Starting with Me

They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, yet that first step is always the most daunting. I suppose when making a blog about my story in leaving the LDS church and the reasons behind it, it would be best to start with a little bit about who I am, and how I came to be who I am today.

As of this entry, I am a 26 year old gay man living in the greater Kansas City area. I am no longer active in the Mormon church and do not consider myself a member, but am still technically a member, meaning my name is still on the records of the church.

I was born in Sandy, Utah, at Alta View Hospital, in September of 1985 — an awesome birth year in my opinion — to two incredible parents, to be the youngest of four children. I have an older brother who is a little over three years older than me, and two sisters who are nine and seven years older than me. I was born into the Mormon church, both of my parents having been married in the Manti Temple, making me what is considered a ‘child of record’ in the church. This means that I was on the records of the church from my birth. In a decision I regularly thank my parents for, my Dad took a job that moved our family to Kansas City when I was still just two years old, a city that I love to this day and where I hope to spend my life.

From everyone else’s perspective I probably seemed to have had a very typical Mormon upbringing and childhood. I was baptized at age 8, became a deacon, teacher and priest at the appropriate ages. I held various callings in my teens including president of the teacher’s quorum, priest’s quorum first assistant, and even a stake youth representative, in which I helped to plan, and teach at, a youth conference. I went to early morning seminary, though I stopped going my senior year because of early morning school commitments and thus never graduated. I gave a number of talks in church, that were very well received by the members who talked to me afterwards. I would request the opportunity, even, of my Bishopric (the bishop and his two counselors) because I enjoyed the preparation and delivering of talks. I went to stake dances, participated in mutual (youthgroup), scouting, received a patriarchal blessing, and did everything I was instructed to do as I prepared to serve a full-time mission at age 19. I was, by all accounts, a good, happy, Mormon kid.

The problem was, I was not happy. I was not good, at least I didn’t view myself that way. I had a problem. A huge problem that I didn’t know how to deal with.

When I was in sixth grade I was the target of a large amount of teasing, something that followed me through the end of middle school (eighth grade). I attended Pembroke Hill at the time, and small class sizes and differences in religion and socioeconomic status will cause a number of issues with elementary and middle school aged kids. Strangely enough I was never teased about my religion, or about the fact that my parents weren’t as rich as the kids who I went to school with. Kids started leaving notes in my locker calling me gay, whispering about me as I walked past in the halls, and outright making fun of me during classes, lunch time, basically whenever the moment struck them.

At the time I didn’t even know what ‘gay’ meant. I just knew I was being called it and that these kids didn’t like it. Eventually I would connect it with the attraction that I started to develop in my male classmates, and the realization that my other male classmates were different than me. They were all talking about girls in the way I was feeling about them. Slowly I began to understand I was different than them, but that it was something I not only couldn’t admit or act on, I had to deny it and do my best to try to tell them they were wrong. I spent all of sixth through eighth grade trying to be invisible and created a giant social shell to hide in.

I remember in an early Sunday School class the topic once came up. I had to have been around 14 or so. I spoke up, naively, saying that gay people were born that way. I had certainly never chosen to have these feelings. I was instantly, and vehemently, corrected by one of the girls in my class, around my same age. I remember it vividly, I still remember which classroom in that church building it was in. She looked very sternly at me and said, “No, Trent, it’s a choice. Gay people choose to be that way, and God doesn’t like it.” The teacher, who’s name I still remember, must have felt like that just about covered it, so we moved on with the rest of the lesson.

This provided me with my first theological crisis. I certainly had no memory of choosing to be gay. If I had chosen it, how could I go about unchoosing it? I didn’t want to be this way. If I didn’t remember choosing it, did I choose it when I was really young somehow? Was it a consequence of a choice made when I was really young? That’s the theory that stuck in my head. I had done something, either in the earliest part of my life, or perhaps even in the pre-earth life, to make God mad at me. This was my punishment. I was broken. I was an abomination before God, and he hated me for being the way I was. I hated myself too. I hated myself for doing whatever it was that caused this, for ruining my life before it had even begun.

This feeling was reiterated by the many things I heard from Priesthood leaders, Sunday School teachers, others in the church, from talks and conversations, and even though they didn’t know they were doing it, my parents and family. The sentiment was just so commonplace. It was just the way it was, no one really questioned it, it just was. This was how I viewed myself until I was about a quarter of the way through my mission, when I read a book that changed my life.

This is getting long, so I’ll start there with my next entry. Please feel free to leave comments or questions below, I’ll definitely respond or address them in my next entry.