Christine was born in Connecticut, but moved around the country and around the world. If you ask her where home is, the answer is that home is wherever her family lives. A life-long member of the church, Christine graduated high school in 2006 from the International School of Beijing and then went on to attend Brigham Young University (BYU). In 2010 she graduated from BYU with a major in the School of Family Life and a minor in Business Management. Christine is a stay-at-home mom who cares for her three sweet and energetic children. She and her husband Travis have been happily married for five years and anticipate many more. Christine loves a good book; hates doing laundry; and loves laughing, playing games, and just being with her family.
This is my story of how I went from being completely in the dark about same-sex attraction (SSA) to being married to an amazing man who experiences SSA. This is the story of my journey with my husband, a journey that continues each and every day.
Up until recently, I have had little to no exposure to SSA. I have an uncle who divorced his wife and went on to live a gay lifestyle, but I haven't heard a whisper from him in over 15 years. My last memory of him was at a family reunion sometime around Independence Day where his "friend" (as he was introduced to us at the time) was also present. I remember thinking that he was fun and cool and nice, just like my uncle. I didn't understand why my uncle dropped off the radar after that. It wasn't until many years later that my sister and I put two and two together and my sister asked my mom point blank. I remember that when my suspicions had been confirmed, all I felt was sadness that he had stepped out of our lives. It didn't change the fond memories I had of him or the way I felt about him - to me he was still the same man.
Through the years since then, I haven't been close to anyone who has dealt with SSA; at least none to my knowledge. I know of people who deal with SSA, but because I wasnít close to them, it was never something I talked or thought very deeply about. I felt that since I had so little experience and exposure to SSA, I didn't really have the right to have an opinion about it. It wasn't so much that I didn't have the right to an opinion, but that whatever my opinion were to be, I felt it would be invalid or "less than" someone else's because of my inexperience.
It always seemed to be the same pattern - come out, leave the church, go live a gay lifestyle and that was it, the inevitable ending. For some reason, this pattern with its almost scripted ending bothered me. In 1 Corinthians 10: 13 it says, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." Why, then, were all these people following the same pattern of leaving the church and living a gay lifestyle? It seemed to me that it should be possible to experience SSA and stay a faithful member of the church. God would not give a temptation so strong to anyone where the only possible outcome was to leave the church and forego the blessings of the gospel. Yet how could I, someone with no experience in this area to speak of, tell someone who dealt with this extremely difficult trial that they should keep fighting and look for another path that kept them in harmony with God's teachings? I didn't think I could, especially since I had no idea what a path like that looked like.
Dating and Meeting Travis
Before my husband, I'd never had a boyfriend, was asked out on very few dates and had never been kissed. Of course I had boys who liked me, but predictably they were never the boys that I was interested in. After so many years of watching my peers and friends experience the giddiness that comes from liking someone who likes you back, I couldn't help but notice that it wasn't happening for me and I wasn't sure why. I usually felt more comfortable being one of the guys than thinking about dating them. When I thought about dating any of the boys I knew, something always felt a little off, like trying to fit two mismatching puzzle pieces together.
During one fall semester at BYU, I took a highly recommended marriage prep class and found the courage to take control of my dating life and do the asking out. I now have an enormous appreciation for how nerve-wracking it can be to ask someone else out on a date! I went on many first dates that semester and it was extremely draining. By the end of the semester, I was more than ready to call it quits for a while. Ever present in the whole process was the same sense that I didn't quite fit with any of the guys I had gone on dates with.
My really good friend of more than a decade, Chelsea, started dating a boy who turned out to be my future husband's best friend, Nate. Chelsea and Nate started dating during the time that Travis and I were (separately) going on dates like mad people. Eventually, Chelsea met Travis and Nate met me and they decided that they should set us up. It took a while, but finally in February of the next year, the blind date was set up - dinner and games with four couples, including Travis and me. Feeling drained from all the dating I had done and having had a rough day leading up to when the date started, I decided that this was my last shot at dating and then I would take an indefinite break. When I arrived on scene, I'm pretty sure my eyes were still a little puffy from crying (again, rough day). By that point I just wanted to get the date over with, not exert any energy impressing this guy. So I didn't try to impress him.
