Monthly Archives: June 2008

How To Support A Same-Sex Marriage Ban Without Coming Across As A Tool

I know I said that I avoided this subject, but well, whatever.  The Mormon blogosphere has been quite abuzz lately over the California Amendment.  With the Church’s urging of people to express their views online it seems that both sides have come out in full force.  Unfortunately, however, the tone that a lot of these conversations take can be very damaging for gay members of the Church.  Discussions too often come down to mudslinging, name-calling, and personal attacks.

This morning, I read a post on a friend’s blog where she supported the ban on same-sex marriage (she doesn’t know that I am gay).  My issue was not over the fact that she didn’t support same-sex marriage, but that her writing was so cold and close-minded.  In my relatively short experience, being open-minded is a virtue and doesn’t involve what you believe, but how you respond when faced with things that you don’t believe.

I know a lot of members of the Church want to show their support of the prophet and speak out for their beliefs and I applaud their efforts.  What I warn, however, is that if you aren’t careful, you can alienate the members of the Church who are gay and striving to live the commandments or even those members who aren’t gay, but are struggling to resolve their faith and personal political views.

Here are some suggestions for when you are writing your blog post or having your conversation at church:

  1. Vinegar just ticks people off.
    Suggesting that people who support same-sex marriage or are unsure of their position are “stupid” or “apostate” isn’t productive.  I assume you are writing a post or comment because you are trying to change someone’s mind or sway their opinion.  Personal attacks never change someone’s mind, but usually solidify it further in their opposition to you.  I had a roommate of another faith who moved out after my sexuality became too much for him to handle.  Now, every time he talks to me he preaches to me about how I need to come to Jesus (he doesn’t believe the LDS Church is Christian).  I found myself reacting so strongly against him that I eventually decided that he was impeding my progress in the gospel and I had to stop contact with him.  I know his intent was to convert me to the “true Jesus”, but his heavy-handedness  was starting to push me further away from God.  If he truly wanted to convert me, he should have tried being more understanding and loving.
  2. Talk about what you know.
    The strongest and most understandable argument for supporting a same-sex marriage ban is that the Lord has a prophet on the earth and that that prophet Thomas S. Monson.  As the Lord’s mouthpiece, he has counseled us to support such an amendment.  State your testimony of his calling and guidance.  If you try to talk science or politics of which you only have a vague familiarity, your arguments starts to lose validity because a lot of gay Mormons know the studies, science, and theories probably better than you.  We can tell if you are talking about something you are completely ignorant of.  It can be like hearing protestant churches talking about what Mormons believe, even though it is obvious that their information came from completely inaccurate sources.  Please, please don’t base your entire knowledge of homosexuals on “that one guy in high school who I’m pretty sure is living with some guy in DC now”.  “I know not save the Lord hath commanded me” (Moses 5:6) is a valid argument.  Your testimony of prophets is your best bet.  Stick with it, unless you really know what you are doing.
  3. Listen.
    I posted some comments on several blogs that had very active discussions about same-sex marriage.  They mostly pointed out the existence of gay Mormons and urged people to think about them as they made their statements.  My comments were largely ignored (interestingly, I was only acknowledged by the person making the most ignorant statements about homosexuality).  I was rather annoyed.  It was pretty clear that I was probably the only one in the discussion who was gay, but people were so busy arguing with each other, that the one person that this issue actually affected personally was disregarded – by both sides.  I briefly came to the conclusion that gays were just pawns in a Mormon political battle.  While I admit now that part of my frustration was due to a bruised ego, realize that these are people and not just principles that you are arguing over.
  4. Imagine that everyone in the room is gay.
    It is possible, even likely, that someone in the Church meeting where you are expressing your opinion is gay or that a gay Mormon will be reading your blog.  You may be concrete in your views, but they may still have questions.  This doesn’t mean that they don’t have faith or a testimony –  they are just still unsure of some things.  Is your statement going to help or hurt their faith?  Imagine that your father/brother/husband is gay.  Could you say the exact same thing to their face without feeling uncomfortable?  No?  Then maybe you should sit back and revise –  not necessarily the end result, but the path to getting there.

