Interview transcript is available below
Brittany Ellis grew up in Riverside, California, and realized as a young woman that she experiences same-sex attraction. She lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband of ten years and their two children and is in school studying American Sign Language interpretation. In this interview, Brittany and Kurt talk about her journey as an SSA woman and how youth leaders can better approach the subject and work with SSA youth.
10:10 Brittany’s experience realizing she is attracted to women
11:45 Buried her feelings and decided to focus on being a strong member of the Church
12:00 At age 15, admitted it to her best friends and tried talking to her bishop
13:25 Her bishop’s response did not help
14:10 Dated a lot and eventually met her husband
16:10 Experience dating her husband
17:00 Wanted to turn to her bishop for support as a youth but figured it would be useless so she tried to deal with it on her own
17:55 Loving her husband made him attractive
19:00 Didn’t talk about her SSA as a couple for seven years of marriage but eventually worked on it together and individually with the help of a therapist
20:05 The rollercoaster ride is still there but no longer includes shame
20:55 She journals and uses humor to make it easier and to manage her feelings
21:35 Her husband’s desire to learn and understand has made him a good listener and partner
23:05 We all have a void but the gospel helps fill it
24:35 Like many others, she thought she was the only woman married to a man and dealing with SSA
25:25 Her involvement with North Star International
26:00 Terrified to go to the first conference
26:55 North Star has helped her make many friends and the workshops at the conferences have been a great, always-positive resource
28:15 North Star is now doing regional activities throughout the year
30:00 Discussion of LGBT youth in the Church:
30:20 Poem she wrote at age 15
32:00 Just saying it out loud makes it real
33:25 Vulnerability hangover: it’s freeing to talk about it, but then fearful thoughts come and are overwhelming
34:40 We need to have these hard conversations at church so that we can support the youth
35:20 The vulnerability hangover still happens as an adult
37:10 Leaders need to understand that SSA is not a sin
38:10 No reason these youth cannot participate in activities in the Church and even serve a mission
38:45 As leaders, our job is to help the youth feel the Spirit, which won’t happen if they aren’t there
39:35 Important that the youth can take the lead and establish communication, and for leaders to do it if the youth aren’t ready for that
41:50 Ask them what they need from you and follow their lead
43:50 The youth don’t have a problem with their gay peers. It’s the adults who are concerned.
45:15 Experiencing SSA doesn’t mean they are perverted or attracted to everyone
47:00 Building barriers actually gives the issue power
47:45 Example of leaders and parents overreacting, but the youth weren’t uncomfortable at all
49:05 It’s good to have a connection and include the youth instead of excluding them
50:15 Example of an SSA youth with a girlfriend: establish the rules but don’t prevent them from being there and feeling the Spirit
51:45 Love them even if they aren’t making the best choices. Make the boundaries universal for all youth, not just SSA youth.
53:05 Loving the youth and being inclusive isn’t condoning. Have the awkward conversations.
55:00 It’s okay to love your gay child who marries a same-sex partner. If we don’t stay connected to them, who will invite the Spirit into their life?
57:10 Easier to leave the door open for them as a youth than waiting until they are adults and it’s more difficult to come back
57:35 We don’t cut off inactive youth and the same rule should apply to SSA youth
59:35 Open a conversation to find an opportunity to influence instead of shaming
1:00:30 There is power in knowledge and as a youth leader you can only help when you have knowledge and resources
1:00:55 Heavenly Father won’t give us the words to say unless we have done our part to find them first
1:04:15 We are here to gain Christlike attributes and SSA people have a gift to love deeply. Their work is to love within the Lord’s bounds and to teach others to love.
Kurt: Today, I have the opportunity to sit down with Brittany Ellis. How are you, Brittany?
Brittany: I’m good. How are you?
Kurt: Very good. Now, we’re in a random room in the Salt Palace because I have a booth here at Utah Coalition Against Pornography Conference, and you were in town, and so we thought, “Well, we’ll make this work,” and here we are. Where are you from? [00:08:00]
Brittany: I grew up in California in Riverside, but I currently live in La Verne.
Kurt: Nice. That’s in LA area?
Kurt: Great. Put us into context. What do people need to know about you? And then we’ll dive into your story here. But just generally speaking.
Brittany: Generally, speaking, I have been married for 10 years to a wonderful husband. I have three kids: two boys and a girl. They are nine, almost eight – he’s very excited because he gets to be baptized – and four. My girl is my youngest. I have an awesome dog that I just rescued a few months ago that I feel like has captured my heart. His name is Joey.
Kurt: And you’re a student, right?
Brittany: I’m a student. I go to school hoping to become an American Sign Language interpreter.
Kurt: Is that at a university or is at a more of a technical type of approach?
Brittany: Well, it’s technically offered like a community college. [00:09:01] It’s like a certificate type program. But I’m doing my associates at the same time, because I got married young and went straight to having kids and a family and I didn’t quite get…
Kurt: Well, good. I’m glad that you’re going back and making it happen.
Brittany: Yeah, I enjoy it a lot. It’s a lot of fun.
Kurt: We got to figure out a way to do a sign language podcast. Is that a thing?
Brittany: I think we would just make it a video.
Kurt: Right, right, just a video that they could watch.
Brittany: I guess if you type it all up, they could just read it.
Kurt: Right. I just love podcast so much, I’m like, “They’re missing out.” There’s other ways to get content. The topic that we’re going to discuss today is part of your background is that you’re gay.
Kurt: Nice. Where does that story begin? How young were you when you thought, “All right, something’s different than the other girls in my class?”
Brittany: I was around 12. I didn’t quite understand why everybody was into boys. I played along, but I was like, “I don’t really get it.”
Kurt: Were you a tomboy type of thing?
Brittany: I was. I mean, I wasn’t like super tomboy, but I did enjoy sports. [00:10:03] I enjoyed being outdoors. I didn’t really like the color pink. My sisters loved pink. They dressed up like Easter baskets. I was more into neutral colors, and I wasn’t like big on makeup or Barbies. But I didn’t feel too different until everybody started having crushes on people and I was like, “Oh, I don’t get it. But okay, sure. Yeah, he’s cute.”
But it wasn’t until like 12 or 13 I kind of started to realize, I started having more connection to girls than I thought. Then I went to a slumber party and a friend held my hand, and that’s when I first was like, “Oh, is this what everybody feels when a boy like holds their hand?” then I was like, “Crap, what does that mean?”
Then I had seen stuff on media, TV had come up with gay women in shows and I was really fascinated and curious about that. [00:11:04] Like, something about it when it pops up just made me be like, “Why does that feel right?” I kind of was trying to explore what this meant, and there were on the same time a woman in my ward…
Kurt: And you grew up in a very traditional…?
Brittany: Yes, very traditional, a member my whole life, baptized at eight, six kids. A member in my ward had left her husband and said she was gay. That happened around the same time that I was figuring out these feelings. So I really looked at that as like, “Okay, what’s happening? What are these people saying? I need information.” Gossip wasn’t good.
I came away as a 13-year-old thinking, “You can’t be gay and Mormon.” So I was like, “I’m just going to shove those feelings away and maybe God will take it away and I’m just going to focus on being Mormon. That’s what I want to be. I want to be a strong member of the church.”
