MY STORY isn’t particularly unique. Perhaps that should make it easier to accept when I lay awake at night.
I was raised as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, i.e. as a Mormon. I grew up in a diverse and accepting neighborhood and learned there were good people everywhere doing their best. I also learned that the church could make me my best. I didn’t just believe in the religion. I knew it cold. People would come to me with “misunderstandings” and I’d correct them, telling them what we really believed. I read scripture every day and prayed every night. I wanted to go to church for three hours a week, because I knew it would help me. I even intended to go on a mission and spend a year-and-a-half teaching people about the gospel.
It was my first year of college when I prayed about whether to go on a mission. God was silent. When a roommate came out as bisexual, I stopped to think about my own sexuality, something I had simply decided to “deal with later” when in high school, and I realized I too was bisexual. That didn’t change my plans, I reasoned. I was still going to marry a man and live happily ever after. I would keep going.
During my second year of college, I prayed about a mission again. Going to church filled me with the love and joy that I lacked elsewhere in my life, as I sank deeply into depression. God was silent. I asked if there was something else I was supposed to do instead. Silence.
I fell in love with a woman. Thankfully, she too was bisexual. She was gentle and happy, and I would stay up late just to be near her. But I knew it couldn’t last. We were both going to the same church on Sunday, the church that told us we were better off single than with a woman. I shoved this love deep down so it could never come out.
In my third year of college, men went from disappointing me to actively harming me. They never raised a hand against me. In some twisted way, I almost wish they had, so I could have sent them to prison or actually hurt them the way they hurt me. Instead, they were wrong about basic facts. They spoke down to me when discussing archaeology or my degree, while they were engineers and mathematicians. Worse, they spoke down to me when I told them they had wronged me. Men stopped seeming like an appealing option as life partner. How long would it be before he betrayed me? Would he wait until we were married? Until we had a child? I couldn’t be sure, and I had to be sure. Then Covid hit.
I stopped going to church in the fourth year. Partly because Covid meant there weren’t any official meetings for safety reasons, and partly because I didn’t see the point. God had spent three years ignoring me. By his laws, I was going to be alone forever. It wasn’t an all-at-once decision. I stopped reading scriptures one day and didn’t start again. I stopped praying. I started swearing for the first time in my life.
Looking back one year after graduation, I knew the gospel was true. It wasn’t just “I hope so, because it sounds nice.” I felt that I had lived experiences that I can’t explain unless the gospels are true. I still don’t know how to reconcile myself with that. My parents still believe that I will overcome this and return to church. Many of my friends went through a similar journey, like my friend that got married in April, though it took her four months instead of four years and counting.
This would be simpler if I could just pretend that I was straight, but I can’t. I can’t live a lie like that. It would be simpler if I could pretend I never believed or that I was “just confused,” but I wasn’t. I thought about religion carefully and repeatedly. I refuse to make myself smaller when I know what I can do. So the religious oxymoron of an all-loving God turning me away—because I couldn’t be happy under his rules, even though I never hurt anyone intentionally and mended my mistakes and became a better person—continues to linger.