|``Have you ever noticed how easy it is to look back on events that happened a year or more in the past and see the perfection in them? For most of us this is true even for situations which seemed tragic, horrible or even devastating at the time. Now, if it is possible to see the perfection in those things a year later, doesn't it make sense that the perfection must be there in the moment it happens, too?"
- Kurt Wright
I grew up in Star Valley, Wyoming and was raised as a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
There was never a time I recall not feeling attracted to males. The first crush I remember was on a child actor in a movie I had seen when I was five. Every time I played ``house" with my sisters, I took on his character's name. I didn't recognize my feelings as being a crush; I assumed my feelings were the same as everyone else.
I loved my sisters' toys, especially Barbies! I knew that if I was playing with my sisters, or any other girl, I was mostly safe from ridicule. However, whenever anyone caught me playing with them by myself, I would quickly tear their heads off to demonstrate to whoever saw that I wasn't actually ``playing" with them. I hated having to do this! My heart yearned to be able to play without interruption, without having to risk any sudden and tragic executions by decapitation.
I overheard a conversation once between my mother and a female friend she had; my mother said something about how she admired this woman for her beauty. Hearing this allowed me to feel okay about ``admiring" boys for their looks. After all, my mother had expressed these feelings outright. It must be completely normal to recognize that someone is attractive and admire them for that attribute. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time ``admiring" boys at school as time went on, though I didn't vocalize these thoughts. I knew that boys were supposed to ``like" girls, and I was friends with girls, so I thought that meant I had a crush on them.
Gradually I began to recognize that I wasn't merely admiring boys, nor was I crushing on girls. The topic of homosexuality had been touched on enough in church for me to know that any ``inclination" toward it was awful. I turned to God, praying to be more normal. I slowly went from feeling abnormal to feeling worthless, shameful, hollow, alone, lost, scared, and unlovable. At the age of 12, I knelt down and prayed that I would get cancer or some other illness that would end everything. That way no one would ever have to know how I truly felt inside. It was so appalling to know that I was attracted to men.
By the time I was 14 or 15, I had accepted that I was bisexual. I was attracted to guys, but I could look at women and recognize which ones were attractive. I had no intention of ever succumbing to the temptation of dating men. That would be a sin beyond imagination! I was a strong, faithful young man. I wanted to serve a full-time mission for the Church and return with honor to marry a wonderful young woman.
Even though I knew I would never act on my feelings, it didn't stop me from feeling awful merely for experiencing them. By this time, I had given up on the idea of cancer from God and had begun making considerations to take things into my own hands. Suicide would be my fallback plan in case I couldn't fight any longer. It was about this time that I discovered cutting. The self-mutilation provided a temporary release from reality, but it wasn't enough and soon led to an actual suicide attempt.
Prior to the suicide attempt, I had sought counseling with my bishop. After the attempt on my life, my parents took me to a couple of psychologists in town. I didn't click well with either of the therapists I was seeing. I found out later that one of them told my mother that I was a spoiled brat begging for attention, and that a bit more discipline would solve everything.
Eventually, at the recommendation of my bishop, I went to a counselor with LDS Family Services in Salt Lake City. This therapist specifically dealt with the ``Same-Sex Attraction" (SSA) issues. It was incredibly comforting to learn that I was not alone. Other people within my own faith group were experiencing this too! Perhaps I wasn't the evil sinner I had believed myself to be. The therapist recommended my parents purchase a book designed for LDS men struggling with SSA. I stayed up late into the night, spending hours crying while reading this book. It was such a weight off my shoulders to read a firsthand account of someone dealing with the same feelings which had plagued me for years. The therapist tried to teach me how to stop these thoughts of SSA. One of the exercises was for me to envision an actual stop sign anytime I saw a male and felt attracted to him.
During this time, I had a steady girlfriend in high school. She didn't know anything about the SSA, but she did know about the cutting and the suicide attempt. She was incredibly supportive of me and wanted me to be happy. She told me about other girls in her ward who were jealous of our relationship because I never pressured her to do anything immoral. We went on dates and cuddled while we watched movies and even spent quite a bit of time kissing, but I had no desire to do anything sexually with her.
