Thursday, December 18, 2008

To Being an 'Us'

Some other bloggers have referred to an article in the Daily Universe that quotes me describing some of the things that happened in BYU's campaign for prop 8. The author quotes me as a "gay student."

Honestly, I wasn't expecting her to refer to me as a gay student so bluntly, especially when it wasn't as relevant to the quote as some of the other things I said to her in the interview. In fact, the night the paper was printed I got a somewhat frantic message on my voicemail saying that she was having second thoughts about the article because she realized she hadn't expressly asked me if she could refer to me as gay in the article. She told me to call her back as soon as possible at any hour that night and she'd try to fix it if it was a problem. I didn't get the message till the papers had already hit the stands, but I'm not upset about it.

The day the article ran in the school paper, I thought no one would read it. Who reads page 9 of the school paper? Apparently everyone who knows me, including my whole work crew, freshman ward, and fellow art students. It has actually been really nice. There is no more angst regarding who knows and who doesn't and whether or not I need to tell so and so. It's all out in the open now. (It partly motivated me to restart this blog)

While I enjoyed what Kemsley said in the article, there were a few things I had told her that I felt were important but weren't included in the article. One of them was an attitude I have felt at BYU both from my gay friends and those that backed prop 8. The campaign seemed to create an "us vs. them" attitude.

I don't know if any of you at BYU have noticed the language we use when we talk about prop 8 and the protests and anything related now--it's very much us vs. them. I think three things contributed to this attitude.
1. Mormons were perceived as acting as a single large group rather than as individuals in their fight for the proposition. Because the command to donate time and money came from the top, and Latter-day Saints are largely an obedient people, they acted as one. It was intimidating for me to feel like all of the Church was against me. This feeling was compounded by Elder Ballard's request that young adults go "viral" in spreading the message of prop 8 on facebook. BYU students did just that. They banded together in large facebook groups, again, coming across as an intimidating mass of people all fighting the same thing--me.

2. Gays at BYU remained largely faceless and unknown-- essentially being in the closet allowed other BYU students to think and say things they wouldn't have if they'd known that they knew us. I made my opposition to 8 clear, but people who didn't know I was gay tried to persuade me to support 8 by saying negative things about gay people!

3. Both Gays and Mormons felt persecuted by each other. Nothing brings a group of people together like persecution. Mormons have always felt persecuted by the world, and protest at Church temples brought out those feelings. Ironically, though, I personally witnessed and felt persecution as a homosexual by the Church and its members. It drove my group of gay friends to each other. We stopped trusting straight people because we didn't know who would hurt us and who wouldn't. We became an Us, and they became a Them.

I think that this attitude is going to hurt both us and them for a very long time. I think that it will make BYU administrators less compassionate towards gays, and we will see a rise in hate speech amongst the students. I think it will also cause more gay people to leave the Church and to be antagonistic towards it. On both sides it will fester bitterness that hurts everyone.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Censorship in the HFAC

My friend, Michael Wiltbank, recently had a fine art project on display in the Harris Fine Arts Center at BYU. I was one of the models portrayed in the project, which depicted 8 portraits of BYU students. Some are gay, and some are simply supporters of those who are gay. They are not labeled because it shouldn't matter which is which.

Michael's goal was to show "that there are gay and lesbian individuals not only in the Mormon culture, but also at BYU" and to create "a vehicle for tolerance, support, love and change."

As soon as the work went up on display in the HFAC, complaints were made and the artist statement was vandalized. As complaints mounted over the next 5 days, the art department and administrators met to discuss the issue. Almost all of the art department, and most of the administrators supported Michael's show as an appropriate and timely invitation to dialog. The Chair of the department agreed to leave the show up until one particular dean pressured her to remove the show last minute. When the show was taken down, Michael wasn't notified, nor was his teacher. The censorship hit the blogs, and then national and local media.

Dan Savage was one of the first to promote the story. In an anonymous comment on his blog, I explained to him why I had participated in the project. I said:
I thought his project could reach out to others who were struggling to accept their orientation [as I had]. I felt it sent the message that a. It's ok to acknowledge/accept the fact that you are gay and b. There are people at BYU who will support you. My participation in the project was safe because school policy states, "One's stated same-gender attraction is not an Honor Code issue."

. . . I am proud to have participated in the project and hope that others at BYU struggling to accept themselves can find the peace that I found.

As pressure from the media shook up the administration at BYU, they contacted Michael Wiltbank and allowed him to put the show back up. He did. BYU released an official statement that unjustly hung the art department out to dry. Deseret News reported:
BYU spokesman Michael Smart said a miscommunication between administrators in the College of Fine Arts and Communication led to the removal.

"When the action became apparent after the weekend, college administrators reviewed the decision," Smart said. "Because the project does not violate BYU's honor code, the project was rehung Tuesday afternoon."
I want to go down on the record as a supporter of this project and of the College of Fine Arts and Communications at BYU for hanging the project. I am in that college, and it may be one of the only reasons I still like attending BYU.

I have really enjoyed standing on the 5th floor balcony watching people bring their friends to see the infamous censored project on the 4th floor. People's reactions can be very telling! I think as a whole this project was beneficial to BYU because it opened the doors to dialog, made a clear statement about what the Honor Code actually forbids and what it does not, and created a stir that brought a lot of viewership to Michael's project. Maybe some of those viewers were able to get from the show what I hoped and can now accept their own sexual orientation with less fear.

Returning to the Moho Queerosphere

I'm sure that most of you readers (if any remain) were shocked and devastated to see my blog disappear the better part of a year ago. ;-) I was also saddened by it because I was forced to remove the blog by a Bishop who felt it constituted apostasy.

A lot has happened since then. Honestly I was glad for the reprieve from the blogging (I still read other blogs and commented). There was a huge burden removed when I stopped blogging. It allowed me over time to come up with several realizations that have enabled me to come back to blogging with a changed attitude.

1. Secrecy/Anonymity isn't a shield or protection for me. I have nothing to be ashamed of.
2. It is not my job to change other people or to fix the injustices of this world/culture/society. I don't need to lead the fight.
3. My opinions don't jeopardize my education.

I return to blogging not because I need support or because I need a place to vent or rant, but because I feel like I need to establish how I feel about things. I've been kinda in the lime light, and I felt a need to clarify. Nothing that I feel is secret--I have shared it with friends and faculty at BYU--and nothing that I feel puts me at odds with the Honor Code, which only defines actions. Granted, blogging is an action, so let me state that this blog in no way advocates homosexual behavior, nor does it aim to fight against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

My Life Reads Like the Classifieds

Have you noticed the ads on facebook? Do you think they are target ads?

I have noticed that lately I've been having tons of gay ads on facebook. Different networks, Utah social scenes, websites, etc. I assumed that they were just the kinds of ads that everyone gets, but now I realize that it is probably target advertising. There are really only two other ads that I get: Art ads and Mormon ads. I am clearly an art student, and I am clearly a BYU student, so those ads make sense. I am not clearly gay, however, on facebook. In fact, I hide it on facebook. So how do they know they should put the ads up? Is it because I am silent on my romantic information? Is is because I have Will and Grace as a favorite TV show? Is it because I quote Hilary Faye in my quote section? What gives it away?

I'm just curious, do any of you have gay ads on facebook? Why?

We Love in Secret Names



Thursday, April 10, 2008

'Cause it feels wonderful

"How about me not blaming you for everything. How about me enjoying the moment for once. How about how good it feels to finally forgive you. How about grieving it all one at a time" (Alanis Morissette).
I have been writing a post over the past two weeks about the doctrines and practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that I disagree with. As I have polished and thought about the post, I thought about what kind of response it would garner and who it might benefit. A few people will tell me they agree whole heartedly, and others will argue. In the end, no one will benefit. It will only make me sound negative and critical. So I'll save the post for when I'm in a pissy mood. Since I'm not pissy now, I've decided to write from the positive side and make a list of the good and beautiful doctrines I have gleaned from the LDS faith and express my gratitude for them.
1. The Eternal Nature of Man
I appreciate being taught that the soul of man existed before birth and will continue after death. To me, that is significant belief that provides hope, accountability, self worth, and a desire to seek greater things. While the teaching is not unique to Mormonism, the Church is certainly one of the few Christian sects to emphasize and teach the idea of a pre-mortal existence.

2. The Atonement of Jesus Christ
Often people cite the song "I am a Child of God" as the greatest gift that Latter-day Saints have to offer Christianity. They're wrong. "I Stand All Amazed" is the greatest gift that Latter-day Saints offer Christianity. The teachings of the Atonement, the need for Christ, the nature of His Sacrifice, and the breadth and scope of the applications of that sacrifice are one of the most remarkable contributions of Mormonism. Though the doctrine is taught clearly and emphatically in the New Testament, the Book of Mormon provides beautiful additional descriptions of it that other Christians could benefit from.

