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Just my rambling thoughts about being gay and Mormon

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Transparency

The recent disclosures on Wikileaks about the US State Department internal communications should be a reminder to all organizations that there really are no secrets anymore.  

So as I think about that event in relation to the LDS Church I wonder if its time for the Church to rethink its communications.  The Church culture is of a single and highly over simplified version of the gospel and church history.  This is fostered by a Correlation Department that wants to keep the message contained in a small box that can be distilled down to convenient sound bites.  As a result, much of what is communicated by the Church to its members is hermetically sealed and pre-packaged lessons that portray unrealistic expectations for a world that does not exist.


As a church we claim to embrace truth and state that we believe in being honest but by omission we are sometimes lairs.  In my opinion, this creates a culture that reinforces "faking it" and putting on the "correct" appearance.  Are we slowly moving toward the very state that prophets have warned against where every person must walk and talk and look the same?


To me this seems pretty ironic for an organization that proclaims  "The truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent ... till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done."  

I know a lot more about Church history than your average member and for me it is very liberating and wonderful to see the depth and breadth of it all.  The Church and its leaders have seriously screwed up in the past and they have also done amazing things.  Truth is the whole picture not just the pretty part.  We do our young people a terrible disservice by only presenting a shallow single sided version of the truth.  

To believe in the gospel and the Church requires faith and it always will.  We diminish the need to develop faith when all we present is a program that is so lovely, simple, and beautiful that only a fool would reject it.  Our members and non-members will then quickly become like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and want to pull aside the curtain to see what is really going on.   The world and all the truth in it is transparent to God.  We should more closely follow that model.

I love and hate my family

Why is it that families are the source of so much of our happiness and pain?  I guess maybe it's because we care but also because our skill in dealing with each other is really poor sometimes.  Often my parents are a good example of what not to do.  My dad is rarely open to ideas that are not his own and I can only recall a few times when he expressed praise for his children.  

Why do some people always feel a need to try and change a family member into the person they want them to be rather than just accepting the person they really are?  This approach undermines the value of the individual and leaves lasting scars; not to mention it closes the door on honest communication.

Got a call last night from my unemployed and ill sister who continues to have a co-dependent relationship with my parents.  She has a home, cars, and horses and basically a lifestyle she can't afford and my parents continue to pay her bills.  They are constantly hassling her about her choices and she wants to be free but neither are willing to take any action to change the situation so they continue on in misery.  The same situation applies to my other alcohol and drug addicted sister who lives with my parents.  What a mess.  


Maybe me coming out to them would give them something else to think about for a while...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Damn good December


I hope you all have a peaceful and happy holiday.  December has been a good month for me.  I've had plenty of time off work burning vacation that expires soon.  My wife and I spent much time together shopping, dining out, and at movies.  We do have a good time together and it seems better since we've had some honest conversations about me.  We need to keep this going during the new year.  Planning to catch a couple of more movies before January.  Its truly difficult to be very happy if you're not transparent and feel good about where you are and who you are.  

I love to travel someplace warm and fun for the holiday but this year its at home, and that's OK.  Never been surfing, but it does look fun...maybe next year.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Musings

 
I've been reading, and am about finished with, "The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World" by Alan Downs. 
Link to Amazon for the book 

This is a really great book.  The following is from the introduction:
Rather than be depressing, I found the book to be uplifting, insightful, and helpful in understanding myself, my behaviors, and my feelings.  

Today at church I was thinking about gay priesthood leaders.  One of the many things this book has made me think about is how driven to succeed we (as gay men) generally are and how we often play an important role in many organizations.  Along those lines, it seems to me that more than the expected percentage of gay men in the church end up in leadership positions of one kind or another at some point in their church career, if they stick around.  I definitely fall into that category.  Right or wrong, as in the business world, people advance in the Church when they do more than average to help the organization succeed.  Unfortunately, in the Church we also tend to not stand up for gay issues because we are more focused on success in the organization to compensate for our underlying shame.  Sad, but I think true. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Regrets?



 mohoh link
MOHOH posted a video production that tells the story of 3 young LDS guys and their stories.  I was very touched by it.  

