I received a moving letter from an old high school friend this evening about an event that I did not even know took place recently. A young man here in Salt Lake City decided to take his life because of the perceived incongruence and irreconcilability of honoring who one truly is on the inside and sincerely believing that the God whom you have loved your entire life is incapable of loving you for who you are.
I did not know this young man, and so I can only speculate as to his personal struggle . . .
. . . but I have known that struggle personally.
It was the most difficult, soul-wrenching experience I have ever gone through, one that took me years to recover.
Along that path I had family, friends and loved ones that either pushed me back down into despair, or helped to lift me back up and celebrate all that I had to offer in life.
And so I simply ask you, are you pushing those in this literal life-and-death struggle down?
Or are you helping to lift them back up into a life of self worth and dignity?
Looking back it is surprising to acknowledge who was pushing me and who was lifting me.
To all of you who helped to lift me . . . thank you. I love you.
Here is the text of the letter I received from my friend and my response to her:
I know this is random, as we were never great friends in high school and such, but this evening as I am pondering a lot of things surrounding the loss of Todd Ransom (his brother is a very close friend) I can’t help but think of you.
I just wanted to let you know that I look upon you with such great respect because you seem to carry yourself above all of the finger pointing and resentment that is tangled up between the LDS church and the gay community. I can’t imagine the hurtful struggle you must have endured as faith and nature fought inside you all those years ago. But there is now a peace about you that is a true example of where those on both sides need to be.
The issue itself is complex and sad, but I sincerely believe God loves us ALL — free of judgment. No one should suffer despair and isolation great enough to take their own life.
Your words are so incredibly moving. Thank you so much for taking the time to write them and send them along. I didn’t really know Todd and honestly I didn’t even know what happened until I read your note a bit ago. Again, thanks for letting me know.
Being gay and having a Mormon background is more often times than not a seriously challenging and self-defeating relationship. I was lucky in some ways in that I was a convert back at Chatfield and didn’t have any familial/cultural pressure to go along with it all. Those that did grow up in that faith are really hit with almost incomprehensible inner conflicts for those of us that didn’t.
After I was excommunicated it took me 3 days to realize that I was a good person before I was LDS and that I was going to be a good person afterward. But there are so many that have never been anything else in their lives. Being anything else is borderline anathema/heresy, and at the very least they have no personal identity outside of the faith.
It is such a terrifying decision for so, so many young men and women that too many decide the easiest route is to end their lives.
I’ve been living here in Utah now for almost 9 years and the atmosphere between the GLBT community and the LDS Church is rarely constructive, kind or compassionate.
On both sides.
I have no answers to any of this, but I do know that there are no black and whites about this issue. The nuanced shades of gray in each life that faces this turmoil and conflict needs to be honored, recognized and celebrated by all.
I firmly believe that God loves us, wants us to be happy and honors our sincere efforts to lead meaningful lives.
And I’m certain that he doesn’t pick and choose who is eligible to be recipients of that love, for we all are . . .
Your letter clearly sparked a long overdue writing session on my part, so thanks for nudging me along.
There is a candlelight vigil tonight for Todd at the State Capitol, and while I’m not able to make it, my prayers and thoughts are with Todd, his brother and family and all that may be hurting on this evening of remembrance and honor.
It’s great to hear from you. You look amazingly well and you have such a beautiful family!
Thanks again for writing . . .