Beyond Ex-Gay

Survivor Narrative


Barbara Leavitt 

Hello. My name is Barbara Leavitt. I was married to a gay man.

Image of Leavitts WeddingLester Leavitt and I married in 1981 in Cardston Alberta Canada.

We have four beautiful children who are now young adults.

We attended and belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – The Mormons, and were married for time-and-all-eternity in one of their temples.

Image of the Leavitts childrenBelonging to the Mormon Church became painful and caused so much unhappiness within me. I discovered after 30 years of belonging to this church that I wasn’t good enough for them…that my “best” wasn’t good enough…that I always had to strive to be better.

When Lester came out gay two and a half years ago, I became aware of the need for me to become self-sufficient, self-reliant, and to accept that I alone am responsible for my own destiny.

I realized, and continue to realize, that I need to be me, to be myself as he is, so that I fulfill the destiny of why I am here.

I tried talking to people who I considered friends as I struggled with the reality of what is my new life, and I wanted understanding and peace.

I was told to divorce him and to keep the children away from him. I was told to pray and read the scriptures.

I did pray, and read the scriptures. I was so confused by what people were saying. It went so against what I had believed and what I believe the true doctrine of the church is. They, the members of my church, were telling me to break up my family unit, and to stop loving my husband.

Image of Lester and BarbaraIn the Mormon Church we are told that families are forever. I was told “it’s too bad you can’t love Lester any more, and that he won’t be the father of your children throughout eternity.”

What were they telling me? Here I was, trying to gain perspective and understanding on a situation that was facing me, and so I turned to those people – members of my church I had believed would support and help me, and who I felt would help me find peace. They did nothing to help me find peace.

I felt their judgment of me as I continued to love and support Lester in the struggles we were both facing. To be told to leave Lester, to quit loving him, to tear the children away from him, was, and is, inconceivable to me.

I could not do it. I will not stop loving Lester.

“Love does not judge – it just is.”

I have received hateful emails from members of the Mormon Church who I barely knew who have judged me and found me wanting. I have been very hurt by this – that people feel they have the right to tell me I am wrong.

I am not wrong. It is not wrong to love and make peace.

In October 2006 I traveled to Portland, OR to attend the Affirmation Conference for Gay an Lesbian Mormons. This Conference helped me so much with the issues surrounding being Mormon and being gay. I met some really wonderful people and appreciate all that was said and how I was treated as the wife of a gay man. I thank all who attended for that.

Affirmation helped bridge the way for me to let my husband go to be himself – to lead an authentic life – to let myself go and be happy and to lead an authentic life.

I have felt a full range of emotions: anger, love, sadness, grief, happiness. All of these are good emotions because they have helped me grow and become a better person. By acknowledging these emotions and working through them I have been able to move forward with faith.

I believe in a God in whose image I am, and in whose image Lester is – a God who loves and cares for me and my family.

Image of "Friends" rockI have learned most importantly that loving someone continues on even if you are separated from them. You discover that there is room in your heart for them and for all others who come after.

I have learned that I don't have to stop loving Lester, but that I just had to let him go – to be who he is and who God meant for him to be. He and I are happier than we have ever been and I have done more learning than I have ever done thus far in my life. This is not a bad thing. I grew. And so has Lester. He is seeing someone who is an incredible man and I love him too.

Image of Leavitt FamilyLester and I are friends. We've been through so much together and have raised four beautiful children. We are still their parents. Just because we don't live in the same house does not mean that we are not parents together.

I am not wordy and eloquent but I do know how I feel and I do know the importance of the understanding that I now have.

As I move forward with faith I draw strength from a quote from Zoya, (of the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan – RAWA), where it states that "…the silence of good people is worse than the actions of bad people."

I feel that the time has come for all people to stop being silent. We need to find the strength to speak out and voice an opinion when that must be voiced. Only in this way can good come in this world. We need to address the ignorance which breeds fear, discrimination, and violence. We can do this by speaking out – by using our voices – by being courageous.

Image of Barbara LeavittWhat am I asking of people?

By showing love, tolerance, and acceptance we can bridge the gap between gay & straight and be role models for our children and others.

As we all continue to support and love each other, good will come.

Read more about Barbara's story in the Salt Lake Tribune and the Express Gay News. Click here for video of Barbara and Lester. Lester's narrative is also available.


Read other ex-gay survivor narratives.