For years I surrounded my secret in protective armor, afraid of letting anyone else see what I was hiding. Would they hate me as much as I hated myself? And yet at the same time I yearned to be vulnerable. I yearned to be understood and to have someone to talk to. But being vulnerable was super risky. Removing the metaphorical armor would leave me exposed to truly being hurt. I was terrified of sharing my secret and then having nothing to deflect the jabs and punches and strikes that I feared would come. No one could hurt me more than a person that I had opened up to.There is a very specific feeling I get when I know I'm supposed to come out to someone. It’s hard to describe, but it's like a nervous, courageous sort of feeling. There’s a stirring inside of me and my heart pounds. It's not anxiety, but more like an invitation that comes from inside of me. When this happens I need to decide if I’m going to trust this feeling or listen to my fear.
I didn't feel prompted to share my orientation with anyone until after my mission. I returned to BYU and dove into dating just like I was supposed to. As I searched for an eternal companion the reality that I was gay was at the forefront of my mind like never before. One night I was sitting in a car with a good friend from my mission. He was telling me about some of his life troubles and I felt this intense need to reciprocate his openness and tell him I was attracted to men. But I was terrified and said nothing. Experiences like this happened again and again. A friend would open up in a private setting and I would feel this stirring inside of me that I would ignore because of fear.
I wanted to let people into what I was experiencing so badly, but I couldn't because of fear. The Lord said to Joseph Smith, "But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man" (D&C 60:2). Being gay clearly isn't a talent (but if it were I'd hope to win some kind of prize), but I was hiding important experiences because I was afraid.
Even after I started coming out it was often lacked the courage to be vulnerable when I got that “it’s time to come out” feeling. I would sometimes be so worried that I felt physically ill. I would hesitate and not initially act on the prompting. But as I got more and more used to what the Spirit was encouraging me to do, it got easier and I became more confident. So when I got that feeling while teaching Elders Quorum I came out. When I got that feeling during a 5th Sunday lesson at church I came out. When I was meeting with my bishop for the first time and got that feeling I came out. And every time I responded to that prompting something wonderful happened. Every time there was some kind of tangible confirmation that coming out in that setting was the right thing to do. Every time I felt uplifted and edified, and so did those with whom I had shared. Quite a contrast from hiding in fear and saying nothing.
|Provo Utah Temple 2018|
I found him later and we sat on a padded bench. He asked me why I was interested in working with LGBTQ clients. The feeling I knew so well stirred inside of me so without hesitating I told him I was gay. He then got emotional and said, "My son is gay, too." We sat on that bench talking for quite a while. When the conversation was over he thanked me profusely for trusting him because he had needed someone to talk to that day. His last words to me were: "Providence brought us together today."
This feeling came multiple times as I interacted with temple workers on my shift. It led to beautiful conversations every single time. Even though I had planned to be silent, I was frequently prompted to speak. My coming out in those settings wasn't to get attention, or to prove a point, or to increase LGBTQ visibility. I simply came out in the temple because I felt prompted to do so.
|Mitch, the first person I came out to|
I for sure don't know what any other LGBTQ person should do. But what I do know is that I missed a lot of opportunities to come out because I was scared. I also know that waiting until I was 30 to come out publicly was the right thing for me for a number of reasons. I came out on my blog at that time because I had come to recognize when the Spirit was prompting me to speak.
I've heard a number of friends share similar stories of learning to recognize a feeling that invites them to come out. I don't know when the right time to come out is, but God does and He'll help us know. Immense goodness has come into my life as I have followed the repeated promptings to come out. When I hid because of fear, all the kindness that was offered to me was also somewhat deflected by my protective armor. When I removed my armor and let myself be seen, I finally felt the full embrace that my loved ones were offering me. That was the experience God was inviting me to have.