My first impression was that Travis was gay, or at least effeminate. But I just got set up on a date with him so maybe he wasn't. The beginning of the date was extremely awkward for both of us for a few reasons. First, Travis didnít know it was a date and that we would be paired off so that immediately set the stage for him feeling awkward about it; second, I was mentally and emotionally drained; and lastly, we were sitting right next to each other during dinner and I didnít feel comfortable turning full face to look at him without feeling like he was too close and invading my personal space. So as we sat next to each other, we attempted to make small talk out of the side of our mouths to each other and it was a little weird. After dinner we began playing games, Travis and I ended up across the table from each other and something changed. I don't know whether either of us can explain exactly what happened or how anything salvageable came out of that date, but apparently it did because at the end of the date he got my number. Unfortunately, he forgot to save my number in his phone. When he asked Chelsea for my number, he saved it in his phone wrong. Later in the week we were at last able to get in touch with each other and had a breakfast date that was as fun as our first date was awkward. A week later, Nate and Chelsea broke up (they are now happily married to other people), their mission of getting us together fulfilled, and we found ourselves on the marriage track.
Engagement and Marriage
Travis knew very early on that he wanted to marry me. When I look back on our courtship, I knew it too, but didn't want to jump the gun considering that I had never had a boyfriend before him. I tried to play it cool without playing hard to get. I wanted him to know that I was interested in him, but I didn't want to scare him away by being overly interested and making scrapbooks of our future children, for instance. What I didn't realize at the time was that as we were dating, the feeling of being mismatched puzzle pieces never arose.
At the end of the semester I recalled to one of my friends some of the advice my marriage prep teacher had given. When deciding whether to marry someone, think about the answer to these three questions: (1) How do you feel about yourself when you're with him? (2) How does he feel about himself when he's with you? (3) How do you feel about the two of you together? In that moment of relating this to her, I finally understood what my answers were and that I had known them all along. I knew I wanted to marry Travis. I finally realized that with him in my life, that missing piece had clicked into place. He made me feel complete.
The day after my epiphany, Travis and I headed out on a road trip to California with a few of our friends. I had no idea that Travis had worked with another one of our friends to find the perfect spot to propose to me. We were driving around Lake Tahoe and we kept driving and driving and driving and driving some more. I was about ready to tell him that we could just stop anywhere when he abruptly (and somewhat randomly since we'd passed many places to stop) turned into a parking lot, a location known as Inspiration Point. A little bit beyond the parking lot was a gorgeous view of Emerald Bay. It was there that Travis proposed to me and I gave him an emphatic yes! The rest of the road trip was spent with many hours of laughter with our friends and a general feeling of euphoria that I was engaged to such a wonderful man, my other half.
Almost as soon as we got home from our road trip, I flew to be with my family in Switzerland where they were living at the time. It was a tough couple of months, but with email and Skype, we survived! I was definitely looking forward to being with Travis again.
The same day I got back to Utah, we planned for me to meet up with Travis and a few of our friends at a park. Afterwards, we all drove over to Wendy's to get dinner. I parked my car and at the exact moment that I opened the door to go inside, I got a call from Travis telling me that he had been in an accident on his Vespa and would I please come get him? My heart pounding, I immediately jumped back into my car and parked at the gas station across the street from where he was. As I crossed the cross walk, all I could see was the blood pouring from his head, the paramedics surrounding him and time seemed to slow. I will never forget that moment.
It was then that I understood just how much he meant to me. I knew that he was ok (he was smiling at me with chagrin), but all I could think of was that if it had been more serious, if he had died, that would have been it. It wouldn't have mattered how much I loved Travis, he would have been gone. At that moment I knew how important it was to me to go to the temple and be sealed to him for time and all eternity. Needless to say, he wears his helmet whenever he rides his Vespa now (I was also tempted to make him wear it for the rest of his life, but I'm sure he would have vetoed that). Soon after, we were married and sealed for eternity in the Salt Lake Temple on a beautiful August day.
Travis and I kept hearing that the first year of marriage was the hardest. I think we were both pleasantly surprised by how easy it was for us. We worked hard to make sure we were being open and honest with each other and at times it was hard. We also worked hard to make each other laugh, but that usually wasn't very difficult. I learned how sweet it can be to admit that I am wrong and to say sorry instead of holding on to my pride. Little by little we learned more about each other and opened up to each other in ways we had never opened up to others. Over the next several years, we had our first baby, I graduated from BYU, Travis graduated, and we had our second child. The years that passed did so without the difficulty that we were taught to expect and our love for each other grew, binding us tighter than ever.
