Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Someday We'll Live Our Lives Out Loud

Yesterday the Daily Universe published a letter to the editor I wrote in response to a disturbing letter published last week. It's my third letter to the editor in the DU. Another time I was quoted in an article about prop 8 and was referred to as a gay BYU student in the article. I was also heavily quoted in a front page Salt Lake Tribune article about BYU gays.

In each of these cases, my mailbox was fairly full after the editorials and articles ran. It's always been a combination of support mail and hate mail, and so I was expecting it this time. I've received 15 messages so far. I have to say, though, that this time the messages are different. Significantly different.

For starters, only one message was negative. An anonymous coward told me I should keep my personal issues to myself and called me a faggot. The remaining 14 messages were all thank you's. While that's a refreshing change, it's not what really caught my attention. The most significant thing about these messages is that most of them have come from other BYU students who have told me they are also gay. Facebook reveals that in most cases we don't have mutual friends, or if we have one or two, they are random straight people.

That's huge! For the longest time, I've believed that BYU has multiple social circles of gay students. I know roughly my circle. I have tons of gay friends here. 60 according to facebook. 60 BYU gays. That's a lot, but I knew it couldn't be everyone. It's enough to legitimate the rumors of an "underground" community, but it's not everyone. With these strangers seemingly comfortable enough to call themselves gay, I can say with increased certainty that BYU has a much bigger gay community than most would think.

I'm guessing that BYU is home to three or four hundred people who consider themselves gay, and probably more than twice that number who experience same sex attractions. 1,000 gays at a school of 30,000. Is that too conservative? To liberal? It sounds about right to me.

The prospects make my imagination go wild. What could happen if we could all organize ourselves as a group. Even if we only got 200, that's a formidable force. I bet that's more numbers than the Black Student Union. (last year only 158 out of 30,426 students were black). What if 200 people suddenly refused to be silent? What if we all came out of the closet together and made a public pronouncement that we are gay? The honor code wouldn't be broken. It's ok to self identify as gay. Imagine the impact that would have on this campus if people knew that there were so many gay friends and acquaintances among them.

What if it some of them were more gutsy and demanded equal treatment. What if 50 or 60 or 80 or 100 said, "We want to have the same rules apply to us that apply to heterosexuals."? Could they change the honor code? Remove that ridiculous, impossible to define "advocacy" ban. Permit gay people to date, even, provided they abstain from sexual contact. What if instead of trying to change the honor code they just tried to change attitudes. What if they said enough is enough? No more hate. No more lies. No more persecution. No more fear. No more suicides. No more emotional abuse. No more fear.

Think about the changes we could make on campus if we were allowed to group together and assemble. BYU keeps its power by making us and others believe that we don't exist. That we're small in number. That has to stop. How can we be self aware as a group? How can we assemble or organize? What will it take?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Turned Into Your Own

I am honored to be a guest blogger for the first time! A friend asked me to write on her blog. You can read it here: http://marvelousblunder.blogspot.com/2009/11/guest-post.html

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Community

I have made a few giclée reproductions of Community-- I tentatively made 3, and the first 2 have already sold. So if you are interested, buy now! I will also make more reproductions if more people are interested.
Giclée Print on Stretched Canvas: (Ready to hang on the wall) $226
http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=33068703 (SOLD OUT)
Giclée Print on Unstretched Canvas: (Needs to be framed or mounted) $200
http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=33179343

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Just Remember What's Right For Me, May Be Not Right For You

In April, I hardly noticed conference at all. It wasn't something that affected me at the time. This conference was different. Something happened a few weeks ago that gave the sudden realization that what these men say has a deep and profound impact on people that I love very much--like my parents. They are so influenced by these people that it is important for me to stay on top of it.

That's why I was devastated by Dallin Oaks' talk on how parents should treat their wayward children. I found the entire philosophy behind his approach offensive--it was manipulative, punitive, and divisive. His basic premise was that "The love of God does not supersede his laws and his commandments ... the same should be true of parental love and rules."

This includes parental interactions with their adult children, in fact the biggest example that Oaks used for "wayward" children was cohabitating adults, which by default includes those in lifelong same sex relationships according to those who don't recognize gay marriage. Needless to say, this has been a source of contention with my parents as I talk about my future already. I'm scared by how this conference talk might complicate future discussions.

Dallin Oaks talks about the gifts from God that are universal or unconditional, but then states that some gifts are conditioned to obedience. The same approach should be taken in parenting. Some things should always be given--like food to children still at home. Other things are conditioned on children doing what parents want, again, including adults.

"Following the example of an all-wise and loving Heavenly Father who has given laws and commandments for the benefit of his children, wise parents condition some parental gifts on obedience ... To pose an even more serious question, if an adult child is living in cohabitation, does the seriousness of sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage require that this child feel the full weight of family disapproval by being excluded from any family contacts, or does parental love require that the fact of cohabitation be ignored? I have seen both of these extremes, and I believe that both are inappropriate."

Oaks goes on to say that parents should use personal revelation to determine where to draw the line in between those extremes. He counsels parents to apply the principles in the parable of the good shepherd who left the ninety and nine to go after the one who was lost. While at the surface this seems compassionate, it is very condescending to those adult children to have their parents going about making the decision on how to interact with them based on trying to manipulate them into believing and acting a certain way. While parents ought to be respected for their experiences, sacrifices, and insight, adults are not children who must be trained by their parents with rewards for "good" behavior and punishments for "bad" behavior.

Oaks goes on to say that parents who love their children should not support "self destructive" behavior, which he defines as behavior that violates the Mormon commandments. I found the bitter irony in the statement depressing. I have never been on a more self destructive path then when I was trying to fulfill the Mormon commandments. At various times I was on the brink of suicide or self defeating mental and emotional behavior. I was depressed. I couldn't deal with anxiety or stress of any kind. I was a mess. When I began to live a healthy life and started doing what was best for my mental health, I had to abandon many LDS ideals. According to Oaks, my parents should punish me for this by withholding something from me.

As if the rhetoric thus far wasn't divisive enough, Oaks concludes with these chilling words: "When family members are not united in striving to keep the commandments of God there will be divisions. We do all that we can to avoid impairing loving relationships, but sometimes it happens after all we can do. In the midst of such stress we must endure the reality that the straying of our loved ones will detract from our happiness, but it should not detract from our love for one another or our patient efforts to be united in understanding God's love and God's laws."

So my adult decision--no matter how mature they are--will detract from my parents happiness. Never mind the fact that doing what they want me to do (marry a woman) would inhibit my happiness and bring me back to self deprication. So my parents can't choose to be happy that I'm happy simply because I became happy in a way that was different than them? And all of this "stress" could cause our relationship to be impaired? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is responsible for destroying families across the Earth. They will be held accountable for that grave sin before God.

Think about the healing, instead of the rifts, that Oaks could have brought to families if he had closed his talk like this: When family members do not believe the same things or make the same decisions, there may be painful divisions and stress. But families can be united in their love for each other despite those differences. Parents can experience the joy and blessings that come from their choices regardless of the decisions their children make. In the end, the love that binds families together is stronger than the influences that would pull them apart.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Authentic and Grounded and Whole

September 27. The day passed quietly and without notice. It was one month after my birthday, but that's nothing to celebrate. It was the 270th day of the year, but who cares? It was a Sunday, so I slept in that morning, but that's not significant. Oh yeah. It was also the two year anniversary of my explosion out of the closet.

I've told the story so many times. I was sitting at home Wednesday night- the 26th- when I stumbled across the blogs of Romulus and Remus. It took me all of ten seconds to realize they were the twins that I had grown up with. Romulus gave it away really. I went crazy and couldn't sleep all night. I was so excited! I wanted to call them, to tell them, to finally have some one to talk to! I wasn't sure if they were okay with me knowing their "secret," so I wrote a blog post I thought would give it away. Romulus didn't take the bait, so I sent him a facebook message on Thursday, September 27, 2007. The rest is, as they say, history.

I won't lie and say that it all feels like it happened yesterday, because to be honest it feels like it was ages ago--much more than just two years. I feel like I've lived an entire life in the time since I came out. An entire life with ups and downs--but one that has been full of joy, fulfillment, peace, companionship, friendship, love, meaning, and success. There is no doubt in my mind that coming to terms with my sexuality and coming out of the closet has saved me from a deafening hell and given me a life I wouldn't trade for the world.

So where am I now? That's the question Abelard has posed this month. Where am I in my gay Mormon journey? For starters, I'm not on a Mormon journey anymore. It's not surprising given how I felt at Church two years ago, or even how I felt on my mission. (Yes, I blogged on my mission). Even back then you can catch small glimpses of large criticisms that I had for the Church. I didn't think their Sunday services were worshipful enough or Christ centered enough. I also didn't like the focus on works (ordinances) over grace. I was pretty vocal and critical about these things with other Mormons, but I put on a nice front for investigators and the general public.

Maybe I am premature in saying that I'm not on a Mormon journey anymore. The fact is I am still in Provo under the big brother arm of a Mormon school. I am still a member of the Church. I am still surrounded by the Church. And perhaps more importantly people that I love very much are still influenced immensely by the Church. So in that sense, I will never be able to truly loose sight of the Mormon journey.

But whatever you want to call the journey that I'm on, it is a good journey, and I'm doing well. I'm happy. I'm healthy. I'm loved. I love. What more could you want on life's path?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Like the Women I See on their 30th Anniversaries

Has anyone else ever noticed that those who oppose gay marriage in an effort to supposedly "defend" marriage usually end up demeaning and cheapening marriage? To prevent gay couples from marrying, they have to create a definition of marriage that excludes same sex couples and justify that exclusive definition. In the process, I've noticed a tendency to make marriage sound very shallow.

