What the heart wants

It was a small gesture I had seen hundreds of times before, my father pausing for a brief moment to appreciate a thing of beauty. This time it was an arrangement of lilies that he had stopped to smell as he walked towards the pulpit to bear his testimony. I smiled to myself, it was so uniquely my father. But from behind I heard an unmistakable snigger as a girl from my Laurel class leaned forward and whispered in my ear, “Your dad is so gay.”

I idolized my father. He was and is a quiet man, gentle and kind, one of the most Christ-like I know. He taught me to seek after goodness and beauty, to have faith in myself and to follow my heart. My father nurtured my delicate soul, encouraging me to blossom, something I’m not sure would have happened had he not been my father.

I was a painfully shy child, one that was deeply unsettled by the world. When it was discovered that I had a naturally pretty singing voice my father decided that we should sing duets together in church as a way to help me overcome my fear. These performances terrified me but I trusted my dad and soon I developed a confidence that has stayed with me throughout my life. We share a love of music, poetry, art, nature. Together we went to operas and symphonies, roamed museums and picked up pretty stones on the beach.

It was quite obvious to me that my dad was not like other fathers. My friends’ dads were overtly masculine–something that always intimidated me so I was grateful for my sensitive and artistic father. But I had never even considered the possibility that my dad might be gay until my friend mocked him in church. Even then I quickly dismissed it as impossible since my parents were, at least from my perspective, happily married. She had to be wrong.

As it turns out, I was wrong, my dad is gay. I was married and had a child when I discovered the truth and to say it was world-shaking would be an understatement.  Everything that I had always believed about my father, about my family, was now forever changed. I felt a range of emotions, anger at having been lied to and gratitude that my parents had stayed together despite impossible circumstances. I cried for days, not because I was heartbroken over my father’s sexuality, but because I was completely bewildered at how to make sense of my life’s history. I went through memory after memory, re-writing my life to include this one unknown thread.

My father’s revelation illuminated a dark undercurrent in our family that I was always aware of but didn’t quite know how to articulate. As the oldest child I was somewhat of a confidant to my mother so I would hear about the persistent dreams she would have of my father cheating on her. When my dad was away on business trips she would become visibly anxious as if her life were about to come crashing down around her. And then there was the jealousy…

My parents–my family–are victims of a time when the Church’s prescription for curing my father’s “deviancy” was heterosexual marriage. My father was obedient, more obedient than most are asked to be, and took a leap of faith. But that leap of faith has not spared my parents or my sisters and I any heartache.  Neither of my parents has known the joy of loving and being loved by another for their whole self. My father was denied the intimate connection with a man that his heart and soul crave. My mother was robbed of a husband who truly desired her. Their marriage would most likely be considered a success story by the church; my parents have been married thirty years and will remain together until they die. They truly love each other but both are, I think, apathetic about an eternity together.

Homosexuality and mixed orientation marriages run deep in my family; my father, grandmother and, most likely, my great-grandfather are or were homosexuals. All were married to a member of the opposite sex because no other choice existed for them. I have been a front row witness to the devastation caused by ignorance and bigotry and I am not left unscathed. Pain and lack of trust are difficult narratives to rewrite and they have negatively affected my sense of self and my own marriage. If scientists are right and there is a genetic aspect to homosexuality then there is a possibility that one, or all, of my children could be gay. I cannot wish this life for them.

I cried tears of joy last Tuesday when President Obama vocalized his support for same sex marriage. I realize how controversial this issue is but I cannot bear the possibility that my children might face the same heartache from lack of choices that faced my father, my grandmother and great-grandfather. My own heartache has been mostly healed by the love and stability mr. mraynes provides me. To love and be loved by the partner of one’s choice–this is the most beautiful thing in the world. I want my children to know this same beauty, to have the freedom to follow their hearts. I want their chosen relationships, regardless of their sexuality, to be respected and equally valued. I want them to have what I have.

Nothing less.



  1. First, beautiful, heart-wrenching post. I love the part where you said, “I want them to have what I have.”

    This sentiment is why I could never oppose same-sex marriage. I felt this way when I was single, but after meeting and marrying my husband, I support same-sex marriage with all my heart and soul. I love my husband. I love being married to him. I can’t imagine my life without him. I could never deny my brothers and sisters the right to marry the love of their lives. Their love is as just as real and legitimate as the love my husband and I share.