3. The Divine Heritage of Man
"I am a Child of God" is the second most important contribution of Mormonism. I appreciate growing up with a theoretical understanding of the divine worth a human has as the offspring of deity. I definitely understood the divine potential of man. Though I may disagree with the specifics, I still believe that man is meant to become one with God and like Him.

4. A Passionate Call to Action
Joseph Smith had a way of getting his followers excited about this new movement. That legacy lives on. Growing up I got very passionate about the religion. I love the way he wrote about this cause and the enthusiasm with which he and other leaders have spoken about what they believe is the future of the Church. It helped shape me into a passionate person.

5. The Need for Modern Revelation
I am so thankful my parents taught me how to pray and taught me that prayer was a vehicle for seeking knowledge from God. I have drawn upon the powers of prayer time and time again. The fact that we need to know things from God and that we can know things from God and that we should seek things from God is one of the most appealing aspects of Mormonism. It is the very principle that gives me confidence in what I have decided to pursue now. I will always strive to petition the Lord's will for me and the path that will lead me to the most happiness.

I may get distraught over certain Church teachings, or over our history, or even over the attitudes of Church members, but I will always be grateful that I was raised by parents who taught me these five beautiful principles. They have blessed my life, and will continue to guide and motivate me.
"How about no longer being masochistic. How about remembering your divinity. How about unabashedly bawling your eyes out. How about not equating death with stopping" (Alanis Morissette).

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Always, Always, and Forever

I am so grateful for the closeness I feel to my parents right now. They have really been supportive recently. Months ago I complained that they were not dealing with my beliefs and desires very well at all. My mom had asked me not to talk about anything relating to homosexuality with her, and my dad just reacted so emotionally to anything that he was also unapproachable. They felt like they were going to lose me in the eternities.

Well today my mom accidentally stumbled across my blog in a google search for something that was unrelated to my blog topic. (I have since removed my site from google searches). She left a message on my voice mail asking me a question about something on my blog. I was petrified. I worried that the blog and the opinions I share here would bother her and make her cry as they would have several months ago. When I called her back, though, she was in a good mood and didn't seem upset about the blog at all.

I am so glad that we can talk about things now. She still does not agree with me, but that's ok. All I want is to be able to communicate with good feelings. I often worried that my parents would not only believe I would be separated from them in heaven but that they would put that belief into practice and separate me from them here on Earth. If I am really going to be kicked out of the family when I die, is there really a need to kick me out early? I feel assured that this is not going to be the case. I don't feel like I will be rejected by my parents any more. However sad they may be with current and future choices, I know that they love me and will always support me.

I Want to Hold Your Hand

"We'd gather around all in a room, fasten our belts, engage in dialogue. . . We would stay and respond and expand and include and allow and forgive and enjoy and evolve and discern and inquire and accept and admit and divulge and open and reach out and speak up. . . This is my Utopia" (Alanis Morissette).

Deseret Morning News reports that the Church will be meeting with Affirmation in August. As you can imagine, I am very excited for this historic breakthrough. I'm trying not to get my hopes up, but one of the topics of conversation will be BYU's honor code.

As I talk with friends at BYU, almost all of them are surprised to hear the the honor code forbids "not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings." That means that two guys can't hold hands or kiss. Most BYU students that I have interacted with expected the policy on gays to be the same as it for heterosexuals--if you have sex you get kicked out. Upon finding out that the standards for gay students are different than for straight students, a lot of these people believe that this inequality should be rectified. It is institutional discrimination to treat the same affection differently based on who the affection is between.

I would be thrilled to see progressive dialog on the subject.

"We would share and listen and support and welcome--Be propelled by passion, not invest in outcomes . . . We'd provide forums we'd all speak out. We'd all be heard. We'd all feel seen. . . This is my ideal, my end in sight" (Alanis Morissette).

Friday, April 4, 2008

So Stare and See That This is Me

I have been tagged.

1. Pick up the nearest book (at least 123 pages).
2. Turn to page 123.
3. Find the 5th sentence
4. Post the 5th sentence on your blog.
5. Tag 5 people.
"This so inflated them that they did various dodgy things to get staying up still longer, such as demanding bandages; but Wendy, though glorying in having them all home again safe and sound, was scandalised by the lateness of the hour, and cried, 'To bed, to bed," in a voice that had to be obeyed" (Peter and Wendy, by James M. Barrie).

Man he writes long sentences. I find it highly amusing that Peter Pan was coincidently the closest book to me at the time that I was tagged by Abelard. What's more amusing is the use of the word "dodgy" in the sentence, because "dodgy" is a euphemism for homosexual behavior in Great Britain. I'll let you use your own imagination in regards to the lost boys doing "various dodgy things" to stay up past their bedtime. You may or may not use bandages in your imagining.

I tag Romulus, Remus, Gabriel, DaVinci, and Draco.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I Have Depressed For You

At a high school in American Fork, some staff planned on discussing homosexuality as one of two "serious social problems." Fortunately that part of the discussion was canceled. The fact that it was even considered and planned makes me vomit. Nothing like that would ever have happened at my high school. The reason it was canceled was because it would have promoted "depression and suicide" by giving youth questioning their sexual orientation the message that they were a serious problem to society. That statement is obvious to people outside of Utah, even Latter-day Saints. I couldn't imagine my ward back home supporting such an event at school.

But this got me thinking. If we don't tolerate it at school because it damages self esteem, why do we tolerate it in church? Prophets and church leaders have consistently referred to homosexuality as a serious social problem, especially when addressing the youth or in youth settings. Boyd K. Packer called refers to it as one of the three greatest threats to the Church.

As a twelve year old, I was given a pamphlet that read, "The Lord specifically forbids certain behaviors, including all sexual relations before marriage, petting, sex perversion (such as homosexuality, rape, and incest), masturbation, or preoccupation with sex in thought, speech, or action.

"Homosexual and lesbian activities are sinful and an abomination to the Lord (see Romans 1:26-27, 31 ). Unnatural affections including those toward persons of the same gender are counter to God's eternal plan for his children. You are responsible to make right choices"
(For the Strength of Youth, 1990). This pamphlet was given to all youth ages 12 and up at least on an annual basis. In High School, a newer version of the pamphlet came out that I was asked to memorize. I did memorize it.

Twelve year olds cannot distinguish between "homosexual activities" and the feelings towards those of the same gender they have. To say that homosexuality is an abomination is to tell that twelve year old that he is an abomination. And then you tell him that he is associated with rape and incest, and since he is worried about his sexuality and thinks about it a lot, he is guilty of being "preoccupied." Oh, and he masturbated, so he feels like he's going to hell. And the worst part? "You are responsible to make right choices." You just dumped all of the responsibility for his sexuality on his shoulders. As a twelve year old, I felt responsible for my same gender attractions.

People often tell me that its not the Churches fault that I hated myself because I was gay. The Church didn't make me depressed or suicidal. The fact of the matter is, though, if my High School didn't teach me that I was an abomination, where did I learn it? The media didn't do it. My family didn't really talk to me about it. It was my Church. The Church clearly distributed material to me at a young age that lead to depression and suicidal tendencies. It wasn't until I overcame the false assumptions I had developed from the Church teachings that I was able to love myself.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Way That You See Me

In Biology the other day, we were talking about natural selection. Our Professor asked us to come up with analogies that could be used to describe natural selection. I came up with the analogy of shoe shopping. Shopping for shoes is like favoring traits in an organism. The ones that are awkward sizes or old trends or are just plain hideous are not selected. Gabriel, who sits next to me, also loved the idea.

After coming up with these analogies, the professor asked for the good ones. People started raising their hands and suggesting "Dodge ball" and other mediocre analogies. Clearly I had the best analogy, but as we talked amongst out little circle of friends, it was determined that neither I nor Gabriel could suggest the idea because we were men, and how would that look? Instead, Amy shared the idea. The Professor praised her for her ingeniousness and went off on what a great analogy this was.

I remarked to everyone that I was upset that I didn't get the credit for such an amazing idea, and that I should have had the guts to raise my hand and give the analogy. Amy's response was, "Um, no. People would think . . . [dramatic wrist flip] GAY!" Everyone laughed.

I wish I would have done it. I'm sick of gender stereotypes that conform us to acting a certain way. I break that mold when I'm with my friends, but its amazing how much I bend to it in class. What do I have to loose? What do I have to be afraid of? I'm not going to be kicked out of BYU for suggesting shoe shopping as an analogy for natural selection. Why should I be afraid of others suspecting the truth?

