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.