For example, how many times have you heard someone say that marriage is for procreation? They don't mean sex, because gay couples have sex, they mean birthing children. Really? So you two got married because you wanted to create offspring? That's the reason? Don't get me wrong, I think it is a very noble thing to have children, but if that is the only reason for marriage, then why don't we arrange marriages or treat them like business arrangements? Can you imagine? "Your a good looking person, let's get married and have children because I bet we'd have good children." In fact, why even have sex? Let's just use invitro technology. Since that's the purpose of marriage after all- it's just to get pregnant.

Here's another example. Marriage is between a man and a woman because that's what's good for society. Really? You two got married because you thought it would improve society. How selfless! (cough, and arrogant). Ok then, let's revert back to the time when that was correct. It will be good for society if these two political families are united. Let's make their kids marry each other. You know what? I want my posterity to inherit a lot of property. They'd do good things with it- they'd give generously to charity. I'll have my daughter marry a Huntsman.

I'm sorry, but when you're at a fancy dinner celebrating someone's 30th wedding anniversary, you're not talking about how good their marriage is for society or how wonderful it was that they were able to conceive lots of children. You don't talk about how great it was that they obeyed their mission president and got married to fulfil the commandments. Why? Because that's not what marriage really is. If that was marriage, then marriage is cheap, and frankly it ought to be destroyed.

What do you talk about at the anniversary? You talk about their love. You talk about their relationship. You talk about the vows they made to each other. You talk about how remarkable and admirable it is that they've been faithful to their vows. You talk about the children they've raised and the accomplishments of those children. You make a joke about what they can do now their children are out of the house. Wink wink. Because that's what marriage really is. That's the stuff of substance--of value. And because you know that you can't in good concious deny that to gay couples--because you know they are capable of having all that stuff of substance, you have to take it out of marriage to exclude them, and that is not defending marriage. It is demeaning it.

For the Mormons, the sin is twice as bad. They have two additional things of substance to add to the definition of marriage, and to take it away from their definition so they can exclude gay couples is shameful. For the Latter-day Saint, marriage is also about beautiful covenants and a supposedly infinite, awesome power to seal that has been given to man by God. There is no reason gay couples can't make the same covenants, nor is there a reason that the sealing power couldn't be extended to them. It's what makes families formed by adoption in the Church every bit as significant as those formed through sexual conception. In theory it really is beautiful. To say that two men can't be sealed by that power is to limit and to therefore demean that power. To say that marriage isn't about covenants and sealing power, for a Latter-day Saint, is really to not understand marriage, and that demeans it.

How much better off would the institution of marriage be if the evangelical were to proclaim, "Marriage is about companionship and family. I love my wife. She is the world to me, and I can't imagine a world without her. Likewise I love the children we've raised. They're good kids. I've learned more from them than they've learned from me. That's why I support gay marriage. I want everyone who can find it to experience this love, this commitment, this family, this marriage."? How much better off would the institution of marriage be if the Mormon were to declare, "I married my wife because I love her and because I want to be with her forever. We've taught our children to make covenants and be faithful to them because we know that the companionship, dedication, and love that we learn in families make us closer to and more like God. That's why we support gay marriage. We want everyone who can find someone to love to be able to become like God through the sacrifices and blessings of marriage and parenthood. We don't think that man was meant to be alone, and we believe that man should have joy. Marriage has brought us joy, and we believe it can bring them joy too."?

I hope the world where I can hear those proclamations is not too far away.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

We are Driving this Float Down Main, in this Pride Parade

“When I first realized I was gay,” Austin interjected, “I just assumed I would hide it and be miserable for the rest of my life. But then I said, ‘O.K., wait, I don’t want to hide this and be miserable my whole life.’ ”

I asked him how old he was when he made that decision.

“Eleven,” he said.

Coming Out in Middle School, By BENOIT DENIZET-LEWIS; New York Times, September 23, 2009
This is a fascinating read. I remember when I came out to my sister when she was a sophomore in high school and I was in college. She told me about all her friends who were out of the closet--there were tons. And she knew who liked who and who was still closeted etc. It was no big deal to her. Gay teens were part of her world, and it shocked me.

My high school world was so different. We didn't have a GSA until my senior year. We had the day of silence, but all the gay friends I have from high school that are gay were in the closet until college with only two exceptions. That was just 5 or 6 years ago. And now we not only have teens coming out in high school, they're coming out in junior high. Even at BYU--the freshman "moho's" seem so much better off than I was. As a BYU freshman, I sought out Evergreen for help. I just met a new BYU freshman who was looking to meet other moho's. He had sought out the Utah Pride Center for help.

How different would my life be if I had been born 5 or 6 or 10 years later? I knew that I was gay when I was 11. Would I have been able to decide that I didn't want to keep it a secret if I had been 11 in 2009? Would I have had exposure to healthy same sex relationships and sexual behavior? Instead of hiding a huge burden and struggling to figure out my sexual identity in secret and without healthy input, would I have been able to date guys and get advice from my parents and go to dances with people I was attracted to? I did some horrible things as a child because I didn't know how to go about my sexuality in healthy ways. Would that have still happened if I had been born in 2000 and grew up seeing married gay couples?

As I look back on what eventually did help me come out of the closet, the Internet played the biggest role by far. Blogging introduced me to people who were like me and it revealed "Romulus" and "Remus" who were my childhood friends. They helped me come to terms with my sexuality and become healthy--but only because I found their blogs. There were other things that did help--those few in high school that were out, the legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts, and the issues I resolved on my mission. But more than anything, it was the blogs on the Internet.

And it's those same things that have created this new generation of gay teens. Social networking sites have shattered our walls of privacy and secrecy. Blogs have informed us. Youtube has empowered us. The Internet has created a new era in sexual identity.

I hope that this new generation of gays will not forget or take for granted those that went before. Because despite the enabling Internet, the fact is we couldn't be out and proud and safe today if it weren't for those who were out and proud when it wasn't safe. We owe a great deal to the heroes of Stonewall who fought back and stood up for themselves. We owe a great deal to heroes of hollywood who showed the world it's ok to be gay. We owe a great deal to the heroes of politics who fought, protested, lobbied, campaigned, and voted for equality. There was a time, when being gay meant being persecuted, and in so many parts of the world, that time is still going on. Let's not forget it as we celebrate the joys of this new generation of gay.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Black and White's Not Always as Simple as it Seems

"Here's the key principle. Society gives benefits to marriage because marriage gives benefits to society. And therefore the burden of proof has to be on the advocates of same-sex marriage to demonstrate that homosexual relationships benefit society. Not just benefit the individuals who participate but benefit society in the same way and to the same degree that heterosexual marriage does. And that's a burden that I don't think they can meet."
(Peter Sprigg, Family Research Council)
I believe that Same Sex Marriage will not only benefit society in the same way and to the same degree as Opposite Sex Marriage, but that Same Sex Marriage will offer something good to society that Opposite Sex Marriage cannot provide. Here are three benefits of gay marriage:
  1. Gay couples provide an example for unity, equality, and compromise within marriage because they share tasks differently.

    Because it's impossible for two people of the same sex to rely on traditional gender roles within a marriage, gay couples are by nature more creative in how they divide up tasks. Their circumstances are likely to create a relationship in which both parters are equal. Society will benefit by learning how to foster equality within marriage.

  2. Marriage makes people more productive. The more people are married, the more productive society becomes.

    Marriage is good for individuals, and what is good for individuals is good for society. If people are happier, more successful, and more stable in their personal lives, it will improve the quality of life for everyone in the community. Besides, married partners care for each other. If a gay person cannot care for himself, and his partner isn't allowed to care for him, then society is responsible for him. Equipping gay people with the ability to care for each other alleviates society of a burden it would otherwise have to shoulder.

  3. Gay couples provide healthy, nurturing homes for orphaned, abandoned, or abused children.

    There are so many children who are born into or thrust into circumstances where they don't have a family to care for them. Heterosexuals cannot meet all of their needs. Foster care is an overburdened system. We need more families that can adopt children, and sanctioning gay marriage will do just that.
So I will gladly welcome the burden of proof for how gay marriage will benefit society, because I know that it will.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

I Used to Think How I Had Them All so Figured Out

I am now home after 5 weeks in the Caribbean on a BYU study abroad. The trip was amazing in so many ways, and it has really shaped the way I look at life, spirituality, art, and most surprisingly, BYU. I came away from this trip with a changed opinion on the people of BYU.

I met the group of 18 students in a pre-trip class this past winter semester, and I treated them like I would any group of BYU students in any setting--with indifference. I didn't learn their names. I didn't talk to them. I didn't pay attention to them. I had learned through a few limited experiences that straight BYU students cannot be trusted with friendship or knowledge about me. Really, my circle of friends at BYU includes lots of gay guys, two straight girls (Moana, Kythe), and a few art friends that I am close to in the art studio but that I don't see outside of the studio. I just don't trust straight BYU students.

But on this study abroad, I was forced to become close to this group of students. It started with Kristina. I sat next to her during both long flights. She was a beautiful girl (and I could see that she was endowed), but as soon as she said she was from California, my mind said "Prop 8" and I shut down to her. It was awkward. She flipped through the sky mall magazine, trying to start conversation. "Oh that's horrible! That's every man's fantasy," she said, pointing to a lamp that was in the form of a woman, but had a lampshade instead of a head. "Not every man's fantasy," I said.

Over the next few days she drove me crazy, not because she was annoying, but because she was in every way the girl that I would have married if I had come home from my mission and not come to terms with my sexuality. So I stayed closed, despite her friendly attempts to reach out to me.

It was the same with several of the others. I stayed fairly aloof from the group. But then Taylor and Eliza broke my shell. They started to come over to my room to talk with me, and to hang out with me during group activities. I let them in because I knew I could trust them. Eliza had written a paper about the BYU gay community, and in high school she had been the president of their gay-straight alliance. The two of them were starting to get close to me, but they were also getting close to several of the other girls (and the one other guy). So slowly I started to spend more time with people in this group.

