Just my rambling thoughts about being gay and Mormon

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ogden Youth Commits Suicide

I am so sad and angry this morning to learn of the suicide of a beautiful young man (pic above and on the right in the second pic) from the Ogden, Utah area. His name was Jack Reese. I am deeply saddened that he felt it necessary to take his life. I am very angry at the Utah culture that does not stand up and do more to prevent these tragedies. There was no public acknowledgement by either his family or his community that he was gay. His obituary droned on (in typical Mormon fashion) about all his relatives left behind but said nothing about suicide, being bullied, or being gay. Why are we embarrassed about our gay youth?  We should be encouraging them to live not to lock themselves up in a closet and die. If Jack's boyfriend had not spoken up, this likely would have been completely ignored by the community. Below is a press release from the OUTreach Resource Center in Ogden about a response planned for next Tuesday (May 1st). I plan to attend. Please join me, if you can.

Press Release Community Response

Print Email

Community Responds to Latest Gay Teen Suicide
 Underscores Urgent Need for Education, Safe Schools & Family Support
Media Contact: Marian Edmonds,  medmonds@ogdenoutreach.org  801-686-4528
(April 26, 2012, Ogden, Utah) On Monday, April 23, 18-year-old Alex Smith spoke on a community panel at a screening of “Bullied,” telling the packed room about the bullying his boyfriend, Jack, experienced at school.  What no one in the room yet knew, including Alex, was that Jack had already taken his own life.
The death of Jack Reese is the latest known suicide of a gay teen in Northern Utah.  One official says, off the record: “It happens here about once a week,” but then quickly adds, “but officially, you know, it doesn’t happen here.”
OUTreach is hosting a community response: “A Community Stands up - Northern Utah Addresses LGBT Bullying and Suicide.” It will take place May 1st, 6:30 pm at the Ogden Amphitheater, 343 E 25th ST, Ogden, UT.  The purpose of the event is for the community to stand in solidarity with (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) LGBT youth, to speak out and express grief and outrage at yet another loss of life in Northern Utah and to witness for the need for immediate change in schools, churches and society.  Until ALL youth are loved and accepted in their homes, able to attend school without fear of bullying, and know that their lives are worth living, this community will continue to demand change. 
Numerous community leaders, educators, parents and youth will speak out for acceptance and love for LGBT youth, including active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At the request of Alex Smith, a candlelight vigil in memory of Jack Reese will be held at the conclusion of the event.
OUTreach Executive Director Marian Edmonds notes:  “The youth I work with all know either a victim of bullying, the loss of a friend to suicide, and most often, both.  These youth are bright, creative, and loving, yet too often face daily abuse from rejecting families, bullies at school and the loss of their church family.  It is time for local schools to incorporate proven techniques for eliminating bullying and homophobia, for churches to preach love and acceptance, and for parents and families to love and accept their children.  Each loss of life is a loss for all of us, and it must stop now.”
Edmonds underscored the need for accurate education and guidance for ethnically and religiously diverse families and cited the work of the Family Acceptance Project (FAP) at SF State University – a research-based education, support and policy initiative that helps ethnically and religiously diverse families – including Latter-day Saint families – support their LGBT children in families, schools and faith communities to prevent suicide, substance abuse, HIV, homelessness, school victimization and family disruption. FAP uses a culturally grounded approach that strengthens families and promotes their LGBT children’s well-being. FAP’s family education materials are available online in 3 languages at:  http://familyproject.sfsu.edu/publications
Or for more information, contact OUTreach at 801-686-4528, medmonds@ogdenoutreach.org

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Book Review, "Secret Historian"

I enjoy learning about history and I find that it helps me better understand the world and how things became the way they are today. It's very grounding to be able to put some historical context around what exists today. One area of history that I enjoy is the history of homosexuality and it's place in society and culture. I'm currently reading "Secret Historian, The life and times of Samuel Steward, professor, tattoo artist, and sexual renegade".  I'm not finished with it yet, but I thought I would post some information and thoughts about it so far.
Brief Background: Samuel Steward was born in 1909, in Woodsfield, Ohio.  He was the only son of an auditor and an elementary school teacher. His mother died when he was a boy and he was effectively raised by two of his aunts, who owned a boarding house. Steward lived there he was 18, when he (along with his aunts) moved to Columbus, Ohio in 1927 to attend Ohio State University. He recognized that he was homosexual while a teenager. After earning bachelor's (cum laude; 1931), master's (1932), and doctoral (1934) degrees from Ohio State University, he spent the next twenty years in academia. He was a professor of English at Carroll College, Helena, Montana and assistant professor of English at State College of Washington (now Washington State University) in Pullman, Washington. He was dismissed from that position in 1936, however, due to the portrayal of prostitution in his novel Angels on the Bough, published that same year. Steward subsequently moved to Chicago, where he taught as an associate professor of English at Loyola University from 1936 to 1946 and at DePaul University from 1948 to 1954. He lived to be 83 years old.
Early in life he began to keep detailed records of his sexual experiences. He began what he called his "Stud File", in which he meticulously documented the details of each sexual encounter, which amounted to almost 900 different individuals. By the end of his life his journals and files were voluminous and provided a treasure trove for sex researchers.

In the course of his lifetime, Steward became acquainted with some of the most famous and infamous names in twentieth-century art and culture, including Gertrude Stein (lesbian author) and Alice B. Toklas (Stein's life partner and the person responsible for making marijuana brownies famous), AndrĂ© Gide (homosexual Nobel Prize winning author), Thomas Mann (another Nobel Prize winning author), Lord Alfred Douglas (homosexual lover of Oscar Wilde), and Alfred Kinsey (founder of the Institute for Sexual Research). For a brief time, he was the lover of the playwright and novelist Thornton Wilder and many many others. Steward himself was very intelligent and was an accomplished writer and artist.
The book provides not only a history of Steward's very unique life but also provides a window into the otherwise undocumented world of homosexual men and women during the 1920's through 1960's. It was interesting to me that prior to the early 1950's society's attitudes and actions toward homosexuals were not as severe as they were later. This generally fits with what I've read elsewhere that gays were accepted and respected by  many societies during earlier times.
Like many other gays who don't fit well into society, Steward suffered from periods of self-destructive behavior. Steward became an alcoholic but overcame that addition. He was prone to being fixated on various obsessions and compulsions at different times in his life. He suffered through periods of depression and loneliness. At one time he was fascinated by dangerously violent sex and his adventures occasionally landed him in the hospital. 
Later in his life he left academia to become a full time tattoo artist and author of gay pulp fiction novels, which he wrote under many different pseudonyms. He lived most of his life in Chicago and occasionally spent summers in Europe. He moved to the San Francisco Bay area, where he spent the late 1960s as the official tattoo artist of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang. 

Overall, I've found the book to be engaging, educational, and at times humorous. It's a pretty easy read. The presentation of Steward's extensive sex life is treated with respect and candor but without graphic details so it's not uncomfortable to read (assuming you're not uncomfortable with the fundamentals of gay sex).