This story isn’t a fun one. It isn’t a fairy tale with a perfect beginning and ending, but it has lessons we can learn. More importantly, it needs to be heard. It starts with a child. He was young, still in the single digits, in fact. He was watching the news, trying to figure out how the world worked, when a story came on about two men in a relationship. The boy’s mother made a comment about how wrong the world is sometimes. That was his first encounter with anything LGBTQ, though at the time, he had no clue what he had just seen.
That boy was me, and every exposure I had to anything queer after that went about the same way until high school. During my sophomore year, a classmate told me that two of my friends were dating, and it startled me, because they were both men. When I asked my friends about the rumor going around that they were dating, they simply confirmed it and looked at me like I was crazy for questioning it. I had never seen anyone talk about a homosexual relationship without disdain before. It blew my mind that they were not only a couple, but a functioning one. Before then, I had been taught that being queer was choosing to follow Satan and that most people did it for attention. (Looking back I realize that mindset was very wrong, and I am sad I never questioned it before that encounter.)
I started noticing oddities in my own thought patterns long before that day. I thought that guys were cute and I was always weirded out by women. I easily dismissed these thoughts, although I had had them nearly my whole life. Unlike others who have told me their stories, I did not feel confused about my sexuality. I probably should have, but I was so set on believing what my parents had taught me (namely, that sexuality was choice), I thought I could just choose to like girls instead and then everything would be fine.
Rewind about two months. Just before my sixteenth birthday, my long ignored desires demanded attention. I desperately wanted to find out how it felt to date a man. I was still in denial about my identity, so I convinced myself that I was just curious. I knew (well, believed at the time) that doing anything with another man was wrong. These thoughts combined caused me to go to the internet for answers. I won’t go into much detail, but I will tell you that those experiences have permanently scarred my mind. Through carelessness on my part, my parents found out how I had been using the computer while they were away. I had a conversation with my mother where I convinced her (and myself) that I simply wanted to experience what sin felt like, since that was the first time in my life my actions would prevent me from taking the sacrament.
I recalled my conversation with my high school friends, but now with those experiences on my mind. I had no clue what to think, so I struggled through the rest of high school with my “strange” feelings. It wasn’t until I moved out of my parents’ house that I confronted them. I know now that I am homosexual, and more importantly, I know that it’s okay.
So what can you learn from this story? First, young people need to know that being queer is okay. Before high school, I didn’t even know what the word meant. I can’t tell you everything about how to raise your children, but I can offer some insight. When you see gay people, or transgender people, or even people who dress differently than you, don’t treat them any different than anyone else. When a young person is gay, but they believe that being gay is wrong, it can cause damage that takes a long time to heal. You might think that you would notice if your child was queer, but that’s not always the case. I suggest that parents everywhere be an example of acceptance, because even if your child isn’t queer, they will eventually meet someone who is, and you can teach them to react with love and kindness.