Berlin Schlegel has learned to take the good with the bad

Story and slideshow by Valeria Moncada

Get to know Berlin Schlegel and his friends.

Coming from an LDS family, Berlin Schlegel, 20, has had to face many difficult situations throughout his lifetime. Yet, in hand with these difficulties he has also had positive life lessons that he has learned from.

Schlegel was born in North Dakota. A month later he was adopted and then taken to Montana by his adoptive family.

“I grew up there until the age of 12,” Schlegel said. He then moved to Utah with his family and has lived here ever since.

He came out to his family and friends during his senior year of high school in October 2009. The process took about a month due to Schlegel’s fear of not being accepted.

“When coming out to my friends I didn’t feel as much fear as I did when coming out to my family. My friends made me feel comfortable and accepted,” he said. “My family, on the other hand, made me nervous and I felt like I could not tell them. It was a very big step for me.”

Schlegel added, “My friends took it incredibly well, I certainly could not have done it without them.”

He vividly remembers the night he came out to his mom.

“It was Halloween night when I built up the courage to tell my mother,” he said. “She was very upset and I ended up staying the night at a friend’s place.”

Schlegel’s father and sister took his coming out surprisingly well, by accepting him and his decisions. Things then gradually became easier with his family, until Christmas Eve.

“My mother and I got into another argument about my orientation,” Schlegel said. “It ended up with me being told to leave. That was definitely the worst of everything. As time passed things gradually began getting better.”

Schlegel has had to face many difficult situations in life, yet he has no regrets.

“I don’t really like to think of myself as having any regrets,” he said. “I think that there is something to be gained from every experience, regardless of how positive or negative it may seem.”

The most meaningful object to Schlegel is some old paperwork, such as his birth certificate and other hospital documents, that he has from his birth family.

“It’s all that I really know about them and I would like to find them someday,” Schlegel said. “I suppose that it would be one of the only tangible things that hold a lot of meaning for me.”

Another thing that Schlegel hopes to do one day is to see a Broadway show.

“It seems like it would be fun and I have always wanted to attend one,” he said.

Human rights are a subject that Schlegel is very interested in. His biggest interest is ongoing historical examples of discrimination that exist.

“It seems as if regardless of the culture or time period, there seems to be some form of authorization that emerges,” he added.

Schlegel’s biggest accomplishment would be when he was arrested about a year ago for an act of civil disobedience.

“Me and 26 other individuals were arrested outside of the courthouse of Tim DeChristopher’s sentencing,” he said.

DeChristopher, a climate activist, is co-founder of an environmental group called Peaceful Uprising. On Dec. 19, 2008, DeChristopher placed bids to obtain 14 parcels of land for $1.8 million in protest of an oil and gas lease auction. He was removed from the auction by federal agents, taken into custody and questioned. He was sentenced to two years of prison on July 26, 2011.

“We had gone into it with the idea of getting arrested,” Schlegel said. “It was a fun experience; it made me feel like I was a part of something bigger than I was so that was nice.” Although Schlegel did not have to spend the night in jail, he and other protestors were still arrested and had to be bailed out.

Schlegel has attended the Utah Pride Festival every year since he came out. He served as an intern for the Utah Pride Center and was largely responsible for the event planning of Queer Prom 2010. The prom, sponsored by the Utah Pride Center, is for LGBT couples between the ages of 14 and 20 who are not allowed to go to their prom. This event is held at the Salt Lake City library annually in April. In 2013, Queer Prom will be held on April 21.

Schlegel wants to finish his bachelor’s degree in musical theater at Weber State University and then he hopes to move to Chicago to pursue his career.

“I am also open to the idea of graduate school or applying to the Peace Corps later down the road. I suppose it all depends on how things play out,” he said.

Even though Schlegel has had to face difficult situations he has a positive mindset on life and tries to make the best of all of these challenges.

Schlegel added, “I’m just a person that is full of clichés so I tend to stay positive in life and I just think life is what you make of it so people should make the best of it.”

Coming out was the hardest thing that Schlegel has had to overcome in life, but it taught him a great deal.

“I can’t imagine my life any other way and in my regard I am grateful for the trials that I face,” Schlegel said. “It made me much more aware of the discrimination that exists throughout society and encouraged me to do something about it.”