Portland, Oregon /PRNewswire/ -- It took him 33 years, but by October 2004 Lester Leavitt could no longer deny it. He was gay, and he was ready to come out, even if it meant turning his world upside down. He had never slept with a man, or even embraced a man, but he knew that he could no longer deny his feelings.
"There are so many parts to coming out," Leavitt explains. "I came out late - in my forties; I came out married - after 23 years with my wife; I came out a father - with four mostly grown children; and what turned out to be the most difficult of all; I came out Mormon!"
Leavitt is in Portland this weekend to attend the Affirmation Conference for gay Mormons. He will almost certainly be the only gay man attending with his wife.
His wife Barbara explains why she is still with her husband. "Our marriage is stronger today, and so much more alive than it was before Lester came out. To understand why, we would need an hour of your time, but the biggest reason, I feel, is because we were finally honest with each other about everything, and I mean everything!"
Lester is quick to add a warning. "I don't want any gay man to think that he can stay with his wife just because I was able to do it. Our situation was so unique that I doubt very much that it could be duplicated. I think that is why I have unwittingly become such an outspoken activist for gay marriage."
Lester's activism is not limited only to gay rights issues. As noted above, the most difficult part of coming out was coping with his Mormon upbringing.
"I'm a 7th generation Mormon, and I was raised in Cardston, AB where it is almost more sheltered than in Utah behind the 'Zion Curtain'. From the time of my earliest feelings of attraction to other boys, I remember the guilt. I know why gay Mormons commit suicide," Leavitt says.
Affirmation has teamed up with other organizations like LDS Safe Space to try to change the church, and that is how Leavitt met Olin Thomas, Affirmation's executive director.
"I found LDS Safe Space right after I was excommunicated. I needed to talk to somebody about it because I was not excommunicated for being gay; I'm still faithful to my wife! I was excommunicated for becoming a liberal, and expressing my liberal views in my book," Leavitt explains. "Olin sits as one of the ad hoc directors on the LDS Safe Space forum, and he encouraged me to become involved with Affirmation. Barbara and I are here this weekend so that we can become part of a team that will eventually make it safer for gay people within the church."