Kurt: And your faith from a young age developed in a strong testimony.
Brittany: It did. My mom had a lot of health challenges growing up, and I learned from a young age to be strong and to depend on my savior a lot. My parents are good examples of that. So I felt like I knew from a young age I want to stay in the Gospel. So I buried it.
Kurt: That’s the typical story right there.
Kurt: Well, that means I have to bury this so deep that nobody will ever find this.
Brittany: Yeah, yeah. So I buried it. Then at 15, it was just too much, I couldn’t handle it. [00:12:03] I hinted around it towards a friend and she had me come over to her house, and she just asked me, “Do you think you’re gay?” I couldn’t even say the words. I just nodded my head and cried. She was like, “I think you should talk to a bishop.” I was like, “Okay.”
Kurt: How did you feel about that?
Brittany: Terrified. I was terrified. But at that point, it had been a few years and I just felt horrible. I felt so heavy from this burden of the secret that I didn’t know what to do. At that point, I was desperate. I was just like, “Someone needs to give me an answer.”
Kurt: Did you consider talking to your parents about it? Or was that relationship there?
Brittany: No. I have always known my parents loved me no matter what, but I think because we had all these other health issues and stuff going on, I felt like I didn’t want to burden anybody with any more things, especially if I didn’t know what it meant. [00:13:02]
Kurt: I can see, as a teenager, that being a big deal. You don’t want to be one more burden on your family.
Brittany: Exactly. I was like, “I’m just going to figure this out.” So I told my other close friend and she drove me to the bishop.
Kurt: These are wards friends?
Brittany: They were my two best friends growing up. I told him, “I believe in Heavenly Father, I believe in Jesus Christ, I believe in the proclamation to the family, I believe that men and women are supposed to be together, but I think I’m gay and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with that. Can I get rid of it? Is there a way? Is there not? What do I do”
Kurt: This is where I’m crossing my fingers, like, “What did he say? What did he say?”
Brittany: I think you are going to be disappointed.
Kurt: And bless his heart.
Brittany: And bless his heart. This is what I’ve come to realize is the poor bishops back then, even still, now they don’t know what to do sometimes. It’s way more talked about now, which is amazing, but back then, it wasn’t, especially with girls. I think with boys this is maybe talked about a little bit more, but not with girls.
So he was quiet for quite some time said, “Well, you have testimonies. [00:14:03] I think you’ve got it figured out.” And then gave me a pamphlet that didn’t apply. I don’t remember what it was, but I know it didn’t apply.
Kurt: We love our pamphlets as bishops.
Brittany: Then he sent me on my way, and then he never talked to me about it again. So I just walked away feeling defeated and was back to burying it. I turned 16 and did what a lot of SSA people do when they’re growing up. You either date a ton, or you don’t date at all. I went the approach of one of these boys is bound to make me straight.
I just dated a ton and kissed a ton of boys and was like, “No, that one didn’t work.” Next guy. “No, that didn’t work. So I dated a ton and it didn’t work, and I was like, “All right, I’m just going to do my own thing. I’m going to be single, stay in the church.”
Kurt: Did you get to that point after high school?
Brittany: Near my senior year. [00:15:00] Then I’d had a boyfriend for a little while that I connected really well with emotionally and went on mission, but it was more…I don’t know. I always liked him more as my best friend. Then I got my patriarchal blessing. Then they talked about having a family, I was a little confused about that. I was like, “That’s not happening, but okay, whatever.” Then six months later, I met my husband.
Kurt: So was it that type of dynamic where you kiss him and is like, “Oh, yeah, this one will work?”
Kurt: How did you describe that?
Brittany: He danced really good and that’s how I met him, dancing. So he had that working in his favor. I don’t know, we just kind of connected emotionally.
Kurt: Where did you meet him?
Brittany: My dad always said, I wouldn’t find a good Mormon boy if I went to clubs and dancing and stuff. But there was a place called the Brandin’ Iron kind of like a bar dance place and I met him there.
Kurt: That’s great.
Brittany: I know, I have to tweak it for my kids later. Somewhere else that we met. But we met. I didn’t even know he was Mormon. I probably shouldn’t keep saying a Mormon. I didn’t know he’s a member of the church. So we danced all night, and then he asked me for a number, I said, “Sure.” [00:16:01] And then when we left, I kind of just thought, “If I date this guy, I might marry him, but I don’t understand that at all.”
So we started dating. And he knows this: I wasn’t attracted to him at first and that was really hard for me. A couple of weeks into dating, I…
Kurt: I mean, you were attracted as far as friendship goes?
Brittany: Yes, yes. We got along.
Kurt: But physically it wasn’t?
Brittany: Physically, it wasn’t there. I remember praying a couple of weeks into our relationship and told my Father, like, “You got to help me out. If you want this to work, I need to be attracted to him on some level. I can’t go into a marriage with no attraction.”
Kurt: Let me stop you here. In between the time you went and saw the bishop as a teen and now, was there any communication? Because I’ve heard it with individuals experiencing same-sex attraction that it sort of comes in waves. Like sometimes it’s just really heavy, and you maybe need to talk more about it. [00:17:00] Did you feel like there were moments where you’d return to the bishop’s office or to a counselor?
Brittany: There were moments where I wanted to, but I didn’t.
Kurt: Because you may get the same response.
Brittany: I figured, like, what’s the point?
Kurt: And bless their hearts.
Brittany: Yeah. I was like, “That’s the point. They’re just going to send me on my way with the pamphlet that doesn’t apply.”
Kurt: Did therapy ever become an idea?
Brittany: Not really. I think because of all my other families stuff; I really did just keep to myself. I just thought that was best for everybody if I just handle this on my own.
Kurt: That makes sense but I think a lot of youth in this stage that’s what they’re doing. It’s sort of new, maybe it doesn’t feel as heavy. I don’t know. But maybe they feel like, “Okay, I can handle this. It’s not that big of a deal. I can carry this.”
Brittany: I think that’s okay at first, but I think Satan works in isolation. So when you start thinking you can handle everything on your own is when he starts to work his way in there.
Kurt: So going back, here you are on the verge of marriage.
Brittany: I kept dating him. I kind of got the answer of like just stick it out. As we started dating, the more I started to love him, the more the physical stuff didn’t matter. I wouldn’t say he just instantly became attractive to me. [00:18:01] It was more of that wasn’t my top priority anymore. And because of loving him, I was attracted to him. And he is an attractive guy. I mean, it’s not like he wasn’t.
Brittany: He’s attractive. Any other straight woman would be lucky, but it just came to me differently. But it to me felt real.
Kurt: Did you share with him that you were gay during the time you were dating?
Brittany: I did. We got engaged and I was like, “It happened sooner than I thought.” I would have given him the heads up beforehand, but I didn’t know it would get…
Kurt: And he’s surprised you.
Kurt: So you returned that surprise?
Brittany: Yeah. I didn’t know I was getting engaged. So I just said, “Like, hey, I kind of have these feelings. I think I’m gay, but I don’t really know what that means. If you’re cool with it and I’m cool with it, let’s get married. If not, you have an out and I won’t hold that against you.” He was like, “You love me, right?” [00:19:00] I’m like, “Yeah.” He was like, “Cool. Then we got married.
