When you are talking to and/or about the LGBTQIA+ Community, I find that religion is often a subject that is best avoided. However, avoiding the topic of religion is easier said than done, especially for someone like myself because my religious beliefs make up a significant portion of my life.

I was raised a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and for anyone who knows anything about my faith, it’s typically understood that the LDS Church is opposed to any kind of sexual relationship that is not between a man and a woman within the confines of marriage.

It has been a struggle being a member of the LDS Church and having same-sex attraction. I use the term “same-sex attraction” to define my sexuality because saying that I’m “gay” is not accurate, and neither is saying that I’m “bi-sexual” so I prefer to not use a label. I am predominantly attracted to men, but I also have been in love with women in the past as well (it’s just different and hard to explain). There are some who try to discount my attraction to women, but I refuse to.  I love who I love when I love them and that’s about as specific as I can get. The labels just don’t fit.

Growing up for a long a time I felt like a freak. From the age of 16 years old onward, I lived in two very separate worlds that I tried very hard to make sure would never co-exist, but I wasn’t ultimately successful in that endeavor.

I found myself belonging to a church that I loved very much and in spite of my attraction, I wanted to remain a part of it. However, I never met anyone else who could do this. Any gay person I met in the state of Utah who was Mormon had either left the church or was silently waiting in the background for a day when the Church would change its positions on the subject. I did not believe the latter would happen and I wasn’t content to leave my faith either, so what was I to do?

Right before I left Utah to move to Arizona, I did finally meet someone else who understood my plight and we became really good friends. We both felt we had to find a way to keep being Mormons and come to terms with our sexual attractions. I however eventually still found the struggle to be too much and did leave the church. I decided there was no real place me for there and being “gay”.

After leaving the church I had a long battle ensue within myself that lasted for years and included many tearful nights and painful moments of emotional and spiritual agony as I struggled with what I wanted. I wasn’t happy and I didn’t understand why.

Did I just feel guilty? Was there too much shame from the way that I was raised that I couldn’t get over it? No. There were plenty of reasons for me to want to stay away from the Mormon Church. I didn’t need an excuse to live the life I wanted. In spite of numerous negative events I had experienced within the church, there was something that kept drawing me back to it. It hadn’t been all bad, in fact, it had mostly consisted of some of the most amazing experiences of my life and I eventually realized that I knew this religion was true. It was intertwined into the very fabrics of my soul and I really couldn’t deny it, at least not and be happy.

About two or three years ago I came to terms that I had to come back to church and live my faith, no matter how hard it was or what was expected of me. Even if it meant being celibate and maybe being alone for the rest of my life. That’s a hard decision to make, and it hasn’t been easy since I made it. In fact, it’s been terribly hard, so hard that there are some days where I still ask myself whether this is worth it. But in the end, when I sit down and think about it, I know it is and I find myself feeling happier now than I had over many of the prior years of my life. That is what makes it worth it.

I may not have all my concerns, worries, or struggles resolved when it comes to the LDS church, but still, somehow I know I can manage. I also don’t know how exactly to work my faith with involvement in the broader LGBTQIA+ community, but also I know I can make that work too. It may not be the most conventional life, but I finally feel happy and at peace with myself, and that’s about all that I can ask for.

Everybody’s life is different. We don’t walk the same path and we have all experienced very different things in our lives. That’s the point of Queer-Voices; to share those different views and experiences we have come to have. That doesn’t always mean that any one of us is more correct (or better) than anyone else. It just means our experiences are different and we should embrace those things and how they make us who we are.

I am starting to finally embrace who I am, and much of that involves being a Mormon. A Mormon man who is also attracted to other men.