Sometimes I wish I were one of those guys and that I had the courage when I was younger to step up and out as they have done.  I think my younger years might have been happier.  I'm so glad that they have a support group and have the opportunity to make the choice.  Things were so much different when I was younger.  Many of us older MOHOs never even considered the option of choosing to opt out of the Mormon path even though it created frequent pain for us.  We, or at least I, was convinced that I was the problem and in some perverse way believed that the only way to get better was to continue to be flogged in the Church.  I can relate to those who hurt themselves in the name of repentance.

On the other hand, if I had come out when I was young I would have missed many precious relationships that I have today and would not have the 3 fantastic kids, supportive wife, and two beautiful grandsons (plus one on the way) that I enjoy today.  Was it the right choose?  For me, I think it was and I would not change it despite the floggings and other struggles. 

One thing I've learned is that everyone's path is different and I believe each of those paths can be right for the one who chooses it.  I think those who seek God can and will be led by Him down many individually tailored paths.  We have a view of God that is much too narrow when we believe that there is only one way to live that pleases him.  All we need to do is look at the wide variety of cultures in the world to know that God loves diversity and that none of them is fundamentaly wrong.  

How can I believe this and also believe the Church is true?  In my simple mind they are two different truths.  I know the Church is true but I also know that God does not intend for everyone to be Mormon.  The Church is not the Gospel and the Gospel is not the Church. 




Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happier Now

Talking with my wife about my gay feelings has been the best thing I've done in a long time.  She has always been sensitive and open to those discussions.  Both of us hoped it would just go away when I was X'd but now we know it won't and dealing with it openly has been a breath of fresh air for me.  We both want to stay together and I'm confident it will continue to be OK and even better between us as we face it together.  I think I can do this as I'm more mindful about what I'm feeling and just accepting me for who I am and knowing it is OK.  

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Everything's good, right?

About 3 years ago I began to sink into a feeling of increasing despair.  Everything should have been going great -- I was back in the Church right?  But everything was not right.  I was feeling increasingly boxed into a life I did not enjoy and could barely stand.  I really wanted what was suppose to happen at the end -- to just grow old and be surrounded by loving family, but the process to get there seemed to be impossibly hard.  Running away and leaving it all behind increasingly seemed like an attractive option.  

My parents went on a mission and asked me to help out my younger sister who although she was about 40 had never been able to sustain herself.  Almost immediately we had a big blowup about all the things she felt the world owed her but that she could not obtain.  Thus began an almost two year period of totally ignoring each other.  I was essentially estranged from my other siblings yet I was expected to keep the family together and lead them all back to a happy spiritual family life.  At the same time I could barely keep myself afloat.  

My health began to suffer.  I was depressed and my blood pressure was going up.  The internal stress was beginning to manifest itself in a variety of physical symptoms.  I literally felt like I might explode.  My employment was and is a pressure cooker.  I spent a lot of time thinking about how to escape.  It seemed like my options were the following:
  1. Run away and leave everything behind.  But I really hate people who abandon their families.
  2. Stay and keep going as best I could.  
  3. Kill myself.  Quicker but only easier for me.  Harder for everyone else.
I've since learned that believing that these options are the only available ones is pretty standard for men in my position.  I wished I could selectively contract some deadly illness like cancer.  It could not be AIDS because that carried to much stigma.  However, brain cancer would serve nicely.  Kill me in a morally agreeable manner.  

Looking back it's interesting that I did not have on my list the option of talking to someone about my struggle.  Early on I decided that talking to Church leaders again was not the solution and for me was not even on the table for discussion.  After several visits to a doctor I was put on Prozac, blood pressure medication, cholesterol medication, allergy medication...

