Coming Out Stories
Kissing the Damned: How Coming Out Changed My Life
Queers can passionately embrace their sexuality and live successful, joyful and yes, even spiritual lives
by Troy Williams
The following is an excerpt from a talk given on Aug. 10 at the Sunstone Theological Symposium. The panel was titled, "Kissing the Damned: Embracing a Queer-Positive Sexuality in the Heart of Zion." Troy Williams is the producer of RadioActive on KRCL 90.9 FM. Check out his blog at www.queergnosis.com.
We are here today to share stories of men and women who have come out of the Mormon tradition to embrace a queer-positive sexuality and world-view. Despite what the church and many other
anti-gay activists preach, queers can passionately embrace their sexuality and live successful, joyful and yes, even spiritual lives.
Now, I was not always so confidant. I
was once a timid kid filled with fear, self-loathing
and sexual anxiety.
Freud was right on about sublimation:
I grew up terrified of my sexuality.
I returned from my mission and
became Turbo-Mormon — and by that I
mean a real freak. In order to prove my
righteousness, I followed the teachings
of then-prophet Ezra Taft Benson to the
patriotic extreme and started volunteering
for the Eagle Forum. Yes, it's true. I,
Troy Williams, that apostate super fag
producer of liberal talk radio, used to
hang with Gayle Ruzicka!
It's funny where self-loathing will take
But you know, I couldn't stomach the
Eagle Forum long. The pinko-green feminist
queen was just busting to emerge.
But still I continued to sublimate my
libido in other ways. I once fasted for
five days to know if Mormonism's claims
were true. Five days without food! Who
does that? I mean, true, that was way
back before The Secret, and I didn't know
how else to attract my desires, but still. It
was way over the top, but it worked. Every
spiritual witness, every gut instinct
kept screaming at me, "Get the hell out
of the church! Your emotional and spiritual
survival depends on it!"
And so I did.
I have felt gay desire since I was a little
kid. And I have also felt a deep connection
to that unseen presence that many
people call "God." These two strong
impulses were entwined together. They
co-existed in my childhood but were
severed in adolescence.
I remember believing that I would
die without ever knowing what it was
like to fall in love. That scared me. I
don't care what the church says about
life-long celibacy: You simply cannot
mature and grow emotionally without
physical and sexual intimacy. Prolonged
sexual abstinence stunts your emotional
growth. Repression messes with your
mind. Sharing our bodies is vital to our
psychological, emotional and spiritual
wellbeing. And without the fulfillment of
this primal, basic need, I had become a
painful wreck of a human being.
And I thought, to hell with this! No
more extremism. I want to experience
love. And that's when I met my first boyfriend.
He was a tall, handsome, gentle
guy who I met in college. We became
friends and started hanging out — and
then we started "hanging out" — which
led to making out, which resulted in my
first full-on sexual experience with a
man, and at long last, my first love. I was
16 again for the first time.
I noticed something profoundly different
about this guy. He didn't have a religious
background. His parents accepted
him. He actually loved being gay and he
never wanted to change. If there was a
pill to make you straight, he wouldn't
take it. He saw being gay as a gift, and he
taught me how to deeply love that which
I feared so much.
The things within us that are the most
terrifying are often the things that are
the most powerful. Joseph Campbell said,
"My definition of a devil is a god who has
not been recognized. That is to say, it is a
power in you to which you have not given
expression, and you push it back. And
then, like all repressed energy, it builds
up and becomes completely dangerous."
And my inner demon was dangerous.
But facing it, embracing it — loving it —
was life-transforming. As Prospero says
of Caliban, "This thing of darkness, I
acknowledge mine." Jesus says in the The
Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, "If you bring
forth what is within you, what you bring
forth will save you. If you do not bring
forth what is within you, what you do not
bring forth will destroy you."
And when I hear of gay kids committing
suicide or married men having
risky gay sex on the down low, I know
that can be true.
The church requires gay people to live
celibate lives to be included in full fellowship.
They want docile and obedient
eunuchs in their pews. With so many
creative mavericks exiled from the
fold, it's no wonder LDS culture suffers.
Mormon music, Mormon art, Mormon
theology, even Mormon cuisine have all
become painfully bland and uninspired.
Is it any wonder why retention is such
a massive problem? In the 21st Century,
misogynistic, homophobic patriarchy is
no longer inspiring.
I want a theology that demands social
justice and a congregation that denounces
war and rallies for peace. I desire a
spirituality that takes me to the edge of
life — that expands my capacity to love the
outsider — and that celebrates the beauty
of intimate queer sexuality. I desire a faith
that can include and embrace all people.
LDS leaders describe homosexuality
with pejorative terms like "affliction" or
"inclination." They are blind seers. I prefer
adjectives like "gifted" and "blessed."
I now so love my life, and queer sexuality
is indeed a blessing from God.
We must awaken our body and soul to
this sensual-sexual-spiritual world. We
must love the condemned while embracing
our darkest secret fears. Amy Ray of
the Indigo Girls sums it up in her queer
I'm harboring a fugitive, defector of
and she lives in my soul and drinks of
and I'd give my last breath to keep us
... I stood without clothes, danced in
I was aching with freedom, kissing
I said, remember this is how it should be.