Idaho Fireside Thoughts

I attended the fireside in Idaho Falls last night, which I found very interesting.  There were some things that I liked about it, and others that I didn’t.  Overall, though, I’m happy that it happened.  The fact that homosexuality was able to be discussed in such a setting is enough to make me feel that things are being done and meaningful strides are being taken on all sides of the issue.

To those who helped plan this fireside, I thank you for doing so.  Creating a place in which this could be openly discusses was so helpful.  I feel that overall it was well received and that it was extremely helpful to a lot of people.  Please do not take anything I say that might be slightly negative personally.

The fireside was set up to resemble a conference.  It began with an opening session in which a few speakers presented the topic of homosexuality.  After the speakers, different groups were held:  a group for gay men, a group for gay women, a group for friends and family, and a group for priesthood leaders.  In these groups, two talks were given, and then a Q&A session was held.  After the Q&A session was complete, everyone met together again and there were a few more speakers, again discussing the topic of homosexuality.

Near the beginning of the fireside, a speaker addressed the use of different terms used when discussing homosexuality, and it was again mentioned in the last talk.  I’m glad this happened, but I feel there needs to be more understanding of interchangeable terms.  If someone prefers to say that they are gay, they shouldn’t be looked down upon for doing so.  In the same way, if a person feels more comfortable saying the are same-sex attracted or same gender attracted, they shouldn’t be looked down upon for that either.  Some general authorities have said that using the word “gay” shouldn’t happen because it signifies that someone is not only attracted to their own gender, but that they are acting out on their attractions.  I disagree.  I have almost always told people I was “gay” because that was just easier than labeling myself in a way that made it sound like I had a disease.  That is my personal preference, but I don’t want people to here me say that I am “gay”, and assume this or that about me.  In short, I feel that it would be best to say something along the lines of “please be understanding as we discuss the topic at hand that the words ‘gay’ and ‘same-sex or same-gender attracted’ may be used interchangeably, and that neither one defines what a person is doing with their attraction”.

I liked that we were able to split into different groups, and I liked the groups that were available.  I feel like all need to be addressed in different ways.  I don’t know that I agree with how they were discussed in the fireside, so I would like to make my comments on how I feel they need to be dealt with.  I wanted to do so by discussing them by the different groups, but after writing this, I have found that so many things cross over into different areas, that it would be easier to just write them all in one area.

I understand why the church takes the stance on homosexuality that it does, and at official church functions, I would expect the church’s stance on the subject to be presented.  I don’t expect the church to change because that would also mean that fundamental LDS doctrines would also have to change.  I don’t think, though, that the church should talk about how those who choose to live a life contrary to those teaching will never be happy, that they will not inherit the Celestial Kingdom, etc.  Really, I don’t think we definitely know what will happen to anyone who is living a life contrary to the church’s teaching.  That’s up to God, and we have absolutely no say in that, so why speculate now.

The focus of the conversation should be that of love.  Not only that God loves us, but that we are loved by church leaders and members.  I think that members of the church want to be understanding, but because of the stereotype surrounding homosexuality, gays and lesbians are seen as only one thing and that image can be a strange and scary one.  If gays and lesbians within the church can know that they are loved by many others, that would help us so much.

There isn’t one right answer for everyone.  There are things personally that I will never advocate, but I will never tell anyone to not try it out either.  For example, I will never advocate change therapy.  If someone were to come to me and tell me they wanted to try it out, I would tell them what I believe are the pros and cons of such (fairly, I hope), and then support them with whatever decision they make.  Some people have been able to find happiness in single life, others have found happiness in marriage to the opposite gender, and some have found therapy helpful.  There are choices that I feel are better, but everyone is different and some answers will work better for them than they will for others.

Priesthood leaders should follow the doctrines of the church.  In my opinion, those are vague, but there are some very definite doctrines surrounding homosexuality.  According to LDS.org:  “People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves… gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. If they violate the law of chastity and the moral standards of the Church, then they are subject to the discipline of the Church, just as others are” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, Nov. 1998, 71).  That is it.  Do not make it more or less than what it is.  Don’t make anyone feel less than humane for having these attractions, especially when they haven’t acted on them.  When someone has acted out on their attractions, the issue becomes one of chastity.  React to what they have done in the same way you would react to someone who is straight and had done the same thing.

