Kevin and Marcelene say prayer and lots of communication have helped them better understand how same-sex attraction plays into the plan of happiness. Kevin is the Executive Producer of the Voices of Hope project, studied Broadcast Journalism in college and worked in TV News before working as a producer for the LDS Church. Marcelene was an elementary school teacher before becoming a mom. She now serves in Relief Society for her ward and is a full-time mom. They were married in 2004 in the Bountiful Temple and they're raising 4 beautiful kids, a son and 3 daughters.
I was 32 years old, looking at my five-year-old self in a home video—a five-year-old who hadn’t started preschool. I observed a small boy free of social pressure, free of outside influence, no one telling me how I should act, or how to speak, or even what to think, except perhaps my parents. And the last thing on their mind in 1986 was what to do with a “gay” son. Neither they nor I was even aware of such a possibility at the time. They just let me be myself.
At that age, you couldn’t have seen a happier kid. I had two wonderful parents and my environment was safe, free of abuse or neglect. Mine was a loving home, and in my young mind I hadn’t a care in the world.
But as I watched the videos on my computer, I could tell a clear difference between me and my brothers from the way I danced to the way I spoke. My way of talking, playing, and dancing was not the way a boy should act according to society’s standards at the time. I was clearly more effeminate, elaborate, dramatic, emotional, and sensitive. I enjoyed playing with dolls, playing dress-up, acting, singing, playing piano, drawing, and buying clothes.
Rather than asking my dad for a He-man action figure for Christmas, I asked for a She-ra doll. Later, I found out my dad didn’t want to get me the She-ra doll but bought it anyway because he knew it would make me happy. This should tell you what kind of a loving father he was. I also had an understanding mother who probably persuaded him to get his son a “girl” toy.
In watching these videos the realization came to me that I’m still the same boy—the boy who is emotional, creative, sensitive, fun-loving, and, at times, very in-touch with his feminine side. For years I thought that side of me needed to stay hidden. For years I ran from that boy in an effort to be like the other boys, the boys who liked to get dirty, roughhouse, and be athletic and tough. And the more I failed at doing that the further I distanced myself from them, but this distance caused me to have an even greater desire to be part of them, to be with them and to be like them. This desire grew to envy how they acted, how they interacted together socially, how they spoke, and even how they looked. And the more envious I became the more the attraction grew along with a curiosity about the male body.
What changed my view of boys completely is when my curiosity caught up with me. I don’t know how it began, why it happened, or who initiated the action, but I and another five-year-old boy in the neighborhood began exploring each other’s bodies, which I know is not uncommon for boys in general. Looking back this was all very innocent, but nevertheless played a major role in how I viewed boys at such a young age.
Meanwhile my view of girls was evolving as well. I shared similar interests with girls which made it easy for me to get along with them. Through junior high and into high school, girls were primarily my closest friends.
The older I got, the more homosexuality was talked about, and the more visible it became in school and in the media. However, it was never talked about in our home or at church. So, I was left to my own devices to figure out this confusing puzzle in my head, what all these feelings meant, and where they were coming from. What came to mind was simply to read the scriptures, pray more, and try to be the best young man I could be. I thought the more good I did the more likely Heavenly Father would take these attractions away. It seemed like a reasonable solution at the time.
But regardless of the number of good deeds I did or how obedient I became, I still had to white-knuckle my way through every day. The loneliness and frustration became so difficult. When I knelt down to pray at night I pounded my fists into my mattress, angry with God for making me go through this without any explanation as to why I found men sexually attractive. No solution, no answers, and I didn’t feel comfortable talking about it to anyone, not even my parents. Many times I thought of myself as a sinner or a bad person for having these feelings.
But even though frustration and anger were present, I knew that Jesus Christ, through his Atonement, knew what I was feeling. I wasn’t receiving any specific answers at the time, so all I could do was have faith that answers would come eventually. I hoped there would be a time when this wouldn’t be a burden anymore. This small glimmer of hope is what allowed me to have a happy and meaningful life growing up, despite my challenges.
The stress and joy of missionary service
As my 19th birthday approached, I realized that a mission call was coming. I was willing to serve; I thought that if I served an honorable mission these feelings would go away for good. I was called to serve in the Mexico Merida Mission in 2000. I was excited to go and well equipped with a testimony, knowledge of the scriptures, a solid work ethic, and a desire to teach the gospel.
