Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Improbable Gay Activists

Improbable Gay Activists
PRNewswire/October 17, 2006

Portland, Oregon /PRNewswire/ -- It took him 33 years, but by October
2004 Lester Leavitt could no longer deny it. He was gay, and he was
ready to come out, even if it meant turning his world upside down. He
had never slept with a man, or even embraced a man, but he knew that
he could no longer deny his feelings.

"There are so many parts to coming out," Leavitt explains. "I came out
late - in my forties; I came out married - after 23 years with my
wife; I came out a father - with four mostly grown children; and what
turned out to be the most difficult of all; I came out Mormon!"

Leavitt is in Portland this weekend to attend the Affirmation
Conference for gay Mormons. He will almost certainly be the only gay
man attending with his wife.

His wife Barbara explains why she is still with her husband. "Our
marriage is stronger today, and so much more alive than it was before
Lester came out. To understand why, we would need an hour of your
time, but the biggest reason, I feel, is because we were finally
honest with each other about everything, and I mean everything!"

Lester is quick to add a warning. "I don't want any gay man to think
that he can stay with his wife just because I was able to do it. Our
situation was so unique that I doubt very much that it could be
duplicated. I think that is why I have unwittingly become such an
outspoken activist for gay marriage."

Lester's activism is not limited only to gay rights issues. As noted
above, the most difficult part of coming out was coping with his
Mormon upbringing.

"I'm a 7th generation Mormon, and I was raised in Cardston, AB where
it is almost more sheltered than in Utah behind the 'Zion Curtain'.
From the time of my earliest feelings of attraction to other boys, I
remember the guilt. I know why gay Mormons commit suicide," Leavitt

Affirmation has teamed up with other organizations like LDS Safe Space
to try to change the church, and that is how Leavitt met Olin Thomas,
Affirmation's executive director.

"I found LDS Safe Space right after I was excommunicated. I needed to
talk to somebody about it because I was not excommunicated for being
gay; I'm still faithful to my wife! I was excommunicated for becoming
a liberal, and expressing my liberal views in my book," Leavitt
explains. "Olin sits as one of the ad hoc directors on the LDS Safe
Space forum, and he encouraged me to become involved with Affirmation.
Barbara and I are here this weekend so that we can become part of a
team that will eventually make it safer for gay people within the

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