I Was Lucky
My family joined the Church when I was three years old and my little sister was just a few months, along with my older brother and sister. The Church, obviously, then became our lives. My father had very high callings in the ward and my mother struggled but managed raising four children and being involved in primary.
The gospel and the Church was the safest and easiest thing in the world for me. I was rapt up in anything about God and religion, and it was to never leave my life even when my parents became inactive 7 years later.
I went to Church on my own for a while and eventually, I just felt uncomfortable going without my family, even though they were highly supportive and proud of me for my faith.
I had the normal teenage years for a girl…but certain things just started pressing on my mind. I'd had a crush on my teacher at school and all the teen magazines said this was normal for someone of my age so I didn't hang on to the thought that there may be something else involved. My father always used to tease me because, when I was six I went to hospital a lot and I even asked a nurse for her phone number so I could call her! It was a family joke, and we took it very lightly…until I started liking girls my age. I still look back and think, 'gosh, how young I was' but even at twelve I was adamant I was in love with my best friend. And she felt the same and I lost my virginity to her. For three months I was the happiest person alive. I was confused and embarrassed that it was my best friend, but never ashamed or confused about how I felt.
Then she decided she was straight, and had heterosexual relationships thereafter. I assumed I would be the same, and I started dating boys, for another three years. I went into yearlong relationships with guys after that, still expressing to them my attraction to women. My boyfriends had been my best friends previous to our romantic involvements, and I was confused about which type of love I actually felt for them, so I made up in my mind, privately, that I was bisexual.
I went to Church from time to time and regularly went to Young Women's meetings. I didn't know homosexuality or being 'queer' was condemned, but I kept it quiet, as I did to everyone.
It was easy for me to hide the fact that I was into women - I was very feminine and did girly things!
I loved the gospel with all my heart and whenever I was scared or frightened, I sang the only songs I could remember from my time in the Church, 'Teach me to walk in the light' and 'I am a Child of God'. I read Nephi 1 over and over again…even with this small amount of wisdom, I held the Spirit and the light inside me so close.
My inactivity in the Church was never to do with my sexuality - I didn't even think of it.
My interest in women grew stronger and I lost complete interest in men. I felt the chemistry more with women and it had nothing to do with sexual intimacy or body parts or a fear of men, like some may say. Men just didn't do it for me!
I went on to find the love of my life, which was a girl. I got involved with drugs and lots of alcohol because I was realising that I couldn't take my sexuality as lightly as the jokes made about me before. This was real. Again, I was never ashamed of my feelings, I just didn't know how to deal with what came along with that. I didn't know anyone else gay except in gay bars and clubs, I couldn't talk to my teachers to find a youth club or support system. I was being a teenager, and a lesbian at the same time, which was extremely trying, personally for me.
My best friend at the time 'brought me out' and my school and friends found out about me and my romantic relationships. I was attacked and my life threatened, my friends' lives were made hell and they were beaten and sought after.
My family found out and thankfully, they were supportive and on my side all the way through. But I was prepared for the worst.
I was the most popular girl in school, with academic recognition and sound friendships with my peers. Of course, I lost some of that popularity when people found out about me, but I was lucky to have great friends who may not of liked it, but loved me anyway.
One thing I could never understand was people who said I was choosing to be gay, that it was a matter of lifestyle rather than just myself. I would've never chosen this knowing I would be subject to discrimination and prejudice. I didn't get kicks out of being a victim. Those nights of prank phone calls and friends having glass thrown at them, the name-calling, the physical abuse, were never in the agenda for me to be living who I was. I could've lied and said the 'rumours' were untrue, I could've kept a low profile and dumped my closest friends for their safety, but they knew as well as I did, that professing the truth and being who I was, was important moralistically.
One day I was feeling really low. I'd left school by now, and was in a relationship with a girl. I was living quite contently but this Sunday morning (ironically), I couldn't help but feel down. I was thinking about Heavenly Father and the Church, and I felt so compelled to get in contact with Young Women's President. I told her everything- that I missed going to Church (it had been 4 years), I didn't know much but I wanted to learn and feel good again. I was spiritually drained.
We worked together in coming back to Church and a meeting with the Bishop was necessary. He explained the law of chastity and the Church's standing regarding homosexuality. I was shocked but again, prepared and I continued in the efforts. I moved from England to the Mediterranean that same year and became 1st Counsellor for Young Women's and in charge of Genealogy. Within a year I couldn't find the faith or hope to continue teaching young women about marriage and the law of chastity. Although I believed in purity, and maintained these high standards to have the calling, the feelings for women never went away. My mentors left the country after their mission and I was standing on my own. My support was only young missionaries and I chose not to tell them my sexuality issues, because I knew they would not understand.
It wasn't that I couldn't have faith independently. I read articles and books and essays with self-help and motivations given by the Church for gays and lesbians. I tried dating a boy in our ward and our Bishop told him to not fall in love with me because I might not return it, and told him to talk to me about marriage.
I hung out with straight girls, kept out of gay-orientated bars, clubs and other situations. I studied and I prayed and I begged.
I tried to take my own life because of the expectations. The Church was the only thing that made me feel so ugly about my sexuality. Bible stories and verses were thrown at me to scare me, and it worked. The pressure on me was enormous because I was so spiritual and a good leader among the youth, and a support for those in need.
It was all expected of me to forget 'those issues' and concentrate on celibacy and following Christ. I didn't even realise I was there anymore, I was someone else.
I left the Church a year ago now. I have not chosen to be taken out of the Church because for the simple reason, I am holding on to God and his glory.
I am grateful for the good and bad that I have experienced in my life. For some reason, I've never been made to feel guilty or ashamed. From the reaction of most people around me, I am amazed I never did.
When I pray to my Heavenly Father, I never get a direct answer, I am calmed down, relaxed and feel love. I never feel wrong or condemned for my feelings for women, although young missionaries have told me it has come from Satan. I don't believe this.
I have let go of anger or malice towards the Church…because the gospel is still the most important thing in my life. The gospel does not tell me I am wrong. The Church changes but the gospel doesn't…maybe some day the Church will change enough to eventually go parallel with the words of Christ.