Contrast that to one of my print making classes in which one of the girls is dating another Moho. The other day we figured it out and started talking about everything Moho, and I was so dramatic. I acted like I wanted to. There was no restraint. I am proud of who I am and how I am, but I still feel this need to hide it in some settings. What is it that makes me want to stay hidden in a large 100 level Biology class, and feel open in a small 200 level Art class? Hmmmmmm.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Seasons of Love

It is six months to the day since I accepted myself. On Wednesday, September 26, 2007, after my last date with a girl, I came home and started reading moho blogs. I remember vividly clicking on a link to Romulus's blog. Within moments I realized that Romulus was someone I had grown up with and respected. That realization changed my life. Discovering Romulus and Remus enabled me to come to terms with my sexuality, stop emotionally self mutilating habits, and become the person that I am proud to be today.

I didn't sleep at all that Wednesday night. I was so caught up in this feeling that I wasn't alone--that others raised in the same circumstances also had these feelings. For a long time I had struggled with shame and self loathing. It was so intense that every time I saw an attractive man I would imagine myself standing above me in black beating me up with a baseball bat. There are a lot of attractive men in the world. That's a lot of beatings. I wanted so bad to rid myself of these attractions, but every day I would wake up and find they were still there and that I hated myself that much more.

That night, six months ago, I decided I wasn't going to try and change my orientation any more. I wasn't going to expect the attractions to disappear. I am so grateful for the realizations and decisions that I made that night. Gone were the mental beat up sessions. Gone was the loneliness. Romulus and Remus, I owe every happiness and comfort I've had in the past half year to you two. I thank God every day for leading me to you.

In the coming months I discovered other friends that were gay, like ATP. I started to meet new friends who were gay. Actually, I was meeting them rather quickly. I exploded out of the closet, telling so many people that I was gay and seeking support from everyone. It was an emotional time, one where I wasn't very stable or secure, but this was such a significant period of time for me.

By January, things had really stabilized. Any decisions that had to be made had really been made. I was reconciling things with my family, and I didn't bounce from emotion to emotion any more. I was done exploding out of the closet. I have gone from being ashamed of myself to accepting myself to being proud of myself. Now I look at all that I am and thank God for all of it. I am so grateful I can love. I am so grateful I don't have to be alone. I am so grateful that I have so much support around me.

I like myself. I enjoy my dramatic, expressive way of communicating. I enjoy the way I dress and shop and do things. I love my art. I love the way I act when I'm with my friends. I almost never have my guard up anymore. I can just be myself, where ever I am. What a wonderful six months this has been. I look forward to the next half year, and the next, and the next, and the next. I plan on having a wonderful life.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Do you want to get married, or run away?

In the March 21 edition of the "YNEWS" here at BYU, Joseph Hadfield reports, "New research shows that happily married adults have lower blood pressure than singles with supportive social networks." This new study shows not only that being happily married is better for your health than being happily single, but "that unhappily married adults have higher blood pressure than both happily married and single adults." This demonstrates that just being married isn't good enough, nor is just having a good supportive social network. There is something uniquely beneficial about being happily married.

It's interesting that this is the kind of study that makes the cover story of YNEWS. Clearly BYU values marriage and wants to find and support things that glorify marriage. It's all we talk about in Elder's quorum and hometeaching visits. Marriage is everywhere. I'm not opposed to that. I grew up in this Mormon-American culture which believes that marriage is the best route to take. So here's the problem. For me, being happily married means marrying a man.

I don't understand why all of a sudden the research is reversed for me because I am gay. I am constantly bombarded with this message, "Marriage is better for man than being single, unless you are gay, and then it is better to be celibate." I don't know how much of this message is created by my own projections, but still, it is getting old. I'm tired of it. Either get off the "MARRIAGE! MARRIAGE! MARRIAGE!" soapbox, or let me marry the person that I want to marry. I feel like they are rubbing salt into my wounds.

Monday, March 17, 2008

to accommodate the moment

In a previous post I mentioned that I hoped to make the topic of my final BFA show (still 1 ½ years away) homosexuality and what it is like to have same sex attractions in an LDS community. It will not be the first time that I have used art as a medium to express my feelings on the subject. Over the past six months homosexuality has been a dominant theme in my artwork, although in many cases I have been somewhat cryptic in symbolism and imagery.

I have put a preview gallery of a lot of this artwork up on facebook, and I will be putting the full gallery up on another website within the next few days. I wouldn’t link to it here, but if you email me, I will email you back a link. Since I wanted to leave the artwork open to interpretation, I didn’t explain the imagery and the emotions behind the art on facebook. I figured I would be able to do that here.

In November of last year I was really caught up with the idea of romance and affection. I was perplexed by how easily many Mormons were able to tell me that I should do without it, especially since at that time I was realizing that it did not make one miserable but instead made one happy. I created a series of 10 watercolors representing the intimacy and associated joy that I was being asked to sacrifice.

Then in my printmaking class this semester, I focused on the idea of coming out of the closet. In the first print I focused on my somewhat “public” coming out in relation to BYU’s recent honor code clarification stating that it was ok to tell people that you are gay as long as you don’t advocate same gender relationships. I used the image of a friend who was standing half in the closet and half out. The whole print seems to make a joke out of the policy and is very lighthearted. My second print has a much darker tone and represents the real coming out that people like me must make in secret at BYU. In this print, the man is vulnerable as he goes through a doorway in the dark, alone. They were meant to show two sides of the same process.

My final print in that class portrays 3 nearly identical figures. Two of them have bright crosses of light behind them. The third is facing a different direction, and though he has the potential to shine, his light is oppressed by his surroundings. There is a gap between him and the other two. This one is about the fellowship of gays in Christianity and is called, “With the Saints.”

It’s nice to be able to visually express the emotions that I feel in my artwork. Each time I illustrate a particular concept, I can feel my anger and bitterness about that subject subsiding. It’s like I have found resolution in that area. Maybe by the time I have completed my BFA show I will be able to resolve everything about being a Moho and I will be able to move on to the next stage of my life.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Curious About You

Every time I hear Alanis Morissette's "Unsent," I think of the different people in my life that have shaped me--the people that I have dated. I always wanted to write my own version of the song to those people. Well, now I have. You should go and listen to the song before you read the rest of this post. (All the names have been changed)

Dear Haley,
I like you a lot.
I realize I never really gave you all that you deserved,
And I regret that.
I would like you to know that when you finally find the right boyfriend,
I want to be there to make sure he takes care of you.
I would be open to drinking coffee if
You promise you’ll always keep that flower I drew for you.

Dear Melissa,
We talked so much,
I used to say I was attracted to you, and really
I wanted to be in love with you.
But then we never really dated officially.
At the time I used to say I would marry you one day.
The truth is your parents told me they still wish I would have,
And sometimes deep inside I wonder, would I have?

Dear Amy,
You really hurt me,
I tried so hard to convince myself that I really liked you so we could kiss,
Or even make out and become lovers wet in the rain.
I kept trying to be something that I wasn’t.
I remember how beautiful it was to cuddle with you on your couch
And flirt shamelessly with you that first time.
You weren’t the best person for me to try to learn to love.
What was wrong with me?

Dear Leslie,
I see you still.
You thought you were using me to break up with your boyfriend,
But I was using you because you had big boobs.
And you let me get away with a big kiss,
But I could never really feel smitten or even interested in you though.
And that stopped us from going further than we did,
And it’s kinda too bad ‘cause I thought you might have been my cure.

Dear Mark,
We learned so much.
I realize we won’t be able to talk for some time,
And I understand that it’s my fault.
The repressed affection was so hard, but we did as well as we could.
We were together during a very transitional time in our lives.
I will always remember when our pinkies crossed that first night.
You taught me I could feel love.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Scraps Thrown From You

If you've read the news lately, you may be aware of the 3 missionaries who desecrated a sacred site in Denver. I can't say that I am shocked at the behavior of those missionaries. The behavior and the way in which it blew out of control seems very consistent with the attitudes and behavior of the missionaries with whom I've been acquainted with. (I stopped being shocked by it after a few months of my own mission). The whole scene seems realistic and predictable to me. I am actually glad that it is so public because I think it will give more accountability to missionaries and have a positive effect on what I would call extreme ethnocentric attitudes fostered by missionary service.

I have to say, though, that I am very impressed with the Church's reaction to this whole fiasco. The Church didn't dodge responsibility or make a political, wishy-washy statement of regret. Instead, the Church issued an official apology, with a very humble tone. I am proud of how the Church handled the issue.

I wonder what it would take for the Church, however, to handle its historic treatment of gays with the same humility and responsibility. Will the Church ever apologize for Boyd K. Packer's "The One" or for the Bishops who used their authority to push members into marriages or harmful psycho-therapy? Will BYU ever even admit to having used shock therapy? I suspect not. I will have to learn to forgive without an apology.