Welcome to Club Unicorn
At this point I still had no idea that Travis struggled with SSA. For about the span of, oh, two seconds I thought that it would have been better for Travis to have told me that he experienced SSA while we were dating or engaged. However, I quickly realized that no, it wouldn't have been better that way for a couple of reasons, including tensions with my family and my own lack of experience. The timing was perfect. God was definitely in control of the whole situation and I'm so grateful that He was. Instead of feeling perhaps hurt or angry or even insecure when Travis finally told me, all I felt was relief and gratitude.
Letís rewind a little bit. While I was attending BYU, my family was living overseas. While my dad had met Travis once while we were dating (at a BYU basketball game - not an environment exactly conducive to conversation and getting to know someone), my wonderful mother had never met Travis until my family came back for the summer. By that time, Travis and I were already engaged. I was the first in my family of six kids to get married. For whatever reason, there was serious tension between Travis and my mom right off the bat. It's something that I understand in a whole new way being a mother myself now. I know at least some if not all of it was out of concern for me and not any objection to Travis. My mom knew that Travis came home from his mission early because of depression and had some concern that that depression might leave me a widow one day. Having people you love be at serious odds with each other is extremely stressful and I don't think any of us could have handled the added stress that Travis' SSA would have brought to the table (especially because my uncle who divorced his wife and went to live a gay lifestyle is my mom's brother). It would have brought up whole new concerns for my mom in that regard. Thankfully, the tensions have since evaporated. Now every time I see Travis and my mom talk and laugh together I feel so incredibly grateful.
Not only were there the tensions with my family, but there was my own inexperience with SSA. I won't pretend I'm a saint; I have no idea how I would have reacted to the news of Travis' SSA at any point before he actually told me because I was ill equipped mentally on the issue of SSA. God got to work correcting that by placing two particular stories in my path so that I would be ready when the time came for Travis to tell me.
Several years into our marriage, the May/June 2012 issue of LDS Living magazine arrived in our mailbox. It was a little bit of a "coincidence" that we were getting the magazine in the first place (I don't actually believe in coincidences, especially with this whole experience. So it was more like God's gentle intervention). I noticed a picture of a beautiful little family on the cover. Then the headline jumped out to me: "Our Story: Living with Same-sex Attraction". Our story? I looked back at the picture of a couple and their young son and I couldn't believe it. Could this be what I thought it was? A story of a faithful Mormon who was gay? But he couldn't possibly be married, could he? I read the story of Ty Mansfield and was blown away. I had always felt that it should be possible to stay in the church and experience SSA, but for someone experiencing SSA to be happily married to someone of the opposite sex was far beyond what I thought possible. In fact, I had thought it was impossible based on everything I heard in the media. I was amazed and showed the article to Travis, almost beside myself with excitement that this could exist. I later found out that this same story was part of what prompted Travis to work up his courage to tell me about his SSA.
Shortly after that, I came across Josh Weed's blog post that went viral on Facebook entitled, "Club Unicorn" in which he equated a mixed-orientation, faithful Mormon marriage to discovering that unicorns exist. Another man who experienced SSA and was happily married to a woman? Again I was amazed, especially that I had found these two stories in such a short span of time. I had just discovered two unicorns! I started following Josh's blog and learned more about SSA. His FFAQ (Friday's Frequently Asked Questions) posts were especially helpful to me understanding SSA and making real the issues and pain faced by those who experience it. For the first time, I was thinking and searching about SSA very deeply and coming to terms with my own thoughts and feelings on the subject.
I showed Josh's blog post to Travis, again ecstatic that something like this existed and not just once, but twice! Little did I know that Travis was gauging my reaction to these stories as a litmus test for when he should tell me that we were also a unicorn.
One night we were driving home from Travis' parent's house. The kids were sprawled across the back seat, asleep in unnatural and highly uncomfortable looking positions. Lights twinkled from the buildings around us as we sped by. It was quiet for a little while, me enjoying the quiet after the storm (i.e. the quiet after the kids go to sleep) and Travis working up his courage for what he was about to tell me. We've had difficult conversations before and I recognized the beginnings of another one. Travis started by saying that he had something to tell me, something big. He kept going in that vein, trying to tell me without telling me, trying to prepare me for what he was about to say without saying it. As he kept going with these vague statements that didn't tell me anything, I felt my anxiety build. Then he said, "I will always love you." I'm sure he meant it to be reassuring, but to me in that moment it wasn't.
