Sometimes there are nights where I wake drenched in sweat, heart pounding, horrified by the dreams that had seconds before been playing out in my mind. These are the nights where I relive my days in high school. These are the nights where I relive the shame, and the embarrassment, I felt over not speaking out—over not standing up for another when they most desperately needed it.
Too many times to count I witnessed those who were brave enough to have come out in high school, or those who simply didn’t seem to fit the mold of their heteronormative gender expectations, be mocked, bullied, and outcast. Oh how badly I wanted to speak up! And oh the shame I felt for staying silent out of cowardice and fear of my big gay secret being found out. I stayed silent. I didn’t stand up to the bullies.
I am silent no longer.
And it is this determination to speak out and stand up to the bullies that drives me to address the talk given by LDS apostle Boyd K. Packer given at general conference this weekend. In his talk Packer made statements that “unnatural” same sex attractions can, and should, be overcome. He spoke of those who support marriage equality through their votes at the ballot box being akin to those who would vote against the existence of gravity.
I have no interest in arguing the absurdity of such things with the leaders of the LDS church. These are smart, accomplished, and for the most part well educated men who know better. No, I do not speak out and respond to argue their beliefs because surely they have the right to believe whatever they please, however disturbing and absurd they may be.
No, I speak out because I know that somewhere in some LDS family room or chapel pew, there sits a little boy or little girl who was just like me. A little one who desires nothing more than to be “worthy” and to have the approval of their church and of their family. I know that somewhere there is a child who, just like a younger me, quivers in fear of eternal damnation and fear of disappointing the family and the church culture they have been raised in because they are gay.
It is for these little ones that I refuse to stay silent.
The message delivered from the LDS pulpit continues to be a message of false hope, of misery, and of death for our LGBT children. LGBT youth are FOUR TIMES more likely to attempt suicide than their peers and they make up somewhere between twenty and forty percent of the homeless youth population—despite making up less than ten percent of the population of youth as a whole.
For twenty years I listened to the message of self loathing preached from LDS authorities. For twenty years I believed in their false hope that I could pray and fast and serve away my sexual orientation and God would then reward me with “righteous” heterosexual desires.
When the change never came, the blame became even more internalized, and I lost hope. But after a thankfully failed attempt to end the misery of this life, I finally found the true peace of my divine identity. I finally realized that all of those years I didn’t change because I didn’t need to. I was the way God intended me to be.
I began speaking out against the message of death that is killing our brothers, sisters, and friends. I began to work fight youth homelessness, youth suicide, and LGBT discrimination in housing and employment. I found new role models beyond the old men in the LDS hierarchy: like Reed Cowan who spends his time and efforts helping others in memory of his son, Dustin Lance Black who brought to life Harvey Milk’s message of hope and shared it with millions of LGBT persons who desperately need it, and hundreds and thousands of other activists fighting for change that is so desperately needed.
If this message should reach one of those precious souls who is somehow struggling and fighting that internal fight know this: there is hope. You are exactly the beautiful creature you were created and intended to be. There is love in this world beyond the message of death—find it.
And if this message becomes nothing more than a prayer in my heart, may the universe take it and share my love, and my hope, to those who in some way or another find themselves “in the thick of things”.
I stand confident of two things:
First, that the blood of the innocents drips from the hands of those who strangle the life and the hope out of them through their bully pulpit.
Second, that in the end I can stand upright and guilt free along side those who worked to make this world a better and safer place for everyone while others will hang their head in shame and weep for the hurt they inflicted on others in the name of self righteous piety.
“I know that you can’t live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living.”
Amen, brother Harvey. Amen.
Isaac Higham resides in Utah and wrote this post in response to a talk at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) General Conference on Sunday, October 3rd 2010. In this talk Elder Packer – President of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles – asserted among other things, that “homosexuality often results from an addiction to pornography” and that “homosexuality is a choice because a loving father in heaven wouldn’t make his children that way”. This rhetoric comes on the heels of a bullying epidemic that has lead countless LGBTQ youth to take their own lives. The LDS church perpetuates a culture of silence and fear, and in this culture, silence results in death.
Photo by Jessica