Saturday, July 29, 2017

Tears in Heaven, Part II

“I have to remember that I’m not the old me. The new me realizes that I have worth in the world. And Gramps sees that worth in me." --Topher

This is Part II of the interview with Gramps and Topher. If you haven't yet, go read Part I first.

Question: Gramps, why were you so passionate about Topher? What made you want to move heaven and hell to help him?

Gramps: Through my teen years up to age 16, I lived on the edge of suicide. I had the plans in place and every detail worked out and I could have executed the plan in an instant. For me, it wasn’t like I wanted to die, it was just that I wanted the suffering to stop and I didn’t have any other options that I could make out; neither was there any hope for improvement. Fast-forward to 2017, I am keenly aware that Mormon kids in Utah are killing themselves and the situation appears to be worsening in recent years. The fact that LGBT kids are at the heart of the suicide epidemic really had me amped up. This was the backdrop.

Being new to Reddit and discovering my new /r/exmormon family, and realizing for the first time in my life that I am not alone, I began dealing with my old exmo stuff. I started posting and letting go of some old hurts that had been festering. Topher responded to one of my posts and publicly apologized to me and all LGBTs for being a hateful anti-gay bigot in his prior life as a TBM. Even before that moment, I had already started to notice Topher’s posts. He was extremely articulate and his writing was always on the mark. It was clear he spent a considerable amount of time and effort on /r/exmormon thoughtfully encouraging others and helping them work through their issues. Topher was obviously a millennial and he bowled me over with his compassion and the level of maturity he exhibited.

That’s when I decided to take a closer look at Topher and his earlier posts that came before me. Holy fuck, Topher was going through some awful shit since having made his honest declaration of non-belief to his family. His parents were basically “tough loving” him by bitch-slapping him, kicking him in the balls and breaking a few ribs, together with non-stop shaming and guilting. Topher was severely depressed and drowning in a dark pool of hopelessness. He had been abandoned and betrayed by those he loved. But even with everything he was dealing with, Topher still managed to show daily compassion and extend his hand to fellow exmos. I knew Topher was amazing, and I also knew he needed help, so I put a hot-link to his /r/exmormon posts on my desktop where I could easily jump directly to and monitor his communications.

I reached out to him on a personal level and eventually volunteered to be his surrogate grandfather, if he would have me. Maybe I could help fill the gap that had been created when his family had tossed him in the trash. He cautiously agreed and I shared my private contact information with him; he didn’t reciprocate. In my mind, I couldn’t escape this feeling that my outreach to him had this creepy-old-man-stalker vibe to it; I understood his reservations and I realized it would take time to build trust. Fuck. Saving another Mormon life here--that was all I could think about--it was worth risking looking like I was some stalker.

Question: Topher, what made you trust Gramps? Why did you let him in?

Topher: To this day, I’m not entirely sure I have an answer for that. I mean, here’s some random guy, who I’ve never interacted with, that is so passionate about my situation that he’s offering to fly out here just to have a chance to help my brother navigate being gay and in the church. I guess that could raise some red flags for some people, but I didn’t feel any. Gramps says he was worried about coming off as a creepy old man, and he’s right that I didn’t reciprocate my personal contact information. But it wasn’t because I was leery of the situation. It was because I was still in the depths of depression. I didn’t want anyone to notice me. It would be easier to die and not have anyone hurt this way. I’m ~99% atheist and don’t believe in a hereafter, but I feel that humans can connect on a subconscious level. I don’t know how or why, but I immediately trusted Gramps.

After reading Gramps’ response to why he was so passionate to me, I’m tearing up. I tried so hard to hide my pain. Though I felt like I was free, I was bound by my old Mormon way of thinking. Bound tighter than I could imagine. I felt like I couldn’t help people unless I proved that I had no pain. That I had conquered the very thing that I was trying to help people conquer.

As far as the passion we feel for each other now, I think you’ll come to understand that we just have some sort of innate connection; one that is hard to put in words....

Question: After that night, describe for us your relationship development and how you got to where you are today.

Gramps: Did I message him the next day? Or did he? Numbness and anxiety prevent my total recall of those events. All I remember is that somehow, mid-way through the following day, there was contact… and the immediate flood of relief that came with knowing he was alive.

Topher: That’s about as much as I remember too. I spent the rest of the night on the mountainside. At some point the next day I remembered there were probably people worried about me. Not my family, of course, but people that would soon become my family...