To all members of the church, whether you are gay, straight, a bishop, a mother, a friend, are anyone else.  Please be understanding and loving.  No one is perfect.  Everyone has problems they are working on, yourself included.  No matter what you believe about homosexuality, please love those who experience it.  We don’t expect you to understand it or to agree or disagree with our actions.  We just want to feel like we have a place in the church and that we belong there, no matter what we have done.  Church is to be a place to feel peace, solace, and love.  If fear and even slight dislike towards people because of their situations is present, we don’t want to be there.  Life is already hard enough, let’s not add to the pressure.  We want to be loved and we want to be understood.  Please help us help you do that.

Advertisements

Hope For The Future

I’ve gotten to a place in blogging that I don’t know what to blog about.  I don’t want to vent my frustrations here, and I already have another blog for that.  I feel like I’ve said what I’ve wanted to say as far as helping out other members of the church with homosexual attractions.  I kind of want to write to regular members of the church to help them be more understanding, but I don’t know what to say and I don’t want to come off as someone who thinks they are on expert on homosexuality in Mormonism.  All I have to offer is my perspective.

I was thinking today about my family and how well they’ve taken everything.  They have all been so supportive and will always be so supportive.  I started thinking about my older sister and her children.  They are very inquisitive, and I know that they will eventually ask why I’m not married, and when the time is right, they will have to explain that I’m gay, but that’s fine.  Who knows what other doors that will open… 🙂

As this was going through my mind, I started thinking about what I would want them to say.  This also lead me to wonder about what my family has learned (not what I have taught them, necessarily, but just learned) from having a gay family member.

I hope that when the topic comes up, they will talk openly and honestly about it.  That is how the taboo surrounding the topic is formed.  We we speak in vague generalities, people become confused and scared.  We show that we are afraid of what might happen if we tell them too much.  I trust that my family members will know the right degree of which to tell their kids.  I hope that they will be willing to talk to me about it and let me talk to them.  I hope that they will teach them to love everybody regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, belief system, nationality, etc.  I know they will, but I hope they make a conscious effort to do so.  I hope they teach their children correct thoughts.  I don’t want my nieces and nephews to be afraid of me or think I will molest them.

Even further, I hope that they will teach acceptance and to embrace diversity.  I know they will teach them right from wrong and that “acting on homosexuality” is not a part of God’s plan.  I hope they teach them to love gays anyway, no matter what choices they are making.  I hope that they teach their kids that it is absolutely unacceptable to use any derogatory or inappropriate words like fag, queer, nigger, or retard.  I hope most of all, though, that they will teach their kids to stand up for what is right.  I want members of my family to stop any kind of bashing whether it be gay bashing, church bashing, or anything like that.

I want them to correct someone when that someone says that something is ‘gay’ when they really mean to say that something is stupid.

I want them to stand up for the kid on the playground the other kids call a fagot because he isn’t good at sports.

I want them to stop the cycle of hate against people who are “different”.

I want my family to be able to talk openly with others about the fact that they have a gay brother, brother-in-law, or uncle and not be ashamed.  I’m not ashamed of it, and I hope they aren’t either.

I want them to take the time to learn the truth about homosexuality (I’m hoping to write something about the truth and myths about gays).  I don’t care if they are for or against gay rights or whatever.  I just want them to know what they believe and to let people know.  This is how understanding will spread.

I think they already know these things, but in case they didn’t, this is what I want.

A Follow Up To My Last Post

I just wrote the letter for the book about my dad.  I’m glad I did.

