Mormon from My Eyes: Jarom Rowland
Coming Out as a Homormon
Words by Jarom Rowland
I grew up as Mormon as they come. With a name straight from the book itself (Jarom was a prophet who wrote the shortest chapter in the Book of Mormon), there was little denying the fact of my pedigree. I was reared in Utah County, the heart of Mormon country: 95% white, 97% members. The fourth of five adopted children, I was from an otherwise typical, middle class, suburban eternal family. Oh, and I was and am 100% gay. This, being a proud queer male, I have easily claimed for some time now— decades plus. However, I must admit with some shame that, until recently, I would usually deny I was or ever had been a Mormon, a Saint, let alone a Latter Day one. I was in the closet about being a Mo (as in “Mormon”), but the truth is I am one and always have been. And yes, a gay one. And yes, I am just fine.
I suppose you could call the history that follows “My Coming Out as a Homormon, in two parts.”
And I don’t mean any disrespect. I just like the word.
Firstly, my being outed as a teenage queer was not unlike a bad/good after-school special starring Danny Pintauro in secretary glasses. My staunchly religious, basketball coach of a father found a VHS tape of My Own Private Idaho that I’d rented from the Tower Theatre in my bedroom VCR. He went crazy on me when I got home from school that day. The bishop was there, my mom was screaming/crying/throwing things and I remember, in all seriousness, my father and I wrestling on the ground over the tape with him yelling, “I will not have porn in this house, young man!” and me shrieking back from a choke hold, “No Dad! It’s art! You don’t understand!”
I came out that day and like most young gay Mormons endured a fairly harsh period of banishment and bizarre religious pressure to be something I wasn’t for years. That being said, the story didn’t stay that way. And my folks, as unequipped as they were to deal with me, did the best they could and have never made me feel like I wasn’t loved.
The story of me coming out as a total Mormon is not unlike an afternoon hospital drama starring Danny Pintauro as me and Judith Light as my mother, in a role they were both born to play. It was just a few years ago, and my Mom had insisted that we sing a hymn together at my nephew’s baptism. Having long been the family pianist/back up vocalist, I jumped at the opportunity with little foresight on what was to occur. I had not played the piano in church since I was the priesthood accompanist at fifteen, where I once launched into some post-hymn Tori Amos only to be promptly removed and banned from my position.
Cut to the present. My mother and I are bawling, snot tears running down our faces, ripping through a glorious, sad rendition of “Families Can Be Together Forever” in the ward hall/basketball court on a beige piano in front of my entire extended family and, mind you, my boyfriend of five years. It was there that I quietly realized I had better just go ahead and come out because I was as Mormon as they come. And as gay, too. In the church house singing at the top of my lungs and making my aunts cry, it was a world of soft dual acceptance.
The fusion of these two lives was and remains a challenge and has never been easy. I want no one to assume these humorous anecdotes lack sad subtext. I have come a long way into this shared identity and have had to allow myself the realization that I was hurt by the church, but not by the entirety of the people within it. Both my family and I have had to learn at times to suspend our own core beliefs for a stronger set: Our love and support for one another as individuals – a notion that easily rises above man-made religious sureness, even when dripped in such sentimentality.
I struggled for years with reclaiming a sense of spirituality away from the church and against the notion that I was disallowed those means because of my sexuality. It took me so long to piece together parts of myself that were destroyed by misguided patriarchy and to realize that being gay was only one of the various reasons and parts of me that disagreed with the teaching of the church.
Parents who cast out their young children because of their sexuality are no Saints of the church. It’s a practice that is pure evil and far from any teachings of the gospel as I remember them. I applaud families who have taken firm stands and left the church, but also want to include in the scheme of progress families like mine who haven’t, but who have taken their own stance (albeit a quieter one). My parents will never abandon their religious ideals just as I will never suddenly abandon my sexual orientation. But just because our beliefs differ, that would never interfere with the unconditional love of our family unit.
I know the church doesn’t support my rights as an individual, but I don’t support the church, so their blessing means nothing to me. I do, however, support my family and their right to worship without feeling like I am committing an even graver gay sin to do so.
So it is with only a mild hesitance these days that I refer to myself as a Mormon when asked. Culturally, yes I am. Not practicing, absolutely. I mean, my name is from the book but don’t get the wrong idea. And to other unspoken questions, yes, I am gay in fact, (insert Homormon here if you’d like); no, my parents did not donate to Prop 8; and our relationship is typically strained but lovely, thank you.