Ben Schilaty decided he wanted to join the rowing team when he was a freshman in high school. He went down to the boathouse to meet the other 25 guys who were trying out and the coach explained the first drill.
Each person was to find a rowing machine and row for as long and as hard as they could. No one was allowed to stop until they were so exhausted they couldn’t keep going.
Ben’s father, Buzz Schilaty, was waiting outside the boathouse for his son when he saw the coach leaving tryouts to go to a meeting. When Buzz came inside he found his son still rowing.
When his father asked him to stop, Ben responded that the coach told them not to stop so he wasn’t going to stop. Ben kept rowing for another 20 minutes until his father finally ripped him off of the machine.
“It is this story that shows everyone who Ben is. He does not quit. If Ben is going to do something, he is going to do it 100% to the end,” Buzz said.
Now a BYU Honor Code Administrator, Ben takes this same 100% attitude in living his life as a gay, active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
‘Where do I find my home?’
“It’s tough because for some people I’m too much of a Latter-day Saint for the LGBTQ community but then for others, I’m too LGBTQ for the Latter-day Saint community. So, it’s almost like ‘Where do I find my home?'” Ben said.
Despite the impossible situation he has found himself in, Ben has continued to show that through the power of Jesus Christ all things are possible.
“I’m walking a covenant path that has as its destination a form of eternity that I’m not sure I even want. But I’m walking it because I feel called to do so,” Ben said.
Ben said he has found love and support from both family members and friends. “As I get to know people and as they get to know me in both communities I have found lots of people who do know me and do care about me and that’s where I find a place where I do belong.”
Writing a Book: ‘A Walk in My Shoes’
Ben shares his story of being both gay and an active Latter-day Saint in his new book, “A Walk In My Shoes: Questions I’m Often Asked as a Gay Latter-day Saint.”
Ben tells readers that it is through the power of Jesus Christ and finding his purpose in God that he finds the strength to walk a path that is very difficult and often not talked about.
In his book, Ben shares some stories of coming out to his family and friends and how they reacted. One of the first people Ben came out to is a longtime friend, Mitch Peterson.
Ben said he attributes his activity in the church today to the way Peterson accepted and loved him all those years ago.
“I really hope people get a sense of just how complicated and impossible his situation is. What he is going through isn’t easy and I hope people can have resolve to try a lot harder to be kind to everyone,” Peterson said.
Peterson expressed his admiration for Ben’s character and determination. “Ben has created and is still creating a safe framework for LGBTQ members of the church but members need to help do their part,” Peterson said.
“Ben came the way God wanted and intended him to come and I believe that is the same for everyone else. The Savior loves everyone so we need to love everyone; it is just that simple,” Buzz said.
One thing Peterson said members can do for the LGBTQ community inside the Church is to grow closer to Christ’s basic teachings.
“I love the way the Good Samaritan is set up. It starts off with the question of what can I do to have eternal life? The answer is to love your neighbor as yourself,” Peterson said.
Ben shows by example that the best way to make everyone feel that they belong is to treat them as normal human beings.
“There are people knocking right now, and not just LGBTQ people. So many people who just want to be heard and understood,” Ben said. “If we are to build Zion, we must create a place where hearts and minds come together and where everyone belongs.”