Coming Out of My Closet
by Josh Weber
I bet you think you know where this is going. Maybe you do. But, don’t get too far ahead of yourself. What I’m about to say will probably not shock anyone who has taken a look at my Facebook feed in the last three months. I’m not adding my name to the list of Josh Weeds out there, though I have great respect for him and admire his courage to come out in the stage of life he’s currently in. My closet is of a different kind. You’ve probably seen this video floating around the internet. Some of you may have even taken the time to see it. After watching it, I felt inspired to write this post, but it has taken some time to do so. I’ve wanted to share my excitement about my future career, but have been very reluctant to do so given my fears of what people may think, what friendships I may lose. I had hoped that posting an article about Mormons who support gay marriage but retain good standing in the church would help open up the dialogue for people to understand where I was coming from. I was surprised to see several friends say that I was choosing to not follow the leaders of my church and that I needed to repent. It greatly discouraged me and still affects me to this day. I wondered at times if I should have just kept quiet about it or if pursuing the road I was on was a good idea. Today I’m here to declare that I’m continuing on that path and don’t plan on taking my feet off it unless I receive divine direction otherwise.
I’ve struggled for quite some time trying to decide what career I should pursue in life. I’ve had a plethora of interests, but nothing that has ever felt like it was what I really needed to be doing. From high school teacher to filmmaker, it seemed like I would never find a career that I felt justified by God to pursue. Then, at the conclusion of 2013, I found myself being prompted to pursue law school. Not just out of the blue, though. I had an experience that forever changed my perspective on the LGBT community. As you may have heard, there was a two-week window where gay marriage was legal in Utah during mid-December. At that time, there were some county clerks that were refusing to give gay couples marriage licenses for various reasons. I was astounded that even when the law permitted such marriages to take place that there were still some who refused to comply. Never before in my life had I had the desire to take my voice to the streets and protest, but I did then. I stood near the outside of the county building where the clerk’s office was and held a sign that had the 11th Article of Faith of the LDS church with the words “the law” highlighted in red. I’ve been part of many great causes in my life, but aside from being a missionary for the LDS church, I never felt so complete being part of that cause. At last, it seemed I had found something that I could really contribute my talents to and change the world. I’m an English major and have off and on considered the legal profession, but had been reluctant to embrace because there seemed to be nothing to motivate me beyond reading dry law cases day in and day out. At last, I felt like I found the motivation I needed and both interests seemed to fuse together perfectly. I decided that I would become a civil rights lawyer with the aspiration to further equal opportunity rights for the LGBT community.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve come a long way in my political views. I come from a small town in Arizona that is die-hard conservative and I had no shame in admitting I was homophobic. At the same time, I was never popular in high school and received a good deal of verbal bullying throughout my freshman and sophomore years. I can remember some things that I was called and made fun of for, but the thing that hurt the most was being teased about being gay. No matter what I did, there was one particular individual who took it upon himself to convince some of my peers that I was attracted to men. To this day, I can think of no other insult that cut me to the core like that. I cannot imagine what I might have done if I really was. I wish I could say that such experiences gave me more sympathy for LGBT teens, but it didn’t. I’m ashamed to say that it took serving a mission for the LDS church to begin to overcome my homophobia and it still took some time even after I returned to fully rid myself of it.
As time went on, I thought a lot about these things and how to reconcile my faith with the issue of gay marriage. I found myself wondering if it was possible to be supportive of the LGBT community and not go against the core tenants of my church. I wanted both communities to live their own truths, but being accepting of both didn’t seem to work together, as it doesn’t for many people. After I decided to lend my voice to the protest here in Provo, I began to really wonder what it must be like to love someone who everyone says you can’t love and the thought of you having children is abominable. As I put Asher down to bed one night, I cried just thinking what it would be like if someone tried to take him or my wife away from me, or if they tried to tell me that I didn’t love them and was living a deviant lifestyle. I stood over Asher’s crib for what seemed like a long time and just held him in my arms crying. I wondered how some people could be so cruel. Who was I to tell someone else who did not possess my religious beliefs if they were right or wrong in their life decisions? Even if they did have the same core beliefs as me, what right would I have to shun them? I knew right then that I could no longer be silent about what I felt. I had to lend my support to the LGBT community in some form. Naturally, my inclination to become a lawyer seemed like a perfect way to be an advocate.
I know that some of you reading this may be flabbergasted at how I came to these conclusions. Some of you may feel the need to distance themselves from me. This is a complex issue that will continue to be worked out through the years and I don’t expect everyone to agree with my viewpoints, contrary to what some may think.
This is something that I’ve taken a great deal of time to pray and search these things out with God. It has been one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I used to believe it was possible to love the sinner and hate the sin. For some, that may work. But for me, I can no longer associate myself with such a mantra. In the past, it only served as justification to distance myself from the other. I may have said I felt love towards all, but deep down, I reserved charity and true love for only those that seemed to be worthy of it. As I’ve pondered upon Christ and how he sees me, being the totally imperfect being I am, I’m so grateful for the love He has for me. As I look at gay couples, I no longer shudder in disgust. I smile and feel pure love towards them, the same love that I felt when I served those in Colorado Springs on my mission for the LDS church. And if I can feel such love towards these people, I cannot believe that Christ has anything but pure, unadulterated love for them as well. I spent way too many years using the terms “gay” and “faggot” like they were nothing. I wince when from time to time I still find myself inclined to use the term “gay” flippantly or in slang. I refuse to be the person I once was. I can no longer live in hiding concerning my future profession. I’ve told some people that I just need to get out of Provo to attend law school, but it’s not just because I need a change of scenery. While BYU’s law school is very respectable and certainly has an amazing tuition rate, I think my aspirations will be better served at another law school. There are so many other things that I have to say and may add to this as time goes on.
I’m sure some of you are thinking that I’m talking straight crazy. I would have thought the same thing if I was still the same person that I was in high school. But, if experiences with God have taught me anything in the last few years, it’s this: nobody can claim to know your personal relationship with God and everyone needs to experience it on their own terms. Never before in my life have I had to pray and wrestle with God like I have with this issue, and while some may believe that it’s their duty as my friend to bring me back to the light or call me to repentance, that’s simply not how it works, and it’s not something that I appreciate. I need God’s help more than ever in my life, being a father, a husband, and a lawyer-to-be. I know that as long as I’m keeping in touch with him, I will end up where I need to be.