A gay Mormon teen (age 16) writes an essay for English class

by Kayden Maxwell

Hero Journey

There is an indescribable feeling when you grow up expecting your life to follow a very defined path, and everyone around you follows the same formula for a happy life, but one day you wake up and realize you don’t fit into the plan. And everything you know falls apart.

I spent the earliest years of my life learning exactly how to live it. My future, along with everyone else’s future, was all planned out:
get baptized,
attend school,
receive the priesthood,
attend church and scouting activities,
serve a mission,
come home,
go to college,
find a beautiful woman and marry her as fast as possible,
have children,
and dedicate the rest of life to them.

It’s a wonderful life plan, really. And I was fine with it.

But I knew I was different somehow. I could never understand why or how, but I simply wasn’t the same as those around me. I was always surrounded by my wonderful female friends. Near all of my friends were girls.

“I’m a ladies’ man,” I simply assumed.

And that was how elementary school went.

Come middle school, I realized that I didn’t develop any feelings for any of these friends. I felt connected with all of them through deep friendship and it meant the world to me. My thoughts became confused as I tried to convince myself to like any of these girls in more than a best-friend kind of way.

Maybe this was a crush, but wait that guy over there sure makes my stomach burn.

I love to be around her, but I sure wish I had the nerve to talk to that guy over there.

She’s beautiful, but wait, why are my eyes stuck on him and why do they refuse to peel away?

I wouldn’t accept this.

This was not me.

I shoved all of the unwanted feelings into a hidden safe in my brain and I locked them there, convinced that with time they would disappear and I would never have to address them.

It was just a phase.

Only a phase.

I’d get over it.

I’d change my thinking. “Oh yes, she’s gorgeous. And I love that she’s my friend. Yes, I must love her. This is a crush.”

And it worked. I got myself a girlfriend. We became extremely close and I loved being around her. But in my head it was just a great friendship, yet I told her it was much more than that to me.

She tried to kiss me once, and I turned my head in alarm. I was uncomfortable and completely shocked by my own response. The vault in my mind shook violently, demanding to be noticed and addressed. I tried to shut it up but soon the energy used to hide the feelings only became energy feeding the feelings, making them more noticeable, more intimidating, more powerful, as I tried desperately to conceal them back into the dark safe.

I knew then.

My heart sunk to my stomach, my entire world went into panic mode. I couldn’t keep up in school. I couldn’t look my parents in the eye. I became like a turtle in a shell, completely hidden, avoiding the world completely, not trusting anyone.

No one could know.

I was disgusted with myself, and I wanted nothing more than to get over it.

No one could know.

I prayed night after night that God would remove this horrible aspect of my life.
My pillow was always wet with tears as I pleaded with the Master of the Universe to just please fix the mistake He made on me.

No one could know. No one could know.

I would not let these feelings exist.

I stopped eating. I didn’t have time for food, I was consumed with terror for my soul.
I tried to starve it out of me. I tried to pray it out of me. I tried to sleep it away. But it was all useless. This was me.

No one could know.

Mom caught on fast to my mood changes. She knew I was upset. She’d question and I’d
deny that anything was wrong at all. But she knew me better than to believe me.
One night, after questioning me deeply concerning my recent moods and appetite loss, she finally asked me.

“Are you attracted to guys?”

She said it lovingly and with concern, but the words shook my entire being; they ripped open the vault inside where my feelings were hidden and they shot to surface, overwhelming me in panic and fear for the future. I nodded through tears and finally met her eyes. We knew we had a mountain ahead, but in that moment, we knew we had each other to climb it with.

We talked to Bishop. My options were clear. I could marry a woman or I could be single my entire life. But not to worry, in the afterlife I would be perfected, he told me. I would be attracted to girls like I’m supposed to and I could have a family there. The perfect plan for my life that I had learned since birth no longer applied to me.

I didn’t fit.