Spending more time with these girls meant spending time with Kristina, because she was close to them. I learned she was a feminist, and few other things that led me to trust her. Finally, I opened up to her, and she opened up to me. She explained how she had been married and divorced from a man who had not treated her right (and who was presumably gay). He had married her not out of love or sexual desire for her, but because marriage was what he was supposed to do and she made a good wife to show off to others. It was a sad story, but it had made her very open to and supportive of my sexuality.

By the end of the second week, every single student, and both professors, knew that I was gay, knew that I was leaving the Church, and knew that I would one day marry a man. And you know what? It didn't matter. It was something that we could talk about, if we wanted to. One of the professors talked to me about his two gay brothers, one who had taken his life a long time ago and one who was a bitter angry ex-Mormon who taught at UCLA. One of the girls told me about her Polynesian culture and how accepting they were of gays (She said every mother hopes for one gay son because she knows that he will take care of her in her old age). We talked about it a lot. But it was also ok to not talk about it. It wasn't something we had to address.

In the end, these people became my friends. Real friends. And I can't express how wonderful it is to have straight friends. It makes me feel so rounded, so balanced. And they are all caring and supportive and trustworthy. I didn't know BYU had such people. So for my last semester here, I'm going to be friendly to the people who sit next to me in class. There might be some douches there, but BYU does have students that I can be lifelong friends with. And for my last semester, I'm going to have dinner parties with straight couples (more than just CJ and Kythe). I'm going to party with my straight study abroad friends. I'm going to feel like I have a place here.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Hips Don't Lie

I'm posting this from Port of Spain, Trinidad. I've spent the past 2 weeks in Gros Islet, St. Lucia. I'm doing a summer term study abroad with BYU humanities and visual arts.

Because I'm one of two guys on the trip out of 16 students, homosexuality has been a topic of conversation frequently. My professors and the other students are pretty supportive of me, some are really supportive. But despite all that, I hadn't seen any evidence on the island itself that homosexuality existed. This is a very macho culture, and I just haven't seen any trace of anything gay-- until last night, my last night in St. Lucia.

Friday nights in Gros Islet are street party nights. A bunch of us went down and partied like there's no tomorrow. Most people went home around 11, but one of my allies and I were still out dancing when we saw three proud queers on the dance floor. They were local people, black people with skinny jeans that showed off big booties. One wore lip gloss. He was tall and had his braided hair pulled back in a pony tail. Another had glitzy earrings and a bleached mohawk. The third had fabulous boots and his t-shirt tied in a knot to show off his abs. And man, those sisters knew how to dance!

I regret not talking to them- but I didn't know what to say. So I just smiled at them and watched them dance approvingly. I know the Caribbean is a really homophobic place, but they seemed safe enough. Several local women were laughing with them and shaking booty together.

I'll be on the lookout in Trinidad, cause I am interested in where the gay community hides here. It is lonely to be in a place where your people don't seem to exist. Where straight culture is so dominant and pervasive. I mean the men here catcall every woman they pass, without exception. Let's see if I find more of my people in Trinidad.  

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I Know You're Out There, Somewhere Out There

Where are all the lesbians?

This past Pride Weekend was a big one in Chicago, where I grew up. Several of my old friends from high school spent the weekend celebrating, allowing me to discover that a lot of people I knew in high school are gay. I had no idea how many of them were in the closet just like me. It's kind of fun, because a lot of them are really surprising.

One of my favorites was our Prom Queen my senior year. She's this amazing Jew with dreadlocks, and she and I have chatted a few times since we came out to each other. Lot's of the gays that I know from high school are lesbians. The first person I came out to is a lesbian friend from high school (she wasn't in the closet). A girl I dated has come out to me as a lesbian. I am thinking of seven or eight lesbians right now that I knew in high school. I can only name three or four gay men (excluding Romulus and Remus).

When I look at my gay friends at BYU, however, the story is quite the opposite. I can name fifty gay men at BYU without even thinking. I'm sure I could list more if I enlisted the help of facebook. But I don't know a single lesbian at BYU. Not a single one.

So what's the deal? Where have all the lesbians gone? Do Mormons only breed gay men? Is it only socially possible for gay men to come out of the closet in Mormon culture? Is it harder for women? Why? Where are you lesbian friends?! I need more women in my life!

Are We Human, Or Are We Dancer?

I have a lot of Mormon friends. It's where I come from. It's where I've spent the past several years. It's who I'm related to. There's just no way around it--I have a lot of Mormon friends.

I met a lot of my Mormon friends as a missionary. I was really close to a lot of other missionaries. Like Elder C. He was a new missionary who lived in my last apartment. We got along great. We were friends. He didn't get back from his mission until a few months ago. When he got back, I added him on facebook. He didn't accept my invitation. Today I went on his profile to decide whether I should try again. I noticed that he is a "fan" of "Protect Marriage: One man, One woman." I decided not to add him again.

It's not that I don't think we can't be friends anymore because he opposes my future marriage. In fact, I'd say it's more that I assume he doesn't want to be friends because he opposes my future marriage. And the problem is going to get bigger. I have a lot of Mormon friends who oppose my future marriage. These friendships are clearly strained. I don't hide my political beliefs by any stretch of the imagination. But friends can disagree about politics and still be friends.

What happens when I announce an engagement or when I get married? What happens to these friends? Some of them may take the initiative and terminate our friendship. That will hurt. But what about those that don't? Can I be friends with someone who opposes my marriage? If I were a straight, active Mormon who married in the temple, would I be able to be friends with people who opposed temple weddings and thought they were of the devil? Is this the same? Unlike that scenario, the friends I have who oppose gay marriage actually have the power to outlaw my marriage in states like California.

So is it fair for me to delete (facebook makes it all sound so clinical) friends who are against my way of life? That would be hard for me. But can I justify being friends and maintaining acquaintanceship with people who want to deny me what will make me happy? I don't know, but I think it is sad that I have to ask these questions. I wonder what things would be like if I had gone to the Art Institute of Boston and made friends with people who support me. What if my newsfeed reported on people who were like me instead of people who hate people like me?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It's Only Beginning to Find Release

I'm tired of listening to Mormons talk about the divine "One Man, One Woman" only definition of marriage. I might punch the next person I hear spouting this hypocrisy. Wasn't that one of the roles of Jesus? "[F]eeding the hungry, healing the sick, rebuking hypocrisy, pleading for faith — this was Christ showing us the way of the Father," said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. That's right. Rebuking hypocrisy was not only one of the roles of Jesus, it is the way of God.

Well, I'm gonna play God here and rebuke some hypocrisy.

Do any of these arguments sound familiar? (Maybe you read them here, here, or here) Have you ever heard a Mormon say something like . . .
  • Same Sex Marriage is wrong because marriage has always been between one man and one woman.
  • Same Sex Marriage will bring upon our society all the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.
  • Homosexuality was part of the fall of the Roman Empire. This social experiment to redefine marriage will be the end of America.
  • Homosexuality denigrates the family. Same Sex Marriage is an affront to morality and traditional values.
  • Homosexuality leads to the spread of diseases like AIDS. It spreads all sorts of filth like pornography, prostitution, fornication, and promiscuity.
  • Same Sex Marriage is a recent union created to justify immoral men's desires.
  • Homosexuals who flaunt their lifestyle ought to be ashamed of their weakness.
Well, those arguments should sound familiar, because the Mormons have used them before--when fighting the evils of monogamy. (You know, one man and one woman). The exact same arguments used to defend the only acceptable definition of marriage as one man and one woman were once used by Latter-day Saint Prophets to fight that very definition.
  • "It is a fact worthy of note that the shortest lived nations of which we have record have been monogamic. Rome...was a monogamic nation and the numerous evils attending that system early laid the foundation for that ruin which eventually overtook her."
    Apostle George Q. Cannon, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, p. 202
  • "Since the founding of the Roman empire monogamy has prevailed more extensively than in times previous to that. The founders of that ancient empire were robbers and women stealers, and made laws favoring monogamy in consequence of the scarcity of women among them, and hence this monogamic system which now prevails throughout Christendom, and which had been so fruitful a source of prostitution and whoredom throughout all the Christian monogamic cities of the Old and New World, until rottenness and decay are at the root of their institutions both national and religious."
    The Prophet Brigham Young Journal of Discourses, Vol. 11, p. 128
  • "...the one-wife system not only degenerates the human family, both physically and intellectually, but it is entirely incompatible with philosophical notions of immortality; it is a lure to temptation, and has always proved a curse to a people."
    Prophet John Taylor, Millennial Star, Vol. 15, p. 227
  • "Monogamy, or restrictions by law to one wife, is no part of the economy of heaven among men. Such a system was commenced by the founders of the Roman empire....Rome became the mistress of the world, and introduced this order of monogamy wherever her sway was acknowledged. Thus this monogamic order of marriage, so esteemed by modern Christians as a holy sacrament and divine institution, is nothing but a system established by a set of robbers.... Why do we believe in and practice polygamy? Because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, and the Lord's servants have always practiced it. 'And is that religion popular in heaven?' it is the only popular religion there,..."
    The Prophet Brigham Young, The Deseret News, August 6, 1862
  • "This law of monogamy, or the monogamic system, laid the foundation for prostitution and the evils and diseases of the most revolting nature and character under which modern Christendom groans,..."
    Apostle Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, page 195
  • "We breathe the free air, we have the best looking men and handsomest women, and if they [Non-Mormons] envy us our position, well they may, for they are a poor, narrow-minded, pinch-backed race of men, who chain themselves down to the law of monogamy, and live all their days under the dominion of one wife. They ought to be ashamed of such conduct, and the still fouler channel which flows from their practices; and it is not to be wondered at that they should envy those who so much better understand the social relations."
    Apostle George A Smith, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, page 291
  • "I have noticed that a man who has but one wife, and is inclined to that doctrine, soon begins to wither and dry up, while a man who goes into plurality [of wives] looks fresh, young, and sprightly. Why is this? Because God loves that man, and because he honors his word. Some of you may not believe this, but I not only believe it but I also know it. For a man of God to be confined to one woman is small business. I do not know what we would do if we had only one wife apiece."
    Apostle Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses Vol 5, page 22
  • "Just ask yourselves, historians, when was monogamy introduced on to the face of the earth? When those buccaneers, who settled on the peninsula where Rome now stands, could not steal women enough to have two or three apiece, they passed a law that a man should have but one woman. And this started monogamy and the downfall of the plurality system. In the days of Jesus, Rome, having dominion over Jerusalem, they carried out the doctrine more or less. This was the rise, start and foundation of the doctrine of monogamy; and never till then was there a law passed, that we have any knowledge of, that a man should have but one wife. "
    The Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses Vol. 12, page 262
To my knowledge, changing the definition of marriage from one man and several woman to one man and one woman did not bring the downfall of Utah, or of the United States. It did not destroy the family as an institution. Changing it again to be inclusive of all families is not going to hurt Latter-day Saints any more than monogamy did. Allowing other Americans to live the lifestyle of their choice and have their families protected by the government will not hurt society! And if the Mormons want to jump on the bandwagon and join in, great! It might take a generation, and it might cause a splinter group, but I'm sure we can bury all the homophobic publications under the rug and start over with a new revelation broadening marriage once again.