    • Thank you, Taylor. You have articulated exactly what I was trying to get across. I have been so blessed by my marriage how could I deny that that same blessing to someone else?

  2. Meghan– Thanks for this. It must have been difficult to write and publish, but was incredibly courageous on your part. My husband, in spite of being a typical western hunter-fisher type, is also very gentle, sensitive, and artistic, as well as having a very thin, non-muscular physique. As a teenager, he was sometimes teased for being “gay.” But he is not. Your essay also speaks to the problems of associating certain qualities with gayness and certain qualities with being “macho,” and therefore, heterosexual. I hope for a world where men and women are not judged for wherever they are on the spectrum of femininity or masculinity, regardless of their sexual orientation.

    • Thank you for your support. I have to admit that I feel incredibly exposed right now but I think this is an experience too important to keep hidden. I share your hope that one day our society can stop judging people on their sexuality or adherence to gender norms. One thing that has always baffled me is when people insist that men act like men and women act like women when Jesus Christ, a man whose perfect example we are supposed to follow, exhibited so many qualities that we traditionally assign to women. His example proves to me that we are all bigger than what society tries to define us as.

  3. I love your post, Meghan. So much pain has come from these choices so many have felt they needed to make, yet at the same time, your father’s (and others’) sacrifices seem to have been a factor in your sensitivity and acceptance of differences.

    Is his nature now known and accepted widely by extended family, ward members, and others, or has he kept this part of himself private?

    • Thanks, Kay! That is a kind and, I think, accurate description of what has happened as a result of my family’s situation.

      My father is pretty open about this now so many people in his ward and extended family know about his sexuality. He also wrote a piece for the latest Exponent II publication where he discusses their mixed orientation marriage–I linked to it in the OP. It is such a powerful piece and my parents really have come to a place where they choose to be together and are really fulfilled by their marriage. I wasn’t able to fully give their dedication and commitment to each other justice in my post, which I regret. But despite the success and happiness they’ve finally found in their marriage, there was a lot of pain over that 30 year period, and it has affected more than just them. I felt my story had to stand as a counterpoint to the narrative that the church is currently pushing. The choices we offer to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters are so poor and we have a duty to at least acknowledge that.

  4. This is amazing. There’s a post at fMh right now about the same thing, from the perspective of the woman married to a gay man, and what she said really sums it up for me:

    “What is sad is that the church will encourage its members to put these thoughts or feelings on the shelf or in the back and try to be someone that they truly are not. They are told just to go ahead and get married, and with the help of the Lord, and their faithful diligence, this will be taken from them. This is a damaging thing to do not only to the person that has this same sex attraction but also to the spouse that they marry and the children that have to deal with the repercussions of divorce.”

    I’m so glad we’re talking about these issues more and more. They’ve been hidden for too long and have caused so many people such intense pain. Change happens so very slowly, but we have to talk about it if we want to help it along. And it’s beyond time these voices were heard.

  5. Sometimes I still feel so on the fence about this issue. And then I read personal stories that bring my questions into the sharp focus of experience. That perspective makes all the difference in the world for me, to bring this from political speeches and theological statements to real people’s stories. So thanks for helping me and others sort through this. I’m crossing my fingers that everyone treats this sensitive story with the grace and gratitude you deserve.

  6. Have your parents considered letting each other go and finding new love? It just seems so sad that they each have missed out on such an important part of life.

    • I would encourage you, if you haven’t already, to read my father’s essay in the most recent Exponent because there really is a beautiful ending to this story. My parents no longer have children at home, my father is mostly out of the closet so there really is nothing keeping them together at this point–except that they choose to be together. After years of heartache my parents have come to a place of mutual fulfillment in their relationship and I think they would say they have what I have.

  7. As someone in a mixed orientation marriage (I’m gay, he’s not), I really appreciate this post. We have also made the decision to stay together and not just for the kids. While neither of us are in a soulmate-type marriage, we are satisfied and couldn’t imagine growing old with someone else.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience, Erin. I’m glad that your marriage is a happy and satisfying one. Even though the failures far outweigh the success stories it’s always heartening to hear the that these marriages can succeed!