We never really talked about it though for like seven years. I was kind of scared. I was like, “He was cool with it then, but if he realizes it didn’t go away after we got married, then what?” And so, I kept it quiet again for a long time.
Kurt: Did it feel like it was a big elephant in the room?
Brittany: No. I felt like for me it was hard, but I don’t think it ever crossed his mind. So around like year seven I finally was like, “We got to start talking about this. I need to talk about this and I need you to hear me out. When I’m struggling, I want to be able to tell you.” He said, “Okay.”
Then we worked through it and everything, and can’t claim all of it. We have an awesome therapist. I can’t be like, “Yeah, I figured it out on my own.” No.
Kurt: That’s important to mention.
Brittany: Yeah, we had help for sure. It was good and we’ve been doing good since.
Kurt: How many kids do you have?
Kurt: Nice. So you’re about halfway.
Brittany: No, we’re done.
Kurt: I’m kidding. I’m kidding. How would you describe it as far as present day? [00:20:00] Is it sort of this roller coaster, up and down and you go through phases where you really have to be open and talk about it? What’s that dynamic like? How would you describe it?
Brittany: It definitely comes in waves. I think that it comes with anything. I mean, sometimes we’re really on point with reading our scriptures and other times we’re like, “Dang. It’s been three days and I haven’t read.” It feels like it’s kind of like that where I go days, weeks being it doesn’t even cross my mind, and then, I don’t know, I’ll see an attractive woman or something, and it kind of hits me and I’m like, “Oh, dang.”
Before I used to shame myself. I’d be like, “Oh, my gosh, don’t look at her. Oh, man.” I’d beat myself up. Now I just crack a joke in my head. I’d be like, “You would think she’s attractive. Okay, move on.” And then it’s fine.
Kurt: Are there certain tools or tactics that your therapist has helped you work through that or that you’ve developed? Is it just not allowing the shame to take over?
Brittany: I think not allowing the shame is huge. [00:21:00] I had a friend to tell me like, “Just crack a joke in your head.” And that’s what she did. And I was like, “Okay.” That helped a ton. I think that when you look at it so heavily, it becomes heavy. But if you can look at it lighter, then it’s not so big, and it’s not so…I don’t want to say hard, but it feels easier to manage.
So I crack a lot of jokes. I journal like crazy. I love art. I do these scripture doodles where I draw about scriptures a conference talks. That’s a really good way for me to kind of sort my feelings out on paper. But it does come in waves and I just have to remind myself when it’s harder to lean more into my Heavenly Father and to be very open with my husband. I mean, he’s a great support. He’s really comforting and kind.
Kurt: Has he had to learn maybe his own tactics?
Brittany: Yeah, he has his own journey for sure.
Kurt: Would it be worth mentioning, or maybe that’s a whole nother podcast?
Brittany: No, it might be a whole nother podcast. But he definitely had to learn. I give him a lot of respect because he did a lot of it. [00:22:00] Once he realized it was important to me and it was important to our marriage, he did a lot of research on his own. He looked up websites and people’s stories.
I’m a part of a group called North Stars, so he looked up a lot of their information and asked me a ton of questions and really tried to learn. He’s still learning and he’s still trying to figure it out, but that was huge for me, just him showing an interest. And so, over the last couple years, he’s gotten really good at just listening, just not trying to fix it, just listening and loving me. That’s the best support I could ever have.
Kurt: Does therapy included both of you going to therapy at the same time?
Brittany: Yeah, yeah. Both of us, each of us on our own. The whole mixture.
Kurt: I want to be clear as we hear about your experience that it’s not like you found the magic bullet or your journey and tactics will work for everybody. [00:23:02] But it’s interesting just to hear because…Myself who I don’t experience same-sex attraction, I don’t know how I would reconcile or do the day to day. So it’s helpful as a leader to hear that, to see that someone is doing it and it’s not like you’ll white-knuckle it every minute.
Brittany: No, no. It definitely comes up and down. But I think I look at it often as we all have a void sometimes. For some, it’s their child died. For another, they are in a wheelchair and can’t walk the rest of their life. My void isn’t harder than anybody else’s. It’s just different. It’s unique to me and to whatever.
I feel like often I just have to remind myself that I’m not the only one with a hard thing. And while I might feel like it’s very individual, “Oh, but no one has to deal with this, or this or that ever,” I just have to stop and get perspective. I have to remind myself everybody has a void.
I could choose to fill that void by leaving my family and acting upon those feelings, but then I’m just going to replace it with another void, which is not having the gospel and not having the Spirit with me. So I just pick which void I’d rather have. I would much rather have the gospel. And with the gospel and with the atonement, I feel like that void gets full enough. And it might not be till the next life that it gets completely full based on my perspective, but it’s full enough to where I feel like I can do it. [00:24:04]
Brittany: I think that’s such a great perspective for leaders to really understand and absorb is that, you know, counseling with somebody or helping someone through a hard time to recognize that we all have voids. I’m not saying my void is like your void or the tactics I use for my void will work for your void, but it’s through the void that we find Christ and that we grow and develop and are healed, right?
Kurt: Because especially as a youth, you can feel like not only am I the only one with this void, I think I’m the only one with a void.
Brittany: I can’t tell you how many SSA individuals think they were the only one for years. I did. I did not know until as an adult that I wasn’t the only SSA woman married to a man staying in the church. When I realized I wasn’t, I was just shocked. I was like, “What? There’s more people like me?” It was insane. [00:25:09]
For youth, I think they totally feel that way where they not only are like, “Oh, man, I’m the only one feeling this.” Then they’re like, “No one else feels the way I do. Oh, man. I’m so different.” And they don’t realize that they’re not the only one. There’s tons of us out there.
Kurt: So how did you come across North Star?
Brittany: Well, there was a woman in my stake that had come out as gay at the time, and she was part of North Star and she did Voices of Hope. But I had met another friend, and that friend had mentioned it and was like, “Hey, yeah, there’s this group called North Star, blah, blah, blah.” And I was like, “Oh, cool.”
Then shortly after I met the woman in my stake and watch her Voices of Hope, and talk with her forever. And between those two, I hit the ground running on the North Star kick.
Kurt: And you’ve been – did you say three conferences?
Brittany: This next year I think will be three or this coming March.
Kurt: Yeah, just a couple weeks.
Brittany: A couple of weeks, yeah. It’s closer than I thought. I loved it. I remember being terrified to go in. [00:26:00]
Kurt: Everybody has shared that with me that they walk in feeling like everybody’s been looking at me.
Brittany: I was like, “I’m literally coming out to hundreds of people at once right now just by walking through one door.”
Kurt: It’s funny because I walk around thinking like that people think I’m gay. And that’s okay. It’s not like I walk around, “I’m not. I’m not.” It’s just funny to be in that arena.
Brittany: I told my husband last year when he came to the conference. I was like, “People are probably going to assume you’re the gay one and I’m not.” He was like, “Okay.” But no, it was great though. I realized after like 40 minutes of being there, I was like, “These are my people. This is great.”