Monday, March 10, 2008


My relationship with my parents has been improving drastically in past several weeks for two reasons. One, Romulus and Remus came out their parents and my parents are aware of the struggle their parents are going through. It makes them feel like they are not alone, since they respect the Romulus and Remus family very much. Two. I have backed off 100% and am instead letting them learn about me and homosexuality on their own pace. They are asking questions, and I am answering them. That way they get the information they want to have, without the overwhelming feelings that had been coming when I told them things at the pace I was experiencing them.

Though this has been great for our relationship, especially with my mom, it has come at the cost of me being able to tell them what I'd like to tell them when I'm ready to say it. And so, I have written my mom a letter, which I will not send to her. I just wrote it to write it.
Dear Mom,

I know that you don't want to understand the feelings that I have right now, but it would mean a lot to me if you tried. I have been trying to think of some way to help you know what it must feel like to be me so that you can understand why I do the things I do.

I want you to think back to the time when you were in college, before you married my dad. At some point, I am sure that you liked a guy who didn't like you back. Think about that and how it felt. You wanted to be with this guy. You wanted him to hold you. You wanted to kiss him. But you couldn't. He wasn't interested in you, and so you were crushed, and couldn't do anything. Pretty hard, right? That is a start with how I felt. Now, lets add to it.

Now imagine that this didn't just happen with one guy. Let's pretend that this is every man. You aren't able to be with any of the guys that you like. In fact, you are told that the very fact that you want to be with these guys is evil and unnatural and must change. How might that feel? Let's pretend that you are allowed to be with a woman, and there is a woman who likes you? How would you respond to that woman?

Now I want you to think back to some of the guys that you liked who liked you back. Maybe dad, maybe someone else. Let's pretend that was the first time it ever happened. How would that have felt? After all those guys who didn't like you, you met one who does. Only now, people are still telling you that you can't be with him. They tell you that you have to be alone for your whole life unless you can learn to be with that woman who likes you. How would that feel? You can't be a mother. You can't be a wife. You can't have sex. You can't decorate a home for two, or for a family. You can't get married. You can't even go on a date. You can't do anything that would lead you to find out if other guys like you or not. How would that feel?

More importantly, what would you do? Would you leave and find a place where you could be with that one that likes you, or would you live your life alone? And if you decided to leave and find a place where you could live the way that was natural to you, how would you want your parents to respond? How would you want them to act?

You'll never get this letter, but maybe some day you will think about these emotions and how I must feel. I can't expect you to change or to be anything but true to yourself and to your convictions. I likewise can't expect that of myself. But I do know that you are a compassionate, loving, empathetic mother, and so I know that you don't need to change yourself or your convictions to accept me as a son and treat me like I should be treated. I love you so much,


Sunday, March 9, 2008

. . . even though I don't know who you are.

I would like to thank the awesome lady that sat in front of me at the concert I went to the other day. My friend and I were obviously gay at this concert. In front of us was a lady with her little daughter and a husband that she had dragged along. I don't know who she is, but I want to thank her for making the world a little better.

First off, the world is a little better because she made it a little more sparkly, and who of you reading this blog doesn't like a little sparkle? She sprayed her daughter's hair with glitter, and then to be funny sprayed her husbands hair with glitter. He didn't like it, but my friend and I did. So she turned around and said, "You boys want some too, don't you?" And then she proceeded to spray us both with glitter!

Then later on in the concert, her husband whispered to her after looking at my sparkly friend and me, and she turned to him and said, "But don't they look happy?" She and her daughter both exchanged friendly whispers, and then she turned and winked at us. The whole night she was just so friendly and supportive, making it clear that the presence of gay people was not only no big deal, it was fun. As she left the venue, she came over to us to say goodbye and wish us well.

I love people who make others feel good. I love people who are friendly. I love people who are uplifting. I love people who take small steps to make this world a more loving and accepting place.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Secret's in the Telling

Since my last post I have come out to two more people. One was a non-LDS friend from my hometown, and the other was a guy in one of my classes that I was suspicious about. Both reactions were very positive. My friend from back home read this entire blog and said that it touched her and that she wants a jersey if I decide to make them for all of those on my team. The guy in my class also read my blog and told me about his own experience with same gender attractions.

Coming out has become such a common occurrence for me that it is starting to get redundant. Every one that I tell reacts positively. I am ready to be open about it to everyone. I don’t care who knows. At the same time, I am starting to get tired of “telling” people. I’m tired of taking people out to lunch, or dropping hints to test the waters, or any of the various things I’ve done in coming out to friends and relatives.

I’m kinda at that point now where I just don’t feel a huge need to tell people. It’s ok if they know, and it’s ok if they don’t. It doesn’t really matter. I’ll just let people who are suspicious of me ask, if they dare, or find out from others. I have lifted the vow of silence from the friends that I swore to secrecy. It’s something that we can all talk about now. If you want. Or we could talk about Obama. Or we could talk about the artwork I’m doing. Or the weather. (but only if you’re really lame). I’m comfortable in my own skin, but it no longer dominates my existence. I am officially done exploding out of the closet.

P.S. There is a beautiful prayer written by Chase that I think you should all read. (edit: sorry I meant to link that post, but I apparently didn't until now)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I am reclaimed

In New Testament today we talked about the commandments in a way the Mormons rarely talk about. My professor helped us to understand that the commandments are there to show us that we are sinners. In other words, the commandments are impossible to keep intentionally. By making them so impossible to completely obey, God creates the need for the Atonement and for our utter dependence on the Savior.

This concept resonated with me in a way that I haven’t previously understood. It helped me to appreciate having commandments. Right now I am convinced that having a committed same gender relationship is not wrong. I don’t feel that it results in the negative consequences that sins result in, namely guilt, withdrawal of the Spirit, and separation from God. Because of this shift, I had begun to question every commandment and the very concept of commandments. I was starting to feel like they were arbitrary ways of controlling a people.

Now I feel like commandments are a natural way for men to express their inherent imperfections. Commandments create a feeling of humility—a falling short—that we need to feel. In that sense the specific commandments are not nearly as important as the concept behind them. This is what Christ taught when He came to dwell with men. He ate on the Sabbath and failed to wash His hands and rebuked the clergy, all contrary to law—to the commandments. In so doing, He was showing us that it is not the letter of the law but the concept of the law that was important.

One of the things that have been bothering me about the Church is how much we cling to the letter of the law. It is so ingrained in us to abstain from coffee, but is that really important to making us better people? What about something harder to measure, but far more important to our quest to improve ourselves—something like the way we treat others. Compassion. Selflessness. Saying uplifting things. I think we have become as rigid and dogmatic as the Pharisees, and in so doing we have missed the whole reason for having commandments.

I have really enjoyed studying the acts of the Apostles this semester. I am convinced that the message Christians brought to the world at the meridian of time was one of freedom. After years of being bogged down by the law of Moses and missing the mark, Christ revealed in person and to His first disciples the freedom that gospel is supposed to bring. But it wasn’t long before they started getting bogged down again by law—the law of Catholicism. In the reformation, Christians tried to get back to the freedom of the gospel—an understanding that the law is not what saves us, but they didn’t get it quite right. Then Joseph Smith restored many plain and precious things with, among other things, the Book of Mormon. Once again these truths provided freedom and increased understanding of the Atonement, but over time we have missed the mark again.

In my own life, as I seek out my own spiritual path, I hope to keep in mind the purpose of commandments as a way for us to need the Savior and as symbols of His ultimate sacrifice.

I'll feast on scraps thrown from you

Peter Danzig's story in his own words:

In 2002 I decided to return to school and pursue a graduate degree in social work. In my first year of studies it became obvious to me that at some point I would have a client who was homosexual and that I needed to decide how I was going to deal with that as a faithful member of the Church. Accordingly I read a great deal on the subject. However, the more I read, the more concerned I became. It seemed to me that the way the Church had typically handled this issue was harmful rather than helpful. I assumed this was due primarily to ignorance and not malice; as society has not been particularly kind on this issue either.

My first practicum site was a residential adolescent treatment facility. Clients in the facility were usually admitted only if they were in severe danger of harming themselves. I was surprised to find that a large percentage of the clients there were struggling with issues of sexual orientation. The issue of how homosexual orientation is handled by the LDS Church has continued to bother me as I have gone on to become a fully licensed Clinical Social Worker. For those who wish to acquaint themselves with the issues a homosexual member of the LDS Church faces I suggest reading the book "Peculiar People: Mormons and Same-Sex Orientation" or looking at the resources offered on these websites: or

I was very disheartened when the letter from the First Presidency urging us to write congress in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment was read from the pulpit. I have watched in the past few years with growing alarm as the LDS Church encouraged and funded laws opposing the rights of homosexual couples to define their own families. In specifically endorsing a piece of national legislation I felt that the leadership of my church had stepped far beyond the boundaries of what was appropriate.

