On the island of misfit toys.
Over the course of the next few posts, I’m going to be writing my generic ‘coming out’ story. But first, I just wanted to clarify why. To be entirely honest, I don’t love the idea of writing something like this. But as I’ve thought about the other posts I would prefer to write, understanding the coming out part is often essential.
Additionally, I think there’s some value in having as many of these stories as possible available online. There are already a lot of them, but the more that exist, the easier it becomes—particularly for young LGBT individuals from faith communities—to recognize that there are an infinite number of different roads our stories might take.
Warning: This is a post involving the temple that may be objectionable to some Mormons.
So it was just after Easter, and I had decided to be gay. But I had also decided not to stress my family out by coming out to them before a wedding set to occur in November. That was a lot of months away.
In the interim, I came out to a guy I knew from church who I was fairly certain was gay. (For those wondering, I just flat out messaged him on Facebook and said, in so many words, ‘I’m gay; are you?’ It was beyond mortifying, but also, it worked.) He was phenomenal at just sitting and listening and, later, introducing me to other gay Mormons he knew. (Apparently, once you find one, you find all of them.)
I also told the bishop of my singles ward, whom I dearly, dearly love, and who handled it very supportively. In discussing the particular ward in which I lived, he may have also gone on a slight tangent about someday grabbing Provo bishops by their lapels, pulling them close, and muttering, “You don’t know what it’s like, man, out, away from your sheltered little wards; it’s like the island of misfit toys out there.”
Despite these baby steps, however, I felt like I was going mad.
So on July 18, 2015, I attended a service at an LDS temple to seek God’s guidance on a very specific—and narrow—question: I wanted to know whether it was time for me to come out to my parents. The constant, constraining weight on my heart was getting to be too much, and I wasn’t sure I could make it to November without speaking to them about what I was going through.
Let me tell you what I was not in the temple to pray about. I did not go there to ask if I should ‘act on my attraction’—Mormonspeak for start having gay sex. I did not go there to ask if it was okay for me to be openly, actively gay. Not because I didn’t want answers to those questions, but because I felt that I had already received those answers: I had experienced what felt like an epiphany that coming out was the right thing to do, and had prayed sincerely with God about those issues both inside and outside the temple before, and felt relatively confident that beginning to date men was what I should pursue next.
As such, this particular trip to the temple was not about that; rather, my prayer that day was essentially ‘give me strength to make it these next few months without telling my parents—or tell me that it is time to just tell them now.’
By the time I left the temple, I knew it was time. Surprisingly, however, that was ultimately a very minor part of my experience in the temple that day.
For those unfamiliar with Mormon temple practices, ‘going to the temple’ actually involves going through a religious ceremony, before entering a spacious, silent, light-filled hall meant to represent heaven, where one may meditate or pray in a calm, sacred space. For many Mormons, the real point of going to the temple is simply to get to this room and spend a few minutes there in quiet contemplation. But on each visit, one must first spend an hour going through a religious ceremony. To summarize it very briefly, you watch a film that recounts the story of creation and the fall of Adam and Eve from Genesis. The journey of Adam and Eve—leaving the presence of God, but striving thereafter to return—is to be applied to our own modern struggles to find God.
After Adam rebuffs Satan’s efforts to get him to eat the fruit, Eve accepts the fruit. This, per Mormonism, was not a mistake, but an intentional, conscious, and appropriate decision on Eve’s part—the fruit granted the partaker an ability to know the difference between good and evil. Without that knowledge, Eve and Adam would remain stagnant in the garden, existing but not progressing. Having eaten the fruit, Eve confronts Adam. Because she has disobeyed God, she will be sent out of the garden. She asks Adam to eat the fruit as well, and come with her—otherwise, they will become separated, one in the garden and one out of it, and this separation means they will never have children. Adam relents and eats the fruit as well.
I went to the temple that day fully intending to tune out this ceremony, as many Mormons do. The real reason I was there was to pray—not to think about Adam and Eve. But I found myself watching rather closely—and becoming rather intrigued by the story of Eve. I related to her side of the tale in a way I hadn’t before. Everything fell into the context of my feelings with coming out, and I realized very strongly that this was something I truly had to do. It was part of my progression. It was wrong and forbidden, but it was the only thing I could do to keep from idling in place. Without this decision I would never be truly intimate with another human being—not just sexually, but emotionally, totally vulnerable and reliant on another, or, in the reverse, the end-of-the-line strength and supporter of a totally vulnerable partner. Without moving forward, I would be cutting myself of from ever knowing what it was to love and raise children.
My personal, emotional life had become stagnant; it was time for me to choose progress.
I say this might be objectionable to Mormons because I am claiming that it was their very own, very sacred religious ceremony that most forcefully convinced me that it was time to be gay, something very much anathema to that same religious ceremony, in which sex outside of heterosexual marriage is forcefully condemned, and in which sacrifice of everything, including all you are as an individual, in submitting to God’s commandments is extolled. I heard those same commandments when I went through the temple that day as I had on every other time I went through the temple, but they could not erase the conviction I gained that for me, right then, it was time to pursue a different path.
Then I left the temple, called my dad, and told him I was going to come home for the weekend.