The point of all this is that there are real people that are caught in the middle of this debate.  This isn’t an “us” vs. “them” debate because some of “us” are also some of “them” and while it may be easier if they were just “weeded out”, we need to remember that we aren’t the weeders.  The Lord does the weeding.  We are the caretakers.  Everyone is responsible for their own actions, but if we, through our actions or words, make it easier for one of the Lord’s beloveds to leave (regardless of the issue) or serve as a barrier to entry into the Kingdom, we will be held accountable for that.  Doctrine is doctrine, but as Joseph Smith taught:

“No power or influence can be or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness, and meekness, and by love unfeigned.

By kindness, and by pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile-

Reproving betimes with sharpness when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase in love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy.”
D&C 121:41-43. (emphasis added)

Why We Should Accept Straight Mormons For Who They Are

You know, straight Mormons didn’t ask to be straight.  It’s not their fault that they go through their life attracted to members of the opposite sex.  We shouldn’t blame them for who they are.

I know this probably seems silly, but I’m being serious here.  A lot of times we look at straight Mormons with an “us” versus “them” mentality, even if we don’t realize it.  I’ve done it.  A lot.  I’ve caught myself generalizing straight Mormons (especially straight Mormon guys) as intolerant and closed minded.  I’ve even thought that straight Mormons needed to really change their attitudes in order to be real disciples of Jesus and by doing so I immediately became the type of person that I was criticizing.

Should more members of the Church be more accepting of people who are different?  Absolutely, and first person in line for such a change should be me.  And you.  And everyone else.

One of my best friends in high school was my cousin.  She was captain of every team she played on – including the cheerleading squad.  She was an “A” student and was literally the most popular girl in school.  I remember once she confided in me that she felt like an outsider and that no one really liked her.  The most popular girl at our school was admitting that she didn’t feel as though she fit in.  I was confused.  How did she possibly feel as though she didn’t fit in?  I mean if anyone didn’t fit in, it was me.  I was one of only a handful of boys that didn’t play football, a closet gay, into computers and other nerdery, articulate (we are talking the rural south here), and I was a fan of the WB series Popular (this alone probably would have gotten me lynched had it been widely known).  I felt that all this separated me from the popular kids and even though I put on an exterior of not caring about what people thought, on the inside I was desperate to be one of the cool kids.  I didn’t fit in, but I wanted to.

Or did I fit in?  As Mormons, we were part of a minority in a Baptist stronghold, but I was from a “good” family and this alone shielded me from a great deal of abuse by the other kids around me.  “Their dad knew my dad” after all.  I now think about the kids who didn’t have respected families.  The kids who were even more awkward than I was, who were raised by their grandmothers in double-wide trailers, and always wore Wal-Mart brand jeans.  I’d like to say that I was nice to those kids and that we lifted each other up, but I didn’t.  More often than not, I’d give token kindness, only to abandon them when one of the cool kids showed passing interest in me.

Even now when I sit at Church, I sometimes have nagging feeling that I don’t belong there, that I am too different.  I am the puzzle piece that got put in the wrong box and doesn’t fit in with any of the other pieces.

But I am wrong.

All the pieces fit do fit together.  The problem was that we got caught up trying to make the picture of two kittens on the box.  What we didn’t realize was that the puzzle was never meant to make those dumb kittens.  It was meant to be swirls, giant splotches of color, and textures.  It’s the picture on the box that is wrong, not the pieces.  Crap, the picture isn’t even rectangular.

If we think of perfection as everyone conforming themselves to an perceived ideal, then we trying to make a couple of kittens from puzzle pieces that were never meant to make that in the first place.  Perfection is completeness and wholeness: the complete and whole version of ourselves.  In the last Conference, Elder Wirthlin gave a talk in which he urged those who felt themselves falling away because they felt different to stay.  He explained that the Church not only accepts diversity but needs it.  Instead of accepting me in spite of my differences, the Church needs me because of my differences.

Will I accept the challenge?  Will I use the talents, gifts, and experiences that the Lord has blessed (yes, blessed) me with as a way to lift up those around me?  Will I be a friend to those around me that feel different – be they the artsy kid sitting in the back row in jeans or the ward “power couple”?  Will I show understanding to the gruff member of the Church who reacts negatively against gay people because he feels insecure in the current state of the world and what it all means for the future of him and his family?  Will I be a true disciple of Christ?

