I realized I was attracted to a female high school coach of mine back in the mid-1970s, back when gays and lesbians were called hurtful and degrading names. Few people came out of the closet because it hurt too much. Playing sports in high school helped me because I had several lesbian friends. I wasn’t attracted to any of them, but I felt more comfortable hanging around them than anyone else.
I felt guilty at church because when I was 10, I was sexually molested by an older cousin and also raped by a man who was a “family friend.” Then came the onslaught of Church lessons about the law of chastity, shooting at me in rapid-fire succession as if from a firing squad that had found me guilty. “Once you lose your virginity, you can never get it back.” “Which would you rather have, a used car or a new car?”
Our “family friend” pedophile convinced me the rape was my fault. He insisted that if I ever told anyone, I’d be in trouble. So I didn’t tell anyone. And I felt guilty—horribly guilty—since I assumed I’d committed “the worst sin next to murder.”
I played sports in college too and spent most of my time with friends who were lesbian. Because of my testimony of the gospel, I avoided dating my freshman year. However, by my second year of college, I’d quit going to church altogether and was drinking and using drugs. I’d grown weary of feeling guilty. And since I wasn’t going to church or obeying the Word of Wisdom, I figured I might as well date women too.
I went into it all figuring it was probably just a phase.
I though that at some point down the road, I’d quit dating women and start going back to church. Then something unexpected happened. I fell in love with a woman I’d been dating. It surprised me because I didn’t really think I’d fall in love (although I’m not sure what I thought would happen since I was dating women). But despite the fact that my feelings for her were so strong, my testimony carried a great deal of weight too—both in the sense of a strong conviction of the gospel as well as the weight of the conflict.
After we'd been together about a year and a half, we broke up. I dated more women in an effort to get over her, but it didn’t work very well. When I moved out of state, I had this feeling—this impression—that I should find out what ward I lived in and go talk to the bishop. I wasn't even sure what to say. I just felt like it was important.
In hindsight, I can see why. By the grace of God, that bishop was truly Christlike. He used the power of the priesthood in my behalf, just as the divine plan had been designed. He lived the scripture “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned” (D&C 121:41).
That bishop met with me for almost three years, even when I got back with my girlfriend for a while.
When I messed up, he’d increase his patience and long-suffering and love unfeigned.
Being in love with a woman had a very strong sense of “this is right,” and there was so much good in that relationship. So the impression “this is wrong” was difficult to believe, much less act upon. Really, what felt right was wrong, and what felt wrong was right. At times the conflict would rage, and I’d consider suicide. I feel blessed to still be alive.
With the help of the bishop, I started reading scriptures every day and attending church more often, even though my faith was difficult to maintain. Many times I was unable to feel God’s presence. Prayers seemed far more like monologues than dialogues.
I’d always been certain there was a limited amount of pain each of us would have to endure in this life. We’re told we won’t be given more than we can bear. But when I reached the point where I was convinced I couldn’t bear any more, that’s when the deepest pain—a kind of defining, refining pain—worked on me in a way nothing else had.
I began to gain the strength necessary to exercise my agency and choose the gospel plan.
Still, it was a difficult choice.
The prospects did not look good. I had no desire, whatsoever, to spend a lifetime with a man—much less an eternity.
So that left me with just one option: to remain celibate for the rest of my life. It did help that I’ve always enjoyed spending time on my own, especially writing and photography.
I knew the Book of Mormon was true. I knew the gospel of Jesus Christ was true. I knew we had a living prophet on the earth. So I continued moving forward in that direction.
I was frequently uncomfortable at church, though. I didn't know anyone. I was still smoking and drinking and doing drugs, and I kept my sexual attractions hidden. I knew I wasn't living the “righteous life” that I assumed everyone else at church was living. I felt alienated, like I was visiting a foreign land.
In addition to the bishop, I finally found a friend at church. She was assigned as my visiting teacher. Her love, acceptance, and support helped me feel more comfortable. I finally had a friend at church who knew who I was, including all the things I’d done wrong, and didn't think I was bad or evil or perverted.
It took several more years for me to gain sobriety with regard to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco and to find heartfelt comfort without another woman in my life. By the time I turned 30, I was prepared to go through the temple. I assumed I was making a commitment to be chaste for the rest of my life, and I had the faith I could pull it off.
But I felt I should work on dating men, which often pushed me the other way, causing me to think I was definitely lesbian and could never be with a man. After a while, I met a man whose company I enjoyed. He was very bright and interesting to talk with. We remained friends until he said he wanted a relationship. Because I’d been writing a book about my life at the time, I handed him my manuscript that talked about all the worst sins I’d committed.
I thought I might not ever see him again. But he showed up for dinner that Sunday night.
Not only was he okay with my past, he was deeply moved by it.
Crying, he apologized for not being there when I was young and not being able to help.
I was truly amazed and deeply moved. My feelings for him changed in that moment. Ever since then, I have known he is the right person for me. And he’s a man, which has been the most astounding part.
To this day, I let people in certain situations know about my background when I feel a need to educate and inform, to help increase understanding about same-sex attraction and LGBT Mormons who are looking to find a sense of belonging among the community of Saints. I do get treated differently sometimes, even avoided or shunned by a few. More often, I’ve gained greater friendships and found I have more in common with others than I thought.
I admit, I have a difficult time when some people say, “Well sure, you can live righteously because you got married. It’s easier for you.” That bothers me because I’ve had more recent trials, with PTSD and with raising our three children who have each struggled with certain challenges. And that has proven even more difficult for me. It has been worse to endure my children’s pain than my own. “Please, hurt me if you must, but not my children!”
I’ve grown in faith in so many ways. At least now I know better than to assume I have necessarily seen my most challenging times. I’m grateful I have a husband who loves and supports me and has done so through so much. I do know he has made life easier for me as we have raised our children together, challenges and all.
My faith is more seasoned now. I depend on the Lord in all things and have grown to trust that somehow, someway, all of this truly is giving us experience. Even though the very jaws of hell have seemed to gape open wide after me, at several times throughout my life, I do have a perfect knowledge that it is for my good (see D&C 122:7).
My love for and dedication to the Savior and His gospel cannot and will not ever be broken again.