8—HOW I CAME OUT
7—I WAS IN LOVE AND DECIDED THAT LOVE COULD NOT BE A SIN. AN LDS BRIDE AND A MARRIED MAN CONVINCED ME OF IT. YET WOE TO THOSE WHO WANT TO CHANGE DOCTRINES.
I had a boyfriend now. But going to church every Sunday was still part of my routine. I was a convert. I was not going out of habit, but because I cared. I needed my man and I needed my religion. I prayed at the Assembly Hall in Temple Square one afternoon. For Terrence and me. For us to be together. I was in love with him and that love gave me the strength to come out, because Love was not a sin. I was dating this man I loved. And Love was not evil.
That day at Temple Square I saw a bride outside the temple with that handsome groom. And it made me feel angry. Because in the eyes of the LDS, my love for Terrence ¹ was an abomination but her love for that hunk was holy. It was so unfair. I had also met an LDS man trapped in a marriage. Something was not right with the LDS Church when it came to matrimony.
My love and those experiences did not leave me with any doubt that want to be with Terrence after my mission. How would I make it work, I didn’t know. But I believed that I could be with him, and be a Mormon. And that is something that is being debated today in the LDS Church among many progressive and LGGTQ+ members.
Salt Lake City, Utah, Sunday, August 16, ’98—It is a hot summer day. We are at that big fancy house in Great Cottonwood Canyon. My boyfriend Terence and I. There is music, laughters, some chatter people jumping in the pool. It feels like a dream: I am in America, at a pool party—we do not have those back in France—I am dating a man. France is so far away, but my old life feels even farther away.
Terrence slips on the wet tiles and falls hard. He hobbles inside the big white house, ignoring the taunting comments around him. I find him sitting on the plush couch by the big white orchids. The noises from the party are muted here. “It hurts… I need you here with me…” I want to be there for him forever. But I am supposed to be a missionary for the Church in a month’s time. “I’ve been single for two years and I can wait for two more years”, he says. He tells me he loves me. I feel like my heart is going to explode. It is happening right there and now, sitting in this Dynasty-style house with Terrence’s bloody leg over my knees.
“Get a room!”, someone shouts half-jokingly on their way to the bathroom, stepping into this scared space Terrence and I are sharing. They have no idea of what is happening. This is as powerful as this physical attraction I have found impossible to deny all these years. “I love you” he says again.
No man has ever looked at me like this before. It is the first time a man says he loves me, but I know Love is danger. Not just because of the Church, but because I have fallen in love before, with some classmates (and a missionary). I kept it to myself. I knew true love was impossible for me. As a kid, I understood that I would spend my life without love. Later, as a young Mormon, I learned that I might, with the help of God, be able put away those “evil desires”, and love a woman the way a husband should.
I had dreamed of what just happened, but I never imagined a man could ever love me back. This is everything I know I have ever wanted. He’s holding my hand and there are tears in his eyes. I surrender. I give him my heart. And happens what may (with the Church).
All the things you said to me today Changed my perspective in every wayDreaming My Dream, the Cranberries
Salt Lake City, Utah, Sunday, August 23, ’98—I cannot extend my welcome at Logan’s and I am ready to move in with my man. I have/had strong feelings for Logan, but with Terrence I forget the world. That was the day he came to church with me. That is the day I know I fell in love with him 100%. His housemate had lent him a neck tie because Terrence did not own any. I got Logan to take a picture of us in our Sunday clothes before Terrence and I walked up to the meeting house. “I haven’t been since I was a kid!”
I loved sitting on the pews next to my boyfriend. I held his hand during the opening prayer. It felt amazing. It was the best thing in the world to have my religion and my man. He sang hymns he did not know. He said he enjoyed the first talk about the Kirtland temple. “This is good for me.” I stretched an arm over his shoulders. I saw missionaries do it back home, so that’s OK. When the cute ones do that to me I get all flustered. Now I feel so comfortable, an effect of coming out, no doubt. I am sure some people could see our knees rubbing. I did not care. He was clearly touched by the passing of the Sacrament. We partook of it (because right then it felt right). The closing prayer. I held Terrence’s hand and said my own silent prayer of thanksgiving, tears coming to my eyes.
