A Letter to the Editor

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Recently there was an article posted in the Rexburg Standard Journal titled “Gay and Engaged.” Rexburg is considered to be the most conservative town in the nation, with its population being-literally-99.9% LDS. Needless to say, the article caused quite an upset here in our little community and many canceled their subscriptions to the paper.

Upon learning this some friends and I decided to write letters to the Editor and state our feelings-postive or negative-about the piece. This is my letter:

It was a hot Sunday afternoon in July. I sat on the grass of a small park in Rexburg, Idaho staring at the tiny blue cellphone in my shaking hand, trying to build up the courage to press the dial button on the name that read: “Mom.” Behind me sprinklers sprayed a shower over the green fields, and a slight breeze rushed through the pine trees with a low whistle. Just feet away the old merry-go-round stood almost expectantly in wait for attention it would not receive, and behind him the swings rocked invitingly on the wind almost as if the memories of school days passed possessed them.

I pressed the call button and phone began to ring.

“Hey honey, how are you?” came the melodic voice of my mother.

“Not so good,” my voice was vulnerable, shaky.

“Why? What’s wrong Keithy?”

I gave a heavyhearted sigh and looked up at the heaven splotched spaces through the dancing pine needles. “A lot of things, Mom.”

Ever since 3rd grade I’ve thought myself worth nothing, and ever since 6th grade I’ve hated myself. Of course I had the stereotypical teenage self-esteem issues, I thought I was ugly, I thought I wasn’t muscular enough, or that my smile was too crooked, but I didn’t hate myself because of any of these things. I loathed being me simply because inside I knew I was gay.

Growing up I couldn’t hide my sexual orientation. My voice was too high pitched, my gestures too feminine, and my interests too non-gender conforming. The whole world knew my vulnerability and the whole world exploited it. I was pushed into lockers, called gay, fag, and pussy; I was harassed, and on one occasion jumped at a bus stop.  Everyone knew I was gay.

My dad often talked about how all gays should be burned so that the world could be purged of them. Kids threw around the term gay liberally to describe anything in a derogatory light, and Hollywood displayed them as being almost lesser compared to their straight counterparts; characters only useful for comedic relief at their own expense.

My existence felt as fodder before the fold, or at very best just comedic relief. All I could do to hold the depression at bay was to dream of a future that could never exist anywhere but in my mind and tell myself over and over that it was real. But eventually there comes a point in life where the fantasies we’ve blown like glass, shaped on breaths of hope, shatter.

“Mom, I have to tell you something. I just have to get this off my chest or else…I think I’ll go insane. I’m just sick of hiding. I’m sick of being afraid of what everyone will think. I just have to know someone I love will love me for who I am, because I know the world doesn’t.”

“Keithy, what’s wrong?” concern hung on her tone.

Tears started to burn in my eyes as the once tranquil air around me became heavy. “I…I’m…Ugh. I can’t even say it. The words feel like vomit.”

“Keithy, you know I love you. Just tell me.”

“Mom…I’m not like the other Mormon kids here. I’m never going to get married. And I think once everyone knows that they’ll hate me and leave me. I’m gay, and I never chose to be this way. Mom, please don’t hate me. All I want is to be straight and get married and have a family, but I…I just can’t do it, Mom. No matter how hard I try I just can’t like girls.”

There was silence on the other end and my heart felt as though it had just cliff jumped as it hung in limbo somewhere within my chest.

“I know,” her voice cracked. “I’ve always known,” she began to cry now.

“You don’t hate me?” I asked.

“No, honey. I would never hate you.”

“I thought you’d be mad, like you were when I told you I was bi.”

“I was upset because… because I was scared of what your father would do to you if,” she paused now between sobs. “If he found out.”

It was as if revelation were being poured into my soul like water into an empty vessel, filling the void and bringing peace where only chaos once dwelt. I don’t know where I would have been if it hadn’t been for that conversation with my mother over a year ago. I believe that it was her understanding that saved me both physically as well as spiritually.

For people like me who identify as being gay and LDS, Rexburg is not the most positive of environments. Attending church as a college student often times feel more like attending a marriage seminar rather than a dialogue on Christ. And much of the time I feel as though I’m a lamb among wolves instead of a lamb among lambs.

In the past students were asked to leave this very institution if they even told their bishops that they were struggling with “same-gender attractions.” A certain dogma still haunts this school, and thus the entire city itself. It’s a theology of fear that harms all who it contacts, straight and gay alike. It builds walls up where bridges should connect us and divides our communities and congregations. We need understanding, and understanding can only come from open discussion.

People are dying in Rexburg. It may not be making headlines, but kids are committing suicide here at BYU-Idaho, and this is not ok. It is headlines like “Gay and Engaged” that give kids like me hope. It’s articles like this that tell me that things are getting better, but it is the pretentious responses to this article that only dash not only my hope but the hopes of hundreds against the rocks. This kind of reaction means that people do not love their gay brothers and sisters, but rather wish to know nothing about us. It says that we really are fodder before the fold. Reaffirming to many that we are unimportant not only to them, but also before the Savior, because ultimately it is religion that is used to justify this type of selfish behavior.