Sorry for the rant. I realize I'm not the first to make these connections and accusations. I just wanted to be in on the rebuking fun. Don't blame me, I learned it from Jesus.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

And There Were Flashes of Light

It seems lightning has struck the Mormon's newest Temple this past week. We were warned by NOM that a storm was gathering.

The Oquirrh Mountain Temple, which is to be dedicated in August, was struck by lightning, leaving a black stain on the face, arm, and trumpet of Angel Moroni. It's nothing a little soap, water, and maybe some re-gilding can't fix. It does make one wonder, though, how happy God is with the Mormons. There's a message in here somewhere. Judging from the black stain, it might have been a more timely message any time before 1979. Although, there is another issue plaguing the Church now with an awful lot of similarities to the pre-1979 ban on black priesthood and Temple rites, including marriages.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Rainbow Coalition of People from Every Creed

When I graduate in December, I will most likely be moving to New England. There are so many art opportunities around New York and in New England, and I could get married there (you know, just in case). High on my list right now is New Haven, Connecticut. It's only an hour and a half drive to art galleries in New York City, and two hours from Boston. I've been doing a lot of research on the area. One thing that I've discovered is that there is a huge presence of the United Church of Christ, and I've been learning about the Church. I like what I've seen so far, which has made me really question how I feel about God, spirituality, and religion. This has been intensified by the fact that many people within the gay rights movement have been pushing gay activists to redefine their arguments in religious terms. Gay rights won't happen if it is a fight between religious arguments and secular arguments (regardless of whether that is right or wrong). Gay people must, the movement says, be affiliated with religion. But I just don't know how I feel about religion.

When I came home from my mission, it wasn't long at all before my experiences started contradicting what the LDS Church had taught me. Church leaders told me that things would be a certain way if I did things a certain way, and I found them to be wrong. This lead me to question whether or not the Church could be the only true Church of God. I came to the conclusion that there is no one way to live, nor is there one authorized group that speaks for God and that one must belong to in order to be right with God. At the time I became quite certain that because there were so many different problems and situations in the world, God must have different solutions for different groups of people. I viewed religions as tools God created and used to help different groups of people in different circumstances. In a sense, all Churches, then, were true.

All while I was seriously questioning the LDS faith, though, I maintained somewhat vehemently that I was a Christian regardless of how I felt about Mormonism. I maintained a belief in God--that He guided people and had a big picture plan for them, and I believed in Jesus--that His Sacrifice made forgiveness possible. To me the most important elements of Christianity, both inside and out of the LDS Church, were revelation, forgiveness, and compassion.

Then Prop 8 happened. Hateful and clearly false rhetoric was spouted from pulpits, TV, youtube, and facebook. People I had once thought of as friends said nasty things about homosexuality to me, not knowing I was gay. As I made my orientation and my stance more clear, I lost friends and received hate mail. I watched administrators in Church, school, and even local government flat out lie. And the end goal of these people who used their religion as their authority was to prevent the families of gay couples from being recognized as equal (or as legitimate). It was to take away from my people the right to marry in the State of California. Prop 8 was like a war, and religion was the enemy.

My impressions of both the Latter-day Saints and Christianity as a whole changed drastically. Where as I once viewed Latter-day Saints as one "true" Church of many used by God to help people, I now viewed them as an institution that strategically fought to hurt myself and others like me. Where I was viewed Christians as a group that included me, I now viewed them as a group that excluded me from their table and actively opposed my right to sit at any table. I couldn't be a Christian because Christians were people that were against me and my future family.

I wanted to feel like I was a part of a group that would include me, so I began ordering books about gay spirituality. I knew I was always included in the gay camp, and I thought I might be able to tap into some gay religion that could tie me to the community. One of the books I ordered turned out to be really out there. It read almost like a Kama Sutra, detailing how homosexual sex could bring back memories of past lives and could take one on a spiritual journey to other worlds in the Universe. As much as I wanted to fly the "magic carpet" past Kolob and check out the other Mormon worlds there, it just wasn't for me.

So since that failure, I have wrestled with humanism. Instead of tools formed by God to help men, I have seen religions as organizations formed by men to reach God and explain their pre-existing emotions and beliefs. I stopped associating God with inspiration, and I stopped associating Jesus with forgiveness and compassion. Instead, I began to associate Jesus with symbol and mythology. I have read about Mithra, and Horus, and a dozen other mythological deities who share common stories of divine birth, miracles, ministries, and universal sacrifice. It's as if all civilizations need these archetypal stories, but they are still stories.

Having now unloaded my religious feelings for the past two years onto you, I'm asking for feedback. As I study the United Church of Christ, I am realizing that this is a huge body of people who believe in God, and in Jesus Christ, but who also affirm the legitimacy of homosexual individuals and families. They can do this in part because they believe in modern revelation, that God is still speaking. (God's word, they say, didn't end with a period, but a comma). Their Churches are almost always beautiful, especially in New England, and beauty has always spoken to me. Quite frankly, if I had known of this Church and if it had been available to me before Proposition 8 hit the ballot, then I would have joined it in a heartbeat, and would likely be an active member in that Church right now. But instead, I grew jaded and critical with religion and with God Himself.

So what do I do now? It would be nice to have a community to belong to. It would be nice to keep many of my childhood traditions. It would even be nice to keep Christian mythology. While I don't view it as literal or as absolute, I do view it's message as universal, applicable, and relevant. Would it be acceptable to investigate a Church under that pretense? Should I let the distrust and the distaste for religion left in my mouth after prop 8 keep me clear of religion, or should I do what many in the gay rights movement suggest and try to build bridges with Christianity? What do you think?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Look into Your Heart and You'll Find Love

Last night at Scott and Sarah's party I unveiled “Community,” a painting commissioned by Alan. The painting was meant to represent the support and hope found in the Moho community. So often Latter-day Saints focus on all the angst and conflict of being gay and Mormon. Alan asked me to create an image that would depict the positive qualities of the gay Mormon community. I decided the most positive aspect of the gay Mormon community was the sense of community itself. Regardless of what individual gay Mormons choose to do or believe, there is a shared experience that unites them all. It binds them together and gives them support.

I remember a candlelight vigil that I attended during the horribly divisive campaign for prop 8. The vigil was meant to show support to the gay population in Utah and to acknowledge the pain the election had caused. It was one of the most spiritual experiences I have ever had. It was powerful to feel the love and hope of so many people, united by the light of their candles which shone in their cheerful and peaceful faces. I hope that image will speak to this community, and to all communities, of the strength and hope that comes in being together.

Community, by Daniel Embree

I will be selling reproductions of the painting. Please Contact me at daniel@dembree.com if you are interested in purchasing a reproduction of “Community.”

High Quality Giclée Canvas Print (22.5″ x 30): $200 (standard) $170 (prepaid) $300 (framed)

High Quality Giclée Paper Print (22.5″ x 30″): $150 (standard) $250 (framed)

Poster (18″ x 24″): $30 (standard) $50 (mounted)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Somewhere, Over the Rainbow . . .

I meant to post this a week ago . . . On the way home from Washington, my friend and I saw the most vivid, beautiful rainbow arching over the freeway in Boise. As we drove, we realized that the Boise temple fell right in the center of the rainbow. I wish I had been fast enough to get better pictures, but this is all I got:I'm quite sure that its a sign, but of what I don't know. Ideas? I wonder if it's a promise from God that He will never again flood the Church with political activism against homosexuals. Or perhaps a prophecy that one day Mormons in gay relationships will be welcome in the temple? Seeing as the rainbow initially arched completely around the temple, maybe it's a subtle reminder to Mormons that the gay population is bigger than theirs? Or, as the temple spires reach heavenward, and the rainbow is already there and is so much higher, perhaps this is meant as a revelation that there are gay people in heaven! Or maybe the rainbow is there to remind Mormons that the storm that is gathering is a gay storm, and that it must be feared. What do you think?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Melody I Start But Can't Complete

So I did it. I had dinner with her. (You know, her). She was very gracious, and very kind. Almost too sweet, lol. She explained why the issue was so personal for her, and then asked about my experiences and the decisions that I have. She was specifically interested in the decision some make to stay in the Church despite strong feels of same gender attraction. She wants to encourage people to do that, and wants to know how that choice could be easier to make for them. We talked a lot about things members of the Church do that push gays away from the Church.