The last post conveyed very true and real feelings.  So does the letter I wrote.  I think I needed to get the negative out in order to find the positive.  Here is what I wrote:

I am the eagle, I live in high country
In rocky cathedrals that reach to the sky
I am the hawk and there’s blood on my feathers
But time is still turning they soon will be dry
And all of those who see me, all who believe in me
Share in the freedom I feel when I fly

Come dance with the west wind and touch on the mountain tops
Sail o’er the canyons and up to the stars
And reach for the heavens and hope for the future
And all that we can be and not what we are

This song reminds me of when I got my Eagle Scout Award, and you and Ed sang this.  I’ve loved this song since the first time I heard it.  Hearing you sing it for me was really amazing.  I feel like I can relate to the lyrics well and they describe a lot of how I feel.  I think you recognize that.  I’ve always felt like you would support me in whatever decisions I make, and I’m so grateful for that.  You’ve done so much to guide me and help me become who I am.  I am a strong, independent, and compassionate man.

You’ve taught me that when there is blood on my feathers, that time is still turning and they soon will be dry.  Life has a lot to throw at us, but we can be strong and move forward anyway.

From you, I’ve learned to reach for the heavens, hope for the future, and to be all I can be.  I can overcome obstacles and reach my greatest potential.

I’m so grateful for all that you’ve taught me.  Because of you, I know how to control myself better, to stand up for what is right, and to be more loving.  I’m grateful for the countless fathers blessings and support you’ve given me when making hard decisions or going through hard times.

I love you, Dad!

Dad

My mom came up with an idea to make a book for my dad and for all of us.  Our assignment is to write a letter to him and then she’ll put all these together with some pictures and have it bound and published.  For us.

I like the idea, but when my mom asked me to write a letter to my dad, I felt kind of anxious.

There are a lot of theories out there about how homosexuality is caused.  One of them includes having a distant relationship with your dad.  I don’t think the distance between my dad and I caused my homosexuality, but I do think it probably contributed to it somewhat.

I’m having a really hard time putting words on paper.  I don’t know what to tell him.  Sure, I love him.  Of course I do.  I don’t hate him at all, actually.  We just have a very….different?  Unique?  Uncomfortable?  relationship.

I was surprised with how I reacted while my dad was in the hospital.  I never thought I would experience such an emotional response as I did.  A close MoHo friend of mine had his dad pass away recently.  As I sat in the funeral, I thought a lot about how close my dad came to dying and how hard that was for me.  If I had to give a talk at my dads funeral, I don’t know what I would say.

My dad and I have very different personalities.  He is very organized.  He is very reserved.  He is pretty content in doing what he has always done.  He likes a calm, peaceful life.

I, on the other hand, am very messy and unorganized.  I like to do whatever is on my mind in the moment.  I don’t think a lot of my actions through.  I’m outgoing.  I have a hard time staying in one place for a long time.  I plan to travel a lot, have many different jobs, and live an exciting life.

I don’t want to talk negatively about my dad.  I do want to write about my perception of our relationship, though, which has some negative aspects.

I’ve always felt distanced from him.  I was the rowdy, out of control kid in the family.  I think my dad didn’t understand my creativity and weirdness.  He is a very talented musician, as are most of my family members.  My older sister has an amazing voice, and my dad is an amazing pianist.  They performed together a lot.  I was occasionally asked to perform a song or two with them.  I would watch them practice for hours.  I enjoyed being with them, but felt like the enjoyment wasn’t always mutual because I was noisy or distracting.  I would get jealous of the relationship he had with my older sister. I wanted to feel that connection to my dad that she did.  But it didn’t ever really happen.

My dad became the bishop, and I became one of those bishops kids…   You know, the ones that get suspended from school and are a pain in the butt.  That created a larger distance between us.  I wasn’t really close to any family members at this time.  When I finally came out of that stage, I grew close to my mom and my older sister.  I felt uncomfortable around my dad, and I don’t know why.  It might be because I started realizing the anxieties I felt surrounding my relationships with men, but I don’t know.  There are only two times I can remember feeling a connection with him.  One was when I was 16 and I decided I wanted to fix up an old car.  He helped me to get it running.  I often felt frustrated with him because we communicate very differently, but I enjoyed being able to spend time with him.  The other was when I was 18, and I got my Eagle Scout award.  He and another musician in the ward who had a son getting his Eagle performed a favorite song of mine:  The Eagle and The Hawk by John Denver.  It was really cool to see him take the time to put that together for me.  My sister wrote about her memories of it here.

