Here it is. My coming out letter. I haven't had the time I wanted or needed to really go over this, but here is what my parents are going to read this evening while I am in the room, ready to answer any questions they may have and give them a copy of "No More Goodbyes."
This has been one of the most difficult, personal things I have ever written, and I appreciate all of your love, support and help that has gotten me this far.
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Dear Mom and Dad,
I have been writing this letter for 15 years. I have started and stopped many times, finished and deleted it over and over, and now I am trying again.
I love you so much! I cannot describe how much our family means to me. You are the biggest support in my life, and the pillars of strength that you provide have been crucial. Thank you for raising me to be a good person, who seeks for the best in everyone and every situation. Thank you for raising me to love the Lord and His church. Thank you for the amazing job you have done. I don't know how you do everything you do. You are great examples for me to live up to. I love you.
All my life, I have always wanted to please you as your son. Your respect means the world to me. One of my biggest fears in life is disappointing you, you mean that much to me. I would never want to cause you any grief or heartache. I have always tried to be a good son and bring you joy. I have never wanted to let you down. Please know that giving you this letter is by far the hardest thing I have ever done.
All my life I have been guarded about my feelings. I am sure you have noticed. I don't open up. I don't share too much information about me personally besides the some of the week-to-week activities of my life. Much of this is because I don't like feeling vulnerable, and these mechanisms have been ones of defense and protection. I don’t open up because I don’t completely understand what is going on, and there is a clarion reason why.
I am sharing with you something that is at my very core, something that I have hidden from the world, something that defines me, something that only the Lord and I know about and have conversed about regularly, if not daily. I am not sure if you have ever suspected, or maybe this will shock you, I do not know.
Mom and Dad, I am gay. I have consciously known since I was in the fifth grade, and before that I was innocent enough to not realize it wasn't normal. Most importantly, I did not choose to be gay. It is the way I am, the way I have always been and the way I have felt since I can remember. It is my reality.
I share this with you under complete confidence and would hope you hold this information to yourselves only and not tell anyone else, including all family, relatives and acquaintances for the moment. Please let me handle telling them and anyone else at my own pace and in my own way.
It has taken me a lifetime to begin to understand it and I don’t fully. I don’t think I ever will. I am just coming to terms with it. I have never been attracted to women. Before, I thought it was out of respect and admiration of the female gender that I never wanted to pursue someone, hold hands or kiss. Now I understand that my heart just wasn’t in it. I have never been in love.
I want to share a brief glimpse with you of what my life has been like. I do this so you can really know me. I am the same person, you just know more about me and hopefully this will lead to an openness of love between us. I really hope it will.
Growing up in the church as a closeted gay young man has been beyond difficult, nearly impossible. I have always denied the attractions I felt, thinking if I was a better person or more holy or more dedicated to the church the feelings would go away. I have cried and pleaded with the Lord until my knees were bloody that he change me, that he heal me of the terrible burden I had been dealt. I have cried to Him in tears nightly asking why I was the way I was. Through all my dedication, work and devotion, I have never been changed and I still feel the way I do.
In the church, I am taught that part of me is evil, that part of me is beyond forgivable, that I have a sickness to be cured, a malady that can be purged, that the part of me I had no choice in becoming is bad. I have been pressured into silence and fear that I could not openly discuss this issue. The church ignores it mostly. But I wanted to make very clear to you that I have never consciously chosen to do wrong. To me, it is as ridiculous as saying that everyone who is born with green eyes is sinful. I have never chosen to be gay.
I am a good person. I am faithful and God-fearing. I am a servant. I am a good son. I am a good brother. I am a good uncle. I am a worker. I am temple worthy. I am a believer. I am the same person you knew this morning. But I am not happy.
I have experienced happiness through our family, through the joys of others, through the gospel and through good times and experiences. But deep down inside, I’ve had only the outward appearance of happiness because I have been miserable to my core. The gnawing of my feelings was ever-present. At every moment of the day, during every waking hour, I could never escape who I was.
I have been bottled up, not truly ever able to be myself. The church teaches me that I have a disease that can be healed, a wrong that can be righted, a burden that is to be carried throughout my life until I die and will be straightened out. Instead of addressing the personal issue of me being gay, the church classifies me as suffering same sex attraction or same gender attraction. Those terms remove the humanity and seem cold and clinical to me.
