This portrait of me was part of a series done by a friend of mine. It happened purely by chance, because another model couldn’t make it. He wanted us to hold a word that described us, beyond what others might see in our sexuality. My friends came up with things like “Dreamer”, or “Superhero”. But I struggled. My friends brainstormed with me, and when “Survivor” emerged, I knew that was it.

I still wear a yellow LiveStrong band that I put on three years ago. In the last three years I have survived cancer, a faith crisis, abandonment from my family, religio-cultural conflict, a massive breakup, and a major move. There were moments I thought I would never make it through, when I honestly could not see how things would work out. But I am still here. I am a survivor.

I wrote this poem during my second semester back at BYU, the first semester I was accepting my sexuality. I feel the end especially expresses where I have been, and where I am going.

Beneath the surface lies a world so few see,

A world that most do not understand,
neither do they try.
A world of love and passion,
Of heartbreak and woe,
A world of shadows straining to find
who they are and where they belong.

I have found this world,
because I am a part of it.
Part of the shadow that flees the sun
for a refuge of safety and peace.

I know the restraint of hiding from the day,
of seeking a place of solitude where my heart can find its home.

I know the chains of living one life by day,
and another by night.

I know the yearning of the shadow for love.
Need that the day cannot understand.

I know the fire of infant love as it courses through me,
reaching at last my aching heart.

I know the beauty of meeting the morn
with the eyes of glory looking into mine.

Though I am shadow,
I know the perfection of a completed heart.
I know its scarcity;
I know its grace;
I know its worth.

So how unlike the day can I truly be?
How different am I,
Though I walk in night to guard my heart?

My love is as yours.
My heart beats for peace,
As yours.

I am the shadow
But I am not the dark.
My soul is light.
My heart is love.
And my hand is strength.

Though I must hide from the day,
I will not fall.
I will not lose faith in the strength of human will.
Though I live in night,
I will believe.
I will live strong.
And when the world of shadow is finally ready to meet the day,
And when the day has found love and compassion for the shadow,
I will be there,