VOICES OF HOPE
GARRETT & SALLIE
Feeling he was different than other boys at an early age, by the time his teens arrived, Garrett knew that he experienced same-sex attraction. Going on to serve a successful mission, he met Sallie shortly after he returned and their great friendship eventually turned romantic. Both native Texans, Sallie graduated from college with a degree in kinesiology and Garrett graduated in architecture with a focus on sustainable design. They were married on December 28, 2010 in the Dallas Temple and have a young daughter. They firmly believe that despite whatever you may be struggling with, there is a place for you in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Garrett grew up in Denton, Texas—a town known for its art and music. He loved living on the border of the big city and the country which allowed him to experience both. After high school he served a two year full-time mission in Poland where he learned the Polish language, experienced a different culture, and grew in ways he didn’t know were possible. He recently graduated from Texas Tech University with a Master of Architecture with an emphasis on sustainable design. He hopes to make the world a better place through the buildings he designs. He married his wife about halfway through school and lives to spend every second with her and their nine-month-old baby.
Sallie grew up in Mansfield, Texas with two wonderful parents, two brothers, and four sisters. She attended the University of North Texas on a cross country and track scholarship and graduated in 2011 with a degree in Kinesiology. In 2010, she married her husband, Garrett, and moved to Lubbock, Texas—a place she never thought she would call home. She taught elementary physical education for two years before having her daughter in 2013. Her recently acquired job as a stay-at-home-mom keeps her busy, but she tries to find time to run, catch up on her favorite Hulu shows, and spend time with friends. This is the story of how she came to marry a man with same-sex-attraction (SSA). It begins at an amusement park.
Full Interview (57 Minutes)
Highlights Interview (16 Minutes)
ALL THAT I HAVE
Just a Game?
Most people don’t seem to have many memories of being six. I do—I really wanted to play baseball. It looked like a lot of fun, and so many of the boys I knew were already participating in sports. I knew how baseball worked because I had gone to Texas Ranger games to see them play. At six years old the concept of athleticism—being able to excel in a sport—didn’t factor into my decision.
My parents signed me up for tee ball, and I looked forward to playing on a team for the first time. Getting my first uniform was a particularly memorable experience. It was a new world—new clothes that fit funny and new equipment that I had never seen before. I remember staring in confusion at the men’s cup that came with the uniform and wondering how on earth it would fit into my pants which already seemed unusually tight. It was a new world for me, but I was excited about it.
I don’t specifically remember much of my time on the team, but one memory does stand out. After one of our games, my coach pulled me aside and began working with me one-on-one. I guess I hadn’t understood one of the fundamentals of the game quite yet. During this lesson he taught me about making sure that the bat connects with the ball while swinging. After some instruction, I hit the ball and hit it hard. It went hurtling over the field and seemed to keep going. He shouted triumphantly, “There you go! Now why couldn’t you have done that during the game?” I didn’t know, but I was ready to try now. I could do it—I had just seen myself compete with the best of them. It was a fun year, and I still have such gratitude to my coach who took the time to teach and work with me one-on-one.
Unfortunately, my love of baseball was about to take an abrupt detour. When baseball season came around the next year, due to changes to the birth date requirements, I was placed straight into the “minors” without ever having participated in coach pitch—the standard progression for most kids. All the other boys in the league were bigger than me and had at least four years of baseball experience. I had only had one. The field was much larger and it was extremely intimidating.
I tried my best, but not for long. It was apparent that my best was nowhere near the same skill level of these giants who in my mind resembled the professionals I had seen at the Rangers games. I had no friends on the team and felt so completely alone. I realized that it’s not fun to try and try and look like the worst one out there.
It didn’t take long for my parents to recognize what was going on. I would hide so I wouldn’t have to attend practice and would beg them to not make me get out of the car to go play. Mama and Papa bear must have gone to the league and explained to them how the age requirements were hurting me. They let me drop down to coach pitch where I actually knew a few boys from school. I was much more on par with my teammates, but the coach yelled and yelled at us. I still don’t respond well to being yelled at—in fact, I absolutely hate it. After getting my end of year trophy I decided I was done and would never go back. I didn’t pick up another ball of any sort for years.