Kurt: Lots of hugs going around.
Brittany: Everybody’s just like me. Why was I terrified? It was great.
Kurt: How would you describe to somebody that you’re just telling you about North Star, whether it’s a leader or somebody in the LGBT community, what sort of resource has it been for you?
Brittany: It’s been great. For one, like I just mentioned, realizing I wasn’t alone is huge. And like I said…
Brittany: Yeah. So when I thought I’m the only one doing this, I’m the only one trying, I’m the only one who is married trying to make this work, realizing I wasn’t was like the best news ever. On top of it, the connections of the relationships I’ve made. I’ve made a lot of really good friends that experience the same thing that I’m so eternally grateful for. That have impacted my life and influenced me in ways that I forever been changed by.
I think, the workshops at conferences that North Star provides a really great. They are insightful. They’re kind. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a negative thing at any of their conferences. I felt the Spirit in a bunch of different sessions and I just walked away feeling uplifted, like I can do this life, I got this. And I love that.
So now, anytime they have anything…I mean, I live in a different state than where it’s…it’s mostly out of Utah and obviously, I can’t be up here all the time. [00:28:02] But when I have stuff I can make it to, I definitely make it a point.
Kurt: Is there any a smaller gatherings or things that happen in your neck of the woods?
Brittany: Yeah, yeah. I’m on the Executive Committee of North Star and I’m also over the events committee. We just recently started doing quarterly get together. So it means that we’ll pick like a game night, or local barbecue, or whatever and we find different people in different states and different cities to open up their home, or to pick a location where anybody in that area can come for one night every like three months and get together and socialize and meet who’s around you that’s going through similar things.
We just had one recently, let’s say maybe like a month or so ago – I don’t know the exact date off top my head – but it was really fun. We had people from all over come hang out at my house. It was many locations in Utah and Idaho. So I’m on the East Coast.
We have a lot of little kinks that we want to work out. I don’t think we’ve got it out there soon enough. We kind of want to get more host to open up their homes to that we can have maybe smaller groups and more places versus big groups and a few. [00:29:03] But it was great. So there’s definitely local area…
Kurt: It’s not just the conference.
Brittany: Yeah, it’s not just the conference.
Kurt: Though that’s a big part of it.
Brittany: Yeah, yeah. We’re trying to have it expand out. The hard part is just getting people to come out so that we can all get together. I’m sure there’s tons in every Ward and Stake that just aren’t out and we don’t know.
Kurt: The reason why I definitely want to interview you is I have a friend who’s in a Stake and is a president and she had some questions and concerns as it related to LGBT youth, and how to best minister to them and love them. She talked to both Ben and Becky in North Star, and then they connected her to you. And after the phone call with you, she said, “You have got to interview Brittany. She will be so helpful.” But we’ll see about that.
But I wanted to have a really strong discussion in the context of LGBT youth in our wards and young men, young women, and how to fellowship to them and love them and make them feel comfortable. [00:30:02] Because I think we’re figuring out little by little through resources like Leading Saints and North Star like, “Okay, I get it. I need to be more loving and not there to remind them that, oh, did you forget that you’re just sinning?” That sort of thing.
But then it comes down to the practical things like, “Okay, now we’re going on girls’ camp or now we’re going to a youth conference or a boy scout camp, or whatever it is.” So how is that dynamic? All those things. Let’s hit some of those points that you’ve prepared. But I guess that you mentioned it starts with a poem that you wrote when you were 15?
Brittany: Yeah, sometime around 15. That friend I mentioned earlier that asked me for the first time if I was gay, and then told me I should go to a Bishop, I had read her this poem. That was my cry for help without saying it and she picked up on it real quick. I only bring this up because I think that it’s how most youth feel that go through this. I’m not like a poet so it’s not going to be like the best thing ever heard. But it’s called Running.
What I fear that most is admitting to my secrets
If I say them out loud, they become real.
Real as the sun and moon and real as life itself.
So I run.
I run as hard and as fast as I can from the idea of who and what I could be
And run to the idea of who I want to be or should be
I haven’t figured it out yet
I run from feeling alone like I’m the only one who feels out of place
Like I’m the only one with secret, secrets like mine
I push them out of my head.
At least I try
But it doesn’t mean I don’t think about it
I feel helpless, hopeless in a way that don’t know what to do
And I have no one to share the burden with
It’s for me to carry alone the secrets that will never be spoken never to leave my lips
I refuse to make it a reality
I refuse to have it take over my life, though at times I feel it already has
That I keep refusing and I keep running
Even if I’m tired and exhausted, I keep running
And I fear I will never stop
And that is what scares me the most
Not knowing how long I will have to run
Kurt: Wow. [00:32:00] Well, if you’re not a poet, you should be one. That’s powerful. I mean, that describes where you’re at as a youth, and I think many LGBT youths would be able to relate to that, right?
Brittany: Yeah, yeah, definitely.
Kurt: You mentioned this a few times like, “There’s this feeling of I got to bury this even if it comes to the surface. I can’t even like articulate the words with my lips.”
Brittany: Yes. I felt like if I said it out loud, I don’t know, lightning would strike me or something. Like something bad would happen if I even just said it.
Kurt: Because you’re almost like admitting to it and you’re owning it at that point, right?
Brittany: Yes. If I admit to it, then what? Do I have to run with it? Do I have to act on it? Do I have to tell people? I mean, there’s all questions going through my mind of, you know, what does it mean? And if I say it out loud, then it’s real and I can’t deny it. I can’t keep shoving it away.
So I feel like the reason why everybody makes it a big deal with coming out is because you can’t put it back once you do. Your mind is really tricky thing. I feel like it can keep things at bay, [00:33:00] but the moment you let it come to the surface, you can’t push it back in. And then it’s there and you have to deal with it.
If you’re youth that doesn’t have resources and doesn’t know who’s safe to tell, and who isn’t, if you come out and you say those words out loud, you now feel accountable to figure it out. And what do you do if you don’t know where to go from there?
Kurt: Yeah. I guess I hesitate when I ask this, but as part of the resource and help and mentorship youth leader or Bishop could offer to youth is help them come out, help them articulate that? Is it freeing when it comes out or is it just like more of a [battle?]?
Brittany: Well, there’s a thing that my friend had told me. It is the perfect way to explain it. It’s called the vulnerability hangover. That is what it is. It’s freeing to say it out loud for the first time, or every time. [00:34:02] but then there’s this massive vulnerability shock of “Oh my gosh, what did I just do? What did I just say? Is this person going to tell the whole world? Do they hate me? Do they like me?” And you start running with all these freak outs. “Oh, my gosh, I just shared this personal thing. And you start to panic, and you don’t want to talk and you feel like you need to hide yourself. That’s the vulnerability hangover where it’s just so heavy and so much. So I think that it is freeing.
I think it is not that we need to coach these kids how to come out but help them with the vulnerability hangover after they come out.
Kurt: That’s so powerful it. I can imagine maybe a setting where even with parents, maybe their daughter or son comes out and there’s this beautiful moment, the Spirit’s there, we love you, hugs, kisses, and then everybody wakes up the next morning and is eating Cheerios. That’s the vulnerability you had, right?
