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  • Writer's pictureJaycee Knox

My Mormon Experience, Part 2

The weight of shame and guilt consumed me as I tried to deal with the aftermath of being a victim of sexual assault. The trauma I experienced left deep scars within me and an overwhelming sense of shame prevented me from seeking help or sharing my pain with anyone.

I carried the burden of my anguish in silence, locking away my emotions in the darkness I felt was in me. The fear of judgment and disbelief gnawed at me, convincing me that my voice would be silenced, my truth dismissed. So, I buried my feelings deep inside, desperately attempting to erase the haunting memories. I became a prisoner of my own silence, trapped in a cycle of self-blame and self-doubt that I was taught so my own doing.

Being an active member of the church, I constantly received comments from fellow congregation members and sometimes even family, praising my righteousness and considering me a chosen spirit from heaven destined to spread the true word of God in the latter days. This constant expectation to live up to this ideal became the most damaging aspect of my life.

I felt immense pressure to maintain a facade of perfection and righteousness, fearing that I would disappoint everyone if I showed any signs of struggle or imperfection. This burden prevented me from seeking help or guidance from anyone, as I believed I had to be a shining example of faith and devotion at all times. 

I felt expected to return home to Ohio and be seen as more righteous, ready to settle down with a woman. I observed the excitement and celebration that surrounded those in the church who came back from college or a mission, seemingly more righteous and happier. However, I also witnessed the distress and humiliation experienced by families when the opposite occurred - friends returning early from college or a mission, not due to medical reasons, and with less faith. These individuals were often ostracized and subjected to gossip and ridicule. I didn't want to be the cause of such shame for my own family.

Eventually, I reached a point where I believed suicide was the only solution, as I felt destined for hell anyway. One night, I found the courage to call my mom and express my desire to end my life. In that moment, I realized that deep down, what I truly wanted to scream was that I was gay, and the pressure to conform to societal expectations was suffocating me.

My mom had me wake up my roommate and asked me to explain to him that I was feeling suicidal and needed to go to the Emergency Room. Little did I know, this moment marked the beginning of a new chapter in my life. 

To my surprise, Derek Nelson, a close friend, visited me in the ER. Derek has also been a role model to me and a bright ray of hope in the Hemophilia community. He brought me a shirt that had the words "Brave Is In My Blood" printed on it. I still cherish this shirt and wear it often, as it serves as a reminder of how far I have come and how much further I can go. 

Derek was the first person I confided in about my sexuality. When I told Derek that I was gay, he reacted with compassion and understanding. He held me in his arms as I sobbed, offering a safe space for me to express my truth. Derek reassured me that he accepted me for who I was and that our friendship would remain unchanged. His reaction provided me with a sense of relief and acceptance, allowing me to begin embracing my identity with more confidence and self-acceptance.

I was eventually admitted to a mental health facility, an experience that was both frightening and transformative. While I initially felt unhappy about being there, I now recognize that it was a crucial turning point that saved my life. During my stay, I had access to valuable resources and supportive counselors who helped me navigate and accept my true identity. Additionally, I received guidance on how to cope with the challenges of leaving the Mormon Church, providing me with the necessary tools to navigate this significant transition in my life and finally be happy.

A few months after my discharge, I felt ready to return to Ohio and embark on a new chapter of my life—one where I could fully embrace my true self without hiding.

Determined to sever ties with the Mormon church, I sought the assistance of a lawyer to have my records removed. This was important to me as I no longer desired contact from the church, including visits from missionaries or attempts to reactivate me as an active member. Since leaving the Mormon church and embracing my authentic self, I have experienced a profound sense of relief. It feels as though a heavy burden has been lifted from my shoulders. 

While it is true that I have lost some friends along the way, their absence no longer weighs on me. The positive transformation in my life since living authentically far outweighs any losses I have experienced to conform to standards written in a set of books. I am grateful for the newfound freedom and happiness that being true to myself has brought into my life.

I vividly recall the day I mustered up the courage to share my coming out journey with the world on Facebook. It feels like it happened just yesterday. In that pivotal moment, I found solace in the presence of my sister, who stood by my side, offering unwavering support. With her encouragement, I hit the "post" button, symbolizing my readiness to embrace my true self openly.

To fully immerse myself in the joyous occasion, I made the conscious decision to disconnect from the digital world by turning off my phone. Together, my sister and I embarked on an adventure to a Hemophilia event, where we were surrounded by a community.

Although my recollection of the event itself may be hazy, one memory remains etched in my heart: sliding down a vibrant blow-up slide alongside my sister. In that moment, I felt an overwhelming sense of acceptance and love radiating from those around me. It was a powerful reminder that I am embraced for exactly who I am, and that my journey towards self-acceptance is met with open arms.

Ever since I took the brave step of coming out, my life has been filled with incredible blessings. One of the most profound gifts has been finding the love of my life, Adam. Being such a vital part of my life, it was an honor to have Derek as our officiant at our wedding and I am forever grateful for the unwavering support and love that Derek has shown me.

Adam and I have embarked on countless adventures, creating a life that is uniquely ours. We leaped and bought a home, transforming it into a sanctuary where our love can flourish. Our furry companions, Rocko and Spike, have brought immeasurable joy to our lives as we proudly embrace the role of dog dads.

Exploring the world hand in hand, and in our pursuit of fulfillment and self-expression, we started our own business, Vintage Solutions. This endeavor has allowed us to channel our passions and talents into something meaningful, while also providing us with a sense of purpose and accomplishment, digitizing and preserving family history and bringing joy to our customers. 

I am filled with a sense of wonder and anticipation for what our future holds. Currently, I wear many hats - a rare disease writer, a bleeding disorder advocate, and the Vice President of the Diversity Chamber of Central Ohio, Owner and Operator of Vintage Solutions, and lets not forget my favorite titles of all, Husband, Uncle, and dog dad.  

This is a story of hope, one that I hope inspires and uplifts. While the path ahead may be uncertain, I am fueled by the belief that my efforts will make a difference and that together, we can create a brighter and more inclusive future for all.

To all those who may be grappling with their identity or facing challenges, I want to offer a heartfelt message of hope: It does get better. I understand that the journey you're on may be difficult, and filled with pain and uncertainty. But amidst the darkness, there is always a glimmer of light, a beacon of hope that guides you towards a brighter future.

Embrace your authentic self, for it is a beautiful and unique expression of who you are.

Surround yourself with the love and acceptance of those who genuinely care for you, who see your worth and celebrate your individuality. These are the people who will uplift you, support you, and help you navigate through the toughest of times.

Remember, you are deserving of happiness and fulfillment. Your struggles do not define you; they are merely stepping stones on your path of growth and self-discovery. Reach out to those who offer genuine love and support, for they will be your pillars of strength, guiding you toward a future filled with joy and possibility.

Hold onto hope, for it is a powerful force that can carry you through even the darkest moments. Believe in yourself, trust in your resilience, and know that you are not alone. The journey may be challenging, but with time, patience, and the unwavering support of those who truly care, you will emerge stronger, wiser, and ready to embrace the beautiful life that awaits you.

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