Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas in Utah - 3

I was in Utah again for Christmas this year, just like 2007 and 2008. My son and I spent the holiday with one of my sisters and her family. My boyfriend Tobi had to stay in New York City because of work. Otherwise, he would have been there, too.

My sister and I are in an odd situation. She is a conservative, by-the-book kind of Mormon while I am a secular or cultural Mormon. Since our parents have passed away, we don't have them to mediate our relationship. Although we try to avoid it, the difference in our religious views remains something we have to tiptoe around. I'm close to my sister's kids, who are now in their mid-twenties and early thirties, and it's really important to me that my son have the opportunity to stay close to his cousins.

Everything was going just fine during our visit until the Tuesday night before Christmas. I don't know how it started, but Prop. 8 became the topic of conversation. I could not believe how offended I became when my own family (to be fair, the worst offenders were in-laws and not blood relatives) repeated some of the absurd false statements of the Prop. 8 campaign. After a few minutes I stood up and said, "I ask for very little from this family, but out of respect for me I want you stop this conversation now." And then I left the room. They stopped the discussion.

Scene, with aria.

A number of people in the house that night did not get much sleep. I went to bed and shook with adrenaline for several hours. My son and one of his (gay friendly) cousins stayed up most of the night talking about it. His cousin was deeply embarrassed by some of the attitudes in his family. My brother-in-law went to bed sulking because everyone always thinks he's the bad guy. Etc.

In the end, I don't really care what my relatives think about the issue. I just want them not to discuss it when I'm in the house. I have my limits, and that's one of them.

I don't know what the resolution will be. My sister said that we'll have to "agree to disagree." Even though this keeps the peace, it does not promote strong family bonds. Another year of stasis. Prop. 8 in my family is like a wound that won't heal. It's not getting any better, and it's not life threatening in any way, but every now and then it oozes pus.

(On Christmas day, we all opened presents and then I left for the airport so that I can spend the week between Christmas and New Year's in New York with Tobi. There will be more on this in a subsequent post.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Unbelievable cuteness

Sometimes I think I'm becoming a YouTube aggregator instead of a blogger. No matter. Here for your consideration, apropos of nothing, is a video clip of an incredibly cute five-year-old Japanese boy doing a cover with his ukulele of Jason Mraz's I'm Yours.



This kid also does a very entertaining Beatles cover, which you can see here.

Via: Bil Browning at Bilerico

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Something seasonal

Here's a Christmas song by the London Gay Men's Chorus about coming out to one's family. (I guess I'm easily amused.)

Enjoy.



Lyrics:
(to the tune of Hark! The Herald Angels)

I intend to drop a bomb
On my dear old dad and mom,
For this year without a doubt
Is the Chrismas I come out.

First, I'll get their full attention.
Then I'll drop a subtle mention:
"Lovely tree, and by the way
Some of my closest friends are gay."
That should do the job okay
When I come out on Christmas Day.

Oh say can you see it now--
Watch my parents have a cow.
Or perhaps if fate is kind
They'll insist that they don't mind.

Then they'll say, "We always guessed.
After all, look how you're dressed.
Seven earrings in each ear--
We're not quite that dense, my dear."
They'll adore me anyway
When I come out on Christmas Day.

Coming out to everyone
Makes the winter doldrums fun.
It's a noble thing to do,
Why don't you come on out, too?

Make a choice! Damn consequence!
Lift your voice, get off the fence,
Shout it from the highest roof,
"Gay is great, and you're the proof!"
Make this Christmas bright and gay,
Come on out on Christmas Day.


Words by Craig Sturgis, 1992

BONUS: And there's more! The Twelve Gays of Christmas (a funny and amazingly good dance routine)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Who would Jesus house?

The LDS Church recently came out in support of a nondiscrimination law in Salt Lake City. They said, effectively, that everyone deserves a place to live. Reactions, as you may recall, were mixed.

Then this post on lds.net came to my attention. A person asked the following question on the LDS forum:
I'm somewhat confused on what to do right now. I am currently living in an apartment with 3 bedrooms. My roommate (The one moving out) that has the bedroom with a private bath is the room a 2 gay guys want to rent. ...

The gay couple will be in the room in the front of the apartment. Separate bathroom, but we all share the laundry room which is in the closest of their room.

The guy I met is really nice and he agree to not show affection and such...

... but what to do?

Before ceding the floor for comments the poster ended with something rather surprising:

I feel like I need to follow the Church non-discrimination stand on this one. They recently supported that in Utah...


Wow! Wow! Wow!

But then he hesitated:
... but I want to be careful.

In other words, "the Church told me not to discriminate in housing, but I'm still scared of gay people because I know they are bad, so please, LDS Forum members, tell me what I should do."

You can read the comments on the thread if you're interested; the majority were benign.