Lord, please give me strength.

What Gay Mormons Need

“I believe that gay politics will be one of the main forces in near-future years that will weed out the goats from the sheep within Mormonism—not just those who allow themselves to become gay, but also those who sympathize with their politics.”

Bigelow’s Rameumptom

I became saddened this week while reading some Mormon blogs that were discussing California’s same-sex marriage situation right now.  My issue wasn’t over the fact that they were opposing same-sex marriage, but that it was obvious that some of the people writing the blogs have never met a gay Mormon in their life.  At least, I hope they haven’t because if they have and still maintain their antiquated views, I’m concerned by the lack of charity among the membership.

Last week, I sent an email to my family telling them about my “situation”.  The response was almost completely positive.  It was obvious that one of my sisters was unsure what it all meant, but she still made it clear that she loved me.  I got several “we feel sorry you’ve dealt with this for so long without us”-type responses and, to be honest, I was mildly annoyed by that.  I knew what they meant, but in actuality, telling them is going to be a lot of work on my part because for several of them, I’m basically going to have to “train” them on how to deal with me.

In the past, if you found yourself gay and in the church, you buried it, married some unsuspecting woman, and white-knuckled your way though life.  Unfortunately, repression like that has side effects.  If you are trying to bury gayness, the guilt and shame guarantees that sexuality is going to rule your life.  It messes with your head.  When you are constantly trying to force the thought of men from your mind, you are constantly thinking about the men around you…every man around you.  Your sexuality becomes an emotional problem that you self-medicate with pornography and other sexual addictions.  That is what homosexuality used to be.

But times are changing.  I’m not saying that the gay community doesn’t have its “dirty little secrets”, because it certainly does, but as homosexuality and gay marriage enters more and more in the mainstream (which it will), it is going to become more of an appealing option for those who find themselves struggling over which path to follow.

I’m not suggesting the church change doctrine, but as society forces guys to face their sexuality earlier and earlier, the church is going to lose even more gay guys to the world than they are now (and trust me, it’s already losing more than it is retaining).  Most teenagers don’t have the firm testimony necessary for seeing them through a crisis of sexuality and while in times past, sheltered upbringings (like mine) allowed guys to “put off” issues of sexuality until later, that is going to become less common.  In order for these guys to grow and gain the testimony that they are going to need to see them through the rough times ahead, they are going to need to feel that the Church is a safe place for them to figure all that stuff out.

And right now, it’s not.

The current attitude among members, which is reminiscent of “don’t ask, don’t tell”, just gives the message that this is something that we need to hide and that it is something that we should be ashamed of.  Policies like, for example, counseling that we shouldn’t maintain close relationships of the same sex just gives the message that, because you are gay, you can’t control yourself and are naturally predisposed to sin.  Such attitudes don’t foster a safe environment that is needed to foster faith and testimony.

Faced with that atmosphere, guys are going to look at the message that the world offers that with gay marriage they, too, can have loving families (which is what we want, hard as it may be to believe).  Then they are going to leave.

Here is what we need in order for the Church to be a safe environment for gay members:

  1. We need to feel accepted for who we are.
    Feeling that being gay is something that you never want us to talk about with makes us assume that you will only tolerate us if we don’t “go there”.
  2. We need it to not be assumed that we are participating in grievous sin simply because we are gay.
    The general attitude in the church seems to be that you assume worthiness unless proven otherwise.  This should apply to us, too.
  3. We need to feel needed.
    We have talents, just like everyone else and we want to serve.  We don’t want to be the ones you “just don’t know what to do with”.
  4. We need to not feel pressured to enter into heterosexual relationships.
    The Church is getting better about this, but a lot of bishops still maintain the attitude that if you haven’t acted out on your feelings you aren’t completely gay and you can still be swayed back to heterosexuality by dating and marriage.  Also, alluding to number 2, don’t assume that we don’t want to get married because we don’t feel like we could control ourselves.  I don’t forsee getting married not because I worry that I will start toe-tapping Senators in bathrooms, but because romantic relationships with women don’t feel normal, natural, and above all, honest to me (this is even assuming the woman knows that I’m gay).
  5. We need you not to criticize us if we decide to date and marry.
    Some guys feel that they can enter into a marriage and make it work.  Their marriage will have enough hurdles without everyone assuming that it is some sort of sham.
  6. We need to stop hearing hate-filled statements at Church about gay people.
    When you talk about how “gross”, “unnatural”, and “weird” gays are, you are saying the same thing about me sitting next to you in Elder’s Quorum.  Taking a stand against immorality is hating the sin.  Talking about how you would rather your son be dead than gay is hating the sinner.

