After Realizing I Was Gay, I Left My Wife—And the Mormon Church

"Making that change for myself definitely came with sacrifices, but it has been worth it."

Mens Health/January 16, 2024

As told to Philip Ellis

I grew up in the Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day Saints (more commonly known as the Mormon church), and that informed how I lived my life and pretty much every choice I made. I knew from fairly early on that I was gay, but my religious environment didn't allow me to have any kind of healthy exploration of my sexual identity, and there were no other gay people I could

The first person I came out to was one of my closest friends, my roommate at BYU, who had actually been the one to introduce me to my then-wife. We went for a long drive, and I explained that I thought I was attracted to guys. He didn't really know what to do or say, but he was supportive and understanding. After that, I spoke to one of my bishops. And then the next person I told was my wife.

Needless to say, those conversations didn't exactly go great. The way my religion taught me to perceive my sexuality was that it was more of a temptation that I needed to overcome than it was a legitimate identity. And once I told my wife that I was attracted to men, she saw herself as somebody who could help me "recover" from that. We didn't separate immediately; we actually stayed married for five years before I finally understood that this was a part of myself that was never going to go away.

In Mormon marriages, the couple are "sealed" together for all eternity, and there is still a huge stigma surrounding divorce. The decision to separate was not an easy one, because my wife and I knew we would face criticism from others, but it was a decision we arrived at together. We realized we would be better as friends and co-parents than trying to force our marriage to work. It would give me a chance to actually be who I am. She is still very religious to this day, so it allowed her to be who she is.

"In MORMON MARRIAGES, the couple are 'SEALED' together for all ETERNITY, and there is still a huge STIGMA surrounding DIVORCE."

I realized that embracing my entire identity would mean breaking away from Mormonism. Living as an openly-gay man, and starting to date guys, were incompatible with continuing to be a part of the church. I knew that I needed to distance myself from that way of life. And that began with coming out to everybody I knew.

My family took it hard. It was very difficult to come out to them and to close friends, because there simply isn't a place for gay people within Mormonism. My coming out was seen as a rejection of my community, of everything my parents had taught me and how they'd raised me. I didn't even necessarily want to leave that world behind, but it felt like the only choice I had if I was going to be able to accept this identity as a part of myself that's not going to change.

I still live in Utah, close to my kids, so the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has kind of stayed in the background of my life. I still have friends who are Mormon, but we're not very close. We just don't have a lot in common anymore. My family have come to accept the fact that I'm gay, even if they don't exactly embrace it. I'd say we still have a good relationship, but things have never quite been the same. Making that change for myself definitely came with sacrifices, but it has been worth it.

Finding community can be hard. I was fortunate enough to already have that somewhat by the time I came out. I'd begun blogging while I was still married and closeted, and through that I met other closeted Mormon men. We started meeting regularly, just to talk about the intersection of sexuality and spirituality, and figuring out what exactly it means to be a gay Mormon. We called ourselves the "MoHos."

It was just so nice to be around people in a similar situation, who could understand what I was going through, and to have friends in the local gay community when I got divorced. I continued to find people through the blog, Facebook groups, and later Instagram. Not just gay people, but gay dads.

Now, both on social media and in real life, I try to be the kind of person I didn't have when I was younger. There were no examples of what fatherhood looked like while being openly gay and celebrating one's identity as a gay man. My family looks very different from the ones I saw growing up, and I want people to see that. I have a great relationship with my kids, and I feel lucky to be part of a community of gay dads, even if I am no longer part of a religious community.

Many times in the past, throughout life's ebbs and flows, I've strived for the ideal. That's the Mormon in me, always aiming for perfection. But I've learned that there's so much beauty in the imperfection, and in knowing that you're not always going to get it right. Every parent needs to understand that at some point, things are going to get messy and challenging. You'll be the best parent when you're not afraid to just be who you are. Leaving the Mormon church helped me find my true self.

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