Brittany: Yes. And that’s where I think we need to give the youth most support. I think the youth if they feel safe, they will come out. They will tell. And it’s going to be in their own time. [00:34:58] If you present an environment, whether it’s at church or at home, where it’s talked about, then they will come out.
I’m a firm believer that we need to start talking about the hard conversations at church. It needs to be talked about. I know it’s awkward and hard for a lot of people, but if it’s not talked about, these youths aren’t going to open up. It needs to be a common thing that it’s not taboo to talk about it. “If you talk about it, all of a sudden, all young women are going to be gay.” That’s not how it works.
Kurt: It’s not contagious.
Brittany: It’s not contagious. So it needs to be talked about. And if it is, we can lend a lot of support for the aftermath. Because it is awkward, even as an adult. I mean, I came out to a friend of mine and then the next day, I was a jerk to her. I was mean, I was snappy because I was freaking out inside.
Kurt: The hangover.
Brittany: Yeah. It was like, “Oh, my gosh, what did I just do? What did she think?” It was really interesting. She was really kind and she’s like, “I think you’re freaking out, I’m going to give you some space today. Let’s talk again tomorrow.” And that’s when I realized, “I am freaking out. She doesn’t deserve that.” [00:36:00] So, I think we need to lend a lot of support to the aftermath.
Kurt: That’s so powerful. We’ll be plugging throughout this episode the North Star conference, especially the leadership sessions that are free for leaders, any members of Ward councils to come, young women’s presidents, young men’s presidents, bishops, release society presidents, free for these sessions. You can register online. But because as you say that like, because on paper makes sense, yes we need to have more of these conversations. These are real conversations at church, but I don’t know how to do that. But we have a whole conference, a whole resource, you couldn’t even figure out how to have those conversations.
Brittany: Meet people, bring them back to your state. Come to a fireside. Come talk to your youth.
Kurt: And walk away being able to tell your youth, “I was at this conference, and let me tell you about it.” And that’s where safety is created. Right?
Brittany: Yeah, definitely.
Kurt: And the other thoughts with the vulnerability hangover, which I love, I think we need to print t-shirts—
Brittany: Well, I can’t take credit for it, but I’m going to run with it.
Kurt: I guess my mind goes to creating some normalcy there because you mentioned before we hit record that a lot of youth feel like, now that I have come out, I probably won’t be able to serve a mission or now that I come out I guess overnight scout trips or girls camp is not an option. So almost establishing some normalcy of this doesn’t change anything, right?
Brittany: Yeah. I think that leaders need to be more clear. I think a lot of leaders don’t know either, so maybe they need to come to the conference or listen to things like this podcast because even Christ was tempted. I think it’s Matthew 4…Let me look real quick. I had it written down.
Kurt: It’s The Come follow Me lesson.
Brittany: The Come Follow Me lesson. I think it was like two weeks ago that we studied it. It’s Matthew 4:1. It says, “Then Jesus was lead up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” I love that because even Christ was tempted and he was this perfect being. We are not our own temptations. [00:38:00] We have them, but it doesn’t mean we’re sinning.
So I think that needs to be clear to the leaders and clear to the youth that even if you feel like you’re gay, or bi or ensexual, or transgender, or whatever it is, whatever blanket you fall under, it’s not a sin to have those feelings. Girls’ Camp, Scout Camp, High Adventure, there’s no reason why you can’t go. There’s no reason why you can’t serve a mission.
I had talked to a few different people and when I was in the stake in women’s in my old stake for a while, and we had a young woman leader come up and say, “We have a girl, it’s an active, she’s gay, but she wants to come to camp. What do we do?” My leader or my president and counselors, they know I’m gay. They just looked at me and were like, “What do we do?”
Kurt: “This is your area.”
Brittany: Yeah, “This is your expertise.” I was like, “You let the girl come.” [00:39:00] Our job as leaders is to have these youths come to an environment to feel the Spirit. And we can’t do that if we exclude them from those environments. It is our job to let the spirit do the work and we need to create environments that they can feel safe to come and experience him.
Kurt: I want to dig into several of those types of six scenarios because I think a lot of leaders they have no clue what to do. Right?
Kurt: As far as helping with this vulnerability hangovers, I mean, creating normalcy, encouragement, like nothing’s changing, anything else that would help?
Brittany: I think youth should…We’re all agents into ourselves, it talks about in the scriptures, and I love giving them that power to act themselves. So I would suggest to leaders, but also any youth that are listening, or parents that are listening of youth that are experiencing same-sex attraction, [00:40:02] I think it’s important that they take control and say, “I might freak out tomorrow, I might need extra love tomorrow, I am might need you to remind me 100 times in the next week that you’re okay with me.” And have them be open and establish that communication.
But for youth that aren’t doing that, that don’t take that lead, we need to establish that as leaders. We need to say, “You might feel very vulnerable tomorrow. And guess what? I’m still going to love you and I’m going to text you, and I’m going to tell you, I love you.”
I had a friend that I came out to once. We were both on like a vacation. I met up with her for a few days, and I came back and there was two days of no cell service. I was freaking out for those two days. I’m like, “Oh, she probably hates me. I don’t know. She probably thinks I’m so weird.” The moment she got back into town, she jumped off like banana bread at my house. She was like, “I love you.”
That meant the world to me that she just did that little bit extra to say, “I still love you. I’m your friend. I’m here. Have some bread.”
Kurt: I think that’s how I would summarize it is that they continual communication. Which your story early on as a youth for that Bishop just didn’t even talk about it again, right?
Brittany: Yeah. If he would have just checked in and just said, “How are you? [00:41:00] Do you want to talk about it again?” That would have meant the world to me. But it didn’t. It was no communication. I don’t even think he made eye contact with me after that. It probably was very uncomfortable for him.
Kurt: That’s not the first type of that example I’ve heard of leaders that just…Again, no fault to them. They’re petrified but in those scenarios, they don’t what to say, they don’t know how to fix it and so they just avoid it. I can relate to that a lot. And really, it’s not that you have to continue that contact and that connection and communication because you have to talk about it. You don’t have to talk about it. I love that.
Brittany: Just drop [inaudible 00:41:41]
Kurt: Maybe give them an opportunity. “Do you want to talk about it more? Or just how’s life?”
Brittany: It’s good I think for leaders also to ask, like “What do you need from me?” Because I think some leaders take the approach of “They came to me, and now I need to do this, I need to do this and do this.” It slows your roll.” [00:42:00] When I came out to bishops as an adult, I would say, like, “I’m coming to you, I’m telling you I have this challenge, and what I need for you is just to know about it. Use me as a resource and love me despite or whatever.”
And they’re like, relieved, like, “Okay, thanks. Now I know what you need for me and I could do that.” So I think it’s important for a bishop or a young women’s leader, young men’s leader to tell their youth like, “Thanks for telling me. What can I do? Do you want me to check in with you like every week? Should we send scriptures back and forth to each other every day? Do you want to, I don’t know, hang out? I don’t know. Do you need a hug every time you see me at church? What do you need?”
