By Anonymous (in an effort avoid further humiliation from church members in his town the author wishes to remain anonymous)
(Admin note: This post is very important because it shows that damage that is still happening in our communities due to the negative messages and homophobia that pervade Mormonism. The Administration of NoMoreStrangers.org believes that change is possible and that there are amazing Mormons who are fighting already for these changes in our community. However, we need to tell the truth about the damaging mistreatment that LGBT people are still subjected to in our communities in order to confront the problem)
I have spent the greater part of life lying about who I am. I have lied to myself and I have lied to others. Why have done this? The only way that I can answer is that I believed it to be the the only acceptable way to move forward.
At approximately 10 years old I realized that I was gay. I grew up Catholic in NYC. One day my friends and I found my uncles stash of Playboy magazines under his bed. I remember looking through them with my friends and we came to one page that had an underwear advertisement with the the baseball player, Jim Palmer. An image that is still in my brain all these years later. That is the exact moment in which the lie began.
Fast forward to age 43. By then I had been a Mormon for 20 years and had a wife and 5 kids. We were married and very active in the church. I was holding a stake calling. We were fulfilling all the expectations of a Mormon family. Keeping this secret had gotten the best of me and I could no longer do so. I came out to my wife and told her that I was gay. This was the first time in my life that had ever talked to another human being about being gay. It tore my wife apart; all that the church had promised of eternal life together was in jeopardy.
I then made a visit to the Bishop. The expectation of the bishop and the stake presidency was for me to start in counseling and become straight. I went through several programs that the church recommended and had regular visits with the bishop. I do believe that they wanted the best for me at the time because I was willing to repent for being gay and change my ways.
I felt as though I was never treated the same from that moment on. There was somehow a different feeling when I was in the presence of ward and stake leadership. It was deep level of shame for the abomination they knew that I was. I can’t tell you if it was something that they projected or if it was a repugnant image of myself that I saw in the reflection of their eyes. Going to church after this was never the same for me or for my wife.
I went through the gay to straight therapy and began to lie again about my sexuality, telling myself and others that I am straight. The alternative was way too painful. My wife and I stayed together and tried to make the best of things. I had now resolved that staying straight would just be my sacrifice for the lies that I told to get into a marriage and to have children. As time passed my wife wanted the company of a man that could be a strong heterosexual partner and things between us deteriorated. We started into a separation and eventually got divorced.
While we were separated, but prior to the our divorce, I met someone and had my first relationship with another man. After this experience, I knew for sure that I could not continue to lie. I shared this with the stake president and told him that I intended to go my own way and that I felt there was not a place for me in the Mormon church. This was a very hard decision since I enjoyed the people at the church and I loved the gospel. My wife and I finalized divorce, we were getting along well and had an amicable relationship. In fact, she was still working in my office for some time after the divorce.
By this time, I had moved out of the original stake and had been living on my own for a year. I got a call from my former Stake president, who said he wanted to see how I was doing, so I went in to speak with him. I was frank about having a relationship with a man and it was no longer my desire to cover up who I am. He then told me that they were going to hold a disciplinary council for me in the coming weeks. I asked how this was so, since I no longer lived in his stake. He told me that the area authorities thought that I was ruining the good name of the church by being gay. I then told him numerous times that I wanted to resign from the church and “go my own way”. These are the words that I used over and over. I wanted to have good memories of the church and what it had done for our family. This was not to be the case. What I did not realize at the time is that the information that I was sharing with the stake president would be used against me. This I realize now was a way of entrapping me and having me reveal things to him that he would later use against me.
They forced the stake disciplinary council. I was brought before 18 men for 3 hours. All of the things that I told the stake president in private were aired in spite of my asking him not to. They kept repeating over and again that I was going to just “live the gay lifestyle” (whatever that is), that I was being led by Satan and so forth. I begged not to be excommunicated; because I knew that I would have to live with the stigma of excommunication in my community. As part of the process there were 3 high councilmen who were assigned to speak on my behalf and 3 others were assigned to speak on behalf of the church. Prior to the end of the meeting the 3 high counsel members defending me were asked if I had been treated fairly. All three stated that they did not feel that I was treated fairly and that I should not be excommunicated. Then the other 3 high counsel members were asked to speak on the church’s behalf and what they said just amounted to them bearing their testimony about what a spiritual meeting this was was and what a great stake president we had. I was excommunicated.
I then became the subject of gossip in my community. Some of the councilmen broke the confidentiality, and specifics of my church court became public knowledge in my community. I was subsequently ostracized. There are very few members of the church that will say hello to me in public. All but 2 have left my chiropractic practice. I hear regular reports of people telling nonmembers that they should not associate with me because of the excommunication. They have made my life almost unbearable. I guess the church believes in the concept of free agency until a person exercises the agency to which they are entitled.
The church handbook of instructions clearly states 2 things. First, that I should have been allowed to resign from the church without having the humiliation of an excommunication process. Second, it states that a bishop’s role does not end with excommunication and that a person needs special care after this process. I was denied both of these considerations. I was simply dumped after the excommunication and had a scarlet letter placed on me.
I got the clear message that Heavenly Father does not love me the way that I am and that I should have gone back to lying about who I am. It has been almost one year since my excommunication and I keep hoping that it will get better, but it only continues to get worse. My children are approached by members of the church, who criticize me. My patients are approached by church members with gossip and it has continued to be more painful to live in this town. It has proved that my story was too salacious and members of the church continue to talk about my excommunication.
Prior to these events I loved the gospel and loved having my family in the church. I also liked the friends that we had. I did not want to be excommunicated. I understood that once I came out there was no place for me in Christ’s church. I was very fearful of the gossip and slander that would ensue if I were to be excommunicated. I also did not want my family and myself to be ostracized as a result.
Life in my town has become unbearable. The gossip and rejection have affected my ex-wife to the point where she chose to move far away and take my 3 youngest children with her. I no longer have a social network or a church to go to. I have a horrid fear of ever going back to any church again. I now live with night terrors that haunt me virtually every night. Many mornings I wake up and cry for the first hour that I’m awake. I often think about the section of the church handbook that says “Leaders and members should be eager to help a person that has been disciplined”. That apparently doesn’t apply if a person is gay.