I was also appalled at the way in which a successful and popular BYU professor (Jeffrey Nielson) was summarily dismissed for speaking his mind concerning this matter so in June 2006 I wrote several letters opposing the Federal Marriage Amendment and the dismissal of Jeffrey Nielson . . .

After the matter was turned over to local authorities I was invited to a meeting with my Bishop. He and I talked for quite some time. He told me he felt I was choosing science over the statements of the Brethren. I indicated that I felt that it was not such a simple dichotomy. I pointed out how the Brethren had changed their stance on homosexuality and other issues over time, and how I felt that part of sustaining the Brethren was to point out when they were damaging or hurting those in their stewardship through their own ignorance on certain issues.

I was told that it appeared that I had only been studying the issue from the scientific side (despite the fact that I frequently cited the words of the prophets and scriptures on this issue during our conversation) and was asked as an assignment to study the scriptures and words of the prophets on homosexuality and meet with him the next week. I was also informed that I would not pass a temple recommend interview with my views as they stood.

I dutifully spent the next week studying approximately an hour each evening from the scriptures and the words of LDS general authorities on the subject. I found that there was not much in the way of scriptural support for the Church’s position, and I felt that even many of the official documents of the Church, such as the "Proclamation to the world" held significant room for a broader interpretation than I had realized. I went to my interview the next week with my personal views unchanged but feeling I had more support for them from the lack of official statements and scriptural support than I did before.

At this meeting I was informed that I needed to agree with some of the specifics of Elder Dallin H. Oaks talk "Same-Gender Attraction" given in 1995: Specifically that Homosexual orientation was not innate and that it was reversible. I informed my Bishop that this was not true in the experience of many individuals and that as such I could not support it. He informed me that he would need to turn the matter over to the Stake President and indicated that if I did not learn to moderate my views I would likely face a disciplinary court for acts of apostasy. I indicated that if such was the case I might rather resign and spare my family the embarrassment.

I'm not going to lie, this is something that has really upset me. Peter Danzig vindicates me with his findings, and yet the Church attacked him for expressing his findings publicly. I have been stewing over it over the past several days. Quite frankly, I seriously considered leaving the church and transferring schools. I made a list of grievances, and weighed them against the benefits of continuing my education at BYU. The grievances are pretty big, but there was one benefit that tipped the scale and made me decide to stay:

For my final BFA show, I plan to depict visually the emotions I experienced in my journey with same sex attractions, including the pain and self abuse before I accepted myself and the community I found after I came to terms with myself. This show would be a public event on BYU campus (I would be careful to follow BYU's mandate that I not advocate homosexual behavior), and I think it would do a lot of good in spreading accurate information and stimulating dialog about how homosexuality is treated by BYU and Mormons in general. This ray of hope for change is what is motivating me to stick it out. I hope that in staying and talking in what little ways I can I will be able to accomplish some good.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Better When You Glow

Elder Oaks explained in his October 2006 Conference Address that not all ailments are healed by priesthood power despite our righteous desires. I learned that this was true when I felt my same sex attractions were an ailment. I desperately wanted to have my same sex attractions removed. I was fixated on doing everything in my power to have them removed. My freshman year at BYU, I asked my Bishop for a priesthood blessing with consecrated oil. It was a great blessing in which he told me that I was whole, but it didn’t remove the unwanted attractions.

Now as I look back on God’s plans for me, I am grateful that He did not answer my many petitions by removing those attractions. Because I lacked an attraction to women, I feel that had I suddenly stopped being attracted to men, I would be attracted to no one. What a sad thing that would be. Without my same sex attractions, I might have absolutely no capacity to love in a romantic way.

Today I appreciate my same sex attractions. I’m glad that I like men, because it has taught me how to love and care for someone. I look at all the blessings that stem from being gay, and they far outweigh any disappointments. I am so glad that a loving Father in Heaven knew that and kept me whole rather than removing such an integral part of me.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

I have bent for you.

What my mission did for me: (in no particular order)

1. Provided an experience where I felt like I had done something substantially good--something selfless. (important when you have to forgive yourself).

2. Provided an experience in which I could experience both celibacy and happiness and therefore understand what it would take to be celibate. (important when deciding if this is the right option for me)

3. Provided a place where I was surrounded by and loved by men. The fraternity is almost inescapable. It is wonderful to call other guys every night and tell them how much you love them and hear them tell you how much they love you--and it's all acceptable! (important for creating the experiences I felt I had missed)

4. Provided a place where I didn't have to worry about women. Or dating. Or pretending. (just plain relieving)

5. Allowed me to experience the "peak" of the Mormon experience--the Temple endowment and mission rite of passage. (important when looking back with no regrets--I tried it all).

6. Allowed me to do everything I could to change my orientation. My mission let me have the satisfaction of knowing that I had done everything I could to be the perfect righteous Mormon I wanted to be. (so that I could say I did everything and still didn't change).

7. Gave me really cute guys to live with and develop crushes on so that during spiritual experiences, when the Spirit was clearly there, I could also simultaneously feel attracted to men. (important for realizing that God is not offended by my feelings/attractions).

8. Taught me how to love other people. (important for when I decided that being emotionally alone is not good).

9. Taught me how to think about someone besides myself. (important for when I decided that it is not good to be the center of the Universe).

10. Forced me to get out of my comfort zone--to talk to people I didn't want to talk to, and perhaps even harder, to socialize with men in ways that scared me. (important because life can't be lived within a comfort zone).

11. Provided my parents with the joy of having a son fulfilling their dream for him. (hey, they liked it, and there's nothing wrong with that).

12. Taught me to love myself--gave me a self esteem. As I was successful, I started to actually like myself. (important when stopping self abusive habits).

13. Provided me with a constant, high dosage of Mormonism so that I could decide if I wanted to leave the Church or not. (important for realizing that even being completely immersed in Mormonism wasn't enough to fill my needs).

And so I can honestly say that I loved my mission and that I don't regret it at all. It gave me so much that I needed. I never could have come out or stopped hating myself or gotten to the place where I am today without the things that I gleaned from my two year sacrifice. If these are things that you need, you might consider the mission as the place to get them. If not, maybe the mission would give you something else--something that you do need. Or maybe a mission is not for you. Maybe you can get these things somewhere else. I do know that I never could have known that these are things I would get from my mission until after it was over. Good luck you people who are deciding if you should serve a mission!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Till Now, I Always Got By On My Own

As I was studying for my HEPE test, I came across some statements from a clearly LDS point of view about love that struck me. In chapter 1 the HEPE text reads, “Researchers do not understand how love can improve immunity, but the evidence strongly suggests that it does. Loving others has been shown not only to increase a person’s antibodies and white blood cells, but also to decrease susceptibility to colds, reduce the amount of pain, and even extend life (Justice, 1987). Hugging, holding hands, smiling, singing, owning a pet, writing and receiving letters, and visiting with relatives and friends are all part of the social dimension of wellness.” Love increases quality and quantity of life.

In my sociology class, we talked about how Americans value not only love, but romantic love. One American writer states, “All of our basic drives are exceedingly difficult to control. It is impossible to sublimate or redirect thirst or hunger. It is difficult to quell the maternal instinct. And it is very tough to control one’s persistent craving for a sweetheart. We need food. We need water. We need salt. We need warmth. And the lover needs the beloved. Plato had it right over two thousand years ago. The God of Love ‘lives in a state of need.’ Romantic love is a need; it is a fundamental human drive” (Helen Fisher, Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love). Clearly we value love and intimacy.

In fact, I would say that Latter-day Saints value romantic love even more than the average American. In New Testament today we talked about how the feelings that man has for his spouse and the need for sexual intimacy is given to men from God and is crucial to the marriage relationship. To Mormons, romantic love endures forever and sexual intimacy is an important and valued part of mortality and immortality. It is so important that the only way you can become like God is to be married. You can’t get to the top of heaven if you don’t love and marry someone.

It doesn’t seem fair, then, that this value is reversed for homosexuals. In fact, it seems like a contradiction. Those who don’t have a God-given attraction and desire for intimacy and sex with a woman and who instead desire men, should either marry without romantic love or live a life without a spouse at all—never holding hands, never kissing, never learning how to be in a romantic relationship. Not just being single, this idea of celibacy includes never even looking for a lover.

Which of these contradicting values is going to give? In sociology I have learned that cultures have conflicting values all the time. It is these contradicting values that become the catalyst for social change. My professor cited racism as an example. Americans value ethnic superiority. Americans also value equality. These contradicting values resulted in the civil rights movement.

