Greg Nielson

Graduation: August 1993, Brigham Young University
Degree: BA, French and European Studies
Mission: Switzerland Geneva
Occupation: Medical Software IT Support Consultant
Current Location: Las Vegas, NV

I was born and raised in the Mormon Church. I'm from Pennsylvania, but church membership goes way back in my family—some were pioneers. I did all the “right” stuff growing up—was always the leader in my Priesthood quorums, attended early morning seminary, etc. I also always knew that I was different from other boys. I knew I was attracted to males, but I really wasn’t sure if that meant I was gay or not.

The only university I applied for was BYU. I was valedictorian in my high school, so I probably could have gone just about anywhere. Nevertheless, I did the Mormon thing, and went to BYU like a good Mormon boy. I lived in Deseret Towers my Freshman year, then submitted my paperwork for a mission. I didn’t really want to go on a mission, but felt I had to in order to prove how serious I was about overcoming my same-sex feelings and living according to the Lord’s law.

I was called to serve in the Switzerland, Geneva Mission. I served from August ’87 to August ’89. The mission was difficult at times, but I had good experiences, too. I developed crushes on a couple of my companions, but I tried to remain focused on “the work.”

I returned to BYU in the Fall of ’89 and graduated in the Spring of ’93 with a double major in French and European Studies and a minor in Political Science. In total, I spent 5 years at BYU (because of my double major and a minor, and working 25 hours a week to support myself). I had mixed emotions about attending the Y. At times, I hated it, but because I wanted to prove that I was doing the “right” thing, I stayed there. In retrospect, I’m still torn about having stayed at BYU. Sometimes I think I should have pursued my education elsewhere.

Throughout my years at the Y, I “dated” 3 women. I was great friends with all 3 and figured if I could get married, it should be to someone that I’m really good friends with. Still, something in me kept me from getting too serious with any of them. I’m very thankful for that!

I moved to the DC area after I graduated in the hopes of gaining employment in the National Security sector or the intelligence community. That didn’t happen, but I have no regrets about moving there. I spent nearly 12 years in the DC area and had many great experiences and opportunities there.

After arriving in DC, I told myself that I would not date until I figured out my feelings. I went through a tiny phase where I thought I might be bisexual, but quickly came to the realization that I’m gay. Period. Exactly one year after moving to DC, I came out to my Bishop. He was the first person I ever told about my feelings. I had to tell him, though, because I was being ripped apart inside with angst because I was trying so hard to be a good Mormon boy, but couldn’t deny my inner feelings anymore. Those two things seemed to be in conflict.

He was very good to me, but he encouraged me to see a therapist to show me that I’m straight. I went (reluctantly) but soon found that it was very good to finally talk to someone openly and honestly about my feelings without fear of reproach. Doing so made me realize that I am gay and that it’s OK to be gay.

The night of my final session with the therapist, I got in my car and on the drive home decided to live my life as a gay man. I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t know any openly gay people, I didn’t know about gay bars or clubs. I had had no type of homosexual experience in the past. Nevertheless, I knew I was gay, and that’s how I would live my life. That night I came out to myself. It was March 1995.

The very next day, quite by accident, I happened upon an ad for “Affirmation – Gay and Lesbian Mormons” in a local free paper. I was in shock, as I thought I was the only one! I re-read the ad several times and finally called the number provided. I eventually met up with the group. A few of the guys were my age and they really helped me in my coming out process.

I continued attending Church for another 1.5 years. I was the Ward organist and loved contributing a stirring musical aspect to the meetings. I was relatively “out’ at church. During this time, the Bishop I had come out to was released and a new one was called. I told the new Bishop about my situation and while he refused to try to understand it, he didn’t try to impose any kind of sanctions on me. Once I was released as organist, however, I felt no desire to attend church anymore. I had grown tired of the trite phrases spit out at the pulpit, and of the narrow-mindedness that was so prevalent. I have not attended church since the summer of ’96.

A couple years after I had stopped attending church, that new Bishop attempted to have me excommunicated. The short of that story is that he had no grounds to do so, and I called him on it. Things made their way up to the regional/area representative and possibly to Jeffrey Holland. Within weeks, an emergency priesthood leadership meeting was called in the DC area. The subject of the meeting was how to deal with (and what not to do to) those that “struggle with same gender orientation.” My “case” was dropped.

I came out to my parents about 6 months after I came out to myself. They took the news better than I had anticipated, though it was still though on them. To give you an idea of the type of family I have: my dad has been a Bishop (or Branch President) most of my life; my mom has held positions in the Ward and Stake Primary and Relief Society; my grandfather was the Stake Patriarch; and one of my uncles was a Mission President. My parents seem to be OK with it now, though we rarely discuss it. They are less happy that I no longer attend Church. Nevertheless, they see how stable I am and seem to have great respect for me and my experiences. I’m pleased that they don’t dismiss my opinions because of my sexual orientation.

I’m very happy with who I am and what I’ve done. Coming out has been the best thing for me. I’ve grown in so many aspects as a result of the courage that it took to face the world as a gay man. I have more self-confidence and self-esteem. I am more assertive with the people I encounter every day. I have conquered crippling stage fright and have appeared on stage in approximately 12 regional theater productions. I also believe that relieving my mind of the stress and anxiety of trying to hide my true self has allowed me to make significant advances in my career. I am completely out everywhere, and have never experienced any kind of discrimination because of my sexual orientation.

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