I never connected to the religion - even as a kid - because I knew I was different. I feel like I have to tell you my gay story here because, to me, my entire former life depends on the death of my Mormon life, which depends on me being gay.
During my freshman year of college at Brigham Young University, everyone in the dorms was getting ready for their mission and I knew I wasn’t going, because I wasn’t going to tell them I was gay. I was supposed to disclose my guilt and I didn’t feel guilty about it. I knew I was not a bad person, even though Latter-Day Saint sentiment was suggesting I was.
My whole freshman year my dad sent me letters in the mail where he would bear his testimony of the importance of the mission. I just remember being so overwhelmed until it got to the point where I realized the only way out of the mission is to come out as gay. I couldn’t come out about one without addressing the other.
I called my brother, and I cried to him on the phone. I wanted to tell him but I hadn’t rehearsed the words. When you haven’t come out yet, the thought of saying, ‘I’m gay,’ is the most horrifying thing. When you’re Mormon, that very loaded two word sentence starts this whole unraveling of your entire belief system.
My parents planned a trip to visit me at school and I told them we needed to talk while they were here. I remember we were driving to dinner and my dad found this park and pulled the car over. I think they knew why I was struggling. I was crying and my mom got into the back seat and held me and asked if this was about my sexuality. I remember telling them I’ve always felt this way, I’ve had a hard time connecting to The Church and I don’t think I can go out and teach other people to believe in something that I don’t believe in. That was enough for them, they were loving and accepting and stopped pressuring me to go on mission.
But then I had to go back to BYU and suppress and compartmentalize for three more years. I now hear all my friends talk about their college experience, how they found themselves and how it was the most amazing time of their life. I felt I had my head down and my sunglasses on the whole time. I knew as soon as graduation came, my life could really begin.
Even to this day my mom still brings up, “Aren’t you glad you went to BYU, you made so many connections? Aren’t you happy you didn’t go to New York before you knew who you were?” I can’t help but feel frustration. Being a homosexual in an ultra conservative environment where I was afraid of being expelled or exploited didn’t allow me to be my true self. It’s not a safe environment. I’m lucky I turned out well because a lot of my friends there didn’t.