I don't know about you, but as weird as this is I see it as progress. When the Church makes a stand the members notice and change their behavior. The opinions of LDS leaders are enormously influential among the rank and file. This is why the Church's support for basic civil rights for gay people was an important, meaningful step. Congratulations to all those in Salt Lake who worked for it.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Ode on a Typeface

This parody video is just about the nerdiest thing ever-- it's dedicated to a typeface. If you're a design geek or into fonts or an out-of-control Lady Gaga fan or all of the above, you'll be humming along. (I recommend viewing in HD, full screen.)

Plus, the guys are extremely cute.



Via: Voenix Rising

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Liebestod

Waltraud Meier sings the Liebestod from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. I was going to introduce this aria for those who might not know it, but words fail me. The clip is about 7 minutes long, with lyrics below. Use headphones.



Love is the most painful thing in life and, along with art, the most redemptive.



Mild und leise
wie er lächelt,
wie das Auge
hold er öffnet, -
seht ihr's, Freunde?
Säh't ihr's nicht?
Immer lichter
wie er leuchtet,
sternumstrahlet
hoch sich hebt?
Seht ihr's nicht?
Wie das Herz ihm
mutig schwillt,
voll und hehr
im Busen ihm quillt?
Wie den Lippen,
wonnig mild,
süsser Atem
sanft entweht: -
Freunde! Seht!
Fühlt und seht ihr's nicht?
Hör ich nur
diese Weise,
die so wunder-
voll und leise,
Wonne klagend,
alles sagend,
mild versöhnend
aus ihm tönend,
in mich dringet,
auf sich schwinget,
hold erhallend
um mich klinget?
Heller schallend,
mich umwallend,
sind es Wellen
sanfter Lüfte?
Sind es Wogen
wonniger Düfte?
Wie sie schwellen,
mich umrauschen,
soll ich atmen,
soll ich lauschen?
Soll ich schlürfen,
untertauchen?
Süss in Düften
mich verhauchen?
In dem wogenden Schwall,
in dem tönenden Schall,
in des Weltatems
wehendem All, -
ertrinken,
versinken, -
unbewusst, -
höchste Lust!
How softly and gently
he smiles,
how sweetly
his eyes open -
can you see, my friends,
do you not see it?
How he glows
ever brighter,
raising himself high
amidst the stars?
Do you not see it?
How his heart
swells with courage,
gushing full and majestic
in his breast?
How in tender bliss
sweet breath
gently wafts
from his lips -
Friends! Look!
Do you not feel and see it?
Do I alone hear
this melody
so wondrously
and gently
sounding from within him,
in bliss lamenting,
all-expressing,
gently reconciling,
piercing me,
soaring aloft,
its sweet echoes
resounding about me?
Are they gentle
aerial waves
ringing out clearly,
surging around me?
Are they billows
of blissful fragrance?
As they seethe
and roar about me,
shall I breathe,
shall I give ear?
Shall I drink of them,
plunge beneath them?
Breathe my life away
in sweet scents?
In the heaving swell,
in the resounding echoes,
in the universal stream
of the world-breath -
to drown,
to founder -
unconscious -
utmost rapture!


For those who can live with poorer audio fidelity, try Birgit Nilsson's version as a heart-stopping alternative.

Tobi love

This about sums it up:



Created from this blog via: Worlde.net
Hat tip: Darkdrearywilderness

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Who would Jesus handcuff? - part 3

The Main Street Plaza incident lives. Here's Stephen Colbert's take.

(Fair warning: The clip is funny and innocuous, but some LDS viewers may be offended by the irreverent tone.)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Steak house or gay bar?

Check out this time waster. It's a quiz to see if you can tell the difference between the names of steak houses and gay bars. Despite the difference in clientele, there's often little in the name that would indicate which type of establishment the name refers to. The quiz is harder than you might imagine.

Enjoy!

Post your scores below, for 25 tries. I got about 65% right.

P.S. The quiz does not have any pictures. It's safe for work or family viewing.

Via: Andrew Sullivan

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Halloween costumes - keeping it butch

I love satire that points out the absurdity of prejudice.

Here's a very funny clip from The Onion about butching up your sissy boy with an appropriate Halloween costume. (To think that we still worry about this.)



Via: Dan Savage

Monday, October 26, 2009

No more goodbyes, please - part 4

Those of you who follow this blog know that my boyfriend Tobi has had an immigration crisis for the last twelve months. I've blogged about it here, here and here.

There's recent news. It's good news and bad news. The good news is that Tobi has a very promising job possibility that would allow him to stay in the U.S. The bad news is that he has had to move across the country to get the job.

I put Tobi on a plane this Saturday with a one-way ticket. It was just about the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. We now live on opposite coasts of the U.S.

This crisis over the last year has taught me something. It has let me know how much I love this man. I love him truly, sincerely, durably. I want to spend my life with him.

Tobi and I don't know what the future will bring. I have enough flexibility that I should be able to spend time with Tobi in his new city fairly often, and I plan to do this. Maybe he'll be able to move back here with me after he gets permanent residency in a few years. Maybe I'll figure out a way that I can move there and be with him. Maybe we won't survive the separation. In any case, we're not going to spend time agonizing about that now. We're just going to move forward, knowing that we love each other and are willing to face this challenge together.