She talked about being very involved in the “protect family” movement, being close to high ups in the Southerland Institute and Narth, and being the president of BYU’s “protect family” club. (She’s an older graduate student). She said that one of the biggest problems they have is that a lot of the people involved in this movement lack compassion for gays because they don’t know gay people. She wants to move away from the fear tactics and the hatred and help her movement defend “truth” while still being compassionate to the undecided and to those who believe differently. She also wants to find a non-polarizing, moderate way to engage in dialog about sexuality.

And she wants me to help her.

She believes that by introducing me to people in her movement and letting me share my experiences with them, they will become more compassionate. She thinks that I can help her ensure that her club’s activities on campus don’t hurt people. She also thinks that I can help ground her by reminding her that real people are involved with this “battle.” Basically she wants me to humanize the other side.

Specifically, she wants me to attend a viewing of the debate between Equality Utah and the Southerland Institute tomorrow. Only 3 other leaders of her club would attend, and she has promised to protect me—she assured me that she doesn’t want to make me a dartboard. All she wants me to do is help these leaders see how their arguments and the way their arguments are structured are hurtful and push people away. But her goal is to then make better arguments and learn to be more respectful and informed in their delivery.

What should I do?

I want campus to be a safer place for gay students. I would love it if her club was less distracting—their booths during the prop 8 campaign made that semester hell for me. Really, though, I would just love it if her club ceased to exist, or if a counter club was permitted. So I don’t know how aligned our goals are. Plus, I maintain my studentship at BYU by walking a very fine line. The Honor Code forbids advocacy of homosexuality. I fear that I wouldn’t be able to say everything I believed in these settings for fear of my statements being misconstrued as advocacy. (I mean, I do personally support gay rights. Does merely saying so constitute advocacy?) Besides, I don’t want to help her make her political agenda more enticing to moderates or more likely to succeed in a shifting world. I want her political agenda to die in its outrageous extremism!

So to what extent should I help her/communicate with her/her club? I mean, the bridge has got to be made. We do need to have this conversation. But I don’t know that I’m in a position to do it.

Is there anyone out there who is in a more helpful position to communicate with them? Perhaps I could suggest a replacement, someone who is more warm towards the Church than I am, and yet secure enough to share with her what her groups are doing to us! Anyone out there? Help!

Monday, May 4, 2009

One Short Day in the Emerald City

I just got back from Washington, where I spent a week with one of my friend's families. I had a great time. We spent a few days in Seattle visiting his brother at the University of Washington. I fell in love with the Seattle. It was so welcoming. I suppose it was obvious that my friend and I were gay. As we were out and about, people were so friendly to us. I mean really truly welcoming. One woman told us that she loved us just out of the blue. We saw other gay people- including couples holding hands. As a whole, it felt like being gay was a non issue. I mean even more so than in San Fransisco, where being gay, though accepted and welcomed, was very much the issue. In Seattle it just didn't matter.

And UW is a beautiful campus. It was like being in heaven. As I was watching the people on campus, I felt this huge sense of regret for not transferring away from BYU. I could have spent the last two years in a beautiful place, worshiping the way that I want to, and living the way that I feel is right. Instead I have lived in a desert surrounded by ugly buildings and people who, for the most part, all think one way. I have had to bend over backwards to conform to rules that defy what I believe is right. And in the end, I will have a degree from an institution I hate and that represents a group of people to which I will not belong.

I almost broke down over it all. Now I am back at BYU working on some commissions and making art for my final BFA show. On campus today I was greeted very warmly by friends and two of my professors. They all know I am gay, and are very supportive. While this place may be ugly, and while I may be forced to live differently than I believe is right, I do have a place here. And as much as I complain, I do enjoy my time here. But some day, some day I will leave and never come back. Some day I will live in a city as welcoming as Seattle, and I will live an honest, complete, open, and fulfilling life in the way that I choose.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Leave My Past Behind

Tomorrow is the National Day of Silence, to commemorate the silence that gay youth experience before they come out of the closet. I am very excited to participate by taking up a vow of silence tomorrow. I am well acquainted with the silence the day is supposed to raise awareness of, but I have not always felt the way I feel about the Day of Silence. In 2002, as a Sophomore in High School, I teamed up with some of my friends to make (and sell) t-shirts that said "Straight Pride" on them and had a picture of two men holding hands with a cross through it. We were going to wear them on the Day of Silence, but that day I decided it wasn't a good idea, and I put all of the t-shirts in my locker. The school found out and confiscated them.

In 2003 on the Day of Silence I wrote a satire about a Day of Silence held to honor pedophiles. Yes, I compared homosexuals to pedophiles, a comparison that now makes my hair stand on end. In 2004 I wrote a diatribe against gay marriage.

I am sure you see the irony of all this. Don't click the links if you have a soft stomach. I was really compensating. I think the Day of Silence at my high school scared me so much because I was angry that I felt forced into silence and didn't see a way out. I was keeping a heavy secret, and others around me seemed to be celebrating the fact that they didn't have to keep their secrets anymore. I was jealous, confused, and angry.

Not to mention I was paranoid that others would figure me out, and I had to throw them off. Vocalizing opposition to homosexuality, I'm sure, made them all certain that I couldn't possible be gay.

And so, tomorrow, I pay tribute to those who are still in silence while celebrating the fact that I don't have to be silent anymore (mostly). So here's to how far I've come!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Patience, Little Brother

I think you'll find this NY Daily News article interesting. Basically the author points out how the Vermont law legalizing gay marriage is better at protecting religious freedom because it went through the legislature than if it had simply gone through the State Supreme Court.

For me, this provides a new approach that we could take with those who oppose gay marriage because of concerns over loosing their religious freedoms (despite the fact that freedom of religion is pretty much irrevocably enshrined in the Constitution). We could approach those with those kinds of concerns by explaining that legalizing gay marriage through the legislature will actually help them.

I think it is evident that when State Supreme Courts legalize gay marriage, there is a lot of fear and backlash, and essentially no control over how gay marriage is implemented. I think the same would be true if DOMA was reversed and the Supreme Court permitted gay marriage because of the full faith and credit clause. I also think that it is evident that over time, the former, if not the latter, is almost inevitable at some point in the future.

If the religious right, then, wants control over when and how gay marriage is implemented in their state, then their best bet is to work across the aisle with gay marriage advocates to pass compromises in the legislature. For some states, this means Civil Union laws need to be passed. For others, it means that social conservatives could promise to back a gay marriage bill if that bill includes clauses addressing their concerns. It is possible for both sides to reach a solution, but it means we have to address fears and concerns instead of freaking out about them.

Now if only I could get people to listen to me.

We Would be Charmed by Difference

"We'd gather around all in a room, fasten our belts, engage in dialogue. We'd all slow down, rest without guilt, not lie without fear, disagree sans judgment."
Remember that angry email I got back in February? Today I got a response from her. I was shocked.
Daniel,

First I want to apologize to you for the hateful and angry email I wrote to you in February. It was a reflection of untempered emotions and frustration. I feel like I've grown a lot since then.

You wrote me about two months ago about a topic that has been on my mind a lot. I'm seeking to better understand the gay experience in Mormon culture. I was wondering if you would be willing to meet with me.

I would understand if you are hesitant, I was pretty caustic toward you previously. I want to apologize for being angry or emotional. One thing I've learned is that in order to truly love others, you have to bridle you passions in many ways.

Good day,

******

Isn't that crazy? I don't even know what to say. Of course I'm willing to meet with her as I promised in my initial response to her, but to be honest I never thought she would be willing to meet with me. And now I'm scarred out of my mind. My response to her was composed through hours of carefully placing words. In a face to face conversation, how can I ever hope to be eloquent enough to keep my cool and actually forge a positive relationship?

I haven't felt like this since my trainer in the mission set up an appointment with an evangelical minister and then went on exchanges with another Elder the day of the appointment leaving me with another young Elder to face "the enemy." I have facebook stalked this girl, and she is a graduate student studying Marriage, Family, and Human development. She is still passionate about opposing gay marriage and homosexuality in general. I think when I reply to her I will ask her if we can focus on cultural/social aspects of homosexuality and Mormonism and leave out talk of politics. I don't want to debate this girl, I want to get to know her (and mostly have her get to know me and see that I have no horns).

I guess this is what I get for going public with the paper.

Advice? Talk me out of it? Any of you have experience in being a gay diplomat? (cough, Scot) Help!
"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" (Alanis Morissette, Utopia).

Sunday, March 29, 2009

If it Makes You Happy

In Elder's Quorum today the teacher testified that keeping the commandments makes you happy. He then asked the class what we would say to someone who doesn't keep the commandments who claimed to be happy. I raised my hand and said, "We could acknowledge their happiness as legitimate. Mormons aren't the only happy people out there. Others are happy and cheerful even if they don't live the same way we do, and that doesn't negate the decisions we may make." The teacher paused, said, "well," paused again, "No." Someone else then explained that if they weren't keeping the commandments, their happiness couldn't be real and was only a temporary pleasure. A few others reiterated that and then the lesson quickly moved on to how wickedness never was happiness. Afterwards a member of the Bishopric thanked me for my comment and then used an economic equation (something to do with the cartel collusion principle) to prove that I was wrong. And you wonder why normally I just sit in the back silently reading fmylife.com on my iphone gritting my teeth.

Honestly parents, and future parents, if you want your kids to live by LDS teachings, then this principle is shooting you in the foot. What will you do when your kids meet a nonmember of another lifestyle who is happier than they've ever been? Will you tell them that that person's "I'm happy living this way" testimony is somehow less honest than your "I'm happy living this way" testimony? What will you do when after living every commandment, your son or daughter is depressed? What will you do when your kid drinks a cup of coffee or breaks some other commandment and is still happy? Or is happier? I mean honestly, lastingly, legitimately happy. Your kid, if taught as I was just taught, will then proceed to abandon all commandments and even all Mormonism.

