Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Book review: The Commitment

I just read The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family by Dan Savage. I was going to write a short review, but I like the blurb on Amazon.com by Publisher's Weekly better than what I was planning to write:

The author of the internationally syndicated column "Savage Love" brings much-needed humor, and a reality check, to the bitter gay-marriage debate with this polemical memoir. As Savage (Skipping Towards Gomorrah) and his boyfriend, Terry, neared their 10th anniversary, Savage's mother put on the pressure for them to get married. But, Savage notes, there were several other points to consider before deciding to tie the knot: among them, the fact that marriage doesn't provide legal protection in Washington State; Terry prefers tattoos as a sign of commitment; and their six-year-old son declared that only men and women can get married. Furthermore, Savage himself worried that the relationship would be jinxed by anything more permanent than a big anniversary bash, though the one they plan quickly assumes the proportions and price of a wedding reception. While documenting the couple's wobble toward a decision, Savage skewers ideologues, both pro– and anti–gay marriage, with his radical pragmatism. Disproving Tolstoy's dictum that "happy families are all alike," he takes a sharp-eyed, compassionate look at matrimony as it is actually practiced by friends, his raucously affectionate family and even medieval Christians. When he explains to his son what marriage is really about, you want to stand up and cheer, and the surprise ending is both hilarious and a tear-jerker. As funny as David Sedaris's essay collections, but bawdier and more thought-provoking, this timely book shows that being pro-family doesn't have to mean being anti-gay.



That write-up is right on target, in my view. And the book is funny. It's the kind of book you end up reading in a single sitting, even though you don't mean to.

Also of interest is Savage's earlier memoir called The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant about the couple's adoption of their son.

It's not too late to think about those last minute stocking stuffers!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Two Fathers



I dedicate this to John and Goran, prospective foster dads.

The video is in Dutch with English subtitles. The Dutch lyrics are quite touching, a bit warmer in tone than the English subtitles. (Yes, speaking Dutch is a side effect of my missionary days.)

Anyway, this one's for you, J G-W and G. Best wishes for this new chapter in your lives.

Holiday Party

Tobi and I will be spending Christmas in Salt Lake City this year with some of my friends and family. (We ruled out Japan.) If any of you will be in the area and would like to get together with us, send me e-mail. (Address in profile.) I'm thinking brunch on 12/26 somewhere in SLC.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

More about Suicide

The Bee in My Bonnet

J G-W said:


Anger is not so functional when it comes to communicating across difference. In fact, anger is dysfunctional for that. It frightens and intimidates. It shuts people down and closes off communication. I've also found that while anger got me to a very important place in my life, it also closed me off from important things that I needed to learn, and cut me off from very important aspects of myself that I've needed to integrate in order to evolve as a human being.

My dilemma is that while I want to build bridges and have meaningful (and compassionate) exchange with people on all points of the spectrum, there are a few areas where laissez-faire fails me.

It's almost impossible for me not to be angry about moral outrages like tacit ecclesiastical approval of suicide in gay youth or the encouragement of ill-advised marriages that almost always cause suffering and misery.

I am not angry about my own experience in the church. The past is what it is, and my memories are mixed. They include some very warm, wonderful moments.

I am not angry with those who continue to believe and practice their religion. It is the right of every person to chart his or her own course through life, and it is the responsibility of us all to treat each other with respect and civility.

I am not angry with those whose intolerance of injustice encourages them to speak with candor and passion and jolt us out of our comfort zone.

I give my best wishes to all who read this, whether your views line up with mine or not. I hope there will be something here that you find useful and that we can continue to engage in ways that help us all.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Repression

Repression has been on my mind lately. It started when John Gustav-Wrathall wrote a memorable essay on promiscuity that got me thinking about my own experiences as a young adult. Then I saw a video of
Clark Pingree's presentation
at the 2007 Seattle Sunstone Symposium that reminded me of things I had experienced when coming out. And so for the last few weeks I've been musing about the nature of repression and its effects.

I'm not all that fond of the term "repression" because of its origin in (scientifically discredited) Freudian psychoanalysis, but I don't really have a better word to offer. When I use the word, I mean the cognitive suppression of desires that are perceived to be shameful or socially unacceptable. Sometimes these are sexual desires, sometimes they are aspects of personality like assertiveness or artistic expression.

In my experience repression always exacts a price. Clark Pingree put his finger this when he said "It's a dangerous game to defy one's own creation."

Clark mentioned some of the improvements in his life that occurred after he was able to step away from a life of sexual repression. To paraphrase, he said that he:

  • No longer fights grueling internal battles

  • Feels as if heavy burdens have been lifted

  • Has gone from hopeless to hopeful

  • Has a more positive attitude and better quality of life

  • Has a more resolute spirit

  • Experiences more abundant friendships with greater depth and understanding

  • Has more energy for work and focusing on his life's goals

  • Treats people with more kindness

  • Has more honest, stronger family relationships

  • Laughs a lot more

  • Lives the gospel more realistically

  • Has a clearer understanding of what it means to be a Christian, including a new love of the two great commandments, of loving God and loving one's neighbor, no exceptions.


  • He concludes, "Best of all, my soul no longer aches."

    Bingo.

    I recall what a mess I was in a mixed-orientation marriage, before I came out. It's actually painful for me to recall this (bless me, Blogger, for I have sinned). In this period I was profoundly unhappy. Normally, I'm fairly outgoing, social and talkative, but in my mixed-orientation marriage I became very withdrawn. I almost quit talking. I recall having violent nightmares and waking up angry. My desire to look at pornography became utterly compelling, although I rarely had the opportunity to see it in those pre-Internet days. I would start shaking if I saw a handsome man. I felt despondent and trapped. Hopeless is a good way to describe it. Looking back on it, I wonder how I functioned at all. And I'm sorry about the effect of my repression had on the people around me.

    Like Clark Pingree, I found that I treated people with a lot more kindness after I came out. My relationships with my family improved dramatically as everyone started talking about real issues (and not just mine) instead of keeping to safe topics of conversation. I became a better parent; certainly a better listener. The list goes on and on. I can't think of single area of my life that didn't improve after I quit suppressing my orientation. Even my work life got better.

    Even my wife's life improved when I came out. After a few years she was able to remarry. The second time around heterosexuality was high on her list of desired qualities in a mate.

    After I came out I did, like John, have a period of relative promiscuity. I think sexual promiscuity often comes in the wake of a lifetime of repression.[*] It's like a starving man gorging after a famine. It's not a good dietary strategy, but who's counting calories when you are starving? In my case I was able to get it out of my system and settle down to a reasonable, committed relationship.

    You might counter that the satisfaction I have seen in my life is really the work of the Devil, that I am deceived by evil wrapped in a veneer of short-term happiness and pleasure. I would respectfully disagree while reaffirming your right to hold this or any other view. When I look at my life as a whole, over several decades of living openly as a gay man, I don't see the fruits of evil. Instead, I see the benefits that Clark mentioned in his Sunstone talk. I see two kids successfully raised; I see friends and family and a mature, loving relationship with a man I adore; I see professional success. I see sanity, peace, realistic self-knowledge and engagement in life. Where are the wages of sin? I guess you could argue that they are coming in the next life, but that contradicts the principle of judging behavior by its visible consequences in this life.

    Note: There are many possible paths to follow, and your experience may well be different from mine. In particular, I am not saying that your choice of celibacy or a mixed-orientation marriage is wrong for you even though those two options were disastrous for me and the woman I married.

    ----------
    [*]The sad examples of Larry Craig, Ted Haggard, and others come to mind.

    Wednesday, November 14, 2007

    Book review: Together Forever

    I just read a book that I think is worthwhile. It's Together Forever: The Gay Man's Guide to Lifelong Love by Martin Kantor, MD.

    Basically, Together Forever is a marriage manual for gay male couples. What makes it different is that the author has had a lot of experience in counseling gay male couples in his clinical practice and also has had a successful partnership with his own husband for 22 years. The advice is definitely not of the touchy-feely, self-help variety. Instead, Kantor gives practical tips that are often unsentimental.

    I read this book rather skeptically at first, but as I went along I warmed up to it. I'm not going to summarize the recommendations here; the book is easy enough to order from Amazon or check out from your local library. Mostly I wanted to bring it to your attention if you are in the market for such a title. I think it's worth reading whether you are considering a relationship, are starting one or have been partnered for a long time.

    (Tobi and I are using it as a springboard for discussing what our future might look like when we eventually move in together and form our own household. It's been helpful for this purpose.)

    Tuesday, November 6, 2007

    An article in the Los Angeles Times cites a study that says gay demographics are diversifying geographically.

    [The] study shows that the number of openly gay couples in the U.S. has quadrupled since 1990, and the biggest increases are in the country's more socially conservative areas.

    Utah is the poster state. Between 1990 and 2006, for example, it went from having the 38th-highest concentration of same-sex couples in the country to 14th highest. In that same time period, the percentage of gay couples who lived in large cities declined from 45% to 23%.

