Back in August, Ed Smart announced to friends and family, and later to the public, that he is gay. Though this reveal at the age of 64 would alter life as he knew it, the father of kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart says it was a "difficult" decision he now sees as a "miracle."
At a weekend conference in Utah supporting LGTBQ youth, Smart opened up about his internal conflict before ultimately deciding to come out.
“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 revealed Saturday during the Encircle Summit, according to NBC affiliate KSL-TV.
Smart, who was raised in the Mormon faith, said he was only able to acknowledge his sexual orientation after leaving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I was told it was being a deviant, being abnormal, being mentally sick,” he said.
The businessman married Lois Smart, with whom he shares six children, in 1986. After more than three decades of marriage, she filed for divorce this past July.
“I thought Elizabeth’s ordeal was very difficult, but this one is more difficult,” Smart said, “because it not only affected Elizabeth but it affected my entire family.”
Smart came out to his then-wife in December 2018, when she asked him if he was gay. It was the first time he had said the words out loud.
“After years and years, I finally said, ‘Yes.’ I don’t know how much longer it would have gone on,” he said. Then he called each of his kids to tell them.
“Eventually, all of them said something like, ‘Dad, if that’s the way you are, that’s the way you are, and I still love you,” he recalled.
Smart shared his story in hopes that he will help others who are struggling. He said he too once questioned his reasons for living.
“There’s such despair, and I think that’s what takes people down the hole to suicides,” he said. “There should not be the pressure on anyone to feel so bad that they want to take their life.”
Smart said that sharing the truth about his sexual orientation has changed his life outlook.
“Does my being gay mean that I’m going to be less of a person, that I’m not going to be that good person that I’ve tried to be all my life? No,” Smart said. “Yes, some things have changed in me, but I’m at this point where I feel like I can be completely honest with myself, and I can be honest with others about myself.”
This sentiment echoes the one he shared with The Salt Lake City Tribune back in August. "I never want to look back with regret," he told the paper.
Smart said at the conference that he believes he has experienced two miracles in his 64 years. The first occurred when Elizabeth, who was abducted from the family’s Salt Lake City home in 2002, was rescued after nine months. The second was his decision to share his truth.
“How often do you get to have a miracle happen in your life that is truly a miracle?” Smart asked. “To get to the point that I have ... accepting myself for who I am, really has been another miracle.”