VOICES OF HOPE
Livier opened her mouth for the first time when she was born in California and hasn’t been quiet since. While growing up, her parents taught her how to work hard and dream big. Both of these wonderful values have helped her to live in three different countries and travel to many other places around the world. Although she loves to travel, Livier always goes back to the place that she considers home: Mexico.
Raised in a staunch Catholic family, Livier always believed in God, but she struggled with and questioned several different doctrines until she met missionaries from The Church or Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2010. As she listened to what those Elders had to say, Livier felt like everything fell into place, not only in her mind but also in her heart.
As the youngest of three children, Livier always admired her oldest sister and followed her steps to attend and graduate from Law School before being called to serve her mission in 2013 in the Mexico City Northwest Mission. Livier has always liked to challenge herself, which has guided her to every sort of activity from belly dancing to riding a camel in the Sahara desert. Her passion for personal growth and her wandering, gypsy soul helped her decide to move to Salt Lake City where she currently lives. She loves her calling as a primary teacher because it gives her the joy and also the challenge of learning the songs that as a child she did not have a chance to enjoy. Livier overall keeps herself busy doing her best to stay in touch with her family and friends all across the globe, and furthermore, as a convert, she makes an effort every day to be a modern-day pioneer.
Watch Liv share her story
“For verily I say unto you, all those who receive my gospel are sons and daughters in my kingdom” D&C 25:1
The first time I read The Book of Mormon I felt identified with Nephi. Like him, I was born from good parents who, although they didn't have a university degree, nor were active participating in the church activities of their communities, struggled raising me along with my siblings in an environment full of love, faith, and hardship. There are many things I have put into doubt during my lifetime, some questions that I still haven't been able to answer, but there is something that has always been an undeniable truth for me: God exists.
I remember a magnificent book we had in our living room; its pages were golden and even before I learned how to read, I knew about its great value.
When I continued advancing in my studies, my parents allowed me to have access to it mainly because there weren't many books at home. From that book, I learned that God had created Adam and Eve and one of their main duties was bringing souls to this Earth. There were many things I didn't fully understand and were confusing to me, but that truth was irrefutable, Adam and Eve had children like my parents had, I was Eve's descendant and because of this fact, one of my main duties were to bring more souls into this planet or at least that is what I was taught.
Being a child, I didn't pay much attention to this idea; it was one of those memories that I locked into a trunk and kept in some corner deep in my memory. I focused on being a dedicated student, so I continued with my studies obtaining excellent grades and playing hide-and-seek and marbles with the children from my street, while my family and friends called me different variations from my first name. They usually referred to me as Jessie which, according to my mom, made sense because during many months in her pregnancy the ultrasound showed that I was going to be male and they planned to named me Jesus. Finally, when I saw the light from this world a nurse intervened and recommend them to call me Jessica, because it was the American and feminine version of the name they originally thought. I really did not mind being called Jessie at that time and was not totally aware that having short hair, wearing boots and having a naming in the limits between the feminine and masculine was something that had some meaning or that would later be considered as “signs of my gayness.” I only knew that being the youngest of three children, and having a somewhat fragile health, I always managed to get away with what I wanted, I even managed to obtain many awards from school so my parents were really happy. In the end, it seems that I was everything good Catholic parents could ever wish for.
As I was building my friendships when I was a teenager, my mother began to note that I had certain tendency for having friends that didn't fit in what our culture considered "macho.” She always justified this saying that I felt more comfortable with them and that they trusted me enough to be themselves because they knew I won't judge them. In many occasions, I was the first person these friends opened up their hearts to trust me that they were attracted to the same sex. I remember the afternoons spent listening to their stories and thinking in how I was feeling, in how many times I had said that I like this boy just because everyone thought he was attractive, and how many fashion magazines I shuffled thinking that somehow wearing the clothes as the girls in their covers do I was going to feel better and remove what I was starting to feel. It was during this time when I started to analyze each decision I had taken so far in my life: every game, every interaction I had with boys and girls, and even every movie I had seen in my life, and where I had found my focus of attention. Then I remembered a particular moment: the first time I saw a pornographic movie. It still comes to my mind as it were yesterday, my parents acquired cable TV and I figured out how to watch the adult version of Alice in Wonderland. As I watched the movie and found out in depth to what has been my most advanced class in sex so far, I couldn't take my gaze away the Queen of Hearts. It was that moment that made me realize finally that my body had not reacted in certain ways until that moment, it hadn't happened with a boy. But at the end at school they had told me that as a teenager my mind and body were still taking form, and I believed to have all the power to shape it and make these feelings go away. I was so naive to think I could bury them in that trunk I had created in my mind because my destiny only had three options: to be a wife, taking care of my parents, or consecrate my life to God.