  8. Thank you for writing so eloquently.

    Its’ very obvious that your dad LOVED/and still Loves you a great deal.

    My uncle left his nuclear family and moved to Ca. I missed the opportunity to get to know him better because of this craziness(attitudes towards gay people).

    And for everyone else who might be inclined, there is an interesting article in Religion and Ethics weekly which suggest that their was always a marriage performed for gay people. This occurred until around 11-12 century AD.. I wish I knew how to link the article. It would be an eye opener. All of the rites in the early church that I have ever read or herd about have always condemned same sex marriage, but, this clearly indicates otherwise.

  9. I didn’t connect the dots that the author was your father until now — I just overlooked the last name when I read the magazine. Rereading his thoughtful essay then rereading yours, I honor your mutual courage and desire to step out of the shadow. As the tide of public opinion begins to turn in favor of gay marriage, the narrative seems to be: “I heard a story that touched me . . . I met a couple . . . ” Some my scoff at narrative as a rhetorical strategy, but stories change minds and change hearts. Thank you for telling a slice of yours.

  10. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    And you articulated well what I feel about gay marriage; I want my gay friends to have what I have with my husband. Everyone deserves the chance to be with someone they love.

  11. What a powerful piece of writing. It is stories such as these that shifted my own thinking on the issue of gay marriage, opened my eyes, got me to question, and changed my perspective. Hearing other people speak about their truth, their lived experiences, has helped me to have the courage to question the teachings of the leaders of the LDS church on this particular subject (and others as well). I have found so much more peace admitting that I don’t have all the answers to such a complex question, and I don’t believe any human being does, and so I feel to allow others the space to pursue their own unique life’s journey without feeling I need to judge them. I feel we need to all acknowledge our own inability to “know” the answers for others and to have the grace to grant all equal rights within our laws.

  12. Personal, raw, complicated stories like yours are going to help shift public opinion for the better. When I was getting married people asked me why I couldn’t support gay marriage so everyone could have what I have – but I was still stuck in a place where I viewed homosexuality as an inclination to be mastered (akin to abstaining from pornography). I didn’t understand what it meant to not be attracted to someone of the opposite sex, and I had never taken the time to talk with people to find out their experiences and feelings. As I read more on the Internet though, my feelings changed. I am glad that people are starting to speak out so others can make the same shift (I believe they will!)

  13. I sincerley thank you for sharing your father’s story. That strengthens my testimony of the Church’s stance that action is absolutely a voluntary choice. I think your dad’s choices and behavior unequivocally prove that. From what you’ve said it would seem to me your father is an incredible example for good.

    Second, you said this:

    >>To love and be loved by the partner of one’s choice–this is the most beautiful thing in the world. I want my children to know this same beauty, to have the freedom to follow their hearts. I want their chosen relationships, regardless of their sexuality, to be respected and equally valued.<<

    Do you really mean this? Are there any limits on who your child can choose as a partner? If so, what are they and how are they decided?

    What if your son's heart wanted marriage with 4 different women simultaneously? Or 14? What if his heart would never be happy outside of a polygamous relationship? Are you OK with that? If not, why can't he have what his heart wants?

    I think the position you've taken, when you step outside of the permissible bounds set by God, you end up in a catch-22. Either you have to hypocritically disallow certain relationship arrangements on the bare grounds that you disapprove, or you're logically forced to permit relationships to which you (and I would guess most "Mormon feminists") are very strongly opposed. You're obviously OK with same sex relationships, but what about other relationships you're not OK with? Why can't those "hearts" get what they want? In order to be logically consistent I think you'd pretty much have to agree to allow any and all relationships, which is very problematic.

    • I won’t presume to speak for the OP, but I don’t see any issue with any form of relationships between consenting adults. Polygamy, polyandry, homosexual unions, whatever.

    • exactly what Taylor Berlin says. I don’t give a tinker’s damn what consenting adults do. Polygamy? fine. Polyamory? fine. Homosexuality? fine. And I see no reason why our government should not incentivize and protect any long term relationship that people commit to that will foster stability.

