Monthly Archives: November 2008

Gay Adolescence (or Why Won’t He Shut Up About It Already)

So your friend/son/husband/brother comes out and then all of the sudden it is “gay” this and “queer” that.  He starts watching HGTV, hosting dinner parties, and oh, geez, the tight t-shirts.  Why is everything always about being gay so suddenly?  Crap, straight guys don’t come out and are all in-your-face with their straightness.

Well, they do when they are thirteen.

Listen to the topics of conversation deacon and teacher’s quorums at Church and you’ll get a pretty good idea of what it is like to come out.  Because, while gay guys went through adolescence, they didn’t quite do it like everyone else.  When his straight counterparts were discovering their sexual identity through Baywatch and the intros to James Bond films, your local neighborhood gay kid was likely showing his respect for the opposite sex by avoiding dating and physical contact.

Once the kid finally does get the big, “holy crap…I’m gay?!” he is often transported back to thirteen, whether he be twenty-five or fifty-five and goes through “gay adolescence”.  This is where a gay discovers his sexuality and the role it plays in his life (basically what every other kid did when they were a teenager).

A straight 15-year-old might explore his sexuality by conforming to the idea of straight man-ness that he perceives around him.  (Why do you think they listen to rap all the time?)  It can determine how he speaks, dresses, and interacts with those around him.  He might go through several phases before he decides where he fits as a man in society.

With “gay adolescence” your newly-out loved one is discovering where he fits as a gay man in society.  He may surround himself with gay friends, assume perceived gay stereotypes, and even start watching Ugly Betty.  He is trying to find where he fits and he’ll probably talk about it…all the freaking time.  Maybe he’ll even start and overly-introspective blog on the subject.  (Isn’t that just the worst?)

Throw Mormonism into the mix and, like straight adolescence, you’ll never know what you are going to get.  Where some guys might be content with a chaste self-discovery involving journal entries and scripture-study, others might throw themselves into a homo-whirlwind that involves a bottle-blonde named Chip and all the tackiest parts of a Gay Pride Parade.  It’s a crap-shoot, that’s for sure.  Reassuringly, like straight adolescence, gay adolescence does tend to tone down in its erraticness over time.

So if you look at your newly-out friend’s wardrobe and see the word “Lycra” all over the place, take a look at the shaggy haired kid passing the sacrament.  In a relative few years, he’ll cut his hair, discover mellow indie rock, and get a job at a marketing firm.  He’ll move on.  So will your friend.  He’ll still be gay, but he probably won’t feel the need to wear his “Gay Dumbledore” t-shirt anymore.

One hopes.

Gay History For Straight Mormons (Abridged)

1874 – Male homosexuality is made illegal in Germany under Paragraph 175 of the criminal code.  Punished by imprisonment and/or “loss of civil rights”.

1895 – Oscar Wilde sentenced to two years in prison for homosexuality.

1935 – Nazis expand Paragraph 175.  They round up and send those suspected of homosexuality to concentration camps where they are forced to identify themselves by wearing a pink triangle.

1920 – The word “gay” is used for the first time in print to refer to homosexuals.

1945 – Concentration camps in Germany are liberated, but the homosexuals remain in prison to carry out their sentence under Paragraph 175.

1951 – Greece decriminalizes homosexuality…interestingly enough.

1962 – Illinois becomes the first state to decriminalize homosexuality.

1969 – Police raid the Stonewall Inn in New York, a popular gay bar.  While raids on gay bars were common, the Stonewall raid gets out of hand and the crowd of gays from the neighborhood gathering outside grows violent.  Angry protests against the New York police for targeting homosexuals go on for several days and represent the first major pushback from the gay community.

1970 – First march is held commemorating the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.  Subsequent “Gay Pride Parades” are held during the same time each year.

1973 – “Homosexuality” is removed from the DSM-II essentially declassifying it as a mental illness.  The action is based largely on the research of Evelyn Hooker whose studies suggested homosexuals were no more maladjusted than straight people.

1978 – Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office as a member of the San Fransisco Board of Supervisors, is shot and killed along with the mayor.  (Sorry if I am ruining the upcoming Gus Van Sant movie.)