At the same time I had the opportunity to go back to graduate school.  I did and it saved me for a few years.  I love the University of Utah.  The diversity of people, the openness of opinion, and the lack of judgment (at least compared to the rest of Utah) was a breath of fresh air to me.  I graduated in May 2010 and finished up with a few weeks in Europe, which is another of my loves.  Anyone who has not been to Rome should go as soon as possible.  

With school over I began to slip back into a depression and listlessness that I could not tolerate but also did not seem to be able to shake.  However, at last I think I was finally ready to take action, talk, and take charge of my life.  More to come....


Friday, December 10, 2010

Getting X'd

In 2000 I felt like my life was going out of control.  While out of town I tried some cocaine.  I did not do anything sexual on that trip but deep down I knew that the coke was an attempt to medicate terrible feelings of hating myself because I was gay.  The next day I decided I needed some help and decided to talk to my bishop.  He was a nice enough guy but within 15 minutes of sitting down to talk he had the Stake President on the phone and "the process" was started.

When I was X'd from the Church it was initially a very difficult time for me and my wife.  I felt that I had let her down.  In the long run it was probably harder on her than me.  I had always been extremely faithful from a very young age so being on the outside was a shock for both of us.  I had worked at the MTC after my mission, I'd been an Elder's Quroum President and served in a Bishopric.  

Looking back, those years out of the Church were actually some of my happiest.  I felt free to be myself and to just enjoy life.  

It's curious to look back at how I was treated by Church leaders.  They were always kind and I think they tried to be helpful.  However, I don't think they really understood me.  There were never any questions about the cocaine or any attempt to help me reconcile why I despised myself.  Every focus was on my homosexual behavior and they made it definitely clear that I was the one who needed to change.  During the disciplinary council some of the High Counselors looked at me like I had three heads and was from some alien planet.  They asked some really weird questions that demonstrated to me they really could not relate to what I was saying.  That was hard. 

I wanted to change and spent many long hours in prayer fervently seeking to be changed. 
Very early on after being X'd I felt like the Lord did not have anything against me and fully accepted me so I did not pray so much to be forgiven as to be changed.  In the end His answer was no but I knew that he loved and accepted me.  I felt that He wanted me in the Church and with my wife and family.  

I honestly felt like God had forgiven me for whatever I might have done that was wrong and so getting re-baptized was mostly a matter of waiting for the right amount of time to pass.  I had developed a close relationship with my Bishop while I was out of the Church.  It was close in that I knew he loved me not because I felt that he accepted or understood my gayness.  I told him I was on the "straight and narrow" and we never discussed if it was even possible for me to be completely straight.  I asked him to re-baptize me.  Just a few days before I was to be re-baptized I felt strongly that I should ask my father to do it.  This was difficult because I had not even told him I had been X'd.  I did not tell him why I was X'd and he did not ask but he did agree to perform the baptism.  The re-baptism was a happy time for me and my family.  Temple blessing were restored by my Stake President two years later.  


The really hard times were just about to begin.........more to come

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Appearances



SL Tribune article

The above link is to a SL Tribune article about Utah writer James Dashner’s new young adult novel, The Scorch Trials.  The Trib indicates that the book has proved too hot for Deseret Book, which has declined to carry the popular book on its retail shelves.  The article quotes Gail Halladay managing director of marketing at Deseret Book who said, "This latest book from James Dashner contains language some of our customers would find offensive, as this book is targeted to teenagers,” “We must be careful with all the books we bring in, and we look very closely at the language in the books we carry.” 

The article notes that "Although the bookstore doesn’t have copies of The Scorch Trials on its shelves, Halladay noted that customers can special order the title for pick-up."

Clearly, Deseret Book is only concerned about the book appearing on it's shelves because it might appear improper to some ultra conservatives.  They willingly take your money if you buy it out the back door.  Probably also comes in a brown paper bag. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sex

A friend who has close contact with Elder Packer once told me that he will never say the word sex in a conference talk.   Sure enough a quick word search of both his original and revised versions of the Oct conf talk did not find any hits for the word sex.  I'm guessing that gay is also not in his vocabulary.  