I can only remember a few times he has hugged me.  When I got my Eagle, when I left on my mission, and when I got home.  Those are the only ones I can remember.  And I actually only remember that he hugged me when I got home.  I just assume he hugged me when I got my Eagle and when I left on my mission.

And now I sit here, crying, because I don’t know what to make of my relationship with my dad.  I know that he loves me, and I love him.  I just wish things could be different.  I wish that we could really let each other know that we love each other.  If I could go back and change him and me and our relationship early on, I would.  I don’t want to change it now because that seems awkward and uncomfortable, and I don’t want to deal with that.  I would rather just keep things how they are.

I love my dad.  I know our relationship is far from perfect, and maybe even sucks sometimes, but I still love him and I know he loves me.  I’m so grateful for all the time he has spent working so our family can have a good life.  I’m grateful for the blessings he’s given me and for the peaceful attitude he has brought into our home.  I’m grateful that he helped shape me into who I am.

Now if I can just figure out how to turn that last paragraph into a letter.

Been A Long Time

It’s been a while since I posted.  There are a lot of reasons for this, but the major two are that I’ve been so busy lately and that I haven’t felt like I have anything else to add to this blog.  I want to keep writing, but I don’t know what to write anymore.

A lot has happened in the last few months.  I moved out of my parents house (for good this time) into this really nice condo with three other guys.  One was a mission companion that knows I’m gay, and the other two I didn’t know.  I told one of them that I was gay, and had a lot of interesting conversations about it.  I agreed with some of what he said, but not always.

Shortly after I told him, he sold the condo and moved to Vegas, so the other two roommates and I found another place to live.  It isn’t as nice as the other one, but it’s still pretty good.  I’ve also been buying a lot of new furniture and I’m really happy about it.  It’s nice to feel so independent.  I came out to my other roommate (on April Fools Day….oops), and he is really cool about it.  We talk a lot about my thoughts and feelings on the matter, and he is generally understanding.  The only time I felt frustrated with it was when he asked me, “So when did you decide to be gay?”.   Yeah…it was funny…ish.  He talks to me about his girl problems and I try to give him advice.  It’s so great to be totally honest with the people I live with.

I’m working a lot, but it’s good.  I sometimes get frustrated with certain aspects of my job, but I love the people I work for.  They totally make it worth it.

I’m starting to figure out my life and where I’m going to go with school and stuff.  It’s good, but also very daunting.  I’ve started looking into grad schools, and that is intense.  I don’t feel like I’m ready to do it, but I need to.  As for right now, I’m looking at the University of Utah and a school in Indiana.  I just got started, so I’m sure there is a lot to do.  Yay.

I’m surviving.  And yes, sometimes it feels like just that.  Survival.  But I am surviving, and I think I’m finally getting to a place where I can stop swimming and start wading – for a few months anyway.

One last thing – those who are interested or who had been following information about my dad and when he got sick, here is an article published by The Deseret News that features his struggle with the Swine Flu (complete with pictures!).

Who I’ve Become

So, the ‘P’ button and the ‘M’ button don’t really work very well (which is funny because P&M are such commonly used letters in MoHo Writings….. Not that I’m trying to say something about P&M, but just so you know, if there is a missing ‘P’ or ‘M’, that is why).

———————————————

I “came out” a little over a year ago.

One year ago, few people would have thought I was gay.  I dressed just like every other guy, spoke the same way every other guy does, and did things that every other guy would do – at least, on the surface.  I still sat at home, secretly watching “What Not To Wear”.

When I was still in the mind frame that told me I was evil because I’m attracted to guys, I thought I would eventually become “one of those gays”.  You know, the ones that march around in colorful women’s clothing and have sex with every man they find.

I also thought that all gays were pedophiles, so I would eventually become one as well.  I think I was taught those two stereotypes for most of my life, so I thought that is what I would become.