1978 – First time the rainbow flag is flown as a symbol of homosexuality (but not time the rainbow symbol itself is used).  It appears in San Francisco’s Gay Freedom Day Parade.

1982 – Wisconsin becomes the first state to ban discrimination based on homosexuality.

1993 – Brandon Teena, a Nebraskan woman passing as male, is murdered when associates discover she is anatomically female.  The story makes national headlines.

1994 – After several revisions, Paragraph 175 is completely removed from German law.

1997 – South Africa becomes the first country to explicitly ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

1998 – In Wyoming, 21-year-old Matthew Shephard is beaten and murdered by two men who pose as gay in order to lure him into their truck.  Shephard’s mother becomes an outspoken figure in the gay rights movement following her son’s death.

2003 – U.S. Supreme Court strikes down all anti-homosexual-specific laws.

2006 – Missouri decriminalizes homosexuality.  (Yeah, I don’t understand this one, either.)

So why in the word did I throw up this huge long list of important events in the gay rights movement of the last hundred years or so?  Because, while it may be the to the consternation of straight Mormons everywhere, the gay rights movement has made my life easier to live.  Sure, it has complicated things by deepening the gay/Mormon rift I often feel (what doesn’t these days, right?), but it has also allowed me to come out of the closet and even maintain this blog without fear of arrest or physical harm.  I owe a great deal of who and what I am to the gay rights movement, even if I don’t always agree with them.  Because of those people who came before and stood up for what they believed, I don’t live a life of fear and hiding.

And for that, I am deeply grateful.

Seventh Wheel

The light from my phone cast a faint blue glow that reached all the way up to the ceiling twenty-five feet above.  I checked my email and my feed reader before shutting it off, which plunged the living room of the cabin into complete darkness.  The air outside was cold and it felt good to be curled up on the large leather couch.  Most of the leaves outside had already fallen, but there were enough to paint the north Georgia mountains with streaks of red and gold.  The whole day had been spent lounging about, playing board games, and measuring how much water seven people displaced in a hot tub.

I went into the weekend in a horrible mood.  Work and freelance projects had left me stressed and frustrated.  I had spent most evenings of the previous week alone in my apartment, typing away on my laptop.  The relative lack of non-professional human contact had left me cranky and overly-sensitive.  I was the only single person on the trip and I was waiting to be offended.  Not only waiting, I was looking for ways to be offended.  One stray remark, one idle comment and BAM! my tongue would be unleashed in a firestorm of  “righteous” indignation.  Oh, they would understand, these people with their significant others and, in one case, their (incredibly adorable) offspring!  They would know the injustice of my existence, the pain of my being!

The only kink in the plan was the fact that I had awesome friends.

As a slap in the face to my self-indulgent bitterness, I never felt left out or isolated.  Instead, I was drawn into a game of Scrabble by the fireplace, I helped wash the dishes, I was asked to hold the kid, and I staked claim on my own corner of the hot tub.

Contrary to what I had feared, when my current wave of friends started to marry each other, the only thing that really changed was the living arrangements.  Instead of marrying and moving on, they had married and dragged me along with them.  I didn’t realize what had happened until, at an extended gathering, another friend leaned over to me and said, “Dude, what happened?  When did we become ‘the single guys’?”  Now, most of my close friends were married and, while I was sure the dynamics would evolve over time, it seemed as though they were more than willing to keep me as a recurring cast member in their lives.

Rain started to fall on the metal roof high above my head.  I wasn’t going to be awake for much longer and, before my mind started to slip into incoherent dreams where I was inserted into action scenes from movies I had watched months before, I prayed silently thanking the Lord for the people in my life that made it worth living.  I prayed that my tendency towards self-martyrdom never made me lose sight of the fact that I was surrounded by people who loved me and people who I loved.

My vision blurred and I found myself in the Nevada desert surrounded by zombies that had been unleashed on the world by a corrupt corporation.  I raised my machine gun in preparation for the undead onslaught.

This time, it was personal.


The ceiling fan stirred the cool March air from the open window with the heat flowing up from the floors below.  I lay on the floor of my empty studio apartment and stared at the ceiling.  A couple of months earlier, as I had determined to get off the church/gay fence once and for all, and for the first time seriously considered the side that I had fearfully avoided my entire life.  I took a good long look at my sexuality…and I actually liked what I saw.

