The father of kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart has opened up about his sexuality.
Ed Smart, who announced that he was gay back in August, was speaking at an LGBTQ conference in Utah over the weekend when he made the revealing comments. “I didn’t want to identify myself that way. I didn’t want to be that person,” he said, according to Deseret News. “I stayed in the closet. I suppressed that. Out of shame, out of hate for myself, I just didn’t want that to be me.”
Smart, 64, added that he was initially “homophobic” about his own sexual orientation before coming to the realization that he was born this way. “It wasn’t something to learn because I did not want to learn it,” he explained.
It was only when he departed from the Church of the Latter Day saints that Ed truly accepted his orientation.
“That change is what enabled me to be able to come forward and accept myself for who I was,” he added. In an interview with CBS This Morning Smart also reasserted his belief that there is no possible way you can change your sexual orientation and that it is “absolutely not a choice.”
The Mormon Church calls same-sex attraction a “sensitive issue” and seeks to welcome all people through its doors.
“Let us be clear: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that ‘the experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people,” said Elder M. Russell Ballard, according to churchofjesuschrist.org.
The religious group does, however, draw the line at homosexual sexual conduct and encourages those who are experiencing homosexual thoughts to seek help from church leaders.
“If members feel same-gender attraction but do not engage in any homosexual behavior, leaders should support and encourage them in their resolve to live the law of chastity and to control unrighteous thoughts,” reads the church’s official policy on the matter.
Ed also views his self-acceptance as something of a “miracle.”
“How often do you get to have a miracle happen in your life that is truly a miracle?” Smart asked, according to TODAY. “To get to the point that I have … accepting myself for who I am, really has been another miracle.”
In August, Smart came out to the world via a lengthy Facebook post.
“It is with this same spirit that I wish to share the news that I have recently acknowledged to myself and my family that I am gay,” he wrote. “The decision to be honest and truthful about my orientation comes with its own set of challenges, but at the same time it is a huge relief.”
Smart filed for divorce from his wife, Lois, in July.
“I love my family and always will,” he added. “Lois has been a loyal wife, and extraordinary mother, who has had to endure an impossible part of this journey. I deeply regret the excruciating pain this has caused her.”
Ed Smart became a recognizable figure in the media back in 2002 after his daughter, Elizabeth was kidnapped from the family home. She was discovered nine months later, having suffered severe trauma including being raped on a daily basis.
Smart has been recognized for speaking openly about how her faith helped her deal with the horrific experience.
“I have always known that God knows me, and he loves me, and that he will never abandon me,” she told NPR. “So during my kidnapping, there were moments when I felt so low. I felt like I didn’t have anybody to turn to except God. He was sending me guardian angels to help me make it through my darkest moments.”
Astonishingly, Smart also claims to have completely forgiven her kidnappers.
“I need to make it very clear that when I say I forgive my captors, I do,” she added. “I have let go of the past. I’ve let go of what they’ve done to me, and I’ve let go of them. They no longer have a part in my life. And I have no desire to see them. I have just moved on.”