An openly gay Mormon used to be something of a unicorn, but one young man's proud coming out video is a statement to the contrary.
Jimmy Lee Hales, a Mormon student at Brigham Young University, came out to his family and friends in a touching, five-minute YouTube video that has already been watched more than 100,000 times.
Gay Mormons exist, Hales says in the video, but it can be a lonely existence.
"It doesn't help that people pretend or act like we're not here," Hales narrates. "Coming out to people has been difficult. In fact, the hardest person to come out was myself."
Some people in the video seem unsurprised by the news, while others think he's joking. His sister, Christy, even asks whether he could be bisexual.
"Not even boobs?" she asks. "I don't like boobs," he responds, laughing.
However, the best reaction is that of his mother, Tracy, who gives new meaning to the expression "jaw dropping."
While most people in the video are shocked and surprised at the student's news, they generally are accepting of Hales and remind him they still love him.
Slate notes that in the past, Mormon doctrine on homosexuality has been fairly conservative, but the new Mormon Church website mormonsandgays.org -- as well as several high-profile coming-out stories -- may signal a shift in church policy.
In an extensive blog post, Hales writes that it's clear that the realization and coming-out process is still a complicated one for devout Mormons.
When he revealed the news to his bishop, the man replied, "That sucks." But Hales writes that this was exactly what he needed to hear:
He didn't make the mistake and tell me to have hope or that one day I still might get married. Either one of those approaches would have thrust me out the door. My bishop is a man of God. The topic was relatively new to him and I feel he did well with it. He is a man of God, with the gift of discernment that I haven't seen before. He truly understood that I must be passing through hell and still have a long way to go. As long as he knew that, then that was enough for me.
Hales notes that although he has come out as gay, he also believes he must remain celibate. He quotes a church elder, who declares that "same-gender attraction is not a sin, but acting on those feelings is -- just as it would be with heterosexual feelings."
The mormonsandgays.com website affirms this arguably uneasy compromise, writing, "The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is."