Around this time, I was an honor-roll student involved in multiple extracurricular activities at school; I attended church regularly and had become quite a social butterfly. But inwardly I was screaming. My teenage hormones may not have been raging when I was with my girlfriend, but they certainly were whenever I spent time by myself looking at guys on the Internet. It was a way to release some of the frustration I felt from hiding my true self, without actually having to act on my attractions with another human being. As time went on, I spent more and more time looking at pornographic images and covering my tracks. I hated myself for allowing myself to succumb to the temptation. My grades started slipping and the cutting became a nightly ritual.
Things were getting worse and worse. Finally, my therapist suggested that my parents place me in an intensive treatment center for troubled youth. My bishop got the approval for the Church to pay it.
While my parents were making plans for me to enter treatment, I was busy being a teenager. Toward the end of my junior year of high school, I changed the word that I internally identified with, from ``bisexual" to ``gay". I was still planning on fighting it with everything I had; I wanted to be able to have a temple marriage and an eternal family. I thought I would be able to overcome it through the methods I was being taught at LDS Family Services. I held tight to the hope of normalcy, or at least the appearance of normalcy.
At school there was a guy ``Lewis" who was obviously gay. People talked about it frequently, myself included. Whenever I would see the bullies, I would deflect their negativity away from me toward him, since he was more flamboyant than I was. I still regret allowing someone else to go through more torment just to spare my own feelings. The more I began to accept myself though, the less I talked about him, and the less the bullies picked on me. It's funny how that worked out. As I internally became okay with who I was, the other people in school stopped picking on me for it.
One night at a school dance, one of my good friends mentioned Lewis and stated out right, ``He's gay!" I could see that she was being serious and not trying to poke fun at him for his feminine demeanor. I asked her how she knew he was gay. She quickly responded, ``He told me himself." This sent a chill through my soul. He had mustered up the courage to actually vocalize how he felt. Not only that, but this girl, and the other girl he had told his secret to, were still friends with him.
A few weeks later, I was sitting around late one night with these same two girls, talking and laughing, and I brought up Lewis. Then I just said, ``I am too." They didn't know what I meant, so I explained, ``I'm gay too." They laughed and thought I was joking.
A few weeks later I entered the treatment center. I spent just over five months there. I was taught new tools for fighting my homosexual desires. Toward the end of my stay, I saw a new doctor at an offsite location who gave me a set of personality profile tests and sexual arousal tests. They hooked me up to heart rate monitors and strapped an inhalation monitor around my chest in addition to a device called a penile plethysmograph which was attached to my genitals.
The initial test consisted of me listening to scenarios while images were displayed on a screen. All the while, the machines I was tethered to were gathering data based on my physiological responses to the images and audio situations being read to me. The results came back about a week later, confirming that I was in fact suffering from a ``deviant attraction" to males my own age.
Subsequent treatment was scheduled to follow. The way I was going to move past this deviant attraction to men and develop a healthy attraction to women was first to write out two scenarios of my own. In the first essay, I was to write about a future sexual experience with a female, more specifically, my wife. It had to include all the feelings of love and companionship we would share together as eternally sealed husband and wife. Then I was to write out another situation featuring a sexual encounter with a male.
Once I had written my stories and they were approved by the doctor's staff, the next step was that I was hooked up to the same monitors as before and read through the scenarios I had written. Anytime any of the machines indicated I was becoming aroused by the story involving a male, a container was placed in front of my nose and opened. It contained a rotting moose liver. The odor would trigger a negative response in my brain which would be associated with becoming aroused by men. The smell was enough to make you want to snort battery acid to find refuge! Alternatively, after reading the story involving my wife, I was rewarded with a candy bar. The process was much like Pavlov's famous experiment on dogs.
I'll be the first to admit that the treatment center did provide me with alternative ways to deal with my depression and helped me to cope with those types of issues better. However, after beginning aversion therapy with this new doctor, I began spiraling back into the depression again. I felt trapped and didn't know how to regain control. I made a decision to run away.
During the five months I was in treatment, my parents had moved to Draper, Utah. I planned to stay missing for a minimum of a month without any contact with my family. I knew that if I were to return home, I would immediately be driven back to the treatment center, and that was not an option I was willing to make available.