As Latter-day Saints, we value sexual intimacy and romantic love. As Latter-day Saints we also value sex only in marriage between one man and one woman. For the gay Latter-day Saint, this is a contradiction, and I think it will ultimately lead to social change. The questions is, which value will give? In my own life, the value in heterosexual marriage is what gave, and I hope that is what gives in both American and Latter-day Saint cultures. It seems like the majority of the Mormon population, however, seems more willing to sacrifice the divine need for romantic love instead. You know, its funny how easy it is for a happily married man to tell someone else that they don’t need romantic love.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

It's More Than You, It Is More Than Me

I came out somewhat unexpectedly to Sister French this past week. I meant to talk a little bit more about it and make it its own post, but right now I want to focus on some significant realization that I have had as a reaction to something that she said. She told me not to be bitter. My instant reaction was, "Too late." I had been feeling very bitter about the Church.

Since then, I have had two thoughts. One. I don't need to be bitter anymore. It certainly isn't helping me in any way, and it certainly isn't hurting the Church in anyway, so now it just seems stupid. So I'm done being bitter.

Two. Why was I bitter in the first place? What did the church do to me? This is when I realized why and at whom I was angry. I was angry at God for not fulfilling a perceived promise the Church made me.

For so long I begged God on my knees to change my sexual orientation. I felt like the Church doctrines made that possible. I read in the Book of Mormon about Christ changing peoples desires. I read about God making weaknesses strengths. I listened to leaders talk about miracles and marriage and the blessings of righteous living. When God didn't change my orientation, I became angry- angry at Him, and angry at His Church which had given me this false understanding of how He would work in my life.

This is what gave me the urge to rebel against the Church and its teachings. It's funny how realizing what made me angry has done to minimize my anger. I am now at the point where I am glad God didn't take it away, and so I don't have to be mad at Him. If I'm not mad at Him, then I don't have to be mad at the Church either. Just because I got the wrong idea about what was going to happen doesn't mean the Church is bad or wrong or hurtful.

So thanks, Sister French. (And Romulus who said some things that also influenced this realization). Thanks for helping me not be bitter. It is so much more fun to be happy!!!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

My Heart Broke Out in Song

Life is wonderful. I am so happy! I had lunch with Sister French today, something I will post about later. I just wanted to say that it is wonderful to be alive. I am so full of positive energy I could explode.

You know sometimes I feel like and act like I am at war with the University and/or Church. I perceive the enemy as attacking me, and I complain about it and fight back. The truth is, there is no war. No one is out to get me. Nothing bad is going to happen to me. The school isn't going to hunt me down and punish me. In fact, this has been a wonderful place to come out. I'm surrounded by good friends. I am happy. What more could I ask for.

Just Listen . . .

"Hear me when I speak, and just listen and try not to be some kind of self righteous high being, or the opposite and mislead me . . . And I'm not saying that I'm any better than you. Sometimes I have motives that are just so stupid and I play the fool. But man, you're killing me; the charade has got to end. So stop acting like you know everything. Because you're missing the point, you are supposed to be my friend . . ." (The Rocket Summer).
I got a lot of interesting response to my last several posts. It's interesting what people said when I posted my thoughts about going less active. Those were the feelings I had been having for a few days, and I must confess to having a shift in feelings. I don't know that I would write the same things if I were to write a post about going less active today. I wanted to let all of those thoughts go, then, and just move on, but one comment seemed worthy of note. Just_Listen said:
I understand exactly how you feel, Peter. However, it raises some interesting questions. You said that you are distancing yourself from the church on purpose and are upset that people aren't contacting you and worrying over you. Are you sure they're not worrying about you? And, if they were, would you actually want to know, and would you actually accept them?
Am I sure they aren't worrying about me. Actually I am sure that people are worried about me. I know that my family, bishop, even roommates worry about me. You obviously worry about me--enough to look up my blog and comment. My question is what motivates the worry. There are several different ways to worry about someone. Are church members concerned because they are loosing something valuable, or are they worried because they want everyone to agree with them? Are family members concerned because they want me to be happy, or are they worried because they want me to stop embarrassing them, to be what they have always wanted me to be, and to fulfill their expectations of the ideal family?

Would I want to know if they were worried about me? Yes, in appropriate ways. Actions indicate motives. If a roommate were to approach me and tell me that he is worried that I am going to hell and proceeded to say offensive, immature, and threatening things that put me on the defensive, that would not be an appropriate way. If a roommate were to accentuate the positive and tell me things that he valued in me and how he wanted to see more of that (like when I used to bear my testimony and things), then I would be touched.

I think the number one appropriate way to show someone that you are sincerely concerned about their welfare is to just listen. So, Just_Listen, just listen. Hear me. Don't be thinking about what you're going to say next. Don't be thinking about how ridiculous you think my stance is. Just listen. Actually, over winter break I made some great breakthroughs with my dad who just needed to listen. I was again talking about how I felt about homosexuality and about the church and he was again lecturing me about Church doctrine and policy. We were getting no where again. Finally I raised my voice and asked him to stop thinking through the lense of the church and listen to what I was saying. I repeated myself again- said everything again exactly as I had said it before and suddenly a light bulb went off. Something clicked and he said, "Oh. You just don't want to be alone, do you?" We had a tender moment in which he actually could finally sincerely say, "I understand how you feel."

Would I accept those that worry about me? I think I would accept those that are genuinely concerned about me. I may not take their advice. I may not change my ways. But I would accept the concern of those who expressed it appropriately. I would hope that there would be an exchange--a dialog. And I would hope that it would be mature. In any event, there needs to be open communication. Currently at home I just feel unspoken problems, accusations, and threats.

Just_Listen, you don't know exactly how I feel. You don't understand. You haven't heard me.
"Listen. I am alone at a crossroads. I'm not at home in my own home, and I've tried and tried to say whats on my mind. You should have known. Now I'm done believing you. You don't know what I'm feeling. I'm more than what you've made of me. I followed the voice, you gave to me, but now I've gotta find my own. You should have listened" (Beyonce).

Friday, February 1, 2008

Hello to a Broken World

from a draft written on Tuesday, January 29, 2008:
I need to be writing my essay right now, but I have too much on my mind and I need to get it off my mind, so I am blogging.

Item Number One. President Hinckley. I love him. I love him in part because of how much change he brought to the Church. Even before he was the prophet, he brought significant changes to the Church that helped it become more accessible to other members and that helped it become more like what I believe God intended the Church to be like. I hope future prophets continue with that wonderful legacy.

Item Number Two. The news of President Hinckley's death came at a bad time. Mormon Enigma asked, "What were you doing when you got the news about President Hinkley?" This question has a funny answer, one that I'll keep to myself. That's not what I meant by bad time though. It came at a bad time because that day I was feeling more anti-Mormon than I ever thought I could feel. Why?

Item Number Three. One of my friends from home who went on his mission at the same time as me told his parents this past week that he was leaving the Church. His parents exploded and said he had to attend church or they wouldn't financially support him. Romulus and Remus (also friends from home) came out to their parents, and their parents reacted somewhat similar to mine. Not ideal. Contrast that to Draco's coming out to his Lutheran parents and to his brother. His family, though also believing homosexuality is wrong and against all they were taught and believed, reacted with love and support.

Item Number Four. There is something downright disgusting about something that makes people react with so much hatred, fear, devastation, helplessness, etc. to someone who announces feelings or beliefs that are different than their own.

Item Number Five. I am jealous of those people with families who don't have that disgusting something, whatever it is you think that causes that disgusting something. Right now, I am trying hard (well not too hard) not to view the Church as the common thread.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I tried to wear another face

"I found the pieces in my hand. They were always there, it just took some time for me to understand. You gave me words I just can't say. So if nothing else, I'll just hold on while you drift away. Cause everything you wanted me to hide, is everything that makes me feel alive. . ."
Is it bad that every time I hear a song about breaking up I think about the Church?

I've noticed that my Bishop has given up on me. In September I approached him to tell him that I felt like there was a war over my soul between homosexuality and Mormonism. I told him that not only was the Church loosing the war, it wasn't even fighting for me. He proceeded to meet with me over the next few weeks to try and encourage me, but he quickly ran out of things to say. I'll be honest, the visits were annoying and often felt like interrogations based on my roommate's remarks to him.

In early December I told him that I planned on living an open and active homosexual lifestyle after I graduated BYU because I didn't feel like the Church provided me with a celibate lifestyle I could handle. He didn't know what to say, and said that he'd like to meet with me and the stake president because he just didn't have anything good to say despite petitioning the Lord. He said he would ask the Stake President if that was ok and arrange the meeting. The meeting never happened.

I have started to consistently ditch Sunday School and Priesthood meetings. I don't go to ward prayer. I don't go to any of the activities. I make statements of non-testimony to my roommates. I am starting to become, *gasp*, partially less active. All of this is intentional on my part, and yet I can't help but feeling a little disappointed that no one is doing anything about it.

