GAY LITTLE GRAY
By Kayden Maxwell
Growing up in American Fork, the only minority group less represented than non-mormons were racial minorities. Classmates, teachers, friends, coworkers and politicians seemed to have the same and strict unwritten expectations: we were mormon, we were white and we were straight.
I attended my first Affirmation Conference in 2014. That experience was life changing as I was inspired to no longer fear who I was allowing me to see more possible outcomes for my life. It was my first taste of empowerment. In addition to the support and unconditional love of my parents, I learned that no matter what I decided for my life I would always have a new and extended family that would care for me too.
Shortly after the conference, my english teacher assigned us to write about our biggest life struggle. My family and close friends knew I was gay. However, aside from my pretty face and slight gay mannerisms I did nothing to advertise my sexual orientation. I was terrified to take the irreversible step and set myself apart from the Utah County norm but I knew it was inevitable. So, I embraced my vulnerability and wrote. Then I stood with shaking hands and in a quivering voice I delivered words to my classmates describing how little I fit into the mold of our culture.
Initially, the outpouring of love from my peers was overwhelming. As I got further from the "ideal" mormon guy I became frowned upon. Comments like "you're just going through a hard time," and "Jesus is waiting for you to come back," became daily assaults. Acknowledging my differences in that environment cost me dearly. But the benefits I gained from becoming a sincere, authentic and interesting person are infinitely worth it.
So then, who am I? In relation to religion and sexual orientation, my two greatest conflicting forces, I am a shade of gray between both. While I am no longer LDS, I value family, spirituality, love and forgiveness. And while I don't fancy gay clubs or certain apps, I look forward to falling in love.
I was most powerless when I stopped believing in my potential. I allowed the norms of my culture to tell me I didn't belong or have worth and my greatest mistake is that I ever believed them. Embrace your differences. Hold tight to the pieces of yourself that don't fit in this black and white world. Because the world needs more gay little grays.
Affirmation is an organization to support LGBTQ Mormons, families and friends. https://affirmation.org