(Tobi's immigration problems are not yet over. I'll give another update in a couple of months when the next round of paperwork has been successfully processed. It's not quite time yet for celebration on that score.)

In the meantime, gambare, Tobi! My heart is with you in your new adventure.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Coming out advice for young people

Here's some advice for coming out to parents who are religious conservatives.



Via: Daddy Bear

Friday, October 16, 2009

The changing of the guard

Blogger Ziff has a post that predicts which of the LDS Quorum of the Twelve will succeed in becoming president of the church and which will not have that role. Ziff's post made me interested in a related question: For each year in the future, who is the president of the LDS Church likely to be?

I ran the numbers and produced a graph that shows each of the existing candidates and the chance that they will be president of the church in each given year. Graphically, the data looks like this:

 


(Click on the diagram to zoom in.)

The blue line coming from the upper left shows survival chance of Thomas Monson. You'll notice that not all apostles are equally represented. There's a good chance for Packer, Oaks, Holland and Bednar, each in different years. The other apostles are not nearly as likely to become president. Note that although we can almost rule out some of the candidates, the most likely successors are by no means assured of their place.

The red and blue bell-shaped curves to the left show something rather scary: they represent the possibility of Boyd Packer and Dallin Oaks becoming church presidents. (These two apostles represent the hardest edge of the old guard.)

The following diagram shows the probability that either Packer or Oaks is church president in a given year:

 


In other words, between 5 and 15 years from now there is an excellent chance that either Elder Packer or Elder Oaks will be president of the church. In fact, there is a lifetime probability of about 70% that eventually at least one of them will take over the presidency.

If you look at the current church leadership, you can divide them into two groups based on age and temperament. The older group (in order of succession) is

Monson (age 82)
Packer (age 85)
Perry (age 87)
Nelson (age 85)
Oaks (age 77)
Ballard (age 80)
Scott (age 80)
Hales (age 77)

The younger, probably more progressive group is lead by Jeffrey Holland:

Holland (age 68)
Eyring (age 76)
Uchtdorf (age 68)
Bednar (age 57)
Cook (age 69)
Christofferson (age 64)
Andersen (age 58)

Since succession in the LDS Church is by strict seniority, it is possible to ask when the church presidents from the older group will be replaced by their younger, more progressive colleagues. The following chart shows the probability of any member of the younger group being president of the church:

 



Basically, during the next 10 to 15 years the LDS Church will have very conservative leadership, perhaps even more conservative than today. Then, from 10 to 20 years from now there will be a time of transition. Starting 20 years from now, it is very likely that all of the old guard will be gone.

I don't know if these numbers are encouraging or discouraging.

Note on methodology: Ziff's numbers are based on life expectancy data for white males in the U.S. in 2004. I used the same data set as Ziff for the life expectancies, except that I reduced annual mortality [q(x)] by 10 percent across the board to account for the fact that members of the LDS leadership are probably longer lived than the general population.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

This one's a must-read

Here's some must-read satire from The Onion: If God Had Wanted Me To Be Accepting Of Gays, He Would Have Given Me The Warmth And Compassion To Do So.
I don't question God. The Lord is my Shepherd and I shall put none above Him. Which is why I know that if it were part of God's plan for me to stop viciously condemning others based solely on their sexual preference, He would have seen fit—in His infinite wisdom and all—to have given me the tiniest bit of human empathy necessary to do so.

It's a simple matter of logic, really. God made me who I am, and who I am is a cold, anti-gay zealot. Thus, I abhor gay people because God made me that way. Why is that so hard to understand?
Here, let's start with the basic facts: I hate and fear gay people. The way they feel is different from how I feel, and that causes me a lot of confusion and anger. Everyone knows God is all-powerful. He could easily have given me the capacity to investigate what's behind those feelings rather than tell strangers in the park they're going to hell for holding hands. But God clearly has another path for me. And who am I to question His divine will?

Try to understand. If I were capable of thinking and acting any other way, then I'm sure I would, but God seems to be quite adamant about this one. He's just not budging at all. So unless our almighty Lord and Savior decides to change His mind about my ability to empathize on even the most basic level—which I find highly unlikely—then everyone is just going to have to accept the fact that I'm going to keep on hating homosexuals. And I know that He will fill me with the strength to remain mindless and hurtful in the face of adversity.


Read the whole thing.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Conference report

The Salt Lake Tribune reports on continuing advice to parents of gay adult children by LDS Apostle Dallin H. Oaks in the October 2009 General Conference. According to the paper, Elder Oaks said:
Following the example of an all-wise and loving God who has given commandments for the benefit of his children, wise parents condition some parental gifts on obedience. If an adult child is living in cohabitation, does the seriousness of sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage require that this child feel the full weight of family disapproval by being excluded from any family contacts, or does parental love require that the fact of cohabitation be ignored?