Gramps: Soon after that night we switched from Reddit PM to SMS which of course means that Topher trusted me with his phone number. Cautiously and tentatively, we began to share with each other the details of our lives. We talked by phone and for the first time heard each other’s voice. We shared life experiences; we raged about TSCC. Together we navigated both the down times and the up times. We laughed; we cried. Text messages flew back and forth by the thousands (thank gob for unlimited plans). At some point I realized that Topher has become part of my psyche; never out of my mind for even five minutes. I’ll be reaching for my phone to text him and before I can pick it up, I’m receiving one from him. That’s how our days are. As the first light of morning breaches the mountain, Topher’s text tone sounds… “Hi there.” We share songs and playlists that speaks to our souls and our common suffering and joy. Our relationship is still new and developing, yet we’re communicating on a different level now… like we’ve known each other all our lives. Sometimes I know he’s having a bad patch; I can just feel it without him telling me. I’m reminded of a line from Sense8 which I can only quote loosely, but which describes so perfectly how it is with me: “I can feel his pain. It’s only bearable because the alternative is not.”

Topher: To this day, I’m not fully “cured” of my low self-esteem. More days than not, I feel like I’m a burden on Gramps. I feel like I should tell him thanks for what he’s done, but I’m not worth any further effort. But, I have to remember that I’m not the old me. The new me realizes that I have worth in the world. And Gramps sees that worth in me. I’ve never even seen Gramps in person, but I love him mightily. He knows me, can feel my mood. He’s absolutely right. Texts all day. Good times and bad times. So thanks, Gramps. You’ve changed my life in a way nobody has before. Words aren’t enough to describe this emotion I feel. So until we raise a glass together, a Delta sunset behind us, I love you Gramps.

Gramps: Now, Topher has a safe place to live where he isn’t constantly being abused and made to feel “lesser” by righteous Mormons. His self-confidence grows stronger each day. He excels at his job and has been rewarded with more than one promotion. We share and celebrate these achievements together. He is so brilliant and smart, so capable and compassionate, so funny and fun-loving. He has always been these things, but he lost his confidence along the way. He was told repeatedly by family and friends that he was a worthless apostate fuckup for leaving the church… and he started to believe it. He just needed someone to believe in him and tell him so and walk with him.

I came to /r/exmormon looking for answers after walking away from the church decades ago. What I found here exceeded my wildest expectations. I found a community of like-minded individuals that is understanding and supportive. I found exmormons who swear like sailors, talk openly about sex, and drink coffee, beer and wine. I found people who are allies to LGBTs and are not afraid to say so. I found people who understand me; people who feel my pain and know it personally. Peace has never seemed within reach, but here, it feels possible. And then I found Topher.

I can’t find the words to convey how much I love him. Sometimes I just shake my head in disbelief over the inability to comprehend the events of the last three months. I love him so much. I’m a fucking gay childless grandpa and I love my grandson so much! Want to hear another surprise? Topher gives to me and my life as much or more than I do to him. My heart is so full it’s just gonna BUST.

Topher: Well, I don’t know that I give as much to Gramps as he’s given me. He’s helped me become the master of my ship, so to say. Since he’s come into my life, I’ve been promoted three times at work, a third one in the near future. I’ve moved to a new, safer place to live. I’ve been steadily losing weight and becoming more loving of myself. Gramps credits this all to me being my awesome self. But I’d be so much less of a man, or dead on a mountainside, without him…

I write poetry sometimes. I think it’s kinda lame, but Gramps seems to like it. So, here’s a poem that I wrote about us.

"Lost and alone.
Drowning in my pain.
Searching for a home.
Cold, wet, in the pouring rain.
A lost little boy, yet full grown.
So angry, so hurt.
No words, just a moan...
I'd had enough,
It was time to go.
My heart so rough.
Wanted to die, quick or slow...
In my darkest hour,
There was a light!
It gave me a sense of power,
Just enough to sharpen my sight!
I thought about pushing you away...
But, you seemed here to stay?
I was so close to leaving this Earth.
But you, you gave me another birth...
Texts, calls, a little self worth?
I thought I was nothing,
But to you, I was something
I was strong, compassionate, loving and...and...
And I was so far away...
So far away, yet you held me near!
I thought, how could he love me?
I had so much darkness and fear...
Yet, you held me near"

So, that’s a brief glimpse into our saga. It’s a crazy one, that’s for damn sure. We’d like you guys to ask any questions you may have and we’ll try to answer as best we can.

Some fun facts:

My average number of texts per month have gone up from just under 1000 to right around 4500.

Gramps has the most adorable old gay man voice. Absolutely the best!

Tears in Heaven, Part I

“[P]eople were responding with compassion and trying to help, each in their own way. Talking to myself again, I said 'You’ve been afraid it might come to this and here it is. You only get one chance to help Topher. Don’t fuck it up.'" --Gramps

This is an exchange between Gramps and Topher originally shared here. Please read to the end.

Topher: One random 21 year old kid in Utah and one random, old-ass (he’s gonna kill me for that one) man in California. He’s absolutely spot on; he did save me and here is our story.

