A Former Bishop Comes Out
Affinity, 16:12 [December 1992]
When I was in my late twenties, I was called to serve as Bishop of a large, culturally diverse ward. For several years, I fully immersed myself in dedicated service to the ward members and had many rewarding and faith-promoting experiences which are now indelibly imprinted in my mind. In fact, I have had so many spiritual experiences that they cannot be listed. I was well prepared to be a Bishop, from being a leader in my Aaronic Priesthood quorums, serving almost a year as the Assistant to the Mission President, serving in Elders Quorum and Sunday School Presidencies, and being a counselor in a Bishopric. I was always worthy in every way to participate in the Church and to hold a Temple Recommend. I still am. However, little did I know (or wished to acknowledge) that festering within me were hidden aspects of who I really am. I am gay.
Statistically, about 10% of the male population is predisposed with an attraction for the same sex. They are homosexual. Within the Church, these include your brothers, sons, fathers, boyfriends, husbands, teachers, Bishops and Stake Presidents. In most cases, they are good men who still hold Temple Recommends, which seems to be the standard of worthiness in the Church. However, the resolution of one’s own sexual identity and orientation, particularly if it is same-sex, is not easy, especially if one wishes to remain in the Church and to maintain a family. These were my concerns. I have been married with children for twenty years. One son is currently serving a mission. Even though my wife is my best friend and companion, I have known since my teen years that I have had an attraction for males, although until recently, these feelings were kept well hidden and never fully confronted. I did not realize until now how strong my same-sex feelings were. I also now realize that true heterosexual feelings are non-existent. So, how do you reconcile these inner feelings of who you really are when you have been so thoroughly indoctrinated with the homophobic teachings and policies of society and of the Church?
For some time, I had been extremely concerned about the sexual responses present in my life. More and more, I consciously realized that my sexual interests, even though in what would be classified by others as a successful heterosexual marriage, were those of men not of women. Why? I don’t know, but I do know that these feelings are real and that they cannot go away. When I searched inwardly and came to the full realization that I was gay, I suffered periods of depression and self-doubt, which for me were totally alien to my nature. I asked the Lord why I had such a burden placed upon me since I had not chosen to have these feelings. During this time of reconciliation towards my true feelings, I started to examine my life. I realized that from my teen years I had an attraction towards males not females. I did not have a desire to date. The only person I dated was the one individual who showed love for me when I felt that no one loved me. She was my best friend and we eventually married in the Temple. She is still my friend and the Mother to my children. Even though I have always been sexually attracted to males, I never really fully confronted these feelings until now. I now realize that I never had much of a heterosexual attraction, even though marriage has been good to me. I know that marriage is not the solution for many gay Mormons. I now have problems that they will never have. Since I did not fully come to grips with my sexual orientation until after many years of marriage, I would like to maintain this marriage, but I know it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, since my same-sex feelings are so strong. My decision will affect my children whom I love. However, I realize that I have had something that many gay men will never experience: the joys of having a family.
I am grateful for individuals willing to help me through the turmoil that I have experienced. I am grateful for the book Peculiar People: Mormons and Same-Sex Orientation, but it was this book, ironically, that helped to convince me of who I really was. Even though I had suspected for many years that I may be gay, I did not realize how accurate these feelings were. I fit into all of the classifications involving same-sex preferences. I determined that I was probably at least a 5.0 on the Kinsey scale, and this scared me intensely. That night, I was so emotionally distraught that I got less than 2 hours sleep amidst periods of intense crying. I believe that it was during this night that I fully realized that I had always had gay tendencies. I questioned God as to why, why, why??? During this time, my appetite diminished, my stomach had a constant uneasy feeling, and I cried frequently amidst periods of depression. I awoke with tears in my eyes asking, .”Why, if God loves me so much does he make me suffer through these things that are uncontrollable and difficult to come to grips with? Why do I, who have been so faithful, have to have this so dark side to me, even though I know that I have no control over who I am? Why is it so natural for me to feel the way I do towards men? Why are these feelings condemned so much?” I know that I did not choose to have these feelings! Why would I? They could literally destroy my life, including dividing my family and affecting my standing in the Church, even my job. I know what I am, but it was easier living a lie than taking the bull by the horns and facing this matter head on.
Finally, there was the issue that was the most difficult to confront, how do I tell my wife? Every time I contemplated telling her, I broke down and sobbed uncontrollably! How would I tell my wife that I love her as a person, as a friend, not as a sexually intimate partner? I thought she would be emotionally and sexually devastated. She was, but she has been loving. I am not sorry I did not fully come to grips with my sexual orientation until now because I have had opportunities by “hiding part of me” that many of my orientation will never get to experience, such as being a good Bishop and having beautiful, well-balanced children. If my sexual orientation feelings were resolved previously, such as before or after my mission, I may not have married (in fact, feeling like I now do, I am sure I would not).
At the present time, at least, it’s hard to imagine how my same-sex feelings could ever go away. I now know they have been there forever. They are now on the surface and are being confronted, but it is not easy. There is a group of people out there like me who are tender, loving individuals who only want to be recognized for being who they are. I hope that the number of loving and understanding Stake Presidents and Bishops will increase to assist those of us who desire help. Please realize that we are not consciously responsible for our sexual orientation. Many of us want to be part of the Church that we love. We are God’s children and He loves us. We have served honorable missions and have diligently honored our priesthood from our youth.
I now know who I really am. I know I am a child of God. He is my Father. Why I am gay? I do not know, but I am happy to know who I am because I no longer have to question myself. God is pleased when we make the best of the circumstances which surround us. I am convinced (through prayer and other personal feelings) that God loves me even though I am gay. I do not feel I am a bad person. I have received answers to my prayers and have the inner reassurance of His acceptance. I am happy to say that I now have many gay friends. Some are still in the Church, but some have been driven out. I hope I can help some of those who are seeking to understand themselves better and struggling with same-sex orientation. As God’s children they need to feel loved. As a member of the Church, I will make it my lifetime goal to help them feel needed and appreciated. They have so much to offer.
I hope I can survive the turmoil and challenges that I now must go through because of my homosexuality. I believe that to be true to myself and to God, I must live my life without pretense and in all honesty, even if this means I must live it alone. I will do what I feel is correct and appropriate for me and my family. No matter what, my life will never be the same, nor will my family, whom I love.
I also realize, that by a terrible quirk of fate, my story may also be yours.