The Trib comments:
The apostle said he had seen both responses, neither of which is appropriate. Indeed, gay activists recently have criticized Mormon parents who cut off communication with their gay children.


Elder Oaks's world view scares the pants off me. (Apparently, being a gay couple is all about sex, sex, sex all the time, even if the "cohabitors" have kids, joint dental insurance and a mortgage.) For the record, I would never relate to either of my two adult children in the manipulative way he proposes. It wouldn't matter what the nature of the disagreement was.

Incidentally, in denouncing child abandonment, Elder Oaks uses the weakest language imaginable. He thinks that severing parental bonds, the ultimate act of emotional violence if there ever was one, is "inappropriate" but on par in terms of fault with parents who love and accept their children without strings attached. Unbelievable.

This reminds me of the tragic story of Spencer W. Kimball's "conditional-love" relationship with his brainy, overachieving but (unforgivably) nonbelieving son Spencer LeVan Kimball. As a son, SLK was no slacker-- he won a Rhodes Scholarship (!), became a distinguished law professor and devoted himself to a life of teaching and service. Yet, his father SWK chose to severely damage the relationship over religious differences.

All I can say is that I'm glad that I don't happen to be Elder Oaks's gay child. Can you even imagine?

When I came out over 20 years ago, my kindhearted LDS parents treated me with nothing but love. They listened to me as I struggled to tell them the part of my life that had been hidden from them. They cried with me as I worked through the issues (including a painful divorce). It is not an overstatement to say that their loving response made all the difference in my life.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The articles of faith

This blog has an alternate version of the Articles of Faith.

I am particularly fond of Article 2:

2. We believe that church ball players should be punished for their own fouls, and not for unsportsmanlike aggression.


I also think Article 9 is inspired:

9. We believe in all that we have scrapbooked, all that we will now scrapbook, and we believe that we will yet scrapbook many great and important things pertaining to our family, friends, pets, and vacations.


I guess you had to grow up in the Church....

Friday, September 25, 2009

September is masturbation month

Fellow blogger Abelard has asked for masturbation posts in September.

Here you go, from the musical Hair:



Sodomy, fellatio, cunnilingus, pederasty
Father, why do these words sounds so nasty?
Masturbation can be fun
Join the holy orgy, kamasutra,
Everyone!


I love this song.

Here's one more masturbation tip:



Masturbation is a normal part of sexuality. Just be sure to use enough lube so that you don't hurt yourself.

What you do with your own body, in the privacy of your own room, is nobody's business.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Coming out in middle school

The New York Times has an interesting article about the recent trend of gay kids acknowledging their sexuality as young adolescents.

The article is worth a read.

Here's my favorite quote. The writer listens to a gay middle-schooler and his mother argue over dating rules. He writes,
I couldn’t help remembering what Ritch Savin-Williams, the professor of developmental psychology at Cornell, told me the first time we spoke: "This is the first generation of gay kids who have the great joy of being able to argue with their parents about dating, just like their straight peers do."


There's some cautionary advice for LDS parents.

Johnny [a gay adolescent] said his mom has made it very clear that he’s not allowed to bring a boyfriend over to the house. “She’s like, ‘O.K., I accept you, but you better not bring any of those people around,’ ” he told me.

That’s one of about 50 “rejecting behaviors” identified by Caitlin Ryan of San Francisco State University, who has spent the last eight years studying the link between family acceptance or rejection of gay children and their mental health in early adulthood. (Ryan found that teenagers in “rejecting families” were significantly more likely to have attempted suicide, used drugs and engaged in unprotected sex than those who were raised in accepting families.)


References for Ryan's studies can be found here.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The arc of history

We sometimes assume that arc of history moves us forward, that successive ages bring us to more humane place. Unfortunately, this isn't the case; just look at Iran in the 1950s versus Iran today. What was once a developing, open society is now closed to science, economic development and education (especially of women).

In recent decades, the LDS Church has seemed to move forward in its policies toward its gay and lesbian members. In the past year and a half, though, it has reversed this course and taken a number of steps backward.

The latest is a talk given by Bruce C. Hafen of the Seventy. You can find it here. It's a big step backwards; I don't have the heart to quote from it. What's remarkable about the speech is its ignorance. A big tip off is Hafen's regurgitation of the utterly discredited Freudian theory of homosexuality. It also is much more of a secular political speech than it is a sermon.

The chickens, as they say, have come home to roost.

Via proxfm (whose summary is worth reading).

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Darwin

From time to time, the topic of evolution comes up on the Bloggernacle. It seems that there are four possible views:

1 Young-earth creationists assert that the earth is approximately 6,000 years old and that all species were unchangeably created at the moment of origin by divine miracle.

2 Old-earth creationists reject natural selection as an explanation of biological species, but they do accept the age of the earth as established by scientific techniques such as radiometric dating. In this view, each "day" described in Genesis was a long time. The mechanism of creation is identical to the young-earth theory.

