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Growing Up Queer and Mormon: A Dangerous Journey

Growing Up Queer and Mormon: A Dangerous Journey
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Thursday, May 17, is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) and this year Care2 is bringing you personal stories from around the world on the fight to eliminate anti-LGBT prejudice and discrimination. For our complete coverage, please click here.

I try to avoid telling people that I’m from Utah. It’s not because I’m ashamed of where I come from; Utah is a beautiful place, and many members of my family are lovely people. But I hate being put in a position where I have to explain my family and my personal life to near-strangers when they invariably assume that I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

I was born in Utah, and spent much of my childhood there. Like many LGBT children, I knew I was different at a young age, but I couldn’t tell you how or why. I can count the number of crushes I had on boys on one hand – when girls talked about the boys they liked, I couldn’t understand what they were talking about. When boys asked me out, I was never interested. But I spent an awful lot of time quietly adoring my female friends from afar.

I didn’t realize that intense longing to be near someone constantly was what a crush felt like. I was hitting puberty in Utah, and I was only aware that homosexuality existed in the abstract. I felt something was “wrong” with me and I didn’t know why. I tried to pray for guidance and clarity, but when none came, I began to doubt there was anyone listening – and then I prayed for forgiveness for questioning.

My family left the church – and Utah – when I was a young teen. While it’s left me with a lifelong aversion to organized religion and impatience for dealing with some of my more conservative relatives, the experience did little lasting harm. We began attending the Unitarian Universalist Church, where I received mildly flawed but fairly comprehensive sex ed which clarified my bisexuality for me. No one disowned me when I came out. I didn’t lose any friends. I didn’t get in any heated debates. (In fact, I married the first person I ever came out to!) I’m luckier than most queer people who grow up in the church.

It’s no secret that Utah, which is about 70% Mormon, has a suicide rate 3 times the national average. And a huge proportion of those deaths are among LGBT Mormon youth. What else can you expect, growing up insulated within a religion which makes clear, in no uncertain terms, that homosexuality ensures failure in your life’s purpose?

In past years, LDS leadership was explicitly anti-gay, promoting reparative therapy and counseling gays and lesbians to marry members of the opposite sex in order to be “cured.” This has worked out about as well as you might expect – resulting in divorces, broken families, and suicide.

I could try to describe what the Mormon church has done to gay members for you, but I think it’s easier to let Steve, an ex-Mormon and close family friend, tell you about his experiences:

The LDS church, to its credit, has progressed a little over the years. Oh, they’ve still donated tons of money to oppose marriage equality legislation, but their official line is no longer to try to force LGBT members into heterosexual marriages and hope it works out.

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Photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr

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11:19AM PDT on Apr 21, 2013

Great job Steve, xx

11:47AM PDT on Jun 27, 2012

I really don't like to speak much on religious issues but Mormon beliefs frighten me and having known that Romney is one scares me even more. I have personally been in many conversations with mormons as they are all over the streets, on the public transportations in Switzerland promoting the Mormon history. I can sense some relief the writer of this article feels. Her courage to speak her experiences is another eye opener for the readers. Thanks for sharing it. I know for sure I would never place a "vote" to support one to run this country.

8:31AM PDT on Jun 27, 2012

Thank you for this very fair, well-balanced, truthful and painfully honest editorial.

1:42PM PDT on Jun 26, 2012

It never ceases to amaze me how some "religious" people can justify their fear, loathing and persecution of a whole segment of the population by quoting some scripture passage. The fact that there are numerous contradictory passages matters very little to these closed minded followers of many different faiths. I'm guessing that "Love thy neighbour" has a very limited meaning for some. Also, I'm very grateful that I never inherited a Faith Gene!!

I commend Steve for the moving and very honest video and wish him well. Through brave actions like his, perhaps attitudes can change.

2:20PM PDT on May 23, 2012

I can only imagine how difficult it must be and my heart goes out to all those GLBTQs within the Mormon Church who are presently suffering.

/Avis Marie Sandar

8:52PM PDT on May 22, 2012

Everybody, I am MOrmon, and i raised five sons. One of them(so Far) is gay, and I just want him to be happy and be comfortable with his family.Mormons preach the ideal, and how many of us is ideal? I just hope that Jesus Christ knows my son's heart. He is a good man. I think in the end, we will be surprised at who is in heaven & who is in hell. I expect my gay son to be with me in heaven one day, after he has lived a long life full of happiness, even if it does not include the church I raised him in.

1:34PM PDT on May 22, 2012

Many organized religions and religious zealots scare me because they expect you to fit into a specific mold.

8:03AM PDT on May 21, 2012

Just don't let your hair stylist get his Mitt's on you

7:41AM PDT on May 21, 2012

I for one don't "bash" Mormon' s Brutus B.,in part because part of my childhood was lived in a neighborhood that was about half Mormon,so I was friends with many of them.Still,that doesn't mean I don't consider many Mormon beliefs-magic underwear-strange,and it's not bashing the church to say so. Nor is it Mormon "bashing" for me to mention a couple of issues I have with the church itself.In 2008 it was a major bank roller of California's anti-gay Prop.8,for which I think the church should lose it's tax exempt status,along with my former Catholic church for similar reasons.

And while I always greet people I know are Mormon,from how you're dressed,it would be nice if occasionally you'd just accept my hello as friendliness and not ask if I'm interested in your church-especially on occasions when I'm wearing clothing identifying a one of my favorite bars....

7:35AM PDT on May 21, 2012

And they want one of the mormon faith to run for president. If Mitt would win it would set this entire movement back to the stone ages.

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