Daniel Little, a sophomore studying political science, was born in St. George and has lived in Highland most of his life. After returning home from his mission in New York City Feb. 2019, he began attending UVU during the summer semester. Daniel was raised in a strong LDS family, and has chosen to stay even though some of his family members have left the church.
Daniel knew early on that he was attracted to men. At the young age of 5, he developed his first crushes. In middle school, he found a word to describe his attraction — gay.
Although Daniel had personally come to terms with his sexuality, it was his senior year in high school when he came out to others. First, he told his bishop, who met him with acceptance. Then it was his parents who reacted the same way, with support and love. It didn’t change their view of him; he was still their son.
Daniel believes that he was met with positivity when coming out in the church because everyone already knew him, so it didn’t change the Daniel they knew. People here and there made negative comments, but Daniel believes that outlook stems from a lack of information. He wishes that everyone in the church would have the opportunity to get to know LGBTQ+ individuals . To Daniel, education is the best way to create acceptance in the church.
“People that make comments like that don’t know gay people personally, they know of gay people. It’s a lot easier to misunderstand a group of people when you don’t know someone personally…Even people who have a hard time, when I come out to them, it helps them change their perspective,” Daniel said.
Daniel said it could have been easier for him coming out in the church because of his decision to continue as a practicing member. He recognizes that those who choose to leave might get an adverse response.
One of his biggest struggles isn’t from the church, but rather trying to reconcile faith and sexuality. Daniel said that often, LGBTQ+ individuals are expected to live as either a celibate member of the church or homosexual.
“There isn’t much blending of the two. I think what’s important is to let people figure out for themselves what it looks like to be a LGBTQ+ member of the Church. It’s going to look different for everyone, whether that’s celibacy or actively dating members of the same sex. But regardless of the form it takes, we should allow everyone to explore what that path is going to look like for them.”
Although he chose to stay, he can sympathize with those who choose to leave the church. Daniel said he understands that people leave because they have felt pain and that he sympathizes with that pain.
“[It’s] a constant tug of war on your heart. You can love the gospel and you can love men. Sexuality is a big deal, sometimes heterosexuals don’t realize that because it’s built into their regular lives. It’s the little things that gays struggle with — companionship and love and expressing that. It’s not about sex. It’s about being able to have that butterfly-inducing love in your life. It’s about relationships,” Daniel said. “A lot of people view it [just] as a sexual attraction. It’s not. It’s an emotional attraction. Straight people, think about it, when you’re with someone, you feel something different when you’re with them, a sense of completeness, you feel comfort. You feel like you fit there. It’s the same way for gay people, it’s just the same sex. It’s not just sexual attraction, it’s emotional attraction. It’s a way of loving people.”
Daniel said sometimes it can be hard to find a place in the LGBTQ+ community because he feels he is seen differently for choosing to remain LDS. Daniel understands that the community doesn’t want to see him or other LGBTQ+ LDS hurt the same way. He described the difficulty of finding a place in the church, and in the gay community. This distinction has made it so that when he does find someone who is LGBTQ+ and LDS, they stick together and create their own community.
“Comments from well-intentioned individuals that think I should fully embrace the gay lifestyle can also be difficult to process. As a member of the church who is gay, you’re caught in a middle role. You’re not straight, you don’t fit the cookie-cutter, but the other side says you’re not being true to who you are. You don’t fit in totally there either. There are positives and negatives on both sides. They’re well-intentioned; they’ve been hurt so they don’t want to see me hurt. But, I don’t hurt all the time. It’s hard to find a place in there fully.”
When the church created their 2015 policy, Daniel said he could recognize where they were coming from.
“The underlying feeling was for families. I thought it was appropriate for the time because I’m thinking about a kid and how hard it could be for kids to have homosexual parents and go to church and learn that’s wrong. As an adult, I think ‘here’s what I believe’ and ‘here’s what you believe and that’s okay. We can be different.’ When you’re a kid, that’s so hard. You believe with your whole heart and expect others to believe the same. It can be hard for a kid and parents.”
Though he understands why reactions were mixed and people were hurt with the recent changes, Daniel appreciates that the church is focusing more on individuals. Now, he said, the focus seems to be more on individual situations and the church is treating chastity the same for any LDS member who has made that covenant.
“It’s not ‘I’m worse than you because I sin differently’…When looking back in time at the way the church was, you’re looking in a different world. People change and organizations change. I can’t be hurt or offended by what someone said a few years ago. I think the church is now going in the right direction.”
Daniel said one of the biggest steps the church has made is reaching out to those that are LGBTQ+, something he’s noticed in his stake. His stake has invited members of Northstar, an organization where LGBTQ+ members come and share their experiences at church. Daniel hopes other stakes can follow this path and educate others more, but he also says it’s important for those that are LGBTQ+ to share their own experiences, regardless of whether stake and ward leaders are putting forth the effort to actively educate members and leaders. Daniel said, to help others with acceptance and understanding, it’s important for people to know that LGBTQ+ members are there and to know their experiences.
“I wish every heterosexual member knew a homosexual member. I don’t think there’s any better education than a one-on-one education. Also, [it’s important] to listen to people’s stories because everyone’s different and has different experiences,” he said. “Listen. Talk less and listen more. As well-meaning as they [members] are in the advice they want to give, because they aren’t where we are, sometimes it can be hurtful. Just focus on the individual and the savior more.”
(Photo by Brianna Jarvis)
Read more Latter-day LGBTQ+ stories here: https://www.uvureview.com/front-page/recent/artsculture/latter-day-lgbtq/