In sixth grade my attraction towards girls began to shift towards guys. In high school the thoughts and feelings only got worse. They became frequent and intense. I kept myself as spiritual as I could thinking that I could somehow pray away the gay. If only I could be more faithful. If only I would pray harder, longer, and more sincerely. However it didn’t seem to do any good except make me feel worse about myself because I was doing something wrong that didn’t allow it to go away.
When I was 17 years old, I remember coming across a book in the bookstore. I picked it up because of its cover and the author’s name, Christopher Rice. I wondered if he was related to the author Anne Rice, so I picked up A Density of Souls and read its summary and about the author. Sure enough he was related, but it also was apparently about a gay high school boy. I picked it up thinking nobody would know what it was. I began to read it until I had finished it in about a day. Although certain plots of the book were rather ridiculous, I related to the hatred that was inflicted upon Stephen Conlin, and the sadness and tears that he had to endure. Although the hate he went through was external, those same kind of alienating situations were like those I had put myself through internally. I remember crying myself to sleep in the middle of my bedroom floor when nobody was around, just hating that I could possibly be gay. But this particular book also introduced me to a concept I had not previously really considered: a romantic relationship with another man that could bring peace, joy, love, happiness, and tears of joy.
Towards the end of the book Meredith said something to Stephen, that to me was profound. She wrote in a note, “There are some people in this world who are worth saving when other people decide they shine the wrong kind of light on the wrong kind of things. You have been, and always will be, my light in the darkness.” And I remember thinking to myself that I had spent my whole life trying to do right. I had supported my alcoholic mother through three marriages and my attendance of 10 schools in 6 years, I had helped my local community service groups, I served the students in my school, and I worked hard to bring a good name to my teammates, my school, my community, my family, and myself. I would take care of my little sister, and stand up for those kids who were too afraid to stand up for themselves. But I had spent my life telling myself I was less of a human because I shined the wrong kind of light. If people only knew my little secret they would be disgusted with me, exile me, and no longer be my friends, or follow my example.
Shortly after that, I decided that I would accept myself. That if the chance ever came up to tell people I was gay that I would be honest, and represent myself well and confidently.
A couple of weeks later my mother introduced me to Mormon missionaries. After talking with them I felt as if perhaps God was trying to redeem me. Give me one more chance at being straight. So I abandoned the epiphany I had concerning my sexuality and began to become quite active in the Mormon church. I lost myself in the next year preparing for my mission and spent two years of my life as a missionary for the LDS church by bringing other people into mormonism. Thinking that if I just did this and if they believed everything about the church and wanted to join, that eventually I would have enough faith to overcome my temptation.
After returning from my mission, for a short time I was focused and had a desire to date girls. However it was very shortly lived. I knew I was gay. And I knew that it would not go away. I spent the next year attending Brigham Young University and hiding from people at church, spending time in my room alone crying because I couldn’t get the gayness to leave. I began to hate myself. And the more I went to church and school (a university that bans homosexual conduct including dating or holding hands), and the more intolerance and lack of love I heard towards gay people, the more I hated myself, and the more I wanted to just die than to have to live a life where I couldn’t get married, couldn’t receive salvation, and would have to live alone, in secret, in hiding, without love in my life. It finally got so bad that when I was alone in my apartment, I grabbed my roommate’s gun and checked to see if it was loaded.
I told myself if I was going to be such a coward to end it all, that I at least wanted to look myself in the eyes and ask myself if this is what I really want. If I really hated myself that much. So I loaded the gun, took it to the bathroom with tears in my eyes, looked at myself in the mirror, and put the gun against my head, and then decided to put in my mouth instead. I took one more look in the mirror and realized it wasn’t the answer.
I put the gun back and drove to a friend’s house 45 minutes away and told them I had to spend the night. And not to ask questions. So I did. On that drive I just cried and cried, and thought of a gay experience I had once had.
I had driven up to Salt Lake City one time. After doing some research online and discovering a chat room, I learned about a club that was for gay people. I went there one night not sure what to expect. I was so scared. After never seeing a club before it was quite intense to see half naked men dancing, drinking, kissing, being happy. After about five minutes some guy came up from behind me, grabbed my crotch and without thinking I elbowed him and turned around and dropped him. I felt horrible. And helped him up. He apologized and told me he thought I was somebody else.
I went upstairs and sat down and began sipping a bottle of water when this lesbian chick comes and sits down next to me and says, “Hi, honey. How long have you been home?”
I responded, “What are you talking about?” Then she began to introduce herself and explain that she was playing a game trying to figure out who the old mormon missionaries were. And suddenly her eyes lit up, and a smile stretched across her face and she opened my shirt and said, “Oh my god! You’re still wearing Jesus jammies!” In reference to my Mormon garments I was wearing. Then she asked, “Who are you here with?”
I replied with shyness and hesitation, “I’m here by myself. I think I might be gay, but I don’t know what to do.” The next thing I know she was taking me around the bar introducing me to people. Explaining to them that I was freshly home from a mission, attending BYU, and just trying to figure things out. Most people identified me as “the guy who punched that guy.” Which I quickly apologized for and just explained what he did surprised me and I acted without thinking from being so scared being there.
One of those guys I met that night was Scott. About two weeks later I went to his place one night, where for the next six weeks I spent the night cuddled up with him. We never kissed, or touched sexually, but we would just spend the night holding each other. And I remember staying up almost the entire first night thinking, nothing that feels this good could be that bad. Nothing that felt so natural, and so loving, could ever be against nature.
In my last two years at BYU I reached out and helped about 30 other people in my exact same situation. I have seen some make the decision to get married, others have left the university so they could live a free and open life, while others have struggled with themselves, religion, families, and friends, but ultimately have ended up quite happy and lucky enough to have found peace with themselves. Some have even found love in the arms of another man. And one disappeared after revealing a plan to end his life. I never found out what happened to him. I can only wonder. But to this day I still remember, “There are some people in this world who are worth saving when other people decide they shine the wrong kind of light…” Whether straight or gay, I am thankful to those people who have been my light in the darkness.
I’m From Cannonville, UT: “It was very challenging growing up, trying to be happy and trying to understand the feelings I had about the church that had spent most of my life telling me I was wrong for the way I was living. I made the best of what I had.”
I’m From El Paso, TX: “I was married. I had a son. I had served a Mormon mission to Portugal. All this time, I continued to suppress my feelings and pray that God would eventually change me. At this time, I started working out and meeting gay men that were attracted to me.”
I’m From Littleton, CO: “About that time, I started sinking into depression. I dreaded going to school. I’d go into greater detail regarding the bullying, but you all probably know the story by now. The name-calling, the beatings, the teachers’ total lack of concern – you know, the classics. My grades dropped like a stone until I was barely passing anything. By the time I got to high school, I’d completely given up on doing well in school, making friends, or being happy.”