Spencer, Health Clinic Volunteer and VP of Operations, San Francisco

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Spencer, in his own words: “I grew up as a gay, Japanese-American, devout Mormon in Boise, Idaho. Convinced that I would overcome my sexuality by throwing myself into a diligent Mormon life, I locked myself in the proverbial closet and promptly ingested the key. This meant not just complete immersion into the Mormon Church, but to stand out from among even the most devout practioners. Wasn’t I told that salvation would be mine if I did everything right? And for all intents and purposes, my upbringing in the Mormon community was idyllic: soccer and baseball with my Mormon brothers; shoveling snow for the elderly on winter morning with my Mormon leaders; I was an Eagle Scout (whose favorite Merit Badge was kayaking), a proud and decorated member of Troop 83.

It is October 1997, and I am standing at the Salt Lake City International airport waving goodbye to my family. My crisply folded itinerary tells me that I will be landing at Hiroshima Airport in fifteen hours. My two-year Mormon mission has begun. Elder Jared is Caucasian, and at twenty, only one year older than myself. He is the first of seven mission partners that I will encounter over the next twenty-four months. These two years spent in Japan speed by, faster than I used to slurp down long strands of ramen at the noodle shops, elbow-to-elbow with well-dress Japanese business men.

My attendance at Brigham Young University yielded the same results: teeming with fresh-faced Mormons, the community came built-in. My junior year is when my communities began to overlap. After much consideration and prayer, I felt strongly that for me to be happy in life, I had to allow myself to love freely, and that meant disavowing from Mormon beliefs and beginning the slow process of accepting myself as gay.

San Francisco has been my home for the last nine years. This is my community. I’m an avid sportsman; completed my first triathlon in 2010, the Escape From Alcatraz. Participated in an Urbanathlon in 2011, finished 47th out of 1,161.”


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