The first few months were the hardest. Trying to learn another language and culture were difficult at first, but I slowly began to adjust. I really enjoyed the work, and teaching the gospel became an absolute joy. But I began to feel a sense of intense guilt because, at the time, I viewed having attractions to the same gender as a sin. I thought “how can I possibly preach the gospel if I’m such a sinner? How can I expect the people I’m teaching to repent of their sins when I’m such a sinner myself?” I wanted to go home, but the pressure of staying in the mission field was so great I wasn’t sure what to do.
After many weeks of beating myself up I decided that no matter the consequences, I had to confess my sins and rid myself of this internal struggle. I thought my mission president would send me home. One hot day I told my companion, without an explanation, that I had to talk to the mission president. He asked if I could wait until the next zone conference and I said, “No—today.” So we put our work aside and made our way to the mission home.
I was filled with intense fear and didn’t know how to explain effectively what I was going through. Keep in mind that my mission president didn’t speak English and my Spanish wasn’t very good having, as I’d lived in Mexico for only a couple months. I hadn’t heard the term “same-sex attraction,” and there wasn’t a good definition for what I was experiencing.
I can’t begin to describe the fear and shame I felt. The thought of going home early was overwhelming. I wondered how I would face my parents. I was literally trembling with anxiety. The mission president welcomed me into his office and I could sense his loving and calm demeanor. He invited me to kneel down and pray before we began to talk. I don’t remember what was said in that prayer; all I know is I felt the love of the Savior in that room.
We began to talk and in broken Spanish. Physically exhausted from the emotional struggle over the past few months, I tried my best to explain what I had been experiencing. The Spirit must have been present because somehow I shared with him what I had never told another human being. Miraculously, he was able not only to understand what I was saying, but also to understand the intent of my heart, something that cannot be communicated through words but by the Spirit.
I don’t remember the exact words he said, but I remember how my mission president lovingly calmed my fears and told me I was a son of God and a good missionary. He invited me to get back to work and leave this behind me. This was exactly what I needed to hear. In that moment, the weight of the incredible emotional stress I was experiencing suddenly lifted. The burden I had been carrying by myself was now shared with another. I had never felt so much relief.
In the course of our conversation I believe we came to a conclusion that this was a phase would soon grow out of. All I needed to do was confess, allow the Atonement to work in me, and focus on serving God. So that’s what I did. Finally feeling free of misery, I dove into the work. I began to really love life, to experience the joy of teaching the gospel without feeling hypocritical. That’s when I really embraced the Atonement and knew what it was like to feel clean and forgiven.
As my mission progressed I didn’t give much thought to these feelings anymore. They no longer had such a powerful influence on me. I began to connect with my mission companions. Spending time with men my age began to feel normal. I started to love my companions and see them as friends and brothers. There were fewer and fewer lustful feelings. This sense of brotherhood was what I was looking for; I felt like I was one of them. Not only did we do missionary work but we bonded, we gave each other hugs multiple times a day, and we continually shared our feelings with each other. I didn’t realize how beneficial this was to my spiritual and emotional wellbeing.
I felt a huge sense of accomplishment upon returning home. I felt I had grown into the man I wanted to be, full of confidence, experience, and resolve. My feelings of same-sex attraction had diminished greatly. I convinced myself that it must have just been a phase, and I was ready to forget all about it and move forward.
I started school at Weber State University January 2003 with a focus in journalism and TV news broadcasting. I had wanted to be a news reporter since I was 17, and nothing was going to get in the way of accomplishing my dream. I became friends with three great guys and we did a lot together. We went to the gym, studied, hung out, and took mini vacations together. This was the first time in my life where I felt like one of the guys.
Marriage was far from my mind, but I was open for dating and the possibility of finding a spouse. However, I thought getting married and starting a family would hurt my career opportunities. Boy was I wrong. My sophomore year I went to a party when a beautiful blonde walked in. Immediately I knew this woman was going to be a part of my life somehow. At the time, I didn’t think it would be through marriage. Her name was Marcelene and I was shocked at how attractive she was and how drawn I was to her. I had found other girls attractive, but not like this.
Months later we went on our first date—miniature golfing. Being with her felt so natural and easy. Within a week we went on four dates, held hands, and had our first kiss. We connected right away and I was falling in love with her very quickly.
I’ve wondered how that was able to happen, and I believe some of that is credited to my need for male companionship being met by the guy friends I mentioned earlier. This companionship filled a void, freeing me of cravings for men. This allowed me to connect with a beautiful woman and realize the other void in my life, female companionship.