      I honestly do not think most feminists, whether Mormon or not, would take issue with my position. Remove the requirement of “consenting adults,” and yes. You’ll find that most feminists will have an issue with that. But then, I’d hope everyone would have an issue with that.

      • Great. I’m suprised to see so many polygamy supporters on this site.

        And, of course most individuals would have an issue removing the requirement of “consenting adults.” The logical problem is that is a hypocritical requirement to impose. What about the 30-year old whose heart “wants” a relationship with an 11 year old? Who are you to say he can’t have what his heart wants? You have the opportunity to have what your heart wants. Why discriminate against him? How can you justify denying him relationship equality? Why is his heart any less valuable than yours?

        >The tragedy of not allowing [adult-child] marriages is that it means that the only marriage option for [pedophile] men and women is one in which they could not have the same kind of bond that they might have with a partner of their [preferred age].<<

        A tragedy indeed.

      • Here’s the short answer: when entering any relationship, all parties must be capable of making their own independent decision. That’s not logically inconsistent.

        Now, threadjack over. Mraynes wrote an important piece on the nature of mixed orientation marriages and you have derailed it, turning it into a rehash of old and tired and illogical arguments against same-sex marriage. Have the respect not to further derail it.

      • Amelia
        This is one time I would have to disagree with you. I really don’t have a problem with GLBT people marrying I do however have a serious problem with polygamy. In light of the recent articles that Winterbuzz has been posting on FMH about the Forgotten Wives of Joseph Smith. I would have to say the principle of polygamy was based and ultimately taught on lie.

        If you read the stories of these women, they were all told to lie to Emma about the marriages. Emma herself told Joseph that she would not comply with polygamy and Joseph had Oliver come and give her a blessing to cast out the devil in her for refusing.

        Joseph told all the other women that if they did not agree to the marriages they would be banished from the community.

        I also read where on several occasions women were already married and to get around this, he sent these men on missions and then married them (forced polyandry).

        I’m sorry, but, after reading these women’s stories, I do not believe in the concept of plural wives

      • Diane, there are more ways to practice polygamy than the way 19th century Mormons did. I didn’t say I supported that version of polygamy and I don’t, largely because it was so very much built on deception and coercion.

        There’s the short answer. Now let’s get back on topic and not continue this particular threadjack.

    • Ryan:

      I am in total agreement with you — I think Mraynes’ father is an incredible example for good. I’m also going to go against the majority of my sisters on this thread — and say I’m in complete agreement with you on what you say about stepping outside the permissible marriage boundaries set by God.

      Here’s a 6 min video to watch and ponder —

      Now, I’m sure there are some who start watching this video and may think this guy is a fruit loop — which is understandable given the topic. HOWEVER, at minute marker — 5:25 — there starts a list from 1958. AGAIN, that is from 1958. Watch the list — and see what has already been accomplished. No one can deny those achieved accomplishments — and I don’t think it’s a coincidence, especially if you consider what past prophets (e.g Ezra Taft Benson) have said on this matter.

      On another note — a word of caution to the women of this website (I know I’m not going to be popular for saying this) — tread lightly on which organizations you link yourselves up to regarding the ERA. I’m a woman, a mother of four who also works outside the home — and I can relate and I agree with wanting to be treated as equals. Plus, in the last year and 1/2, I’ve been involved in the political world, and I’ve actually lived the chauvinistic experiences. But be cautious in who these organizations really are — and what they are ultimately trying to accomplish (the video link gives a prime example).

  14. What a beautiful essay and personal experience. Thank you for being so brave to share.

    All I will add is an amen!

  15. Mraynes,
    You have indeed opened up yourself and your family in this post. I’m glad that you are giving voice to this subject in a way that helps us see the issue from another side.

    I notice that homophobia is so rampant in our society. I’m excited to see examples of gay couples on TV (as in Modern family) living typical suburban lives where their “gayness” is not central to the show at all. I hope that this is an indication that homophobia will be decreasing.

    I’m sorry for the pain that you and your family have been through and are going through. I hope that your post will help other see potential consequences of choices to have mixed orientation marriages.