If you want your kids to keep LDS standards, don't tell them that it is the only way to be happy, because that is a lie and they will eventually figure it out. Instead, tell them you live that way to express your love for God and to keep the promises you made to him. Tell them you live the way you live because you believe that it's right. Say how you've been blessed for doing so, but for God's sake, acknowledge that Jews, Catholics, Baptists, and even Atheists can be happy (and that Mormons, righteous Mormons, can be depressed) or your child will wake up and find that Santa isn't the one putting presents under the tree.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

You Oughta Know

As I was writing yesterday's post on HBO's portrayal of sacred Mormon rites, I realized I have a whole lot more to say on the matter. I think the problem is bigger than just the controversy around that episode. As a whole, the Latter-day Saints don't seem to get it, they don't understand that they are a minority, and they don't understand why they are a disliked minority.

Robert Novak said, "Mormonism is the only minority category where bias in America has deepened" (Mitt's Mormon Mess). “Few Americans have an accurate understanding of who we are and what we believe [as Latter-day Saints]” "The resulting ignorance is causing increasing antagonism and fear of us," says Gary Lawrence in his book How Americans View Mormonism. A look at the statistics is staggering. (CBS Poll, Pew Forum, Washington Post). Only 25% of Americans, according to the CBS poll, have a favorable view of Mormons. That's 75% of Americans that don't have a favorable view of Mormons. People make similar associations with Mormons as they do with Militant Muslims.

Most of this surprises Mormons (even more so before Romney's bid for President). I've found that because Mormons talk about family values and Jesus Christ and being the fastest growing American religion (which is actually not true), they believe that they are far more mainstream than the rest of America perceives them. When Mormons become aware of other's negative perceptions of them, they seem to always blame the media. HBO's "Big Love." The News and reports of Jeff Warrens. Hollywood attacks because of Prop 8. It's all a big media conspiracy. Well guess what. I don't buy it. I think when facing negative perceptions the Mormons should be looking inward rather than outward, as easy of a scapegoat as the media is.

It is disturbing that most Mormons don't really understand why they are disliked. They don't realize how elitist and exclusive their temples and weddings are, for example, or how arrogant the redesigned mormon.org is. The Church pumped a lot of work and money into the "Truth Restored" design in 2007 (it introduced the video segments still on the site and on youtube). A friend of mine who works with Church PR told me about how when the Church did studies on people's reaction to the new site, non-members thought it was extremely arrogant while Mormons thought it was amazing. They did the site over again to focus on "answers to life's questions," but I think it still comes across as arrogant.

In Elder's Quorum this past Sunday I was taught that you shouldn't teach nonmembers anything beyond the basic teachings of the gospel because they can't handle it. No meat before milk. Aside from making Latter-day Saints seem secretive, this is extremely patronizing. "We have all the answers and we will decide what to share with you based on how ready we feel you are for the truth (aka how much you can handle)."

What is really sad is that in not fully realizing their minority status, Mormons hurt themselves by mistreating other minorities. I'm sorry, but when the rights of one minority are threatened, the rights of all minorities are threatened. Minorities need to be protecting each other, not hurting each other.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Your Resistance to a Mirror

Everyone around here seems to be talking about HBO's episode of Big Love set to air Sunday which will feature a church disciplinary court and a detailed portrayal of temple rites. There is so much to say about it, frankly. Obviously most members of the Church are very upset about it. It makes me wonder what fuels their anger. Are they upset because HBO is sharing sacred information they would prefer be kept private? Are they upset because HBO is mocking (or people who watch HBO will mock) things they hold sacred? Or are they upset because HBO is embarrassing them by making Latter-day Saints seem strange?

In any event, they are upset, and rightfully so. HBO is violating a major taboo within the LDS culture. But if Mormons are going to complain about how their sacred beliefs are treated by others, then they ought to look at how they treat other people's sacred beliefs. If you don't dish out respect for others, then I don't think you have a right to complain when they don't respect you.

The first thing that pops into my head is the story that broke last year about LDS missionaries who took pictures of themselves mocking a Catholic shrine. The Church was responsible, apologized, and disciplined the missionaries involved, but there is still a bad taste in my mouth over it. I was a missionary, and I heard the other missionaries speaking disrespectfully of Jehovah's Witnesses, Evangelicals, even Buddhists. Elders would study things they could say to trip up the pastors of these faiths, and would brag about making them look stupid.

Despite the apology for this specific instance, the notion that those of other faiths are stupid seems propagated by LDS authorities, not negated. Consider Elder Holland's recent talk on the Trinity in which he blasts the sacred doctrines of so many Christians and flippantly refers to them as "incomprehensible" (The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent). Not too long ago LDS leaders teaching that the Catholic Church was the whore of the Earth- that great and abominable Church. Now the great and abominable Church simply refers to all people who aren't on par with the LDS view of God. And though I want to be respectful of the Temple's sacred nature, I do think it is appropriate and relevant to point out that the rites there used to contain a very negative caricature of Protestant pastors.

Most recent and most hurtful of all to me personally, the Church has openly attacked what I hold to be sacred: My right to marry the one I love. Yes, I consider gay marriage sacred. Perhaps I feel it even more so because it is denied me, but I believe that the life long union of same sex couples is sacred. The Church not only fights to prevent that from happening, but they say nasty things about it, calling it selfish and saying that it will "erode the social identity, gender development, and moral character of children" (The Divine Institution of Marriage). They confuse homosexuality with gender confusion and misrepresent what it means to be homosexual. Members of the LDS Church have been even more disrespectful, saying that I have no morals whatsoever and that I am a threat to America and even to the world.

If Latter-day Saints are going to be "offended when their most sacred practices are misrepresented" (official LDS statement) and when they feel their sacred practices are mocked or attacked, then they ought to be more careful about how they represent and talk about the sacred practices and beliefs of others. Frankly, I have a hard time sympathizing with offended Mormons right now. It's not that I want them to be disrespected or that they deserve to be disrespected, is just that I don't feel like they are even aware of how they have disrespected others. They don't seem to understand the double standard they are asking from the media when they want only positive press. They don't see hypocrisy in boycotting HBO after complaining about gay activists boycotting Mormon owned businesses in the wake of prop 8. They just don't seem to get it!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

All I Needed Was a Call that Never Came

On my way home from one of my classes today I was wondering what Joseph Smith would think about gay marriage. In jest, I thought to myself that he obviously didn't have a problem with alternate forms of marriage, seeing as he had as many as 33 wives and certainly asked others to practice polygamy. As I was laughing at the irony there, I suddenly realized that, at least according to information the Church presents, I was wrong. Joseph Smith did have a problem with non-Puritan forms of marriage. So much so that he reportedly accepted polygamy only at sword point.
“When that principle [of plural marriage] was revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith … he did not falter, although it was not until an angel of God, with a drawn sword, stood before him; and commanded that he should enter into the practice of that principle, or he should be utterly destroyed, or rejected, that he moved forward to reveal and establish that doctrine” (President Joseph F. Smith, “Plural Marriage for the Righteous Only-Obedience Imperative-Blessings Resulting”, Journal of Discourses, Vol.20, p.28 - p.29).
Even Brigham Young said, "Some of these my brethern know what my feelings were at the time Joseph revealed the doctrine; I was not desirous of shrinking from any duty, nor of failing in the least to do as I was commanded, but it was the first time in my life that I had desired the grave, and I could hardly get over it for a long time. And when I saw a funeral, I felt to envy the corpse its situation, and to regret that I was not in the coffin, knowing the toil and labor that my body would have to undergo;" (Qtd. in Brigham Young: American Moses by Leonard J. Arrington).

This made me wonder about how willing a Mormon prophet would be to change the definition (or allow for the evolution) of marriage. If these Mormon prophets had to be coerced by God to accept a form of marriage they found socially, emotionally, physically, and historically repulsive, then maybe the same would have to happen for a modern Church leader to accept gay marriage. I'm serious, bear with me here.

I feel like God Himself inspired me to accept gay marriage. It was hard at first, to reconcile that inspiration with what I had been taught, but I could do it because gay marriage was desirable to me intellectually and physically. But I could understand how someone who hated the thought of gay marriage so much and was so entrenched in the historical teachings of homosexuality that he wouldn't even be able to receive that inspiration I received. Maybe he just wouldn't be receptive to it, or maybe when it came it would be dismissed or fought against or even mistaken for Satanic influence. Maybe even the response could be "I'm not ready for this, God" or "We aren't ready for this."

The only thing, then, for me to wonder is why an Angel of God hasn't appeared before Thomas S. Monson with a sword to command him to endorse gay marriage yet. I mean, now would be the perfect time! (I think this summer might have been better, but I'll settle for now). I guess we all need to start praying that the sword bearing angel will come quickly and that Thomas S. Monson will heed his message.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

They will Not be Pushed Aside

A story on 365gay.com that I've been following has been eerily similar to the story about Michael Wiltbank's photography project here at BYU. 365gay originally reported that a High School Principal in Newport Beach, CA stopped students from performing an abridged version of "Rent" because the musical depicted several gay characters and themes. Today 365gay reports that the musical is back on. There are several parallels to the removal and reinstatement of Michael's photos, including the claim that the removal was just a "miscommunication" and was the choice of the department, not the administrator. What interests me, though, is the role of the media in the reinstatement of both the BYU show and the High School play.

