My name is Ethan Mills. I'm 18 years old, born and raised in Utah. I’m homoromantic and currently LDS. This is my story, as crazy and twisted as it has been for me.
I have been extremely blessed and fortunate with my journey and process thus far. I want to start by saying I’m so sorry for those of you who go through such sad and terrible times within your journey–Your parents who reject you, friends who abandon you, and those who even turn on you and attack you–It’s truly heartbreaking, and my heart reaches out to you.
My parents saw the signs that I could be gay from a young age. Instead of scolding me for playing with barbies or feminine dress ups, they encouraged me to try more “masculine” things. They also took counseling on how to handle the news if I was, and they talked through every possible outcome. They talked about if I was transgender, if I was gay, etc. They told me that the only thing that would ever surprise them was if I announced I was pregnant.
They found out that I knew I was interested in men back in ninth grade when I had written a letter to a boy I had a crush on in my ward. It's a long story, but they read the letter and discovered that I was also depressed and cutting myself. I began counseling shortly after. I only went to counseling for about a year and a half, and I dreaded it because I misinterpreted what the intent of it was. My parents told me they did it mainly for my depression. In my mind, I saw it as my parents trying to make me straight.
At the time, I did like both sexes, and during our counseling sessions, I was often asked which path I wanted to take: Marry a man, or marry a woman. I lied and told them that I wanted to marry a woman, as instructed by the church and because I thought it was what they wanted to hear. The reason why was because my parents told me that they believed I would get the most happiness out of marrying a woman—That I would have the most fulfilling happiness that way. They also said that they would support me if I chose to marry a man. In my head, that translated to, "We'll love you more if you choose to marry a woman," (which is not what they meant).
Because I was identifying as bisexual at the time, that meant I had to choose one or the other, but not both. It would "ruin my relationships" in the future if I was indecisive. I don’t think they meant to invalidate bisexuality, I really don't. I think they didn't quite understand it. Looking back, I can see now that talking to that counselor was basically like trying to cure me of bisexuality. I believe he had the best of intentions, trying to help me so that I wouldn’t regret any decision of choosing a male or female partner in the future. But bisexuality is possible, and it shouldn’t have to go one way or the other. Bisexuality is not wrong or invalid. You can like both sexes. With that pressure of “you have to choose,” it sort of made being gay seem so much more forbidden and made me want it more. Over time, I lost interest in women. Not because I was "gay all along and trying to cover it with bisexuality." That's not why. It was because I knew my heart yearned for love from a man. I hated that it was seen as wrong and forbidden. I still do.
Since then, I've hated the idea of seeing another counselor because of that. I feel different now. I know they aren't all awful and that my experience was particularly strange and not quite right. Most people think when someone is seeing a counselor, it is a sign that something is wrong with you. I promise you, it isn't (thank you Connor Franta for helping me realize that). I've even recently considered finding a new counselor and having sessions to help keep me mentally stable. Life is challenging enough, but sadly, being part of the LGBTQIA+ community makes it quite a bit more.
Continuing with my story, I'm going to talk about growing up in the Church. I don't recall hearing any negative comments or comments in general about the LGBTQIA+ community. Probably because I wasn’t thinking about or paying attention to it. I heard more about it once a friend of mine in the ward started her own journey. She began asking questions about homosexuality and same-sex marriage in Sunday School. I also heard a lot of talk about it with the November 2015 policy released by the LDS Church Presidency.
The 2015 policy, meant to "reinstate” the Church's stance of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, was damaging for a lot of Mormons and LDS LGBTQIA+ individuals and families. People felt hopeless for the future and lost faith that God loved them anymore. I was in eleventh grade when the policy came about. My mom became concerned I would start hearing horrible, rude comments from members in the ward and at school. I had to remind her that everyone needs to have their own time to learn and understand. My mom heard some ignorant comments and it upset her, and for some reason, I never heard anything.
Something that I have come to understand is that people can have their own opinions, values, and beliefs. But physically hurting or ostracizing someone for those opinions, values, and beliefs is never okay. That’s something that the world has forgotten. It's time to remind everyone.