  16. I read your Dad’s story. I read “Goodbye I love You” back in the late 80s so I have often thought about mixed orientation marriages.
    I just want to add the perspective that it does traditional marriage an injustice to assume that only marriages that are between “soulmates” are worthwhile. Marriage is tough.

    • I don’t see Mraynes arguing that “only marriages that are between ‘soulmates’ are worthwhile.” I simply see her arguing that everyone should have the opportunity for a marriage with their soulmate, regardless of sexual orientation. That’s very different from “only marriages between soulmates are worthwhile.” The tragedy of not allowing same-sex marriages is that it means that the only marriage option for homosexual men and women is one in which they could not have the same kind of bond that they might have with a partner of their same sex. If we allow same-sex marriages, then people at least can make an actual decision about whether they enter a more pragmatic mixed orientation marriage rather than that being their only option.

  17. This is a beautiful post – full of emotion and honest feeling. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself. I have learned from reading your experiences.

  18. There was an interesting piece on 60 minutes about life in Israel. One of the topics they talked about was the issue of GLBT people. Apparently, in Israel ones sexual orientation is a non issue. Military service is mandatory for everyone, there is no don’t ask, don’t tell policy. No one cares. Parents don’t care if their children are gay because they know they can loose them in instant due to a bomb blast.

    maybe since its 2012 and the United States claims to be so enlightened compared to the rest of the world we should follow suit. Just saying

  19. I love how this post and your dad’s essay compliment each other so beautifully. I admire you and your dad having the courage to share your experience. These stories inspire me to do more when it comes to LGBTQ issues.

  20. I was so impressed when I read your dad’s essay in the recent Exponent, and I love that you have written this supportive companion piece here. I’m not sure what else to say, other than I acknowledge the way that it has been for you and your dad and your family.

  21. Thanks for this post! I too come from a family where Mom and Dad were sealed because my Dads Bishop told him that the ‘gay’ in him would go away after he got married and started a family. My Mom however, didnt know until my Dad became a sex offender, I will spare the details. He is now in prison for a very long time and my parents are divorced. My Mom is remarried now and while not sealed or active in the gospel, she is happier than ever. I have overcome a lot because of this, and have returned to the church and am sealed myself to a wonderful (straight) man. I must say, I have never been strongly for or against gay marriage, but after reading this article have to wonder: Had gay marriage been allowed perviously, would my family have had to go through all this pain? What pain can we spare others, of all sexual orientation by allowing it? Thanks again, for getting me thinking outside myself…

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Jules. It’s good to get a variety of perspectives on these issues. I’m sorry your own family’s experience involved what must have been a great deal of pain, but I’m also very glad to know that both your mother and you are in happy places now.

      The thing I take away from these stories is that people need options. They shouldn’t feel trapped into only one possible path. When people have options, at least then they don’t feel like they’ve been forced into something they might not have chosen if they had been able to choose between multiple acceptable paths.

  22. This is beautiful. Thanks, Mraynes! As it would happen, I found out just two years ago that my own mom is bi-sexual and has been in a same-sex relationship for the past several years. I can relate to your shocked feeling, the need to reassess your whole past. Thanks for sharing this.

  23. Thanks for this wonderful, thoughful piece, Mraynes.

    I did what your dad did, for the same reasons. The marriage ended in a very ugly way due to my wife’s psychiatric problems, not because I was gay. I came out later. But having come out and experienced attraction and love the way I was always meant to, I thank God every day for the divorce. Because now I know what I was missing. For me, at least, there is NO comparison in the feelings and the fulfillment. I could never go back. Fortunately my kids are young enough to be untainted by LDS homophobia, and they are completely supportive.

    My family of origin and extended relatives are, however, another matter. Their response to my coming out has been entirely scripted by the likes of Dallin Oaks, Boyd Packer, Russell Nelson and David Bednar. I have been told that I can continue to participate in the family only as long as I never mention the subject of homosexuality, never talk about that aspect of my life, never send them anything to read about it (because they will ignore all such stuff anyway), and NEVER even THINK about bringing a guy to any family get-together. In short, I can continue to be son and brother only if I go back into the closet.

