Blogger's Note: Last week, I posted Kade's mother's story. This week, I'm featuring Kade's story. This is part 1. Kade has a great sense of humor, so it's easy to forget that before he came to terms with who God created him to be, he was in a lot of misery. So many of these stories share some heartbreaking similarities: shame, denial, pain, self-loathing, anger, bargaining, and finally accepting and affirmation. It's my hope that by sharing these stories, our LGBT friends and family members can come to a place of self-love and peace before damage leads to despair, and so often self-destructive behavior and/or suicide. It's my sincere prayer that those who love someone who is gay can help create a healthy and safe environment for all to thrive. We are all in this together. We need to stop shaming and start affirming.
By Kade Kimber
|Kade is in the striped shirt and red pants. This is about 1/3 of the whole school population|
Like almost anyone who identifies themselves as gay, I knew very early on that I was different. The problem was that--again, like most gay people--I REALLLLLLLY didn't want to be.
Growing up in a very small ranching community in rural Utah is not an easy life; spending your childhood feeling like you're more tolerated by people than accepted as being no different from your peers--well, that's REALLY not an easy life. But, that is how my formative years were spent: knowing I was different, knowing others knew I was different--and yet, somehow fooling myself into thinking that I was hiding it & just imagining things whenever I felt people looked at me differently than others.
But, as the years went on and my family moved to a larger community, it became harder & harder to believe that I was imagining things. My classmates would make little comments here and there, name calling ensued (and continued through high school), and part of me was 100% miserable. Yet, the other part of me wanted to believe that if I just did X [prayed harder, fasted harder, worked harder at it, got more involved in church, etc.], then it would all be fixed and I'd be "normal" (whatever that is).
That belief continued long after it probably should have--I was a returned missionary in my 20s when I finally started accepting that my faith and any religious activity was not going to save me from the inevitable. It was clear that God wasn't going to bargain with me, no matter how many times I begged for that from the very depths of my soul. My prayers had evolved from pleading for these unwanted feelings to be taken away, to simply wanting my life to be taken away. Clearly, I was broken and no amount of fasting or prayer would fix that. However, I decided a Mack truck, a freak accident, or a heart aneurysm would. So, I started hoping and praying for that. Non-stop. In fact, it was all-consuming. I think my reasoning was that I knew I wouldn't do anything to hurt myself (though if things hadn't changed, I'm not sure how long that would've been the case), so the next best thing was for the Lord to end my misery. It truly made sense at the time.
I had done everything I was supposed to do--I'd served an honorable mission, I went to the temple regularly, I was heavily involved in church--and yet, no matter what I did, these feelings persisted. I foolishly thought they'd 100% stop once I was a missionary; after all, missionaries don't have those kinds of thoughts, right? I laugh at the idea of it now, but at the time I truly believed that once I was set apart as a missionary some sort of holy cloud, if you will, would come over me and my thoughts would be completely spiritual. (Obviously, I'd never spent any length of time around missionaries or else I'd have known better & not be so devastated when I did learn this idea was not even close to reality.) The fact this didn't happen was not only disappointing, but stressful. I spent a lot of my mission feeling like a failure, despite what looked like a successful mission on paper. There were a large number of baptisms, leadership role after leadership role, and great relationships built along the way. But yet, I felt like some sort of fraud for not being able to keep my overly human thoughts at bay.
I went on my mission because I knew it was what I needed to do--not because it was expected of me. I didn't go until about a year and a half after I was eligible to do so because I'd never planned on going on a mission. But, once the pressure was taken off of me (I think people gave up on me and wrote me off as a lost cause when my 20th birthday came along and I was still at home in college), I was able to really seek out answers. I not only gained a testimony, but then I knew I couldn't not go on a mission. I was so excited for it, and to this day I consider it a great honor that I was able to serve. That doesn't mean it was any easier when I got on my mission and realized I was still human. And, not only that, but so were the other missionaries. Some did better at others at masking their disdain over a person whom they saw as a closeted gay missionary, but even then it wasn't a big secret that comments were made. One companion in particular was so horrible that I went into a deep depression that took a long time to emerge from. Trying to do the Lord's work alongside someone who has called you a "fag" and "queer" isn't an easy task. But, I got through it. And, despite the challenges, still had an enjoyable time overall.
But, now that I was back home and still struggling, I finally decided that I needed to get help. I spoke to my bishop, who actually laughed when I told him I was afraid I was gay. He wasn't laughing at me; he was laughing at the idea of it. There's no way I was gay, he said. Me--the recently returned missionary who was traveling throughout the stake to give talk after talk at the request of the stake presidency who, for some reason, thought that of all people I had some ability to connect with congregations & enlighten them spiritually. It just wasn't possible. He said that almost every guy is curious at one point or another, so that must just be it. But, I knew that wasn't it. I was very frustrated that, while my bishop gave a loving attempt at reassurance, I still had no answers. I'd opened myself up to him more than I ever had anyone else, and yet--no answers.
I'd always been scared to really open up to Church leaders about this very awful, horrible thing that was inside me that, in my eyes, made me an equally awful and horrible human being. In fact, years and years before that while I was in high school, I even tried to get help anonymously. I had a friend whose dad was a bishop; they lived across town and I'd never actually met his dad, so I knew he would have no idea who I was. Caller ID had just been developed, however, so I had to be careful about my approach. I waited until I was dog sitting and then called this random bishop from the house where I was staying with the dogs. I told him that he didn't know me, but that I had heard he's a bishop and thought he may be able to help. I told him that I had a friend who was afraid he was gay and I didn't know how to help him. The bishop said, "Kevin, is that you?" I told him it wasn't and then I hung up. While it wasn't much help from a religious perspective, it was the first time I had ever felt that I wasn't alone. Somewhere out there, someone named Kevin was most likely dealing with some of what I felt. While of some comfort, it still didn't solve my problems.
