Every young mormon missionary Knows the next step after returning home from a mission … MARRIAGE!
I knew in my heart I was different and that marriage was not for me. I also knew that I was going to have to leave the church now I had completed my mission but I was filled with anxiety. I had never thought of what life would be like not as a Mormon.
On Sundays, ex-missionaries are allowed to attend a “special church service” on Sundays where only single people attend. The church calls this the Young Single Adult Ward. They are grooming you to find a bride!
Not only do the young single adult Mormons meet on Sundays but they have singles activities every night of the week. Monday night is board games, Tuesday night viewings of the TV show Friends, Wednesday night volleyball, Thursday night potluck but everyone looked forward to Friday night dances in the church hall, Saturday hikes and outdoor adventures, and of course Sunday church. They tried to keep you as busy as possible, active and engaged in the wife hunt.
I had made my best friend Calvin convert to Mormonism so he would not go to hell. While I had been on my mission, he had come out as gay. He has also become a 1990s west coast raver and had well and truly left the church. Later he told me that he only joined the church because the missionary trying to convert him was hot, with his broad muscular shoulders, innocently quiffed blond hair and big old American smile. Calvin was baptised at the age of 15 and says that he was only sin-free for a few short minutes – until, in the changing rooms after the ceremony, he saw the penis of the elder who baptised him. Calvin’s thoughts turned from God to something more sinful.
Calvin realised I was gay, and with him I could finally be myself. I would continue going to church on Sundays but on Friday and Saturday nights, instead of going to the church dances I would attend Vancouver’s trashiest gay bars with Calvin.
It was one of those fine nights I met a young struggling “musician” (I use the word loosely) slash makeup artist called Shane Boded. He was so handsome with his pink velveteen bell bottoms, tight t-shirts and black eyeliner. Bear in mind it was the 90s and grunge was in fashion – think Kurt Cobain.
Meeting him and falling in love was the craziest experience. At the time, the Aids epidemic had seen gay men dying terrible deaths, all detailed in the media. Society was afraid of homosexuality, and homophobia was completely acceptable. The Mormons were clear on the subject of homosexuality – they excommunicated and disfelowshipped gay people. For all my life up to that point, people had told me that I was different, unnatural and that I didn’t belong.
When you feel so bad about yourself, and so alienated from your background, religion and society your whole life and then fall in love and taste something new that feels right and normal, it’s a new awakening. You feel a sense of freedom and a sudden new understanding that it’s OK to be you, OK to be gay and share to love with someone.
Well let me tell you about the week I met Shane Boded. (Hopefully you have felt exciting, new found puppy love, and if not don’t worry, it will happen.) Every day is full of exploration and new adventures. Our first date was so romantic. It was summer and the weather in Vancouver is magical at that time of year.
In the middle of the city is a gem, Stanley Park. It is surrounded by the mountains and ocean, under a majestic sky. Shane and I had been walking around the park and at sunset decided to roll around making out on the warm sandy beach under the pink sunset sky with the waves crashing in the background.
This next day I was twitterpated.
I still lived at home with my parents, and remember this was the 90s before texting! I received a phone call. It was Laura, a friend and a girl I grew up with in church. As teenagers we used to talk for hours and hours on the phone. The conversations started quite casually, the usual hello, how ya doing, and what have you been up to, and what did you do last night?
It wasn’t long until I realised that the ‘what you did last night’ question was a little tricky. You see Laura was also going to the Single Adult Ward and as I told you earlier they like to keep you busy with activities to find a spouse. Laura started to explain what she had done that evening. She and 30 of the single church folk had decided to go for a potluck picnic. They found a perfect spot to do it in Stanley Park sounded by the mountains, sea and grouse pink sunset. She mentions that she saw some men kissing in the sand!
It was then and there that I realised my days as a Mormon were over.