Monthly Archives: July 2008

5 Ways To Spot A Gay Mormon

Let’s face it, with the advent of metrosexuality and modern concepts of hygiene and grooming, it’s now harder than ever to determine if the guy in the snappy pinstripe suit sitting next to you in your singles ward Elder’s Quorum “plays for the other team”, “swings that way”, or “overuses clichés” if you “get my drift”. But with this handy list, you’ll now be able to pick that homormon out of Institute class faster than an English student correcting your grammar, even when it doesn’t fricking matter!

  1. He sings in the choir even when he isn’t trying to get a date with a soprano.
    This guy actually wants us to believe that he enjoys singing. Nice try Mr. Homosexual! The next thing you’ll want us to believe is that acting in the Ward Roadshow is a “great way to get to know people”. If by “people” you mean “dudes” then yes it is.
  2. He’s 25 and single.
    Nothing says menace to society and flaming queer like being unmarried and in your late twenties. In fact, being unmarried after your 25th birthday is actually one of the biggest causes of homosexuality. Look it up. It’s science.
  3. He “hangs out” with girls a lot.
    Everyone knows that since hanging out ban was made the eleventh commandment, the only righteous way to spend time with the ladies is to take them out on a date that is paid for and prearranged. Anything less organized or expensive should be considered homosexual behavior.
  4. He brings a pie to the Linger Longer.
    Any cooking done by a straight man has to be in grill or dutch oven form and usually involves ground beef and tin foil. What will he bring next? Non-M&Med cookies?!
  5. He doesn’t kiss on the first date.
    Don’t let his assertions that he respects women fool you, if he refuses to kiss a girl until at least the second or (wait for it) ….third date, he must be terrified of women and therefore is a gay.

There you have it, five foolproof signs for picking out the gays in your ward. Always remember that the gay is all around us. If we aren’t vigilant, the next thing you know, we’ll have gay bishops, stake presidents, and even home teaching consultants!

(Okay, seriously, what does a home teaching consultant do? I mean, it sounds like home teaching coordinator, but if they wanted me to be the home teaching coordinator, then why didn’t they just call me to be that? What’s with the whole singles-ward-invent-a-calling thing? I totally need to do my home teaching….)

Iraquis, Bug Boys, and the Cycle of Hatred

They come every summer to our singles ward and swell the membership rolls by around fifty or so.  “Bug Boys”, they are usually called, although they usually refer to themselves as “Summer Sales” guys.  This army of young men (and a few women) flood neighborhoods during the humid months of June, July, and August selling pest control, alarm systems, satellite dishes, and whatever else their Western-based company is hawking.  Some are making money for their missions, some are trying to pay for college, and some are looking to expand their dating pool.  Occasionally, a few of these guys successfully integrate into the ward and there are several “it” members of the local social scene who originally arrived as bug boys.  Most often they stick to themselves, their shore-leave style attitudes putting off most of the locals who are ingrained with southern gentlemen and woman sensibilities.

When the Elder’s Quorum instructor posed the question, “How can we see a shift in values in the world today?” it was one of the bug boys from Utah that raised his hand.

“Homosexuality,” he responded.

“How so?” the teacher pressed for clarification.

“The world says it’s okay to like dudes,” the bug boy succinctly said.  The teacher remained in a stoic silence and the bug boy continued talking. My friend shot a glance over to me.  I rolled my eyes and sighed deeply.  I found myself being frustrated at the words being spoken, which were laced with a tone of disgust and anger.  I wanted to raise my hand, out myself, and tell this young guy that he didn’t know what the crap he was talking about.  I wanted to see the look on his face when he realized that one of those homosexuals that he hated so much was sitting in the same room with him at church.  But I didn’t.  The problem was, there was a lot of truth mixed in with his comments.  Extraction of the doctrine from the bigotry would require time and a calm surgeon and at that moment, neither existed.  The instructor deftly steered the conversation in another direction.  I looked over to my other friend, who was also gay.  He raised his eyebrows and shrugged his shoulders in a “what are ya gonna do?” sort of way.

