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Coming out, going home, being gay, finding peace

May 4th, 2011 Posted in Arts and Life

‘I don’t like it when people go out of their way to make me feel different. I’m just a guy who happens to like guys. I have to do laundry; I have to go to class; I have allergies – like everybody else.’

By Mariah Noble

LOGAN — It was winter break my junior year of high school. Our whole family was home together, and I was happy. My oldest brother took me aside a couple of days before Christmas and told me a secret he’d been keeping all his life:  “I’m gay.”

The words have been said millions of times. Yet the effect of those words can be so different, depending on the audience. Since that night more than three years ago, I have learned of many others in similar situations. At least two of my professors have had gay brothers, and despite being in a generally conservative area, there are many gay and lesbian students at Utah State University.

Bryce Sprosty, a sophomore from Vernal, said he came out to his family about a year and a half ago. “I came out to my family first because it was very important that they knew from me and not from other people,” he said. “Two days after Christmas, I called a family meeting.”

Sprosty said after he told them, members of his family reacted differently.

“At first they did not react well at all. My mom was very angry,” Sprosty said. “Everyone took their turn saying what they had to say.”

Sprosty is one of six children in his family, and he said the religion is one thing that has caused tension within his family. “I was raised LDS,” he said. “And you know, that’s a challenge. My family is really tied to the church. I think the biggest conflict is that they have this plan for me that I don’t believe in.”

He said his relationship has gotten better with his family members since the time he first came out. He said only one of his siblings has a big problem with it now.

“My sister… told me I didn’t try hard enough to be straight and be committed to the church,” Sprosty said. “Her husband wouldn’t talk to me or look at me for a while, but we’ve hung out since then, so things are better. She had a friend who did conversion therapy, so she believes that works and I can be straight.”

With time, Sprosty said, things have gotten better. “It’s old news, so people are getting over it. And that’s good.”

Sprosty said he was a sophomore when he began recognizing things in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) that weren’t right for him. The stance of the LDS church is that people who are gay and lesbian may remain in good standing if they do not act on their feelings by breaking the law of chastity. He began researching and came upon some Buddhist literature that he felt helped him through the process of finding himself.

“To me it was important to figure out who I was and what I wanted to be and how to be who I am,” Sprosty said. “So I read up on that, and I just decided to really, really discover who I was.”

Once he left the LDS church, Sprosty no longer had a community group or place to belong, so he began looking at other churches. “I found the Episcopal church,” Sprosty said. “I don’t know if I believe it, but I like being there.”


St. John’s Episcopal Church in Logan is one of several gay-friendly churches in Utah. Still, some who were raised in the LDS faith choose to remain a part of what they’ve been taught growing up, despite the challenge.

John Whitlock grew up near Ogden. He said there were signs from the time he was very young that he might be gay.

“It had to be first grade,” Whitlock said. “I had this ninja turtle doll and I would just hug him and wish he was my brother. In first grade, I kissed a boy, not romantically at all but it was just a kiss to see what it was like. Then in second grade I kissed a girl a lot.”

Whitlock said puberty was when he really realized he was gay. He kept the secret until ninth grade, when he began telling his closest friends. Around the time he graduated high school, Whitlock said his parents found out and he was kicked out of the house. He went from being a dependent child to being homeless. He had to find a place to sleep and food to eat on his own, something he’d never had to do before.

“I view that as my growing up period. I’m very proud of my accomplishments,” Whitlock said. “I could have made it a lot easier on my parents, but it is what it is.”

Whitlock was raised LDS and said he tried for a period of about three years to change. He attended meetings, read scriptures and prayed to try and make his feelings go away, but it didn’t work. Whitlock said despite the situation, he feels very close to God.

“I was raised LDS, so the LDS God is the God I know, and it bothers me when people tell me He’s displeased with me,” Whitlock said. “The conflict is that (some people) don’t really think I should be (at church), but the path is different for everybody obviously, and if people can handle celibacy, go for it if that’s what makes you happy.”

