A Mormon Republican county commissioner in Utah has come out as gay in a Facebook video where he chronicles a suicide attempt and other difficulties in coming to terms with his identity.
“After decades of wrestling with who I really am, I’ve come to understand and accept some things about myself,” Nathan Ivie, a first-term member of the Utah County Commission, says in the video, posted Wednesday. He “felt different” as early as age 9: “My orientation and attractions were not those that were expected of me.” He ended up trying to take his own life at age 22, but now, at 40, he has accepted himself as “a loving person worthy of love who values others and hopes to be valued.”
“I’m as committed today as I have ever been to my faith, family, and freedom,” Ivie says. “But I realized I could not continue to live a lie. It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t right for anyone.”
Utah County, just south of Salt Lake City, is one of the most conservative parts of the state. Its county seat is Provo, home to Brigham Young University, which is affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). The church is deeply opposed to same-sex relationships, and its leaders have even said LGBTQ activism comes from Satan.
In a follow-up interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, he said his politics haven’t changed. “The Democratic Party should not have a monopoly on tolerance,” he said. “I hope this illustrates that you can be gay and Republican. You can believe in limited government and personal liberties.”
He declined to say if he would seek a second term on the commission; Utah County is considering restructuring its form of government. “I plan on continuing my public services,” he said. “We’ll see when and how and we’ll go from there.”
He was already known as an LGBTQ ally, having spoken out against the exclusion of LGBTQ-identified organizations from the America’s Freedom Festival parade in Provo last July 4. Festival organizers eventually relented and allowed the groups to participate.
He said that by coming out, he hopes to help LGBTQ young people who are struggling. “They need to know they’re valued, they’re loved,” he said.
To the Associated Press, Ivie added that he wants to let young people know “it’s OK to be different, it’s OK to live authentically. You can be gay and a Republican … you need to trust that people will love you for who you really are.”
He said he was influenced by interacting with gay couples as a photographer and outdoor sportsman. He recently photographed a same-sex couple’s wedding and saw that “the love they shared and the way they looked at each other was the same as any other couple,” he told the AP. “It helped me realize, ‘Maybe I’m not broken.’”
He and his wife of 13 years have separated but remain best friends and will continue to co-parent their two children, he said.
His announcement received support from several Utah politicians, gay and straight, liberal and conservative. Jim Dabakis, a former state senator who was the only openly gay Utah legislator during his tenure, tweeted this:
Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, who is lesbian, also tweeted a message of support.
So did Tanner Ainge, a fellow Utah County commissioner.
Check out the original story here: The Advocate Magazine.
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