My name is Kaylene Packer. I am 30 years old and I love the fact that I can say that I am married to my best friend, Kris. We live in Utah, born and raised. We have two kids and a poodle, and I am lucky enough to stay home with them and be a mom! Boston is 3, Brooklyn is 1, and Pepper is 15.
I have felt like I should share my story for some time now, but have always come up with an excuse not to - I am not the best at writing; I am boring; people don't want to read what I have to say - but here I am, still feeling like I needed share it, regardless.
My intention by opening up is to hopefully help someone along the way. I will talk about me (my experience coming out), my family (a bit about Kris’ transition from female to male), my trials, and also share my highlights and happy thoughts.
I hope you find understanding and encouragement here. Thanks so much for reading and remember, in a world where you can be anything, be kind.
QUESTIONS ABOUT MYSELF:
When did you first realize you were gay?
I guess I always knew who I was attracted to, but I didn’t know that meant I was gay until much later. Around the end of elementary school I realized that I was way more interested in my girlfriends than my boyfriends. This was scary, as I didn't want to lose my friends or be "different", so I never really told anyone and tried to hide that part of who I was. In junior high I knew for sure that I was gay, but made the decision that I would never act on it or let it show. (Pretend you are interested in boys - easy enough!) I committed my life to my church. By 8th grade I had decided that the only way to be happy in life was to be 100% committed to my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints). That worked for about 2 years until I realized that I was really wanting to be in a relationship and find love. During my sophomore year of high school I pretty much cut out most of the people in my life and decided it was easier if no one really knew who I was. I was a cheerleader and didn't want the other girls to think I was interested in them (...because I wasn’t! There is this thought that if you are interested in girls, you are interested in all of them. So far from the truth!), so I focused on school and cheer until I graduated. I never had a real relationship with a girl until I was out of high school, and after all of this time, who I am attracted to has never changed. I still am interested in girls, but I can appreciate a good-looking guy, like David Beckham, any day. Now my girl is a guy, and the reality is, I am just attracted to my person - gender aside. I love Kris more now today after everything we have been through, and nothing could ever change that. Male or female, Kris is who I want to be with forever!
What was your family like growing up?
I come from a religious Mormon family. Both of my parents went to BYU. They have since divorced and both remarried, so I have a lot of siblings. My mom and dad had five kids - two girls (including me) and three boys. When my mom remarried my stepdad, he already had five kids as well, so I gained four more sisters and a brother. When my dad remarried, I got two more sisters and a brother. In total, I have seven sisters and five brothers. All of them are married with children except one, so, as you can imagine, there is always a lot going on and a lot of different opinions. When I married Kris, it was the complete opposite of what I had grown up with. His parents have been married for 50 years and he only has one sister. A lot smaller and calmer.
Growing up with so much going on was good in a lot of ways. I wasn’t always the focus of unwanted attention and was easily overlooked. There was always something going on to keep us busy - weddings, birthdays, holidays, now babies, you name it. If I just appeared like everything was fine, people believed it. I tried the "fake it till you make it" method. It got me through a lot of rough patches, but there were definitely still dark times.
I would say that, for the most part, my family is very active in the LDS church. (I left the church in 2010). Even though I know a lot of them do not agree with my life style, we can agree to disagree and still love each other. But, getting to that point took time! It was a slow process, and I think what helped us get where we are today is loving each other no matter what. Love is always the key! (I believe this so much, that I even have a tattoo that says, "Love conquers all.")
What was it like coming out to your family and friends?
I didn’t tell everyone at once. I was 21 when I finally told my mom. I don’t think I was quite ready, but I didn’t have much of a choice. My stepdad found an email I had written to Kris on our family computer, and it ended with, “Love you, babe!” He brought it to my attention and asked me if this girl was more then just a friend. I opened up and was as honest as I could be; I had a pretty good relationship with my stepdad and I trusted him. He told me that I should tell my mom. So, a week later I planned a time to talk to her. It went pretty horribly, to say the least. She had a breakdown saying things like, “What did I do wrong? How could you choose this? You’ll never have kids!” I tired to explain myself as calmly as I could, but I was full of all kinds of emotions. I was angry that she wasn’t even trying to understand me or where I was coming from, heartbroken that she seemed so disappointed in me, and I felt like she cared more about how this would affect her than what I was going through. I felt completely misunderstood. I truly thought that was the end of my relationship with my mom. I never wanted to talk to her again. Also, I was pretty sure that my stepdad gave her a heads-up about what was going to happen and I felt betrayed. Looking back on it all, I can see why they did what they did and said what they said. They cared about me and loved me and, at the time, they thought I was making the biggest mistake of my life. They didn't know what to say or how to handle the situation. I don’t blame them.
I believe time heals people. We have come so far since that point. I feel like my relationship with my mom is better now than it was before my teenage years. We have both grown so much. I think my mom realized that she didn’t want to lose me as a daughter, and figured that even though she didn’t agree with my love-life, she could still love me, differences aside. It works for us because I don’t force her to understand or support my love-life.
After my mom, I only told a few of my friends. I had already distanced myself from a lot of them. I thought it would be easier to push them away than to have them reject me when I told them. Out of all of my closest friends, I am happy to say that I only lost one through it all. I am lucky to have some pretty awesome and loving people in my life. As my confidence grew I started to think, “If they love me and they are truly my friends, they will see past this.” There is a saying that always stayed with me through my coming-out stage, and is still with me today:
“Be who you are and say what you feel because people who mind don't matter and people who matter don't mind.” – Dr. Seuss.
I believe that! You don’t want to be surrounded by people who are negative and make you feel bad about yourself - that is toxic. Life is too short to be anything but happy!
