Five years ago Mormon family therapist and blogger Josh Weed, living in Seattle, came out to the world as gay. But unlike most coming out stories, Josh’s was different because while he readily admitted that he’s exclusively attracted to men, he’d also been married to a woman for 10 years, and he intended to stay that way.
The short version of his lengthy blog post: Weed knew he was gay from a young age but opted for what he saw as a more righteous path and decided to abstain from romance or sex with men. And, yes, his wife Lolly, whom he’d grown up with, knew all along. He came out to her when he was 16.
“In a moment of honest reflection, I realized that Josh was everything that I wanted in a husband. (All except for the huge fact that he was gay.)” Lolly Weed wrote. “He was dedicated to God above all else, and he loved his Savior deeply. He was kind, funny, sincere, honest, and so much fun. I connected with him in ways that I did not connect with anyone else. But he was gay. And I did not know if I could handle that in a marriage.”
“I ended up confessing my feelings to him on a random day on a whim. He admitted that he felt the same feelings for me. That I was everything he wanted in a wife,” Lolly continued. “I had never been more excited or confused. We decided to try it out and to start dating. It was truly an amazing experience for both of us, falling in love with our best friend.”
After this very public coming out went viral and covered by all of the media, Josh was widely held up by conservatives, homophobes, and Mormons as the perfect example of a gay man. Sure, he was “same-sex attracted” (after all, God doesn’t make mistakes), but he had overcome his burden to happily marry a woman. He even enjoyed the sex, according to one post, though he admitted “enjoyed” might be too strong a word. The couple did, though, produce a few children.
After 15 years of marriage, however, Josh and Lolly announced in a new blog post that they are getting divorced for three essential reasons: 1) In the past five years they’ve met a lot of gay people and realized that they aren’t (all) deviants and monsters, 2) Josh started to love himself in a way he hadn’t before, and 3) his mom died.
“Seeing the woman who bore me there in that wooden box — feeling and knowing the reality of death and the shortness of life rendered me somehow incapable of telling myself the half-lies required for me to believe that sex with a woman was okay for me,” Josh wrote. “And that allowed me to ignore the ways sex with a woman was hurtful, was dishonoring on an intrinsic level, to the core of who I am.”
He also apologized that his story had been used by the Mormon church and other religious groups to bully and shame other gay people:
“We’re sorry for some of the things we said in our original coming-out post in 2012,” he wrote. “There are several ideas in that post that, though well-meaning, we now realize stemmed from internalized homophobia. We’re sorry, so incredibly sorry, for the ways our post has been used to bully others.”
“We’re sorry to any gay Mormon who even had a moment’s pause as they tried to make the breathtakingly difficult decision that I am now making — to love myself fully for exactly what God made me — because of our post,” he wrote. “We’re sorry for any degree that our existence and the publicity of our supposedly successful marriage made you feel ‘less than’ as you made your own difficult choices. And we’re sorry if our story made it easier for people in your life to reject you and your difficult path as being wrong. If this is you, we want you to know: you were right. You did the correct, brave thing. You are ahead of me in the sense that you have progressed through things I have yet to progress through. You listened to your gut and God and did a brave, brave thing. Now I’m following your example.”
“We’re sorry to any gay Mormon who received criticism, backlash, or hatred as a result of our story,” the post continued. “It wasn’t long after our post that we began to get messages from the LGBTQIA community, letting us know that their loved ones were using our blog post to pressure them to get married to a person of the opposite gender — sometimes even disowning them, saying things like, ‘if these two can do it, so can you.’ Our hearts broke as we learned of the ways our story was used a battering ram by fearful, uninformed parents and loved ones, desperate to get their children to act in the ways they thought were best. One person wrote — and I’ll never get the horror of this out of my head for the rest of my life — saying that he went to see his family for Thanksgiving during his second year of college, where he was an out gay man who openly had a boyfriend. When he got home, his father pulled up our story on the computer and then physically assaulted him, beating him as he had often done during his childhood, saying ‘if this guy could avoid being a faggot, so could you!’”
Josh does say he will not leave the Mormon church. While he now acknowledges that a platonic love, no matter how wonderful, just isn’t a proxy for romance, he’s still committed to his faith.