Kurt: That’s powerful. Because as leaders, oftentimes, we feel like we need to lead out. But no, follow their lead. “How do you want me to help with this situation? What do you need?”
Brittany: And if the youth say, “I don’t know,” be like, “Hey, let’s figure it out together. Let’s start with checking in once a week and just saying, how are you? Are you doing okay? Did you have a hard week? [00:43:01] Have you told your parents yet? How do you feel about that?” Just start somewhere. So if they don’t give you any lead, pick something.
But most often, I think we know what we need, we just don’t want to say it. So if we can just ask them, “What do you need?” and work from there.
Kurt: That’s great. Let’s dig into some of these scenarios. They’re sticky. Help me because I don’t get these questions like you do maybe. But oftentimes, it is girls camp that obviously, we go on a youth conference, we’re not putting the boys who are attracted to the girls in some of the girls’ tent when they’re dressing and things. But even for the straight youth, they may be concerned about that. “Well, yeah, I heard she’s gay and here we are changing.” So what are some of the scenarios you here in some of those places? [00:43:59]
Brittany: I want to start off by saying, I don’t think the youth are the ones that have a problem with that. I think the leaders are the ones that are uncomfortable with it. I think that it is so common to…
Kurt: …to assume that the youth that have a problem.
Brittany: Yeah. I think that the youth are surrounded by people who are gay and bi and transgender and we live in this wonderful age of “let’s just love everybody, let’s just be friends with everybody. No hate man.” They’re real lovey-dovey.
Kurt: That’s true because I asked my nieces and nephews who are in high school, I said, “So are there gay students that hold hands and kiss in the hall?” And like, “Oh, yeah, absolutely.” I was in high school in the late 90s, that was not culturally normal. But now, it’s happening. So they’re used to that.
Brittany: They’re used to that. It’s in almost every TV show. I mean, I pretty much avoid media because I don’t really think it’s good for me if it’s in it. But it’s everywhere. I mean, I think I watched the same like five shows from 10 years ago because I’m like, “It’s safe. [00:45:00] There’s nothing in there.” But it’s everywhere.
They’re not fazed by it at all. It’s the leaders that have a problem with it. I mean, if they’re at girls camp and they are in the same camp and all the girls are changing, most likely that girl that’s gay isn’t going to look around because she doesn’t want to make people feel uncomfortable. I’m going to start by saying, just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you’re attracted to every single person you see. Just like if I was straight, I’m not attracted to every man I see walking down the street, it’s the same for women. Or if you’re gay man., you’re not attracted to every man you see or whatever.
Kurt: We can assume that they’re like a perverted in everything that they do.
Brittany: Yeah. I mean, we have some self-control.
Kurt: And it’s tough with teenagers because there’s hormone that is happening.
Brittany: But mostly, I think that most of the time they’re not going to be attracted to half the young women that they see at girls’ camp or whatever. But even so, when it comes to changing, I mean, you can make it a rule that “Okay, everybody changes in the bathroom. One person stall, everybody changes in the bathroom,” if you’re really worried about it. [00:46:02]
But I’m going to tell you, I don’t think the youth are worried. And if they are, they will tell their leader and then you take action from there by making the bathroom role or whatever. But as far as sleeping in the same tent, and all that, I mean, there’s a reason why there’s like to deep leadership. I don’t know. I think it’s funny. Maybe from my perspective, I’m like, “I wasn’t going to go crawling around and people’s beds at girls’ camp trying to do stuff or whatever.”
Kurt: And I’m sure so there’s some outliers out there, like, “Oh, I need to email my story that this happened.” Right?
Kurt: And sure, that’s going to happen even on youth conferences with boys and girls – you find the two that are making out in the woods or whatever.
Brittany: But I think that we just have to remember that these are like…I mean, I guess from my perspective, like girls’ camp that we are like, daughters of God. Girls are naturally more affectionate, girls are naturally like …they change in front of each other and they’re not fazed by it. That the more emphasis you put on it, the more you try to build all these barriers, the more awkward and the more power you give it. [00:47:00]
If we can just take a deep breath, and if something comes up in someone’s unsure, feels uncomfortable, then you approach it with a loving way. And you don’t have to tell the youth it’s for that reason. You just be like, “Hey, leaders, we like coming out to your tent sometimes and stuff just to make sure that we’re not walking in on you changing. We’re going to have a bathroom rule. Change in the bathroom or whatever.”
Kurt: So for leaders, it feels like it is a larger issue than typically normal than they can have a general rule for everybody. “This is how we do.”
Brittany: Yeah. Don’t separate the girl. Don’t give her own tent and say, “This is where you sleep and this is where you change.” That’s horrible. I mean, you don’t want to isolate a person and make them feel like they’re not welcome, because they are. But I think that how you go about it I know that…I’ve heard of leaders that have found out a girl on their ward or their stake is gay and they told all the other parents, [00:48:06] and went to the bishop and demand that this girl cannot go to camp, and then demanded if she did she needed to be in her own tent away from the other girls.
I asked this leader that was telling me this, and I said, “Well, what did the girls think?” And they’re like, “The girls didn’t care.” But the leader, the moms were freaking out.
Kurt: Typically, it comes from the parents going to these leaders or to the bishop and saying, “You’ve got to do something.”
Brittany: And nobody stopped to ask this girl, “How do you feel about it? Are you uncomfortable? Are you okay?” Or as the youth, like, “Okay, we all know this girl’s gay Now, how do you feel better a call with her being in the same room as you are or you’re not?”
They just assume that this can’t be good. It’s the same, my daddy when I came out to him as an adult said like, “Do you think it’s wise to have friends that are girls?” I was like, “Who am I supposed to be friends with? Married men? I’m married.” That doesn’t quite work well with other people. And it’s just people think like, ‘Oh, if you have this struggle, stay away from it. [00:49:02] Don’t go near it.” But that’s not realistic. It’s okay to have connection. And it’s okay to—
Kurt: It’s crucial to have connections.
Brittany: Yeah. It’s good to love other people. We just have to learn to love within the Lord’s bounds. And let’s help our youth learn it. Don’t isolate them. Let’s teach them.
Kurt: The other point is, and maybe you’ve touched on this, but love, love, love, but don’t exclude. Or sometimes people will love, love, love them, but it’s important that they also include them in these things. Anything we’ve missed on that point?
Brittany: Let me think. I don’t think we’ve really missed much. I mean, if you think about church, and these young men and young women’s programs, the whole point is to get them together to give them a place that is surrounded with good things, good people in the Spirit. [00:50:10]
So if our job is to help their testimonies grow, and to enrich their lives and help uplift their spirit, then why would we exclude them? We need to bring them. I’m trying to keep people anonymous. I had somebody talked to me that was a young woman’s president that said, “I have a girl in my ward that’s gay and she has a girlfriend. What do I do? She wants to bring her to mutual.”
Kurt: I was going to go there now. There are some youth that maybe have a boyfriend or girlfriend and are acting out in that way.
