After experiencing years of abuse and confusion resulting from his attraction to men, Randy sought healing through the gospel of Jesus Christ. What he found was a loving Savior and caring friends and family who stand ready to support him in his time of need.
Randy was raised in Clearfield, Utah with his four brothers. He served in the Washington Seattle Mission, and later as a ward Young Men president, first counselor in a bishopric, Sunday School teacher, and ward missionary. His favorite calling—which he’s held eight times—is Primary chorister. After working for twelve years as a butler, Randy received his master of education degree and now teaches at Neil Armstrong Academy in West Valley City. In addition to teaching, Randy has been involved in The ManKind Project, Journey into Manhood, and MANS (Masculinity, Authenticity, Need fulfillment, Surrender). He is the father of two daughters and the grandfather of three. In his spare time Randy enjoys refinishing wood furniture, gardening, cooking, biking, and watching Downton Abbey. He now lives in Murray, Utah.
Randy’s Essay: Healing, Growing, and Seeking Light
I want to begin my story by first letting everyone know that I am attracted to men. I think as I share my story you will be able to see parts of my life I lived that helped contribute to my feelings of attraction toward men.
So much of my story revolves around the mystery of my parents. Where were my parents when I was born? What impact has their sexual, physical, and emotional abuse had on me? My father and mother were largely not present during my childhood. I’ve had to look back many times to get a sense of what I’m missing in life. I have a hole inside of me that was placed there by a lack of parenting or a style of fathering and mothering that wasn’t workable in my life.
A Shameful Identity
Before I was born my mother had an affair with her bishop. During this affair she became pregnant with me. My mother shared this information with me when I was just a small boy of five. The family insisted I was my father’s child, not the bishop’s offspring. But for much of my life I had to live with the idea that I may have a different father than I thought I had.
Two years ago during my healing process, I confronted my father and invited him to undergo a paternity test. He agreed. The results proved that my father is indeed my real father. However, my middle name is Lee—the same name of the bishop with whom my mother had an affair. Regardless of the outcome of the paternity test, my name will always be connected to that experience. My mother’s affair played an important part in my upbringing and has impacted my life dramatically.
Years of Abuse
I was born in isolation. My father decided to go deer hunting with the guys and leave my mother alone to deal with her delivery. A neighbor took my mom to the hospital instead. I didn’t have the opportunity to bond with my parents the way I needed to. From the time I was born I was going to be treated differently. My mother often told me as I was growing up that she wasn’t happy, that she felt depressed. She didn’t want me; she didn’t want to deal with my needs. When I cried she’d let me cry all day long. Luckily, my aunt who lived with us at the time would pick me up and care for me. My aunt was my caregiver. To this day we have a special bond and relationship.
When my aunt moved to Alaska, she offered to adopt me. That didn’t happen. She moved away, and my father began sexually abusing me. I was only three years old. The abuse lasted for several years. Heavenly Father is so wise. Since he could not rescue me from this horror, he created a diversion for me. During the abuse, my mind shut down and I would disassociate from the situation by creating a loud humming sound. I did it to survive.
My mother, meanwhile, was an angry young woman, and I was often the target of her anger. One incident from my childhood will give you an idea of the abuse I received and how it has affected my life. My grandmother, who lived in Wyoming, sent me a pair of moccasins as a gift. I remember wearing them around the house. I went outside for a minute to do something and my mom noticed that I was wearing my new moccasins. My mother did not tolerate imperfection and had totally unrealistic expectations of me. When I came inside she questioned me about wearing the new moccasins outside. It didn’t take long for me to realize I was in for a beating, I just didn’t know the extent of it.
In front of our farmhouse were two large willow trees. I was instructed to go outside and find a willow switch. I tried to find the thickest switch because the thicker the switch, the harder it was to break the skin so the welts were not as severe. I returned to the kitchen with a fresh switch and the beating began. I was wearing cutoffs that day, not a good wardrobe choice. After it was over, I went into the bathroom and nursed the welts and the broken skin with a cold, wet washcloth in an effort to ease the sting. I learned early on to “eat my pain”; I learned how to hold it in.
Learning the Feminine
I kept another part of my upbringing silent until recently. I told two people about this and they were sworn to secrecy because of all the shame that surrounds this for me. Now I feel it’s time to share. Perhaps someone needs to hear it. Maybe I just need to let it go.
Before we moved to the farm I lived in a simple neighborhood where all my friends were girls. One day when I was four they thought it would be fun to dress me up and play house. I was the mother and they were the babies. We pretended to be a family. I was introduced into a world of make-believe, a world of femininity. It was fun because this pretend world took me out of the real world of sexual and physical abuse. I could escape. The pain disappeared for a short time and I was happy.
My world of make-believe began to be a routine. Soon we were playing with dolls, having tea parties, and making mud pies. What is really difficult to comprehend is that my parents allowed it!
One Christmastime, while walking past a department store window, I saw this incredible shiny tea set. It had my name written all over it. Not only did I get a tea set, I also got a doll, a stroller, some doll clothes, and a blanket to wrap up my new doll in. I did receive, as a consolation prize, a cowboy hat. My older brother, meanwhile, got a cowboy hat, holsters, two guns, a rifle, chaps, and cowboy boots. I have a black-and-white photo of me and my older brother. He’s wearing his cowboy hat, vest, and holster, and he’s carrying a rifle. I’ve got my cowboy hat on but I’m in dress-ups holding my doll, wrapped in her blanket, with my stroller in front. I look like I’m ready to catch the stagecoach.