Because of what I was taught and the gospel that I believe in, I have hated myself since I can remember. I hated that I didn’t fit in with the eternal plan. I hated that I couldn’t be myself. I hated my appearance. I hated looking into the mirror. I never understood how anyone could remotely like or want to be around a creature as wretched as I. My spirit has always been at war with my body. I tried to punish my body for feeling and reacting the way it did. I gained weight purposely as a defense mechanism so I would continue to hate myself.
Having known so long, but never admitting I was gay, I created emotional and physical walls around me to protect myself from ever being true to myself. My support system is my family and the church. I even work around members and used that as a way to stay hidden from the world though I was there in plain sight. I actually think being a closeted gay man has enhanced my ability to empathize and perform the tasks at my work which require so much careful wording and subtlety.
However, I was not being honest with myself or you. Not everything in my life been as peachy as I have painted it. In the darkness of my divided nature, I have suffered through many bouts of depression and fleeting thoughts of suicide. Please do not be worried. I know there is too much to live for, too much good that needs to be done, too much love that needs to be offered and too much service that needs to be performed for those malicious thoughts to last more than an instant. I like life, family and the gospel too much to give up that easily.
In the church, I have been encouraged to marry the gay out of me. I was convinced if I tried harder I could change. I have hoped that finding the right girl might ignite a spark that would erase the feelings I have always known. I did and have done everything right. I forced myself to believe that if I could just get married to a girl then I would be committed enough to the gospel truths I know to continue to be faithful, make things work and do my very best to be the fantastic husband and father I know I can be. I so very much desire the peace of mind of having a place in the eternities.
I was ready to get married. I was willing to do it. I was willing to live with my secret my whole life long to live the normal approved life I have always wanted. My senior year at BYU, I decided that I was going to make the ultimate sacrifice to deny my feelings and get married. I made the commitment. I bought the ring. I went to the temple and sought the confirmation from the Lord that the choice I had made was correct and approved of. I prayed, fasted and pleaded, showing the lord that I was willing to do anything for him and sacrifice anything to fit into the plan. But I did not receive the calming answer once I presented my decision.
I had a stupor of thought. I felt bad about the marriage. I was so confused and lost, I didn’t understand. I thought that I had presented before the Lord was the right thing, part of the plan and the way things were going to be. But I simply felt that the marriage wasn’t right and I was frustrated that my offering to the Lord was not being accepted. I went back to the temple every day for two weeks straight, trying to ascertain the will of the Lord, to find my place and gain approval for the path I had determined would fit what I had been taught and knew to be true.
In frustration at the answer I had received, I called you, Dad, in tears from the Provo temple parking lot and poured out to you more than I ever had before. The closest I ever came to telling you about my feelings was on that night, when I told you that my really only concern about the marriage was that I just didn't find her attractive. You calmed me. You helped me organize my thoughts and see the pros and the cons of each aspect of the marriage decision. You gave me great reasons to go through with it. You also said that there was no ticking time bomb, which was exactly how I felt.
I was overwhelmed by the pressures of the church and of getting married at BYU. I was overwhelmed by family pressures to wed. I was overwhelmed by my own desire to fit in and be normal. When you said there was no ticking time bomb to getting married, the spirit flowed into me and confirmed that to me with such force. I was so surprised with the answer but accepted it. You said exactly what I needed to hear.
Looking back, I am glad I didn’t get married my last year at BYU. Even though I was willing to devote everything to it, I have since come to the realization that getting married would be unfair to my wife because I could never truly love her to the fullest potential. But then, I supposed that I simply had not chosen the right person and the confirmation I sought was denied because I had not found the person I was meant to be with yet.
Graduating from BYU, I tried to fill my time up with so many other things so I wouldn't have the time to think about my predicament. I dedicated myself completely to different causes so I could work my feelings into submission. I determined that since I couldn't change my feelings, I would just ignore them. I have become so good at compartmentalizing the pain and grief I feel that I don't know how to truly feel anymore.
I continued dating, trying to find the person who the Lord would accept me marrying. Moving to New York, I still pleaded with the Lord to change me so I could live up to His and your expectations of me. I cried myself to sleep most nights thinking that if only I were better I could be made whole. I read my scriptures, went to church and went to the temple regularly, all searching for the answers I desired. I was still avoiding my feelings, keeping them hidden and secret. I didn’t understand, I still don’t, the “whys” of the attractions I feel.
