By Kathy Carlston
2011 was a big year for me. In July, after years of going to therapy and working with various bishops in the hopes of finding some way, some cure to rid myself of being attracted to women, I made an appointment to speak with my Stake President. After telling him my story, he suggested that I contact Carol Lynn Pearson, who happened to live in my stake. She listened patiently and carefully, asking questions to draw out the well of frustrations that I was drowning in. I had been hoping for advice on what to do, but instead, she told me that this was my journey, my road, and though she would gladly walk with me, I was the one behind the wheel. I left her house with a copy of her book, No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons Around Our Gay Loved Ones.
I’ve never been a big reader. Previous to that time, I was lucky to finish a novel within a given year. But a week later, I had devoured No More Goodbyes and started reading everything I could get my hands on.
After months of researching and soul searching, one of my best friends asked me if I’d be interested in writing an article for The Exponent II’s Spring 2012 issue, which was dedicated to LGBT stories. In October of 2011, I submitted a first draft of the article on page 16. A few days after Christmas, I purchased and read through Brent Kirby’s compilation of essays, Gay Mormons?: Latter-day Saint Experiences of Same-Gender Attraction. When I read through Blake Hoopes’ story, it occurred to me that I had never actually asked God what He thought about me being gay. I had always just begged Him to help me change or to take it away altogether.
So I knelt on my bed, closed my eyes, and asked. Instantly I had one of the most intense, if not THE most intense spiritual experiences that I’d had. I was filled with peace, acceptance, and, above all, hope. I felt inspired that God was not just alright with me being gay, but excited for me to go find someone to love and do my best to spend the rest of my life finding different ways to make her laugh. But on top of that, I had an almost physical sensation of a switch being flipped in the back of my head, and all of a sudden, that desire and longing that I’d had to be dead, that I’d carried since I was a kid, was turned off.
This experience happened at a time in my life when I was extremely suspicious of spiritual experiences in general. But the coupling and juxtaposition with that switch was incredibly validating. I suspected that the feelings would fade, and that after a couple of days, everything would go back to the way I’d felt since childhood, but it’s been a little over a year and a half now and I’ve never been the same.
For me, what was fascinating about the whole situation was that I had been asking, begging, and pleading for the wrong switch to be flipped. The healing and joy that have woven their way into my life since that experience have given me profound hope, direction and strength.
While I can entertain possible conclusions from the years of being kept in the dark as the unnecessary torture of a coy God, I personally don’t feel that way. Even though there has been so much pain, God has renewed my strength hundreds of times. Even though it seems like every 5 minutes I lose faith in myself, God raises my eyes, helps me laugh and sends me comfort. Even though there have been so many times when I’ve felt like I have lost my integrity (my opinions of the church, of my situation, of everything else have been in so much flux that one minute I feel one way and the next my opinion’s the exact opposite), and even though I feel so lost in a sea of noise, God walks patiently by my side, just waiting for me to turn my head and ask for His opinion. At this point in my journey, I’m not sure precisely why, but I feel like part of the reason why it was important for me to walk this path was so I would know that: A) I couldn’t change because B) I wasn’t broken and C) God loves us, walks with us, conspires for our happiness.
Kathy Carlston is an out, active Mormon, pursuing a career in visual effects for feature film. Originally from Colorado, she has acquired degrees in Animation & Visual Effects from Ex’pression College for Digital Arts, and in Marriage, Family and Human Development from BYU.