Jumping back a bit, I started becoming more aware of the male figure in eighth grade. I didn’t understand that I was attracted to the same gender until ninth grade, at which point I identified as bisexual. Ninth grade was probably the worst year of my life for various reasons. I was depressed, cutting myself, struggling with the Church, getting involved in dangerous activities (that I won't specify), and obviously, figuring out my sexuality. I thankfully made a turnaround in tenth grade. That's when I became the happy, cheerful person that everyone knows me to be now. It's also when I started wearing my colorful clothing. Over time, my “closet” became glass, meaning people knew I was gay, though I hadn't made the announcement. Despite those outer struggles, my battle was not against people. I was never made fun of for “being gay” or acting weird (though I was a strange child). My struggle was inside of me. When I really began to understand who and what I was, I didn't feel ashamed. I did have concerns about what it would mean for my eternal salvation.
In the Church, marriage and being sealed in the temple with your family is one of the most important steps needed for eternal salvation. I began to wonder if I wouldn't have that when I started receiving blessings within the last few years—Like my patriarchal blessing, some father's blessings, etc. In almost each one, it would mention my eternal spouse, my wife, and that she was preparing for me and I needed to do the same. It tore me up inside because I wanted to be able to love a man. I saw the beauty in same-sex relationships and I knew I couldn't love a woman the way she deserved. I was also told about my children that are waiting for me. And that's the real kicker. I know I couldn't fulfill the plan for some young woman. I was, however, more torn about losing my children than not having a wife, in all honesty. I still feel guilty about that, but I’m just not interested in being with a woman at all.
I was especially torn with the children, being told they would go to other families who wouldn't be able to love them the way that I could. I worried that meant they would be abused, rejected, or neglected. I struggled with that guilt throughout high school. I wanted to date guys. Even with my parents telling me they'd support me if I chose same-sex marriage, I still felt obligated to the Church. Obligated to marry a woman. Obligated to bring those children into the world and into my life through “my wife.” It felt like it was all arranged.
I wish I could have just come out, instead of having my parents believe that I was bisexual and go through that detour. Instead of going to counseling to choose something, I could start living as a gay man and be happy with that. I wish I could've told my parents, “I'm gay,” back in the day. To come out and start dating guys instead of going through those years of struggling to make a choice.
Instead, I fought myself and beat myself up. I still had a couple of boyfriends in high school. I lied to myself that I'd eventually get around to trying to marry a woman. It wasn't until my last boyfriend I was with for the last two months of my senior year that I finally understood. It was okay to be gay. That it was okay to love someone of the same-sex and not feel like I'm broken or rejecting God. He helped me reconnect with God and search for some answers about what I wanted for myself too.
It was quite a trying time in my life because I was finally forcing myself to face what I had been avoiding for so long. I was so emotionally torn. I'm sure it put strains on the relationship, but I'm so grateful for all his support and love. He also helped me realize that I could still have children in my life, but through different means such as adoption or a surrogate. That has really given me hope that I can still have them in my life.
To conclude, I finally came out to my extended family back on October 23rd, 2017, and publicly on March 1st, 2018. The reception has been quite well, and I'm blessed to have such positive, affirming people in my life. Now it's my turn to be that love and support to anyone who doesn't have that.
I have also discovered that I am homoromantic, not homosexual. I love romantic affection from the same-sex, but I actually don't like sex. I haven't had sex, but just the thought scares me. Therefore, I also consider myself asexual. I've learned and grown from this journey just as much as my parents have.
I'm sure it looks like my parents struggled or weren’t very supportive based on what I've mentioned. I promise, they have been so supportive of me. Yes, they made a few mistakes, but they were trying to figure it out, and they have learned and have grown. They did their best and they still continue to do their best. I'm so grateful for everything they have done for me.
Currently, I plan on staying a member of the Church (some of you will disagree, others will agree, but it's my choice. It's my journey—not yours). Even if it will be hard to stay, change can only come if we show them how to love us. Not going away and making them think they win or something like that.
My biggest message I want to leave with you all is this: not everyone is going to love you. Whether you're gay, straight, blue, or orange, people will want you to change to fit their idea of who you’re supposed to be. So, make sure you love yourself. Know that you are perfect the way you are, and if not, find what makes you happy and do that for you. Not for someone else, but for you. Your happiness is up to you to obtain and have. You deserve love and healthy environments to grow in. I love you all. Thank you for letting me share my voice and my story.