Marriage and new challenges
After six months of dating seriously, things were progressing toward marriage fast. I could see myself being married to this woman, raising kids, and starting a family. So what did I do? I decided to break up with her. I know, not expected. My breakup had nothing to do with feelings of same-sex attraction. As I said, those attractions were almost nonexistent at the time. No, what initiated the breakup was my fear that starting a family would hinder my opportunity to become a news reporter.
After having a difficult conversation with Marcelene about the way I was feeling, we decided to be friends. I could see how distraught she was over this. I could see how sad she was and I knew then that she truly cared about me. This was all I needed to know—she loved me and was going to love me forever.
So what did I do? I proposed to her the next day. This came to her as a complete shock! Six months later, in May 2004, we were married in the Bountiful Temple.
This was a day I didn’t think would come, especially in those teenage years when the idea of getting intimate with a girl wasn’t appealing at all. I hadn’t even kissed a girl before the mission field. In fact, before Marcelene I had kissed only one girl, but it was a disaster. I remember wondering if I was ever going to enjoy kissing or being sexual with a woman. But with Marcelene, all of that came so natural—it was amazing from day one. I feel truly blessed to have found her, to have taken a leap of faith, and to have trusted in the Lord that it would work out.
People always ask if I told Marcelene about my same-sex-attraction. To answer that question, you have to know what it was like in 2004. Again, I thought it was a phase from my youth and didn’t feel it was necessary to bring it up, especially as it wasn’t a problem anymore. Also, to my knowledge there were no resources at the time that explained what same-sex attraction was. I didn’t even know there was such a term. I believed these feelings were gone forever, whatever they were, and it wasn’t something I needed to worry about anymore.
The honeymoon stage was full of bliss and passion. We were happy and in love, and sexual intimacy felt very natural. However, despite our relationship getting better, to my incredible disappointment and frustration, the feelings of attraction toward men slowly began to creep back into my life. You can imagine my resentment and confusion realizing this was happening again. I thought “how can this be happening after all I have done? I’ve served a mission; I’ve been married in the temple. How could God do this to me? What did I do to deserve this?”
I decided to suppress these feelings—bottle them up, do my best to avoid them, and keep this a secret forever. For a while that worked, but every four to six months the pressure of holding these feelings in became too much. To release the pressure I turned to pornography, which only fed my desires for men even more. It was never something I would continually look at. I could probably count on my two hands the number of times I looked at porn over the first seven years of our marriage. It was simply something I did once in a long while because I knew of no other way to find love with other men, even if it was a false love.
During those seven years I gathered up the courage to share this struggle with a bishop. His response after hearing of my same-gender attraction was something like this: “I’m sorry; that’s really hard. I don’t know what to tell you, but I do know that if you continue not to act on these feelings, you will be blessed.” He gave me a blessing before I left his office and we never talked about it again.
This was actually a positive experience. He reacted with love and concern and appeared to be sympathetic. He didn’t say anything offensive and he was right by what he said: I was being blessed for not acting out sexually with other men. But as I left his office, I still had this miserable feeling of hopelessness. Was I going to feel this way forever? Was there to be no reprieve from the shame I felt? How long could I last before giving up on my wife, my family, and my faith? All I could hold on to was the hope that answers would come eventually.
Losing my father
In February 2011, my life took a drastic turn when my dad was involved in a motorcycle accident. I was on the train heading home when I got a call from my brother: Dad had been taken by ambulance to Ogden Regional Hospital. He said he wasn’t wearing a helmet and right then I knew his injuries would be fatal.
Sure enough, the doctor told us dad was on life support and wouldn’t make it to tomorrow. My brothers and I went into the operating room and laid our hands on his head as I said the words of the blessing. In the blessing I said it was his time to move on from this world, that he had done the Lord’s work all the days of his life, and that he would be able to help us in ways he couldn’t have otherwise had he remained on earth. As I said those words, I had no idea what impact my father’s death would have on me, how it would force me to transform myself, and how my dad would play a key role in my progression to wholeness in the coming years.
After my dad’s death, the days of suppressing my feelings were over. I could no longer control my emotions anymore. He was one of the very few men who I knew loved me at the time, and that loss triggered in me feelings and desires of such intensity to the point where I needed help. I thought about talking to my bishop but I had little confidence in priesthood leadership to provide real answers. I searched on the Church’s official website hoping to find some resources, but in 2011 there really wasn’t any kind of instruction, support, or tangible resource available.