    Needless to say, my contact with parents and siblings has been minimal since then. When I saw your article, I sent parents a link to it with a single line message: “Please, please, please read this.” Because I am exactly like your dad, Mraynes. I too trusted the church’s and its leaders’ erroneous counsel and as a result have thus far been denied ” the joy of loving and being loved by another for [my] whole self” and “the intimate connection with a man that [my] heart and soul crave.” I hoped that your article would touch their hearts and break through their fear, prejudice and stubbornness.

    It didn’t happen. The response was brief: “We love you but do not agree with you. Sometimes it is best to agree to disagree and not force the issues.” I replied that I wasn’t trying to push anything, I just wanted somebody to talk to me. But nobody was even willing to do that. Had they even read the article? There was no response.

    So for me, appeals to such personal connections and stories have not opened family hearts or minds. They refuse even to read or hear the stories. For them, even to consider such things is “forcing the issue” and “rubbing their faces in it.” By way of context, I should point out that my family goes back to the earliest days of the church, with a family patriarch that was an extremely prominent associate of Joseph Smith’s. They all know my story and my circumstances, dozens of them, and not a single one has stepped forward to offer anything other than what I’ve described here. They truly believe they are doing what God and God’s one true church require of them.

    And that is why, after, years of service in the church, including ward, stake, and even temple leadership, I am no longer LDS. I cannot trust the leaders anymore, and the cultural and spiritual environment is toxic to me and my children. Fortunately we have found a new spiritual home, where I am welcomed without hesitation, with true Christian charity and full support of the way God made me to love. They have become my new family and I consider myself very blessed. I wish my family of origin could understand or accept that, but they have chosen doctrinal orthodoxy over their own family. But I can’t give up my honesty or integrity to cater to the comfort of their prejudices. And so we must part ways.

    • Jon, I am glad you love your new spiritual home–while I want the LDS Church to be a bigger tent and accommodate more and more and I ache to lose anyone of wonderful value and service like you, I completely understand and celebrate your ability to find a church that shows true Christian love to you. I am sorry your family wouldn’t come and read this, but I’ve read your comment, and I think it’s beautiful. Thank you for sharing here!

  24. I replied to your comment on my post as well, but thought I’d put it here as well.

    Your approach towards talking about this subject in an experiential way is great and is something that obviously a lot of people connect with. When I was still active I started feeling a desire to understand my father better. One of the common thoughts I had, which you also shared, was about what I would teach my children if they turned out to be gay. It was important to me to not give them advice that would hurt them and cause them pain and depression, but something that would help them be healthy and happy individuals. It was also important to me to teach them the “right” thing to do . . . and it was a difficult realization that the “right” thing wasn’t an answer the church would agree with.

    Thanks again for posting this and linking it to me so I could read it.

  25. I was one of your father’s roomates in college. I played on the football team and he was recently returned from his mission. We were as opposite as could be in terms of the things we liked but we soon became good friends. I think your father set a goal to provide some culture to this neanderthal he was rooming with and I learned to enjoy the theater, opera, and poetry he exposed me to. He confirmed me a member of the church and was my escort when I went through the temple the first time prior to my mission. Shortly after we were married my wife and I travelled to Utah and visted with your mom and dad, and you as a tiny baby. (He sang with a choir during the priesthood session of general conference that year). We lost touch along the way as your family moved around but we reconnected a few years ago. Just this past weekend your parents came by to spend the night following a conference they attended in our area and they shared with my wife and me their story. It took courage for them to do so but I think they sensed that it would be safe. I don’t pretend to understand what your parents have been through or how difficult it has been for your dad and mom all these years. I’ll be honest that I’m not sure how to reconcile homosexuality with the scriptures or the teachings of the church, or if reconciliation is even possible. But one thing I know for sure is that your dad has been my good friend for 34 years and I expect him to be my friend for the rest of my life and beyond. Your parent’s wedding invitation and your dad’s poems are in my scrapbook and I will cherish them forever. And I can totally see your dad stopping to smell the flowers on the way to the pulpit. I wish I did more of that. Perfect love truly does cast out all fear.

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