The rest of Church passed pleasantly and the week moved on.  While passing a lull at work, I navigated on over to and found a story about the persecution of homosexuals in Iraq.  Being gay in Iraq can be a death sentence which death is carried out only after days of torture and rape.  A shaved chest can be all the proof that some militias need to murder those suspected of being gay.  I recalled the Iranian prime minister when speaking at Columbia University callously (or ignorantly) remarking, “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals.”  I felt a familiar anger rise.  Did that bug boy think the same thing?  “In the Church, we don’t have homosexuals.”  I envisioned him in a group of Boy Scouts in Utah when he was younger, humiliating the queer-acting kid.

And then I stopped.

I realized that I was as guilty as the bug boy.  Actually, I was more guilty because I really knew the outcome of such anger and its source.  I was taking my anger at the Iraqi murders and associating it with a young man that was not guilty of such atrocities just like he was taking his own personal discomfort (and perhaps experience) and using it to cloud his judgment of all homosexuals.  We were both wrong – but I more so.  Because I knew better.

I am not a patient person.  In my desire to change the world and create safe places where everyone can grow spiritually, I sometimes let my personal frustrations get in the way and I have to fight the desire to call people out on their own personal hypocrisies.  But how can one fight ignorance and intolerance without creating a hypocrite of himself?  The God Loveth His Children pamphlet provides some insight when it advises, “Some people with same-gender attraction have felt rejected because members of the Church did not always show love. No member of the Church should ever be intolerant. As you show love and kindness to others, you give them an opportunity to change their attitudes and follow Christ more fully.”

It was obvious when I thought about it.  We can never change someone else.  We can change ourselves, the example of which can prompt other people to reevaluate their own lives.  If we try and force people to change through anger or public scorn, then we become just as hypocritical as they can be (if not more so).  That is what we gay members of the Church have to do.  We have to be the bigger person.  We have follow the example of Christ as closely as we can, focusing on serving others and truly growing spiritually in spite of the attitudes around us.  Basically, we have to turn the other cheek.  If people still think that we are evil, they will be judged according to their beliefs and it is out of our hands.  After all, Jesus taught:

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;  That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”  (Matthew 5:44-45)

I have a feeling that I will fail miserably sometimes.  I am not only impatient, but proud.  In the end, it will likely be my pride the Lord requires me to sacrifice.  But, hopefully, by trying to be the type of person God would have us be, we can all manage to help this Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints live up to its divinely-inspired name.

How Running Is Saving My Soul

A couple of months ago, I decided (once again) that I was going to take up running. It was a decision that I had made countless times before as I fantasized about doing 5ks, 10ks, and even triathlons. I laced up my casual-style shoes and went jogging in the park near my home. The next day as I got out of bed, a sharp pain shot through my right foot. It was if a bit of living electricity had crawled in there and decided it was going flip that house. We had a shoot, so I spent all day hobbling around set with people asking if I was okay. I enjoyed the attention, but at the same time blowing it off to appear indifferent to the pain. I told myself I wasn’t allowed to go running again until I could buy proper shoes. Money was tight, so it would be another month or so before I could justify buying them.

In the meantime I started walking – everywhere. I started leaving my car at work and taking public transportation. By not having my car at home, it forced me to walk to places like the bank and grocery store, which were only a few blocks away, but previously were locations that I might have driven to on my way somewhere else. I soon discovered that walking everywhere was not only making me feel better physically, but spiritually as well. Free from the stress of traffic I found myself connecting with the city more. I started to notice just how many trees were packed into the spaces between the concrete and how many squirrels lived in the trees. I used the time while walking to meditate on whatever was concerning me at that moment.

After a month or so, I bought some cheap running shoes from Target and took off through the park. I had downloaded a couch-to-5k running podcast and had figured that I probably was on the level of week 8 of the 9-week program. I was a pretty fit guy after all, right?

Only 10 minutes into the run, I realized that I was in over my head. I came home and downloaded the week 1 episode.

And here is the point where I turn all this into a precarious metaphor for the Gospel.