About four months ago, I reached a point of desperation. It wasn’t caused by anything in particular but by the combined experience and emotions of a lifetime of internal turmoil. Within my conflicted nature, I felt so alone. I felt like I could never tell you. I felt like I could never be accepted. I felt rejected by the church. I felt lost and confused and went to the only place where I knew I could attempt to sort things out before anything rash occurred.
I fled to the temple out of concern for my own well-being and safety. Once there, I fell to my callused knees and prayed harder than ever before for the Lord to remove my burden, to be changed so I could be normal, so I could be free from the pitiful, rejected, pathetic, unlovable, deplorable, wretched, unwanted outcast I was. I cried, my heart broken, no longer wanting to be me, no longer wanting to fight, no longer wanting to live.
Not receiving an answer, in my frustration and anger at myself, I asked the one last question I could think of, a question that I had never thought to ask before. I had never asked this question out of fear of the answer, of myself, of being rejected by my very Creator and thus doomed to exile and outer darkness which would have been too much for me. But I had come to a point where it was the only thing left to ask.
I asked if He accepted me as I was: gay.
That very instant, I felt such a sense of overpowering love from on high that I was overcome with emotion and almost collapsed. I felt the spirit and the love and the acceptance of God so strongly that it was tangible, like an embrace of a broken child who finally understood. Upon feeling that heavenly acceptance, the relief that washed over me felt like pure joy, a sensation I had long forgotten. I cried uncontrollably with happiness at the revelation I had just received.
In that moment, I had a divinely inspired epiphany, a fundamental paradigm shift that I could be my gay self and still be loved and accepted by God. This completely new way of thinking and believing changed my whole outlook on life. I didn’t have a reason to hate myself. I didn’t have to be someone who I wasn’t. I didn’t have to hide. I was not alone.
I know that we are meant to have joy. I want to be happy. I want to love and be loved. I still don't understand. I don't think I ever will in this lifetime. I know I face some agonizing decisions in the future and I don’t know what is next. I just know that the façade I have lived behind my whole life is no longer necessary. I can’t live up to my full potential behind those walls, ignoring and never addressing the issue I have compartmentalized away my entire existence.
This is me. This is why I have never opened up and always shut down at the mere mention of dating, relationships and more. Perhaps with this new knowledge you can understand me more and love me more as your son. I have been prompted to share this with you, and it has taken more courage than I have in order to do it.
I am gay. I have stopped trying to understand why. The world and the church have many differing views of the cause. It is not because of a lack of understanding of the gospel, not because of a biological aberration, not because of an emotionally distant father, not because of an overbearing mother, not because of living in New York and most definitely not because it was my choice.
Please do not think of me as selfish or as taking the easy way out. This is not the easy way. The easy way would to be continuing to deny myself in the comforting veil of ignorance. I am not coming out to spite you or purposely anger you. I have no malicious intent and would never knowingly inflict harm or grief upon you. It has worried me to no end telling you this, to the point of being physically ill. I hope that this can be a turning point in our relationship, increasing the love and support between us.
Please don’t feel ashamed of me or of yourselves. My being gay isn't because of poor parenting. I am the way I am, and I am starting to accept it rather than fight it. You are remarkable parents, my best friends and the biggest support in my life. I don’t know what I would do if you reject me. I don't know what I could do without you. I hope and pray you can still be a support and foundation in my life. I hope you don't shut me out. I am still the same person, the same loving son, the same soul. You just know me better. Now you can start to understand.
I don’t want to be miserable my whole life long. I want to be happy. I am starting to be happy and comfortable with myself. It is a journey that may take some time. I am having to learn everything all over again. Being gay is only part of who I am. You know the rest of me. I love you. I want to make you proud. And I want you to know the real me.
Once again, I implore you to not tell the rest of the family or anyone else yet. Please respect that. Right now, I don’t know what is next. I don’t know where I am being led in life. I have just accepted this myself and know difficult choices are ahead. I know that you will probably need to take some time to ponder, process and pray about this and talk it over, so I may be out of contact for a bit and there may be a time period where you and I need some space. Please take all the time you need, but know I stand ready and willing to talk like we always have at any time.
Mom, Dad, love me for who I am. Instead of being disappointed, hope for the best and be happy for me. I am happier.
Love your son,