PART I – ALONE
Kayden Maxwell (age 16)
“I knew then [I was gay]. My heart sunk to my stomach, my entire world went into panic mode. I couldn’t keep up in school. I couldn’t look my parents in the eye. I became like a turtle in a shell, completely hidden, avoiding the world completely, not trusting anyone. No one could know. I was disgusted with myself, and I wanted nothing more than to get over it. No one could know. I prayed night after night that God would remove this horrible aspect of my life. My pillow was always wet with tears as I pleaded with the Master of the Universe to just please fix the mistake He made on me. …
I stopped eating. I didn’t have time for food, I was consumed with terror for my soul. I tried to starve it out of me. I tried to pray it out of me. I tried to sleep it away. But it was all useless. This was me. Mom caught on fast to my mood changes. … One night, after questioning me deeply concerning my recent moods and appetite loss, she finally asked me. ‘Are you attracted to guys?’ She said it lovingly and with concern, but the words shook my entire being; they ripped open the vault inside where my feelings were hidden and they shot to surface, overwhelming me in panic and fear for the future. I nodded through tears and finally met her eyes. We knew we had a mountain ahead, but in that moment, we knew we had each other to climb it with.
We talked to Bishop. My options were clear. I could marry a woman or I could be single my entire life. But not to worry, in the afterlife I would be perfected, he told me. I would be attracted to girls like I’m supposed to and I could have a family there. The perfect plan for my life that I had learned since birth no longer applied to me. I didn’t fit.
Despite the unwavering support from my parents, my soul became draped in darkness. The world became Hell to me, with the flames of self-loathing furiously burning everywhere. I was left so uninformed. I needed answers and no one had any. I was left only with ‘God works in mysterious ways’ to comfort me and explain why my world was falling apart while others didn’t even know the taste of doubt. I felt almost ignored, given up on. We tried and tried but not even the bishop had the answers I needed. I was left always questioning, and never knowing.
Who was I? Why would God send me so broken? Didn’t He love me enough to want me to be happy too? What would happen if others knew? What made me this way? Could this ever be removed from me? How could I say I don’t support gay marriage when in truth that is the most excitement and support I felt about anything? Was I still a good person?
I was doomed to live an entire lifetime alone. But I was told that it would all be over after this life. And soon the conclusion set in that my best hope was to end my life by my own hand. I had nothing to look forward to. I didn’t have a happy life plan like all the kids around me. All I had to hold on to was the hope that my burden of liking guys would be gone after I died. There were examples of people before me escaping the task by ending life short. Mom feared that I would be one of them…”
‘Hero Journey’ by Kayden Maxwell
“I have struggled in different degrees throughout my life with understanding my place in the church and what God’s view of me is. A common experience I hear among gay members of the church including myself is that of self-loathing, guilt, and shame surrounding those feelings of same sex attraction we experience throughout our lives. The rhetoric I remember as a child associated homosexuality with perversion, abomination, and one of the most sinful acts that could be committed towards God.
I remember as a teenager being very confused to as why I could not rid myself of these feelings even with countless hours spent on my knees praying to God to take them away. … As time went on it became more and more apparent that I was still attracted to women and not to men even after being married to James for several years. I still would pray almost daily for God to change my sexual orientation and would be met by silence. I was hurt and frustrated that God was not answering these prayers especially when I felt his influence in so many other areas of my life. I became depressed and hopeless that the righteous blessings I desired would never be given to me and that God did not love or care for me. That I was a hopeless cause.”
‘That Weak Things May Become Strong’ by Sarah Lewis
“My suicidality was not connected to depression. That’s how my mind could hide it from me. With no context and no warning, I would occasionally be brushing my teeth or some such mundane task and then be broadsided with a gut-wrenching, vast emptiness I can’t put into words, that felt as deep as my marrow–and I would think in a panic “I’m only 37. I’m only 37. How can I last five more decades?” That thought—the thought of having to live five more decades, would fill me with terror.”
