My Story, by Chris
Updated: Sep 9, 2019
Come to think of it, I always wanted to be friends with the prettiest girl in class. The desire to strike such a friendship was always inexplicable and special—and by “special” I mean that I called such friendships “love”. And once the goal was set to become friends, I persisted until I succeeded.
In the seventh grade, I entered Young Women’s. I found myself drawn to one of the older Young Women, whom I had known for years beforehand. She was my role model and friend, as well as the big sister I never had. In my eyes, she was beautiful, intelligent, and perfect. She was the center of my tiny world.
If, like a camera, the human mind could capture a single frame of time and preserve it, it would look much like the vivid memory I hold of the moment I fell in love for the first time. It was after a youth conference she was unable to attend. In reply to a short note I wrote her in place of missing out on the action, she wrote a letter. Never before and never since have the words, “I love you” resonated in such a way within me. My stomach was instantly filled with butterflies, and my heart raced in a way I’d never known was possible.
Being a twelve-year-old who had never been in love before, however, I did not even realize that I was in love. And on top of my inexperience with romance, I was born and raised Mormon, raised in a highly conservative country, and a was student at a Christian school, meaning that the possibility of liking a girl never was an “option” to being with. It was always considered “abnormal, abominable, and absolutely not”. The very notion of being attracted to a girl did not exist in my world at the time, and I spent the next four years simply assuming that the feelings I had were simply an intense friendly-sort of love.
Looking back, of course, the “signs” were all there. Every waking moment of my day was spent thinking of her. I wanted to hold her hand, hug her, talk to her, and tell her how much I loved her. The times she would say “If only you were a guy..” honestly left a part of me wishing. Saturdays and Sundays were the only days of the week that really mattered, and every text, every little note, letter, and gift were my treasures. Once, she gave me a kiss on the cheek as a thank-you for a gift. It was the most gut-wrenchingly happy moment of my life. I was proud that of all the Young Women, I was the one who held a special place in her life.
Then the time came when she was old enough to go on a mission. I vividly remember that the night she left, I was crying in my dreams; and when I woke up, my cheeks were drenched with tears. As much as I hate crying, the tears came again when it came time to say good-bye. Of all the good-byes I have said since, it was the single hardest departure.
I wrote her every single month (because it was in the days before missionaries could receive emails from those other than family). The trips to the post office were far, but always worthwhile. Every day, I would check the mailbox—hoping, praying. And when an envelope with the all-too-familiar hand was found, nothing in the world could dampen my mood. I would read the letters over and over again, simply waiting for the day she would return.
Eighteen months later, she was back, as I had dreamed for a year and a half. Yet, something felt different. Something simply wasn’t the same. She had changed in a way that I could not quite explain, and kept me at a distance. And at the end of two months, she announced her engagement a man from her mission. Never before had I felt such an intense dislike for another human being. “How could someone so perfect marry… him?” I thought, shocked that any marriage could happen that quickly. Despite my horror, she was married in the temple, just a few weeks after the announcement. I was a senior in high school by then, and because I departed for BYU soon after the wedding, I was unable to see her again for a long, long time.
As the years went by, there would be times when I would suddenly think of her. Each time, I reached out—through any means possible. Sometimes a reply came, and sometimes it did not. And at one point, I became tired of it all; of feeling like the only one who still valued our relationship, of feeling hurt, and perhaps even a hint of guilt at being so drawn to a sister of the Church. Eventually, I too went on a mission. Never once did she write me, even after I nearly died during the course of my mission. I was crushed, but still, the needles of my “moral compass” never pointed at the possibility of a romantic kind of love.
After my mission, I dated my first boyfriend. While I felt romantic attraction, I struggled with the physical aspect of what might typically be expected in a “romantic” relationship. Though I was okay with small gestures such as hugs and hand-holding, I dreaded every good-night kiss on the doorstep. Talks of marriage and going to the temple terrified me. He was very much in love with me, but I struggled with the fact that I could not reciprocate the intensity of those feelings. Despite his kindness, each step he took forward had me taking two steps backward. Finally, I could not bear with the guilt and weight of the relationship… and ended it—the very day he told me that one day he wanted to marry me.
Dating him is probably where the small voice within me—suppressed for at least a decade—began to whisper, “What if…?”. Yet, I continued to ignore the voice, since it went against every moral standard I had ever been taught. And also because deep down, I was far too scared to face the question and all that the answers might imply.
My last semester at BYU was a disaster. By then, I was drowning in depression, loneliness, stress due to my upcoming graduation, and disenchantment towards Church policies and history. The November 2015 policy (among other things) had left its mark on me, as I could not imagine how a loving God could “reveal” such a hateful policy through his servants. After nearly six years in Utah, I was much more aware of the Church’s stance on all matters pertaining to the LGBTQ+ community. It was around this time that I suddenly had the urge to talk to her again, and by sheer coincidence, it was when I heard news of her divorce.
After much pondering, I sat down to write her a letter… and the puzzle pieces finally began to fall into place. Already, I had come to care less about the guilt, shaming, and silence surrounding the exploration of one’s sexuality. While I was mildly surprised that, unbeknownst to myself, I had been in love with a woman for eleven years, I also knew that I had never “struggled” with same-sex attraction. Although my love had never been reciprocated in the way I might have hoped, the very fact that I could feel such deep love towards another human being was incredible, humbling, and worthy of celebration. There was absolutely no room for shame, negativity, or denial of such a real, powerful, and beautiful emotion. My memories of love were to be cherished, not buried under a blanket of toxic attitudes and teachings.
(This is not to say that this realization minimized or uprooted the genuine feelings I had towards my previous boyfriend, but many of the questions I had—regarding my “disinterest” in dating, the men who approached me, the feelings I experienced as a Young Woman, and the whirlwind of emotions whenever I thought of her—were answered.)
All in all, the realization and acceptance of my bisexuality has been liberating, but a full embrace is a work in progress. Although I consider myself more attracted to women than men, I still feel hesitation when it comes to dating a woman. The notion of it being wrong and sinful are so entrenched within that while I am fully conscious of its toxic nature, it is also painful to break away, perhaps akin to tearing off dried asphalt from the soul. A large part of me is tired of the suppression and hiding, but another part of me is well-aware of the consequences of coming out to a predominantly Mormon/ Christian circle of family, friends, and acquaintances.
Ironically, however, it is this pain that—in part, and for the time being—leads me to Church each Sunday. I wish for the Young Women in my ward to know that there is at least one person around to hear them out without judging. To tell them that whatever situation they face—whether it be raising questions, experiencing a faith transition, or discovering that they are not heterosexual—they need not feel shame or guilt. To be that one person these wonderful teenagers can speak to without fear, because it is the kind of support that I yearned during my own years of searching.
A short epilogue: I called my longtime crush when I came back home from college… and to my surprise, she immediately recognized my voice. We are back to being good friends, but listening to her talk about her abusive ex-husband, financial struggles, shattered dreams, and raising children alone are heartbreaking. Another reason I struggle with the notion of three-month engagements and eternal marriage.