My name is Lester Leavitt. I live in Fort Lauderdale FL.
As a young man, growing up in the 1970’s in a rural Mormon town, I didn’t have very many choices about dealing with my sexual orientation.
I served a two-year mission for my church in Uruguay, but in spite of a great deal of fasting and prayer, the attraction to men did not abate.
When I came home from my mission, I knew that the expectation from my family and church community was that I should immediately begin a search for a woman whom I could share my life with.
Instead of shopping for a “wife”, I just naturally gravitated to a wonderful woman who had all of the qualities of a great friend. We planned young adult activities together, and attended them together. We danced and partied and stayed up late at night talking. I didn’t feel like I was dating her. I had found a kindred spirit and I wanted to spend all of my time with her, but there was one thing that I could not share with her – I could not love her in the way she deserved to be loved!
I prayed for the ability to feel that kind of love. I wanted to know that I could marry her and experience that kind of love.
It was 1981, and at that time, and even up until 1987, the advice from the leaders of the Mormon Church was that if you would just marry a woman, the natural love would blossom and you would experience all the joys of marriage.
I asked Barbara to marry me, and she accepted.
Back in the 1980’s I read everything that I could about same-sex attraction that was published by the LDS Church. Primarily, there was Spencer W. Kimball’s “Miracle of Forgiveness” that was written in 1969, and Boyd K Packer’s two talks, “For Young Men Only”, and “To the One”. These were talks that were given in 1976 and 1978. They were very harsh dialogues and left no doubt in one’s mind that a homosexual was committing a sin second only to murder, and worthy only of God’s contempt. Men and women were excommunicated simply for admitting to having homosexual feelings.
After about 10 years of marriage, I heard about Evergreen International. It was a new organization that promised to help gay LDS men and women diminish their same-sex attraction. Their printed material referenced the same decades old science that I had already researched out extensively and discarded as meaningless.
Their attempts to teach men and women stereotypically “appropriate” gender and sex roles through sports or other activities were in fact questionable. The ideas about “masculinity” and their stereotypical concepts on gender and sexuality didn’t resonate with me – just as the stereotyping of gender roles in general does not work for many men and women. My mother did not dote on me, and my father was very loving and equally as emotionally available to me as he was to my brothers.
In spite of all the skewed science in the material from Evergreen and the Mormon Church, one message came through very clear, and that was the condemning undercurrent that permeated every document. Failure was not an option.
I knew after reading all of the material that if I was not successful in overcoming these attractions that I would eventually be excommunicated. That would mean that I would be stripped of the Mormon priesthood and lose the respect of my church community, and my place in my eternal family.
I was able to minimize my thoughts of attraction to other men. I did it by shutting down emotionally. I discovered that I had a switch that could shut down all of my emotional needs.
The effect on my marriage was devastating. To this day, Barbara has a vivid memory of how I changed on our wedding day. Overnight I changed from being this spontaneous and alive young adult to a dead and lifeless shell of a man. She was devastated.
For 24 years, my wife knew that there was a part of me that I was hiding from her. There was a wall that she could not get around or through.
In October of 2004 I told her what was behind that wall.
I asked Barbara if I could allow myself to have men like me as friends without violating my marriage covenants. Slowly, the wall was broken down and the emotional switch came on. My wife noticed the difference immediately. For over a year she saw how alive I could become when allowed to be my authentic self.
It came at a very high cost to Barbara. After almost 2 years since first telling my wife of my struggles, I fell in love with one of my best friends, and I knew in that moment that I could not continue on in that path without being unfaithful to her.
I did the only thing that I knew how to do, and that was to follow the Evergreen program and shut off the switch again.
After 3 months of this, Barbara came up to me and asked me what had happened. Slowly, I explained it to her, and we both cried.
I didn’t have the courage to divorce, But Barbara, in her concern and love for me, did. Nothing could have been more difficult for either of us.
Read more about Lester's story in the Salt Lake Tribune and the Express Gay News. Click here for video of Lester and Barbara. Barbara has also shared her narrative at bXg.