I’ve never written out my story, partially because it is still evolving…but aren’t they all?
I have never been super comfortable with myself. I always had this image of who I was supposed to become based on my cultural and religious beliefs. I was brought up in the Mormon (Latter Day Saints/LDS) church. The purpose of me sharing my religious upbringing is to build context, not to tear down the institution. I attribute a lot of positive aspects of my life to the church that I was raised in. However, the Mormon church has a very conservative culture-I say culture because it is not merely a religion. Almost every aspect of my life was embedded and entangled with the church.
Growing up in the church, we were taught from a young age that there are certain processes that you are supposed to partake in throughout your life in order to gain eternal exaltation. Some of these processes include: baptism, temple work, and being wed in the temple. I grew up my whole life being a bit of a perfectionist, and I definitely had set goals to reach these expectations. As many children raised in the church, I had an image in mind of what my future should look like. We are taught from a young age that a “true” and “righteous” marriage is between a man and a woman. Truthfully, it is very common that women get married between the ages of 18 and 20 years old and immediately start ‘“multiplying and replenishing the earth.” Due to this fact, I felt like I was being told that my sole purpose on this earth is to get married and start having children.
I was all for this, as it was what I had been taught all my life. It was what my Creator made me for. Until it wasn’t.
My 18th birthday rolled around and I began feeling pressure to continue my path to eternal life. However, I had not dated anyone seriously except the neighbor boy, who was my best friend. I decided that if I followed the steps that the Lord set up for me, maybe an eternal companion would just fall into my lap. Therefore, I prepared myself to “go through the temple” in a special ceremony to make covenants with the Lord. I will be honest with you-while I was preparing for this process, it did not feel right in my heart. However, I thought it was what the Lord would have me do. So I did it.
Life continued on, and I kept striving for more. I finished my undergraduate degree, and still felt pressure from society around me and who I thought mattered to follow on this path. However, I still had not found a suitor, nor did I have any interest. Prior to this point, I had not felt any pressure from my parents or direct family members. However, I could tell my parents were curious as to why I did not attend young adult mixers and activities within the church. This led me to acknowledge thoughts that I had suppressed for quite some time, but had always thought.
“Mom…Dad… I’m not attracted to men.” It was the most awkward conversation I had ever had. I still was not sure about myself. I didn’t want to disappoint them, but I was only telling a half truth. They encouraged me to just be myself, and when I was ready to reach out to our church bishop, I should. This bishop is truly one the best guys I have ever known. So I did.
During this meeting with the bishop, I had never felt a stronger prompting to just be myself, which is odd considering everything I have written. So I walked away just “doing me.” It was truly the most amazing thing. I’ll be honest, I stuck with the church for a couple more years, and still participate with some members socially. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has really given me the chance to be myself.
I’ve never been more spiritual, confident, and fearless in my life. I really think this is who God has made me to be. I mean, what God would create someone to be miserable their whole life?
It may have taken me 25 years to openly be my true gay self, but now that I am, I feel it has helped me become more in all aspects of my life. I am definitely a happier person. I can communicate more effectively. I am more aware of injustices in the world-and thus have gained more empathy. As an educator, it has helped me to be more aware of the backgrounds of my students whom I serve, as well as having a better understanding that each person has a deeper meaning than what meets the eye. They may not know their worth or purpose yet. It is my mission to help those who are ready to find their true selves and to be confident in what that may be.