In time I found a link to an organization called Evergreen, which claimed to offer support to men and women who experience same-sex attraction. It was odd that I hadn’t heard the term same-gender attraction before, but it was never talked about in the home or at church growing up. It was a new concept to me that one could “experience” attractions to the same gender but not be defined by their sexual orientation.
Through this organization, I got in contact with a mentor who knew what I was going through. For the first time in my life I was finally communicating with a person who shared my challenge. We emailed back and forth for several months. I began to realize that I wasn’t alone in this. I wasn’t the only man who was trying hard to live the gospel and have an eternal family despite experiencing same-gender attractions.
After a little education, some self-evaluation, and a lot of reflection, I felt like I could finally explain to myself what I was experiencing. Finally I was receiving some answers. I hadn’t figured out why or how I experienced these attractions, but at least I knew I wasn’t alone.
With this huge sense of relief and self-awareness, I finally got the courage to tell my wife of seven years that I experienced same-gender attraction. I recall sitting her down in our bedroom, looking her in the eye, and saying, “Marcelene, it’s time I start treating you like the eternal companion that you are and share with you what I have been struggling with my entire life.” I explained what same-sex attraction was, how it had begun in my early childhood, why I need male companionship and, most importantly, how I was still committed to our relationship. This gave her the reassurance that I was not going to leave her, that I still loved her. It gave her hope that we would figure this out together. In the coming months and years we continually prayed together, communicated a lot, and made decisions that changed the way we viewed marriage, relationships, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the love of God.
Joining a support group
One of those first decisions we prayerfully considered was whether or not I should join a support group of faithful LDS men who also experience same-gender attraction. Think about it—a group of same-gender attracted men spending time together once a week to share their burdens, relate to each other, and bond. It was a scary concept at first. I had always stayed away from men like me because there was always this fear of “acting out.” As you can imagine my wife had her fears about the situation too. But I had to speak with someone face to face, a group of men who knew what I was experiencing. I had always felt so isolated, so alone in this. I longed for a place where I could feel normal and relate with those who could feel my pain.
I contacted the group leader and chose a night to attend my first meeting. The fear in my wife was more than noticeable. I knew this would be hard for her, but I had to do this. I had lived in shame for so many years; I couldn’t wait to get to this meeting. I told Marcelene as long as she could give me space and time to figure this out I would never leave her.
I showed up early to the meeting and was the first one in the room. Slowly, other men began to show up one by one. Each one came up to me and either shook my hand or gave me a hug. We began with a hymn and a prayer. We sat in a circle and these men shared their stories and experiences, or they just talked about how their week had gone. Part of me was thinking “How did I get here?” But the other part of me was amazed at the situation I was in. For the first time I was meeting men face to face who had the same feelings and desires as I did, yet their strongest desire was to follow Christ. It was so relieving to share my story and not feel judged. I witnessed what I believe to be the purest example of members of the Church bearing one another’s burdens.
I couldn’t believe how quickly I connected with some of them. It was as if we had known each other our entire lives. They were so easy to talk to. We shared some commonalities—struggles, experiences, music, and TV shows. We finally felt safe and comfortable sharing our love for romantic comedies, shopping, the arts, and other interests that we would normally be afraid to admit in a setting among “straight” men. It began to be the one place I could be myself completely. Over time I started to realize the men in this group were actually some of God’s valiant sons who really just needed a safe place to be themselves.
Over time I began to gain more friends outside of this group, men who experienced same-gender attraction and men who didn’t. Trevor was one of those friends who did not experience same-gender attraction. He was in my ward at the time. We went running together sometimes. To escape my fear of rejection I shared with him that I experienced same-gender attraction. I remember wondering if he would still be my friend if he knew this about me. His reaction was simple: he loved me regardless. Later he shared with me some of the struggles he was going through. To this day, Trevor is one of my good friends. His reaction gave me courage to be open with others.
Opening up and sharing love
Little by little, one person at a time, I talked with close friends in the neighborhood, at work, and at church about my same-gender attraction. Each responded with love and understanding. This helped rid me of the shame I had been carrying with me my entire life. I became more confident and began to learn more about what my needs are as a man: my needs for male connection, friendship, and natural affection.
To explain what natural affection looks like for me, you first have to know who taught me the most about it. Before my dad died Marcalene and I found out she was pregnant with a boy. Most dads would probably be elated to have a boy. For me, I was a little terrified. I wasn’t sure how to raise a boy, how to play with a boy, or even how to love a boy. It sounds strange saying that now, but at the time I really struggled with it.