3 Theistic evolution is a common Christian view. In this view, evolution was the method of divine creation. This is the official position of the Catholic church, for example. I have also heard this position articulated by BYU biology professors who teach evolution.

4 Scientific evolution holds that all organisms come to be through entirely natural processes. In contrast to theistic evolution, scientific evolution holds that there is no design for living creatures and no necessary progression in evolutionary change, only adaptation to local circumstances.

I'm guessing that very conservative Mormons are young-earth creationists, that mainstream Mormons are old-earth creationists and that liberal Mormons believe in theistic evolution. I would guess that very few Mormons believe in scientific evolution (undirected adaptation). It would interesting to know what proportion of the LDS population falls into each of these buckets.

There's a strong association between creationist views and anti-gay sentiment. (People who hold one of these views tend to hold the other. Young-earth creationists, in particular, tend to be extremely anti-gay.) It's interesting that when creationism began its ascent in the U.S. in the 1920s, one of the main issues was race. Evolution was seen as justification for the mixing of races, which at the time was extremely controversial. Today, the issue is no longer race, but conservatives are anxious about the loss of strict gender roles and about homosexuality. A purely natural explanation of biological origins seems to intensify this anxiety.

--

Search YouTube for "Darwin's Legacy Stanford" for a series of useful lectures on evolution. Lecture 2 is especially relevant to the issue of religious views.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The three Fs

Julia Child was earthier than you might imagine. Once, when asked the secret to her long-lasting marriage, she replied, The three Fs: food and flattery.

LOL.

She's absolutely right.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Funkyzeit mit Brüno and Tobi

On a whim and against our better judgment, Tobi and I went to see Brüno, the widely panned, sexually explicit and thoroughly offensive gay mockumentary.

We loved it. Go figure.

I went to this movie prepared to be bored and offended but was neither. I think it helped that I never saw Sacha Baron Cohen's previous film Borat. The schtick is pretty much the same in both films, and it's not something that you would necessarily want to see twice. It also helped that I had read fairly terrible reviews. Somehow we have a tendency to judge a movie relative to our expectations rather than on an absolute scale.

So, with those disclaimers let me say why I think this is a funny, subversive but ultimately harmless piece of fluff.

The central character, Brüno, is a ridiculous cartoon, not an actual person. He's like the roles in Wilde's ultrafunny Importance of Being Earnest, as largely drawn as Lady Bracknell. No one tries to understand Lady Bracknell's back story; she's just too absurd for that. Similarly, Brüno is best seen as a vehicle for jokes and nothing else. Lack of realistic characterization is not necessarily a fault; Wilde's Earnest, packed as it is with unbelievable characters, is just about the funniest script in existence.

Brüno is the distilled essence of every offensive gay stereotype you can imagine. He's the absurd projection of bigoted fears. In a way he's a Rorschach ink blot. Those who are uncomfortable with gay people, and who buy into the character, will find their prejudices amply confirmed. Yet, the film makes it clear in subtle and not so subtle ways that the fears themselves are the subject of parody, not gay people.

Like almost all good satire, no one is safe in Brüno. It's not only about homophobia (although the interview with the odious Paul Cameron was worth the price of admission). Overall, I found it surprisingly gentle. It's not particularly mean spirited, just silly.

I do understand that Brüno is not for everyone. It is sexually explicit. It does use offensive gay stereotypes for comedic effect. Brüno does in fact proposition Ron Paul. However, if you do decide to see this film and go with your sense of the absurd primed and ready for action, you might be pleasantly surprised, as I was.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Who would Jesus handcuff? - part two

The Salt Lake Tribune used a public records act to obtain the LDS Church's security videotape that was provided to Salt Lake City prosecutors handling the Plaza Kiss incident.



In the video LDS Security comes across as bullies or worse.

The couple's body language in the video is telling. You can see the posture of people being physically intimidated.

What I found striking about this video was that the physical aggression on the part of LDS Security occurs only 40 seconds into the clip. After watching the video, I find the Church's claim that Aune and Jones were treated "just as any other couple" not credible. There is no way that a straight couple in a similar situation would have received this level of force. Can you even imagine?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

WWJH? (Who would Jesus handcuff?)

When Mormons use the phrase "enemy of the Church" they mean someone who attacks the Church. What phrase do we use when the Church attacks, when it's the Church that does the destroying and the defaming? What do we call those the Church wishes to harm? Can we also call them enemies of the Church, that is, enemies the Church itself has chosen?

I promise I'm going to let my outrage over the Main Street Plaza kiss fade, but in the meantime I feel as if this incident shows that the Church has set its sights on gay people and calmly pulled the trigger. They made the kill, but who wins? Certainly not the Church-- the PR fallout was definitely not worth whatever they gained by establishing the former Main Street sidewalk, the sidewalk they promised to keep open to the public, as a straights-only zone.