No one is trying to reach out to me and convince me to stay. No one is commenting that they miss me at meetings and activities. My bishop hasn't said anything to me since that last December meeting. Even my family, which desperately wants me to stay active in the Church, doesn't want to talk about it. I love the Church; it was everything to me in my youth, but it isn't trying to keep me. Now I'm not so vain as to think that I am important enough to make something fight for me, but still. I realize that if they were reaching out to me I'd be complaining about it and resisting their outstretched hands, but still.

You know, if you knew how hard it was for me to let go of this Church, then maybe you would realize just how important ones sexuality is, and just how important my sexuality is to me.

"I held the pieces of my soul. I was shattered and I wanted you to come and make me whole. Then I saw you yesterday. But you didn't notice, and you just walked away. Cause everything you wanted me to hide, is everything that makes me feel alive" (Vertical Horizon).

Friday, January 25, 2008

the things you were taught to run from

A few days ago I quoted Joseph F. Smith.
"It has always been a cardinal teaching with the Latter-day Saints, that a religion which has not the power to save the people temporally and make them prosperous and happy here cannot be depended upon to save them spiritually, and exalt them in the life to come"(quoted in L. Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom, 1958, p. 425, n. 16).
I'd like to expound on how I feel about this principle.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has failed to make its gay members prosperous and happy and therefore cannot be depended upon to save them spiritually or to exalt them in the life to come. I realize that as a gut response to that cringe-causing thesis, many of you are going to tell me how happy you are as a gay Mormon. Please do. It's not that I don't believe you, it's just that as a whole I see a lack of prosperity and happiness amongst homosexuals in the Church.

What is prosperity and happiness? Prosperity is physical success, growth, and health. Happiness includes a feeling of satisfaction about ones situation.

I'm not here to argue about the financial welfare of gay Mormons because I don't think that is really important. When I talk about prospering in the Church, I'm talking about growth and health. It is true that gay Latter-day Saints grow a great deal from their afflictions. There are limits to their growth, however. A gay Latter-day Saint who is active in the Church cannot grow in sexual or romantic love, for example. If he heeds current advice and is celibate, he cannot grow in the priesthood as a Bishop or general authority (despite the enormous sacrifices he makes and the qualifications those sacrifices give him spiritually). Quite honestly he cannot even grow in an exalted state until (or unless) he is awarded with a spouse at the resurrection.

As an offshoot of the "growth" category, I am going to include family life in the concept of prosperity. I think most Latter-day Saints would agree that having a family is part of prospering. Mormons who aren't attracted to the opposite gender, though, and who can't function well in a mixed orientation setting, cannot have families. They cannot marry someone they love and raise children with him.

Then there is health. Gay Mormons don't have a good history when it comes to mental health. Granted, not all are nut cases, but the vast majority have needed some sort of professional help to deal with feelings of self-loathing, failure, compulsive behavior, shame, rejection, loneliness, depression, anxiety, etc. Though the Church is not obligated to fix all of these problems, I feel it did indirectly cause them and is therefore responsible for them. The Church fosters an environment where being gay is bad and therefore youth who are gay feel bad. They are so afraid of being gay they give themselves complexes. I certainly don't think the Church is the only thing to do this-- American society has helped a lot, but the Church, being inspired of God, should have programs and policies that uplift youth and build their self-worth.

This leads us to happiness. The most satisfied gay people that I know are the ones that have left or plan to leave the Church. It's hard to be satisfied in a situation where you must be romantically alone for the rest of your mortal life, never learning what it is like to fall in love. It's hard to be satisfied when you are constantly being reminded about how you can't act out your natural desires but aren't being given anything that helps you to change your desires. It's hard to be satisfied when you feel isolated and out of place at Church. It's hard to be satisfied attending a church that puts so much emphasis on family living- a living that you can't have until after you die. That doesn't sound like a religion making one "happy here" on Earth.

There are so many wonderful blessings that the Church bestows upon its members. So many of those blessings, however, are withheld from its gay members. I just don't believe that it allows them to prosper or be happy. I encourage all straight people who can benefit from Mormonism to take advantage of the amazing things it has to offer. But if you are gay, please know that it is not your fault that you aren't getting those amazing things. You were not designed for Mormonism.

Well, those are the controversial feelings I have been having as of late. Let the hate mail flow.

the things we think we think we know

Moho Hawaii posted his; this is mine:

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Love Your Gay Mormon Self

In Tuesday's New York Times there was an article about the “Fatosphere"- a blogging community of fat people whose motto is "love your fat self." It made me think about the Mormon queerosphere we have going on. There certainly are a lot of similarities between the emerging "fat and proud" soap boxes and our moho blogs.

Being shunned and misunderstood by society, both of our groups cling to an online subculture for validation and for emotional support. We also share a variety of outlooks on our respective identities. Some of these fat people are trying to change their fatness, others are happy with their weight. Some of us as gay Latter-day Saints are trying to live celibate or mixed orientation lifestyles, others are happy in homosexual relationships. But we bond together. Like these fat people, who traditionally have low self-esteems, we have created a place where we can accept, embrace, and be proud of our mohoness. Why don't we, as a community embrace the slogan, "Love Your Gay Mormon Self?"

It's mindnumbing to think of yesterday

I ran into Sister French today, surprisingly late in the semester. The encounter was inevitable because we share a major, and, let’s face it; the HFAC isn’t that big of a world. It was exciting to run into her, and I’ll confess to thinking about her nonstop ever since.

What makes me think of a girl like that?

I was serving in the office when Sister French came to the mission. I had barely been out for a year, actually just less than a year. At that point in my mission, I hadn’t really fit in yet to any of the mission groups. I felt like a fish out of water. I had just started to get along with the other missionaries and had several friends, but they all seemed so different from me. They were from small towns and were so . . . Utah, so . . . red? Anyway, Sister French was from the East Coast, was also an art major, and had even gone to the Art Institute in the city where I am from. She had transferred to BYU and thus was in the same program as me, had had the same professors in the same rooms, even had some of the same HFAC friends. One of those friends had written me to warn me that she was coming to my mission and that she was really cool. You can imagine how excited I was to meet her.

That first time that I talked to Sister French changed my mission. It was like talking with a second version of myself. We talked the same way, we thought the same way, we believed the same way—we even had some of the same mannerisms. I felt, for the first time, completely in my element. Screw attraction, I was so happy to be myself with someone that I was determined to marry this girl. And everyone in the mission knew it. Everyone suddenly gained the expectation that she and I would hook up when she returned to the HFAC in January of 2008. In addition to suddenly having a future wife, I was suddenly comfortable with myself in the mission, and from that point onward I felt very much like I fit into the mission.

When I got home in August, immediately the other returned missionaries started advising me on how to hook up with Sister French. I knew that I would run into her quickly, and at first I started making plans to woo her. I figured that she was my only chance to have a future with someone who would make me happy despite of lack of sexual interest. As the weeks rolled by, though, I started to come to terms with myself, and my attitudes about the importance of sexual interest and about my future shifted majorly. Suddenly I was comfortable in a lifestyle that did not require me to marry a girl, and I lost interest in pursuing Sister French. In fact, I dreaded her return to BYU this semester and all the expectations that would accompany it. I was afraid that I might wonder what would have happened if I had tried to make it work with her. I was afraid of wondering if I am really doing what’s best for me. I was afraid of feeling a sense of failure for not being able to change my orientation for her.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when (not at the HFAC!) I look up after rushing out of the B66 sculpture lab and see her walking towards me. She was ecstatic to see me, and I suddenly dreaded the fact that I had chosen to wear glasses and grungy clothes that morning. The exchange was brief, but all of my fears left and once again being with her was like being with another me- I was in my element. But I was also not attracted to her (though she is a beautiful woman, in an artsy way).

So what does that mean for me? It means that I don’t have to feel pressured any more to pretend at romance with Sister French, but that I can still be friends with her. I can act like myself around her, and it will be ok. That’s what I liked about her anyway. If I had to pretend to be straight around her in my efforts to woo her, I don’t think I would like her anymore. I don’t worry about what it might have been like if I would have tried to marry her, because I am happy with what I do have now, and she can still be a part of it as a great friend.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

. . . it's funny how you find you enjoy your life . . .

I love being gay.

I love the fact that I love being gay.

I love the fact that others love the fact that I love being gay.

Tonight I felt so happy being who I am. This is huge. Gone are the days when homosexuality was a disgusting affliction. Gone are the days when I thought I would never have what I wanted. Gone are the days when I felt pressured to pretend to be something that I'm not. Thank you to all of those who made this amazing feeling possible.