    Thirty-eighth to fourteenth. Impressive. Why is this this happening? It turns out that coming out makes things easier, which in turn makes it easier to come out.

    Growing acceptance of homosexuality means a decline in social stigma associated with same-sex relationships, and a consequent shift in the politics of coming out. The more people come out, the more accepting people are around them, and the more accepting the public becomes, the more people come out.

    So I guess I should pack my bags and head back to Zion. I still miss my 100-year-old house on the Avenues in SLC. I guess it's safe to move back (although to be fair, my neighbors in Salt Lake accepted me and my boyfriend moving into their neighborhood with nothing but warmth and friendliness, even 18 years ago).

    Friday, October 26, 2007

    Reparative Therapy

    The Daily Show takes a look at reparative therapy.

    Part 1


    Part 2

    Thursday, October 25, 2007

    The Confession Meme

    Finally. The definitive personal inventory.

    1. Taken a picture completely naked? Yes.
    2. Made out with a friend on your MySpace/Facebook page? No.
    3. Danced in front of your mirror naked? No.
    4. Told a lie? Yes.
    5. Had feelings for someone who didn’t have them back? Yes.
    6. Been arrested? No.
    7. Made out with someone of the same sex? Oh yes.
    8. Seen someone die? No.
    9. Slept in until 5pm? No.
    10. Had sex at work? Yes.
    11. Fallen asleep at work/school? Yes.
    12. Held a snake? Yes.
    13. Run a red light? Yes.
    14. Been suspended from school? No.
    15. Totaled your car in an accident? No.
    16. Pole danced? No.
    17. Smoked? Yes.
    18. Been fired from a job? Yes.
    19. Sung karaoke? Yes.
    20. Done something you told yourself you wouldn’t? Yes.
    21. Laughed until a drink came out your nose? Yes.
    22. Caught a snowflake on your tongue? Yes.
    23. Kissed in the rain? Yes.
    24. Sung in the shower? Yes.
    25. Given your private parts a nickname? No.
    26. Ever gone out without underwear? Yes.
    27. Sat on a roof top? Yes.
    28. Played chicken? No.
    29. Been pushed into a pool with all your clothes on? No.
    30. Broken a bone? Yes.
    31. Mooned/flashed someone? Yes.
    32. Shaved your head? No.
    33. Slept naked? Yes. All the time.
    34. Played a prank on someone? Yes.
    35. Had a gym membership? Duh.
    36. Felt like killing someone? Yes, but I've heard the food in jail is crappy.
    37. Made your girlfriend/boyfriend cry? Yes.
    38. Cried over someone you were in love with? Yes.
    39. Had sex more than 10 times in one day? 'Fraid not.
    40. Had Mexican jumping beans for pets? No.
    41. Been in a band? No.
    42. Subscribed to Maxim? Ewww.
    43. Taken more than 10 shots of alcohol? No.
    44. Shot a gun? Yes.
    45. Had sex today? Yes.
    46. Played strip poker? Yes. With a straight high school buddy. He lost. See #5 above.
    47. Tripped on mushrooms? Yes.
    48. Donated Blood? Yes, prior to becoming sexually active with men; now they discriminate and say if you've had gay sex even one time since 1979 you can't donate. There is an effort underway to undo this ridiculous requirement.
    49. Video taped yourself having sex? No.
    50. Eaten alligator meat? Yes.
    51. Jumped out of an airplane? Nope.
    52. Been to more than 10 countries? Yes.
    53. Wanted to have sex with a platonic friend? Yes.
    54. Shaved yourself bare? No.
    55. Dressed in drag? Yes, on Halloween. It was not a pretty sight. I'm more of the 'linebacker' type.

    BONUS: If you could be any celebrity for an entire week, who would it be and why? Laurence Olivier when he was young. Why? Because he looked great in boots in Wuthering Heights.


    N.B. If you read all the way to this point, you are so tagged. Get busy.

    Wednesday, October 17, 2007

    What's on the tube

    Luke and Noah finally talk about their future.



    Daytime teevee at its finest.

    Sunday, October 14, 2007

    Collateral damage

    We rarely hear the perspectives of the women who find themselves unexpectedly in mixed-orientation marriages. Here are two videos where their stories are told.

    I post these because the discussion about whether a man with SSA should enter into a mixed-orientation marriage often focuses on his issues-- his desire for righteousness and exaltation, his desire to retain his family's approval, his fear of rejection by the church. What is left out of the discussion is the question of what risks such a marriage pose for the woman he might marry.





    Via: Besen
    Posted from: India

    There is a third video on this subject that I will link to but not embed, since it more political than I intend in my blog.

    Friday, October 5, 2007

    Even more random things about Japan

    What I learned on my summer vacation. The list continues:

    • All schoolgirls in Japan wear uniforms. Many straight men in Japan have a fetish for schoolgirls and their uniforms. A lot of the popular pornographic comic books feature uniformed schoolgirls. I have no idea what the age of consent is in Japan, but it has to be fairly young.


    • Pornographic comic books sometimes feature sex and romance between young men, but these are only read by heterosexual women! There is a special comic book genre just for this called yaoi. (The reason for yaoi's popularity with straight women is complex and deserves its own post.)


    • It is socially acceptable to look at pornography on a train or bus in Japan.


    • Bicycles are common, but there are no helmets to be seen in Japan.


    • You take a shower before you take a bath. Really.


    • Fish and pickles are breakfast items, as are pungent, fermented soybeans.


    • Many toilets have automatic water jets to clean your bum. They even include blow driers. Ladies may push a special pink button on the control panel. Electrically heated toilet seats are everywhere.


    • Pancakes in Japan contain shrimp and squid instead of blueberries, are covered not with maple syrup but with mayonnaise and thickened Worcestershire sauce, and are topped not with butter or whipped cream but with seaweed, pickled ginger and dried fish flakes. I cannot tell you how tasty they are. Truly delicious.


    • Riding in a car with an infant in your lap isn't the capital crime that it is in the U.S.


    • The Japanese postal service is amazingly efficient. Most streets are not named. A special block numbering scheme compensates for the lack of street names.


    • There's a lot more to shoe etiquette than just taking them off in the vestibule. Slippers are sometimes provided, sometimes forbidden, and special shoes are required while using the restroom. (I made a few innocent mistakes and was quickly corrected. Shoes matter in Japan.)


    • You can sometimes see vending machines next to rice fields. Vending machines are everywhere.


    • Traditional Japanese men's underwear (called fundoshi) is really sexy. Google it if you dare. I'm not going to corrupt your morals by providing a hyperlink. Okay, maybe just one, but I'm not asking you to click on it.


    Thursday, October 4, 2007

    John Kovalenko interview



    This interview is shows the impressive change in spirit in gay Mormon youth. This interview could never have happened 25 years ago.

    Via: Mormon Enigma

    Sunday, September 30, 2007

    Ten random facts about Japan

    I was tagged a while ago to provide interesting random facts about myself. I couldn't think of any. Instead, here are 10 random things I learned about Japan during my recent trip.


  • Male locker rooms often have female attendants (and nobody covers up).

  • The water in Japanese hot springs (onsen) is not scalding hot. It's about the same temperature as bathwater.

  • Napkins are unknown. You just have to be neat while eating.

  • Prices in Japan are cheaper than the US for a lot of things. You can get a nice meal of noodles for $4.50. A room for two in a really nice business hotel in Tokyo can be had for $110 per night if you shop around.

  • Transportation, however, is more expensive than the US. Gas costs $6 a gallon and a two-hour train trip is $90.

  • Young women in Japan use girlish mannerisms and voices.

  • Karaoke is more fun than one might guess. Especially in a rowdy gay bar in Tokyo.

  • Tokyo doesn't have a lot of public parks. For a city of this size and population density, there's not much public space.

  • Sushi is a finger food. Chopsticks are not used to eat it, and sushi is turned upside down so that the fish side touches the tongue first. Using chopsticks for sushi looks as weird to the Japanese as eating a hamburger with a knife and fork does to North Americans.

  • Gay culture in Tokyo is like Salt Lake 25 years ago. Most people are closeted, gay men are perceived as feminine, and the bars are cliquish. It's like junior high all over again. Gay life in the US is, by comparison, much more mature.

  • Thursday, September 27, 2007

    Conversation in a Japanese hot spring

    ME: Wow! Look at those bites. Those mosquitoes really like you. You must be tasty.

    (pause)

    ME (affectionately): If I were a mosquito, I would bite you.

    TOBI (innocently): But you already bite me.

    Tuesday, September 18, 2007

    Why I Love Hawaii

    Israel Kamakawiwo'ole was a Hawaiian singer of remarkable emotional power.



    I don't live in Hawaii any more, but Braddah Iz reminds me why I love it.