Taking into consideration that any of those paths were of any interest to me, I decided to focus again on what had always been successful for me: my studies. I worked really hard and started to travel to different competitions, taking each opportunity I had to leave the city and cease to be Jessie to become Livier. My middle name seemed to give me the power to be a different person. I started many relationships with no future and only lasted for a couple of months. The relationships I had with girls never went too far because as much as I wanted to be free, I was not willing to pay the price to say publicly that I was also attracted to girls and even less to put my parents into this situation that until that moment I thought it was going to be shameful. My relationships with boys were also doomed because they simply bored me. We would go on some adventures together and then I would get bored. Some of them taught me important lessons but after a couple weeks the novelty would fade out and the emptiness push me back into the arms of a girl. No matter what I did or where I went, there was always a void. My friends and my family began to notice that I was constantly moving around and didn't remain for too long in the same place. I was without a doubt escaping but no one knew from what. I was the role model, the friend who gave everything, the daughter that didn't cause any trouble, and the adventurous woman that was conquering her goals: What could possibly be wrong?
It was then I realized that I couldn't continue my life alone. The trophies and the trips weren't permanent and I couldn't live constantly chasing a goal even I couldn't know what was, and then I did what made more sense: I got a successful boyfriend, someone who had the right credentials, with a strong personality and a fearlessness to say things as they are, because then he could set me straight and tame me. I had someone in my sight, he seemed loyal and firm, intelligent and assertive, and we were in the same circles so it wasn't difficult to provoke an encounter and build something from that moment. He knew about my adventures because of third parties, but I had never accepted in front of him and felt that I didn't have to tell him about my affairs. My plan was set in motion: we lived in different cities, so it would be easier to keep myself entertained given that I didn't have to show affection every day, only when we were in the same time zone. He was always willing to receive me, even to pay my flight tickets and hotels so I could travel. He always made comments about my clothes and my food, made me feel he paid attention to every decision I was taking, he involved me in his projects and allow me to contribute to them. I had reached my goal, I was the candidate to take on the perfect girlfriend role. I only had to be cautious about what I said and when to say it, I didn't want to shame him.
Things got more serious, the relationship became more intimate and he even allowed a couple of friends to know we were in a relationship, even when this title was never determined. I felt proud that he accepted me, he was a hero, to accept me even with all these rumours from the past! If to keep quiet when he asked me to be the price to pay, then I was willing to pay for it. I believed I had everything under control, that soon I could introduce him to my parents and that we would become the couple everyone will feel envious for.
There was only one problem with my plan and it was that he didn't see things the same way as I did. Before I knew it, the relationship had become abusive, those nice things about him remembering what food I liked turned into him choosing all my meals, the compliments about my clothes changed into not being able to go on a date without him saying that I had bad taste and that he should pick my outfit, the list could go on and on. By the time I realized that the price I was paying was my individuality and even my physical well being, it was a little too late. The wounds left by that relationship were deeper than physical ones, they were wounds to the soul that only one thing was able to heal: The Gospel.
While I was healing myself, without knowing how and when to pray, I remembered how I had received an answer to a question I wasn't aware I needed. While I was making a cake for the birthday of a friend, the missionaries knocked on my door and in spite of my pride I let them in. As I kept learning about the Commandments and how different they were to what I was used to, I realized there was no reason why I had to live in shame and that my past actions didn't define who I was. I learned about forgiveness and atonement, they taught me to pray and for the first time I felt that this void that for so many years I tried to fill with banal things, finally had a definite answer. I was so enraptured with this new knowledge that when we arrived to the Law of Chastity everything simply made sense and I learned to take the challenge and be baptized. In the end, I had lived for so many years with that "secret" so in that specific moment I felt it wouldn't impact my decision.