In the Newport Beach story, 365gay reports, "When Martin went public accusing [Principal] Asrani of censorship the story was featured prominently in both the mainstream and gay media as well as in blogs." In the BYU story, the Deseret News reported that after Wiltbank announced that his portraits had been removed "bloggers around the country began to criticize BYU and its owner, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some attacked the school and church. The Deseret News requested a statement from the university Tuesday morning. The display went back up Tuesday afternoon."

Notice the role that bloggers played in both instances. Do we realize how much power a community of bloggers has? Since blogging is so new to society, its influence is relatively recent, but it is clearly far reaching. Does BYU feel threatened by this power? Some gay blogs, like Young Stranger, are blocked by BYU's internet filter. My Bishop asked me unofficially to take my blog down months ago (and I did for a time). On the other hand, a few years ago (yes it's already been that long), a few bloggers were influential in having BYU clarify it's honor code statement regarding homosexuality.

I think the power of blogging is clear, but when and where and how can we use it? Are we limited to promoting stories for bigger blogs and news sites to take and spread? Is there something else we can do? Do we just let the big wigs like Dan Savage stumble across our stories, as was the case with Michael Wiltbank? Or should we promote our own stories?

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm kind of excited about the possibilities.

Monday, February 23, 2009

On the Corner of First and Amistad

I mentioned I was reading a book about Gay Spirituality. It is called Out on Holy Ground by Donald L. Boisvert. I've loved it so far, although the book hasn't really taught spirituality so much as it has talked about spirituality. I guess spirituality is something you have to find and describe yourself. I've really been trying to dig deep into myself and find out what I believe in and what evokes spiritual feelings in me. I actually made a list of all of the experiences I've had in my life so that I can see what is common to all of them. Here's a sample of the list:
Scout Camp experiences, including an experience at Carthage Jail
Reading the Book of Mormon and seeking revelation
Creating art and displaying art
Viewing art
Going to the Temple
Watching the Joseph Smith film
Being a missionary
Seeking Revelation about Homosexuality
Watching Milk
Candlelight Vigils
realize that vague references to general experiences don't mean much to you, but I glean a lot of information by putting these things together on a list. The feelings I felt in each of these experiences or cluster of experiences are basically the same. They are deeply spiritual. So what do they have in common? To me they have three things in common which have become, for me, the source of spiritual experience.

1. Asking for and Receiving Inspiration
I have always valued the quest for spiritual knowledge and feelings. My High School AP Art Show revolved around the process of revelation. It's important to me to ask for direction, and it is exhilarating to receive direction.

2. Fraternity
From scout camp to the mission, I have noticed that spiritual experiences frequently occur when I feel part of a group of men. I seem to be more receptive to inspiration and more prone to ask for it when I experience fraternity. It's why I strive so hard to be a part of the moho community (not just the bloggers).

3. Experiencing Beauty
Nothing gets my soul more excited and uplifted than beauty. I've based my education and future career around it. For me, beauty is closely tied to place. Beauty requires space to occupy. The temple is a place of beauty, so is nature.

In fact, right now I am sitting and writing this in gallery 303, where I have been returning frequently to seek inspiration and peace. If you haven't seen the MFA show that is here yet, you need to before it comes down (I don't know when it comes down, but it might be as early as Friday). It's in gallery 303 of the Harris Fine Arts Building on BYU campus. The artist set up these paper forms that glow with light. When I saw the work, I instantly felt deep spiritual feelings. I was moved almost to tears. I keep coming back for more. Something here is resonating.

I don't know what form my spiritual life will take, but I do know that I need to continue to seek out spiritual experiences. For me that isn't confined to Sacrament Meeting, or even to Mormonism in general. I will be using these three qualities, however, to help me in my longing for the divine. What are your portals to spiritual feelings?

Something to Believe

I saw Milk in Chicago the day it was released there. The film blew me away. I was so moved by it that I've seen it twice since. I was surprised, though, by what the movie gave me. The story of Harvey Milk gave me a history, a movement to belong to, and a myth to believe in.

The feelings I felt watching Milk were identical to the feelings I had on my mission in the LA Visitor's Center watching the Joseph Smith film that plays there. Identical. It shocked me. I felt like there was a connection between the assassination of Joseph Smith and the assassination of Harvey Milk. There was a connection in the persecution leading up to it. There was a connection in the mourning of these men. There was a connection in the way their ideas lived on past them. And it made me realize how important it is to be a part of something and to have history and myth. I found out after I saw the movie that the screenplay was written by now Oscar award winning Dustin Lance Black, a former Mormon. I wonder to what extend his Mormonism and the way the Joseph Smith story is presented affected this film.

It's amazing how important Church lore and history is to Mormonism. Every religion is completely dependent on its mythology. I don't use that term to mean fiction, I use it to refer to the supernatural history that is repeated from generation to generation to define a people. Mormon mythology is rich and beautiful. It shapes the Mormon people. It gives them a purpose-a mission. It gives them something in common with each other.

As I have been growing more and more distant from Mormonism, I have felt the absence of that mythology. I didn't miss the camaraderie and shared experience Mormons feel with each other because I had the moho community. My gay friends and I all shared common feelings of marginalization that compensated for the loss of a ward family. But until I saw Milk, I had nothing to replace LDS history. Learning about Harvey Milk and the people involved in this movement has given me that history. In a way it justifies us as a group.

I have been reading a book on gay spirituality and have learned that Harvey Milk certainly wasn't the founder of the gay movement, nor was he the only influential gay hero. People from Walt Whitman to Ellen Degeneres have shaped and defined us as a people. But watching Harvey Milk's story is what made me feel like I was a people. We are a people. Gays have a community, and we can be a part of it. Just as LDS converts adopt the pioneers, we can adopt Milk's history as newcomers to the great and diverse gay community. How exciting is that?!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Hate and Ugliness is All I See

Yesterday I was accosted on the street simply because I am gay. I was walking home with one of my gay friends after class. We weren't doing anything "gay." We were just walking. I guess something in my inflection or expressions as I talked, or maybe the way that I walked prompted two teenage kids to shout, "Hey, I think they're Homos. Their Faggots! Look at them they totally want to hold hands."

They taunted us with insults all the way to my apartment complex down the street.

For some reason this really bothered me. I mean more so than other things do. I can handle the prop 8 sign in the window across from my room. I can handle facebook friends joining prop 8 groups and even saying stupid things about gay marriage. I can handle anonymous emails blasting me for a newspaper article. But this- this felt hostile. This made me feel vulnerable. How did they know? What betrayed me?

I know that teenagers are prone to stupidity and are likely to say things that shouldn't be taken seriously, but this wasn't the product of ignorance. They were trained to hate. Their parents, their society, their legislators teach them to disapprove of gays and be vocal about it. When I see what Senator Buttars says, how can I be surprised at what these two kids say (not that these kids would even know who Buttars is).

The whole experience has just made me know that I have to get out of Utah. It's beyond saving. I am not safe here, and I am safe elsewhere. For God's sake, even North Dakota will allow it's gay citizens the right to keep their jobs and homes.

Sung by Pioneers Who Pushed Westward Against an Unforgiving Wilderness

I am treading very carefully with this post because I know I will be touching very sensitive issues. I am not trying to offend active Latter-day Saints, nor am I trying to attack the Church. If you come away feeling angry towards Mormonism, then I hope it is because of your own feelings regarding the historical document I produce, and not my rhetoric. My point here is to explain to active Mormons that is possible to believe in and practice their faith without condemning homosexuality and gay rights.

Proposition 8 is certainly not the first time that the Church has been involved in politics, nor is it the first time that a prophet has stepped into a fight for equality deemed to be of epoch proportions. President Brigham Young, revered as prophet by Latter-day Saints, was the chief executive of Utah Territory. As governor and prophet, he said a lot of things on both politics and religion.

The following is from a speech by Governor Young in Joint Session of the Legislature, Feb. 5th 1852. I find it highly relevant in a day when we celebrate the first black president of the United States and in a day when the Utah legislature repeatedly rejects bills that would give gays only basic rights.

"Again to the subject before us; as to The men bearing rule; not one of the children of old Cain, have one partical of right to bear Rule in Government affairs from first to last, they have no buisness there. this privilege was taken from them by there own transgressions, and I cannot help it; and should you or I bear rule we ought to do it with dignity and honour before God. . .

. . . Therefore I will not consent for one moment to have an african dictate me or any Bren. with regard to Church or State Government. I may vary in my veiwes from others, and they may think I am foolish in the things I have spoken, and think that they know more than I do, but I know I know more than they do. If the Affricans cannot bear rule in the Church of God, what buisness have they to bear rule in the State and Government affairs of this Territory or any others? . . .

. . . [T]he Africans are Citizens, . . . It is our duty to take care of them, and administer to them in all the acts of humanity, and kindness, they shall have the right of Citizenship, but shall not have the right to dictate in Church and State matters. The abolishonists of the east, have cirest them them, and. their whol argument are callculated to darken Counsel, as it was here yesterday. As for our bills passing here, we may lay the foundation for what? for men to come here from Africa or else where; by hundreds of thousands. When these men come here from the Islands, are they going to hold offices in Government No. It is for men who understand the knowlege of Government affairs to hold such offices, and on the other make provisions for them to plow, and to reap, and enjoy all that human beings can enjoy, and we protect them in it. Do we know how to amilerate the condition of these people? we do. Supose that five thousands of them come from the pacific Islands, and ten or fifteen thousands from Japan, or from China, not one soul of them would know how to vote for a Government officer, they therefore ought not in the first thing have anything to do in Government afairs.

What the Gentiles are doing we are consenting to do. What we are trying to do to day is to make the Negro equal with us in all our privilege. My voice shall be against all the day long. I shall not consent for one moment I will will call them a counsel. I say I will not consent for one moment for you to lay a plan to bring a curse upon this people. I shall not be while I am here."
(Brigham Young Addresses, Ms d 1234, Box 48, folder 3, dated Feb. 5, 1852, located in the LDS Church Historical Department, Salt Lake City, Utah. Emphasis mine.)