 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Comprehending God


I've heard God referred to as the ultimate micro manager who guides even the smallest decisions of our lives.  I've also heard God referred to as the ultimate hands off manager who lets the troops work it out for themselves without interfering.  So which is it?  

The answer, I believe, is that it is neither.  We use these phrases to try to put God into a box we can relate to and it does not work well.   Using this approach with each other is common but it does not work with God.  If you choose any standard you can think of to measure God, it is likely to come up short.  

Without faith trying to figure out why God does some things and refuses to get involved in others will drive you crazy.  But, isn't it amazing that God can deal with our individual needs so well and yet he allows the world to take its course.

Mosiah 4:9, Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.
Mormon 9:16, Behold, are not the things that God hath wrought marvelous in our eyes? Yea, and who can comprehend the marvelous works of God.

Joseph Smith wrote:
That which is wrong under one circumstance may be, and often is, right under another.

Don't think you can guess what God is thinking or what he will do next.   

So I was thinking about my Sandlot experience.  Sandlot is a great movie about boys experiencing life, playing baseball and growing up during a summer in the 1970s.   In one of the scenes "Yaya/Squints" fakes drowning so he can be rescued by the cute girl lifeguard.  He lets her do mouth to mouth for a few minutes then grabs her in a kiss.   

When I was about the same age there was a group of us boys playing in the yard and an older teenage neighbor boy got involved in the games.  We were wresting and playing on the lawn and of course because he was much larger than us he could pretty much take down whoever he wanted.  We would fight him off but it usually took two of us.  At one point he grabbed me and pushed me down to the ground and laid on top of me to keep me from escaping.  At first I struggled to break free but then I realized I liked his attention and him being on top of me.  I relaxed and stared into his face.  I wanted him to like me.  Too soon he let go, got up, and walked away.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Relationships

I was thinking the other day about the really deep and meaningful relationships that I have with other guys and I realized how few they really are.  I suppose it's normal to expect that most of our relationships are fairly shallow with people at work and church.  Even within my family, I don't feel I really have a very deep relationship with the men, with the exception of my son and my brother-in-law, who coincidentally is gay.   I have a twin brother and we are not particularly close, although we do enjoy being together on the rare occasions that we see each other (we live on opposite ends of the country).  We don't seem to be able to connect about anything but superficial stuff by phone or email. 


I've always felt closer to the women in my life, my wife, daughters, and a wonderful mother-in-law, than I have with the men in the family.   The men seem so intent on one-upping each other in every conversation and they focus on things I really don't give a damn about like cars and sports.   I wonder if the men in my life are as out of touch with themselves as they are out of touch with me.


I'm sure this is as much my fault as it is theirs.  I know that I often don't say things that I'm thinking or feeling to my male acquaintances because I don't want to make them feel uncomfortable.  Few men are willing to break the imaginary surface to talk about how they feel and why.  Sad.  I should do more to speak out.

Charity - a thought for Sunday

Yesterday, while I was traveling I arrived at the airport security screening checkpoint.  Like everyone else, I just wanted to get through security with as little hassle and as fast as possible.  This dominated my thinking - so I did something I regret.   In front of me was a young father with a small child in his arms.  They were bundled up in coats and he was also carrying a laptop case/diaper bag.  He knew it would take him some time to get unpacked and set out their stuff in the bins and conveyor belt to make the TSA folks happy.  He urged several of us who were behind him to jump ahead in the line.  I have getting through security down to a science and quickly jumped at the chance to move ahead and get it over.   

I wish I had been more thoughtful and charitable.  I could have easily put my bags on the conveyor and then helped this young father with his son.  At the very least I could have offered to hold the child while the father unpacked.  Why am I so compulsively such a jerk?  Is this the "natural man" that I am to put off and become more Christlike?  Yes.  I hope someone else was more Christlike and I hope next time it's me.