Saturday, July 24, 2010

It's Always Better When We're Together

I read an interesting article in the Washington Post about Catholic Latinos. 57% of Catholic Latinos in California support gay marriage, as compared to only 22% of Protestant Latinos. Both groups are grounded in strong family values, but that means different things to the different groups which may be why they view gay rights differently.

For most Catholic Latinos, family values means family loyalty. They spend a lot of time with their family, and their religious worship is based on family milestone events, holidays, and cultural festivals. For them, family is family, so if a child comes out of the closet, he or she is still family and should still be loved, included, and defended. Because of this, Catholics Latinos "say they trust the parents of gay and lesbian children more than their own clergy as a source of information about homosexuality." (Public Religion Research Poll) They support gay people because they support their sons and daughters, cousins, nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters, etc who are gay.

Protestants, on the other hand, believe in family values as they connect to their more individual based worship. Family values means teaching children to seek out individual salvation, usually through a personal conversion experience that leads one to confess Jesus as personal Lord and Savior. In practice this makes them like many Latter-day Saints who are more prone to believe what their religious leaders say about homosexuality than their own gay family members.

I see both attributes--family loyalty and individual family morality--in Latter-day Saint culture, but unfortunately I see too much of the second and not enough of the first. I wish Latter-day Saint families would more often react with loyalty to their children who come of the closet instead of loyalty to the general pronouncements of church authorities. I am blessed to have family that fall somewhere in the middle. My parents do trust what their leaders in Salt Lake tell them, but they are also loyal to their children and showed support by coming to my wedding even though they didn't believe I should marry a man. My heart goes out to those young gay Mormons who are not so lucky.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Somewhere Along in the Bitterness

Please light another candle tonight for all of those gay Mormons who have taken their own lives. I am deeply saddened by the gay Mormon suicides this month (apparently there were three), and I feel a sense of failure for their losses even though I didn't know them. Could I have made myself and my story more accessible? Could I have offered them hope, or solace, or peace?

Let's work hard to create a future where death is never more desirable than life for our gay Mormon brothers and sisters.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

They've Got Us Pinned Terribly

Michael and I planned our wedding almost entirely by ourselves, which was great because it allowed us to make the decisions we wanted to make. Our wedding was in every way our dream event.

It was hard at first to plan the wedding because neither of us had a lot to go on. Growing up I thought I would be married in an LDS temple, so the only thing I ever thought about with my future wedding was which temple it would be in (I had to find a girl who was from a city with a beautiful temple like San Diego).

Once that was out the window, I had nothing. I haven’t been to many weddings in my life in general. I have only been to three non-LDS weddings—at the age of 5, 8, and 13, so I wasn’t exactly taking notes. I had never been to a same sex wedding—who has? Even if I had, there isn’t a long tradition for them. On the one hand, all of this gave us a freedom to be creative and create something unique, but it also meant we didn’t have a foundation to build on, so as soon as we started to plan our wedding, I began researching weddings. Over the thirteen months it took us to plan it and pull it all together, I learned a lot about the components of weddings in different cultures, the history of American wedding traditions/styles/fads, and wedding etiquette.

I’ve thought a lot about how all that—wedding components, traditions, and etiquette—in most weddings compares to the LDS Temple weddings I was initially most accustomed to. For one thing, after my wedding, my grandma told me how much it meant to her that she could see our faces as we exchanged vows. As a nonmember in a Mormon family, she isn’t allowed to go to weddings. She couldn’t see my parents exchange vows, or my aunt, or her other grandchildren, or her siblings, or her nieces and nephews. In fact, in my family, my wedding was the first in 16 years that everyone (Mormon, non-Mormon, or child) was invited to attend. For people like my grandma, that is kind of sad. No one ever told her they missed her at those weddings, and she said that until she saw the joy in our faces she hadn’t even realized what she was missing by being excluded.

If you’ve ever been to a temple wedding, you know how underwhelming it can be. There isn’t much to miss. Their ceremonies don’t include any of the traditional Christian components like the processional, readings, exchange of rings, etc. If you haven’t been to one, I can tell you that Mormon weddings aren’t designed for an audience. They are brief, simple, and full of symbolism that is only meaningful to those who have been initiated in the temple. None of that is consolation, though, for my grandma who would have liked to see my dad’s eyes when he took my mom as his wife.

