I’m a gay Mormon. And my life is anything but "counterfeit," even though the Mormon Church has said otherwise.
I’m actually a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. the Mormons, a.k.a. the LDS Church). I joined the LDS Church when I was 18, served a two-year mission in Guatemala from the ages of 19 to 21, and attended Brigham Young University, graduating at age 27.
As a young adult I loved the LDS Church. As soon as I was baptized I strove to be the perfect Mormon. I did everything that was asked of me. The church was my life. Perfection was my goal. But perfection was never meant to be. I spent a decade in the church trying and failing time and again at being what the LDS Church told me, instructed me, and admonished me to be: straight.
To be a good member in faith I needed to be attracted to women. I needed to be married to a woman. I needed to have a family. I needed to be anything other than who I actually am.
I dated women. It never felt right. I prayed and fasted countless times, hoping that I could change. I begged God, pleaded with him, that I would be blessed to have the core of my very being altered. I yearned to be something, someone that I was not meant to be. That I was not created to be.
Ironically, it was while I was attending a group SSA therapy meeting that I had a personal revelation that I needed to embrace my true, gay self.
I sat in the tiny, cold meeting room one winter night in Utah and listened as two older gentlemen, both married to women, both with many children, rent themselves and emotionally bled out. They recounted how they had failed because they both engaged in a homosexual act a few days prior to our meeting. These strong, proud men broke in front of me as they promised to “do better” this upcoming week.
I gazed at these desperate men and realized I could not, I would not, live my life struggling each and every day trying to “do better.” I knew that I could no longer deny who I was. In that moment I stopped fighting my homosexuality. And in that instant a warmth washed over me. I was free, truly free, for the first time in my life.
I am now 40 and I’m still a Mormon. But that’s mainly a formality. My bishop refused my request to remove my name from the records of the church. So though I no longer attend weekly services I am technically still a member. I’m what the members of the church colorfully call a “Jack Mormon” — an inactive member of the church.
If anyone asks me, and it comes up often, I say I’m a gay Mormon. I also say that I am happily married to another gay Mormon man. That we have a beautiful, wonderful, fantastic daughter, and that my joy is more profound than at any other time in my life, including my decade spent as a devout member of the LDS Church.
Recently, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declared that my family is counterfeit. Or in other words, my family is without value because it lacks the “traditional” family standard of a father and a mother.
I’m not sorry to say that I whole heartily disagree. The words used by the speaker, Elder L. Tom Perry, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, are as harmful and damaging as his position that gay Mormons are welcome in the church as long as they remain celibate. Forcing someone to reject who they are can only bring pain and heartache. I know this first hand.
Calling an entire group of people and their families counterfeit is not only dangerous and destructive to the LGBT community but just as hurtful to the active and stalwart members of the church. These amazing members love their LGBT children, family members, and friends.
I know my own mother, who joined the church soon after I did, feels awful whenever someone makes disparaging remarks about gays. My mother loves my family. She supports and treasures us. She does not need to have her love for us called into question because she is supporting a so-called counterfeit and therefore unworthy life.
Elder Perry also cautioned the members of the church against being “swayed by” a vocal “minority masquerading as the majority.” I’d like to clarify, as a member of this minority group he is singling out, that he has it all wrong. Only by standing up, coming out of the shadows, and living an out, true life will we, LGBT people, gain our deserved equal rights. We’re not just in the minority. We’re human beings. We are entitled to all the rights of all human beings.
I am not masquerading. I am living. I am thriving. I am loving. I deserve the same respect and treatment as anyone else. The LDS Church strives to keep homosexuals quiet, sexless, second-class citizens, devoid of a voice. I reject these efforts. Homophobia is a learned form of hatred. It is taught to us, most often at the pulpit. To be homophobic is a choice someone makes. To join and be religious, to be a Mormon, is a choice someone makes.
Being homosexual, bisexual, or trans is who you are. You can never be living a counterfeit life, never be masquerading, if you are being true to yourself.
My life is wonderful. I’m still not perfect. I’m far from it. But I know that I am finally living an authentic life. I’m living the life I was created to live. And to me, that is it’s own kind of perfect.
BRIAN ANDERSEN is a writer and indie comic book creator who lives in San Francisco with his husband and gorgeous baby daughter.