What would President/Governor Young have thought about President Obama? That's a subject for a whole other conversation. My point now is this: Mormon's reconcile the above statement. They don't loose any sleep over it. I don't care how they do it, it really doesn't matter. They may say that in this speech he was speaking as the Governor and not as the Prophet, and therefore these words are not binding on the Church or its members. They may say that these are just his opinions and do not constitute revelation or the Word of God. They may say that Brigham Young was just a product of his time and that these sentiments were shared by most if not all Americans in 1850.

However you reconcile it is your business; my point is simply that you have to reconcile it to be Mormon. You just have to. And if you can somehow disapprove with the message of this speech and reconcile it with your belief that Brigham Young was a prophet, can you not do the same with Thomas Monson's fight against gay rights?

Church leaders and LDS politicians are saying the same thing now that Brigham did then. They are saying that gays should be treated with dignity and respect, but that they shouldn't be equal. They shouldn't participate in Church. They shouldn't have their unions sanctioned by the State. They brought this curse on themselves through their own decisions. Gay rights advocates in the east have their whole argument calculated by Dark Counsel--It's Satan's subtle plan to overthrow the family. Let's not pass bills that would attract them and make them come to Utah. We certainly cannot through our silence let secular America make gays are equals. We must and will stand up and fight in the ballot box and in the legislature and in the media.

It's the same thing going on! And if you are active in the LDS faith, I implore you to please disagree with this hateful anti-gay rhetoric. Don't stand for it. Don't put up with it. You can still keep your faith. You have already had to reconcile this once before, you can do it again.

We can put this whole thing in a vault in Salt Lake City and pretend that the Church never preached it! And I'm fine with that. Let's do it. Let's hide everything the Church has said about homosexuals and have the anti-Mormons dig it up for their pamphlets and let Church members scoff and say, "I don't care what you say, I have my faith and I know that's not true." I beg you all to please, usher in that day when the Church will be embarrassed prop 8 ever happened. That day is going to come when the active membership of the Church reconciles what is happening now but doesn't approve. It's going to happen when people who believe in equality don't leave the Church, but instead keep their faith. So, if that's you, thanks. Unfortunately I doubt I will be one of the ones making that day happen.

Friday, February 13, 2009

I Think I Would Understand

Last night I received an email from someone I don't know attacking me for the Salt Lake Tribune article published a few weeks ago. My initial response was defensive. I was going to write her back telling her that people like her are the reason people like me kill themselves. I was going to tell her that she was uneducated, uninformed, and extreme in her views. I was going to blast her for her hateful rhetoric and for her hypocrisy in attacking me. I was going to address each point she made and refute each one. Fortunately I waited till I calmed down the next morning to respond. Here's what she wrote:
Dan and Michael,

While doing research on Same Sex Marriage and Same Gender attraction, I found an article about your art project in the Tribune. I feel great disappointment that you would take part in any activity that would bring shame on BYU, an institution which you joined knowing its moral stance on same-sex attraction, and which you exploited to promote ideals contrary to truth, while using tithing funds to subsidize your education.

I just wanted to voice my strongly felt opinion that if you "don't feel comfortable at BYU", you don't need to be here. No one forced you to come to this church university, using church sanctioned funds, to use BYU as a venue to spread propoganda about gay rights.

It makes me so angry when people complain about BYU when hundreds and thousands of people are turned away every year, while ungrateful students like yourself stay here, absorb funding, and use your time and resources to fight against principles and doctrines which you knew and agreed to as part of your religion when you entered this institution.

How dare you try to fight this battle on this sacred ground. You can struggle with your gay tendancies all your life, but you will never find moral validation for that which is wrong. Shame on you for putting BYU in a negative light for not celebrating and highlighting your sexual struggles. Homosexuality is a fight of God against Satan.

As I engage my life and resources to fight with other faithful Mormons against such propoganda, I hope you find another venue to validate your misled ideas.
In the end, I realized that a defensive response would get me nowhere. It would only confirm my evilness to her. It would have perpetuated her belief that gays are contentious, argumentative, and Godless. She wouldn't have recognized the logic had I refuted each of her mistaken claims. The only thing I could do was to frankly forgive her (not in a patronizing way), and then in what I hope was a friendly manner share with her a little bit about homosexuality as I have experienced it. Here's what I wrote:
Dear ******,

Thank you for writing me and sharing your personal and strong feelings with me. Obviously I also have personal and strong feelings rooted in my experiences growing up both gay and Mormon. I value the opportunities I have to talk about this emotional topic.

I'm so happy that you are doing research on a topic that is so misunderstood in the LDS culture. If everyone researched the things that affect their brothers and sisters in such personal ways, I wonder how much better off we would be as people. I wonder how we would treat each other. Knowledge is power! I hope you won't be offended if I give you some pointers on how to best understand homosexuality as I hope you continue to seek to understand it.

If someone was to research Mormonism, you wouldn't direct them to anti-Mormon literature. Likewise, you wouldn't have them base their research solely on the observations of friendly Non-Mormons. You would probably invite them to talk to actual Mormons and read material produced by the Church. My advice is the same. I invite you to learn about same sex attraction from those who experience same sex attractions. I would be more than happy to talk with you about it, if you'd like.

I would also recommend talking to Fred and Marilyn Matis. They are a sweet, friendly couple and are very active in the Church. Their son, Stuart, was gay and shot himself on the steps of his stake center. After their son's suicide, Fred and Marilyn have opened their home to other gay Mormons to extend the love and support they wish their son had felt. They have associated themselves with literally hundreds of homosexuals through monthly family home evenings held for gay Latter-day Saints and the friends and family of gay Latter-day Saints. You are more than welcome to attend and see gay Mormons pray, sing, and talk. The information is here: http://northstarlds.org/matisfiresides.php They are always warm, spiritual experiences. There is so much love there. If you go on April 6, you will get to hear Sister Olson speak. She is amazing. She was my New Testament teacher here at BYU.

One last word of advice. Please don't believe everything you read on the internet or even in books and newspapers. The tribune article that upset you did not reveal very much to you about who I am, what I do, or even what I believe. It is more of a reflection of the author than of me. He interviewed me, but the interview was long and he chose what to include in this article and what to leave out. Let me assure you that I in no way was attacking the Church or any of its members, nor did I intend to paint BYU in an exclusively negative light. Despite how I was quoted in the Tribune, I enjoy my time here. My friends are here, and I am supported by great faculty in the art department who love me and are helping me succeed in life. In the interview, I simply wanted to share my experiences and thereby reveal changes that could be made in policy that would save a lot of people from a lot of pain. I don't believe that BYU maliciously hurt me, but the attitudes of so many BYU students have hurt me. Only by sharing true information (in this case my experiences) can we all grow closer to the Savior and treat each other with more charity.

I also want to make it clear that included in the tithes that supplement a BYU education are my tithes, the tithes of my parents and grandparents, the tithes of hundred of my friends who want me to be here, and even the tithes of the people I baptized on my mission. If you are upset about how your own personal tithes are being used, I know how you feel. I felt hurt that my tithes were used on proposition 8 propaganda. Though I know how you feel, let's be honest, we both have given our money to the Church for them to spend as they see fit, and they saw fit to accept me at BYU. Please make the same assumptions about me that you would make about any student at BYU, and that is that I have the same yearly interviews for endorsement that they have. This means that BYU still wants me to be one of its students even given what was published in the Salt Lake Tribune. (Obviously me being gay isn't a secret). This also means that I make tremendous sacrifices to be here.

You seem sincerely interested in discussing truth (as opposed to propaganda), so let's talk truth. Let's talk about what I have experienced and therefore what I know to be true.

I came to BYU because I believed BYU could make me straight. I have never been attracted to women in my life. I have always been attracted to guys. I always knew I was different from my peers, and I knew how I was different as early as 11. I didn't want to be gay, though. I hated it! I was ashamed of it, as if I was a monster. I would literally beat myself up mentally over it. I read on the internet that BYU had therapy that would make it go away, and I wanted that. Church leaders, including Bishops and a Stake President also promised that my attractions for men could be replaced with attractions for women. This promise that the Church made me was recounted on my mission by Elder Oaks in a 2006 general conference. He admitted that same sex attractions would likely never go away in this life. This was after I had already been at BYU for a year.

That year had been destructive for me. After a year of therapy I was very depressed. One night I almost jumped off a bridge. I am so grateful that I didn't kill myself. I believe the hand of God stopped me.

On my mission, I learned that I was a good person and I learned how to love myself. This made coming home from my mission after 2 years very hard. It was a rough transition, but through a lot of serious prayer and meditation, the Lord revealed his consistent love for me and I realized that I shouldn't demand that He change my sexual orientation. I realized that it was ok that I was attracted to the same gender- it didn't make me a monster. It simply was. A month later a gay BYU student and acquaintance of mine curled up next to his tail pipe with the garage door closed and took his own life. This was when I knew something had to change. Something has to change so that gay youth don't kill themselves. I don't know what that change is, but I do know what I can do to promote that change. I can share my story. I can tell people that God loves them and that I love them. I can share true information, because only true information can help informed people know what they should do.

If I am fighting for anything, (I don't personally consider that article a fight), I am fighting for those people who are abused and feel worthless. I am fighting for them and for me for equal treatment. I believe that the we all should be treated equally. I'm not opposed to the principle of Chasity, I just want it applied equally. I'm not opposed to BYU, I just want it to promote love and information for all of it's students rather than fear, backbiting, contention, and ignorance. It is my hope that we can all peacefully engage in meaningful dialog instead of persecuting each other. In that sense, I really don't think you and I are that different from each other.

Thanks again for writing me, and I hope that you have a great day!
Sincerely,
Daniel