So, years later, when I opened up directly to my own bishop who knew me, it felt like the bravest thing I'd ever done. And yet, from his reaction I couldn't help but wonder if I'd somehow made a mistake. I mean, all I got from it is that my bishop didn't take my concerns as seriously as I had needed him to. And that's when I decided to take matters into my own hands.
This interaction with my bishop occurred a few months after returning from my mission. I had also started back at college during this time. The university, of course, had counseling available. I thought that perhaps that could be a good start for me. I had gotten to where I was getting worn out by it all--the non-stop battle within myself to be anything but gay. I made the appointment and went to the counseling session, feeling like a freak the entire time I sat in that waiting room. I told the counselor my concerns. She said, "What's the worst that would happen if you're gay?" I said, "My life would be over." I wasn't being overly dramatic; I truly believed my life would be over. There was absolutely no way that my life could go on if I were gay. I look back and realize I felt that way because I didn't remotely love myself and couldn't figure out how it was then possible for anyone else to love me. Coming out would make this a reality with which I couldn't fathom coping, whereas keeping the secret to myself allowed me to continue under the disillusion of thinking that people loved me. I left feeling even more desperate, isolated, and hopeless, but then I determined that she clearly could not have been LDS if she were as accepting as she was of the idea of being gay. (Of course, I think quite differently now, but that was my reasoning at the time.)
Thus started my series of counselor shopping. I called LDS Family Services and got a list of LDS counselors that accepted my insurance plan. I honestly don't know how many I went to, but each of them failed to "fix" me. After going this exhausting route for some time and not getting anywhere, I found one counselor that seemed to be understanding of my plight. He assured me I could get these feelings completely under control, have my full membership in the Church, and even get married and have a family--something I had come to doubt was even possible for me. Unfortunately, however, no matter how many pamphlets, Church talks, psychology articles, etc., I read (and carefully hid from everyone around me, as not a single soul knew I was in counseling at the time), my feelings hadn't changed. I was again without hope. And I decided that counseling was not the right plan. I had to come up with something better. What, I did not know--but there had to be something.
I continued to live this way for a few more years before the opportunity arose for me to move back to where I'd served my mission. I had fallen in love with the area and wanted to be there again. Plus, I figured I could get residency to lower law school tuition. It was perfect. Scary and exciting, but also perfect. So, I moved and got settled. For the first year, I just worked and spent time at my apartment. My roommate worked all the time and was going to school, too, so it was the perfect arrangement. I basically had the place to myself.
At the time (in 2006), single wards were still in existence and I was excited to get involved in mine. I had had such a wonderful experience with my singles ward in Utah and had made great friends there--and even had dated a few girls from the ward, too. I was sorely disappointed to find that with the exception of exactly two people, no one in my new singles ward would talk to me. No one. I was living in a new place with so much promise--and yet, I had no friends around me. It was one of the loneliest times of my life. The only thing that helped keep my mind off my self-loathing was the fact it was such a mental thrill to move to a new place and start a new life. But, that thrill quickly wore off.
I was so poor at the time and finally saved up enough money to buy a small TV, as I'd left my other TV in Utah. I remember being so excited to have some sort of a distraction from my thoughts. Sure, I couldn't afford cable, but I could afford Netflix. So, I sat in my apartment and watched DVD after DVD...all the while thinking about how much I didn't want to be gay, how no one seemed to get me, how disconnected I was from any sense of community at church, and how I just couldn't do it much longer. Clearly, the TV wasn't as big of a distraction as I'd hoped. During this time of tremendous self-pity, my prayers for change were as strong as ever. But then something happened. I don't know what, exactly, but whatever it was forever changed my life.
Maybe I was just tired. Maybe my soul had had enough. I don't know. But, what I do know is that one night I decided to--for the first time ever--say aloud, "I'm gay." I should preface this by saying that for me, answers to prayers have always come from me making a decision and saying that decision aloud. If it felt right, then I knew I had my answer. If I felt butterflies in my stomach, I knew it wasn't right. That night (December 2, 2006), I immediately knew my answer the second the words escaped my lips. And it scared me to no end. But, I decided it was time to reach out to those whom I love and I just hoped I wasn't making a mistake.
|Kade and Brenda|
I called my mom first. After fumbling for the right words, which is never really a problem for me, Mom said, "Honey, just say it. Tell me what you're trying to say." I said, "Mom, I think I might be bi." Saying I thought I might be bi, rather than just saying I was sure I was gay, was as far out of my comfort zone as I could go at the time. Since then, I've learned that this is VERY common for those first coming out of the closet. It was a first step, anyway, so that was something. My mom replied with, "Honey, what took you so long? I've known since you were little. Your aunt, grandma, and I used to talk about it when you were young and I've just been waiting for you to come to me in your own time. I just didn't think it would take this long. But, it doesn't matter to me if you're bi or gay. All I want for any of you kids is to have you be happy and healthy. You're the same exact Kade I loved five seconds ago and that will never change. So, can we just accept this and get on with life so that you can now be happy?"
It was such a relief--of epic proportions, in fact. Though on one hand I was admittedly a little angry that my mom knew the whole time and didn't say anything, I also knew that I'd have shut down immediately and gotten defensive if she'd have approached me about it. She truly did know best and allowed me to come to the realization on my own, and she was there to support me when I did. I couldn't have asked for anything better. Similar scenarios played out with the five other people I told over that night and the next--my two big sisters, my two best friends from childhood, and a close friend who happened to be someone I baptized while on my mission. They were all equally as supportive and I feel so blessed to have had that kind of coming out experience.