People were in the foyer as we came out of the room. We drank from the fountain, I put my hand over his shoulder, dispelling any doubt that he was my man and we pushed the doors to walk out in the sun. He said he enjoyed coming to meeting. I said I was so grateful to him for coming with me. I was so happy! I had it all!
Salt Lake City, Utah, Friday, August 28, ’98—Terrence got us matching commitment rings. He wanted us to commit to each other and to have a token we could look at to feel close to one another despite the distance. I said I would wear it during my mission, so he could be with me always. “After my mission I want to marry you.”
I saw this bride outside the Salt Lake Temple. Two years ago I would have convinced myself that I wanted to be that boy. I trusted the Church that I could. Last year I understood that I was never going to be that boy. The Church would not be able to change that. This year I wanted to marry that boy. I did not care what the Church had to say about that.
The bride was wearing a beautiful dress, and family and friends were all around her. I was sure those two were not getting married ‘to raise a posterity to the Lord’. Unlike me, she could look forward to having sex with the man she loved without the fear of losing her Church membership or being damned. To the Church, my feelings and desires were ‘an abomination’ while her feelings and desires were sanctioned and blessed in this Temple that I loved and could not go. I could get a commitment ceremony with Terrence. But she could get married to this hunk in the Temple and call it ‘holy’. She would not lose her eternal salvation for wanting him. It was so unfair. It made me angry.
I did not want to the Church to change to please me. But I knew Love was not evil. And I loved Terrence. What I wanted was for the Church to receive more revelations. I wanted them to open their hearts and minds to receive communication from God. Because when I prayed I still felt the Spirit and I felt God’s love. And a Temple marriage was not an option for me anymore. Especially not now that I knew what love was. And certainly not after meeting that LDS married man who talked to me about it.
I chatted to a man in his 40s or 50s at the Deer Hunter (a gay bar in Downtown Salt Lake). He was on a business trip from Idaho. He is married to a woman and living a lie, pretending to be one thing to the world (and to the Church) but meeting other men for sex (or at least flirt with other men and enjoy their gay company). He looked sad. “I am not a happy man”, he said. It made me sad that gay LDS men were encouraged by their Bishop to get into loveless marriages in which they deceived a woman (and themselves).
Salt Lake City, Utah, Monday, August 31, ’98—Last night when the sky was red and a few heavy drops of rain fell on Terrence’s windshield as we approached Temple Square, I told him to park the car to go and walk through Temple Square. Instead of telling me to F off, he parked and we walked there. I asked Terrence to sit down under one of the big trees. And I looked at the temple, all lit up and so beautiful. “I love you, Terrence,” I said.
“You know… More than anything in the world I want to go inside this temple and do all the saving ordinances that can take me to the Celestial Kingdom.” I paused as I felt something in my throat. I have come to realise that being in the Celestial Kingdom without the people I love would not be such a nice place for me to be in.
“I love you and that I want to be with you forever. And I’d rather be damned and be with you than be in the Celestial Kingdom without you.” And the rain came down under that red sky, as if to make the statement even more dramatic. And that was another turning point for me. Maybe more important than any other so far.
Salt Lake City, Utah, Wednesday, September 2, ’98—Today Terrence and I went to the airport where he extended my plane ticket a second time. At the Tori Amos concert at the E Center tonight, I was sitting alone and talked to the teenage couple next to me. They were LDS, and he was going on his mission too. Terrence got back with a concert programme and a tee-shirt for me and a beer for himself. And he kissed me on the cheek and touched my knee. The young couple looked at the beer and at us and I was embarrassed.
That is when I understood that coming out is not a one-off thing. It is a long (and maybe never-ending) process. I had been a little embarrassed when meeting Terrence’s roommate’s mother, a very devout LDS woman. But she made me feel at ease. She was wonderful. And I loved talking about my conversion, my being a member in France, and about my mission. Terrence listened and never said a word. And I know that despite what I said about giving up the Celestial Kingdom for Terrence, I can never let go of my religion!
