Coming Out in Utah
By Jody L. Clark
I grew up in Southeast Idaho, and Northern Utah. I was born in Logan, Utah. So I knew what it was like to be a part of a society that did not accept what I knew I was. Or was too afraid to deal with it.
From the beginning, as far back as I can remember, I knew what I was attracted to. As a child, it was not a sexual attraction, but it was still there. When we had visitors, and any were attractive men, I would go up to them, and stare into their faces. I think this made my father uncomfortable, and probably the person I was staring at for that matter. It’s humorous to think of now, but at the time; I was very innocent, and also intrigued by beautiful men. I also had a feeling that I was different from the mainstream boys I went to school with, most of them, anyway. I was taunted and teased because I was quiet, reserved, and very softhearted. Constantly challenged to fights and called a sissy, or “wuss”. It was hard to understand why kids wanted to treat me that way, but I guess it’s because they could sense I was different. Kids can be pretty mean in grammar school and Junior High.
It was much later after coming out, that I shared with my mother, how much competition she had sitting right beside her, while we were watching the old 60’s and 70’s TV series called “Wild, Wild West” with Robert Conrad as the main actor. She would laugh, then get disgusted. We had a good relationship, and laughed and cried a lot about my being gay. She is now passed away. She died on my 32nd birthday, in a head-on auto accident in 1991. I will truly miss her, but I know she watches over me.
From the beginning, I knew I would have problems with a lot of people accepting my being different, and felt it would be “their” problem. But as I grew older, my father took it upon himself, to twist my easily trusting mind into hating what I knew I was, with backup teaching by my seminary teachers in High School in Idaho. So by the time I was at the missionary age, I was totally confused. I knew my homosexual feelings were not going to go away. But once again, I was gullible enough to believe my seminary teachers, and also Boyd K. Packer, who told my gay brother, that if he “faked it” long enough, it would become a part of him. So I went on a mission to Tokyo in 1979, to teach, and “over-come” my “problem.”
To make a very long story short, my brother is now divorced, gay, father of 5 children, been in and out of Evergreen, and has two ex-lovers. And I came home early from my mission, because my companion fell in love with me and I with him. So, rather than do anything about it, I had a complete emotional and nervous breakdown. I went through a six-year period of total abstinence, and by the year 1986, was suicidal.
You see, I had made a very unrealistic pact or “covenant” with God, and with myself. Should I ever give in to my homosexual feelings, I would take my life. Foolish? Yes, but due to influential conditioning by people who I believed were always correct, and righteous. This is where I learned that one should trust their conscience, and intuitions, and not in the arm of flesh. So I had gotten into my roommate’s dresser and pulled out his 22 semi-automatic pistol. I took out the cartridge, and practiced clicking the trigger with the gun against my head, until I stopped jumping when it clicked down. Then, as plain as someone speaking, I heard in my mind a very loud thought. “It would be better that you live your life, the way you feel is wrong, than to live in eternity with what you are planning to do!” So I put the gun down, and changed my life, completely. I had to throw off the baggage that I had taken on from people who thought they had my best interests in mind. And held on to the truths that applied to me, in my life. I have never looked back. And have no regrets.
I was not excommunicated. I was told by my Stake President that I had done nothing wrong, and had not taken a stand against the church, so he was prompted by the spirit to let me be. Finally, a man who tried to live by the spirit, and not his opinion! But recently, my local leaders here have hounded me in Oregon due to “well meaning” relatives who are concerned for my soul. They had my records pulled from the headquarters “dead” files, and sent here to Oregon. I knew the silence and peace couldn’t last forever. So when my ward’s clerk couldn’t get me to arrange a meeting with my Bishop, my Bishop called me. He wanted to arrange a meeting with the Stake president and himself. I just told him this, “No, it’s not happening. I’ve asked the church to leave me alone until people like myself can be accepted without condition into the fold. But since you insist on pushing me, I must insist on having my name removed from the church’s records.” He was so taken back I could hear the emotions cause his voice to waver. I have not heard from him since, but I am still getting the ward’s monthly newsletter. I guess that’s ok… I know they mean well, but unless they walk a mile in our shoes, they will never know what it is like to be gay, of an LDS environment and culture, and shunned due to something that is beyond our control. I still do not know if I am a member of record or not, but I leave judgment to the Lord, not mortal hand. Five years ago, I would have been emotionally devostated by not having my name on church records, but age, and time, have given me strength along with a more “realistic” look at spirituality and my part in it.
I have a wonderful lover named Geoffrey, and we’ve been together since January of 1995, and we grow closer every year that goes by. Oddly enough, I met Geoff in a Salt Lake City cowboy bar. He was originally from Oregon, and I always wanted to live there, so here we are! My trips to Utah and Idaho are becoming more and more infrequent. Distance does make the heart grow fonder. But also gives one the perspective of sanity over the extremes I lived with in “Zion”. It ain’t perfect folks, but oh how I love a new social environment! The story isn’t over as long as I’m still alive, but hey… At least that chapter is done!