These experiences cemented in my mind a feeling of inferiority and fear. I felt that if I tried to play sports others would know that I wasn’t like them, that I wasn’t as good as them, that I wasn’t manly enough to play. That was all I ever wanted—to be accepted and regarded as an equal. This problem only compounded as I grew up. Everyone else kept improving their skills while I sat idly watching the distance between us grow. I was alone and an outsider.
A State of Duality
As I continued to grow up I started to feel an increased attraction for other guys, and it left me feeling even more isolated. I believed I couldn’t talk about it with anyone because I was sure no one was going through the same thing. In my mind I was the only one. Eventually, however, I found friends that had the same tendencies as me. We knew just enough to get into trouble. One of them introduced me to pornography which would become a serious stumbling block for years afterward.
During this time, I wanted everyone to continue to see me as the perfect church boy who excelled in school and had lots of friends. For the most part I was successful convincing others that the careful façade I had constructed was reality. I hid what I believed was my “true” self from everyone except my gay friends. I lived in that state of secret duality for five years, and it took a greater toll on me than I would have ever guessed.
I felt so confused and conflicted as I tried to decide which half of myself was the “real” me. I had lived a double life for so long that I didn’t know who I really was. Was I the perfect church boy people thought I was? Part of me genuinely wanted to be. Or was I the homosexual who would much rather be with a guy than with a girl and who craved acceptance from his male friends? Living in a state of duality was a very dark place for me, and it left me feeling more lost and confused than ever.
I believed that there was no way that I could have these feelings of attraction for other guys and still be a good member of the Church. The very idea seemed impossible. In my mind I either had to choose to be gay and denounce my faith or I had to pretend that these feelings weren’t real. Neither of those options seemed to fit me. I felt lost—completely and utterly lost. I had no idea who I really was or who I even wanted to be. I remember at one point some words President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke regarding the perils of pornography were deeply impressed upon my mind by the Spirit: “You will lose yourself…” As those words came into my mind, I knew he was right. I decided to begin the repentance process and speak with my bishop.
Although I was initially extremely nervous to speak with my bishop, I quickly realized that he was full of love and wanted the best for me. Instead of being greeted with judgment and shame, he showed great love and compassion. Among other things he suggested that I attend counseling—a decision that I am still grateful for. He also helped me realize that I didn’t have a personal testimony of the gospel and that I needed one if I was to go on a mission or decide which life to lead.
Gaining a testimony was surprisingly hard for me—much more difficult than I had initially anticipated—and I never felt more lost and alone than I did during this period of my life. Initially, I thought that surely I could read the scriptures, pray about the message they contained, and receive an immediate response that God was real and that I should follow Him. It wasn’t like that at all. It involved constant studying and prayer and a lot of repentance. Progress seemed slow, if not absent sometimes. I worked closely with the bishop over the course of a year.
I desperately wanted to know whether God was real and, if so, to have Him in my life. I needed the hope that there was something more for me—and I was willing to give up whatever I needed to find Him. At some point I decided that if I were to gain a testimony, I had to give the gospel a try. I had grown up in the Church but knew that if I really wanted to know the Church was true I had to live by its precepts. I decided to try and keep the commandments in every way that I knew how—church attendance, tithing, law of chastity, all of it. That was the only way I could find out for myself whether it was true.
I did just that. I studied the scriptures twice a day or more, and lived every law to its fullest. I prayed harder than I had ever prayed before—really wanting to know if the Church was true and if God was real. I believed that He was, and I sure hoped that He would answer. A few weeks after this decision to live the gospel I received my answer. I was sitting in Sunday School when my answer came. The teacher asked a question and when I responded I suddenly had this overwhelming feeling envelope me. The invisible cloud that surrounded me was almost tangible. I knew that God loved me, and I knew that I was in His church. Knowing that I was no longer alone, that God loves me individually, changed my life forever. I knew that I only had one choice if I wanted to live in harmony with what I now knew to be true. I knew that I could never go back to living my previous lifestyle and that following the commandments meant more to me than anything else. I felt the redeeming power of the Atonement purify and cleanse me for the first time since I could remember. I was ecstatic, and it showed in my countenance. I felt like I was literally glowing.
