Big Fish – Sabrinalucia – Medium
This interview took place at Jared’s apartment. Jared and I became friends in high school. We grew up in the same city and same Christian faith. As I enter the door, he attempts to straighten an already organized apartment. We enter his stylish room.
“I’m not an alcoholic, I swear,” he says with a grin, as he moves aside two packages of ale and beer.
Jared allows me to sit on the one chair in his room and he sits on the floor facing me. Jared has a very calm and relaxed demeanor as we begin the interview.
Jared is an artist. At present he is taking a break from university, and works full time at a call center. He currently lives in Orem, Utah with two female roommates. He enjoys dating, but is currently single.
“What is your first memory of feeling out of place?” I ask.
“My mother claims I have always felt out of place from a young age.” Jared replies.
This feeling predates his memory. He often used humor to overcome his feeling of being out of place, recognizing he could fit in if he had humor. He carried this attitude over to spirituality and his same sex attraction. He assumed he could overcome his same sex attraction by praying, and praying and bargaining to have his attractions change.
“I was right about being funny, I was wrong about the scriptures making me straight,” he says.
The first person he came out to was another artist in his high school. They were out on a date before the high school dance. There was an Andy Warhol exhibit at BYU. This exhibit included a room filled with large, silver, reflective, and glimmering balloons bouncing around the white room in constant motion. It was here Jared came out for the first time.
He says, “She felt like a safe person because she was adorable and kind to everyone. She was also very open by the way she presented herself. She was not afraid to be daring in her hair and fashion choices.”
She stood out from the majority of other teens surrounding Jared, the majority of other teens who belonged to the dominant Mormon religion. Jared explained he felt like he could not come out to Mormon kids because that would mean he would be seen, and he did not feel comfortable being seen. Jared felt the fact that he is gay would never be fine, or accepted. Being a minority, he had never seen a happy gay relationship in his very hetero, religious community. He did not know what that could look like, or what that really meant.
Jared served as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for two years in London, England, which provided him with a lot of time for introspection. During this time there were times he felt he could have a place in the church, but Jared felt an intense amount of hopelessness with the options currently given. This is a faith of eternal families, and yet Jared recognized his own future family with a gay partner, would have no place in it. This meant Jared needed to leave the faith of his childhood, the faith of his parents, the faith of his ancestors. Jared’s parents have maintained their strong religious convictions after he came out to them. His father has a PhD in Theology with a focus on Mormonism, he earned while studying in Nottingham, England. Jared’s father believes in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the fundamentals of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Nevertheless, his father has many unconventional religious views and maintains a middle ground.
“My father still believes the path to happiness is through the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. While our life paths and views are different, he is happy for any happiness I find along the way of my own journey,” Jared states.
Jared has chosen to remain in Utah because he has friends, family, and schooling here. He enjoys being involved with organizations such as Encircle, which is attempting to improve the relationship between the queer community and the church. He enjoys being a part of a community in which young queer kids can feel comfortable and encouraged to be their authentic selves. Jared says he currently does not feel a connection to any faith or religion, and is not sure of his beliefs regarding ideas of God or Karma. He believes we can give any idea power to change our lives. He believes religion is a powerful thing and something valuable to rely on. Some values he still claims from his Mormon Identity are: the importance and difference a community makes in your life, to think about others, and the importance of family. That definition of family can be blood family, but also the family you create for yourself. Jared says what keeps him going is a hope for the future and the knowledge that he has control over his own life.
As the interview comes to a close, I ask him about the piece of artwork of an unfamiliar woman on his wall. Jared explains this is a piece from, Mormon artist James Christensen, and how much he loves this artist’s work. Christensen is famous for placing a fish in all of his artworks. A teacher I once had, who was friends with Christensen, told me he did this because fishes are not affected by gravity. Fishes can be placed virtually anywhere in a frame, realistic or fantasy. People who are familiar with his work will often find themselves searching for the fish in the scene. It was in my later adult years, I heard Christensen admitted this is somewhat a myth; in certain scenes he intentionally leaves fish out. Christensen claims for practical reasons there are no fish in most of his religious works, specifically one of his most asked about works “Gethsemane”. For all of Christensen’s religious works, he wants to create a sense of practicality, a sense of gravity, and thus removes the fish.
And yet the audience still searches. The audience still asks where to find Christensen’s signature symbol, for without the fish, they feel something is missing. Without the fish, they feel his masterpiece is incomplete. While I still attend my church services weekly, I find myself still searching for fish. Searching for the LGBTQ individuals who are marginalized in most societies, but historically marginalized by my own religion and society. There is currently a policy ban, preventing membership of children of gay couples in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Understandably, I look around and see very few LGBTQ individuals currently sitting in the pews, for they feel there is no place for them. While Jared has always been a fish, this is what makes him beautiful. This is part of what makes him important. Without him, or people like him, I find myself not recognizing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which preached to take in the marginalized and outcast. I find it ironic to be searching for fish in my Christian church, while reading of the story when Christ multiplied two fish to feed 5,000 people. I find it ironic to be searching for fish, when historically the fish has been used as a symbol of Christ. I ache to see the day a fish is painted somewhere in my own religious framework. I ache to see a day, when inclusion of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters, is valued above practicality. I continue to wonder if we ask, will we receive it? If I continue to search for a fish in Christensen’s artwork Gethsemane, will I ever find it?
- The LDS Church has recently retracted the policy barring membership of children of LGBTQ couples, but still has many strides to make in gender and LGBTQ equality.
- names have been changed to protect the identity of the subject.