The part of myself that I kept locked away like a queer Tasmanian Devil had been let loose and when seeing it in the daylight I realized that it wasn’t so terrible after all.  In the past few months I had made gay friends, come out to people, and more and more thought about leaving the church, whose meetings by this point I could barely stand in their entirety.  It was not uncommon to have to leave elders quorum and end up in the parking lot with tears streaming down my face.  How could God make me gay, make accepting my sexuality feel like the right thing to do, and make acting on it an abominable sin?  I couldn’t take it anymore.  I was going to leave.  I had to.

I thought about all this all this as I stared up at the spinning fan.  Could I really do it?  Could I really leave?  The thought was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

What about your friends?

It was true.  Most of my friends were LDS.  Many would not understand why I would leave, but then again, many grew up around gay kids in school.  It’s not like they hadn’t had gay friends before.  Some would distance themselves, but I felt my closest friends wouldn’t treat me any differently.

What about your family?

While my family loved me, they would certainly not approve of a decision to leave the church and pursue a gay relationship.  Even though I thought they would grow used to the idea over time, I knew that there would always be a layer of tension on some level.  Quite simply, things would never truly be the same.  But it was also a decision that I had to make for myself.  I couldn’t live my entire life in a certain way simply for the approval of my family.

So, are you going to start drinking, too?  Going to gay bars?  Sleeping around?

I’m sure everyone in the beginning thinks that they are going to act the same as they always have, don’t they?  “Oh, sure, I’ll still keep high standards.”  I guess everyone ends up…wait, no.  No, I won’t.  I hate alcohol.  I always have.  I hate bars.  I have no desire to turn into a man-Paris Hilton.  The whole point of this is to be honest with myself.  Drinking, sleeping around, all of that.  It isn’t me.  It never has been.  Even if I weren’t a member, I would hate those things.

That probably cuts down on your chances of finding someone.

Maybe.  But then again, how do straight people who don’t go to bars find each other?  Just because the majority of people behave a certain way, doesn’t mean I have to.  There are several gay friendly churches in the neighborhood; maybe one of them would be a good place to start looking for like-minded guys.

What about your testimony?

I guess I’ll have to…I don’t know, to be honest.  If I left the church, I imagine that my testimony would keep bothering me.  But with time it would go away, wouldn’t it?  Or, I’d have to allow anger and bitterness to kill it quickly.

Do you really want that?

Well, no.  I don’t want to become bitter and angry.  I guess I’ll just have to keep telling myself that it isn’t true and slowly wear it down.

But is that was you really believe?  Isn’t the whole point of this to be honest with yourself?

Good point.  If I told myself that the church wasn’t true, I’d be trading one lie for another.  I do know the church is true.  I don’t want to have to lie to myself.  I’m tired of that.

So what now?

Maybe there is a middle ground?  Maybe I can accept my sexuality, which has already made my life a lot more livable, and still retain my testimony.

So you would pursue homosexual relationships and still attend church?

I know me and I can’t see myself maintaining that situation.  Besides, if I know the church is true, why wouldn’t I try to live according to its doctrines?

You know what that means don’t you?

Yeah.  That means that unless I get to the point where I feel like I can honestly marry a woman, then I’ll have to be alone for the rest of my life.  That means no relationships that go beyond “just friends”.

Do you think you can do that?

I’m not sure.  Maybe.  What I can’t do is pretend to be something I’m not.  I’m not straight.  I won’t go back to pretending that I am.  I can’t do that anymore.

Is anyone asking you to?

Well, no, I guess not.

Can I really do that, though?  Can I really embrace my sexuality, embrace my testimony, and still feel as though I am being honest with myself?

In my small studio apartment I looked out at the city.  Its hum drifted through the open window as the fan whirred overhead.  My life wasn’t heading in the same direction it was going five years ago, or even the day before.  And, unlike the train as it switched tracks at Lindberg station, my future didn’t have a clearly defined path.  Much of it I would have to discover on my own.  I would likely make huge mistakes, but I also thought of the things I would learn along the way.  Could I really do it?  Could I really make it work?

The thought was both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.