I love the 11th Article of Faith. I see the right to free exercise of religion as fundamental. I mean the Church and its members no harm, and I understand that religious views differ. I'm pretty sure, however, of the Church's contempt and ill will toward me. I guess that does make me their enemy.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Dreyfus affair

The Plaza Kiss incident and the passions that surround it remind me of the Dreyfus Affair that tore apart French society in the 1890s and early 1900s. The divisiveness then was fueled by the issue of anti-semitism. Strong opinions over the guilt or innocence of the accused Jewish soldier split families and ended friendships. It's hard for us to fathom the magnitude of this social divide these many years later, but it was seismic.

Was the guilt or innocence of Alfred Dreyfus really a pressing issue that affected daily life? No, but it was the flash point for a deeper social conflict, namely the place of Jews in Belle Époque French society.

Similarly, what exactly happened that night on Main Street Plaza isn't really all that important, but it reignites a controversy that is already simmering. Two controversies, actually.

Personally, I don't find the Church's version of events especially credible, but then I guess you already knew that I was a Jew-loving Dreyfusard. Sacré bleu!

P.S. History tells us that Dreyfus was indeed framed for a crime he did not commit. The Dreyfusards were right all along. This is often the case when a despised minority is accused by a dominant, conservative institution with a powerful media presence and plenty to hide. We should exercise caution when the charges against a member of an unpopular minority (cf. Emmett Till) seem to grow over time as the story spreads. Just sayin'.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

With a big grain of salt

The LDS Church put out a statement laying blame for the Main Street Plaza incident on the guys who were trying to walk home. The statement includes new accusations of lascivious behavior. According to the Church, it wasn't just a peck on the cheek and a hug, it was "groping"!

The Church's statement lacks credibility. Here's why:

1) Timing. One side (Jones and Aune) issued a detailed statement less than 24 hours after the incident in question. Jones and Aune put themselves on record well before the media hoopla. In contrast, the Church waited more than a week to construct its version of events. Do I believe a detailed statement issued less than 24 hours after the event by the parties actually present, or do I believe a statement issued by nameless bureaucrats more than a week later?

2) Balance. Jones and Aune admitted fault in their statement. Jones and Aune said that were mistaken on two counts: 1) they thought there was an easement on the property that gives the public free access and 2) they thought that LDS Security did not have the right to physically restrain them or ask them to leave the property. These two mistakes make it much easier to understand why they started a discussion instead of just leaving immediately. It's easy to see, with this information, how the situation escalated. In contrast, the LDS Church's statement was purely an attack on the other side. It contained no apology or admission of fault of any kind. All things being equal, balanced statements that admit fault are more credible than statements that avoid any responsibility. The Church loses this one. (Hat tip to Marvelous Blunder.)

3) Specifics. The Church's statement lacks detail. This makes it less credible than the detailed statement by Jones and Aune, which is full of detail. Where is the written, unedited report written at the time by LDS Security? There has to be an incident report. Why didn't the Church release it?

4) Eyewitnesses. The account by Jones and Aune is the statement of eyewitnesses. The Church's press release does not quote eye witnesses. The testimony of eyewitnesses is more credible.

5) Motive to lie. Jones and Aune had very little motivation to lie. Something had happened to them, and they reported it. (Remember, their statement was issued before the PR storm that came later.) The Church's statement was entirely motivated by public relations. It was issued by a professional PR department. The Church's statement was communication with a goal, that goal being to repair the image of the Church. When two parties disagree, it's useful to consider which would have a motivation to bend the truth. Here, it's clearly the Church that has such a motive.

6) Tone. The Church's press release describes the location of the incident as "Church Plaza, which is an extension of the Salt Lake City temple grounds and Church headquarters." Everybody else seems to say "Main Street Plaza". This choice of wording reflects the Church's desire to obliterate all memory of the 150-year history of traditional use of that sidewalk as a public thoroughfare. The tone of the Church's statement is kind of creepy. It reads as if the Church wants to be seen as the victim. It's a familiar style from the Prop 8 press releases.

7) Corroboration. Jones's and Aune's statement is consistent with details in the police report. The Church's accusations of public indecency are not supported by the police report.

It grieves me to see this kind of public slander go unchallenged. I would really like to see the original, unedited incident report by Church security. (However, if it follows the tradition of missionary reports and home teaching statistics, even that would have to be taken with a grain of salt.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What it means to be seriously gay

This is a modified version of a comment that I left on this thread on an LDS blog.

There is a trend for kids to come out much earlier than in the past. This is increasingly happening between the ages of 13 to 17. See here for a New York Times article about a family whose teenage son came out to them at age 13. I think the parents in the article show a sane, compassionate and shrewd response. Most telling, the boy’s grades improved after he came out, and he became happier and much better adjusted socially. Read the article.

I think early disclosure of sexual orientation is a positive trend because it gives parents the opportunity to be a stabilizing influence as the child goes through adolescence. (Adolescence is a turbulent time and for a gay teen even more so.) It does not result in a higher rate of homosexuality than in the bad old days of the endless closet.

