Former Mormon Preserving History of Struggle for Gay Rights in Washington
Over 51 years ago, I stood up to what I believed were lies the Mormon Church perpetuated about homosexuality, choosing instead to believe that being gay is good, despite the church’s opposition to this basic truth.
I was baptized as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on June 28, 1964. I was 11. Five years later, on June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Riots occurred. I remember researching anything I could find on homosexuality in the public library. I saw the photos of the fires set in that long-overdue rebellion, accompanying the story, in either Look or Life magazine at the time.
I was excommunicated at my initiative and insistence in 1971 at the age of 18. I first requested excommunication when I was 16 because I knew I was gay and was not willing to hide it by pretending to be something I wasn’t. I felt that if I was going to be a member of the Church, I needed to believe in it wholeheartedly, obey all the rules, or get out.
Shortly after leaving the Church, I moved to Seattle. There, I witnessed the early struggles for gay rights and helped in those efforts to gain equality. I worked alongside many activists, most notably Tim Mayhew. Tim was one of the pioneer gay activists who helped found some of the first gay organizations in Seattle. He was the first gay volunteer lobbyist to Olympia and he was an important part of the groundbreaking work toward achieving the goal of gay rights. As Education Chair of the Seattle Gay Alliance and in other capacities, he worked tirelessly in what was often an uphill battle to overcome the oppression that was an everyday part of our lives.
I wrote a history of some of what happened in those fledgling years that increasingly led to society’s greater understanding and acceptance of that truth. It was archived at the University of Washington in 2021, added to the records of many others who have also worked hard to achieve our legitimate place, free of the cruel shackles of ignorance and hatred. Earlier this month, the Seattle Gay News published my story. Gary Atkins, author of Gay Seattle: Stories of Exile and Belonging, has now covered a greater extent of Tim’s activism that wasn’t included in his original book published in 2003.
I’m glad that organizations like Affirmation exist to help people realize that being gay is morally good, not evil. Despite our progress, we still have far to go yet to secure our rights in the face of bigotry that takes root and flourishes all around us. The Mormon Church is certainly not the only group in the world that wants to obliterate the truth that being gay is morally good, but it is one of the main protagonists doing what it can to destroy our progress. We have to be strong in the face of opposition that seeks to place doubt and fear in the hearts of those succumbing to their lies. Facing those fears with kindness, patience, and full faith and confidence, the truth will eventually prevail.
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This article was submitted by an Affirmation community member. The opinions expressed are wholly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Affirmation, our leadership, or our staff. Affirmation welcomes the submission of articles by community members in accordance with our mission, which includes promoting the understanding, acceptance, and self-determination of individuals of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and our vision for Affirmation to be a refuge to land, heal, share, and be authentic.