Provo-based comedian, writer, actor Stacey Harkey, 30, joins the ranks of Utah artists raising awareness on the LGBT youth suicide epidemic.
At an early age, Stacey Harkey knew he was attracted to the same sex. But coming from an LDS family, as is all too common, Harkey was faced with fears: two of the biggest he told QSaltLake Magazine were “losing valuable relationships” his family and friends, as well as being ostracized by the Church of Latter-day Saints in which he grew up and remains an active member today.
Those fears prompted Harkey to try to “fix” himself “by fitting into a mold” that plainly wasn’t for him.
“I not only avoided interacting with other guys in a romantic way but my mind was a steel trap,” he said. “I didn’t even entertain ideas of romantic relationships under the impression that if I gave it any ground in my mind it could potentially take me over like a rampant virus. I prayed and begged and pleaded for God to remove this from me.”
He immersed himself in the scriptures of the church imagining that would help keep his “evil feelings at bay.” Also, Harkey said he even tried dating women hoping that was the key (to his salvation?)
It wasn’t until returning from his mission that he realized he couldn’t fix what wasn’t broken. So Harkey took a different leap of faith and came out to his family as well as his ward’s bishop.
“My family has been so supportive,” he told QSaltLake. “My parents, as traditional and conservative as they are, are really trying to figure out what it means to be supportive and its a learning experience for us all. They express so much love for me and want me to know that’ll never change and that means so much to me.”
And, according to Harkey, his bishop told him that no matter what happens, he would always be welcomed at the ward.
About a week before Christmas this year, Harkey took another leap of faith and came out on his social media platforms – mostly to supportive response. That decision though was much more than about himself; he wanted to be a new and encouraging source for LGBT youth of Utah struggling with depression and suicidal feelings.
He wrote as part of his coming out on Instagram: “If you want/need to talk to someone, I’m here for you. Call me, text me, DM me and I swear I’ll keep your info private and between us. You’re not alone in this. I’m so sorry if you wanted to hear this from me in person and if that’s the case please call me/message me and let’s chat.”
“I have received hundreds of messages from people that took me up on that offer,” said Harkey. “A large portion of my holiday was staying up late responding to messages. There were messages of support and love, message of concern and criticism, and messages from LGBT people expressing thanks or begging for help.”
He also told QSaltLake that he has received dozens of messages from people that weren’t LGBT but struggled with anxiety, depression, bullying, or the loss of a loved one and were just looking for help and support. In fact, Harkey recalled one particular message he received that made him extremely grateful to have come out publicly.
“I could’ve received only hateful negative comments and this one message would’ve made it all worth it,” Harkey said. “A young lady reached out and let me know she was a member of the LDS church and, with the pills ready to go, was about to attempt suicide. A friend shared my post with her and it apparently was what she needed in that moment to not go through with it. It terrified me and filled me with hope at the same time.”
When asked if he had other steps in place to help shed more light on the seemingly insoluble dilemma of youth suicide, he said, “I’m still so new to the LGBT community and have a lot to learn. A friend compared it to finally getting my letter to Hogwarts; I’ve always been gay but am just now entering this new world.”
Harkey also is reaching out to others in the community already trying to help “ameliorate this problem in our culture.” You can find contact info for Steve Harkey on Facebook, Intagram, and Twitter.