Thank goodness I have since realized that just because I am attracted to men does NOT mean I have to be “one of those gays” or a pedophile.

Right after I came out, I had a dream that I was talking with a lisp.  I woke up freaking out, because I don’t talk with a lisp – yet another thing I thought I would eventually do as a gay man.

After a little while, I began to figure out that I don’t have to live up to those stereotypes I had built up in my mind.  I don’t want to.  I just want to be me.

I also realized that there are some parts of myself that I had been keeping in because I thought that if I allowed myself to do those things, people would make some assumptions about me that I didn’t want them to make.  Now that I have accepted the fact that I am attracted to men and I’m being pretty open about it, I’ve allowed myself to let those parts of me come out.  For example, I try to dress better, and a well dressed man obviously means he is gay, right?  haha, just kidding….but really.

I’m not afraid to admit that I watch shows like “What Not To Wear”, or “Project Runway”.  I go shopping more than I used to.  I cook more than I used to.

These are all little things that I wouldn’t necessarily say are stereotypically gay, but these are things that I tried to avoid when I was younger so that people wouldn’t think I was gay.  People have mentioned to me that they have noticed the change, and some have even said that I have become more gay than I was a year ago.  I suppose they might be right, and in some ways it is true.  Really though, I think it has always been there – the desire to dress well, to cook, to sew, to watch the gay TV shows – but I never felt comfortable with letting myself do those things.  Now that I have nothing to hide, I do those things.  Some friends think it is weird.  My family usually just laughs at me (in a nice way, of course) when I come home with new clothes or when I want to watch “Project Runway”, but I think I am finally letting myself do things that I have always wanted to do but felt like I shouldn’t.  I’m being more real with who I am, and I like it.

Atonement

A few years ago, I heard a quote from Chieko Okazaki about the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  I know that when I think about the atonement, it seems very complex and I don’t understand how it can really relate to me.  This quote is quite popular, and was even used in the November Loganside, but I still love it.  I love how Sister Okazaki helps me to understand what the Savior’s atonement does for me individually.

We talk in great generalities about the sins of all humankind, about the suffering of the entire human family. But we don’t experience pain in generalities. We experience it individually.
That means he knows what it felt like when your mother died of cancer- how it was for your mother, how it still is for you. He knows what it felt like to lose the student body election. He knows that moment when the brakes locked and the car started to skid. He experienced the slave ship sailing from Ghana toward Virginia. He experienced the gas chambers at Dachau. He experienced napalm in Vietnam. He knows about drug addiction and alcoholism.
Let me go further. There is nothing you have experienced as a woman that he does not know and recognize.
On a profound level, he understands the hunger to hold your baby that sustains you through pregnancy.

He understands both the physical pain of giving birth and the immense joy. He knows about PMS and cramps and menopause. He understands about rape and infertility and abortion.
He understands your mother-pain when your five-year-old leaves for kindergarten, when a bully picks on your fifth-grader, when your daughter calls to say that the new baby has Down’s Syndrome. He knows your mother-rage when a trusted babysitter sexually abuses your two-year-old, when someone gives your thirteen-year-old drugs, when someone seduces your seventeen-year-old. He knows the pain you live with when you come home to a quiet apartment where the only visitors are children, when you hear that your former husband and his new wife were sealed in the temple last week, when your fiftieth wedding anniversary rolls around and your husband has been dead for two years.
He knows all that.
He’s been there.

He’s been lower than all that.

He’s not waiting for us to be perfect. Perfect people don’t need a Savior. He came to save his people in their imperfections. He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes. He’s not embarrassed by us, angry at us , or shocked. He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief.

You know that people who live above a certain latitude experience very long winter nights and can become depressed and even suicidal, because something in our bodies requires whole spectrum light for a certain number of hours a day.

Our spiritual requirement for light is just as desperate and as deep as our physical need for light. Jesus is the light of the world. We know that this world is a dark place sometimes, but we need not walk in darkness. The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, and the people who walk in darkness can have a bright companion. We need him, and He is ready to come to us, if we’ll open the door and let him.