Stop Calling Me “Straight Acting”

I was working late.  My boss was out of town on a job and I was prepping something to be ready for his return.  The only light in the room was the blue glow coming from my computer monitor and the city lights floating in from the outside.  I loved being in the office at night.  It was seven floors up and overlooked Midtown Atlanta.  The floor to ceiling windows made it seem like there wasn’t a wall at all and I imagined stepping out and soaring over the busy streets below.

Which would have been awesome if I weren’t scared of heights.

To keep myself company, I listened to streaming audio from the NPR show, This American Life.  No other radio show could have me crying tears of laughter and sadness in the same sixty minutes.  Very few radio shows could even keep me listening for sixty minutes.  The episode’s theme was “sissies” and the majority of the stories revolved around gay men.  At the end of the episode, an essay was presented by Seattle’s gay “sex advice columnist for the straights”, Dan Savage.  (Heads Up: If you go out and Google “Dan Savage”, be warned, his column isn’t for the faint of heart.  You’ve been warned…twice.)  In this particular story, which was fairly tame (having to pass through Standards and Practices), Savage expressed his hatred of the term “straight acting”.  Straight acting means what you think it would mean: it describes gay men who are masculine enough to pass as straight.  In the essay, Savage talks about how the alternative newspaper he worked for banned the term from their personals ads.  The idea was that gay guys shouldn’t try to pass as straight, but should be proud of their homosexuality, swishiness and all.

I found myself growing annoyed as I listened to the Savage speak.  By the time he was done, I was downright frustrated.  I agreed with him that men shouldn’t fear and demonize any effeminate traits that they had.  He said that he thought that swishier men who go through life “as is” were braver than those who could pass for straight.  I agreed with that as well.  What irked me, however, was the entire implication that if a gay man is more masculine, he was “straight” acting.

There are days that I don’t feel very gay at all and it has nothing to do with attraction.  It has to do with the general stereotype out there (held by many of the straights and the gays) that the more effeminate you are, the “gayer” you are.  I’m offended that, just because I don’t care that Wicked is in town, I’m “straight” acting.  I know plenty of straight guys that were excited to go see the show and I know there were tons of gay men that were in line, as well.  My point is, straight men don’t have a monopoly on masculinity and all the sissies aren’t gay.

There seems to be differing reasons for this attitude among the gays and the straights.  Among straight people, the attitude seems to stem from the erroneous idea that homosexuality=“gender confusion”.  They seem to think that for a man to be sexually and emotionally attracted to another man, he must identify with femininity and, on some level, think he is a woman.  After all, how could a masculine man look at another man and be attracted to him?  Femininity is attracted to masculinity, and vice versa, right?  Well, not always.  I’m not saying that I am the most masculine guy out there (I’m more nerd than jock), but I am a man, I don’t identify with femininity, I don’t think I am a woman and I still think that Adam Brody is hot.  That’s the whole reason behind the term “orientation”.  All those emotions and desires that straight men have towards women exist in gay men, you just take the woman out of the picture and you put another man there.  I think it was my relatively masculine demeanor that seemed to make it hard for a couple of my bishops to believe that I was full-blown gay.  (Trust me, I am.)

Among the gay community, while one may seek out a straight acting boyfriend, one often takes pride in his own swishiness.  It is badge of gay honor: a sort of gay “street cred”, if you will.  Those that could pass as straight are sometimes seen as selling out their own people in an effort to make their own lives easier.  There have been times when in the presence of other gay men that I have felt self-conscious and that I didn’t really fit in because I wasn’t effeminate enough.  I eventually had to tell myself, “No, there is no reason for you to have to change how you act.  The point of accepting your sexuality is accepting who you are – not trying to change yourself into someone that you aren’t.”  My wrist doesn’t hang limp and I am fine with that.

So, to the gays, the straights, and Dan Savage, please stop trying to make me something that I am not.  I am not “straight acting”.  I am gay, which means that my hatred of musicals, distaste for shopping, refusal to use the word “fabulous”, lisp-less voice, stiff wrist, and general shortage of swish make me incredibly “gay acting”.

Holy crap, IMDB has Adam Brody rumored to be The Flash in the new Justice League movie.  Awesome.

