looked in the mirror, I saw nothing more than an animal.
When I coupled my non-existent self-love with the never ending war of being a gay Latter-Day Saint, it took all that I had to continue breathing every single day. The only reason I survived my teenage years is because I learned to forget about myself and care more about others. I wanted everyone else to be okay. People trusted me and I like to think that I helped them.
I built a pleasant emotional facade to hide the way that I looked at myself.
When I finally came out as gay, I expected it to change. I expected my faith in God to at least change me enough to get married to a girl and have a beautiful, picture perfect Mormon life. Day after day, week after week, I knelt on the cold concrete in my basement bedroom and I begged God to make it work for me. I sat in the corner of my bedroom at my scripture study desk, and I fervently read sermons and pamphlets from Elder Kimball and Elder Packer in the 70s and 80s. I was convinced that the Devil had formed my sexuality and surely if I put enough effort into the Church, God could remove it.
I considered it an ugly part of who I am. Eventually I made a connection that took almost two years to be undone. I started to look at my vitiligo as an outward manifestation of my sexuality and mental health. I remember looking in the mirror and whispering to myself, “My insides are so ugly that they started seeping out.”
What an awful thought that came into my mind. Surely God wouldn’t want his beloved children to feel this way about themselves. He wouldn’t want them to feel this way about the way he created them.
After I finally came out and slowly started to understand myself, as I slowly started to learn and to grow, I came to tolerate myself and my spots. I didn’t want them, but I had accepted that they were a part of me along with my sexuality, my trauma, and all my emotional baggage.
I started preparing for a mission. I went on my own volition. I had a beautiful girlfriend that I loved and I wanted to marry her. I just knew that if I went and served a faithful mission, God would make my marriage work for me.
I couldn’t fix the vitiligo, but I could mend the brokenness inside me.
By the time I got to the MTC, I had almost forgotten I even had vitiligo. People still gave me looks and I still saw it in the mirror, but at this point it was just there. It wasn’t changing and I had accepted that.
My companion and I were standing in line to get lunch, and as we passed the cafeteria employee who was watching people swipe their cards at the registers, he stopped us and said “Woah Elder, what happened to your face?!” Years of pain rushed back into my mind. The most prominent one was my sexuality. It seemed that he saw it, and he wanted to know why the heck I was there. I looked at him in the eye, and I said “Nothing.” and I got in line for lunch.
It was here, at the MTC, where I realized I wasn’t going to change my sexuality either. It was set in stone. It is a part of me and a part of my life. Each time I went
to the temple I looked at the large painting of Christ in the Celestial Room and I talked to him. I prayed and many many tears flowed. One time, one of the Sisters working in the temple brought me some tissues. My last temple day, the Spirit told me I wasn’t supposed to get married to the wonderful woman who was so willing to marry me even though I am gay.
I wrote her a letter and told her that we weren’t supposed to get married. My sexuality was not changing.
So, I went on my mission, and when I was out, I had a massive anxiety attack one morning. I was not supposed to be there. The only reason I went on my mission was to make me straight enough for a heterosexual marriage. I looked out of the spare bedroom in our apartment and fixated on the snowcapped trees. I focused on my breathing and I knelt down and I asked God what I should do. “Go home,” He said.
On the plane ride from Calgary back to Salt Lake City, I stared at my white-spotted hands. I breathed in and out. I am who I am. My spots are permanent, and my sexuality is permeant.
From the moment I accepted those two facts, I started to heal. I gained fresh eyes. I started to learn to love myself instead of trying to change myself. I learned that I wasn’t created by accident. I wasn’t created as a mistake, and I wasn’t created to have a miserable life.
Every single spot on my skin was designed by loving Heavenly Parents. Every single design and splotch.
Every part of my sexuality was created by them, and I refuse to allow other people to convince me that it comes from Satan or that it is a challenge to overcome in this life.
I love my spots and I love who I am. I am the person that my Heavenly Parents created and every single day I come to know myself better.