Homosexuality is relatively accepted in the dance world, and "So You Think You Can Dance" winner Benji Schwimmer certainly isn't the first alum from the show to come out (his Season 2 runner-up, Travis Wall, is out, as is Season 1 winner Nick Lazzarini and last season's runner-up, Sasha Mallory). But Benji, who is the brother of "Dancing With The Stars" pro Lacey Schwimmer, also comes from the Mormon world--so his decision to live life as an openly gay man, which he publicly announced this week, was an extremely agonized one.
In a fascinating and frank new in-depth interview with MormonStories.org, Benji discusses his struggle to come to terms with his sexuality and his devout Latter-Day Saints faith. The interview begins with the formerly closeted dancer talking about his time with Evergreen, an organization set up to "help" Latter-Day Saints overcome their homosexual urges; he reveals that he even started his own Yahoo! Group, when he was 17 years old, for conflicted LDS teens wanting to re-identify as straight. He later talks about his relationship with an ex-girlfriend, and another relationship with the male "love of his life" that eventually didn't work out, but that changed him forever. "The happiest moments of my life were when I was with that boy," Benji recalls.
Benji also discusses his past struggles with thoughts of suicide and even the idea of castrating himself and taking reverse-hormonal pills so that he would no longer have any homosexual urges. "Do you believe that I should be celibate for the rest of my life? Is man meant to be alone in this life?" he asked one church advisor, who warned Benji that any traditional marriage to a woman would be doomed, but also told him that a physical relationship with a man was out of the question.
"I thought, 'You know, here I am, bending over backwards to figure out how to fit in this mold, this cookie-cutter-machinery mold that I was not made into. How do I do this?'....I would have been willing to just fight it, till I'm old and my sexual drive is gone, and just marry a woman who's a widower, and we'll get married in the temple and it's gonna be awesome. I even thought about that. My mom said, 'Maybe you'll just get married when you're 70!'....I told them, 'This is not of God.' That was the very first time when I thought, 'This may not be the true church.'" Benji decided to leave the Mormon church last year.
While the interview was originally conducted for a Mormon podcast, it's starting to get noticed in the secular sphere. "Wow, didn't think my Mormon Story interview would garner so much attention from the ' outside ' world. Thanks for all the well wishes y'all," Benji tweeted Monday. He then joked, "Would this be a good time to ask for future husband submissions? ;p"
The video below is more than two hours long, which is obviously a major time commitment...but it's really worth the investment. Benji weeps; other times, he laughs and shows incredible wit. This interview will break your heart and open your mind at the same time.
Kudos to Benji for being so brave!