It seems to be a popular thought that the issue of same-sex marriage is going to separate the Church from the world and I agree.  Some even forsee a wave of persecution aimed at the Church for our stance on the issue.  What I’m worried about is that in their zeal to separate themselves from the world, the members of the Church harden their hearts to the faithful gay members doing our best to live the commandments.  Living the Gospel can be hard enough (for everyone).  The last thing we need is to make it harder for each other.

Also “those who allow themselves to become gay” is one of the most ignorant things I’ve heard in a while.

To My Family:

Hey everyone.  I hope you all will forgive the mass email, but at the time it seemed to be the best way of going about this.

In an effort to live my life in a manner that is less shut off from those that love me and, you all being my family, I feel you should know what is going on in my life.  To make a really…really long story short, I’m gay.  It’s something that I’ve known since I was a kid and even before I knew what “gay” was.

(I use the word “gay” for myself rather than the Mormon acronym “SSA” for reasons of principle, which I won’t go into here.)

It hasn’t always been easy living as a member of the Church and gay.  On my mission I was, for the most part, able to put my sexuality on the back burner and devote my efforts to service but after coming back, I began to realize that I wasn’t going the be able to follow along the path of marriage and family quite like “everyone else” which, at times, I found very frustrating.

Both my testimony of the Gospel and my sexuality are inseparable parts of me and the internal battle between the two seemingly polar opposites became very, very tiring.  After years of confusion I finally decided, thanks to some much needed revelation from the Lord, that I wanted to live according to the commandments and not live as a “practicing” gay man.  I felt at peace with my decision to stay in the Church even though I felt that God’s love for me was independent of my own choices.  I haven’t completely ruled out the possibility of marriage and family, but for me it doesn’t seem to be a possibility anytime soon.

So, that’s where I am now.  I’m by no means perfect, but I have the goal to live a life that reflects my testimony and I am actively seeking to accomplish that.  It can be difficult at times as my friends slowly get married and move on with their lives and seem to leave me behind.  It can prove frustrating, too, when I am faced with ignorant and plain inaccurate views of homosexuality by some members at church, but I have great people around me who love me unconditionally and I feel lucky to have them in my life.  I also feel that God loves me and that’s, you know, a big plus.

I appreciate all of you and the consistent support that you have given me.  I love you all even if I don’t call to talk to you very often.  My friends know your names because I frequently talk to them about you and your families.  If you have any questions, you are more than welcome to give me a call, or if you’d rather, an email, or neither.  I’m flexible :-).

Your brother,


Celibacy, Creativity, and Why I Can’t Finish A Freaking Story

I came across one of those list articles on the internet “revealing” six historical figures that lived much of their lives celibate (by choice).  Part of me wondered if they were only celibate from the ladies (wink, wink).  With examples like Hayden and the guy who wrote Peter Pan, it isn’t that far of a stretch of the imagination, but as I read further, I came across Ghandi, Nickolai Tesla, and Sir Isaac Newton.  Tesla viewed sex as a “drain on creativity”, valuing his work over the marriage and family.  As I read, I remembered an article in Blender where Rivers Cuomo (lead singer of the band Weezer) talked briefly about his more than two-and-a-half year vow of celibacy (which is no small feat for a rock star, I’m sure), which he did for meditation and creative reasons.

Here I am, celibate, young, and creative, and yet I spend almost every evening staring at an empty Word document for hours before giving up and going to bed.  Seriously.  I don’t have a wife/kids/girlfriend/boyfriend/California-domestic-partner to take up my time and energy.  I’m not actively pursuing any of the above, yet I find myself devoting hours of effort into writing and creating only to end up with virtually nothing at the other end.

