by Michael Haehnel
I am speaking to you who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are, or who suspect they might be, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual or otherwise unlike ninety percent of people when it comes to gender or sexuality. As a Church member, you are used to going to testimony meeting and hearing people say things that they know or believe to be true. You probably are aware that testimonies, in and of themselves, don’t change other people’s minds. However, when one person shares a testimony by the Spirit and someone else is listening by the Spirit, a testimony can lead to inspiration directly from God. I hope some of you have an experience like that when you read this.
I will bear testimony of things I know to be true. I will try to say what the Spirit brings to my heart and mind. I hope my testimony helps you receive truth about how God sees you.
I am a queer person. I identify primarily as gay. I have met a number of other queer people—lesbian, bisexual, transgender, gender-nonconforming, intersex, asexual, pansexual and others who don’t quite fit into any category or who belong to several categories. In my case, I became aware I was different from most other people as early as seven years old. I didn’t have a name for the difference until I hit puberty and heard the derogatory terms that my classmates used. Hearing the stories of other queers, I know that there are similarities between their experiences and mine, but no one’s story is exactly the same.
In my case, I became aware of my sexual orientation at about the same time I received a witness of God’s great love for me. Because I know that God loves me, I am sure that God loves and respects all of us, regardless of gender identity or sexuality.
Throughout most of my life, I believed that God loved me DESPITE my queerness. In other words, I believed my queerness was somehow wrong, but God loved me anyway. I thought I was believing the correct thing, because that fit in easily with other things I was learning at Church. However, that belief proved detrimental to my spiritual development. The part about God’s love was right, but the part about my queerness being wrong was…well…wrong.
Looking back, I realize that on several occasions, God tried to teach me that I was loved completely, every part of me. But I didn’t see how that could be. So I persisted in believing that God loved all of me EXCEPT for the queer part.
If you are driving down the road and your steering wheel is off by only a fraction of a degree, you may seem just fine for quite a distance. But eventually, you will drive into the ditch. You might do a lot of damage to your car and to yourself. Well, believing that God loved all but the queer part of me was like driving with my steering wheel off by a fraction of a degree. I went for years until I found myself in a spiritual wreck. I had been doing everything everyone expected of me, everything I was taught, yet my peace and happiness were always skewed until they were just plain gone.
I turned to God and said, “I give up.” God answered gently and said, “I don’t. Let’s try this again, but trust me where I lead you now.”
God helped me put together the pieces of my life, but differently than how I thought they were supposed to go. God showed me that some of the things I thought were true—because everyone at Church seemed to say so—were misguided. The first thing I learned was that I was not alone. Many of God’s children are queers.
The next thing I learned was that it was all right for me to get to know other queers. God has always meant for us to help build each other up, and we learn best from those whose experiences are similar to ours. I didn’t know how to get to know other queers, but eventually, one lead at a time, I developed connections and friendships. God helped me. I received promptings through the Spirit that led me to other queer people in the Church as well as outside the Church. I soon saw that many queer people were glad to listen, to answer my questions, to be there for me. Not all. Queers, like all human beings, are not perfect. Nevertheless, many queers inside and outside the Church became friends and supports for me.
Line upon line, God taught me to be more comfortable with my queerness. Then, one miraculous day, I was ready to learn the greatest truth of all about my queerness. As I let my queerness show, as I let it become part of my entire being, God said, “At last—you are back to the way you were before—the way I always knew you. It is so good to see you whole again.” I understood then that God’s love for me was not DESPITE my queerness, but INCLUSIVE OF my queerness.
Since then I have come to understand that God’s plan does not exclude queer people or work around queer people, but INCLUDES queer people. The Plan of Salvation has been revealed in part, but God “will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”
This is my testimony. God loves us queers, we belong, and we have a place in the highest degree of glory in the Celestial Kingdom—not in a form that is changed from how we are now, but just as we are. I share this in the name of our Creator, amen.