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As a gay Mormon, people often assume that I have an interesting and unique story to share. While I feel what I have to say is interesting, it’s not as unique as one might assume. It simply seems to me that the majority of other gay Mormons often don’t “come out.” As a result of their silence, members of our faith have felt little incentive to even think about gays in the church. They were ignorant, and they have caused real hurt.
I study at Brigham Young University in Utah, where 98 percent of students are Mormon. In April 2012, an unofficial club on campus called USGA (Understanding Same-gender Attraction) released an “It Gets Better” YouTube video that consisted of several BYU students coming out as gay. While the video was politically neutral, it got people talking and thinking, including me.
Living in my suppressed and lonely “closeted” state caused me to have some bitter feelings towards some members of my faith. Still, I believe that God gives me struggles to help me grow. I felt it was time to educate my Mormon friends and saw an opportunity to raise awareness about faithful gay Mormons, so off to my humble YouTube channel I went.
In September 2012, I conceptualized the idea of video recording every instance in which I came out to someone, then compiling the footage and releasing it on YouTube. I realized gathering such footage might be frowned upon. Coming out to another person, especially a family member, can be very intimate and emotional. I thought long and hard about this, but felt such a video could really do some good.
The weeks in which I came out to my friends and family were the most emotionally taxing of my life. But then, in the midst of those very days, the LDS church announced a new Web site, mormonsandgays.org. The new site didn’t change the church’s teaching on sexuality and marriage as between a man and a woman, but it did encourage our members to talk about sexuality and welcome its gay members. Before mormonsandgays.org, one would have to go digging to find any official church publication regarding gays in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There just wasn’t a lot of information out there about the subject. The fact that my church’s leaders decided to make this a matter for us to discuss openly only increased my confidence in my decision to come out in such a public way. Nearly half a million people have watched the video.
My immediate family members and close friends have been completely supportive of me and I feel profoundly blessed because of this. But others have responded in hurtful ways. Some Mormon relatives of mine have said that they still hope that I marry a woman, even though the church has officially stated they don’t encourage gay members to marry someone of the opposite sex. I also had a religious leader counsel those around me and say, “Don’t support Jimmy’s homosexual lifestyle.” This, despite my acceptance of the church’s teaching on marriage and my commitment to remain celibate.
The LDS church is constantly going through change. This is why we believe having a prophet on earth in our present day is so important. Fundamental doctrine in the church, however, is not going to change. Mormonsandgays.org is a large step forward in cultivating change within the church, and soon enough discussing the topic of same-sex attraction in our meetings won’t be so taboo. It really is an exciting time to be a gay Mormon.