I'm not the best at writing, but I am pretty open about my emotions. Thanks for the work you are doing. My own hope in sharing my story is to bring understanding about what people like me face confronting religion and sexuality.
Here's my story:
Hello friends, call me Gail. In the photo I'm on the right and my partner of 3 years is on the left. I am a 33-year-old Registered Nurse. I am currently in Graduate school working on a master’s degree to become a Family Nurse Practitioner. In addition to a rigorous school schedule, I work part-time, some weeks I put in 40 hours, but some weeks I put in less when I have a busier school schedule.
Most of my nursing career so far has been in end-of-life hospice care. People who know me know that I am kind and empathetic, so I am well-loved in our little community in northern Nevada as a nurse who brings comfort and emotional support during tough times. I only recently had to take an emotional break from that line of work, so I am now working in a nursing home while I focus on school.
I was born into an active LDS family. My parents are people of faith, they believe wholeheartedly in the LDS faith, so they raised us with that belief. They seek to follow the prophets and apostles as exactly as they can. My home, growing up, was filled with uplifting music, pictures of temples, pictures of Jesus, and pictures of our happy family. My mother was very careful about what music, movies, or other media she allowed in her home as she wanted to create an uplifting environment where “the spirit could be felt.”
Growing up I trusted my parents. Their convictions helped me to develop into a person of integrity, kindness, and a service-oriented person. I honestly never really questioned my religious upbringing. I had experiences where I had powerful “spiritual” or “emotional” moments and I took those as a sign that God was speaking to me through his holy spirit.
Growing up I served in the LDS church in many capacities. I served a full time mission to Brazil. I know many people who leave the LDS faith regret their missions and feel that the missionaries are abused and not well cared for. I actually do not regret going at all. I fell in love with the people in Brazil, I experienced a new culture, I learned a language, I made lifelong friends, some of whom are part of my support system now that I’ve left the Mormon faith.
It's not a huge part of my story, but I did grow very ill during my mission. My mission president would not allow me to seek medical help until I was VERY ill. I ended up hospitalized with severe pneumonia and sepsis. So, I spent 1-2 weeks in the hospital receiving IV antibiotics and had machines for a short time that helped me breathe.
When I returned home I served as a ward pianist, organist, I sang in choir, I was a teacher, a ward mission leader, a temple ordinance worker, a counselor in elders quorum presidencies, and in a singles ward I served for a time as an Elders Quorum President.
I guess you could say I was the classic "Peter Priesthood" trying my best to be the best Mormon I could be.
I dated a lot, had girlfriends off and on, but all my relationships didn’t work out.
People who knew me at the time would’ve described me as extremely kind to everyone, humble, but they would also add that I had poor self-confidence.
What most did not know was I am Gay.
Because of my religious upbringing and beliefs, I tried hard to force myself to be straight. I prayed I fasted, I promised God that I would give him my life in service if he would magically change me. I cried, I hurt, I dealt with anxiety, insecurity, and occasional bouts of depression. I wondered why God would tell me to live a straight life, but then make me broken and not fix me no matter how much I served Him.
When I graduated from BYU-Idaho with a nursing degree my emotions came to a head. I finally could bear the idea of living a life alone OR living a lie in a straight marriage no more. I felt broken, betrayed by a God who for whatever reason hadn’t “fixed” me.
I tried to find a cure for that “broken” part of myself. I went to counseling and therapy, I went to people who promise to heal through “energy work”. I even spent time going to a hypnotherapist who promised me she could change my sexuality.
I remember one time at a stake conference, our stake president promised if we read certain scriptures, we would find healing in our life. So I read what he told me to and still was Gay.
I read the bible, pearl of great price, D&C, and Book of Mormon many times, and still, I was gay.
I prayed, fasted, pled for healing, and still was gay.
I gave a full tithe, I served with all my heart, yet still, I was gay.
Like I said before, shortly after leaving BYU-Idaho I went into a deep emotional rut. I felt so broken and at times I felt betrayed and abandoned by God. There was a period during that deep depression when I began to lose the will to live. I wasn’t fully suicidal, but I began to pray to God that if He wasn’t going to cure me in this life, then could he take me from this life so I could be “cured” on the other side.
Honestly, the only reason I could never truly contemplate suicide during that dark time was I love my family too much. I didn’t want them to hurt, and I knew me taking my life was just me taking all my pain and transferring it to them.
Fast-forward a few more years, I eventually moved to southern Utah and Northern Nevada. The draw to the area is I have LDS family members there that are less “faithful.” Though most of them are believers, most of them aren’t active and have their own issues. They made me feel ok being broken.
I got a hospice job and continued trying to deal with life.
It was while living in southern Utah living around family who were more understanding that I finally had a change of perspective. I began to ask myself if maybe the reason I hadn’t magically changed to straight is that I was never broken in the first place. Maybe my love and my feelings weren’t unnatural at all but perfectly normal.
I went inactive during this period. I realized church just beat me down, made me feel imperfect, broken, weak. I finally had the courage to meet other gay men. I got online and started talking to people and I met the young man with whom I would fall in love.
Then came the day that my faith/beliefs forever changed. My boyfriend and I were watching Southpark, I learned about Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon by looking at a rock in a hat. I was baffled. I had never been told that. I, who had spent two years preaching about Joseph Smith, never knew that the “Urim and Thummim” was really a rock in a hat. I wondered what else the church had conveniently not told me.
It was during this time that I also started watching Tiktok creators who had left the church. I began learning about real church history on the church’s website. I read blogs. I discovered that the religion I had loved so much was deeply flawed and covered up horrible past and horrid teachings. I learned about the deeply embedded racism, misogyny, and homophobic teachings. I learned about women who were conned into being child brides. Learning about those hurt so much. Learning that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, men who I had admired growing up, were con artists and evil men, hurt so much.
It's only been a few years since I stopped believing in Mormonism. I consider myself lucky. My family are firm believers in Mormonism and are pretty adamant that homosexuality is a sin and that I’ve chosen the wrong path. HOWEVER, they also have chosen to keep me in their lives. I am pretty honest and straightforward with family and friends, if I come to visit and my partner isn’t welcome to come with me, then I think they are a pretty despicable human being and not worth keeping in my life. I love my family, but there’s no person I love enough to keep in my life if they are that toxic. If their love of me comes with conditions, then it isn’t love and they can just leave my life, I deserve better.
One of my sisters is a progressive Mormon, she once told me that she is super happy I came out as gay. She told me if one of her children someday identifies as LGBTQ+, they will have an uncle to help them learn their worth. She even told me “Gail, honestly I hope one of my children is gay”.
My other siblings and my parents are not so forward-thinking, but they are making baby steps.
There are a few things I wish that believing members and family members knew. Things they do that hurt me.
First I wish they cared enough to ask why I make the decisions I make. I wish we could talk about the hard things like how damaging their religion is to LGBTQ youth. I wish they would ask me why I no longer believe. I have no interest in changing their religious faith, but not talking to me makes me feel invalid and unheard. I hate being seen as the lost broken black sheep. If I even bring up that I don’t believe, they shut down the conversation. However, it’s perfectly fine for them to preach religion to me.
Secondly, stop trying to be a missionary. Just stop. It’s rude. It’s condescending. It makes you come across as “holier than thou”. If I ever want spirituality or religion again in my life, I’ll seek it out. I know what you believe, I know the good things it can bring into one’s life, but I also know the deep flaws in Mormonism