If sexlessness were the key to great thinking, one would assume I would have a couple of PhDs, a successful string of novels, and my own humor column in the New Yorker by now, yet here I sit in my inadequately air-conditioned studio apartment in the south with a hard drive full of empty .doc files.

I blame my nemesis.

To be honest, I don’t think my nemesis even knows that he is my nemesis.  To be more honest, I’m really not even on his radar.  While I was in college, I was selected by the faculty to direct a short under the guidance of a famous TV director (well, the director wasn’t famous, but the TV shows he directed were famous).  The script that was selected was written by another student.  He was also made a producer on the short.  (For those that don’t know, in television producer > director.)  I read through the script and groaned.  While I liked the premise, I hated just about every part of the execution.  The dialogue was unrealistic, the humor was inconsistent, the pacing of the script was abysmal.  I took out my pen and went to work rewriting.  By the time I was finished the pages ran red with my notes.  Some pages were even completely crossed out.

At our first pre-pro meeting, we went over my notes for the script.  The first one I presented was completely shot down by my nemesis.  So was the second…and the third.  Realizing that none of my notes were going to fall on willing ears, I threw them out and decided to shoot the script as is.

It was an uphill battle for a while.  I was cowed by the producers into casting an actor that I thought was terrible (who happened to be good friends of my nemeis), the semi-famous director was unable to teach the class due to a death in the family, and I faced constant criticism from my director of photography.  I eventually felt vindicated, however.  The fill-in instructor (who generally liked my work) suggested we drastically cut down a scene and in the edit we essentially removed the lines from the pages that I had thrown out earlier.  When the movie was reviewed by the student newspaper, my direction was applauded (which is funny as I realize now how terrible it was), and the criticisms the reviewer made of the script also reflected my ignored notes.

We graduated and I took a job with a production company in the southeast while my nemesis moved to LA.  We kept in touch off and on – each comparing accomplishments.  He was mostly doing production assistant work for various TV shows while I worked on regional commercials – usually as the editor, but in other capacities as well.  At the end of last year, I was able to work as the 2nd Assistant Director (a title that sounds more important than it actually is) on a cable TV show in LA and I figured I had him beat for a while.  I ended up hating the job, however, and decided that I wanted to start moving my career into online content production – both written and video.  No matter how hard I tried to concept an idea for a site or even to write portfolio-building articles on my regular blog, I usually ended up with frustrated attempts and abandoned sites.  My friends that often tell me I need to write a book only exacerbate the problem as I am unable to finish even the shortest of stories.

Recently, I heard the writer/producer interviewed on NPR.  NP-freaking-R.  A stunt for the comedy website that he and his friends had started had gotten him into the Guiness Freaking Book of World Freaking Records.  A couple of days ago I saw that the podcast segment of the site was in the Top 100 on iTunes.  I’ve always considered myself more talented than him.  My ideas were simply better and I wasn’t the only one that thought so, but as I sit in front of yet another blank Word document, I realized that my nemesis has something that I don’t have.  Whatever it is, it allows him to take his tired, mediocre concepts and turn them into something that gains national attention.

I’m the one that is celibate.  I’m the one that has long lonely evenings in which I can churn out the worlds next great novel.  I’m the one.  When is this lack of doing it going to get me some talent?  Without it, I’m just a penniless twenty-six year old sitting on his cheap Ikea couch without the possibility of getting laid.


In the end, I’m happy for him.  In reality he isn’t the talentless hack I sometimes wish him to be.  My frustration actually comes from jealousy.  When I look at my life and wonder how I will make an impression or am I doomed to be a forgotten terminating branch on someone’s pedigree chart?  Some thirteen year old boy scout who is earning a genealogy merit badge will ask his mom a hundred years from now if I was a baby that died in child birth, but after checking, she’ll see that no, I actually lived to be quite old, however there wasn’t any record of me getting married or having any children.  I guess I am hoping to fill my life with something that people might remember me by – even if it is someone who picks up some random book in a library.  If I can’t have the one, I should be able to have the other, right?  Maybe not.  God doesn’t care about whether our name becomes a byline.  All He cares about is that we learn to love others and find our way back to Him.  It’s by service to others that we find the fulfillment that we seek.  If it can’t be our family, then it should be those around us who need our help and our talents (which is the real reason that we have them).  Still, NPR….

