Master of Information Systems Management (MISM) ' 16
Describe your BYU experience
I grew up in Dallas, Texas, second youngest of 6 kids. There was never any question that I would go to BYU, and just like my 5 other siblings, I ended up a True Blue cougar without so much as a glance at any other school.
I knew I was gay from around the time of puberty. I confessed to my bishop that I was viewing gay porn when I was 13, fearful that I wouldn’t get into heaven if I didn’t. I planned for him to be the only person in the entire world to know the secret of my sexuality. Of course, he had me sit down with my parents and come out to them that same day. I was in no way prepared to do that, but I felt I had no choice. They would have found out if I told them or not.
My parents took it decently well, considering their lack of experience. From that time on I was in consistent therapy through LDS Family Services. I was never told that I would stop being gay, but that they would “minimize the gay part” of me. It “worked” somewhat, and I was functionally asexual; I never felt any attraction to anyone, male or female. Instead, all of my sexuality expressed itself in fantasies, which were fulfilled and fueled by pornography.
I continued to use porn throughout the years, fully believing it was an addiction outside of my control. I went to special therapy and support groups to try and break the habit. It seemed the more I tried to fight it, the worse it got, and the guilt from “sinning” weighed on me endlessly. It wasn’t until I was 26 and out that I realized that I was using it to self-medicate from shame of feeling broken. Once that realization happened and I made strides in understanding my self worth, my pornography viewing ceased to be an issue.
Growing up, the plan was always to search for a wife. I believed that I could find a woman that I would love enough to marry, maybe even be sexually attracted to, and that I would never outwardly act on my “same-sex attraction.” BYU seemed like the best place to find that “one-of-a-kind” Mormon girl who would be okay with what I considered the holy grail: a mixed-orientation marriage.
I served a very typical mission in Salta, Argentina after my first year of BYU. No issues, no large trials, slip ups, huge epiphanys, or major disobedience. Just some pretty standard gospel preaching. Immediately after my mission, I came out to my entire family. It was what I call a “Mormon coming out,” meaning I told them I “struggled with SSA” but was still committed to living the teachings of the church. I was crying so intensely leading up to my saying the words that they thought I was going to announce I was dying of cancer. They praised me for being so strong, that I must be a truly choice spirit to have such a trial. I was on top of the world at their reactions.
For years 2-4 at BYU, I really did have the time of my life. I think I enjoyed it because I “fit.” BYU and the Provo culture were perfect for where I was in my life: business degree, extroverted personality, very casual dating. I was a cisgender white male hustling for acceptance, and everything around me validated that. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, blissfully unaware of any other person in the world and ignoring any other perspective that may challenge my own.
On top of that, I was in a BYU performing group, Vocal Point, and I was always able to blame my lack of serious dating on how busy I was. I was still searching for a woman to “do it for me,” but it wasn’t too much of a priority. First of all, the only desire I really had to find a wife was the fact that I felt guilty for not feeling guilty about not wanting to try. You may have to read that a couple of times, but I wrote it correctly. Perhaps more of a reason for not trying too hard, though, was that the more effort I put into it, the more frustrated I would get at it not working.
Sadly, yet not surprisingly, I couldn’t avoid the frustration. It had been slowly growing, but the summer before my final year, I was finally fed up. I had failed at finding a female remedy to my sexuality, hurting the girls I dated and making me even more discouraged. I told myself, then my parents, then my siblings, that I was gonna let myself fall in love with whoever my heart was led to, whether that be a man or a woman. I needed the pressure everyone was putting on me gone, including the pressure I was putting on myself. The family reacted poorly, but I assured them this didn’t mean anything one way or the other. I didn’t anticipate falling in love with a guy - at that point I had no reason to believe that it would be much different from dating a girl, just that it would be a little easier to be intimate.
Removing the pressure to date worked, and it finally allowed my sexuality to be liberated from the fantasy limbo I had confined it to. That summer, I had my first crush on a guy, and it was undeniably crippling. I had never felt anything that powerful before. I had to miss work from being physically ill. The intensity and vibrance of that crush solidified that I was never going to find with a woman what I could have with a man. I discovered that my sexuality would influence a relationship more than just physical stimulation level.
As time went on, I began to be more and more confident that those feelings I felt towards men were NOT sinful, and also an essential part of the human experience that God wanted me to have. That realization began the crumbling of my testimony in the LDS church. I began to question everything else I had been taught was right and wrong, since my life experiences were not lining up with what I was told I would feel. I learned that many of my personal values did not align with what the church claimed as truth, and I had my name removed from church membership records about a year after graduating.