“I felt discouraged that I had not changed. My life felt stagnant. Many times I thought of driving off a cliff or into a rock wall, but luckily it was just thoughts that filled my mind on those serene lonely drives. … Over the next five years, I continued to go through cycles of false hope, frustration, and depression: My mind just keeps going in circles … I think I have no hope of marrying, so I get depressed and think I have no purpose in my life, so I think of just ending it now. It would make things so much less painful. Just think of having to endure never being intimate physically or emotionally with anyone. … Every day I am at a crossroad. I am paralyzed to succeed in my life. My procrastination and negative thoughts poison my future. …
I spoke a lot of how my faith in God has waned and that I honestly do not believe in God anymore. I said, ‘I could not understand how a God with a plan of Eternal Families could put 2-5% of his children down on earth lacking the fundamental key to be able to at least marry.’ … I reread a lot of the teachings of the Church, and I realized that the teachings I had been taught about homosexuality were incorrect and were based on false stereotypes. I began to feel betrayed. I finally accepted that being gay did not make me broken. I accepted that I was not innately evil. I realized that if any of the amazing guys that I had been attracted to had reciprocated my interest, then I would have been in a committed monogamous relationship. I had never wanted to live the stereotypical ‘gay lifestyle’ that I had been taught was what gays innately want to ‘act out.’ I knew I wanted and aspired to have the same type of relationship that many straight Mormons desire to have.”
Kerby, Brent. Gay Mormons?: Latter-day Saint Experiences of Same-Gender Attraction.
“I first knew that I liked girls the way I was supposed to like guys when I was in Kindergarten. The innocent crushes of a little child were devastating to me. I knew I was different than the other little girls I knew and I worked hard to hide that. Living in fear of someone finding out I was same-sex attracted was nothing compared to the torment of believing that, since God knew everything about me, He knew and He hated me.
Consider that for a moment. A six-year-old, with all the innocence in the world, believed that God hated her. And why was that? Because of the way ‘gay’ people were talked about – the fear and hatred in adults’ voices when they were mentioned. Children are aware of the current issues and children will listen.”
Meagan M. Colwell, Mormons Building Bridges post, Sep 28, 2014
“I have had 4 friends of mine and many acquaintances commit suicide… And we are treated this way why? Because we are gay? We feel the same emotions and attractions as you, we just feel it for someone of the same sex. The feelings and desires are the EXACT SAME! We don’t want to hurt anyone or make anyone else gay. We don’t want to ban heterosexual marriages and relationships. We want to get married and raise a family. We want to love and be loved back. We want to be honest about who we are and not fear for our jobs and housing should someone find out we have a husband or a wife. We want what you want!”
PART II – FAMILY
Photograph by Kimberly Smith [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Photograph by Shalem Photography
“Tonight, in the evening, after the gloaming I went to the shore to ride the waves. The sea was expansive and endless. As I went deeper and the water surrounded me I thought about how much I wanted to remember and feel the vastness of the universe, of this moment. I was grateful for the beauty of it. I had to stop in the waves to try to absorb what was around me, in the water, in the evening sky.
But the thing I want to remember most is how upon exiting the sea, my little board in tow, looking through the crowds for my companion, she had already taken the initiative to walk to where I was, towel outstretched, ready to surround me in warmth and comfort. This is the person I married, my helpmate, my fellow traveler, my wife. Every day I am legitimately awed by her thoughtfulness and kindness. I am grateful for the communion of our partnership.
I invite those who feel ambivalent about LGBT families, our lives and our marriages to reflect on this: the daily ordinary comforts, hopes and joys you cherish beat within our hearts as well. Carefully catalogue the purpose, strengths, hope and life-giving warmth you feel as you lie beside your beloved, as you wash the dishes together, as you discuss the coming days and how you hope to grow old together. Then think about asking another to forego the blessings and privileges you enjoy daily and ask if perhaps it is okay for others, though different from you in ways small or great, might not also deserve access to the same life affirming blessings you derive daily from the companion beside you. I hope you will see why the same things are vital to us, why we too need the emotional, spiritual and companionate love that makes life worth living. I hope you will see with new eyes.”