If your 14 year old son makes a tearful confession, you’d be wise not to just pass it off as a phase. The best parental strategy is to listen reassuringly and to occasionally remind the child that, even though they may be gay, they still have to do their math homework. :-)

A conservative LDS reader left the following comment:

For me, I don’t know how homosexual stigma would fall. ...

I tend to think that the successes many people have spoken of are reflections of them being good people and associating with good people who have seen such success. I have seen that success as well.

I have also seen failure in homosexual circles where the stigma is not an influence as much as hedonism and the lack of moral or relational commitment- things I would reflect small-scale community behavior than general community behavior.

I don’t think anyone can really tell how it would go for society as a whole. We just don’t know.


This is an interesting point. To state it another way, what can be done to make gay life more wholesome and goal oriented? How do we curb the excesses?

I know of no gay person who didn’t suffer to some extent from the social stigma of being gay. I think the social stigma contributes to the excesses the commenter mentions. It’s not as if the stigma just melts away once you find a circle of like-minded friends. If anything, the gay ghetto exists because of wider social disapproval. I’m no fan of ghettos, gay or otherwise. They are not a crucible of social integration. Instead, they tend to develop their own mores, for good and ill.

I think the way to encourage a serious-minded ethic in the gay population is to normalize homosexuality in society. If gay people know that they are fully and openly integrated into society they will also know that they have the same responsibilities as everyone else. This is why gay marriage is actually a conservative social policy. It reins in and civilizes gay sexuality just as it has straight male sexuality for millenia.

A good example of this approach is The Netherlands. Being gay is completely accepted, but you are cut no slack because of it, and nobody really wants to hear you talk about it. Dutch society, despite its reputation as permissive, is anything but. Community standards for educational achievement and civic participation are strict. “Slacking” is not acceptable in Dutch society. The Dutch have a self image as being tough, disciplined and resilient, and no whining is allowed. The result is that gay people blend into society in Holland and their social outcomes are good. In other words, in Holland you can be gay, but you still have to do your math homework.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Diversity training at the COB

This is an actual partial transcript from a recent diversity training class held by LDS Church Human Resources for Temple Square security personnel.

FACILITATOR: Okay, now that Bruce and Hyrum have shared their perspectives, you officers have some idea of what it's like to walk in their moccasins. Man, what an eye opener! Thanks so much for sharing your stories, guys; that was really moving. You guys are great, and I'm definitely going to check out Will and Grace.

(to the class) Let's put what we just learned into practice. Suppose you are on duty at Main Street Plaza, and Bruce and Hyrum here need to use the sidewalk to get home. You see them enter on South Temple and walk up the sidewalk laughing and talking about the production of Wicked they just saw. You overhear Bruce telling Hyrum that the costumes and lighting were fabulous. Bruce opens his arms wide to indicate just how unbelievably fabul--

SECURITY PROFESSIONAL 1 (interrupting): That's gross. Disgusting. Totally inappropriate. President Packer said something about this in general conference one time, that it was OK to beat the crap out of gay guys. Right? We don't carry baseball bats, so I guess I'd just taser them. Definitely. I'd get out my Taser and ....

FACILITATOR: Now, now, not so fast. Remember, these guys are just walking along what for 150 years was a public sidewalk. They've walked up that sidewalk all their lives. There really is no alternate route, and after all, the Church did promise the city as part of the controversial privatization of a vital urban thoroughfare that the public would always be given free passage through the property. The transfer of title was supposed to be a mere technicality that let the plaza landscaping hook into the Temple Square sprinkler system. And besides, the boys are minding their own business, just trying to get home from the show.

SECURITY PROFESSIONAL 2 (agitated): Men can't talk about musicals like that! That offends me. You can't tell me that any real man would use the word "fabulous." Words like that have eternal consequences. "Fabulous" is just the tip of the iceberg. Wicked is the gayest show ever. Something really inappropriate is going on here. I bet these guys' apartment has accent lighting and a mid-century sofa. That orange and ocher sofa limits my freedom of religion and demeans the sanctity of my marriage! There's no doubt; I'd definitely confront them and tell them how disgusting I thought they were. Then, I'd demand that they immediately leave the property.

FACILITATOR: Aren't they already "leaving the property"? I mean, they're halfway to North Temple by the time they comment on the choreography and the touring company's nontraditional but truly inspired casting of Elphalba. Twenty more seconds and they'll be crossing the street.

SECURITY PROFESSIONAL 3: That doesn't matter. We need to engage them in a demeaning argument about how disgusting they are and then, when they react, claim that they became "confrontational." If we can bait them into using profanity, then we can tackle them to the ground and restrain them in handcuffs so roughly as to cause bruising. We call the city cops and ban the perps from walking down Main Street for six months. After they cool their heels in handcuffs for a half hour they get cited for trespassing. The best part is that we start the argument that stops them from leaving and then they can't leave because of the handcuffs! Sweet! Man, I can't flippin' wait. The adrenaline would be such a total rush that I'd go home after my shift all charged up and ready to sweep my gal off her pretty feet. (SP3 does the universal "touchdown" dance.) You know, I used to be a real cop. Want to see my old badge?

