Steven Frei – November 2012
Four years ago, I was just returning from being disfellowshipped from the Church and feeling incredibly alone. I knew I wanted to stay with my family and remain in the church, but I felt so isolated, lonely, and unsure of my ability to forge the daunting course ahead. I didn’t know another soul that was gay and active in the Church, much less gay and married. One evening, in my desperation, I Googled gay Mormon married men, just to see if there were any! I have to chuckle about that now, but at the time, it wasn’t very funny. I found a blog of a gay married Mormon man in Vegas who linked to a young gay man in Texas who was trying to decide if he should serve a mission. On his blog, was a link to something called North Star. I would never have guessed how clicking on that link would change my life.
I found an entire community of Mormons who, like me, had testimonies of the restored gospel, experienced same sex attraction, and wanted to remain faithful to their covenants. It was an incredible breath of fresh air, and soon provided me hope and a community of like–minded friends.
One of battles I faced over the years was how to reconcile my homosexuality with my faith and my family. Many times it seemed impossible to get my head around the seemingly obvious contradictions to my plight. From my early youth I felt evil because I hid a secret of sexual attraction to other boys and indiscretion with another neighbor boy, and yet I tried so hard to be a good kid. My mom called me her peacemaker and little bishop. If only she knew. I was seven when my little brother was born, and when he was old enough to escape the crib, we shared a bed. I loved my little brother and prayed he wouldn’t turn out evil like me. He is not evil, but like me, he is gay. Looking back, my heart breaks for my little boy. I was so innocent, and yet already was steeped in shame and guilt.
If I could speak to my younger self, I would tell him he is good, that he is acceptable and loved just the way he is, that God knows him, loves him, has a plan for him, and will take care of him.
Growing up in the sixties, seventies, and early eighties was a different world than it is now. People were still naming their kids "Gay." There was no question through my teens that I was attracted to guys, but I just thought it was because of my youthful sexual experimentation. Like many, I was sure that repenting, serving a mission, and marrying in the temple would "fix" me. So that’s just what I did. Two years after returning from my mission to Italy, I was set up on a blind date with my now wife. We met the first week of January, were engaged the first week of March and married the first week of June.
I didn’t tell my wife about my SSA before we married because I was not very self–aware, and didn’t understand of the role homosexuality would play in my life. I had repented and thought it would just go away. In hindsight, I was wrong not to fully disclose to her. Marriage is not a cure for same sex attraction. If individuals know of their same sex attraction, I believe it is incumbent of them to fully disclose to their perspective spouse. It should be a shared choice made with full awareness and after considerable thought and prayer.
A few months after we were married, I didn’t want to keep secrets from her and I did tell her about my early sexual indiscretions, but assured her I was now repulsed by them. I was. Nothing was said again about my sexuality for another 22 years.
I was in love with my wife, and our marriage was great. Our family soon welcomed four wonderful children. I had a good job. Graduated from college. Had my own business, and served in many church callings including bishop. Over the years, however, my same sex attraction did not go away. It always simmered beneath the surface. I erroneously thought I had to keep my doubts, temptations, fears, and struggles within. No one would understand, and what would they think if they really knew me? So I put my feelings on my closet shelf, and never addressed my homosexuality in a healthy way.
After years of the internal turmoil of not being able to reconcile my faith with my sexuality, and with the mounting pressures of life, I turned for relief to addictions, and I self medicated. About this time, I started having increasing doubts about the authenticity of the Mormon church, and eventually the existence of God. Everything combined to form the perfect storm of depression, addiction, and eventually infidelity. However, by then I had mastered the art of living a double life.
One evening my wife, sensing that something was wrong, asked me when was the last time I had sexual relations with anyone but her. I took a deep breath, sat down and told her everything. Everything. I was so tired of living a lie, and needed to tell someone. After initially reacting with anger, she softened and we discussed things into the night. I told her I loved her and wanted to stay with her and my family. I asked her what would happen if I fell again because I didn’t have a very good track record. With all the love for me she had within, she hugged me and said, "We’ll just start over again."
I could not comprehend such love and forgiveness from my sweet wife whom I had so deeply offended. She not only wanted to be my wife, she wanted to be my best friend.
With her love and support, I felt safe enough to begin unpacking my closet. We went through a year of church discipline that served as a time of reprieve and spiritual exploration for me to decide what I really wanted in life and to begin sorting out my feelings toward the Church.
It was at this point that I clicked on the North Star link, and I began to finally feel hope that there was a place for me in God’s plan, that I was not broken and didn’t need to be fixed, that remaining in the church I could live authentically to my spiritual nature, that I could shed the shame that I had for so long felt about my homosexuality, and that, as a gay man, I had choices.
I fully embraced the mission of North Star, which is to provide a place of community for Latter–day Saints who experience homosexual attraction, as well as their family, friends, and ecclesiastical leaders. North Star serves those who desire the spiritual and social support that strengthens faith, builds character, and empowers men and women to live in joy and harmony within their covenants, values, and beliefs as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints.
North Star is not a political organization, and recognizing the uniqueness of individual circumstance, North Star takes no official position on the origin or mutability of homosexual feelings and attractions, but supports all efforts consistent with the gospel that help individuals live in more full harmony with their covenants and attain greater peace, fulfillment, and sense of individual worth, while affirming that the most essential and eternal growth and progress come through the power of the Savior and adherence to the teachings of His prophets.
If I had the blessing of a community such as North Star when I was a younger man, I believe I could have lived a much healthier life, and avoided many of the challenges I have faced over the years. I have chosen to strive to live faithful to my covenants with my wife, family, and God within the framework of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints. While my path is still not easy, I feel hope, peace, and happiness.
This is my story. The choices I have made work for me, and help me to live my life peacefully with my values.
Some of my friends have chosen different paths in their search of happiness. Maintaining many of these choice friendships has been an incredible blessing in my life. I have learned a lot about God’s love for his children, about the innate goodness in my fellowman, about other perspectives that challenge my own, yet are valid for others, and most importantly, I have learned a lot about myself.
Some parents, church leaders, friends, and even other homosexual members of the church may struggle with the role they should play in the life of their gay loved one. From my personal experience, the most important thing families and friends can do is to love unconditionally. Navigating one’s place in the world, church, and family is difficult at best for homosexuals. An assurance of continued love by word and deed will create the safe environment needed to make important life choices, and regardless of the choices made, our responsibility remains the same – to love.
Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this conference.