But the day he came into my life was the day I realized what love between two males can be like. Holding McKay close to me in the hospital room gave me some of the most incredible feelings. It’s similar to the feeling I’ve had with the births of each of our children, but with McKay there was this realization that I can love a boy. The love I had for him in that moment was so real, easy, and natural. I would lay him on my chest and kiss his cheek and forehead. I’d hold his hand and play with his feet and whisper “I love you” over and over. This was the purest and most spiritual form of love I think I have ever given to—and received from—another person of my same-gender.
Now that he’s a small child, I continue to be just as affectionate. Even when we wrestle, ride bikes, and play games, even when I have to discipline him, I always express love through a hug, a kiss, and saying the words “I love you.” Cuddle time has become one of the sweetest and most precious times with my son.
So why can’t I replicate these forms of affection with other men? Or can I?
I believe there are two extremes when it comes to two men who love each other. On one end of the spectrum there are some homosexuals who express love through sex. On the other end of the spectrum are men who struggle to say the words “I love you” and express their affection with no more than a handshake or a fist-bump. What about those of us in the middle who don’t necessarily want to have sex, but still need to be loved and held by their buddies—those who need to feel that love both physically and emotionally without having to confess their actions to the bishop. This is where things start to get a little grey.
I have experienced both healthy and unhealthy forms of affection, affection that can build me up and make me feel good about myself, and affection that can bring me down into the depths of darkness I would rather forget.
There was a short period of time when the line between healthy affection and unhealthy affection became so blurred that I went down a road of sin long enough to realize I was headed in the wrong direction. Fortunately I was able to turn around before losing everything that was important to me. After a sincere confession and apology, I gained forgiveness through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I also gained a greater understanding of who I am as a child of God and a realization of where I belong.
Today I have a great relationship with my wife who has been extremely patient and forgiving. I have four beautiful kids who I adore. I have priesthood leaders I can trust, and best friends who not only share my blessing of same-gender attraction, but who allow themselves to express their feelings, emotions, love, and affection in ways that uplift and support my belief in God.
I am not naïve enough to think that my feelings of same-gender attraction have gone away completely, but I have discovered that my need for masculine affection can be met without resorting to anything that is without real value. In my earlier years I pled with the Lord to take this all away, to “cure” me, as though it were a disease. This led to much heartache on my part. Today I see that it has been a blessing in many ways. It has helped me understand more about human emotion, it has developed within me a greater degree of sensitivity and empathy for others with similar challenges in their lives. I try to be more understanding and less judgmental.
Same-gender attraction has allowed me to establish close bonding with men who have become important in my life. It has allowed me to experience natural masculine affection, which has shaped who I am and how I think. Most importantly, it has led me to an understanding of the Atonement that might never have come any other way. I probably would not have chosen this particular path to discover all of this, but the trial truly has brought me a sense of a greater life in which I have joy.
17 Feb, 2015
I absolutely loved and related to your essay. Thank you so much for having the courage to raise your voice and be a light to so many in this world. With Christ as our helm I know that there is nothing we can't do. You're amazing brother! Keep up the good work
17 Feb, 2015
How can I get in touch with Kendall?
17 Feb, 2015
Thanks for sharing your story. I can relate to so many of the things you described. I am still not in a place where I can be completely open yet, but I am getting there. Thanks for sharing your courage and love.
18 Feb, 2015
Thank you for so openly sharing your struggle and how you have moved forward with faith. Your story is inspiring and will offer hope and serve as a positive example to many. Everyone has "infirmities" of one kind or another. A saying I heard today is the way to overcome infirmities is through the firmness of Christ. You and your dear wife are a living example of that.
19 Feb, 2015
I so appreciate your story. Knowing that good Later-day Saint Men and women are living with same sex attraction and finding ways to let that very weakness become a strength is truly inspiring on so many levels. I look forward too the day when this can be discussed in church so others don't have to carry the burden of shame that so often drives them into the arms of the LGBT movement. What can we do too hasten that day?
19 Feb, 2015
Thanks for sharing your story. It is truly inspiring. My son is probably where you were as a teenager (getting ready to serve a mission). Thank goodness for positive role models who are willing to share their stories to help my son understand and gain perspective! Just as you have learned that you are not alone, I want him to know that he is not alone in this.