Whitlock said sometimes people need time to accept the fact that their friends or family members are gay and lesbian.

“I think you need to do what feels right for you,” Whitlock said. “People are going to accept it. They’re not just going to switch it over because they know you, but if you can be a good example of someone who just happens to list gay among their many qualities, that’s the best way to gain allies.”

Whitlock also believes education will help those who don’t understand LGBT issues. “It’s okay to ask questions,” he said. “Don’t just assume things. I’m not offended when people ask about my relationship with God or being gay, just don’t be crass.”

He said sometimes people who are less educated about this try to make people who are gay feel like they don’t fit in.

“I don’t like when I feel different,” Whitlock said. “I don’t like it when people go out of their way to make me feel different. I’m just a guy who happens to like guys. I have to do laundry; I have to go to class; I have allergies like everybody else.”


The LDS Church is not the only one that creates a conflict for people who are gay or lesbian and religious. Nathan Miller, a sophomore at Indiana University from Muncie, Ind., was raised Catholic, but he said he no longer identifies with the religion.

“I was attracted to other guys from a very, very early age,” Miller said. “I didn’t know that was any different than what it was supposed to be. I had these feelings and I didn’t know what to call them because I thought they were normal.”

He said his earliest memory of male attraction was in second or third grade, but in middle school he began realizing those feelings made him different.

“I figured out there was a name for these feelings,” Miller said. “It was called homosexuality and it was very bad.”

In high school he tried to convince himself he was straight. “I thought, ‘I’m on the football team. I have a girlfriend. I can’t be,’” Miller said. But after he and his girlfriend broke up, he finally came out to himself. He came out to a couple of his friends, his ex-girlfriend and family as gay.

“It was kind of traumatic at times, but it came out OK,” Miller said.

Miller said the conflict he had with religions was not so much with the Catholic church specifically as much as with Christianity as a whole. “In the Catholic church, they have a narrow view on sexuality in general,” Miller said. “It’s not being gay, but sex without procreation is wrong.”

He said different denominations of Christianity believe homosexuality is wrong in and of itself, and he disagrees with their interpretations of the Bible.

Miller now has adopted some Buddhist practices, but doesn’t classify himself as a Buddhist. “I don’t pray to a creator/god, but I do meditate,” Miller said. “I do practice a lot of the Buddhist concepts.”

Miller said he likes concepts from Zen and Theravada Buddhism best because they focus on meditation and practice. He said he doesn’t like labeling himself in a specific religious category. He also dislikes labels for sexual orientation.

“I guess if you had to classify me, you’d say I’m bisexual, but that doesn’t do the complexity of the situation justice,” Miller said. “I have a growing distaste for labels. I’m attracted to who I’m attracted to.”

Before Miller came out, he said it was lonely. “You feel very, very alone, but you’re not at all. To think I’m coming out and going to be a different person is not a good thing at all. Nothing is changing. It should not be as big of a deal as people are making it. It sucks, and it’s very difficult (to come out), but it’s not the end of the world.”


47-year-old John Gustav from Minneapolis, Minn., has proved that being gay is not the end of the world. He and his husband have been married for almost 19 years now. He remembers being aware of his feelings at about 10- or 11-years-old and then thinking those feelings might mean he was gay at age 14.

Gustav, like Sprosty and Whitlock, was raised LDS, but he said at that time there was not as much information on being gay as there is now.

“When I was 14 it would have been 1977, and around that time, I had read The Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W. Kimball,” Gustav said. “There’s a major section in the book about homosexuality and basically said it could be something overcome and changed through faithfulness.”

Gustav said because of what he’d read in that book, he resolved to do everything in his power to change himself.

“I started to become much more conscientious about church,” Gustav said. “I was getting up early in the morning, at least an hour before I had to. I was doing exercises, praying daily, reading scriptures. At 16 I was going on splits (where an LDS member goes out with missionaries to teach lessons) regularly.”