Once I received my testimony, all I wanted to do was serve a mission. It took work and time to get prepared beyond the initial conversion I had just received. It involved meeting with a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy so they could determine if my repentance was genuine and if I was prepared spiritually and emotionally to serve a mission. Prior to meeting with the Seventy, I felt the terrifying feeling of desiring to serve a mission but knowing that my previous actions may have prevented this desire from becoming a reality. Gratefully, I received permission and was able to leave on my mission shortly thereafter. I went because I knew the gospel was true and because it had changed my life.
I was able to share my testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel, the one thing most valuable to me, with the people of Poland for two years. They taught me more than I would have ever guessed. I realized how I had taken for granted the most basic, fundamental truths—why we’re here, where we’re going, and what happens after this life. I remember looking into people’s eyes and seeing their longing for these answers that I had been taught since childhood. I wanted them to feel the same love from God that I now felt so powerfully in me. I was no longer alone. I wanted them to know that, and that He is constantly watching over us. I could testify of this with power and authority because I felt His influence in my daily life. Often I stood in awe of the man I was becoming because of His atoning grace. I was in a better and happier place than I had ever thought possible.
The mission flew by, and I loved almost every second of it. I was strong. I felt close to the Holy Ghost and understood His promptings. I saw people’s lives change before my eyes and I grew to love complete strangers, hoping that they could feel the same love that I felt every day. The day my mission ended, I remember it became extremely difficult to read my scriptures every day—a habit that had meant so much to me on my mission and before. I remember receiving the distinct prompting to read my scriptures “or there’ll be trouble.” I didn’t heed the prompting as I should have and would only read a few verses right before I fell asleep hoping that that would be enough. It wasn’t. The struggle with pornography that I dealt with for so many of my teenage years suddenly returned. The feelings of attraction for other guys that had been significantly diminished for most of my mission and the year or so preceding it also returned—and stronger than ever.
Since I had now started school in Lubbock, Texas, I began working with the bishop there. I thought that these issues had already been dealt with and felt such despair at their return. I did my best to live worthily and live the commandments, but I would often fall short of my goal. I tried dating a few girls and nothing seemed to go anywhere. I would have a crush on a girl and suddenly lose all interest in and attraction to her only a few weeks after we would start dating. It was the most frustrating thing on the planet. I would often pray intently to be able to like girls the way I wanted to like them—the way I was “supposed” to like them. I thought the girls I took out were incredible, and I wanted so badly to feel attraction toward them. It drove me crazy that I couldn’t. I knew I was supposed to marry a girl, a righteous woman who had similar standards and ideals. I wanted so much to have those feelings for women, but the feelings would never come that way. Somehow I knew any serious relationship I committed to couldn’t be forced, and that any future relationship had to be with a woman if I was to stay worthy and live my faith.
I eventually came to the decision that I would rather live my life alone, unmarried, and in harmony with God’s will than do otherwise. That was a big turning point in my life, where I was able to make the decision to give up all of my sin and carnal man in exchange for worthiness. I knew that I was choosing God above all else and deciding that my future would never involve living a homosexual lifestyle in any form. I was choosing God’s will over my own. I saw this as my Abrahamic test—a test that would determine if I was willing to give up everything I loved or wanted and to accept God’s will. In my mind I was choosing the one thing that scared me most—living a life alone as a celibate man. However, I knew God loved me, and I trusted in His plan for my happiness. Ironically, after making that choice I felt anything but loneliness, despair, or sadness. God was pleased with my actions, and I knew it. I felt it. I wasn’t alone as long as He stood by me—as long as I stood by Him.
It was surprising how accepting that I may never marry was so liberating for me. The Lord and I both knew that I was doing my best, and as a result the pressure I felt to date disappeared. I made that decision in the fall, and didn’t date anyone again until a New Year’s dance later that year. That was when I saw Sallie again. Sallie and I knew each other from past years working together at an LDS youth camp called Especially for Youth. I had always been attracted to her gorgeous smile and contagious, fun-loving attitude. When I saw her at the dance I decided I would give it a try. It was so much easier dating Sallie because it was my decision—it was something I wanted—not because I felt a pressure to get married.
Things progressed pretty quickly, and I actually knew that I was probably going to marry her in the first month or two we were dating. However, I still had so many questions, many of which seemed to have no answer. How could I marry a woman when I was attracted to men? Could we have sex? Would I lose interest in her like I had with all of the other girls I had dated? I just didn’t know. I was unsure if a successful relationship was even possible, but I knew that I wanted it.
