As far as I can remember, I was attracted to other boys – at least since age 6 – but I had no idea it was sexuality, let alone homosexuality. I discovered the term at 11 or 12 when reading ‘The Miracle of Forgiveness’, written by the LDS prophet Spencer W. Kimball, a required reading from our bishop to help the youth to ‘stay pure’. From the words of this so-called prophet, I was made to believe that homosexuality was a ‘crime against nature’, the worst sin next to murder, that I was abhorrent ‘in the sight of God’ and that I deserved ‘death penalty’.
From this point on, I was subjected to a continuing stream of homophobic discourses in the LDS church, worsening my (already poor) self-esteem. Those years were awful years of self-loathing, despair and loneliness. I was constantly reminded that I was broken and evil by everyone around me – especially by church leaders when they began to suspect that I was not ‘normal’ since I was not ‘masculine’ enough and not enough interested in girls. I was the target of bullying in church and in school, for which I was told by my mother and church leaders that I was certainly punished by God for some hidden sin.
I was subjected to sexually-oriented interviews by bishops and church leaders that only exacerbated the problem. I admit that those interviews were not systematic (some bishops were reluctant to address sexual questions), but it occurred to me from time to time. I had a one-to-one interview at age 13 with a middle-aged member of the High Council, sent by the Stake president, who went quite in details in the subject of masturbation and its techniques, telling me that I should not touch my ‘little factory’ under severe penalty from God (I assume the man talked to other boys as well). Some bishops asked me also sexual details, especially what sexually aroused me, in order to ‘help’ me with my problem. Those sexual-oriented conversations made me uncomfortable and reinforced my self-loathing. From these interviews, I was made to believe that masturbation led to homosexuality and that I should resist the temptation to be cured – and that homosexual thoughts (even not ‘sexual’) were as abhorrent as the act itself.
My attempts to resist masturbation urges at all cost and to suppress all homosexual feelings only reinforced my desperation and my loneliness. I hated myself and started to show self-harm behavior, as scratching and flagellating myself, hoping to get rid of my ‘homosexuality’. I really thought that God hated me and I started to ideate suicide for getting out of this awful situation. As suicide was also a ‘sin’, I did not dare to take my own life directly, but I thought it would not be a sin if I was killed ‘by accident’. I then started to behave dangerously – walking along a cliff or a high-speed road and other imprudence – hoping that an ‘accident’ will occur. It was a form of suicide attempt – fortunately the ‘accident’ did not occur.
It took many years for me to heal from this sick doctrine and to accept myself as a gay man – but I suffered for years (and still now to some extent) from the consequences of the psychological violence I was subjected to during my youth.
My story might differ a bit from the others, as I suffered more from homophobia than from sexually-oriented interviews alone, but these interviews clearly worsened the situation. These ‘worthiness’ interviews need to be modified, untrained middle-aged men should not be allowed to interfere with a child sexuality. And obviously all homophobic doctrines should be officially repealed.