Living with Same-sex Attraction: Our Story
Ty and Danielle Mansfield - May 22, 2012
What Ty didn’t know until 12 years later is that the first time we met, my sister and I had specifically requested him to sing at her farewell. He had performed a solo in a Men’s Chorus concert a few months earlier, so we knew who he was. He had a beautiful tenor voice and he was incredibly good-looking, but that could have described a lot of men in the choir. There was something else about Ty. He stood out to us.
After we had met him, that feeling became even stronger. Ty had this innocence that was endearing. He was kind of shy, and it was obvious that he had no idea how good-looking he was. I was too timid myself to try to really get to know him, so I settled for having a crush from afar.
It must have been shortly after Ty’s move to D.C. that he came back on our family’s radar. I was in Deseret Book when, from across the room, a book caught my eye. On the cover was a headshot of a very attractive, clean-cut man in a shirt and tie. He had a bar across his eyes—the kind that ’80s journalists used in an effort to obscure a person’s identity. My curiosity got the best of me and I crossed the room, picked up the book, and read the cover: In Quiet Desperation: Understanding the Challenge of Same-Gender Attraction. The authors were Fred and Marilyn Matis . . . and Ty Mansfield.
I was stunned. I knew there couldn’t be many Ty Mansfields and I felt sad thinking that all these years, Ty must have felt very alone as he dealt with this. I had never heard of anyone with same-sex attraction staying in the Church, so this was quite unusual. I bought the book and told my siblings about it. The general consensus was that our respect and appreciation for Ty had jumped exponentially. Naturally, there was a draw to know where he was and what he was up to, but you don’t exactly look someone up to say, “Hey, I never realized you experienced same-sex attraction. So what else is going on in your life?”
When we ran into each other at the store, he didn’t even remember who I was. At this point, almost 10 years had passed since my sister’s farewell. I knew Ty loved my family and that he would remember my siblings, so I reintroduced myself. When, again, a few years later, Ty asked if he could take me to dinner for my birthday over Christmas break, I was excited to catch up, but the possibility of his being interested in me never crossed my mind.
We went out several times, but I didn’t know we were going out on dates. I had recently gone out with a few other guys and I wasn’t looking for new dating options. I didn’t think Ty was either. I did enjoy spending time with him, and I missed him on the days we didn’t talk, so as he continued to ask me out, I continued to say yes. Four or five dates later, it suddenly hit me: “Is Ty Mansfield dating me . . . to date me?”
When I realized Ty was interested in me, it was kind of a shock. I didn’t know someone who experienced same-sex attraction could happily marry a member of the opposite sex. I had never heard of it happening. During Ty’s last week in Utah, I read everything I could on LDS mixed-orientation marriages and prayed a lot. I didn’t know what this would mean for the details of my life, but I felt peaceful and knew that I wanted to pursue it.
After I went to visit Ty in Texas, we decided to take a hiatus from talking and to focus for a week on fasting, praying, and pondering what we had experienced. On Saturday, we would each go to the temple where we were living, and then we would talk on Sunday. During the conversation on Sunday, we decided that I should move to Texas . . . in two weeks.
Because things progressed so quickly, I’m sure a lot of people thought we were crazy. Fortunately, my family already knew and loved Ty, so they were 100 percent supportive. My friends have been supportive too. Naturally, there were some who had questions about what it would mean for me to marry someone who experienced same-sex attraction, but once people knew I wasn’t worried, they didn’t worry either.
A few weeks before our wedding, people started blogging about Ty Mansfield marrying a woman. Someone created a website that was an open letter to me, telling me not to marry Ty and warning me that I would probably end up divorced and a single mom. It didn’t cause me to doubt or question, but I did feel saddened that one of the happiest events of my life was being sullied by other people’s issues. A lot of mean things were said about Ty. I had known early on that by marrying Ty, I was signing up for a life of some scrutiny, invasive questions, and less privacy than I would have preferred, and I agreed to the whole package . . . but no one likes to have unkind things said about them or the people they love.
Ty, on the other hand, was more worried about me. He had already been through similar experiences on his own, and he was hoping to shield me from that a little longer, but the only thing it served to do was dampen my spirits for a few hours. From the moment when I first read negative accounts of mixed-orientation marriages, I had a clear impression that these stories were not my own and that no one else’s story would impact mine; Ty and I would create our own story together.
I have no doubts or regrets about choosing to marry Ty. Early on, long before we were ever engaged, I felt a momentary flash of fear, but almost as quickly as it came, I felt a powerful, calm reassurance and the thought, “You can trust Ty. He is who he says he is. You know what you have felt.” The fear never returned.
People sometimes want to know what it’s like to be married to someone who experiences same-sex attraction. My answer is, I don’t know. What I do know is what it’s like to be married to Ty Mansfield, and I love it. I feel extremely blessed. Ty is a more loving and affectionate husband than I ever imagined I would find, and he is very patient with my weaknesses.
I have often said that same-sex attraction plays a big part in our lives because of the time Ty has invested in reaching out to others, but from my perspective, it isn’t noticeable in our marriage. I don’t ever think about my husband experiencing SSA unless something stereotypical comes up, like he is a much better decorator than I am and he is a better listener than any other man I’ve ever dated. I also feel like the difficulties associated with addressing SSA have made my husband who he is. They have refined him and drawn him closer to the Lord. His challenges also allowed us to start off our marriage with an ability to discuss things openly, which has been a great blessing.
People also occasionally ask how we’ll tell our children about our story. I don’t think we have a definitive answer yet, but I’m not concerned. We want our children to be emotionally healthy, for them to feel comfortable discussing anything in our home, and for sexuality to be a topic that is approached from a healthy place instead of from a place of taboo or embarrassment. We feel no shame about Ty’s experience with same-sex attraction. My only desire is that our children hear about this from us, rather than from a child of an acquaintance or friend. I’m giving myself at least a few more months to figure that one out since we have at least that long till our baby starts talking. When we do tell our children, they will have experienced already for themselves the stability of being in a family with parents who aren’t perfect, but who love each other and them very much. I imagine that the issue of same-sex attraction will be similar for our children as it is for us—it’s a piece of our story, but it is not the story. And so much of our story is still to be written.
For more information on this topic and resources on the web, visit some of the following links:
For LDS parents of children who experience same-gender attraction, click here to read "Advice to Parents: Relating to Your Son or Daughter Experiencing Same-gender Attraction."
Ty Mansfield is a cofounder of the nonprofit organization North Star, a support organization for LDS individuals and families living with same-sex attraction. Visit northstarlds.org for more information.
© LDS Living, May/June 2012.