As the relationship progressed, I could feel that Sallie loved me, and I was falling in love with her more and more every day. It was incredible. The impossible seemed to be happening. For example, I recall one time when we were kissing after our date and I started to feel aroused. It works! I exclaimed in my head—one question was suddenly answered. I was overwhelmed with excitement both physically and emotionally. It was one of the greatest moments of my life—my first erection caused by a woman! (And yes, I hope you’re laughing along with me.)
The relationship continued to deepen, but it still was difficult as we tried to figure out how it could work and what would happen if we did get married. We both decided during this time that we would be completely open and honest with each other. I never wanted to feel like I was lying or hiding anything from her—which was hard for both of us at first. We had a conversation where I almost used a single breath to tell Sallie that I loved her for the first time, that I wanted to marry her, and that I experienced same-sex attraction. (I’m working on my subtlety).
That set a foundation for our relationship where we can talk openly about my struggles without fear of rejection or shame. The double life I lived during my adolescence had been filled with lies and secrecy. I vowed to never bring that into my marriage. That openness and honesty has been a true blessing to us and has been noticed by others. Sallie’s aunt once told her that most people aren’t able to achieve level of honesty we’ve cultivated until being together for 30 years or more. I’m grateful that we have that already built into our marriage.
Finding Others and Getting Support
That summer, I decided to look online for resources, and I saw that a guy named Ty Mansfield had written a book on the topic, sharing his own experience with same-sex attraction. Not only was it amazing to find someone else who was striving to live the gospel, but I had already met him through Institute classes! He lived in the same town as me! I reached out to him and he introduced me to a group of other LDS and Christian men who all experienced SSA and who had similar values. He helped me realize that I’m not the only one—something I had been wanting for years. That group and the support, as well as what I’ve learned about myself and how to stay healthy, has forever changed my life. I am stronger and happier than ever before. I don’t have to pick sides anymore, but have found a way to accept my feelings of SSA and remain worthy in the Church. I’m able to understand where it comes from and how it affects me.
I also attended an experiential weekend called Journey Into Manhood where I met others like me from all across the country. They all seemed to share my story but were from different walks of life. I met a few doctors, a nurse, a baker, and other men who I would have never guessed dealt with same-sex attraction like me. Together we worked to understand the experiences that we had faced and how that affected us now. I saw other men, people that I looked up to and thought as real men, voice that they were just like me. That feeling of acceptance and no longer being alone in the world continued to grow.
Sports can still scare the hell out of me, but it wasn’t until recently that all that changed. A friend learned I was trying to learn about football from someone else. He had already worked so generously to teach me basketball at my request. I loved being able to start working through the fear that had held me hostage for so long. He looked at me and said, “You know you don’t have to like sports, right? It doesn’t make you less of a man.” I don’t know if he understands the power such a simple and empathetic comment had on me. He accepted me for who I was. He knew my struggles and didn’t expect me to hide them or suppress them. They are what they are, and that’s okay.
All I That Have
God has blessed me so much for the decision to place His will above my own. By choosing him over all else, giving Him all that I have, blessings have poured into my life that I could never have imagined. I didn’t know if I would ever be able to love a woman like I love Sallie. In fact, I was pretty certain I wouldn’t. She is a direct answer to my prayers and is so much more than I could have asked for. She’s so incredibly perfect for me that it astounds me sometimes.
I’ve often wondered why I experience same-sex attraction. Why would God give me such a difficult thing to deal with? While I don’t know all the answers, I can tell you that I have learned to remain close to Him in order to stay strong. My weakness has become strength through the grace of Jesus Christ. I strive to remain close to Him by reading my scriptures every day and maintaining an eternal perspective, and I know that one day, if I remain faithful, I will be able to stand before God and tell Him that I am worthy and that I gave him all I have. This struggle has actually brought me closer to God and helped me remain humble in His presence.