For me, the Gospel is like running. I have all these big dreams of the things I can accomplish and the good it will do, but traditionally I throw myself in with such force that I usually end up exhausted, bruised, and with a desire to vomit. I would become discouraged and lay on the couch to watch tv. But this time, running (the Gospel, stick with me, here) has been different than every other attempt at commitment. I’ve forced myself to go slowly. I no longer constantly focus on running triathlons, but just enjoy the improved health I feel. If it leads to a triathlon, great. If not, whatever. In the Gospel, I still have some very important questions that I’ve put off answering until later. I’m just enjoying the improved spiritual health that I’ve experienced. Interestingly, one or two of those unanswerable questions has “accidentally” made themselves less incomprehensible….

Even in high school, I was never the fastest runner. In fact, I was almost always near the back of the group, but as the top one or two would start to falter, I would keep going. My legs would burn and I my pace would slow to an almost-walk, but I would keep going. You see, I am an endurance runner. I’ve never been a sprinter and probably never will be, but after many bright stars have fallen to the earth in a flash of burning light, you’ll still hear my rhythmic breathing in the dark, slowly moving forward.

Why I Accept My Homosexuality (And What That Actually Means)

I was talking with a bishop once where I said that I needed a certain amount of “gayness” in my life in order to be happy.  He was taken aback and likened it to someone saying that they needed a certain amount of sin in their life in order to be happy.  I knew that that wasn’t what I meant, but I couldn’t really explain myself then.  As the years have passed, however, I now know how to express what I meant then.

I accept myself as a homosexual.  By so doing, I accept the fact that I have attractions to members of my own sex.  I do not accept that I have to act on those inclinations.  I do not accept that I have to live a certain lifestyle.  A lot of people get real jittery when gays in the Church start “accepting their homosexuality”.  They seem to be confused why gays feel the need to talk about their homosexuality or even to refer to themselves as gays, SSA, SGA, homosexuals, whatever.  If homosexuality is a sin, shouldn’t you try to separate yourself as far as possibly from it?  Shouldn’t you try and be straight?  Yes…and no.

The main problem with gay people trying to be straight is…well, we are not.  Don’t get me wrong, many gay Mormons are leading happily married lives and for most of us, marriage is the ultimate goal (whenever that may happen).  For some guys, homosexual attractions have diminished over time and for a select few, homosexual attractions have disappeared altogether, but for many of us, homosexual attractions will be present for us in some degree for the rest of our lives.  Some of us swing so far right on the Kinsey Scale that we are unsure if we will ever get married in this life.  Seeing that homosexual attractions will likely be ever present, there can be danger in thinking of oneself as “straight” – just like everyone around us – because our individual circumstances often dictate that we act differently than other (straight) people around us.

For example, if I am attracted to a man and I get the feeling that he is attracted to me as well, I have the personal rule to try and not allow myself to get into a situation in which I may be alone with him.  By so doing, I remove the possibility of something inappropriate happening.  Do I think something might happen?  Not really, but it can’t if the situation never has a chance to present itself.  Do straight guys worry about such things?  No.  (They don’t, right?)  But I have to consider them.  Why?  Because I am gay.

So, for me, identifying myself as gay (or SSA, SGA, whatever) serves as a reminder of the additional boundaries that I have had to establish in my life in order to keep myself protected from unique temptation that I experience.

But there is another reason why I accept my homosexuality – to survive.  For whatever reason, being “in the closet” (I use this term in the LDS context of actively hiding one’s homosexual tendencies while trying to pass as straight) can cause lots of anxiety, despair, and depression.  Now, I don’t think that every gay guy in the Church needs to start wearing a rainbow tie to sacrament meeting, but there is a big difference in not talking about your sexuality because you don’t feel the need to and not talking about your sexuality because you feel you will be actively rejected by those around you if you do.  The Lord has made it very clear that homosexual acts are a sin, but homosexual attractions are not.  If we are made to feel that we should be ashamed for even having homosexual attractions – it’s very easy to turn that into self hatred, which leads to very bad things.  Every time in the past that I personally have allowed myself to slip into the “I’m straight, just like everyone else” mindset or felt the necessity to keep my sexuality to hidden because of likely rejection, I’ve always been slammed with massive depression and even suicidal ideations.  We don’t need to talk about it constantly (my friends sometimes point out that they’d expected me to talk more about it), but we need to know that we can talk about it without being the target of a real-world “smear the queer”.