As shared in the Mormons Building Bridges Facebook group, October 12, 2015;
Trey and Guy
“Our lives have been deeply blessed. It hasn’t been without its struggles, challenges and sorrows. 36 years ago I survived the suicide of my first love, a boy who brought me so much joy. It scarred and devastated me and I thought at that time that I’d never find happiness. If a person from the future told me on that day 36 years ago that I’d have a soulmate who I was committed to, loved and cherished decades later, I would have not believed it. But if it had turned out that was all that was true, it would have been enough. If you told me that we’d have two sweet, wonderful daughters. I wouldn’t have believed it, but it would have been enough. If then you told me that we’d have a supportive, loving extended family and many close and wonderful friends. I wouldn’t have believed it, but it would have been enough. Then… if this person from the future told me that we’d be legally married, well, I would have had him committed. But it’s all true. And we are blessed. I wish I could go back and tell my 17-year-old self that it didn’t just get better—it got unbelievable.”
‘Our Families: Trey and Guy’
Theresa and Rachel
“Theresa and I met when Theresa was a recently returned missionary and we were both attending school at BYU. We became very close friends and eventually fell in love with each other. We didn’t always recognize that we were in love with each other, as a relationship of more than friends was against our religious beliefs, but in retrospect it is very clear that we have been in love and committed to each for over ten years.
We had a love that not everyone gets to have, so how could we continue to refuse to accept it. Why sit around waiting for something else and beating ourselves up when the truth of the matter is that we just love each other. … We didn’t know where that left the church in our lives, but in that moment we just stopped worrying about it. The hands which had been holding onto the church so tightly just let go and we wondered what the future would hold. But the most amazing thing happened: from the moment we made the decision to just love each other, the underlying angst, depressions, anxiety, worry, insecurity, and anger have virtually disappeared. We never expected that. We never thought that would be possible. We never thought that just allowing ourselves to love and be loved would be such a freeing experience.”
‘Theresa and Rachel: Our Story’
“Early in his life Jeffrey realized he was gay, and he struggled with his testimony and where he would fit in with the church. After working with his bishop for some time to try to dismiss his homosexual feelings, Jeffrey found that he wasn’t happy and was missing something – something he didn’t find in his relationships with women. Deciding to dismiss his feelings regarding the church, he tried to live a ‘gay lifestyle.’ He entered a sexual relationship with another man, but found he still wasn’t happy or fulfilled, and that a part of him was still missing. A turning point came when he realized that God loves him, and will continue to love him unconditionally. In other words, Jeffrey realized that he doesn’t need to separate his homosexuality from his spirituality. Jeffrey met someone who was gay, and who respected and loved the church. They eventually married and now Jeffrey feels emotionally and spiritually whole.”
“As a (gay) married man, I can tell you that life for me and Michael is not a crusade to destroy the country’s values or to attack the marriages of our heterosexual friends and neighbors. Nor is our marriage a sparkling rainbow land where no one ever frowns and unicorns wake us up in the morning (although that would be AWESOME.) Our marriage is a marriage. We eat breakfast together every morning, we go to work, we talk about our day and the things that are important to us. We go on date nights and watch TV shows in bed. We are two people who love each other and try to be better every day. Someday we hope to be dads and we will give our kids as much love, support, and education as they can handle. Although our marriage has always been legal in the eyes of the federal government, I can tell you that there is a different feeling in my heart and mind today, knowing that our rights as a married couple are full and complete no matter where we go in our country. It’s the feeling of relief from an oppression that I didn’t even know I was feeling.”
Maxwell Dean Eddington
public Facebook post, June 27, 2015.