Is your place in heaven worth giving up these kisses?Tori Amos, Cooling
Today—A few months ago (progressive) LDS folks condemned Apostle Elder Holland because of his “homophobic” speech at BYU. ² As a Fundamentalist (for well over a decade) I am not well-versed in all the changes and politics that have been taking place within the LDS Church since my excommunication in 2000. But even watching from afar, it is obvious that the Church has changed. It has morphed into an Evangelical Christian denomination, and some members question the leaders.
Back in 1998, we did not criticise the Church and I did not demand doctrinal changes to suit my situation. I believed I could have a boyfriend and still be active in the Church. But what did I expect? Apostle Boyd K. Packer had once said that it was permissible to floor a homosexual. ² The official line in the late 90s was that homosexuality was “a repugnant sin” and that no one was born this way: that was a lie whose author was Satan himself.
The Church has come a long way since then! I have LDS friends who struggle with the Church’s current position on homosexuality. All seem to have gay friends and relatives now. Back in 1998, I was hoping that God would open the hearts of the leaders of the Church and let them receive a revelation that it was OK to be gay. Only then could the Church change its stance and allow gay people to have full fellowship (like it had people of African descent). Someone said it would never happen. I said maybe in 20 years. The time is up.
Some LDS (gay) members say that “the Church and queer discrimination will end like it did with Black Church members.” And I have seen: “LDS queerphobia will more likely end the way polygamy ended.” Doesn’t anyone want to know what God has to say about these issues? That is the only thing that mattered to me and what I struggled with. I never wanted to change the ordinances of the Church because I believed my religion was inspired and that God still revealed and would reveal more things pertaining to his Church and Kingdom.
I believed Terrence when he said he loved me. Now I think he might have believed he did but probably did not. I have only heard those words from two people since Terrence, well over a decade now. So, that moment in the lounge will always stay with me. I gave my heart to Terrence, my summer fling, my first love. I loved my man and I loved the Church. I did not want to lose either. He made the effort to come to church with me. It was the first time that a man came to church with me. Sadly, it would be the last time too. I did not mind people guessing. Part of me was even hoping they would. I had been so shy until now. I can see how some guys can really go overboard showing their orientation to the world or be so in-your-face in their displays of affection.
Terrence and I wanted a ‘spiritual blessing’ and ‘a commitment ceremony.’ I was not advocating for changes within the Church. My issue with the Church’s stance on homosexuality was personal and spiritual. Because my membership had nothing to do with my family or where I was born, my views on Church policy was never following cultural trends or the current political trends.
Any doctrinal changes need to come from God and not from external (or internal) pressures. Let me make this clear: I do not believe that being gay is an abomination or that it makes me any less worthy than anybody else. After all, I would not want a Baptist or a Catholic to be sealed in the temple either. There are certain requirements. But at the same time, the Baptist and the Catholic can become Mormon. I cannot become straight. And I do not think a temple marriage should be granted to all those who go through the motions. It still feels unfair that girls can marry handsome hunks in the Salt Lake Temple just because they were born in an LDS family.
If the Church decided to have temple marriage for gays just to please the world, I would be jealous (because that’s what I would dream to have) but I could not do it anymore than I could steal something I have always wanted to have but cannot afford to buy. I could not betray what I believe in, and that is precisely why I do not go to a gay Church or dream of a wedding in a liberal Christian Church. I believe proper marriage is for a man and a woman to learn how to become Gods and Heavenly Parents. It is not marriage as the world sees it. It is an order of the Priesthood (and needs to be with more than one wife to be a fully Celestial marriage).
All Christian denominations (should) aim to follow Jesus. But being Mormon is more than that. It is about learning how to become like our Father in Heaven. That is the only reason why being gay is an issue in Mormonism. It is not about the Scriptures (even if they will use them to justify their disapproval with gay people).
But could Adam and Steve people a world? Some LDS told me: “There is no Scripture that says God is straight. And the Adam and Steve argument for justifying homophobic comments like yours is frown upon by the Church.” Maybe God is not straight but he fathered our spirits and I believe our bodies too. So he would have to comply to some laws I could not comply to as a gay man. I do not care what the Church approves or not, but how can two men people a world? If there is a way and that does not go against eternal laws, then hell yeah… But I am not sure…
¹ Some names have been changed to preserve the privacy of the subjects