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Drew's Reviews #12 - "Without the Mask"

I just finished reading “Without the Mask” by Charlie Bird.

Quick Take: Quick read. Lots of stories. Another strong voice for those wanting to understand what it’s like to be gay and a member of the church. But I felt it was more of a primer on the subject.

Longer Take:

Charlie Bird gained fame as the BYU Cougars mascot “Cosmo the Cougar”. He wore the Cosmo suit from 2015 – 2018 and viral videos of his dance moves earned him ESPN’s top mascot moment of all time in 2017. In 2019, Charlie “came out” to the world through his op-ed piece Everyone loved me as Cosmo the Cougar, but would they love who I was behind the mask?” In 2020, he expanded his story in the book, “Without the Mask.”

Alternating between memoir and teaching chapters, Bird shares how he has learned to balance being gay and being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Overall a good read. Lots of stories, doesn’t come across as preachy, will tug on your heartstrings, and leaves you feeling hopeful.

My only complaint is that it is thin on some of the questions gay members of the church would probably have liked him to address. But, in all fairness, he did write this only a year after really “coming out”, so he has just begun his journey.

I would recommend this book for anyone hoping to be more compassionate to those who feel on the outside.

Some of My Favourite Quotes:

"Dear listener. I aim to write the book I wish I would have had when I was 14. When I was confused, scared, and felt entirely unloveable. I want to write the book I needed when I was 18. When I felt defeated, broken, and completely alone. I want to write the book I wish I had when I was 21, when the only future I could see was bleak and hopeless. And the book I searched for when I was 24, when I saw few role models and thought I was the only person in the world walking the largely uncharted territory of being openly gay and active in my church. I want to write a book that might help a dad better understand his son or give peace to a mother who has been crying herself to sleep at night. I want to write a book for the youth leader who isn't sure how to create a safe space for LBGTQ youth while still teaching true gospel principles. And for the Bishop who doesn't know how to support families that are day by day breaking apart. I hope reading my experiences will spark healing, bridge gaps of understanding, and inspire hope. I pray that for someone this will the book I never had."

"I heard a voice enter my mind. As clear as if someone else has been in the room with me. "I love you. I created you." They were simple words, but they transformed me."

"I believe the Savior knows that I'm gay, understands it, and can you use that to work through me for good. I am most successful, most fruitful, and most connected to the spirit when I am genuine and true to myself."

"We never know who might be hiding behind a mask. If you have family members or friends who are "in the closet", chances are they are watching you closely. They probably know everything you have ever said about gay people. We must no longer carelessly allow our words and actions to drive innocent souls into darkness."

"I am grateful the spirit has helped me hold on to and honour both parts of who I am even though the world often suggests they are contradictory."

"I look to a future where more people understand they don't have to hate themselves to love their Church or hate their Church to love themselves. I believe being a faithful disciple of Christ and being gay can go hand in hand. All the while, I hope to see my faith community do better to actively create spaces where all can worship God in a safe, loving environment. If you believe God's LGBTQ children have a place in his church, please, show them where it is. Do your best to walk in their shoes. Please love them and listen to them. Please let them know they are needed.”


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