There are a lot of unique and truly wonderful aspects of Mormon weddings. The idea that they extend forever is very beautiful, and I like how clear it is that marriage includes obligations and promises that will be hard to keep. I also like how affordable they are—that there is a push away from materialism and excess and a focus on the spiritual aspects of the union. But in all, I am very glad that I didn’t have a temple wedding. I am glad my grandma could be there, and my friends. I am glad we got to design our own ceremony, choosing those things that were meaningful to us and omitting anything that wasn’t. I am glad we got to write our own vows. I am glad we could choose the venue. I am glad we could create our own traditions, and make it our dream event.

Friday, July 16, 2010

And They'll Believe Us To, Soon

I'm so grateful for all of the congratulatory notes, facebook messages, cards, and gifts we got, but I am particularly pleased with those that came from active Mormons. So many active Mormons had supportive things to say during and after my wedding, and frankly, it surprised me. The messages came from people who didn't have to send them. I received a dozen such congratulatory notes from former missionaries from my mission, and many more from people in my wards at BYU, a Sunday school teacher from my childhood, parents of friends, and former seminary friends.

One active Mormon who in High School had boasted that he was a homophobe, wrote, "I heard you were getting married! I trust it was a very special event. I'm really glad you are happy and wish you all the best ..." That was a common comment--"I am glad you are happy." Many said they could see that I was happy in my wedding photos.

I'm still trying to sort out what this all means. Does it mean that a large portion of active Mormons are not on the same page as their Salt Lake leaders on the issue of gay marriage? Maybe not--these same people may even still vote against gay marriage if given the opportunity (that is a disturbing thought). Maybe it means that my wedding showed them happiness is obtainable outside the narrow confines of Mormonism. Or maybe it just means that they can  disassociate my decisions and their beliefs. I don't know, I'm still wrapping my head around it.

I will say this though. While it is still impossible for me as a man married to a man to be a member of the Church, that doesn't mean faithful Mormons have to or will exclude me from their friendship. There is no doubt that you can believe in my right to marry and celebrate it and still be an active member of the Church. That means that if you have something less than supportive to say about my marriage, you can't use "I'm Mormon" as your excuse for bigotry.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

You Have Stolen My Heart

Today is my two-week-iversary. Michael and I were married two weeks ago today. In so many ways life has just gone on as normal. After nearly three years together, we know what to expect from each other. At the same time, there are a few things that feel very different.

More than anything, I suddenly feel very secure. I'm married now! Completely married--emotionally, physically, legally. I have a marriage license, and I am fortunate enough to live in a state that not only issued it but recognizes it. Thanks to the 5th and 10th amendments, it looks like even President Obama will have to recognize it. (There is an excellent explanation of the DOMA decision over at 365). I didn't think I would feel all of that in this way.

I never realized how insecure I used to be. I used to get so worked up about having rights and fighting for them. Every time someone said something homophobic in the public or private sphere, I took it personally. Glenn Beck used to give me panic attacks. I used to go out of my way to read what Mormon leaders said on the topic, and I would be really bothered by it. I was obsessed with having a community and making connections with other gay Mormons. I really cared about the future of the Mormon Church, and my relationship to it. I don't know how else to describe it other than to say I was insecure.

But now none of that seems to matter to me. Rather than finding out what Mormons/conservatives/Baptists/Republicans have to say about gay rights, I'd rather worry about how the new living room furniture looks or what I'm going to make my new husband for dinner. I have a partner--someone that I will always be with. No one--not Maggie Gallagher, not Thomas Monson, not Barack Obama, not my parents, not Glenn Beck--can take Michael away from me. He is mine, and I am his. We have our rights, our protections, our obligations, our promises, our security. I realize that in more places in this world than not this is not the case, and I am still passionate about my hope to extend these rights and securities to the rest of the world for other couples (and for us if we travel or move). But for some reason being married just takes away a lot of the anxiety around it. I can understand how straight couples take this security for granted. I am so grateful for those who have fought so hard to make my marriage a possibility, because now that I have it, I don't know how I lived without it.

Nothing brings more peace, satisfaction, or security to me than having a husband.