    Monday, September 17, 2007

    Tobi

    As readers of this blog know, my boyfriend is a sweet, sexy, sporty guy in his early thirties. Up to now I have always referred to him here as "my BF." It's time he got a name. Please welcome "Tobi" to blogland. Tobi, by the way, is from Japan and his enthusiasm for raw fish is inspiring. Let's just say that Tobi knows good uni when he tastes it. He's also an accomplished cook who makes delicious traditional Japanese dishes.

    This week Tobi and I are going on vacation to Japan. Actually, he's already there visiting his parents. I will join him, and we'll spend a week together seeing the sights, with a few days in Tokyo and the rest in the countryside, including two days at an onsen (hot springs) resort. (Hot springs are incredibly popular in Japan. It's a major element of the culture.)

    In Tokyo we're going to check out all of the standard touristy sights but also make our way over to the gay neighborhood, Shinjuki Ni-chome. Neither of us has been there before. It's said that there are 200-300 gay bars and restaurants crammed into this little neighborhood.

    I'm very excited about the trip. We love spending time together as a couple, and as far as Japan goes, it will be great for me to have a native guide, especially one as adorable as Tobi.

    Being gay is not easy in Japanese culture. The culture treats almost any expression of individuality or difference as unpardonable selfishness. There is intense social pressure to conform. Tobi emigrated to the U.S.-- not knowing a soul here-- because living in Japan as a gay person wasn't feasible. Tobi's emigration to the U.S. reminds me a little of Brady's recently posted Plan B.

    Japanese society is very conservative socially but this is not religously motivated. Tobi has had little exposure to Christianity and finds it foreign and somewhat frightening. His experience with Christians (of the non-Mormon Bible-thumping kind) has left him skittish.

    We generally spend our lives immersed in our own culture. Its conventions become part of us, and its myths become our reality. Getting to know another culture intimately is a way of breaking open one's own. I myself have found comparing the Japanese gay experience with the Moho experience to be enlightening, and I think being a gay Mormon is easier than being a gay Japanese person. (Sorry, guys.)

    Anyway, now you know a little bit more about our situation. I'll fill in more of the gaps in future posts and I'll be happy to answer questions entered as comments.

    (I'm still not 100% adjusted to the idea of using pseudonyms, but I think it's less stilted than always saying "my boyfriend.")

    Friday, September 14, 2007

    Sunday dinner

    When I was growing up, my mother always made Sunday dinner. This was an afternoon meal that followed Sunday School. In those days, we went to Sacrament Meeting in the evenings.

    The odd thing is that the menu was fixed. We had the same meal on Sundays throughout my entire childhood and adolescence. Here's the menu:

    - Pot roast (you brown the meat, always chuck roast, by searing both sides with onion and then cook it in the oven until it is past well-done)
    - Frozen peas (reheated)
    - Mashed potatoes
    - Brown gravy made from the roast's drippings, flour and water and sometimes with a dark brown gravy extender whose name I can't remember
    - Salad in one of three forms (depending on your mood)
    a) Iceberg lettuce with Italian dressing made from a seasoning packet
    b) Orange jello with shredded carrots and canned pineapple chunks
    c) Green jello with cottage cheese curds and canned pineapple chunks (and nuts?)

    In the summer the frozen peas would be swapped with whatever vegetable happened to be available from the garden.

    Was my mother deranged, or is this what people ate in the 60s and 70s? Is this a Mormon thing? Why did the menu never change? Why that menu? Did anyone else have a fixed Sunday menu? Does this still go on?

    I don't know if the trauma of Sunday dinner made me gay, but I know it contributed, at a minimum, to my love of sushi.

    Wednesday, September 12, 2007

    Sunstone Essay

    Blogger Troy Williams has a thoughtful essay Kissing the Damned that was delivered at a Sunstone panel last month. Quote:

    I have never connected romantically with women. And I thought -- oh my god, I am going to die without ever knowing what it’s like to fall in love. That scared me. I don’t care what the Church says about life-long celibacy – you simply cannot mature and grow emotionally without physical and sexual intimacy. Prolonged sexual abstinence stunts your emotional growth. Repression messes with your mind. Sharing our bodies is vital to our psychological, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. And without the fulfillment of this primal basic need I was becoming a painful bitter wreck of a human being.

    And I thought to hell with this – I want to experience love.

    Troy's experience with celibacy matches my own. In my case (and I certainly don't claim this as a universal), being in a mixed-orientation marriage felt a lot like celibacy. It was only later when I was able to have normal romantic relationships with all their messiness, passion and confusion did I start to mature sexually. One way to put this is that I was unable to share my body with a woman.

    Thursday, August 23, 2007

    Camping vs. Church

    I've spent a lot of time this summer hiking and camping with my rather adorable boyfriend. Besides a few mosquito bites and sunburns, this has resulted in some great memories of us traipsing up steep, densely forested trails, crossing streams, lying on the beach holding hands (occasionally on a nude beach, which gives a surprising sense of freedom and relaxation) and flying our outrageously large rainbow-colored kite in the strong coastal winds we have here. Looking up at blue sky and motionless clouds made of cotton somehow adds to the feeling of wholeness and closeness. At moments like these I feel truly content.

    This feeling of wholeness and peace is purely secular, but it feels religious to me. (Sometimes we went for outings on Sundays, but I suspect that's unrelated.)

    Maybe it's because my right to have a simple afternoon of outdoor fun with my boyfriend is a hard-won privilege. You appreciate what you've had to fight for more, I think. Maybe it's because my sense of wonder and transcendence has been transferred from religious thought to my relations with other people and a general appreciation of the magnificence of the natural world. Maybe it's because my boyfriend's sweetness, innocence and (I'm not too proud to admit) beauty make me happy.

    If wickedness never was happiness, then I know that this cannot be wicked. There is nothing more healing than looking into his beautiful brown eyes and saying "Ai shiteruyo." (You Japanese missionaries should know that one.)

    I don't claim to have all the answers, especially when it comes to anyone other than myself. But for myself, I'll take the simple pleasure of camping over the stress and worry of church any day. Hands down. No contest.

    I find myself letting go of the last grains of bitterness I have carried around for a church that did me no favors as a young person. (Exchanging stories with fellow MoHos has been a great help in this.) I get the sense that we are all trying to do what is by our lights right, whether in the Church or out, whether in a mixed-orientation marriage, celibate or with a lover.

    Tuesday, August 21, 2007

    MoHos in the news

    Here's a link to a newspaper editorial in the New York Sun by a non-Mormon who has encountered the MoHo phenomenon. An excerpt:

    We'll call him Brandon. He was friends with a guy he had met in the cast of a play he was in.

    Good friends. The other guy, "Craig," was about to move across the country, and this was a big deal for them. Such a big deal that a couple of days before Craig's departure, the two of them spent the day at a distant beach location, to have "quality time" before Craig left for good.

    Brandon and Craig were in love. Not, as far as we all knew, involved. A friend who knew them better than I do thinks nothing romantic ever happened. Regardless, you know love when you see it. That beach thing was not typical of men who are friends. It is precisely the kind of thing lovers do.

    ...

    Later Brandon popped up with a nice Mormon fiancee. You couldn't help noticing that he did not have the glow he had always had around Craig. He introduced his fiancee with a certain restraint, a forced smile.

    The fiancee was a very buttoned-up sort with an antique name, I'll substitute Henrietta for it. The two of them looked odd together. She did not match Brandon in terms of charisma, wit, temperament, or even appearance.


    The writer gets a few details wrong about the Church's position on homosexuality, but it's interesting that MoHos are becoming somewhat visible due to Mitt Romney's candidacy.

    Thursday, August 2, 2007

    More on Sacrament Meeting attendance

    There is another discussion here (Millennial Star) on whether gay families would be welcome in Sacrament Meeting and under what conditions their attendance might be tolerated.

    Tuesday, July 31, 2007

    Would you harbor me?

    Here are the lyrics to a song I really like:

    Would You Harbor Me?
    (from Safe House: Still Looking by Y.M. Barnwell (c)1994)


    Would you harbor me?
    Would I harbor you?
    Would you harbor me?
    Would I harbor you?

    Would you harbor a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew
    a heretic, convict or spy?
    Would you harbor a run away woman, or child,
    a poet, a prophet, a king?
    Would you harbor an exile, or a refugee,
    a person living with AIDS?
    Would you harbor a Tubman, a Garrett, A Truth
    a fugitive or a slave?
    Would you harbor a Haitian Korean or Czech,
    a lesbian or a gay?

    Would you harbor me?
    Would I harbor you?
    Would you harbor me?
    Would I harbor you?

    We can skip the drama of a world war and concentration camps and Anne Frank in the attic. I have a simpler question, one that requires much less moral courage: Would you let me come to your sacrament meeting?