Brittany: I said, “Let them come to mutual.” But you can establish that boys and girls that are straight and mutual but not allowed to hold hands, they’re not allowed to be off making out and whatever. So you just establish the rules like we would love to have your girlfriend come to mutual, but be respectful. [00:51:00] Don’t hold hands, don’t kiss but come. Because who’s to say that that girl, that friend or you know the girlfriend that is in a member, who’s to say we don’t want her to feel the Spirit? Let’s have her feel the Spirit. A lot of people know Courtney and Rachelle. Do you know them?
Kurt: Yeah. One was in the church and then other converted and they were…Were they married?
Kurt: In Oregon or Washington or something like that. We will link to their story. There’s a video.
Brittany: Yeah, it’s great. Rachelle wasn’t a member of the church. And then when Courtney decided she wanted to go back, she ended up taking missionary discussions and then they got divorced and they came back and Rachelle got baptized. So I think that, who are we to say, because they have a girlfriend that they shouldn’t feel the Spirit or they have a boyfriend and they can’t come to the young men’s activity together, or whatever?
Just establish boundaries of let’s be respectful. Let’s bring them, have fun. [00:52:00] This way they feel included, they know their loved but you’re clear of we might not like think it’s the best way or like, “Hey, we believe in the church that marriage between man and woman and that’s how relationships should be, but I’m going to love you either way. You want to bring your girlfriend, fine, but make sure the boundaries are set.
Kurt: One thing I’m hearing, a pitfall that often happens is sometimes rules or boundaries are created just for that – for the LGBT youth. Well, make them general.
Brittany: They needs to be general.
Kurt: Yeah, boys and girls don’t do this. Girls and girls don’t hold hands.
Brittany: Exactly. Don’t point pointed out as just them of “You can’t do this though.” But if like Susie over here comes with their boyfriend, sure, they can sit close and cuddle and hold hands. No, it needs to be like a blanket rule for everybody.
Kurt: That’s where a lot of unintended shame comes in. “Oh, you’re different and broken so we’re going to treat you differently.
Brittany: Yeah, exactly.
Kurt: Awesome. What about just this feeling and maybe sometimes maybe going back to this relationship with a girl wants to bring her girlfriend to a youth activity. Sometimes there’s this feeling of, well, if we let them do that were sort of indirectly condoning what they’re doing. How do you draw that balance of loving, but not condoning from your perspective? [00:53:03]
Brittany: I had a someone talked to me about something similar to that where they had a youth in their ward that felt like people weren’t accepting of her, so why even bother coming? Because she had a girlfriend. And I had given this girl advice like, “Let her bring her girlfriend.” And she did.
She came and she was just clear because they had like a Sunday lesson on the proclamation to the family. And that was really hard for that girl to hear, because of what it talks about, what a family looks like. She just talked to her and she asked me like, “What I say to this girl?” I was like, “You talk about it. We do believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. We do believe that. We do believe that through the Gospels we’re going to have the most happiness. [00:54:01] But if that’s a path you’re not going to choose, then still be here, still love each other.”
I don’t think it’s condoning what they do by being inclusive. I think it’s okay to have a real conversation before I hand her this could be awkward for some people or it could be awkward for you. I mean, it’s probably going to be really uncomfortable for that girl if she wants to bring her girlfriend knowing that this kind of goes conflicts with what she’s being taught. But saying that we love you and we want you here…
I mean, if it was an adult woman married to another woman, and they want to come to our sacrament meeting, we wouldn’t stop them. And by them coming to our sacrament meeting, we’re not saying, “Hey, good job. We support you. Wait to get married.” We’re saying like, “I love you either way.”
So if we wouldn’t do that to an adult, why would we do that to these youths when they need us the most? Why would we say, “No, you can’t do that. You can’t be here that way. You can, you know, whatever?” It seems like a double standard to me. [00:55:00]
Like when people talk about like, “Well, if my son is gay and he’s getting married, and he wants me to come to my wedding,” I feel like if I go, I’m condoning what he’s doing and it goes against what I believe. But if I don’t, then I’m saying I don’t love him.”
We’ve been told many times by leaders and stuff that it’s okay to love your son. That’s your kid. It’s okay to go. You don’t have to change what you believe and still support them in their journey and in their choices. That’s the beauty of free agency that we get to choose for ourselves and we don’t get to take that away from somebody. We can choose to be a part of their journey and influence where we can.
I mean, if we don’t stay connected to these people when they leave, who’s going to invite the Spirit into their life? [00:56:00] I mean, I think Bennett Borden, his story—
Kurt: His story is perfect for that.
Brittany: Yeah, talks about that. So I think it’s really important that we don’t exclude. And I think we kind of need to get away from that condone attitude. I feel like it’s more church culture, not church doctrine.
Kurt: Perfect. You’re not making a public statement by being inclusive of the individuals with diverse backgrounds.
Brittany: We are hanging rainbow flags, and being like, “Hey.” But we’re saying, “Hey, we’re here. I love you. Come.”
Kurt: I don’t know if this is appropriate, but it’s like we can go to the parade but that doesn’t mean we have to march in the parade. You know what I mean?
Kurt: But nonetheless, we have to strike a balance there. I think people just sort of default to like, “Well, I’m going to be super clear on where I stand and just completely remove me and them from this situation so that people know that I’m not condoning.” But I refer people to the Tom Christofferson interview I did with his bishop and stake president that they didn’t condone anything, but they were overwhelmingly inviting and saying, “There’s always a pew available for you and your partner. [00:57:02] Will you come to our 4th of July breakfast? We’ll just say the prayer on 4th July breakfast.” Those types of things that then later on, opened the door for Tom to step through to say, “You know, I think I’m ready to come back.”
Brittany: I think it’s going to be way easier if we take that approach with the youth than when we wait till they’re adults to take that approach when they’ve already maybe taken the harder roads and it’s harder to come back from. If we can get that same attitude towards the youth at a young age of “I love you. You want to date a girl right now, you have your own free agency, but I still love you. I’m still going to be here, I’m still going to check in on you, I’m still going to call you out.”
The same thing if a less active girl stops coming to church, we don’t like [inaudible 00:57:54]. We’re like, “Oh, they stopped coming.” We have a whole list of “you have to visit these people. Get out there, reach out to them.” So what makes it any different? [00:58:00]
Kurt: Awesome. That’s a powerful point. Any other scenario, situation or point that we haven’t covered that…? I guess overall what I’m learning from this is one, we have to realize that it’s typically the adults and leaders that are making a bigger issue than it is, and we just need to take a step back and say, “I’ll take a deep breath and we’re fine.” Right?
Kurt: And then some of these things of, if boundaries are necessarily, make sure they are general boundaries for everybody.
Brittany: Yeah. I mean, if you have an incident where you’re at girls’ camp, and let’s say, you don’t even know that there’s girls there that are gay, and then you find two making out or whatever, then you address it and you say, like, “Okay, I get this is the thing, and probably you have to inform your bishops about it and stuff, but for the time being, we’re going to put you guys in two different cabins and we’re going to ask that you don’t sneak off and you don’t, you know, whatever.”
I mean, it’s the same thing with conference. Boys and girls sneak off and you don’t need to kick them out and send them home. But from what I’ve learned—
Kurt: That’s the last resort.
