I’m not really sure when it first clicked in my head that I was gay. There wasn’t a big “aha” moment where I gasped and the camera zoomed in on me as a musical number about my newfound gaiety started playing. I think I just kind of knew my whole life, but until I learned what the word even meant, I just didn’t care. By seventh grade I had learned what being gay meant and being an active member of the Mormon church, I was scared. I had heard friends and people talk about how “the gays” are an abomination to society and are “ruining the sanctity of marriage.” I managed to get through seventh grade (probably one of the worst years of my life) in denial of who I was. As the next year began, that disguise of denial began to fade. I found myself in a state of constant depression, and I was struggling in school. At this time that small prickling of a feeling had grown into a heavy feeling of doubt and self loathing. This anchor of depression was pulling me under the sea of self hatred, with no way to swim up and the comments from people at school and church pulling me closer to the seafloor. Then one day it just had to come out. I was tangled in the sheets of my bed, that anchor practically ripping them to shreds, in a puddle of my own self hatred when my mom came into my room and wanted to know what was wrong. After a lot of prodding and pleading by her, the words tumbled out my mouth, and suddenly we were both crying. I felt the weight begin to ease. She then went on to show me a video from the church’s “official” website about “our same sex attracted brothers and sisters.” It talked about people like me going to BYU and even marrying someone of the opposite gender. I felt myself sinking back down to that place. I don’t want advice on how to live my life from a church that’s too afraid to even use the word “gay.” She told me this is just a small piece of who I am and there’s a lot more to me, so I shouldn’t focus on it. That completely crushed me, the shards of myself crashing to the ground and scattering in all directions. I felt like I wasn’t even comfortable being myself around my own mother. Although it took her a while, my mom has grown with me, is now a strong ally to the LGBT community, and my strongest supporter. They may not understand right away, but people around you grow with you, if you connect and share with them. She’s told me I can be whoever I want to be and that I should be myself. I’ve grown in my own ways as well. All the things I used to imagine doing in my head back in those days of denial are now things that define me as a person. I joined Youth and Government and discovered my love for speaking out and using my voice to help people like me. I’m out to practically everyone I know. I’m finally able to explore my passion for makeup, something I used to dream of doing but was too scared to try. If you get anything from this story it’s this: don’t stop yourself. If there’s something you want or need to say, do it. People around you may not understand, but like you, they grow in their own way alongside you. We’re all small seeds, growing and twisting around one another in an attempt to reach up and touch the sun. Let your doubts go and stretch until you feel the warmth of your own happiness.