You know, if this feeling were ever threatened, I would sacrifice anything to have it back again.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

And You’re on Fire When He's Near You

I’m so confused.

I have really enjoyed my New Testament class this semester. I have been having so many spiritual experiences already during the course. Today we talked a lot about the parallels between the emergence of Christianity and the restoration (the emergence of Mormonism). The similarities have me convinced that God is the author of both movements. It was a wonderful feeling to realize it, and it made me realize that I still have a testimony of the restored gospel, a love of LDS doctrine, and a desire to be a part of Mormonism.

Despite this, I have chosen a path that will ultimately lead to leaving or being forced out of the Church. What has me confused is that I don’t think that is wrong. I don’t think an active homosexual lifestyle is sinful. I still have a testimony of homosexuality (so to speak), a love of (a certain person), and a desire to be part of a same sex marriage (and family) some day. How can I have such contradicting feelings that both seem to come from God?

After class today I was thinking about how wonderful LDS theology is when I overheard the conversation of a group of guys exiting the JSB in front of me. One of them was complaining about a female religion teacher that he thought was weird. Another remarked that he liked the teacher and said, “At least she has a good testimony.”

The first replied, “Testimony? She’s not married! What kind of testimony is that?”

The other said, “She’s not married?” with a voice of disdain.

“Yeah, she’s always talking about being single.”

“I wonder what’s wrong with her,” the second said.

That was as much of the conversation as I could handle. Feelings of revulsion towards Mormons welled up deep within me. Suddenly I wondered if the emergence of the restored gospel paralleled the emergence of Christianity too closely. Maybe it paralleled it right on into apostasy. I say that somewhat cynically, but I’m actually somewhat serious.

Just before the turn of the first century AD, God’s chosen people had become exclusive, hoity, dogmatic, wealthy, ritualistic, and hypocritical. He sent His Son to them to show them His compassion, to organize correct teachers, and to rebuke hypocrisy. Christ’s disciples soon were charged with the powerful experiences they had and the infallible witness they had of the resurrection. They went though out the world preaching Christianity, a religion that was refreshingly inclusive of all people and that was much more open and free in practice. Christianity exploded because of its amazing missionary program and the social climate of the Roman Empire. Many problems came from this explosion of growth, including the fact that there were a lot of diverse opinions and philosophies amongst the members. Unfortunately, the way that Christianity responded to these problems created the exclusive, hoity, dogmatic, wealthy, ritualistic, and hypocritical Catholic Church. (For example, second and third century Christians solved the problem of disunity by holding counsels and creating a rigid dogma. Any who didn’t conform were cast out.) The religion went full circle. (We call this a dispensation)

Centuries later, God sent a prophet to again reveal the compassion (and nature) of God, organize authorized teachers, and rebuke false doctrine. These early Latter-day Saints were charged with powerful experiences and modern witnesses of the resurrection. They went through out the world preaching Mormonism, a religion that refreshingly solved the problems of contemporary religion just as Christianity solved the problems of the religions when it emerged. The Church has exploded because of its amazing missionary program and the social climate of America. We face the same problems that early Christianity faced, including a diverse population. I wonder how we will respond (or how we have responded). Will we (have we) become an exclusive, hoity, dogmatic, wealthy, ritualistic, and hypocritical Church?

Maybe I’m thinking too much about this. Certainly I am out of line with the authorities, which promise us that we will never be lead astray in this the final dispensation (although a similar promise was given to Peter in his dispensation). I wonder, though, if this explains the contradicting feelings I have in loving LDS theology and in hating the practices and attitudes of Mormons. Either way, I think there are lessons we as a people need to learn from the early Christians and how they responded to the problems within their newly restored religion.

they tell you who you need to be

Early this morning while walking to class, some girls were handing out hot chocolate. It was so cold today, so I really appreciated the hot chocolate. As I was balancing things in my hands, one of the girls said that it was Karl G. Maeser's birthday today and then stuffed a giant honor code magnet into my back pack pocket.

What is it about the honor code (and honor code paraphernalia) that sends a shiver down my spine? Is it the feeling of being painted into a corner of hypocrisy? Is it the personal rights one must freely give up to attend the school his culture, religion, and family pressure him to attend? Is it the feeling of paranoia that at any time someone could use even this very blog to report me to the dreaded honor code office where an investigation would be launched into my personal "behavior?"

On this particular magnet it was the word "comply" that sent the shiver down my spine. "Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code." Is it just me or does that word conjure up images of Nazi Germany or Stalin's USSR? I can just see the that Nazi guy in Sound of Music at Captain Von Trapp's door requesting that he "comply" with the Nazi's request for naval service. *shudder*

In all honesty, I believe that the concept of the Honor Code is a good one, but I think it goes beyond not only practicality, but reasonability. According to the Honor Code, "advocating" a homosexual relationship is punishable. I'm not talking about having gay sex, I'm talking about "advocating" someone else holding hands with a member of the same gender. Something is wrong with that, in my opinion. That means that I can't protest on behalf of, or assemble to support, or say anything in support of gay rights. This nation revolted against Britain over similar injustices.

Maybe I'm being overly dramatic here, but I wish that instead of celebrating Karl G. Maeser's birthday we would just celebrate Martin Luther King Jr's birthday like the rest of the country.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Now That You're Choosing This

A few mohos seem to be slipping further from the Church. Others, including mohos, want to reclaim these lost souls and convince them to come back to a complete LDS lifestyle. Might I make a suggestion to those well-intended people? If you try to reclaim gay Latter-day Saints, you will likely not do it by demonstrating the negative effects of homosexuality or by being preachy about obedience or sacrifice or the authority of prophets. If you want to reclaim them, I suggest not being negative at all. I think your only shot is going to be in positivity. Do it by showing them how wonderful and amazing Mormonism is.

The only way to convince a doubting Mormon to stay Mormon is by showing him what it is about being Mormon that is worth his while.

And in my mind, that is where the Church has failed. It hasn't showed me, at least, a lifestyle in the Church that gives me more blessings than a gay lifestyle would give. I realize that for some of you the promise of exaltation, which the Church claims sole access to, is enough of a blessing. Without meaning to sound pompous, let me say that the promise alone is not enough for me. In the words of Joseph F. Smith, "It has always been a cardinal teaching with the Latter-day Saints, that a religion which has not the power to save the people temporally and make them prosperous and happy here cannot be depended upon to save them spiritually, and exalt them in the life to come."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Wicked Through and Through!

I saw Wicked last week. It was amazing! I've been wanting to see it for the past 3 years it's been playing downtown. The cast, though not as great at acting as I would have liked, had amazing vocals. Fiyero's voice sent shivers down my spine. I got teary during "The Wizard and I," "Defying Gravity" (which is a rush!), and "As Long as You're Mine." Most of you have already seen parallels between the themes of Wicked and the things we as Moho's go through.

The storyline is about a girl who through no fault of her own is green- a trait that others find repulsive but simply is the way she is. She wants desperately to change it, and believes that the Wizard will change it for her when she becomes his assistant. At school she starts out loathing a bubbly wanna-be witch who is obsessed with public image and will do anything to appear perfect, but she ends up becoming friends with this girl. They both excel in school and go to meet the wizard. For a moment the green girl feels like she finally fits in, but then she finds out that wizard really doesn't have magical powers and can't degreenify her. She chooses to rebel against the wizard, and her friend chooses to stay with the wizard because that is was society wants. It is a tragic fall out that leaves the green girl being branded as wicked while all of oz fight against her. She ends up faking her death so that she can run away with a hot guy.

In so many ways this seems like my story. Through no fault of my own, I wound up being gay. The trait was detested by society and by myself, and I hoped that the Church authority would fix me. I went to school where I found myself loathing bubbly Provo. Then I started to like Provo. Then I found the Authority of the Church didn't have the power to degayify me, and I became disenchanted with the Church. I had a fallout with the happy bubbly Mormons of Provo, but we are still friends. I have choosen the wicked path, and it is turning loved ones and society against me. All I have left to do is find an escape from Oz and run away with a hot guy.

Perhaps paralleling my story to Elphaba's is a bit of a stretch, but you should get the soundtrack. You may also find the lyrics apply to your story, different as it may be from mine. The themes are certainly universal.

I think the biggest lesson that I learned from the musical is that there is no such thing as a "wicked" person or a "righteous" person (Romans backs that up). People simply are people and they respond to the circumstances they find themselves in. I certainly don't fault Elphaba (me), Glinda (Provo/BYU students), the wizard (Church leaders), Ozians (Mormons), or any of the other characters for making the decisions they made. They did the best they could in their circumstances. In my book all of them are justified,

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Wicked Cry Alone

Sometimes I just get so worked up when I read about the psychological torture that gay Mormons have to go through.