“I know the Church is true. That has been my polar star the last eight years of my life in trying to navigate a way forward. I’ve discovered – partly by following very personal spiritual promptings, as well as through some very special priesthood blessings received from my bishop, from my father, from home teachers, and last fall from an apostle of the Lord – that I have a unique earthly mission. In order to fulfill that mission, I have needed to stay close to the Church and to exercise a certain kind of faith.
I also know my relationship with my husband is true. That has been the ground beneath my feet, it has been the horizon that has made following that polar star of my Church testimony meaningful. The journey of making sense of my gayness and eventually finding and committing to my husband is a journey I have been making from the time I was old enough to be aware of my sexuality, and old enough to begin to figure out the nature of my yearnings for relationship and family (since I was roughly 11).”
‘Doubt Your Doubts,’ by John Gustav-Wrathall
“I love my husband Göran. I have loved him for twenty-two years as of our upcoming anniversary at the end of next week. In that time my love for him has only grown stronger, through every fight we have resolved and every challenge we have faced. It was a long, long time ago I realized I would give my life for him. What diminishes him diminishes me. My soul, body and spirit, cleaves to him. And I can honestly say that today, on this day, I love him more than I have on any other day that has preceded this. And I can honestly say that that love has always elevated me. It has always made me want to be, and has helped me to be, a better man.
I love God. I love his Church because I love Him. And I have found that this love elevates and exalts my soul, and makes me want to be more, to be better, to be like God. This love has made me see more clearly than any other the connections between me, my husband, our son, my parents, my siblings, all my brothers and sisters of every nation, all my brothers and sisters, human, animal and element; all creation. I yearn for all those loves and connections to be eternal. I yearn to love in a way that is worthy of eternity.”
‘The Pillars of My Faith,’ by John Gustav-Wrathall
“I practiced my faith for 38 years and I attended Evergreen (a church-sponsored sexual orientation reassignment program) for 12 years. During this time, five of the fifteen men in my group committed suicide. My time in Evergreen and my LDS faith brought clarity to me. I was told I would be cured of homosexuality and I was told that my core self was a sinful choice. But all those years taught me that all I wanted was what they had: A full loving life and family with the right person. And that person had to be male, because I had already been married to a woman for 16 years and I knew clearly that it wasn’t working and it never would. I wasn’t even opposite-sex attracted at all. Ultimately, I was staring suicide in the face. Either it was all going to end, or I was going to embrace the fact that this was not something about myself that anyone could remove; nor should they. And so I went about finding my bliss and leaving any structure or person that impeded my happiness. And as it turned out, that meant I would leave my parents, my siblings, my Mormon friends (only a few out of a lifetime of friends stuck with me) and my faith. And all of the fear that I felt melted away, because those scary stories I was told turned out to be false, and it turned out that following my heart was the right thing to do. And I am now in my tenth year together with my husband and we have found our bliss, and so have our six kids that we raise together.”
“I really don’t understand the people that know it isn’t a choice but then call for us to live a life alone. That is the epitome of cruelty. My boyfriend is the most important thing in my life! He is my strength and my passion and he makes the world a brighter place. I also think our love, and the love between all couples, makes the world a better place. There is only good that comes from love and only evil that comes from hate.’
From comments on www.huffingtonpost.com
“As I sit in Fast and Testimony meeting this morning I hear one man speak of families. He expresses the immense joy he feels in his life because he has a wife and family. He says he has recently been wondering why families are so important to our Heavenly Father that all of His spirit children are born into and raised in families. He then answers his own question by stating, ‘it is because within marriage and families we learn to love like God.’ ‘Exactly,’ I thought, ‘that is exactly why I proposed to my girlfriend two weeks ago.’ I want to become like my Heavenly Father and learn to love others unconditionally, and I want the opportunity to be married to help me refine that process. …”
‘Being Mormon, Lesbian, and In Love…’ by Laura Root