A couple years after my baptism I set the goal to serve my mission. I have to accept that my main reason to serve was not preaching the Gospel. I knew I had to rid myself of vices and bad habits I had that even when they didn't impede me to assist to the Temple, they kept me away from being able to be like my older brother. With fear and challenges, I carried out the process to be able to serve on the field. I prayed every night for those feelings not to come back and for my gaze to not drift to my fellow female partners. I arrived to the missionary camp with the firm idea of healing through the service to people similar to me, and so it was. The testimony of the Miracles I saw is something I couldn't express with words but overall, the possibility of seeing how I interacted with women every day without looking at them in any other way as if they were my sisters was the greatest miracle that until that moment I could have seen. However, I have to admit that as I prepared myself to share my story, I realized something I didn't note in 2013 when I served my mission. Many of my companions were making comments about how distant I was. Even my Mission President on many occasions told me I could never achieve my potential as a missionary as long I didn't break the wall I built around my heart. In those moments, I believed I knew more than anybody else and that everyone was wrong when I was the one who was erring. This wall existed, it was built with secrets, with failures, challenges but above all what kept it together was one of the most potent materials I could ever face: Fear. Even when I witnessed Miracles that had manifested before my eyes, I believe that if I got closer to my companions, if I were more loving and emphatical then I was putting myself at risk of feeling something that was not appropriate and would put them at risk. I believed, rather selfishly, that it was my way of protecting them and myself, I trusted that my decisions were those of the one who had called me to serve. Today I recognize that my weaknesses can only become strengths when I trust in the one who has set up the path for me. There is always a way for us to learn the lesson that we need, even when we drift in order to learn that lesson.
Not being enough to face my insecurities every day, it was also during the mission when for health reasons I had to visit a gynecologist. After many clinical studies and time invested, I was called in private to give me the news: "It's good you believe in God because a miracle would be required for you to become a mother". These words hit the deepest part of my being, I can't deny I felt rage, anger, deception... I wanted to go back home get on my knees and in pray demand the one whose work is perfect, I needed an answer from Him to be able to understand why if my mission was going to become a wife and a mother, He was making it impossible to me, what was His plan? Was it a game in which I had given the worst hand? What else He wanted from me? I wanted an answer and I wanted it right away. Again my pride impeded me from seeing that things were not given when I wanted but when He considered I was ready to receive them. In this case, many years were going to pass until on one occasion, when I was at the Temple, I was able to see children playing at a park and one of them pointed out to me to call me mother. The test was received in 2013, the promise revealed in 2016 and I am still waiting patiently for the delivery.
Once I concluded the mission, I came back home with honours and some months later I moved to Utah. Everything seemed to go well and be under control. I used to go to a Young Single Adults Ward and I knew that the next challenge to beat was to find a lifelong partner. I saw how many beautiful girls me at that ward and how many options the guys had to choose from, so my part I did everything I could possibly do to look as the perfect date. I couldn't see I was in the same cycle of editing who I was in order to others not noticing it, but for some reason the dates seemed to not hae a future. I always found a reason to cancel them or there was something they didn't like; it could be my accent, my nationality, or one of the many labels that were attached to me over the time. The feelings kept building up and my mother finally found the key that open the trunk I believed I hid pretty well. It was during Christmas Eve when I was visiting my parents’ home that she sat next to me at the bed and asked me a question many singles find terrifying, but someone with SSA finds even worse: "Why do you think you're single?" While I listened to her theories about my weight, my personality, and even how I should stop talking about my trips because that intimidated men. I kept silence while I could finally after all those years the words escaped my soul: Because I liked women.