As soon as he said, "I will always love you," I immediately I had a whole train of thought pop into my head. "There's a 'but' coming," I thought. "There's always a 'but' after someone says that! He's going to tell me that he's gay, that he's unhappy, and that he wants a divorce. How am I going to take care of the kids? I can move in with my parents and find a job. I'll go back to school if I need to, but I'm sure I can find something to at least pay the bills." It came quick as lightening, out of nowhere and it put me in a near panic. It was scary thinking that with Travis' next words I might find myself on my own. Even more depressing was how I could have missed that he was unhappy. I thought we were very happy, could I really have been so blind? Was I really so absent from our marriage that this would come out of the blue? I finally got a grip and told myself to calm down; for heaven's sake, he hasn't even said anything yet! I had no idea what he was saying at this point, being completely unable to concentrate on it. Tearfully, I mentally steeled myself and asked, "What are you trying to say?"
"I have same-sex attraction."
I waited a beat. There was no more. Nothing about being unhappy. Nothing about a divorce. When I realized that was all he was going to say, I was crying anew from the intense relief I felt. I don't remember ever feeling so relieved in my life. I think now that the rather depressing train of thought I had was a tender mercy from God because of the fact that it just popped into my head. I had absolutely no reason to think any of those things, but it called to my mind how I had felt when Travis had been in the accident on his Vespa and how much he meant to me then and now. When Travis told me about his SSA, all I felt was relief that we were still going to be together, that it would still be us against the world. I knew that it was hard for him to say, hard for him to tell me because he would certainly be anxious for how I would react to this very vulnerable piece of information he had just disclosed. Besides incredibly relieved, I also felt grateful for his honesty in that moment and that through our years of opening up to each other, he trusted that he could be so vulnerable with me, having hope and faith that it wouldn't break our marriage. I understood why he might not have wanted to tell me from the beginning. I took a few minutes to recover my wits and my composure. Then we talked for the rest of the way home.
Two concerns immediately raised themselves in my mind with Travis' admission. The first was that Travis might one day wake up and decide that he didn't want to be married to me anymore. But I quickly realized that that could happen even without his SSA; he could decide to leave me for another woman. For that matter, I could be the one who left him. In any case, I quickly dismissed that concern because I know that's not who Travis is. That's not who we are. When we were dating we decided that if we ever got married, divorce would never be brought up because we never wanted it to be an option for us. There was nothing that we couldn't work through together if we were 100% committed to each other and to making our marriage work. Every day in marriage we have to wake up and choose the person next to us, choose to see the good and best things in them and choose to be a team. And every day we do. So far we have not experienced any serious problems arising from Travis' SSA, but I have every confidence that if we do run into issues in the future, we will be able to work through them together.
The second concern I had as I woke up the following morning was that I didn't really know who Travis was anymore. He'd just told me this, were there other things I might find out down the road? As life went on, though, I quickly realized that his SSA really didn't make a difference to me. I knew that we weren't perfect, but that we were perfect for each other. Travis had shown me who he was in our dating, engagement, and years of marriage. He had shown me that he was kind, loving, funny, thoughtful, and devoted. He had shown me time and again that he loved me and would always have my back. I had never had a single reason to doubt that he would always be there for me. He was still the same man I knew and fell in love with. I loved Travis as a whole person. Because I loved all of him, I had always loved the SSA part of Travis, I just didn't know it existed or had a name before. Why should it make a difference to me now that there was a name? It shouldn't. It doesn't.
I feel that this experience has brought Travis and me even closer together because we have been able to open up and be vulnerable with each other in ways I never even imagined. I have been able to learn more about Travis and understand him even more deeply than I did before. I'm grateful that God prepared me for this experience and prepared us for each other. Travis proves over and over again how amazing he is and I can't believe how I ever got so lucky as to be married to him. He has had ample opportunity to choose a different path, but he chose this one. I'm so grateful for the choices that he has made because they were important in bringing us together. Most importantly, I'm grateful for God's hand in my life. It is so evident to me now as I've been looking back on certain experiences that He has always been there guiding me. A lot of the time I don't understand why things are happening the way they are in that moment and it's not until I look back that I see God's hand so plainly that I wonder how I ever missed it. Sometimes He leads me through difficult times so that I can be taught something. Sometimes He leads me to people who will change my life. But always He leads me and with Him, nothing is impossible.
1 May, 2014
How completely Lovely! Thank you (both) and Bless you (both). And Thank our Father who gave us Jesus Christ to show the way to true understanding and redemption from this world (and our own fallen natures)!
1 May, 2014
Great story, great insights, loved your essay:) Keep writing and sharing.