Growing up, Andy Miller simply understood being gay as very, very bad. The subject was never talked about in an open, healthy way. As he began to recognize his feelings for men, he felt caught in an ever-deepening void between how he acted on the outside and how he felt on the inside. It wasn’t until he reconciled those feelings and began to live authentically that he experienced peace.
They say that the first person you ever “come out” to is yourself. Growing up, I knew I was a little different from most of my peers. Being gay wasn’t ever something that was talked about—I mean really talked about, in healthy, open ways. In general it was only ever mentioned in passing, always with the most scathing of connotations and accompanied with curt definitions only when necessary. As a result, I knew very little about what being gay really was or really looked like, but I understood it to be very, very bad. The lack of education left me with nowhere to turn for answers or support.
Luckily, things were a little different at home. I attribute much of my strength, confidence, and sense of self to my upbringing. My loving parents were always supportive of me in everything that I loved and everything I pursued, and not once have I ever feared I would lose that. That being said, we didn’t have much conversation about the subject in our family, either—not out of fear or for the sake of moral uprightness, but rather because it simply never came up.
Looking back, it’s easy to see how this denial phase served a rather important purpose in my coming-out journey. It allowed me to act as though everything was normal while I worked things out at my own pace until I felt confident enough in my identity to share it with others. In a more real sense, however, it was a little bleaker than that. This piecemeal approach to grappling with my reality was more of a survival tactic than a practical coping mechanism.
It seems almost silly now that I even considered my sexuality to be ambiguous since it was so obvious at that point. The truth is, my denial really wasn’t just external. I really believed it myself. I didn’t think I was going to change, but I had to be certain not only that I experienced same-sex attraction but that I also couldn’t possibly experience attraction to the opposite sex at that point in my life.
I reached that point during my senior year of high school. By then adulthood was approaching. My feelings of attraction had not changed—if anything, they were stronger than ever—and I came to the realization that I genuinely lacked the ability to have a real, complete relationship with a woman. I approached this inevitability slowly and learned to seek out ways that I could live a happy and meaningful single life. I adapted my expectations for the future, and rather than focusing on marriage and starting a family, I focused on education, my immediate family, and travel. Having moved around a lot growing up, I’d already learned how to deal with loneliness and be happy by myself. Experiences of feeling lonely and not relying on others to bring my life fulfillment helped me grow closer to my Savior and develop a strong sense of self.
That brought me great comfort.
My first year of college at BYU was very trying. Socially, I struggled to find my niche. I began dealing with a number of mental issues very early on, which persisted throughout the school year and heavily impacted my grades. While these weren’t the result of my struggles with being a Latter-day Saint and gay, it certainly made dealing with those issues more difficult.
Shortly after finishing the school year, I was called to serve in the Uruguay Montevideo West Mission. I was to report to the Argentina MTC, in Buenos Aires, at the end of August 2013. However, during this time my mental health took a severe hit, and I was honorably released and sent home after five months of service.
After returning from my mission, I slowly began coming out to more people. I can honestly say that being open only gets easier to a point, and even then only slightly. I’m not very public about being gay; I only mention it if I need to. Regardless, doing so has continued to bring peace and joy to my life as it allows me to live more authentically.
As I have been more open with myself about my feelings, I have noticed my desires have matured and become more consistent and wholesome. When I was growing up, I found my attractions were more shallow, more carnal, and more difficult to control. However, as I started to live authentically, I noticed my desires and even my attractions evolved as I became more aware of what would bring me real, lasting happiness. I hear many people characterize same-sex attraction as a temptation. My experience has been that this is an oversimplification, just like it would be if it were used to describe opposite-sex attraction. Naturally, there is temptation inherent with it, but it is not in and of itself a temptation. The only difference is in the object of affection. Same-sex attraction isn’t an illness, either.
The first and biggest challenge I have faced both before and after being “out” is heartache, in a variety of forms. One form is loneliness. At first I was fairly committed to the idea that I would live a celibate life since that is what would be required to maintain the full blessings of the gospel. Up to that point, I’d mostly only known the physical attraction. However, as I stopped repressing my feelings and began thinking about what I really wanted in life, I came to perceive the kind of joy that can be felt in sharing my life with someone I truly love. It’s easier on some days than on others to face the probability that I will go through this life without being married.
In the grand scheme of things, I know I can live a happy and fulfilling life as a single person.
In spite of the trials I have overcome and the challenges I face, being a Latter-day Saint and gay has taught me lessons in profound ways I would have never before imagined. Arguably the most important are the virtues of faith, hope, and charity. My experiences as a gay Latter-day Saint have strengthened my faith as I learn to live with ambiguities, learn to recognize the Spirit, and learn to put my trust in the Lord and His timing.
One of the most beautiful lessons I’ve learned is that of hope. I have no way of knowing whether or not I’ll ever be able to find someone to spend my life with. Realistically, the chances are not very high. In spite of that, it is worth it to me to fight for it, hope for it, and be optimistic about it. The same is true with the gospel. We have no way of tangibly proving that many of the things we hope for will come to pass, but we fight for them against all odds because they’re worth it. Finally, I have learned charity as I have endured my own struggles and watched others endure theirs.
I know God lives and loves us. He knows each one of us completely because He created us. I know that Christ atoned not just for our sins but also for our pains and afflictions in mortality. I have faith that we are in His hands, that all will work out for the best because that is His divine design. I have a testimony of the power and beauty of charity. I love my Savior and my Father in Heaven, and I’m grateful every day for the blessings and experiences I have been given in this life.