“Some people with same-gender attraction have felt rejected because members of the Church did not always show love. No member of the Church should ever be intolerant. As you show love and kindness to others, you give them an opportunity to change their attitudes and follow Christ more fully.” (God Loveth His Children)

In my interactions with other members of the Church on the issue of homosexuality, I’ve often found myself grow hot under the collar when faced with ignorant attitudes and views.  In my haste to respond, if I have ever come across as unkind or accusatory towards others over this issue, I do apologize.  That was not my intent.  In my desire to have the Church be a safe haven for all of Heavenly Father’s children, I admit to sometimes being impatient.  This is not the correct response, however, but I should respond with love and kindness – including to those who may not be showing it.  It is by showing love (for our friends and our enemies) that we learn to be followers of Christ.

And that is one thing that hopefully we all can self-identify as.

The Gay Ward

This week I’ve been thinking about what the goal of this blog is.  If I had my way, what changes would I make among the membership and what would I consider to be a success?

I realized that a lot of the attitudes that I’d like to see in the Church as a whole, I already experience in my own singles ward.  It’s actually pretty rare to hear a homophobic remark at church or even by the members.  Even when gay jokes are made, they usually lighthearted and lack the edge of “that’s gross”.  Of those friends at Church I’ve told about my sexuality, I’ve universally been met with love and acceptance – even among those who are incredibly straight-laced.  I’m sure there are those out there who are uncomfortable with homosexuality, but it seems as though they don’t make their discomfort known very vocally.

While not racially very diverse (it is in the suburbs, after all), the ward is very diverse in terms of people’s backgrounds and interests.  When my straight-as-nails home teacher found out that I worked in television, he told me of his interest in acting and how he loved being in plays in college.  Some of the artsy/choir-boy types have destroyed me while playing Smash Brother’s Brawl on the Wii.  Even the Super Molly Mormon loves talking with me about quirky low-budget indie movies.  Most everyone seems fairly well rounded and balanced and when I really sit down and think about it, I realize how lucky I to be around such great people.

It wasn’t quite the same in my previous ward in a small southern town.  While the members were good people, I was definitely an anomaly.  It was a family ward, but had a relatively large YSA population being set near a large university.  The school drew a few “liberal Mormons”, but while I felt more accepted by them, I still didn’t find myself having too much in common because, while I give off a left-wing vibe, I’m actually fairly conservative.  Most of my friends who knew about my sexuality were very loving, but it was obvious that some had a bit of a hard time reconciling it with their beliefs.  I had my friends, but I didn’t feel very accepted by the ward as a whole.

Even though most of the differences are cultural, the biggest difference between my old ward and new is acceptance of people that are different – regardless of whether that difference is sexuality or voting for Obama.  At my old ward, even among my friends who listened to the same kind of music and liked the same kind of movies as I did, my sexuality was sometimes still awkward and foreign.  And that, I think, is the reason behind the acceptance of my sexuality – the experience of the members of the ward with gay people.

For most of the people at my old ward, their only experience with gay people was probably driving past that seedy club by the airport, but at my current ward, many of the members grew up around gay people in school and in their neighborhoods.  While they might not be 100% “whoo-hoo, fairies!” they do have enough experience with gay people to know that they aren’t the boogeymen that they can sometimes be portrayed to be.

And that is why it’s important to talk about the issue.  After putting up a post about gay marriage on a mainstream Mormon blog, one commenter chastised the author with, “Shame on you for bringing up such a controversial topic!”

Um, what?

In the vast majority of cases, talking is a good thing (and this is one of those cases).  It helps people to look past the misconceptions and bad feelings to get to the truth. Opinions based on truth are a good thing.  We encourage people of other faiths to talk to us directly before coming to a conclusion of our Christianity or beliefs.  Shouldn’t we do the same for gay people?   What’s the worst that could happen?

Confessions of a Former Sissy

It’s amazing how growing up in the south can scour the fairy right out of a kid.  I grew up in the redneck-saturated rural south in a town that couldn’t legitimately be called a town unless the only frame of reference was Antarctica.