My old Reddit username is /u/Topher1218. Shortly after Gramps and I met, I retired the Topher account and started my current /u/YourCreepyBishop account. The nickname Topher kind of stuck and that’s what Gramps calls me now.

Gramps: Still relatively new here on Reddit, I have been lurking and posting as /u/DeltaDaze for a few months. Meeting Topher in this forum, the subsequent events of that night, and the whirlwind months since have been so remarkable, so moving, so life-changing, we both agreed we needed to share this experience with our /r/exmormon family.

Question: Obviously there’s an elephant in the room. Tell us about that night.

Gramps: “I want to kill myself” is what his post read. My heart stopped. I read on:

Topher: “I’m so done. I’m alone. No family, no friends. Leaving the cult took everyone from me and left me stripped of the dignity and respect of the closest people in my life. Fuck the cult. Oh, sure, people are going to say they care. And that they “want to talk”. Want to make things better. But ya know what, when you die, nobody but your family even remembers you after a week.”

Gramps: “No, no, no! This can’t be happening. Topher, I thought you were doing better! WTF happened?” I thought to myself. He had attempted suicide before and his tone told me he wasn’t kidding around. The discussion had already been going about an hour already and I was late! A Tapir Signal had gone up and people were responding with compassion and trying to help, each in their own way. Talking to myself again, I said “You’ve been afraid it might come to this and here it is. You only get one chance to help Topher. Don’t fuck it up.”

Adrenaline was pumping and I tried to calm my mind so I could think and process as I read my way through his post, the comments and replies. What is going on here? I read through them all again. People were showing tremendous compassion and giving good advice and telling him that things would get better; they always eventually get better. Why aren’t these good people reaching him? His responses were mostly dismissive or borderline unresponsive; he was short and abrupt. People seemed to be saying all the right things but they weren’t getting through. I read through it all one more time and then I jumped in. I took the elements from his post and the replies and fixed on the elements that were tormenting him and started talking to him specifically about each one.

Gramps: “Topher, it sounds like you’ve hit rock bottom. I know you’re sick of faking it, and you’ve been abandoned. It hurts like a mother fucker. There is a way out of this swamp. We need to get you somewhere you can breathe fresh air… non-mormon air. There are other possibilities… you just can’t see them right now. Please talk to me.”

Topher: “Hey Gramps. I don’t know why, but fuck, I broke down reading your message. You’re right, I need to get my head above water.”

Gramps: “So good to hear from you. Fuck. Wish so badly I could take your pain away. You don’t deserve this. We will get through this. PM me…”

Gramps: Under Reddit private messaging, the dialogue continued. I told him it fucking sucks being abandoned by the very people that are supposed to have his back. I told him I knew suicide and that it had nearly claimed me as a teen. He started talking more and venting. He already had my phone number and email and I told him he could reach me day or night no matter what. We communicated for what seemed like a few hours. He was still very dark, angry and hurt. I listened; I commiserated; I told him we were in this together. And then he went silent. Terrified, I gripped my phone and stared at it for another hour; no “bling” of an incoming message. He didn’t respond to my continued messages and it was obvious he was done. With the absence of phone communication, I channeled him directly with my brain and soul; I focused all my energy on reaching him: “Topher, if you can hear me, I’m holding you close right now. Can you feel my love? Let my love comfort and heal you. Let it wrap you up and keep you warm. I’m here and I will keep you safe.” I sobbed and paced the floor the remainder of that sleepless night. Had I reached him? Had I done any good at all? I didn’t know...

Topher: Had I known the anxiety that my sudden lack of communication was causing, I would’ve been right back on the phone. But I could only think about myself. I was so tired, so done. All the pain of losing my parents to their religion was overtaking me. I couldn’t think straight. I was in fight or flight mode; and I was done fighting. The primal need for relief was eating my soul. What I’ve never told Gramps is that I went up the mountain that night, wrote a note to my immediate family, along with a note to Gramps, and swallowed some pills, washing it down with burning gulps of liquor. What nobody knows until now, is that I stepped off the precipice. And the scary thing is, I felt relief. I wasn’t going to wake up for another painful day. I was free.

Gramps: The pain of knowing what I didn’t know about that night… it’s crushing my heart. All I can do is sit here and sob. I fucking failed.

Topher: Gramps didn’t fail. Almost immediately after feeling relief, reality set in. I was going to die. And leave behind people that were just trying to help me. Death wasn’t going to bring relief, letting someone into my life to help me was. I forced myself to throw up time after time, until I was sure everything was out of my stomach. Gramps will someday come to peace with the fact that he did, in fact, save my life. It may have not been a “in the nick of time” movie moment, but life isn’t Disney. I owe my life to Gramps.