    This isn't just rhetorical. I read a comment on one of the Mormon blogs that said, in effect, that coming to church with my boyfriend would be a witness against "revealed doctrine about the nature of the family." Maybe I'm sensitive, but this just seems wrong. Who cares what I believe or who my pew-mate is? Isn't coming to church about worship and reflection?

    Sunday, July 22, 2007

    Dear Mr. Church

    Sometimes I have felt as a gay Mormon that my relationship with the Church has been like a person in an abusive relationship. This post written by another blogger captures this experience. Quote:
    All this time, I wanted to believe that you valued me. But you didn’t. You didn’t. How could you? I mean, who values the mat you step on to get inside the door?? It’s rare to even notice the mat, let alone dwell on its worth to you.

    Until it’s suddenly gone on a rainy day.

    Thursday, June 28, 2007

    Boyfriend 101

    As a follow-up to my earlier post on finding a boyfriend I decided to see what the experts had to say.

    I ended up with Boyfriend 101, a gay dating guide by Jim Sullivan published by Villard Press in 2003. I post the reference here because this book may be of interest to people who are just starting to date or might be wondering what the gay dating world is all about.

    You guys might be interested to find out that "nice Mormon boy" is an official category in the list of "types" of dates, according to this author.

    The biggest concern I have about the book is that it is written for people who have already come out and are secure in their sexual identity. This may limit its usefulness to people who are just coming out (you know who you are). In any case, check it out if you need some basic, practical advice on finding a boyfriend or are curious about how the process works.

    Monday, June 18, 2007

    Check your whorl

    According to scientists, gay men are more likely than straight men to have a counterclockwise whorl on their scalps. What direction is your whorl, guys?

    See here for the whole story.

    Interracial marriage - 40th anniversary

    See here for a moving account by a participant in the court case that overturned Virginia's ban on interracial marriage 40 years ago.

    I'm guessing I'm not the only one who sees parallels with today.

    Sunday, June 17, 2007

    Reflections on progress

    Michael Kinsley has an essay in Time magazine called The Quiet Gay Revolution. His point is one that I've believed for a long time, namely that when it comes to gay rights the tide has turned, especially with the young, and that it's now only a matter of time. Here's an excerpt:

    The debate of 14 years ago about gays in the military seems almost quaint. Kids grow up today with gay friends, gay parents, gay parents of friends and gay friends of parents. If only blacks and whites were as thoroughly mixed together in society as gays and straights are. Kids are also exposed constantly to an entertainment culture in which gays are not merely accepted but in some ways dominant. You rarely see a reality show without a gay cast member, while Rosie O'Donnell is a coveted free agent and Ellen DeGeneres is America's sweetheart. The notion that gays must be segregated out of the military for the sake of our national security must strike Americans younger than, say, 40 as simply weird, just as we of the previous generation find the rules of racial segregation weird. (O.K., run that by me again: they needed separate drinking fountains because ... why?)


    (From: Dan Savage)

    Friday, June 15, 2007

    Marriage



    Although it wasn't well covered in the press, this week was a milestone for marriage equality. A Romney-sponsored challenge to the Massachusetts marriage law was rebuffed. What has been legal for three years now will very likely continue to be legal: two persons regardless of gender may enter into a fully legal marriage in the state of Massachusetts.

    I'm quite moved by this reversal of fortunes. Until last week, it was thought that Romney's challenge would be successful. He needed only 50 votes out of the 200 Massachusetts legislators. This is a profound level of support by the legislature, and it came by individual people telling their stories to the legislators.

    Rather than restate what has been better said elsewhere, I'll just give a few links:

  • A summary by Dan Savage in Seattle


  • Personal comments by conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan


  • The irony here is that many Mohos are against marriage equality, even though the fight for gay rights more broadly in society has been the driving force for reducing prejudice and making conditions better for gay Mormons inside the Church. BYU's changes to its honor code are not occurring in a vacuum.

    Wednesday, June 6, 2007

    Finding a BF

    Maybe it's because I've been out for 20 years, maybe it's because I've raised children, maybe it's because my manly ways inspire confidence :-), but for whatever reason a lot of younger guys have asked me for advice over the years. The most common question is "How do I find a boyfriend?"

    Here's what I know about this topic.

    Note: Please stop reading here if you might be offended by a discussion of gay dating. I completely respect your religious beliefs and am not advocating that you make any of the life choices that I have. In particular, I respect your choice to A) be celibate or B) be part of a mixed-orientation marriage. This post is for those who might be curious about what option C entails.

    When you first come out, entering the dating scene can be daunting. I think there are four reasons for this:

  • Gay adolescence. I've blogged about this here. The gist is that most gay people start dating much later than the average straight person. As a result no matter what age you are, you will have the responses of a 16 year old when you get started with your first same-sex dating experiences. Infatuation can be intense, and you may want to marry the first man who smiles at you.

  • Social awkwardness. It's not uncommon for people just coming out to be emerging from a long period of celibacy. Perhaps you find yourself in your mid-twenties or beyond without any sexual experience at all. If this happens to you, you're a bit behind the curve and need some time to figure out the basics.

  • Unfamiliarity with gay social norms. Like any culture, gay culture has its own social conventions. These are probably unfamiliar to you when you come out and start dating. You may feel like the new kid.

  • The blank page problem. If you've come out, especially in the Mormon context, you've had to make some big changes in your thinking and your social support system. You feel great that you've turned over a new leaf, but the page following is blank. Where do you start?


  • Like job hunting and heterosexual dating, same-sex dating is all about connections. The best source of leads is through the social connections you already have. The trouble is that you may not have a lot of social connections if you've just come out. So rule number one of gay dating is:

    1. Get some gay friends.

    You need to expand your social circle to include people who might know eligible single gay men. This leads to rule number two:

    2. Join in some gay social activities or do some volunteer work.

    When I came out, I did not know any gay people and had just moved from Cache Valley to Salt Lake. I started by doing some volunteer work, in my case, with the Utah AIDS Foundation. In less than a year I had a decent circle of friends that included many gay people. (I also learned a lot more about illness and grief than I bargained for, but I was the better for it in the end.) One of my friends introduced me to the person who became my boyfriend.

    The point of this story is that sometimes looking for a boyfriend isn't the best way to get one. Sometimes just engaging yourself in a social circle may be the best place to start. I mention this because it is common that people who have just come out need to start over socially. You need to factor this into your plans.

    In the city where I live there are all kinds of gay activities and clubs. There's a gay hiking club, a big gay men's chorus (no, I don't live in Provo), country/western dancing and even gay karaoke. There are gay-friendly churches to attend. There are political and social service volunteer opportunities. If you have fingers and can use an Internet search engine, you can find some kind of gay social activity. (Apologies in advance to readers in Iran and Vernal.)

    So get out there and have some fun and meet some people. Remember: your goal isn't necessarily to date the people you meet at these activities. Instead, it is to develop a social network.

    3. You can also meet people online. This is incredibly popular.

    Online dating has an undeservedly bad reputation. Online dating is just another way to meet people. It's not as good as personal introduction by friends, but it's not bad either.

    Let me stand on a soapbox for a moment. I get peeved when people paint gay folks as uncaring sexual libertines. This is a lie. In fact, gay people run the same gamut of personality as straight people. From sociopaths to saints, you'll find them in about the same proportion. (My boyfriend, for example, radiates wholesomeness.)

    There is a myth that everyone online is just looking for sex and may be a dangerous predator. This just isn't true. There are all kinds of people online. You're online, for example.

    Here's a tip: if you use a social networking site to find dates, make sure your own profile is accurate. Say that you are new to gay dating. Say that you are more interested in dating than casual sex. Let the reader get a sense of who you are and what you're about. People will usually respect what you say.

    The protocol for meeting someone online is to chat with them via IM several times before meeting in person. During the chat sessions you should get acquainted and get the basic questions answered. If you think there might be chemistry, the next step is to meet them in public (for example, in a coffee shop) just to chat. This meeting is not a date; it's a chance to talk face to face and get introduced. It should be brief, no longer than a half hour or so.

    If the in-person meeting goes well, then you can schedule a date. From this point on, online dating becomes indistinguishable from any other kind of introduction.

    A popular gay social networking site is gay.com. There are others, including myspace and even blogspot.

    4. Cool your jets.
    Dating your first guy will be exhilarating. You may fall in love quickly (see gay adolescence above). Your hormones are playing tricks on you. Cool it.

    Do not jump headfirst into a relationship. Take your time. I cringe when I hear about first dates that turn into weekends spent together. This kind of instant connection is a recipe for disaster. Instant relationships burn out. I don't know why it works like this, but it does. I've seen it happen many times.

    Take your time. If you like someone after a first date, schedule a second date within a week (but not the next day). If things go well, see them once or twice a week. Let the relationship build over time.

    You may be tempted to go faster than this. Don't.

    Read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limerence. Then reread it.

    5. Be safe
    I hope this doesn't even need saying, but here goes. If you decide to have sex you are responsible for preventing the spread of sexually transmitted disease. There are many online resources if you are unsure how to do this.