I love the Lord, and while I don’t understand this struggle completely, I do know that He loves me and that I am closer to Him because of it. I now know that I am not the only one who deals with same-sex attraction, and that I don’t have to deal with it by myself. I know that I can still live the gospel to its fullest without having to suppress or ignore a part of me that is so very real. I know that I have grown and become a better man through the hard work of counseling and support groups. I know that I am breaching a barrier of vulnerability where people can be honest and courageous enough to talk about their own struggles and discover that they’re not alone.
I live the gospel of Jesus Christ and I know that He loves me. I’m giving Him all I have and doing my best—and that is all He asks.
MY ROLLER COASTER JOURNEY
Many of my childhood memories were made at Six Flags, but nothing really compares to the day my family showed up to Six Flags with my super conservative grandparents, on Gay Pride Day. I don’t think I really understood what that day meant; I was 11 or 12 at the time and all I could see was a bunch of men, with short shorts and painted toenails, holding hands with each other in line at the Texas Giant. My grandparents walked around shell shocked most of the day! The funny thing was, we showed up on the exact same day the next year. For several years, that was my only reference to any type of “gay culture” and it was as loud and extreme as anyone could make it.
When I was in high school there was a kid in my class who said he was gay. Since any reference to “gay” sent me back to gay pride day at six flags, I thought he was just being dramatic and wanting some extra attention. I felt bad for him and was curious about the validity of the identity he claimed, but I avoided talking about it because I knew very little about homosexuality at the time.
Before I went to college, I was really good at avoiding the subject of homosexuality. I didn’t think it was my place to judge or have an opinion about the matter because it wasn’t close to me, but I was always curious. I knew that those who were gay were still God’s children and I knew that God loved all his children, therefore, God loved gay people. How he loved them and why they were gay was beyond me, so I let everyone else worry about that.
My opinions on the subject changed really quickly when I decided to go to one of the most liberal colleges in Texas, University of North Texas (UNT). At Freshman Orientation, when I learned that UNT was one of the top 100 schools for gays, lesbians and transgenders, I laughed to myself thinking, “Seriously! Who keeps track of that? How can they even tell?” That became very obvious to me as I walked around campus over the next few years. It was a colorful campus full of just about every kind of person you can imagine, and I loved it. I quickly made friends with many different kinds of people from all walks of life and my previous thought about God loving all his children was continually confirmed. Amidst this diverse group of people, I learned to judge less and love more. Something I could not have learned better anywhere else. Even my Latter-day Saint student ward, a place that is typically as cookie cutter as they come, was made up of an incredibly diverse group of students all doing the same thing: living the gospel the best way they knew how to live it. Among that group was my now-husband, but I wouldn’t learn about his “diversity” for a couple of years after we met.
Meant to Be
I first met Garrett when I was a freshman and he was a freshly returned missionary. He was the talk of the ward when he came home from his mission; everyone loved Garrett. I could see why quickly —he knew how to have a good time! He was in charge of our ward’s Family Home Evening, at the time. Every Monday night was guaranteed to be silly, unexpected and really fun! It’s a little silly to say this now, but I always felt drawn to him for some reason. His personality was infectious, and I thought that maybe someday it would be nice to be better friends with him.
One day, he decided to ask me on a date. After admiring him from afar for several months it didn’t take any thought to reply. I quickly accepted his invitation and we exchanged numbers. He must have really caught me off guard because, in the heat of the moment, I actually forgot that I had a boyfriend. He was a little hurt when I called him to explain what happened, but mostly flattered that his charm made me forget about my current relationship.
We stayed friendly acquaintances for the next couple of years, bumping into each other through mutual friends and work. Not surprisingly, we both worked for Especially for Youth (EFY) the following two summers and naturally became closer friends through it. In the summer of 2009, we both worked as administrative counselors for EFY and saw the best and worst of each other. That’s what very little sleep and stress will do to a person, but we credit some of our marriage to that summer because we both learned so much about each other. He even saw me screaming at another counselor over a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and still wanted to marry me. Although looking back, maybe he thought, “Well she seems just as crazy as me, so we will be perfect together!”