Checkout Part II here.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Endlessly Optimistic

“I don’t know if I would be physically hurt, but I do know I would be disowned,” --C

It’s hard enough navigating your sexuality and gender identity when you’re 18. It’s even harder when the church you were born and raised in considers anything other than cis and straight a sin.

That’s why C is in need of help. Located in Houston, Texas, C is trying to find affordable housing near the University of Houston before they come out to their parents. C uses gender neutral pronouns and knew from a young age that they weren’t only attracted to women like the Mormon church says they should be. Coming out to their parents could be devastating.

“I don’t know if I would be physically hurt, but I do know I would be disowned,” C told us.

C’s family are strong Mormons. Their mom is an LDS convert and dad comes from a long line of Mormon pioneer stock. C, though, began to mentally drift away from religion in middle school, and had to lie and go through the motions to keep their parents happy. Any time C pushed back against Sunday School teachings or seminary lessons, they were ridiculed or verbally abused. On top of the stranglehold of the church, C was also navigating mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.

It's taken time, but C has managed to set up their escape route. They shook off pressure to go on a mission by using a patriarchal blessing to convince their parents that college was the right choice instead. They managed to escape BYU by secretly applying and being accepted at a university close to home.

This fall, C will embark on a Communication major and Education minor. They are already working and have money set aside for textbooks and some living expenses. Tuition is covered by scholarships. All that’s left is for C to find affordable housing and a way to pay for that, utilities, and other living expenses.

If you have any leads on housing or are willing to help out, please let the Tapir Signal folks know! Or visit C's GoFundMe page.

After graduation, C hopes to go into public relations or advertising, and write the next great American novel in the meantime. They love writing and arguing – they were on the debate team in high school – and they were a competitive swimmer for years. These days, C likes reading and music and spends a lot of time volunteering, especially with disability advocacy causes. They’re an Eagle Scout and eager to start college.

“I think I need to find a way to be my own person and not the person my parents, and through them, the church, wants me to be,” C told us.

The Tapir Signal group has been a great help in that regard so far.

“Dozens of people have reached out and kept in touch,” C said. “It’s amazing to see the support.”

For more information on C and their journey, please see:

Original Reddit post asking for help

TapirBotHero signal post in response

Note from Tapir Signal: while the GoFundMe page says it was created by the Tapir Signal, all of the funds go directly to C.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

What we're about

What is the Tapir Signal?
When Gotham is in trouble, Commissioner Gordon lights up the bat signal to call for aid. We don’t have Batman, but we’ve got something better: a kind, caring network of people willing to pool their skills and resources to help others dealing with hardship because of their religion.

The Tapir Signal primarily serves people struggling in Mormon communities and the church. While the church has and continues to positively impact many members’ lives, it has also severely harmed countless individuals. It has silenced members and supported a legislative agenda that discriminates against women and members of the LGBTQ community. It has failed to apologize or make amends for its racist doctrine and policies in the past. The church-owned and -run Brigham Young University has interrupted the education of members who resign from the church while at school and punished victims of sexual assault for coming forward. There are several documented cases where the church has encouraged victims of abuse to forgive their abuser and continue living in fear and violence rather than contact authorities.

Working in conjunction with the Exmormon subreddit and other communities on, we shine the Tapir Signal whenever someone needs help mitigating or escaping the abuses of the church or community. We try to serve anyone in need, whether they are ex-members, current believing Mormons, or aren’t sure where they fall on the spectrum of faith. We have a network of volunteers spread across the United States and in various places throughout the world who are ready to help tailor a resume, pack up a moving van, or simply listen when someone needs a sympathetic ear, among other things.

How to activate the Tapir Signal
If you are in need of help, contact the moderators of the Tapir Signal through any of the links in the side panel. Let us know what kind of aid you need. In the past, we have helped individuals and their families by extending job opportunities, providing temporary housing, aiding in the search for permanent housing, talking with people in crisis, and much more.

How to help
Become a member of the Tapir Signal network by volunteering your skills, resources, or even just your time. Click the “volunteer” link in the sidebar to sign up. Even if you have never been a Mormon but would like to help, we’re happy to have you as part of our network.

But why tapirs?
Because they’re interesting animals and we think they’re cute.

Actually, the name comes from some truly fascinating Mormon apologetics. The Book of Mormon references horses living in the Americas during a time when every single piece of archaeological and biological evidence says they did not. Mormon apologist Daniel C. Petersen suggests that maybe the horses referenced were actually tapirs. Because that makes sense.

Mission statement
Through a national network of compassionate volunteers, the Tapir Signal seeks to provide help and resources to ex-Mormons and Mormons who are suffering abuses either directly caused by or due to the influence of the Mormon church. We believe that everyone, regardless of faith, deserves to be safe and respected and we will do our part to help people in need achieve both.