For the first part of elementary school, I played with everyone.  If the boys were playing kickball, I played kickball.  If the girls were playing dolls, I played dolls.  Then, around the fifth grade, I noticed a change in everyone around me.  The boys started to be interested in girls in a way that I was uncomfortable with.  Their language became rougher and offended my young Mormon ears.  The girls were now interested in the other boys and no longer wanted to play with me, either.  I was sensitive and was still one of the smallest kids in my class.  My athletic abilities hadn’t progressed like the other boys and soon I was soon outclassed. I hung around the cheerleaders frequently and could even be found making posters and cheering on the sidelines at games.  When I reluctantly played on the pee-wee football team, I ended up crying when we lost the game.

I cried easily.

The friends I had were those who fell out of the group for whatever reason: the tomboys, the freaks, the emo kids (before there even were emo kids), the poor kids, the protestants who were actually trying to live their religion (and thus pushed to the edge of society), the fat kids, etc.  My mom was proud of me for befriending the unpopular kids, but to be honest, I would have dropped them in a second for a chance to be one of the cool kids (and occasionally, I did).

Entering the seventh grade posed a problem.  My school was so small that every boy who wanted to be on the football team got a uniform.  This meant that almost every boy from seventh to twelfth grade was on the football team.  I hated football, but when I voiced my concern to the adults around me, all I was told was that if I wanted to fit in, I had to play.  I did see one way out, however.  A few years older than me was a kid who was great at basketball.  He was also smart and was considered one of the “good kids”.  No one bothered him for not playing football – mostly because he was so good at basketball that they understood his desire to focus on one sport.  I decided to not play football, but join the basketball team.

Even from my first practice, I knew deep down that I was never going to be good at basketball.  I kept playing because I genuinely enjoyed it (lack of talent aside), but I knew if I was going to survive, I had to throw my efforts into the other two areas: smarts and being the “good kid”.  To be honest, I didn’t have to put much effort into it.  I always got good grades and the level of education was so poor that cruising by was easy.  Everyone knew that I was Mormon, so that took care of the “good kid” part.

All that was left was to kill the “sissy” side of me.  Cheering on the sidelines was out and I monitored my actions and words closely to make sure no overly feminine gestures or phrases escaped.  I played up my image of the “smart kid” and fought back against attacks with cutting remarks and talked in big words, which confused my enemies (seriously, I was like a nerd in a frigging ABC Family movie).  I was the teacher’s pet and at such a small school, having the faculty on your side was an advantage rather than a crutch.  Soon, the other kids didn’t bother me at all, but then again they didn’t talk to me, either.  In order to protect me from everyone else I had successfully, but unintentionally, pushed them away.  When Columbine happened, the other kids (and a couple of faculty members) threw a wary glance in my direction.  I was a disgruntled outsider – was I going to shoot up the school?  Little did they know that I didn’t even know how to load a gun.

My senior year, I went to a farewell party for an acquaintance at another school who was moving away.  I went with a friend from elementary school (one of the tomboys) and after about an hour of awkwardness, we left.  As I waved by, one of my acquaintances’ friends yelled, “fag!”  I was confused.  I didn’t recall saying anything especially “faggy” that night.  In fact, I hadn’t said hardly anything.  My friend assured me that it was nothing I did, but the guy who called me a fag was just “like that”.  It was also the first time that I had actually been called a fag – before then, a combination of my family’s status and my sissy-suppression had prevented it.

It would be years before I stopped policing my mannerisms.  I no longer get a twist in my stomach if my wrist hangs a little limp.  I don’t hyper-analyze my speech and worry if it gets too high pitched.  I’m just me and I’m generally happy with who I am, but sometimes I wonder what I would be like if I never made a conscious effort to never cross my legs “like a woman”.  Because now, even though I just act how I act, I still pass as straight.  When most people find out I’m gay, it’s usually a surprise.  If they did have a suspicion, it was almost always because of what I would say, not how I would say it.  My forced masculinity is ingrained now, but what if I had kept cheering on the sidelines?  What if I hadn’t deadened my excitability in order to appear manlier?  If I had been more relaxed and accepting of myself then, what would I have been like now?