Around the same time that the previously mentioned relationship came to an end, my sister convinced me to go to a regional Young Single Adult dance with her on New Year’s Eve. A bunch of EFY friends were also at this dance, including Garrett. He saw me dancing with this particular group of friends and decided to play a little trick on me. He came up behind me and started dancing like a crazy person on me…you know, a friendly little booty bump. I would have laughed and thought it was hilarious if it would have been me he danced on. Unfortunately for him, my sister and I look very similar and he misjudged who he was dancing on. As my sister turned around, both she and Garrett screamed. She bolted to try and find me, while Garrett was left wondering who in the world he had just accosted! Fortunately for him, my sister knew who he was because of the dating faux-pas previously mentioned (my family had never let me live down “forgetting I had a boyfriend”). After finding out who he had really danced on, we all had a great laugh and enjoyed the rest of the night. As my sister and I left the dance, she asked me if I had ever considered dating Garrett. “Oh, I could never date Garrett! I can only take him in small doses,” is exactly what I told her. Ironically enough, he asked me out a week later and I very quickly began to get one big dose of him.
Because we knew each other so well from working together over the years, our dating relationship didn’t take much time to progress. From day one things were authentic and natural between us. I think we both knew that we were dating to find out if our relationship was marriage material, and I secretly knew from early on that it was.
Having the Talk
When people find out that my husband has SSA, one of their first questions is always, “When did he tell you?” Technically, Garrett told me after about two and a half months of dating, but I remember having an interesting discussion early in our dating relationship that alluded to something that he had dealt with in the past. We stayed up late into the night getting to know each other and, at one point; he talked about his decision to go on his mission. Garrett went a little later than most people did. He kept saying, “I just wanted to make sure that it was the right thing for me,” and, “When I finally went on my mission, I knew the gospel was true and I was completely worthy to go.” I was immediately impressed with his intentional decision to serve a mission. It sounded like it had been a difficult journey preparing for his mission, but it was clear that he was worthy and grateful for that experience in his life.
We dated long distance the majority of our relationship, so when we were together, we typically had the face-to-face conversations that shouldn’t be held over the phone. You know, the first “I love you,” the “Will you marry me,” and the “Oh hey, I’m attracted to men,” talks. Lucky for me, he saved all of those talks for the same day. It was Spring Break and we both knew that the other wanted to say the “L” word but naturally, I was waiting for him to say it first. He took me to the Dallas temple and after walking around awkwardly making small talk about the flowers; we finally sat down to have the much anticipated conversation. I was giddy, because I loved him so much and I could not wait to tell him! I don’t remember verbatim what he said, but it went a little something like this:
Garrett: “So…. (insert cute nice things about me)…and I love you!”
Sallie: “I love you too!”
Garrett: “And I know I want to marry you!”
Sallie (shocked!): “Oh! Well I want to marry you too!”
Garrett: “Then I need to talk to you about something…I’m attracted to men.”
For the next hour or so, he opened up about everything. He talked about some mistakes he made in high school and his choice to serve a mission. I remember him talking about how the attractions were very minimal, if not absent, throughout his mission. They had resurfaced to some extent when he returned home. He kept saying, “But I’m worthy now” and that was enough for me at the time. I think I was so giddy with excitement about the “I love you” and the “I want to marry you” part of the talk that I had a hard time focusing on the heart of it; the “I’m attracted to men” part.
We left the temple excited to tell our families about our anticipated engagement, but the conversation weighed heavy on my mind. Like a broken record, I kept replaying parts of the conversation over in my head: “I love him, we’re getting married, but he told me he was gay…wait, did he say he was gay?…maybe that’s not what he was talking about…it must have been worse in the past…we’re getting married….I love him.” It continued to replay in my head the rest of that day and week, until he left to go back to school. As soon as he drove away, I fell into a messy flood of tears. I was completely confused, sitting in my closet with the door shut, feeling very alone and wondering what I should do and whom I should talk to. I immediately said a prayer. Not much was even said in the prayer, just tears and some very tender pleas for guidance. I couldn’t even say the word “gay” out loud because it would make it too real and I didn’t want it to be real. I knew that Heavenly Father would know the thoughts and questions of my heart and I sincerely hoped that he would be able to give me the answers that I needed.
The first answer that I received made me cry harder. I had the impression that I needed to take any of my concerns to Garrett. I hated this answer, because my immediate reaction was to call my mom and tell her everything. If we were going to get married, the decision needed to be between Garrett, myself, and Heavenly Father—that was it. The second answer I received was a deep impression of peace. I’ve never been a visionary person or even a “still small voice” person. My answers typically always come through feelings of peace. I knew that I was supposed to marry Garrett; those feelings came to me early on in our relationship, and those feelings still felt right. The third answer I received sitting on the floor of my closet was the same impression I had been having throughout my entire life, “God loves all his children.”