    6. Sexual attraction is just one piece of the picture.
    You should be looking for a guy you can respect. You should have common interests and compatible personalities. You want someone who might be a friend even if he was not your lover. This is just common sense.

    Good luck. Does anyone have any dating tips or experiences to share? Feel free to discuss in the comments.

    Thursday, May 31, 2007

    The 75% Club

    A new Gallup poll has some interesting results. The poll is interesting reading. Check it out.

    Acceptance of homosexuality is now tremendously correlated to age: 75% of 18-to-34-year-olds think that homosexuality is "an acceptable alternative lifestyle" versus only 45% of those 55 and older. Seventy-five percent is an overwhelming majority. And guess which group of folks is going to have the bigger influence in twenty years. :-)

    The Church should take note of this trend and plan for it realistically. In twenty years there is going to be a tidal wave of social support for gay people. It will be no different than social acceptance of non-white ethnicity or the full emancipation of women, both of which witnessed first-hand by the current Church leadership. In both of these previous cases the Church had to do some serious adjusting: a change in who can hold the priesthood and new language for the temple ceremony are big changes.

    It's a risky time for the Church. It can either go the "fundamentalist" route and become completely marginalized, or it can adapt. Historically, it has followed the path of adaptation to the changing views of the white middle class. Will this trend continue? If past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior then yes. However, in this case I am less certain. Conservative Christians in the U.S. have taken a reactionary, highly politicized fork in the road in recent years. Will our church follow the general trend of evangelical Christianity or its traditional center-of-the-road tendencies?

    Right now, it seems that the Church is trying to play it both ways. Even though its latest official policies are moving in the direction of acceptance (celibate SSA gets full fellowship), it doesn't remove material inconsistent with its current position (such as The Miracle of Forgiveness and that BKP pamphlet). The general attitude of church members is probably more conservative on this issue than that of the leadership.

    Wednesday, May 30, 2007

    Some things never change

    Early warning signs

    A post by Calvin listed evidence, pro and con, whether he might be gay. I stopped reading after "glitter lotion." That told me all I needed to know.

    Then, while responding to a post by Playasinmar a repressed memory flooded back into my consciousness. This is even worse than glitter lotion:

    I was the ward chorister through all of my high school years.

    Now I understand why things turned out the way they did.

    Tuesday, May 29, 2007

    India and China

    I just got home from a month-long business trip to China and India. From a cultural point of view, the trip was an eye opener. It was the first time I had seen poverty at this level.

    Fellow MoHos, you don't want to be gay in India. The culture is very rigid about sex roles, and homosexuality is very much kept underground. Also, for the record, I think being a woman in India isn't advisable.

    China is an amazing place. They are going to kick us in the pants economically. It's also not a great place to be gay, but certainly better than India. There are even a few gay clubs in Beijing (or so I hear).

    I am very glad to be back home.

    Wednesday, April 18, 2007

    Joke

    Q: What did the co-dependent say to his spouse?













    A: "If you ever leave me, can I come too?"

    Monday, April 16, 2007

    Becoming a Man

    I just reread Paul Monette's Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story. This book is a coming out story by a deeply conflicted, closeted young man who eventually finds the love of his life. (FYI, It's also a great piece of writing that won the National Book Award.) Monette wrote this after the memoir of his lover's illness, Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir, as a kind of "prequel." I can recommend both books, but if you are going to read them both start with Borrowed Time first. Or, if you're mostly interested in the coming out story, stick with Becoming a Man.

    I think this story has relevance for the MoHo crowd. Although Monette was not LDS, he grew up in an era where homosexuality was not as accepted as it is today. He made a huge effort to suppress his sexual orientation and actively tried to change it. The story (I warn in advance) is not for the faint of heart. Monette does not sugarcoat any of the missteps he took along the way.

    I read this book when it was first published in 1992. I was in my early thirties at that point and had been out for less than 5 years. I was horrified. Monette seemed like a sexual outlaw to me, unlikable and hard.

    When you reread books after time has passed, one of the most interesting things that you discover is the change in yourself. The words on the page are the same words you read earlier; how you feel about those words can be very different. This has happened to me a number of times. I remember rereading The Brothers Karamazov in my late thirties. I had read the novel when I was 21 and loved it. But it was a completely different book (I swear) when I read it on the cusp of middle age. I still loved it, but in a very different way (hint: I liked Ivan a lot better the second time around).

    So when I reread Becoming a Man this week, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that my interpretation of it changed after 15 years. The bottom line: the forty-something version of me judges Monette a lot less harshly than the thiry-something version did. I think I now have more understanding for how difficult it is to come out, how many obstacles there really are. Also, I'm at a point in my life where I have a lot more compassion for the variety of responses to life's challenges.

    Even though Monette doesn't come across as the most sympathetic of protagonists, the anguish he felt humanizes him. You get the sense that he did the best he could given the situation he was in. What I've come to after some years of living is that there are many stories. Our stories taken together, as a whole, give us understanding. Some of my favorite blog entries are those that tell personal stories.

    I hope those of you who are looking for a well written personal account of coming out might check this book out.

    Tuesday, April 10, 2007

    Covering

    At the recommendation of Chris, I read Covering by Kenji Yoshino.

    The book is partly a personal coming out story and partly a legal and social argument. It also restates a psychological framework developed by Erving Goffman for understanding assimilation.

    Goffman's psychological theory is interesting. (I haven't read the source material, so I'm relying on Yoshino's summary.) When a trait is stigmatized, there seems to be a spectrum of adaptive behaviors: conversion, passing, covering and flaunting. For example Jews in the U.S. have adapted by conversion (changing religion, identity and name; intermarriage), passing (changing names, sending Christmas cards), covering (public acknowledgment of affiliation but careful accommodation of cultural expectations so as not to appear "too Jewish") and flaunting (contradicting social expectations to conform).

    Yoshino uses Goffman's ideas as part of an argument that identity politics in the U.S. has more or less run its course and that in its place should be a push for universal human rights that would require all nonconformers to "cover" less. He also argues that legal remedies to social problems are limited. Conversations more than lawsuits will be the means of social change. The examples are wide-ranging, including workplace accommodation for women with children and other non-gay issues. His approach seems sensible, humane and workable. Certainly it is less divisive than identity politics.

    Yoshino's coming out story was the least interesting part of the book. When he moves from law and social issues to his personal life, his writing suddenly becomes pretentious, stiff and evasive. It's an overblown, grandiose faux-literary style that you would expect only in a much younger writer.

    I found the narrative to be self-indulgently confessional. For example, there is a stomach-turning scene in which Yoshino refuses his lover's hand while his lover is awaiting a potentially serious diagnosis in hospital. We are told that this is due to "covering." I see it less charitably. I think it shows frightening callousness. Its inclusion in the book seems self-serving (the author reassures us he still "winces" when he thinks about it).

    While reading Yoshino's story, I thought of a similar, but superior, coming out memoir, Paul Monette's Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story. Like Yoshino, Monette is not always a very likable protagonist, but unlike Yoshino, Monette was a gifted writer of personal narrative. (Monette's memoir won the National Book Award, a high honor that was well deserved.) His story leaves no doubt of what he felt; the reader can experience his life. Monette is painful to read but very worthwhile.

    Yoshino's legal and social argument resonates with me, and I can recommend Covering for its social and legal ideas alone. The coming out story-- not so much.

    Tuesday, March 27, 2007

    The sliding scale of abstinence

    I wrote:
    Your religious or political views or those of your parents or community may strongly encourage you to avoid sex entirely. In the long run this isn't practical or sustainable. At some point abstinence has to end: complete sexual abstinence at age 26 isn't normal and may end up making you be uptight about sex or rush into marriage before you're ready.

    ...

    Bottom line: abstinence works on a sliding scale. The younger you are the better it is for you to abstain from sex. The older you are the less practical or desirable it is for you to abstain. The tipping point is probably around age 21 or 22.

    A reader, -L-, offered criticism by restating my view in this way:


    So, please don't follow
    your religious or political views. Follow mine. And if you don't and are over 26, you are not normal. In fact, you are a freak.

    I don't think I quite said this.

    Of course, people should follow their own moral compasses and hold to a belief system that makes sense to them. These beliefs may include sexual proscriptions. No problem there.

    The point of my post was that while sexual abstinence is workable for younger ages it becomes more problematic for older ages (past the mid-twenties). This isn't a statement about beliefs. It's a statement about human nature as I have observed it.

    Sexual experimentation is a part of the process of maturation. If you miss this part of growing up, it can cause inhibition and anxiety. This in no way makes you a "freak," but it may become an issue that must be dealt with later in life. Abstinence at younger ages doesn't play much of a role here; only when it stretches out significantly past the average age of first sexual experience (about 17 in the US) does it seem to matter.