If I Fail…

I sat on an ottoman wedged in the corner of the wine bar.  It was after hours and I was providing support to one of our directors as he shot a focus group for a local ad agency.  The shoot pretty much ran itself so my support ended up being more of the moral variety.  It was a multi-night job and I spent most of the time surfing the internet and writing on my laptop.  The groups, which consisted of African-American women of different age ranges were interesting to listen to…at first.  The uncomfortable ottoman mixed with my own natural predisposition for boredom set me off in search of websites that featured shiny new gadgets of the plug-in variety.

When the moderator asked the women what an Obama victory would mean to them, I looked up from my screen.  I was curious to hear the opinion of the election from the perspective of a Southern middle-class African-American woman.  Many of the answers I anticipated.  Words like, “empowerment”, “hope”, and “affirmation” were said.  One unexpected word I heard was “anxiety”.  The moderator asked the woman to clarify her statement, she continued to say, “Barack Obama is our chance to prove ourselves.  If he is elected and fails, it will be devastating for African-Americans and who knows when we will get another shot?”

I knew what I was getting into with this blog.  I fully intended to be an example of someone who was living as an active member of the church, but I have a very uncomfortable, shifting-my-chair feeling when people look to me as a “poster boy” for gay Mormons.  Because, quite simply:

What if I fail?

What if, after a couple years of writing on this blog, I put up the post “It’s been a great ride, but I’m leaving the church”?  What if it gets to a point where I feel like I have to hide my shortcomings in order to publicly maintain the image of, “Yes, you too can be gay and Mormon.  Ask me how!”  What if I meet some guy named Jason and move to Canada to get married?  What then?  Wouldn’t it negate everything that I have said?

When I think about it, I started this blog with the intention of letting straight Mormons know what it was like to be a gay Mormon.  If I end up failing (in the sense that I leave behind my membership in the church), I believe it is important to record that as well.  Sometimes gay Mormons leave the church, it is a part of the issue that we can’t ignore.  The story of the ones who leave is as important as the story of the ones who stay.

Okay, take a deep breath.  Don’t read too much into this; I’m not going anywhere and still believe the church is true like I always have.  Bosom burning and all.  But my point is, I am an example of gay Mormons only as much as you are an example of straight Mormons.  We’re all flawed.  I sometimes forget to pray at night, my home teaching frequency could be better (much better), and I could probably stand to be more reverent in Elder’s Quorum.  Flawed.  If we look to anyone other than the Savior for an example of perfection, we will be sorely disappointed.  Every single time.  I’m positive there have been less than charitable moments even in the Monson household.

I guess this is my Charles Barkley moment.  “I am not a role-model!” and all that.

Okay, now this is the part where I put my ego in check.  In the past several months at least four or five authors of the moho blogs I follow have publicly come out of the closet and stayed in the church.  I didn’t start the trend; I just jumped on it.  If any gay Mormon can be identified as starting the ball rolling towards an open dialog on homosexuality and Mormonism, it would arguably be Ty Mansfield (who I have never met, but like to refer to as the Mormon “Grand High Gay”) when he co-authored the book In Quiet Desperation.  I haven’t read it (still), but the fact that it existed and some guy put his real name on it helped me in the process of my own coming out.  In turn, I don’t look to him as a role model, but I do respect the courage he has demonstrated.  In short, I realize that I am only one voice in a growing number of publicly gay Mormons and am excited at the prospect of an openness in the church when it comes the issue of sexuality and what happens when it is of the “homo” variety.

What if we fail?

What if we succeed?

Can you imagine an environment where a parent’s worst fear isn’t that “my child will be gay”?  Where a teenager doesn’t fear the reaction of his Priest’s quorum to the news that he isn’t really into the new Laurel that moved in?  Where the single gay adult feels his talents and perspectives are wanted, even needed, by the families in his ward?  Where no one feels like they need to hide who they are in order to feel loved by their fellow Saints?

We’ve come a long ways towards this (a long ways) but we have quite a ways to go.  There will be some casualties.  Some of us will fall by the wayside.  Some of us will leave the church and become bitter and angry.  Some of us will leave the church and become happy.  Some of us will stay.  Whatever the risks, this current “fad” of openness is one band(covered)wagon that I want to be on.