I arrived home at night and crept into the backyard. I was planning on going in quietly to get better supplies for my stint as a homeless teenager. But I noticed the lights were still on. I took the opportunity to peak in through a crack in the blinds. Inside my house sat my grandmother with tears in her eyes. Her house was over four hours away in Wyoming. It meant she had come to be with my family and help search for me. I knew that the tears she shed were a direct result of my actions and the pain I had forced her to bear. At that moment, I knew I couldn't remain missing any longer, so I knocked on the door and proceeded inside.
At first, my parents planned to bring me back to treatment, but the therapist said he would only allow me to come back if I would stand up in front of everyone else in treatment and apologize for running away and ask them if they would allow me back. I knew that the treatment was not the right place for me anymore and refused his offer.
I was enrolled back in high school, and life continued on. I was still in the mindset that I could be straight, so I reconnected with an ex-girlfriend from Wyoming for a long-distance relationship. Over the next few months, I started contemplating all that had happened in my life. I nearly didn't survive as a result of the hatred I had developed for myself, due to the guidance I had received that being gay was immoral, wicked, sinful, and evil. Finally, just before I turned 18, a thought occurred to me that I should kneel down and ask Heavenly Father himself if being gay was so wrong. I had always been taught these things, but I had never actually asked for myself.
I have to tell you, the overwhelming feeling of comfort I received was more powerful than anything I can possibly describe. I was forced from my knees into a weeping slump on the floor. I wept with joy that I wasn't evil after all. I wept in grief for all the wasted years spent hating myself. I wept at the confirmation that not only was being gay okay, but it was part of God's plan for me. I wept with bliss at the knowledge that I had a future with a loving husband and adoring children. I had finally come to terms with my sexuality and fully embraced the fact that I am gay. I was finally ready to come out to the world and live honestly. I was sick of the shame I felt in hiding all these years.
Now came the daunting task of informing my parents. I didn't know quite how to approach them with the news. I wanted to plan some way to tell them, but I was so afraid of their reaction that I couldn't just come out and say it. My thoughts were to just go on a date and on my way out the door say, ``Bye Mom, I'm going on a date ... his name is Cameron!" and then run out the door. The problem was that not only did I not have a Cameron, I didn't have a gay boy by any other name either. I was the only gay person I had ever known aside from the one guy in high school, and he had never actually confessed his secret to me.
I got online and quickly found Gay.com, a social networking website. I started staying up late to chat online with guys while the rest of my family slept. In order to help myself keep track of things, I wrote down the names of a few guys I had chatted with, along with some details about our conversations. I labeled the note ``Gay.com" and folded it up and hid it in my room between two DVDs.
One day my younger sister came and borrowed one of the two DVDs I was using to hide my note. This resulted in my note landing on the floor. She opened it, read it, and took it to my parents. This was a blessing in disguise, because it forced the issue out of the bottle I had shoved it into.
That night when I got home from work, my parents pulled me into their bedroom for a meeting. I had no idea what it could be about, but I was incredibly nervous. My mom unfolded the paper and held it out to me, asking what it was. My initial instinct was to lie. I opened my mouth to spout out the best cover-up I could come up with, but I hesitated, thought better of it, and said, ``It's exactly what it looks like." She acknowledged that it meant I was gay. Then she got a disgusted, horrified look on her face; it had made her think of a sexual act, which she described and said, ``Doesn't that gross you out?" I was mortified! I explained that love was not about sex; it's about companionship. Sex is just one aspect of a loving relationship. I explained that the reason I'm attracted to men isn't about sexual desire; it has everything to do with longing for a connection with another human being to share my life with.
My parents later admitted to me that they both cried over this turn of events, though neither of them shed any tears in front of me, and for that I am grateful. My mom did some research and let me know about a group called GLYA which stood for Gay LDS Young Adults and consisted of young gay LDS men ages 18 to 30 who met weekly for activities. I went to a few of their activities and made a few friends. It was nice to meet other men who were from LDS backgrounds and yet could accept their sexual orientation.
Next came the overwhelming task of outing myself to the rest of my close friends. A few months back, I had won tickets to the theme park Lagoon, so I invited my best friend to come up from Wyoming and go to Lagoon with me. The entire day, I was trying to come up with the courage to say what was on my mind. As we were getting ready to leave, we walked out to his car so he could play me some songs from the ``Chicago" musical soundtrack. After he was finished, I told him that I had something important to say. After hesitating for a moment, the words ``I'm gay" slipped out of my mouth. He looked completely shocked. He spent the next several minutes telling me that it was the worst mistake I would ever make in my life. It was an abominable sin against God, and he desperately wished I would reconsider.