    In addition to the developmental issues, abstinence can create pressure to get married just for sexual purposes. This is a bad motivation for marriage, in my experience.

    If I tell you that "eating fast food for every meal isn't normal and may eventually affect your health" I am not saying that you are morally deficient or worthy of scorn. Instead, I'm asserting that that there may be undesirable physical side effects to eating too much fast food. My intent is the same here. People who abstain from sex into their late twenties and beyond may face some side effects.

    The word may is important. I did not say, but should, that there appears to be a wide variance in sexual drive. A few people are pretty much asexual. A life without sex works just fine for these folks, but they are the exception.

    Should I laugh or cry at the fact that you taught this to your kids?

    My kids had their first sexual experiences during their freshman year of college. This is a very typical age for sexual experimentation outside of LDS culture. I never had to talk to them about this issue. I did encourage them to be responsible and sensible in their approach to sex, and I think they have done this. They are well adjusted, have dated appropriately and have had longer-term boyfriends and girlfriends. Eventually I expect they will find excellent partners to marry. Their previous sexual experience will help them in selecting a mate. It will give them confidence and perspective.

    I've given the advice to other young people that they should abandon abstinence. These young people have been older than my kids by quite a bit, in their mid and late twenties. Graduates of BYU, the young people I'm thinking of had a lot of sexual issues and anxieties. I would characterize them as significantly behind my kids in social and sexual maturity. It was as if the practice of abstinence had delayed their maturation. This is hard to describe but was quite real. I offer it as a data point.

    I should also point out that I personally opted for abstinence as a young person. It caused a lot stress. I had the usual religious guilt over masturbation and sexual thoughts. It wasn't fun. I think my kids have it much better than I did. They have a lot less stress and anguish over sex than I did. Maybe I led them astray. I don't see it; in fact, I think the relaxed attitude toward sex helped their academic and social achievement precisely because they were not anxious or guilty about sex. I wish I could have all the hours back that I spent as a young person needlessly worrying about sexual issues. It was a big waste of time and set me back.

    I hope I can post this in MoHo space with a reasonable tone. I certainly respect those whose views and life experiences about this differ from my own.

    Monday, March 26, 2007

    From a Young Person's Guide to Life - 1

    Here's some advice I have for young persons, based on years of experience and research. This is what I actually told my own children when they were in their teenage years and other young people I know, and they all (amazingly) seem to have turned out just fine. Of course, feel free to pick and choose. Your experience may be different.

    How to deal with being gay. If you think you might be gay, you probably are. This is fine. You'll get used to it. Talk to a friend and get it off your chest. Consider relocating to a larger metropolitan area when you're old enough, and remember that being gay is no excuse for not doing well in school. You still need to do your math homework. Tip for gay teens: you'll avoid a lot of grief by learning early that Andrew Lloyd Webber is an idiot and Stephen Sondheim is a genius. You don't need to do anything special to be gay. Contrary to stereotype there are no special gay traits. Just make your way through the world like everyone else and be willing to decide things for yourself. Be sure to have some fun along the way. You still need to do your math homework.

    How to deal with being straight. Take consolation in the fact that you are not alone. Many young people find themselves strongly and inexplicably attracted to persons of the opposite sex. The bad news is that the opposite sex is hard to understand. Good luck. You still need to do your math homework.

    How to reject a sexual advance. It may happen that someone you aren't interested in will express interest in you. In this situation, the thing to do is be polite and remember that you've just been paid a compliment. Just decline the offer as graciously as possible. This rule applies doubly if the person you are rejecting happens to be of your nonpreferred gender.

    How to deal with being rejected. Having your amorous intentions rebuffed is one of life's most painful experiences. Your only consolation is that you're not alone. Everyone goes through this, and it hurts like hell. It hurts more than you think it ought to. It gets better with time. In the meantime, you have my sympathies. Try writing some poetry. Write a long letter explaining your feelings in detail, but do not send it.

    How to pick a steady girlfriend or boyfriend. Look for long-term qualities in a long-term companion: stability, good humor and ethical behavior are good starting points. Bad qualities don't tend to get any better over time. Picking a girlfriend or boyfriend is (and should be) a completely selfish act. Pick someone with qualities that work for you. This is not the time to be doing any favors.

    How to pick a date. Dating should be experimental. Branch out and socialize with a wider variety of people than you might at first imagine. If you have fun with someone, this is a good sign that you're going in the right direction. The operative word here is fun. You're only young once, and you'd be a fool to waste it. In other words, look for short-term qualities in short-term companions. : - ) It's OK to do someone a favor by asking them out on a date.

    How to masturbate. Masturbation is a part of healthy sexual function that starts at adolescence. It is normal. Most people are embarrassed to talk about it, but it's no big deal. There are only two rules for masturbation: Use a lubricant and don't do it the same way every time, otherwise you can lose some sensitivity over time (this is a bad thing).

    How to use pornography. Pornography, like masturbation (see above), is harmless, but do not under any circumstances mistake pornography for a how-to manual. Pornography can teach you nothing. Nada. Zip. Real sex (especially good sex) is nothing like its pornographic depiction, except in both cases there are two people in the room. Tip: turn off the sound. Tip 2: if you think you are looking at too much pornography, you probably are, you big time waster. Go get a real-life girlfriend or boyfriend, or at least some fresh air and exercise.

    How to have sex. This is big topic, but here is the quick version: slow down, relax and listen for feedback on what feels good to your partner. There is a myth that sex is just one thing, namely vaginal intercourse with the guy on top. This isn't true; sex has many forms. (In fact, confusion over this very point got a U.S. President impeached.) Blushing when someone flirts with you is sex. Holding hands and kissing is sex. Some of the best sex around has nothing to do with intercourse. Remember: don't be in a hurry. "Going all the way" is overemphasized. There's a lot of other stuff to do beside that. It's really about affection and fun. One warning about sex: it can be a kind of glue that binds people to each other emotionally. This effect is very powerful and occurs whether the people involved ought to be glued together or not, so be cautious. Waiting until you get married (or make some other major commitment to each other) is fine too, if you can pull it off.

    How to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. This part is serious, kids. DO NOT get pregnant or get anyone else pregnant. PERIOD. DO NOT get an STD. We have the technology to prevent disease and pregnancy, and this is as much the male's responsibility as the female's. Look it up online. Be especially cautious with the combination of sex and alcohol.

    What to do if you get someone pregnant (or get pregnant). DON'T GET ANYONE PREGNANT (OR GET PREGNANT) IN THE FIRST PLACE. Do not rely on your partner for birth control. It is your responsibility.

    What about abstinence? Your religious or political views or those of your parents or community may strongly encourage you to avoid sex entirely. In the long run this isn't practical or sustainable. At some point abstinence has to end: complete sexual abstinence at age 26 isn't normal and may end up making you be uptight about sex or rush into marriage before you're ready. Like all life skills, you should learn about sex and experiment gradually over time. There's no need to rush this, but there's also no need to prohibit this, especially after high school. Bottom line: abstinence works on a sliding scale. The younger you are the better it is for you to abstain from sex. The older you are the less practical or desirable it is for you to abstain. The tipping point is probably around age 21 or 22.

    BONUS SECTION

    How to choose a tattoo. Tattoos should be postponed until you hit age 30. If you still want one by then, by all means go ahead. Have you ever actually seen a tattoo on a 60 year old? The ink bleeds over time and looks really gross.

    Sunday, March 25, 2007

    Gay Mormon story 1

    Here's a link to a humorous (but poignant) personal account of writer and historian Connell O'Donovan's coming out. It involves a pumpkin custard.

    What happens when a man wins the ward dessert competition?

    Half the Ward was on the floor rolling with laughter. The women who had been in the competition glared at me like they were fit to execute me on the spot. The Bishop was blue then red with humiliation and disbelief, shaking his head in his hands as though the cruelty of the gods had become too much for him to bear.

    The link includes the recipe that started all the trouble.

    Saturday, March 24, 2007

    Pic of the day 3

    I snapped this at a gay pride parade:



    What's interesting is that a photograph like this evokes an emotion in the viewer. It's not neutral.

    When I was much younger (before I came out) I would have been dismissive ("Why do they have to parade this around?") and secretly jealous.

    Right after I came out I would have been proud ("Go for it, show your pride!").

    At this point in my life, I have a nostalgic and parental view. Images of young couples (regardless of the genders involved) make me remember my youth and feel protective... I have the urge to give advice ("make sure you are nice to each other," "stay in school," etc.) LOL.

    What emotion does this photo evoke in you? Is this emotion different in any way from what you might previously have felt?

    Friday, March 23, 2007

    Chris aka Hurricane

    I just read a blog cover to cover (blogs don't have covers, I know). Be warned: I'm going to gush.

    The blog in question is Hurricane, written by Chris Williams with contributions by his ex-wife Keri-Kathryn (KK in the blog).