My last year at BYU was not great. In fact, it was quite the struggle. I started to realize that everyone around me was headed in a very different direction. I was still performing with Vocal Point, but was secretly dating a guy who I met during that Fall semester. In fact, as part of the show, the single guys in the group were called out. I had to claim to be single, because I couldn’t reveal that I was dating someone. I was so close to graduation, he was also a BYU student, and I didn’t want any issues with the Honor Code office. It was in those moments I could not deny I was living a double life. That burden became heavier and heavier, and I wanted desperately to be accepted in all aspects of my life by all of the people and organizations that I loved.
I finally graduated, and as soon as I had my degree in hand, let my family know about my secret relationship. Me living as an openly gay man was and is probably the hardest thing to happen to my family structure, which probably tells you a bit about the previous lack of diversity in opinions. I also revealed to the Vocal Point group director that I was not living the BYU standards, and therefore would have to bow out of the rest of our performances for the summer. My heart broke as my steps to live more honestly and openly pushed me further from the community I had so passionately loved.
Describe your post-BYU experience
I got a job at a marketing agency post-graduation and continued to date the boy I met at BYU the year before. We moved in together. I kept pushing my family to accept us, but was met with resistance. I wanted to prove to them that our relationship was just as legitimate as any of theirs. I had a lot to prove, and that led me to overlook a lot of things about the relationship that were not good.
I was inexperienced. This relationship was my first serious one, and I didn’t know how to recognize codependency or controlling tendencies, whether intentional or not. I wasn’t used to standing up for myself. I had gone from being a devout poster-child Mormon to living with my boyfriend and being out, a complete 180. In many ways, I felt that the success of the relationship was a reflection of how valid my new choices were.
He proposed on the first day of the next year and we were married 7 months later. The adults in my family attended the wedding out of support for me, but would not participate. Support for the relationship itself varied sibling to sibling, but all agreed that it was too early for their kids (I had 10 nieces and nephews all under the age of 7) to witness their uncle marry a man. Meanwhile, my new husband’s family could not have supported us more. That difference in reaction and support was very hard, and I didn’t speak to many in my family for months out of pain from their decisions and their excluding us from other family functions.
Not even 6 months after the marriage, we were separated. The months of our engagement and marriage were the most difficult and depressed time of my life. Our issues deepened and became even more toxic. It took those dark times and intense feelings of despair to finally realize that it was my relationship that needed to be re-evaluated.
I felt I had left behind so much for the marriage, as did he, which is probably why we both held on for as long as we could. I had been in denial, even when others pointed out that there were problems. We tried therapy and read books, but on our own terms. We were prioritizing the existence of the relationship over our individual well-being.
After some self discovery, I made the difficult choice to end the marriage. While he would waver on his level of agreement with the decision, I knew it had to happen. Yes, the relationship probably should have ended way before the wedding, the engagement, or even moving in together, but hindsight is 20/20. I was embarrassed to have been in a marriage that ended so quickly, but I knew that it was the best choice for each of us.
There I was, divorced after a difficult 6 month marriage, feeling so distant from my family, no longer attending church, pushed out of communities I had loved, in financial difficulty, and with very few friends. And yet, I could not have been happier.
I was happy because I finally stood up for myself in a way I hadn’t before. I was happy to be unapologetically myself to my family, even if that meant our relationships were strained. I was happy to have my few friends that supported and loved every aspect of me, even if I lost the community and surface level friends that had previously sustained me. I was happy to be living authentically after a lifetime of hiding and shame. I was happy to have stopped measuring my personal value from what other people thought of me. I was happy to remember who I was.
I was working at a new company, Thumbtack, for a few months before the separation. The timing of the divorce lined up well with a great opportunity at our San Francisco office, and I accepted the new position. I moved to this beautiful city in April of 2018 and have not looked back, except to be grateful for the events that led me here.
I look forward to continuing to take steps to live wholeheartedly. There are so many things that I don’t know yet about myself, but I feel well on the way to discovering it all. I want to continue to be honest about all of my feelings to myself and others, even (especially) when I’m scared that they may be rejected. I’ve met incredible people who support me and inspire me, and I can’t wait to experience more of that unconditional acceptance and love.
What advice would you share with a current LGBTQ+ BYU student?
Find a smaller network of people who know you, who you are out to, and who you can rely on and most importantly be yourself with. They don’t even need to be your best friends or the people you spend all of your time with. However, just knowing they are there will be a huge help on the toughest days when you feel rejected and unwanted.
Also, try not to harbor resentment. These people that you love are still good people. They are victims of a paradigm that makes it difficult to love anyone different from them, and sadly some will never be able to see outside of that paradigm. The more you can recognize that any rejection of you isn’t actually about you, the happier you will be. Accept the unaccepting.
Posted August 2018