Years later, after he returned from his mission, we were all together at a friend's house playing board games, and when he got up to leave, he said that he felt like he should go around and shake everyone's hand. He proceeded around the circle, starting to my left, shaking everyone's hand, but ending with the person to my right. He had deliberately skipped my hand while making his rounds. When he got married, I was the only one in our group of friends to not get an invitation to the reception. It hurts to know that he feels so uncomfortable with me, but at the same time, I realize that there's nothing I can do.
After the negative response of my best friend, I wrote an e-mail to my other close friends, explaining that I am gay, that I wasn't going to change, and that they could either accept me as I am, or we could agree to move on from the relationship. To my utter surprise and delight, every single one of my remaining friends responded with love and kindness. A few felt the need to explain their feelings a bit further by letting me know that they may not agree with my ``choice", as they called it, but that they loved me no matter what and we would always be friends. One girl said she still enjoys me as a person and feels that I'm a great friend and one worth keeping around. She has been an example of true unconditional love and I'll be grateful to her for that as long as I live.
Once I was open and honest about who I truly was and why I had been so incredibly depressed, I became a new man. I wasn't sad at all anymore. I had never experienced fulfillment in life like that before. The light was back behind my eyes and the gleam in my smile was dazzling once again.
That was when I quit going to church. I wasn't angry with the LDS Church; I just couldn't attend any longer. When the Church started helping with Proposition 8, though, I felt betrayed. They were supporting organizations which were spreading untruths and half-truths about me and my future family. I still didn't feel it would be appropriate to attend any of the protests held near LDS property. They had their beliefs, and I couldn't change that, nor did I have a desire to change them; but I did attend the demonstrations held at the City-County building and Capitol buildings in Salt Lake City.
When news broke that the Church and others had succeeded in removing the freedom to marry from thousands of Californians, it was devastating. That same summer, I had fallen in love with a guy who ended up breaking my heart. These things together with other day-to-day stressors sent me into a spiral of despair. Before I knew it, at age 23, I was standing on the edge once more, with thoughts of suicide continuously crossing my mind.
November 22 was the one-year anniversary of a close friend's passing away. He enjoyed going out dancing a lot, so as a way of holding a memorial, a friend of mine held a small party at a local dance club. My cousin had agreed to attend the party as my designated driver. I ended up consuming too much alcohol. My cousin drove me safely to my friend's house where I had made plans to spend the night. I don't remember that drive, but I remember being at the dance club and the next thing I knew, I was completing field sobriety tests with a police officer. Needless to say, it was a very sobering experience and I remember everything after that. Due to my cooperation, the officer allowed me to go home rather than to jail if I could find a sober friend to drive me. While I was sitting in the back of the police car waiting for my friend to arrive, I had time to evaluate my life. My depression along with the shame of being arrested and charged with DUI was more than I knew how to cope with. I made a decision to end my life.
As soon as my friend dropped me off at my apartment, I got on my computer and jotted a few quick lines vaguely explaining that I was depressed about the Church's involvement in Proposition 8 and had an overall dissatisfaction with my life. I then proceeded to take every pill I had in my medicine cabinet. I decided to call my sisters and mother to tell them goodbye. None of them answered, but I left voicemails for each one of them explaining through sobs that I was sorry for leaving them, that I loved them dearly, and ending with one final goodbye. I also left a voicemail for my ex-boyfriend explaining that I still cared for him, and I knew that my actions would affect him too, but I wanted him to know that my decision was not a result of anything he had done.
After that, my phone started to ring. It was my sister. Although it was around 2:00 a.m., my call woke her up, and after listening to the voicemail I left, she was completely alert and scrambling to obtain more detail about the situation. I was sobbing quite hard by this point, and I'm sure it was difficult for her to understand me. I explained my feelings and informed her that it was already too late.