But I still had questions, lots and lots of questions that I couldn’t find the answers to. Not even Garrett knew the answers to them. For a few months, the conversation at the temple was put on a shelf while we both tried to reconcile our feelings. Luckily, we both had enough faith to trust that if Heavenly Father made it clear to both of us that we were supposed to get married, things would work out in their own time. We moved forward with our engagement a few months later and Garrett moved closer to me for the summer in hopes of strengthening our relationship.
How I Married a Man With SSA
On one of our many morning runs that summer, Garrett told me that he had started to look for some help. He Googled, “gay Mormon help” and the name Ty Mansfield popped up. He immediately recognized the name; Ty lived in the same town he did! That day was a turning point in our journey because we realized that a “mixed-orientation marriage” in the gospel had been done and could be done. Just knowing there were others on the same journey as ours, regardless of how hard or different the journey might be, gave us an incredible amount of hope. Our impressions to continue in our relationship were confirmed as Garrett discovered resources inside and outside the Church that he had never before imagined. There were books, websites, support groups, and even words from members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, available for support and encouragement.
At this point, you might be thinking… “but he likes men! How could you marry him knowing that he was attracted to other men?” Good question! I didn’t actually know if I could do that, but I knew two things: one, I loved Garrett more than I had ever loved anyone before and I knew that he genuinely loved me the same way; and two, I knew that Heavenly Father wanted us to get married and that was enough for me to move forward in faith. Growing up, I always wanted to marry a man who put God first and who loved the gospel of Jesus Christ as much as I did. From everything Garrett had told me, he was that and more. Every day, he makes a choice to live the gospel the best way he can despite his attractions. My question is, Why wouldn’t I want to marry a kind, loving man who not only loves me, but also loves God more than anyone else I know?
Hope in Marriage
Many people told us that the first year of marriage would be the hardest, but compared to the year that my boyfriend/fiancé told me he was attracted to men, our first year was nothing. Yes we had our struggles, but every marriage has their own and ours had very little, if anything, to do with Garrett’s SSA. Finances, chores, sex, and balancing our time were our main struggles, probably similar to any young marriage.
Marriage is vulnerable and raw and I don’t feel that adding SSA into the mix makes it any better or worse. Together, we make it work by being honest and completely open with each other in every aspect of our marriage. When he has an attraction, he confides in me and we work through it together. When I’m struggling with anything, I go to him and we try to work through it together.
My biggest struggle at the beginning of our marriage was not taking his attractions personally. When he would tell me about his attractions, I would automatically blame myself, like I had caused him to have that attraction by not being enough for him. In reality I had nothing to do with them. Eventually I came to the conclusion that my husband would always have SSA and these attractions were going to be there whether I was a part of the equation or not. I needed to trust him, just like he needed to trust me. Most importantly, we try to keep ourselves in a place that is healthy and strong so that we can both contribute to our marriage in positive ways.
It’s not perfect, but I don’t know of a marriage that is. Garrett and I do everything we can to make it the best marriage and then turn it over to the Lord. Allowing the Atonement into our marriage allows us to be imperfect, to struggle, and to have happiness beyond anything we could ever imagine. The Atonement of Jesus Christ gives us hope that our marriage can, and will, succeed.
Finding Hope in the Journey
It’s been a roller coaster of a ride over the past few years. but since I’ve always considered myself to be the adventurous type, I’m not surprised how things have turned out. If you would have told me on the day I went to Six Flags on Gay Pride day that I would be marrying a man with SSA, I would have thought you were crazy. But If you would have told me that I would marry an incredible man who loved to cook, hated sports but loved art, would make me laugh and love me like crazy all the days of my life (as we are planning), I would have said, “Sign me up!”
Along this journey, many of my prayers have been answered as I pleaded with the Lord for understanding. I have felt the Saviors deep love and continuously found hope in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Though I don’t have nearly all the answers that I would like to have, I have hope that one day I will. In the mean time, it is my job to judge less and love more like the Savior.