David Archuleta on coming out, struggling with suicidal thoughts, being 'done' with the church and dating men: 'I'm 32 years old and finally knowing what it feels like to have a crush'
"I feel like I've had to distance myself, really, from what I first based my faith on, and just faith in general," says the former 'American Idol' teen star, who came out as queer after “attempting to be straight for 15 years."
This week, when David Archuleta — who was raised in the Mormon church and came out as LGBTQ+ in June 2021 — was revealed as the symbolically rainbow-winged Macaw on the emotional Masked Singer Season 9 finale, he told the judges: “I grew up very religious. It was a huge part of my life. And I believed that if lived being queer, that I was going to be evil, so I worked really hard to be anything but that. I began to think, ‘Maybe it’s better if I’m not here.’ … If anyone else is feeling like they are bad just because of who they are attracted to and who they love, I want you to know that it is worth taking the courage to show your true colors.”
Following his colorful and courageous Masked Singer run, Archuleta — who was a shy and anxiety-ridden teenager when he was thrust into the public eye on another Fox talent show, American Idol, in 2008 — is understandably feeling reflective as he speaks with Yahoo Entertainment. “It’s been interesting, looking back at how I was trying to resist getting to this point,” he muses. “It's interesting to think of the other alternatives that I thought were better solutions than coming to this point that I'm at right now in my life. I'm glad that I've made it this far. I feel really good where I'm at. I feel happy. I'm still learning how to not try and be so apologetic and try to overexplain, but I feel good.”
Archuleta was 30 when he finally came out, after “attempting to be straight for 15 years” and beating himself up because he thought he hadn't “worked hard enough to become straight.” He eventually came to the realization that “no matter how hard I try, that's not what I am,” but before that epiphany, the pop crooner — like many other struggling closeted people in the LDS community — says he did consider taking his own life.
“There was a point before I had come out publicly, when I still hadn't come to full terms with myself. I believed, just the way I was taught, that if you come to full terms with yourself [as queer], you're basically accepting yourself as an enemy to God, essentially,” Archuleta explains. “I truly believed at that time that if I did come to terms with myself — that if I liked men and may possibly date or fall in love with a man — that I would basically lose my soul. And not just temporarily; I thought that I would be [lost] forever, that even when I die, my soul would be lost. And I didn't want to come to that. So, I just kind of thought, ‘Well, [suicide] would be a better option. … I'd rather end things before it gets that bad.’”
Thankfully, Archuleta never acted on those urges. Ironically, one of the Bible’s most vilified creatures, a snake, factored into his survival. One of Archuleta’s best friends asked him to foster her recently adopted pet ball python, but she was really using that an excuse to visit Archuleta’s home regularly, during a time when he was secretly struggling with his sexuality in isolation. “I just didn't want to be around anyone. I felt a little too gross with myself to be around people. But she would say, ‘Hey, I'm coming to check on this snake,’” Archuleta says with a chuckle. “I was really annoyed! But I think it was a blessing in disguise, because otherwise I would've truly isolated myself. I was at a such a low place. I didn't have any outside perspective other than my own mind spiraling down, so having someone there come in to check on me was a really important part of that time for me. And I think she could tell. I feel like she almost did it [on purpose]… like, she planned to have something there that she would have to check in on, and [a reason to] check in on me as well. So, I'm really grateful for her.”
Eventually, Archuleta “got to a point where I was praying and praying and praying, saying, ‘God, if you're really there, please change me. I'm so tired of this. I don't want to be this way.’ And I just felt this response [from God] come to me, peacefully and lovingly, that said: ‘David, you need to stop asking me this. … You've been asking this for almost over half your life now. You can see I'm not going to change this, because it's not supposedto change. You're supposed to be how you are, and happy as you are. And now you need to take time to understand that.’ … I almost took my life because I thought that was the right thing to do, until I received my own personal revelation.”
Obviously Archuleta still had a strong relationship with God, so when he first publicly came out, he truly wanted to stay in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and use his new platform to foster change and acceptance from within. But after trying talk with many of his church’s leaders about the suicide epidemic among LGBTQ+ Mormon youth, his experience was so frustrating, it caused him to ultimately step back from the church that been his community his whole life.
“I feel like I've had to distance myself, really, from what I first based my faith on, and just faith in general,” Archuleta says. “I don't think churches realize that a lot of times when they are anti-LGBT, the way they talk about things causes a lot of their LGBT members in their community to get to that [suicidal] point,” Archuleta says, citing one horrific example he heard on a podcast of a once-closeted Mormon lesbian who tried to get skin cancer as a “God's humane way” to end her life. (Thankfully, that woman is now out, happily married, and cancer-free.) “I've had so many people message me saying they've contemplated suicide. I've had people who've had family members who were queer that did take their lives. And I know why they did. I understand it, because I was there and I almost thought that that was the right decision [for me] to make. I realized that this is such a dangerous narrative being fed to people — both to LGBT people, and to everyone else that creates them to be homophobic. That's why I had internalized homophobia, and why it was so hard for me to come to terms with myself. And that's why I'm just trying my best to tell people.