The thought crossed my mind that my sister might come to my apartment to try and take me to the hospital. So while I was talking with her, I left the comfort of my apartment and started winding aimlessly through the Avenues of Salt Lake City, turning random corners so as not to be easily found. Just then I remembered that my cell phone could be tracked by GPS. At that, I informed my sister that I couldn't talk anymore, and I removed the battery from my phone.
I continued walking aimlessly for a time before deciding to try again to get in touch with my ex-boyfriend. I felt a need to hear his voice one last time. When his phone went immediately to voicemail, I called his mother and asked her if she would wake him up for me. As soon as he was on the line, he could tell something was wrong and started asking questions. I was honest with him about the situation, and I heard him drop his mom's phone as he used his to dial the police. At that, I took the battery out of my phone again.
By this time, it had been nearly an hour since I had taken the pills, and I didn't feel like they were having an effect on me. I decided to walk to the 24-hour Smith's on the corner of 8th South and 9th East. By the time I got there, I was really feeling the effects of the medication, but I wanted to take more pills for good measure. I sought out a specific brand of cough medicine which I had heard had caused some cases of accidental overdose. I took all the pills inside two boxes of the medication to guarantee I would not survive.
During the summer months, I had often enjoyed spending time at Liberty Park feeding the ducks and geese at the pond. I had often come to this same Smith's for the purpose of buying bread for the birds, because the park was just down the block. It seemed like a nice place to spend the final minutes of my life. By the time I made it to the park, the sun was starting to rise. Suddenly, one of my best friends was there wrapping her coat around me and forcing me to put on her gloves. By that time, I was having an out-of-body experience. I could feel her touching me and trying to warm me up, but I was watching the interaction from a raised position to the west of both of us and watched the scene unfold in a third-person perspective. She told me that I needed to go to the hospital, but I refused to allow her to take me.
The next thing I knew, I was coming back to consciousness in a hospital room and asking why it hadn't worked. It turned out that after calling my ex-boyfriend, he had given the police my best friend's name and they woke her up. She had been driving around the Avenues looking for me. At the same time, my ex-boyfriend had driven to my apartment and broken in, to see if I was still inside. He was able to provide the police with the names of the empty medication containers I had left on the kitchen counter. Meanwhile, my family was all awake thinking about possible places I may have gone. They told the police that I had used my phone, and the police obtained an address by way of GPS. My best friend recognized it as the park and knew that was exactly where I had gone to die.
While I was in the hospital recovering, it was discovered that the medications I had taken at home were enough to complete the job, but that the medication I had taken at Smith's counteracted them and extended my life just a little. However, if I had agreed to go to the hospital with my friend instead of refusing, which forced her to call an ambulance to come and get me, I wouldn't have survived. The timing was crucial, and my expedited entrance into the emergency room via the ambulance enabled me to receive the necessary treatment to save my life.
As soon as I became fully conscious, I realized what a horrible mistake I had made and was grateful to be alive. I spent a few weeks recovering and several more months going through therapy to help put things back in perspective.
I have since made a full recovery. Things are much better for me now and are constantly looking up. I've successfully graduated from college and love working in my field. I'm currently in a loving, fulfilling relationship. Ironically, my relationship is with a charming young man by the name of Cameron. Yes, I finally did find my Cameron. The connection we've formed is more powerful than anything I have ever experienced.
My entire experience has changed how I view life. Shortly after coming out, I still viewed the LDS Church as being true, regardless of how misguided they may have been on the issue of homosexuality. Over the course of time, my thoughts and feelings toward religion in general have adapted. I feel that religion can be a great blessing to people, but my view is just that there are multiple laws which make up the Universe and govern our activities. I use the term ``God" to describe these laws, but I don't think that human brains are capable of interpreting all the laws which govern us. I do believe in an afterlife as well as a preexistence; I just don't feel that organized religion has the right idea with regard to what's actually going on.
One of the biggest turning points in my life was when I finally had the epiphany to kneel down and ask about homosexuality for myself. If you or someone you know are struggling with similar questions, my advice would be to learn as much as you can about it, and then kneel down and pray for the truth to be revealed unto you. My story is one of thousands. Unfortunately, some aren't as lucky as me, and their stories are cut tragically short. Too many precious lives are lost as a result of the sometimes unbearable torment experienced. I extend a challenge to love with all your heart unconditionally. Love is the best way to move forward.