Despite the unwavering support from my parents, my soul became draped in darkness.
The world became Hell to me, with the flames of self-loathing furiously burning everywhere. I was left so uninformed. I needed answers and no one had any. I was left only with “God works in mysterious ways” to comfort me and explain why my world
was falling apart while others didn’t even know the taste of doubt. I felt almost ignored, given up on. We tried and tried but not even the bishop had the answers I needed. I was left always questioning, and never knowing.

Who was I?

Why would God send me so broken?

Didn’t He love me enough to want me to be happy too?

What would happen if others knew?

What made me this way?

Could this ever be removed from me?

How could I say I don’t support gay marriage when in truth that is the most excitement and support I felt about anything?

Was I still a good person?

What about children?

I felt that I would be a good dad, and now I would never get the chance unless I married someone I wasn’t attracted to. How would a wife feel if her own husband was not attracted to her? He would say she looks gorgeous and she would say she believed him, but deep down would be the constant doubt. The vile, viscous voice always whispering to her the fact that she could not fight, saying “He’s gay. He doesn’t mean it. He doesn’t think you’re beautiful.”

And she would try to make it stop, to force it to die and to let her believe her husband’s words and believe that she had beauty and that he saw it but the fact would always be there. What kind of compliment is “I love your personality,” when nothing more can ever be said.

I knew marriage was out of the option, I could never inflict that upon someone.

I was doomed to live an entire lifetime alone.

But I was told that it would all be over after this life. And soon the conclusion set in that my best hope was to end my life by my own hand. I had nothing to look forward to. I didn’t have a happy life plan like all the kids around me. All I had to hold on to was the hope that my burden of liking guys would be gone after I died.

There were examples of people before me escaping the task by ending life short. Mom feared that I would be one of them. She watched me close, but the depression was everywhere.

I didn’t like myself.

I felt horribly ugly inside.

I would go to church and be offended because there was talk of evil gay marriage. I sat quietly while my friends that I’d grown up with would accuse gays of being selfish, immoral, manipulative, and many other things that I felt I was not. The more I went to church, the sadder I felt. The less I liked myself. The more I hated my religion. For a while, I was convinced that the only way I would ever make it to a long life was if I left church completely.

That was my plan.

As time went on, we reached out to a number of different gay adults who had figured their lives out. They each taught me many things and helped me to love myself again. They taught me my value and my worth.

It was a long process of maturing and learning, but I became comfortable with this aspect of myself. Once I had accepted it within me, the self esteem issues melted away. I came to terms with my religion. I realized I could never leave the church.

I am a Mormon; being gay will not change that.

I am gay; being a Mormon will not change that.

I am not some mistake that God made, he knows me and he wants me to be happy.

So I don’t fit so perfectly into the Mormon dream plan. But my future turned from lonely and sad to hopeful and bright as I realized that being myself was more important than anything.

As I found peace within myself, I found that I had developed an overwhelming sense of love for everyone around me. Sometimes young people go through hard things too. Not everyone waits until adulthood to have life-changing and faith-shaking trials. How could I think bad things of someone I don’t know at all? I was not likable at my lowest point, but I still needed love.

Once I came to peace with my religion and my sexuality, I knew there was work to do. Room is still not being made in the church for gay members. They are expected to leave or to conform and act straight.

And this is the cause for depression.

For self-esteem issues.

This is why people feel the only hope for them is if life ends.

And to me that is not ok.

I know I am only one person facing a Goliath-sized issue, but a message of love will always find ways to spread itself.

I need only start it.

So, in order to be an example to others in need, I came out. Initially I was afraid others would not be understanding and would not accept me, but I did it anyway because I knew there are people who need a friend and need the kind of example that I can be. And people reacted better than I ever could have hoped they would.

Now I am confident, happy, and loving. My task is to be here for people who need a friend like I did, and to change the way things are in the Mormon church, spreading love instead of judgments and rejection. I overcame the loneliness and self-hate, and I am obligated to help others do so too.

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