    It is an astonishing account of a loving, healthy transition out of the closet. An interesting thing about this blog is that it has a narrative structure-- a beginning, a middle and an end. There's climax and denouement. However, what makes it compelling is the overwhelming sense of moral courage that pervades it. This couple was extraordinary in many ways, and there were a number of factors that make their transition a successful one.

    Reading this blog was wonderful, but I felt a little like I did after reading a biography of arctic explorer Ernest Shackleton (Lansing, Endurance)... I thought, "I'm a schmuck; I'll never have courage like that." Regardless of the profound moral inadequacy one may feel after reading Chris' and KK's story, it is still worth it, just as it's worth reading the accounts of any of the great explorers. You don't have to be a pioneer to read about them.

    I think Hurricane should be required reading for any LDS person dealing with SSA, including family members, friends and spouses. It is articulate and expressive. It is true in that bosom-burning kind of way. The story has tremendous resonance.

    It is also capable of causing some cognitive dissonance for faithful Mormons. Chris and KK were poster children of the Mormon ideal, widely admired and loved within their circle. They left the Church, not due to sin of any kind, but due to a moral awakening that arose in a time of personal and marital crisis. The wages of sin in this case turn out to be exuberant, wholesome and loving reengagement with life following a difficult but necessary period of transition. This isn't the way this tale is supposed to end in the Mormon storybook. Someone swapped the ending! There is no alcoholism, no infidelity or abandoned children. There's a lot of integrity, love, hard work and courage. Mormon orthodoxy is the piece that ends up being brittle. KK writes:
    In the weeks after Chris came out to me, we spent hours and hours pouring over his experience as a gay child, adolescent and man. In Mormon terms, I received witnesses as powerful as I've ever had that his experience was "true," that his soul and spirit are gay and that has always been and will always be. When I lined that witness up against the church's doctrine, I knew which one was not true. After that realization, that something the church said came from God was in fact an invention of men (well-intentioned, caring men, but men nonetheless) I could no longer rely on the SYSTEM and many of my other beliefs in Mormon doctrine unraveled as a result.

    This reminds me of a funny bumper sticker I once saw:

    My karma ran over my dogma.

    I will synopsize a bit and give links to the Hurricane blog itself. If you have time, I recommend reading the source in its entirety and letting the work speak for itself. There are approximately 100 posts and many comments. But for those with less time, I hope the following will help give you a sense of what the fuss is about.

    The story of a hurricane sets the stage:

    On September 17, just a couple of days after going to a therapist for the first time to discuss my homosexuality, I sat down with my wife and told her that I am gay. And with that, the city that was my former life was flooded and completely underwater.

    Straight spouses tells us the situation that he and his wife are in.

    Homosexuality and Mormonism is an excellent basic overview of the religious issues. It should be on a FAQ somewhere.

    A child's love describes Chris' coming out to his 7-year-old daughter.

    I am a gay man. Chris shows an emerging gay identity.

    What I learned in Enniskerry describes KK's love and process of acceptance as the couple works to find "a third way." There's no sugar coating here, just an astonishing amount of integrity, hard work and devotion:

    She told me that she wants me to find happiness with another man. She's done this before, but this time I let myself really feel what she was saying. Or, more accurately, I let myself feel the truth of her words.

    Hurricane got quite a few anonymous comments. An example is the following:

    Wow! How liberating it must be to abandon your faith, breach your covenants and vows, and pawn off the burden of your shame and weak character on your friends and family so you can go off galavanting with other men. Whoopee! Welcome to gaydom!

    The meanness of spirit behind this kind of comment contrasts sharply with the tone of love and integrity that pervades Chris' and KK's posts. [Pet peeve: why is it that haters can never spell? It's gallivanting for Pete's sake.] Not all of the comments from LDS readers are mean; in fact, the remarkable thing is that many show deep compassion even when they can't understand the situation fully. Chris writes:

    [S]ome of the most touching reactions have been from our Mormon friends and family who don't really understand, and have sadness for our divorce and our leaving the church, but are able to express an incredible amount of compassion anyway.

    Coming out part IV is a riveting, critical letter from a Mormon friend. I put this in the must-read category because it shows in high relief the irreconcilable split between Chris' experience of the world as he found it and Mormon orthodoxy. You can read the letter for yourself; I found in it a recognizable sense of irritation or exasperation that the faithful sometimes express:

    Something doesn’t become true simply because you or I choose to believe it.

    ...

    Isn’t the conflict you describe between your “Mormon Identity” and your new “gay” one really the conflict between the “Natural man” and Christ?

    The blog then has a number of posts and comments that arise when the blog becomes more widely known to Chris' and KK's friends and church members. Many of the comments are angry, presumptuous and personal, but Chris' (and KK's) responses are always calm, honest and respectful.

    A wife by any other name and "Choices" are must-read posts by KK.

    An Explanation and a Testimony describes Chris' process of leaving the church.

    Chris replies to his critics in "Choices, Part II". This is the climax of the narrative:

    I've been accused of constructing a new belief system to justify my new identity and (again, largely unspoken, but implied) my sinful behavior. Why then do I feel a sense of integrity I've never had before? Why do I feel fundamentally honest in a way that I never have before? Why do I feel God's love in a way that I never have before? How can what I feel now fit with what the Church teaches and expects of me?

    Someone take up the challenge here, because I really want to know. If you think what I am doing is wrong and will lead only to sadness, offer me something better.

    The comments attached this post are particularly interesting.

    The blog winds down as Chris finds that a meeting of the minds between faithful LDS people and those who leave the church isn't really possible. The post Put Your Shoulder To Wheel and its comments are the turning point. You see here the first element of a "post-Mormon" identity forming in Chris. It's poignant because you get the sense that Chris sincerely wants to reach a point of respectful mutual understanding with believing members of the church. This doesn't seem possible. (Editorial disclosure: I have had similar disappointments in my own efforts to find common ground with active Mormons.)

    In Joy and Sorrow and Wonderful Normalcy KK moves out of state with the children, and Chris finds a boyfriend. There are problems (how to do long-distance parenting) and opportunities. Chris runs a marathon, and this is a kind of symbol of his life's changes. There are subsequent posts, but the closure reached by the marathon really marks the end of the narrative. For example, we hear later that Chris awakens politically, but this is more in the spirit of an epilogue.

    Chris and KK, I don't know you. I will likely never meet you, but admire you both greatly. If the world were filled with people like you, it would be an amazing place.

    For a long time I've had a theory that the church derives its holiness from the holiness of its members. In other words, sanctity is not top down but bottom up-- it arises from the goodness and purity of very ordinary people and very ordinary lives. In this view, Hurricane is a sacred text.

    Reparative therapy

    I love Jon Stewart's take on reparative therapy.

    [Edit: dead video link removed-- see comments.]

    I know this has been posted elsewhere, but it's just too funny to miss.

    Wednesday, March 21, 2007

    Pic of the day 1

    Here's a photo I took at a gay pride parade.



    These are families with same-gender parents. When you see a big line of families marching in a parade like this, it really makes you proud. It's simply not true that gay people don't raise children. Where I live, they are accepted members of the community, and I personally know a number of male couples who have kids. In fact, friends of mine just had twin daughters last month.

    Tuesday, March 20, 2007

    Pic of the day 2

    Here's a photo I took at a gay pride parade.



    I find this woman inspiring. Not only does she support her son (with a handmade apron sign) but she also marches in a long parade with her support shoes and cane chair. Moms of the world, I salute you.

    Attitudes of youth

    There's a change brewing in people's attitudes toward homosexuality. A new poll of about 300,000 college freshman shows that support for gay marriage is high.

    The freshmen's support for "legal marital status" for same-sex couples rose in 2006 to an all time high of 61.2 percent, a 3.3 percentage point increase over fall 2005 when support stood at 57.9 percent. The increase continues a relatively steady upward trend since the question was first asked in 1997 when support stood at 50.9 percent.

    This is six out of ten! A poll of college freshmen is a leading indicator of public opinion. It's a predictor of what will be a mainstream view in 10 years. The most amazing part is the rate of increase since the question was first asked in 1997 by the pollsters.

    Another fascinating result of the poll is the amount of support for gay marriage among conservatives:

    Even among conservative freshmen, almost one out of three now support legal gay unions, a level of support you would not anticipate considering the opposition of prominent conservatives.

    I find this number astonishing.

    I think that within our lifetimes the prohibition against gay marriage will be as old-fashioned as the prohibition against interracial marriage prior to the civil rights movement.

    How will Mormonism deal with this? There is a long history of cultural adaptation in the church. There's lots of historical precedent: blacks getting the priesthood; the end of plural marriage; the expansion of roles available to women.