Gustav said he believed if he did these things, his feelings of attraction would go away, but they didn’t. He thought once he became a full-time missionary, God would take the feelings away, but they did not recede.

“They didn’t change,” Gustav said. “I remember I pleaded with the Lord in tears my first night in the mission field.”

Gustav said it seemed incomprehensible to stay out with his feelings of attraction but he finished, and said it was a successful mission. After he served, he returned to college at Brigham Young University. He said at that time his feelings not only didn’t go away but seemed to get stronger.

“I was severely depressed at BYU,” Gustav said. “By the end of my junior year I was suicidal. I actually had a plan to commit suicide after I went home to my parents’ for the summer.”

Gustav said as his depression increased, he gave up on a lot of his spiritual practices, like prayer and scripture study. He said that summer he had a prompting to pray, and when he did, it was an incredible experience.

“The Lord spoke to me through the Spirit that he knew me before I was born, he knew my innermost thoughts and feelings, he knew that I was gay, and very clearly said to me, ‘I love you,’” Gustav said.

He said that was the first time he actually acknowledged in a prayer that he was gay. At the time of this experience, he felt prompted to leave the LDS church. He wrote letters to his bishop at church and to his parents at that time to explain why.

For the next three years, Gustav still wasn’t sure what to do about marriage. He said he entered into a period of prayer and fasting about whether he should marry a girl or remain celibate. He resolved to continue his fast until he got an answer.

“The fast was into its third day when I got the answer to my prayer,” Gustav said. “The Spirit spoke for me very clearly and said, “You need to be open to more options.’” Later that day, Gustav met the first openly gay man he ever knew.

After that summer, he gave celibacy its final consideration. He spent some time living with monks but by the end of his visit did not feel it was a calling for him. He said that was the point at which he began to come out publicly.

“For me, coming out was a process from 1973 to 1990,” Gustav said. “Two years after that is when I met my husband.”

Gustav has attended several churches. “When I left the LDS church, I began going to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America ,” he said. “I went there for about seven years. Then my husband wanted to go to the United Church of Christ, and we were active in the UCC for some time.”

Then in 2005, Gustav had another spiritual experience in which he was prompted to come back to the LDS church.

“Since that time, I’ve regularly attended my ward in Minneapolis,” Gustav said. “I’m still in a relationship with my husband, so I am officially an excommunicated member… actively attending the LDS church and living as much of an LDS lifestyle as I can.”

Gustav said God has helped him through the process of coming out and being in a relationship with a man, but each person is different.

“You have to trust your own process, and you have to do things at your own speed,” Gustav said. “You have to basically honor yourself in this kind of process. You need to wrestle these questions with your whole human being – body, mind, spirit.”

No matter the situation, each of these individuals emphasized the importance of humanity and sensitivity.

“I just want to be treated as equal with everybody. I’d like for people to consider gays less political terrorists and more human beings with hopes and dreams and emotions,” Whitlock said. “I’m pursuing my happily ever after, just like everyone else.”


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  1. 3 Responses to “Coming out, going home, being gay, finding peace”

  2. By Jordan on May 4, 2011

    Love the article. Though, I am concerned about some of the language, “The LDS Church is not the only one that creates a conflict for people who are gay or lesbian and religious”.

  3. By Jared on May 5, 2011

    Great article. Glad cachevalleydaily.com picked it up.

  4. By Cathedral of Hope Salt Lake City on May 5, 2011

    It is wonderful to hear that there is life beyond homophobic religion, that spirituality can be part of a LGBTQ person’s life. There are more and more churches which not only welcome gay, lesbian, bi and trans folk, but also ordain and employ these same people as their chosen leaders and representatives. One day, some day, the world will come closer to realizing that not only does God love LGBTQ persons, but made them just as they are, human, loving and fabulous. And may that day come soon!

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