A gay Mormon man who works as an honor code administrator at Brigham Young University in Utah described his heartbreaking story of falling in love with another man, but breaking off their relationship entirely because acting on his sexual attraction would have been a violation of his religious beliefs. Ben Schilaty, 37, recently opened up about his experiences growing up as a gay Mormon at the intersection of faith and sexuality in his recent memoir and on the podcast Mormon Land.
The heartbreaking story had its genesis in a closeted childhood within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), better known as the Mormon faith. Schilaty revealed on Mormon Land he knew he was gay as a young teen in middle school, but did not find it “super distressing” initially because he believed “it was just a phase and it was going to go away.” He never spoke about his awakening sexuality with anyone, though, and “would have denied being gay” if anyone had bothered to ask.
But the desires and denial continued into high school and then on his religious mission in Mexico. He desperately clung to the belief the gay would go away eventually, but two years after returning from his mission he knew it was not a phase. He came out to his parents over Thanksgiving, and they were as “loving and kind” as he expected.
“They just responded so well,” he recalled on Mormon Land. “My dad said, ‘Well, you’re probably better off being single, because being married is hard.’”
While Schilaty came out, he never allowed himself to act on his desires because he “felt really strongly” that he wanted “to live a life within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” In his memoir, A Walk in My Shoes: Questions I’m Often Asked as a Gay Latter-day Saint, he writes of falling in love with a gay male friend at the age of 30, but later insisting the pair remain “best friends” rather than acting on their desires. His devotion to the Church ended both the chance at a deeper relationship with the man, as well as their friendship entirely. His devotion to the church was just too strong and always pulled him back whenever he thought about leaving the faith.
“Every time I’ve thought about leaving, I just feel pulled to stay even stronger.”
Schilaty reveals his faith is so strong that he has never even kissed a man. He‘s never been “angry at God” but is tackling the difficulties of being both gay and a practicing good Mormon.
“I realize that’s my story, that’s not everyone’s story, but that’s what I personally have felt compelled to do,” Schilaty explained.