As far as my siblings go, I told the ones I was closest to and let my mom tell the rest. If I could go back in time, I would do this part differently. I wish they could have all heard it from me. Things can come across differently when told by someone else. A person who has not walked in your shoes can't tell your story (think of the game Telephone - every time your story is told by someone else, it will be different.) I know telling each one of them would have been the harder route, but it would have been worth it. My family is pretty accepting of me, but on varying degrees. Some are completely loving, kind, and supportive, where others are not supportive at all, but are trying to be kind. It’s about 50/50. Luckily, I understand. I would never demand that any of them see things my way, I only ask for kindness. The world is meant to be full of all different types of people, with different opinions, beliefs, likes, and dislikes. That is what makes it such a great and colorful place. What's best is when we can all learn to love each other for our differences and not expect people to feel, think, and do like you do. Once again, love is the key! I truly believe that is one of the main reasons God has put us here - to learn to love each other and be kind, even when differences make it hard.
What does authenticity mean to you?
I feel like being authentic means being who you are, and not who you think others want you to be. For me, this was really hard to figure out because I grew up being a people-pleaser. I wanted to make everyone happy, because when you make others happy, it usually makes you happy too. This is still true for me, to an extent. I had to learn that my happiness matters, and that I deserve to be happy as much as the next person! Despite what people may say (and what I've been told many times myself), this is not selfish! When I came out to my family and friends, there were some of them who told me I was being selfish, and I believed them for a while. This was a dark and depressing time that I will talk about more later. Luckily, I realized that I have to be the one who lives with myself every day - every second! I have to love who I am and be okay with my choices. If I wanted to be happy and live my life the way I wanted to, there would be a lot of disappointed people along the way. I had to come to the conclusion that I was okay with that, and when I did, it was so freeing! I felt all of my burdens lifted and my guilt was gone. I chose to be happy, and no one could take that away from me because it was my choice. That's not to say that I don’t feel sad when people are mean, but I have the tools that I need to overcome the hurtful and negative things people say. And for the record, I am very happy and love my life! I am being my most authentic and true self.
Have there been times when you have felt rejected and alone?
YES! The journey can be cruel. The trials we deal with can feel heavy and impossible to conquer. In times like these, I usually feel the most alone; like no one could really understand me and what I am going through. It can get really scary and depressing in those dark times.
When I came out when I was 21, I had already been in my first real relationship for over two years. I felt invincible and so happy, but also frustrated that I was constantly keeping a secret from those I loved. I couldn’t be who I really was, or share my fun and exciting news with my friends and family and have them be happy with me.
After coming out to my mom & stepdad, the next person I told was a lady that I worked for. She happened to also be a lady that attended my neighborhood church. And at the time, like I said, I thought I was invincible and that no one could break my confidence, but some how she got through to me in one of our conversations. She told me that God would heal me if I let him. That I could overcome this trial. That I was strong and meant to be something so much more. I had already heard these things in church, but when she spoke them to me, I believed her! I had never tried to overcome my “trail”. I had never really given God the opportunity to heal me. I knew I didn't want to go to hell, and I thought, "I can be saved!" I had to give this my whole-hearted effort and try to become the best Mormon that I could be, and she was willing to help me get there. So, the night after we talked, I thought a lot about what I should do. I came the conclusion that I needed to break off my relationship with Kris and be saved. I felt horrible about how the whole thing went down, because Kris never saw it coming. Our relationship was perfect. We were both happy and so in love. After Kris and I talked (and cried and cried), we knew this was the right thing for me to do. I had to figure some things out and see where life was suppose to take me. That was the hardest and most devastating thing I had ever been through, and that is pretty much what the next three years of my life looked like. I started meeting with my Stake President and Bishop weekly. I found an LDS Counselor who started the process to “fix” me. At some point I might go into more detail about that part of my life, but that will be later. To sum it up, I was miserable. I was doing everything that was I told to do. I was reading my scriptures every day and praying more then I had ever prayed before (like every hour). I was going to church and getting involved. I was going on dates with lots of different guys. I was even writing a missionary that I was friends with in high school, in hopes that, by creating lots of opportunities, God would fix me. At one point, after attending a singles ward for a while, I started to date a guy who I could really see myself with. I thought, "This is it! I'm going to marry this guy and be fixed!" But I soon realized that I was living a lie; I was trying to make everyone else happy, again! I couldn't bring him into that. I realized how unfair it would be to marry someone when you really don’t love them romantically! We were great friends and I thought everything about him was what I should want, but it never felt right. This is where the problem is for me; I can never get there romantically with a guy.
Needless to say, I was depressed more in those three years than I had ever been in my life. I felt more alone than ever and was so confused. Wasn't I supposed to be happy? I was trying my hardest to do everything right. Why wasn't I fixed? If you ask some people, I wasn’t trying hard enough.
How did you rise from this hard time?
What is great about this experience is that I truly found myself and my voice! I learned what I was made of and what was important to me. My happiness was just as important as anyone else's. I found that prayer did help me strengthen my relationship with God more than ever. I got my answer from him - I was going to be okay. He loved me! He understood me! He knew my heart and everything about me, and that was all that mattered! And to this day, that is what I believe and what keeps me going. Regardless of what anyone else believes or says, I know that God loves me and I have a great relationship with Him. I live my life in a way that I believe is pleasing to him. I try every day to be my best self. I try to live my life by Christ’s example, and that is all that I can do. I have stopped worrying so much about what everyone else thinks of me, and instead focus on what God thinks of me, and I have never been happier! My life isn’t perfect; there are days that are definitely harder than others, but I continue to rise - for God, for me, and for my family.