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 In High School, a newer version of the pamphlet came out that I was asked to memorize.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)