    One of the reasons I'm interested in the experiences of faithful Mormons with SSA is the extent to which they represent a change in thinking in the church more generally. The church will only change from within. If every gay person leaves the church, it will never change; instead, it will only become more marginalized from the mainstream culture, which would be a bad thing for its future viability. (Imagine where the church would be today if blacks could not hold the Priesthood or if plural marriage were accepted.) Despite the rhetoric of in-the-world-but-not-of-the-world, the world of mainstream thinking has a profound effect on the church in the long run. If people with SSA stay in the church and become positive voices for greater acceptance of sexual diversity, then the church has a chance of making the same transition over time as society more generally.

    Maybe you say this will never happen. I am old enough to remember the change that allowed blacks to hold the priesthood. It was huge. It was not so different than you might imagine compared to the gay issue. Many people in the church privately struggled with the whole "mark of Cain" distinction just as many people in the church now struggle with the stigmatization of SSA. I remember the Sacrament meeting where the announcement was made, and the expectation afterward that some of the more conservative members would walk out. You might say that there are bigger doctrinal issues with SSA; I'm not so sure. Certainly, these issues are no deeper than those surrounding plural marriage.

    Saturday, March 17, 2007

    Sappy French lyrics

    On the topic of mixed-orientation marriages (not really, ok maybe my former marriage):


    Finalement, finalement,
    Il nous fallut bien du talent
    Pour être vieux sens être adulte


    Et plus le temps nous fait cortège
    Et plus le temps nous fait tourment,
    Mais n’est-ce pas le pire piège
    Que vivre en paix pour des amants.
    Bien sûr tu pleures un peu moins tôt,
    Je me déchire un peu plus tard
    Nous protégeons moins nos mystères;
    On laisse moins faire le hasard
    On se méfie du fil de l’eau
    Mais c’est toujours la tendre guerre


    Jacques Brel, La chanson des vieux amants (1967).

    My translation of this is:


    In the end, at last,
    It took a lot of talent
    For us to grow old without growing up.


    The longer time marches on
    The more torment it sends our way,
    But it's no worse a trap for lovers
    Than not fighting.
    Of course, you don't start crying as soon these days,
    And I wait a bit longer before pulling away;
    We guard our secret lives less vigilantly.
    Yet, fewer chances get taken,
    It isn't safe to go with the flow,
    Because it's still war, an intimate war.

    Yikes! The shock of recognition gives me quite a jolt.

    Video of a celibate gay Mormon

    I found this video to be hard to watch.



    I don't see how a reasonable person could watch this and not have sympathy for the situation of this man.

    Video of married gay Mormon

    I thought this was worthwhile. I don't know if you've seen this one.



    I don't how you interpret this personal account. I thought it was a tough situation for both husband and wife.

    Gay bosses

    Now I know why everyone at work loves me. :- )

    It's because gay folks make the best bosses. Money quote:

    Gay male bosses produce 35 to 60 percent higher levels of employee engagement, satisfaction, and morale than straight bosses.

    Check it out.

    Straight sex vs homosex

    -L- recently had a thoughtful post about straight sex from a gay guy's point of view. I made the following comment:

    I have been on both sides of this... heterosexually married (with kids) and in a monogamous gay relationship of long duration.

    My experience agrees with -L-'s as far as the hetsex part goes. It was workable; we had kids; it didn't gross anyone out; it wasn't a caricature of intimacy; sometimes it was even tender.

    When I first had homosex, it was like being transported to another plane of existence. The synapses in my brain went into overdrive. It was electric. The experience was unbelievably potent. I cried afterwards from happiness. It was truly making love for the first time.

    When people ask me how old I was when I first had sex, I always use the age of my first homosex. Then I tell them that prior to losing my virginity I was married and had several kids. :-)

    I still remember that first sexual experience. (Insert cinematic dissolve here)

    Since this is a PG-rated blog, you may have to use your imagination here. But I'm not kidding: having the kind of sex you're wired for is a completely different experience from the other kind of sex.

    Thirteen answers

    I want to take a pass at iovan's thirteen questions. My answers are personal; that is, they are drawn from my own experience and the experience of people I know. I don't claim that the answers would necessarily be the same for everybody.

    1. Can SSA/homosexuality be completely overcome?

    If by "completely" you mean that you become attracted to women instead of men, then the answer is no. By the time you reach the age of sexual awareness this part of you has pretty much been determined.

    2. Is it necessary to understand where my SSA comes from before I can deal with it, or is it possible to just accept that I have these feelings and then deal with them?

    For me, trying to understand the origins of my same-sex orientation didn't help much. I'd say it's best just to accept where you are and move on from there.

    3. Is it possible to deal with SSA without help from others? If not, where do I go for help?

    Learning that I was not alone was a big help for me. When I was first dealing with this issue I read a lot of books. Blogs are great, too. Talking about my feelings with frends helped a lot. Eventually I used professional counseling.

    4. Is being in a relationship before getting a better understanding of all of this going to be helpful or harmful (also thinking about the other person)?

    I would not recommend heterosexual marriage if you have SSA. This affects not only your life but the lives of others. If you do decide to get married, then you need to fully disclose your SSA before getting engaged.

    5. What is the influence of acting out on my same sex attractions while dealing with SSA - do I start with obedience to the law of chastity, or is that something that can come later?)

    I chose not to do any homosexual experimentation. When I was finally ready to start acting on it, I had already resolved the moral issues and felt that I was acting ethically. If you "act out" before you have come to terms with this issue, you will be overcome with guilt, and this will only set you back. In other words, I think it's fine to live authentically as a sexually active gay person. But don't try to do this if this is in conflict with your belief system. It's much better to wait. If you're one of the (relatively rare) people who can manage lifelong celibacy, then that's an option as well. I'm not saying everyone has to do it the way I did.

    6. Should I seek contact with other people experiencing SSA or should I focus on good and meaningful relationships with straight people?

    I think meeting others in your situation is helpful. You are not alone. Many of us have dealt with this situation in our own lives. Good and meaningful relationships with straight people can also help. "Meaningful" also means authentic. You should talk to trusted friends about SSA if you can. Counseling is also helpful.


    7. Should I focus on developing deeper relationships with women?

    Deeper relationships with women won't alter your SSA. Deeper friendship with women may make you happy because women can be amazing friends! The alliance between gay men and women is a natural one.

    8. Are there any other issues I should address if I want to fully address SSA? What are they?

    I've never seen other issues that should be addressed first.

    9. Is SSA a sexual thing or is it a matter of underlying issues?

    I don't think we should draw too big a distinction between our sexual and nonsexual selves. They need to be integrated. We often hear phrases like "purely physical" or "just sexual" as if these aspects of human existence don't matter. They do. Who you love is a big part of you.

    10. Would I be able to develop heterosexual attractions towards women? (Can I change the fact that a woman has to be drop dead gorgeous before I'm even remotely attracted to her, while even an average looking guy immediately seems to attract my attention?)

    No. You cannot induce heterosexual attraction. You can choose what to do with your SSA in terms of behavior, but you cannot alter the attraction itself.

    11. Is the answer found in developing deeper relationships with men or maybe with one man in particular, and then finding out the nature of the needs that are met?

    As I mentioned above, I don't recommend experimentation while you are still conflicted. If you fall in love with a man but have religious beliefs that conflict with that you might find yourself in a very unhappy situation. Also, you are not the only person involved. I've read accounts of conflicted experimenters who decide to drop a friend when the relationship goes "too far." This is very cruel to the other person.

    12. What can contribute to my motivation to deal with this (which ever way it goes) and not give up?

    Remember that you have a future. You are building a foundation for a better life by dealing honestly and courageously with this issue.

    13. How will I know the right answers to some of the yes or no questions?

    I wouldn't look for right or wrong answers. I'd focus on what it takes to live your life authentically and productively. As I said elsewhere on this blog, I found that I became a better person when I gave up the goal of being a good person. The reason is that I could live more authentically, without deception. The President of the church said on nationwide TV that he is "not an expert in these matters." The answers you find will have to be from your own experience and observation.

    Friday, March 16, 2007

    Coming out

    Mormon Enigma wrote about his coming out process. This link also includes an extended comment by me about my own experiences when coming out.

    I wrote:

    There is a phenomenon known as "gay adolescence" that is, in my experience, almost unavoidable. Basically, what this means is that regardless of your biological age, you tend to have emotions like a teenager when you first come out. For example, you can easily become infatuated. Your sense of "drama" and exhilaration increases. This lasts until you get it out of your system, in the same way that it works for teenagers. It's not all bad-- it makes you experience life with wonderful intensity and passion, but it also can make you irresponsible and kind of crazy. (Parents of actual teenagers will recognize this.) Be on the lookout for this. Your emotions may play tricks on you. When I hear you say "damn the consequences", I think this.

    This happened to me. It was like being sixteen years old. I had crushes on guys I barely knew (including fantasies of riding off into the sunset together). I would blush when I met handsome men. I bored my friends and family with earnest-- and lengthy-- discussions about being gay. (Thanks, guys.) It was so embarrassing!

    Over time my period of gay adolescence wore off. It lasted about two years.