I appreciated this article. I needed this article. I need more articles like it, and while people may pull back for a time, it is only for a time. The news exists to expose the things that should not sit well with those who read it. As a Communications major it is refreshing to read actual journalism.

Thank you for your article. Thank you for your courage, and thank you for being authentic.

If you fire the writer responsible for this piece of art, for that is what good journalism is, then you have in essence said that your gay brothers and sisters are an embarrassment and not worthy to be on the front page of your paper. If this happens you have forgotten what it means to be a newspaper and are but only a paper, decorated with ink and devoid of depth, integrity or intelligence.

Sincerely,

Keith Trottier

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Comments
14 Responses to “A Letter to the Editor”
  1. Keith, I grew up in Parker, 15 miles away from you — less than 400 people and yes, 95+% Mormon. The Rexburg Standard Journal is the closest newspaper.

    I was deeply closeted growing up, but I watched several friends be taunted and teased for being gay, for years. We were the lucky ones. We had enough support from friends, a good teacher or two and in some cases our families. I don’t know for sure if any of them ever attempted suicide, but we all made it out alive. Most of us have moved far away. The sense of isolation, and of having nowhere in your community’s culture where you can feel understood, makes it really hard to get by there, especially as a young person.

    Writing this LTE to the Standard Journal must have been really tough. I admire you for taking a public stand in a paper where perspectives like yours are so few and far between. It’s tough in a small town — but it’s also really important. Thanks for being a leader, and stay strong.

  2. Doug Collins says:

    Keith, this article is not only well written, but you said a lot that needs to be said. I admire your courage, especially given the sometimes toxic environment here, to be so open, and bold. I have had some pretty close calls here too, and I agree that it is not ok. It is up to us to change the culture, to bring church back to the basics, and to emphasis our relationship with Christ. Thank you for your bravery and your spirit, you have helped a lot of people already, and I’m sure you will impact many more.

  3. Tyler Jones says:

    I grew up down the road, in Rigby! It was very hard growing up gay and not quite understanding the solitude it leaves one emotionally, especially in SE Idaho. Thank you for this beautifully written letter!

  4. Keith, thank you for your powerful words. Jesus loves you, God loves you, and so do millions of Americans and global citizens – gay, straight, trans, and straight; Christian, atheist, and other beliefs. Please keep telling your story, and prayers for your safety, strength, and happiness!

  5. Ben says:

    All church’s not just the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints needs to remember the story from the Bible of David and Jonathon. Yet David was very pleasing to the lord. He was the apple of the lords eye. He was promised that he would not remain in hell., and that was for murder.

  6. Sarah Bell says:

    Sad that Christians forget who they represent. And people taking their lives is not taken lightly by God-especially as a result of bullying. You understand more than anyone, what love is – when the world is saying the opposite. Fear is of the devil. So is the anger and ignorance that is thrown at you. Heavenly Father loves you. Especially because you are HEALING so many others rather than harming. I hope that means something to you 🙂 because it does to me. And most especially- it does to Christ. After all- that’s what he did!

  7. Rexburg is my hometown, and I am thankful to you for making it a better place. I’m sorry for those governed by ignorance or fear, and hope you will encounter more people with love and support.

  8. Erin Rasmussen says:

    Thank you for posting this beautiful and heart-breaking letter. It is these acts of bravery that make change happen.

  9. Wendy Montgomery says:

    Love you so very much, Keith! This is wonderful. Thank you for being brave. Thank you for being true to who you are. It gives others the courage they need to do the same, and be authentic. You’re a beautiful human being, and my friend.

  10. Sherry says:

    Keith, I don’t know you but I admire your courage to stand up and tell the world who you are. I also admire your mom for loving you no matter what. I’m a mom too and I’ve listened to sobbing adult children many times and my love for them has never waned. Bless you as you go forward speaking your truth, bless you dear brother.

  11. Bad Wolf says:

    Thank you for your courage and authenticity.

  12. Neznem says:

    Keith, this is beautifully written. I know a little bit of what you’re going through, being gay and attending BYU-Idaho was enough to make me drop out and leave the church behind to find my own happiness. (I talk a little bit about it on my blog here on wordpress also.) I can’t even imagine growing up there.

    All of my love to you and all the others that are struggling to find love, acceptance and their happiness. You are doing such an important thing. Know that there are thousands of people who love you and have made it through where you all are now. Keep your head up, life is amazing.

  13. Mark Wade says:

    Oh my heart. Thank you for sharing your experience. I hope one day the LDS church will accept and love its LGBT membership enough to want them to live happy, fulfilling lives and have families of their own in their congregations and communities. No one really understands what the experience is like to feel forced to be alone quite like the LGBT Mormon.

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