Tesla, you suck.

Intelligently Designed Personal Evolution

I was on my knees next to my bed with my face buried into my mattress.  Thoughts raced through my head and my breathing was uncontrollable.  I clenched my eyes shut as I fought what I would later recognize as a panic attack.  Inaudibly, I repeated over and over again, “I’m not gay.  I’m not gay.”

No matter how many times I repeated the words it didn’t change anything.  My stomach tightened into a rock.  I would have probably felt better if I threw up, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to.  I was too tense.  I just felt like laying on the floor with the hope that if I was there long enough I would be completely forgotten and eventually cease to exist altogether.  I was sixteen.

I had been watching a music video over our dial-up connection to the internet.  It was a one hit wonder that six months later would be forgotten by nearly everyone, but I would remember it for years, because as I watched I caught myself looking at the male lead singer.  I realized that I wasn’t just looking, I was looking.  I freaked out and ran up into my room, closing the door behind me.  Had it been the first time, I probably would have been able to write it off as curiosity, something, anything, but I knew that I was facing something that I had been trying to run away from for years.  I was gay and I knew it.

Still, I tried to bury it.  I told myself that it was “one of those things” and that if I didn’t think about it, it would just go away eventually.  For the most part, I was successful.  Throughout most of my mission, I was able to put away thoughts about my sexuality as I focused on serving the Lord.

Soon after I got off my mission, however, I found my old fears reclaiming their dominance in my mind.  I dated several girls, but I was never able to think of them as more than friends – anything more felt dishonest to me, even when they knew about my situation.  It was hard to see those around me getting married, having children, and continue on with their lives as I felt trapped behind.  I soon sank into a deep depression and I started to feel angry with God for placing me in what I felt to be an impossible situation.  I could date men and feel normal (which is how my attraction to men felt) but I would be at odds with God and my religion.  If I dated and eventually married a woman, I would feel a measure of satisfaction knowing that I was following His plan for me, but I also felt I would likely grow bitter and even angrier than I already was.  The third option, to live a life without a “significant other” was terrifyingly lonely to me.

Years passed as I was pulled back and forth between two choices that I didn’t want.  A change came when I was in a new city.  After wrestling with the issue that had been in the forefront of my mind since before I knew what  “gay” was, I felt God give me a nudge by, well, not giving me a nudge at all.  In a moment of revelation I felt that God loved me no matter who I was and what I did and that He truly understood my situation.  I didn’t feel the anger and the hatred from Him that deep down I had expected.  He just let me know that the decision was mine and no matter what I chose, that He still loved me.  I recognized that there would be positive and negative consequences on both sides, but knowing that He loved and supported me allowed me to truly make a decision that was mine and not motivated by fear or self-hatred.  I decided to stay in the Church and not act upon my attractions.  Even though my future was uncertain, I felt peace in having made a decision that I knew to be the right one for me.

I’d like to say that it’s been easy since then, but it hasn’t.  Sometimes it’s been downright miserable and there have been times that my resolve has been shaky at best.  I’m not perfect and sometimes my personal outlook can get pretty grim, but as soon as the dark moments pass and the leaves on the trees become green again, I still recognize that I am on the path that I want to be on and it is the one that I chose.  I now try to look at my life as an opportunity to help those around me in a way that I might not have been able to do had things been different.

Today, I’m thankful for my friends that laugh at my dumb jokes and ignore my really dumb jokes.  That jam with me on Rock Band and barely cringe when I scream along to an Emo song.  That indulge my overly introspective IM sessions and sit through the latest foreign film that I am infatuated with.  That brighten my day with emails detailing their latest adventure.  That put up with my moodiness.  That watch horrible 90’s teen dramedies with me.  That send me a text message saying that they miss me and make me feel needed.

I’m thankful for family that talks with me on a phone for an hour when I am bored and strolling around the park.  That thinks of me as “cool” when I’m feeling very lame, indeed.  That thinks I can do just about anything when I don’t feel like I am very capable at all.

If you are one of those people or if you are a part of my life in some other way, I thank you.  Even thought I don’t recognize you enough, you are appreciated more than you know.