“I would try to tell [church leaders] how difficult it's been for me, how I'm still trying to look for a place to belong here,” Archuleta elaborates. “I would have an hour conversation with one of them, and after all that time, I would see how they still were in denial of everything I had just said. … They would just respond with stuff like, ‘Oh, we just need to find you a good girl!’ And I'm like, ‘Um, that's not going to fix it, because I've already tried that three times!’ I almost got married [to women] three times, and I realized that was going to be dishonest. That wasn't going to be fair to the girls. But that's the solution they tell us: If you tell [the church] you're gay, they're like, ‘You're not gay! You just struggle with same-sex attraction! You can still live a happy, heterosexual married life, and God will bless you to overcome your weakness of being attracted to the same sex!’ And that's just harmful, because that is not realistic. It wasn't realistic for me.
“So many people, they expect you that once you leave the congregation or that you ‘become gay’ or LGBTQ+ in any form, that you are going to ‘lose light,’” Archuleta continues, getting even more fired up. “And if they hear that someone took their life, they're like, ‘Oh, it's because they accepted their queerness — that just shows that they were never going to be happy and that they were miserable.’ And it's like, ‘No, you guys don't realize it is the discrimination and the homophobia that you are casting on these people [that is to blame].’ These people feel like they have nothing left anymore, that everything that they had established their life — their community, their church family, their own legitimate family — now pushes them away. … And then, when these people feel lonely and they've lost their tribe of people, their safe haven that they once had, they feel, ‘What else is there to live for, if my family and my peers and no one in my community accepts me anymore?’ And they take their life, and then those same people who pushed them to that point say it was their fault: ‘Look, they were miserable, just like we knew!’ But it's like, ‘No, you caused that person to be miserable. Please take time to consider what is going on.’”
The last straw that made Archuleta finally step back from the church was when its leaders created a “false narrative” that he too would be forever miserable and single, and “lose his light,” because he had come out as queer. “And I was like, ‘I'm done,’” Archuleta states emphatically. “I've done enough for this church with the intentions that I thought I was serving God. But I feel like I'm being taken advantage of at this point, and I don't want to lead other people astray who are suffering the same way that I was.”
Archuleta actually has no intentions of remaining single — in fact, he says he “would like to be married” after a lifetime of being taught that “there's no greater happiness than marriage” — and he’s certainly not miserable these days. He describes himself as graysexual or demisexual because “it takes a while for me to feel any physical attachment or any physical affection or desire,” adding with a laugh, “I don't know if I'm as easily turned on as a lot of other people who are gay and out and proud!” But while he still feels “some attraction to women,” since coming out two years ago he has “only explored dating guys at this time, because this is what I've not allowed myself to do. … I prefer to be with guys; that seems like the more natural thing for me.”
And now, finally, a decade and a half after he released his debut single, “Crush,” Archuleta — who introduced his Masked Singer finale performance of “All by Myself” with the confession that he’d never connected with love songs before — finally understands what he was singing about at age 16. “I've loved getting to date guys, and it's been a beautiful thing,” he says with a smile. “I started dating guys and I was just like, ‘Oh, so this must be the feeling that everyone talks about when I'm singing!’ Because ‘Crush’ is about falling [in love], like getting a crush on someone, but I never could relate to that before. Now I'm like, ‘Oh, this must be why everyone says they relate to so much to my own song!’ I'm 32 years old and finally knowing what it feels like to have a crush.”
On June 2, just in time for Pride Month, Archuleta will put out a new single, “Up,” which he calls his “transition song, kind of the segue from where I was into where I'm going now.” And he expects to release some actually autobiographical love songs in the near future. But whatever is in store for him in terms of romance, he has already learned to love himself, as he is, no matter what others might think. “You can't convince everybody that you're a good person, and you can't convince everyone to like you. And that's OK,” he says. “As long as you like yourself, that's what matters.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-8255, or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741. His full conversation with Yahoo Entertainment can be viewed above.
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:
Why queer band Cub Sport dropped 'Jesus at the Gay Bar' on Good Friday: 'It could be read as provocative/controversial and I'd be lying if I said I didn't like that'
Tyler Glenn on his evolution and the return of Neon Trees: ‘Coming out of the church was almost personally harder for me than coming out as gay’
Imagine Dragons’ Dan Reynolds talks privilege, LGBTQ rights, mental health, and why ‘society is broken’
'American Idol' hopeful Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon's brave coming-out story: 'Everybody was a little jolted by how transparent I was being'
Country hitmaker Shane McAnally on coming out: ‘I was so afraid of what it would mean to my career’
Queer rocker Bob Mould on coming out late in life: ‘Why didn't I do this a little sooner?’
The Drums’ Jonny Pierce: ‘Being gay literally saved my life’