For some reason my parents bought into this. And I, as a small child, didn’t have a masculine role model to follow or bond with. What was I supposed to do at that early age? I bonded with the feminine. As hard as it is to talk about, I identified with females more than I did with males. Somehow my masculine attributes were buried under a heap of feminine traits. This part of my life has been the worst part to live with. You see, I could hide the sexual and physical abuse from others, but the effeminate attributes of my persona are difficult to mask.
My peers were brutal, castigating me with all sorts of name-calling, badgering, and bullying. Even my parents said hurtful things about my feminine traits. It wasn’t just that I played dress-up and had a doll; no, the residual effects of being around femininity all the time caused me to learn to bond with those characteristics. I was doomed for life! I would have to deal with a lingering crisis of identity.
Becoming the Mother of the Home
When I was 12 years old, at a new school and on the cusp of becoming a teenager, a major incident happened. Early one morning I was awakened by frantic screams from my mother. What I witnessed was my mother having a major nervous breakdown. On a severity scale of one to 10, she was at a 15. I’d seen some pretty frightening things up to that point, but what I witnessed that morning is burned deep into my memory.
The police showed up. I remember my dad and the officers trying to calm my mom down as I watched her mentally melt away. Dad was finally able to get through to her. The police officers walked my mom out to the car and they drove away. My mom was diagnosed with manic depression and institutionalized for six years. The really crazy part (no pun intended) about this whole incident is that my dad never talked to me and my brothers about what happened to mom. All he said was, “She’s gone off the deep end and won’t be home for a very long time.” A strange feeling settled into our home; we weren’t sure what to make of this. One part of me was grateful because the beatings finally stopped.
At 12 years old my world changed right before my eyes. I soon realized my life had switched gears and I was navigating through new territory. My dad was working two jobs, so my older brother and I became co-parents to my younger siblings. I learned to cook, clean, do laundry, iron clothing, make beds, shop, change diapers, and budget money. I wasn’t equipped to become a child’s primary caregiver; I was supposed to be a kid! I didn’t get to be a child. I stuffed so much pain inside.
My Journey of Healing
It’s kind of strange, kind of interesting, kind of beautiful that I can now talk about the pain. The process of healing continues. My journey into same-sex attraction began at a very early age. Through recent efforts with therapy, counseling, men’s group work, and just plain talking about my feelings with family and friends, I feel I have been able to address the wounds that happened in my childhood. I have learned how to feel—to look at what happened and then to experience and share those feelings. This is the first part of the healing process.
Through healing I’ve learned to understand what happened to me. I continue to grow. I pursue help and support through new relationships and also through new behaviors and habits. Healing involves learning a different way of seeing, hearing, and feeling. The important thing is that as my healing progresses I am looking at life through different eyes. To pretend that everything is going to be fine is unfair and unrealistic. Not a day passes by that I do not know and recognize what happened to me. One of the main differences now, as I strive to recover and heal, is that I know that I am a better person for having undertaken this journey. Confronting same-sex attraction is never easy. There are no easy answers and no one single way of dealing with it. I’ve spent these last few years trying to figure out what to do about it in my life. I’ve explored the options open to me and made some good choices.
I do not talk about my attraction to men lightly. Six years ago I decided to reveal to my wife my lifelong struggle with same-sex attraction. We divorced four months later. Let me be very clear here: I never acted out with anyone, I never sought out any type of sexual activities, and I never inappropriately propositioned anyone. I kept my temple covenants and marriage vows. However, choices were made, and my marriage of 23 years ended. My former wife and I remain good friends.
I feel that only someone who has experienced same-sex attraction personally can fully appreciate what it is like. I have given voice to a part of me that has been stifled for a lifetime, and that is so liberating. By doing this I have also unleashed a demon that must now be dealt with in the light of day. I wasn’t prepared for the questions my former wife raised and the answers I’d be expected to give; I just knew that I wanted to be free from the burden of my dark secret.
The gospel of Jesus Christ means a lot to me. To leave my family and take on a lover would leave me outside the Church. Realizing that I can’t have both, my decision is to follow the truths of the gospel. I’ve discovered there are ways of dealing with homosexuality that allow me to be a good, faithful member of the Church. I know I can live the law of chastity. My feelings for other men aren’t bad as long as I don’t sexualize them, and I can be satisfied with good emotional relationships with men. In fact, the more I develop close relationships with men, the more I realize that’s all I really wanted all along.
Now that I have close friends I long for men less often. I seldom have homosexual desires at all. I have to remember that secrets and shame inhabit the darkness. As a victim I existed in a world of shadows and whispers. When I opened my eyes and looked up I saw the light. When I move out of the darkness and into the light, there are new people, new relationships, new opportunities, and a new beginning.
I have come to know that I am not alone in my struggles. The Lord has blessed me with friends who help me get through a hard day, a challenging week, and sometimes a difficult month. My friends help me fight a hard battle. I have come to learn that each of us on earth is fighting a hard battle, and we need each other.