Brittany: Yeah, it’s the last resort. I’ve had youth sneak off and make our youth conference all the time and you find them and you’re like, “Okay, well, I’m going to tell your bishop this happened.” [00:59:00] But you just separate them and you tell them like, “I’m aware of it. I’ve got my eye on you. Don’t go sneaking off.” And you just be vigilant.
It doesn’t mean you have to watch them like a hawk, but maybe keep them in the corner of your eye. Don’t make them feel awkward. But be aware it’s the thing, but still find ways to keep them there and invite the Spirit. And maybe that opens up a conversation of, “Okay.” Like, you can sit them down even together and be like, “What are you guys experiencing? So you realize you’re attracted to each other and now you’re figuring this out? How long has this been going on?” Okay. Do you still feel the Spirit? Do you want to come to church? Is this confusing for you?”
It opens up a door. Instead of shaming them of “You got to get sent home, we got to talk to your parents,” use it as an opportunity to figure out where they’re at and where you could influence. I think we’re so quick to, “No, knock it off. Stop.”
I’m a mom of three kids. I get it. I see them doing something wrong and I’m like, “No, no, no [01:00:02] You can’t do that. But I have to remind myself all the time, like, “Let’s stop and have a conversation about it. Let’s dig into what they’re feeling why they thought it was okay and why I think it’s not okay. And then let’s come to a—
Kurt: And put a plan together. “Where do we go from here?”
Brittany: “Let’s figure out what’s the next step.”
Kurt: Awesome. So helpful. Anything else we’re missing?
Brittany: I don’t think so.
Kurt: Well, that’s great. Again, maybe they’re sick of hearing me talk about this. What encouragement would you have for leaders to get to the North Star Conference? What would that mean to you as a youth or as a member of the church to have their leader go?
Brittany: I think that there is power in knowledge. We’ve learned that. I mean, we learn it in school, we learned in church.
Kurt: It is doctrine.
Brittany: That it is doctrine. I think that if you are called to a position, whether a bishop or a leader, where you know your mantle is now over this board or these youth, [01:01:01] and you are the person that’s going to receive revelation for them, you’re the person that’s going to feel inspired or what to say, and when to say, how are you going to help if you don’t know?
So I encourage all the leaders, whatever the subject is, I mean, study about pornography and the resources out there because that’s something youth totally come across. Study about LGBT and use those resources. Come to the conference. If you can’t come to conference, listen to the audios. I mean, we have audio for pretty much every breakout session and keynote speaker that is there. Listen to them, learn from it. Keep a pamphlet at hand. There’s resources. There are websites, excuse me, that—
Kurt: Even Church provides it.
Brittany: The church has Marmon and Gay. I think they’re changing the name now but—
Kurt: And it’s in the Gospel Library App there under life challenge.
Brittany: Life challenges. Yeah, it talks about it. [01:02:01] There are resources now. So use them. I think I told one of my bishops and I didn’t know anything about it, and I gave him resources and he never looked at it. I was so bummed out, because someone else in my ward, her son was going through stuff. And I was like, “Hey, I gave the bishops and resources. Have you talked to the bishop?” And she’s like, “How? But he didn’t give me any resources.” I was like, “Dang. Here’s the resources.”
So I think that there’s power in knowledge. And if you really want to help people, then you have to try to understand. You have to do your research. You have to figure out. I think everybody and sometimes leaders and even members of the church, we pray like, “‘Okay, Heavenly Father, I’m about to go to this hard thing, or have this hard conversation, helped me to know what to say.” [01:03:00] I’ve heard that a million times. I”ve said it myself a million times, but he’s not going to just like…I mean, he can, but I feel like he doesn’t…
Kurt: You got to give him something to work with.
Brittany: Yeah, something to work with. He’s not just going to be like, “You know nothing about this subject, but I’m going to give you like a good chunk of 30 minutes’ worth of material to talk about.” Instead, it’s, “Hey, you’ve done your research, and I’m going to help you recall it. I’m going to help you remember, and I’ll throw my little things in there.”
Kurt: Awesome. If somebody, especially in the Southern California area [inaudible 01:03:24] come talk to youth group? Would you come talk to an adult group? Are you there yet?
Brittany: I would. I haven’t been there yet. I have talked to youth individually when I think that it might be something they go through. I will just tell them my story, and then leave it open if they want to share. I never go up announcing like, “Hey, are you gay? Guess what? I am too.” No. It hey, “I want to share something personal with you.” And I share it. And then I just say, “I just felt like you needed to know. We all go through hard things.”
Kurt: And when you have a fire chat like that, if you have someone like Brittany come in and speak…I mean, your schedule fills up. People think, “Okay, someone was vulnerable. I’m ready to be vulnerable?”
Brittany: Exactly. I feel like the best part of coming out and telling people is when I’m vulnerable with them, [01:04:00] and in return they’re vulnerable with me and we have deeper, more meaningful connections, then I think that’s like the whole point.
Kurt: The last question I have for you is, as you’ve gone through this journey, this experience with being gay and in the church, how was that made you a better disciple of Jesus Christ?
Brittany: I think that it has made me realize that we’re all here to learn Christ attributes. That’s the point. And I’ve learned to look at this trial not as like a negative, but as a positive. I want to have like being a disciple of Jesus Christ is loving and serving other people.
I feel that SSA members or people in general, whether they are a member of the church or not, we have that Christ attribute to love. We love deep. [01:05:00] We love freely. We can give it so quickly. We can meet someone for five minutes, and just be like, “Man, I love you and I want to be best friends with you and let’s just, you know, do this thing. Let’s be friends. Let’s journey in this life.”
We don’t have to really develop that anymore. I mean, it’s good to love better, we got it down. We know how to love. Our job is two things: to love within the Lord’s bounds, so we have to learn to kind of dial it back and love the way Heavenly Father wants us to love, but also our job is to teach others how to love. When you come out, and it goes bad, and you have someone just tell your lowest of low and kick you out of your house, or whatever, your job is to love them because that’s how we’re going to teach it best.
There’s like a parable or something about the sun in the wind. There’s a man walking with this coat and the wind’s like, “I can get this guy to blow his coat off. Just watch. [01:06:02] It sounds like I’ll take that.” But the wind blows and blows and blow and the guy just holds on to his jacket tighter and tighter and tighter. But then the sun’s turn, he just shines bright, and it’s warm, and the guy takes off his coat.
So our job is to teach people how to love. And it’s hard and it hurts, but that’s what Christ did. That’s how we become a disciple because people were mean to him and people mocked him and crucified Him and He loved him. And he taught them how to love. He taught us how to love by His example.
I feel like, through this trial, the biggest thing I could say is, I came out realizing it’s a gift. And it’s not one I’m always happy to have, but I can use it to make a difference, I can use it to build God’s kingdom and I can use it to continue to develop other Christ-like attributes.
To the youth that feels this, they are amazing youth, they are strong and kind and give them an opportunity to lead. Give them an opportunity to be a disciple. Show them how to use their love to influence others. Put them in leadership positions, say, “You have a gift, you can love so good. Now, let’s use it to build God’s kingdom.”
Don’t throw them out to the side. Teach them to be a disciple teach them to use their gifts and their talents. And that’s what it is.