Her look reflected confusion, sadness, and even pity. She repeated things like she didn't know where she failed or what she did wrong, how many things she had suspected but refused to believe and then the question that I avoided for many years came: "What's going to happen with the Church?" I really didn't know how to answer, I knew perfectly well the doctrines and the plan of salvation, and I knew the consequences of having a relationship with a woman. I also knew the challenge of being a mother and to fit in in what I believed was the role wife, I felt disarmed and unfit, maybe the easiest thing was to become a catholic again and assist only to weddings and similar parties. That void seemed to come back to my life and consume me in the only thing it had, darkness. I told her I didn't know what was going to happen, I crawled to sleep and allowed those questions to haunt my mind.
The time to go back to Salt Lake City came and one afternoon after another bad date, I felt apart. I called one of my best friends from the mission who was never my companion, but I hung out with frequently. I asked her to come to my home because I needed to talk. She came during the night when it was snowing outside, I opened the door and while I saw her carrying on a box of pizza, soda and chips I could only point out "I like women.” She looked at me to my eyes and answered "I like to eat pizza while it's hot," got into the house and we began to talk. For the first time I felt that all that weight was lifted from my shoulders, her casual answer made me feel it wasn't a problem at all or something that would change the way she saw me, was it the way how people should react? Was this normal? Had all my fears been unfounded? No, the reason why she acted with love and could give me the support and love that night was because her brother is transgender and she had already lived that process with him, not in the same way but with the experience that had prepared her to be my sister in Christ.
With my friends support and the love of my leaders, I decided that if I had received the promise of a family, I could not leave it only to Heavenly Father to do it on His own. As I became stronger and learned to love every part that makes me who I am, I was confident enough to put myself out there one more time. At my own pace, I started going on blind dates, trying online profiles and interacting with friends of friends. I am not going to lie, it was not the easiest thing to do, mostly when things seemed to go have potential and then I had to think “When do I tell him?” or “Do I really need to disclose my SSA?”. I received mixed reactions whenever I would share this part of me. For some reason, most guys automatically thought there was double the chance that I would cheat on them. Dating had ups and downs but I guess everyone has them otherwise YSA wards would not exist. One day I bumped into this guys profile on a dating app and honestly the fact that he was dressed as Han Solo on one of his photos made me swipe up. We started talking and after a couple dates decided to go on a date that went pretty well. When I got home, I knew that I had to tell him, he had been so open and honest with me and I could really feel his sincerity so the least that he deserve was for me to be myself. And just like that, I decided to send him a blunt text that he replied to with the best answer I have ever received: “I do not care who you are attracted to, I care about who you decided to love” That short message changed our lives. He became my best friend, my accomplice, my biggest supporter and my rock. As our relationship evolved, more people around us started to find out about my SSA. People had questions all around and about all sorts of things, he started being approached at events that we would attend together with some intimate questions that at that point we had not really discussed but that made others in the community curious. I was not used to being in a relationship with this level of communication and trust so now I am learning that everything that I do, also reflects on him. We might not have all the answers but we are on this path together, working to have a bond that is probably not perfect but that will be eternal in a couple months.
Daughter of a King
The journey has not been easy, being able to determine what I identify with has been a challenge mostly when I always believed that my feelings of shame came from something wrong, from a big flaw that was upon myself and that no one could erase it. I kept accepting the labels that the world attached to me, and place them strongly in my forehead and my heart. The experiences that I had lived had taught me that I don't have to hide who I am, and the only label that I care to carry on is Heiress of the Kingdom of my Father. The capacity to love and to be loyal to someone doesn't depend in the reactions of my body but in something that goes beyond and its eternal. I don't have all the answers and I don't know exactly what is going to happen in the future, but if I know something is that I have a firm testimony that Heavenly Father exists and that He loves me and had created a world full of wonders so I can recognize my presence and my potential.
There is no wound caused by my decisions or by the ignorance of others who don't understand the spirit of the law that can’t be cured by the healing power of atonement. The promises that had been given had been realized in perfect timings and He knows better than I do. Today I don't escape anymore, I don't need to run away from anything or anyone, not even from myself. I'm a daughter, sister, friend, woman with same gender attraction, a soon to be wife and future mother of Zion and above all: Daughter of a King.