FACILITATOR: Now we're talking, gentleman! Was that so hard? (dreamily) Do you mind if we end a few minutes early today? Brother Christiansen, can I borrow those shiny handcuffs of yours? I have a team-building exercise with Bruce and Hyrum after class.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Main Street easement

LDS Church security harrassed and detained a gay couple walking down Main Street in Salt Lake yesterday. The offense? A kiss on the cheek. The men were forced to the ground and roughly handcuffed. Etc.

You can read the whole episode here, here and here.

I remember the public dispute over selling part of Main Street to the Church. Apparently, there is an easement that guarantees public access but gives the Church an unusual amount of power over the terms of that access.The Church promised during that debate that all would be welcome on the newly privatized street.

This is a PR disaster, BTW. The LDS Church's brand strategy seems to be increasingly tied to its disdain for gays. This doesn't play well in the America I live in.

Update: Apparently, there's no easement. The city sold it to the Church in 2003. It's unclear to me what rights if any the public now has to walk down this section of Main Street. A timeline of events can be found here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Coming out story

This is a nice LDS coming out story with a happy ending.



Mormon families seem to take one of two paths when they learn that they have a gay child. I love it when things turn out as they did in this video.

Via: Chino Blanco

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Web site story (funny)

You have to check out this parody of West Side Story.



A very funny send up of the hetero-only dating site eHarmony begins at 2:40. The whole thing is worth watching.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Gay/straight friendships

The New York Times has an interesting article on friendships between gay men and straight men.

I have a fair number of straight male friends, and they do some of the things mentioned in the article, like asking me for advice about women. I also hear a lot more of their soft sides-- feelings, insecurities, etc.-- than they share with their straight friends. They'll say something like "You have to promise not to tell the other guys, but ...."

I'm a fan of difference. It keeps things interesting.

Anyway, read the article.

Required viewing

President Obama, speaking to GLBT leaders at the White House.



My favorite part is from 7:35 to 8:45 when he reiterates his promise to act. Maybe I'm a sucker, but I believe this guy and am willing to give him time to act.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The gift of the Holy Ghost

A good friend of mine is the minister of a large Presbyterian congregation in South Carolina. I told him the story of how I was recently on a business trip to India and went to a Hindu temple. At the temple I was overwhelmed by the very recognizable attitude of worship that I saw in the people there. My LDS upbringing let me instantly recognize an outpouring of the Spirit. The icons and symbols were completely foreign to me, but the devotion, faith and hope for divine intercession in daily affairs were utterly familiar. In fact, I was unable to distinguish what I experienced there from the fervor of an LDS testimony meeting.

My friend the pastor listened to this story and then told me that he feels that God has called him to be faithful within his tradition but that his community of faith is not inherently privileged, more valued by God or “correct” than any other. His moorings seemed to be quite intact. He was confident of his relationship with God and the value of his ministry to others. I was struck by how his acceptance of other traditions gave his faith strength, resilience and even a kind of maturity.

When I tell this story to fellow Mormons, the air gets thick. Before I even get done with the story, the answers are already formed. Sometimes the answers start even before the story is finished. :-) In essence, the Hindu religious experience can’t be real because there are no priesthood keys to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost. This devolves into hair splitting over the definitions of light of Christ versus Holy Ghost, etc. It ends up being a long, tortured and thoroughly unsatisfying discussion, at least for me. The problem is that I've been to testimony meetings and I've been to Hindu temples in India. You can't tell me that the experiences aren't identical. It contradicts direct observation.

My conclusion is that a belief in exclusive access to gifts of the Spirit based on ordinances and priesthood keys is not a pillar of faith. It's a pillar of sectarian division.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Utah the outlier

The respected statistical blog Five Thirty-Eight recently pointed to a fascinating chart that compared public attitudes about various gay rights questions across U.S. states.




This is from a study by Jeff Lax and Justin Phillips at Columbia.

Utah is one of the stragglers at the bottom the chart. But that's not the interesting part. Since the chart shows multiple measures of public support of gay rights, there's not just one number to look at.

Utah's pattern of opinion is unique. It shows dramatically lower support of basic gay rights such as equality in health insurance and housing than all other states. Also interesting is Utah's 50 of 50 ranking of gay parenting. If you study the numbers you could easily make the case that Utah is the state with the lowest overall public support for gay issues in the nation.

Public opinion in Utah is significantly out of step with the rest of the country, even political backwaters such as Alabama. One can speculate that Utah's status as a statistical outlier has a lot to do with the influence of the LDS Church on public opinion in the state. If the Church's influence really is behind these numbers, then this chart should be a cautionary tale for the Church's PR department-- they are at risk of seriously tarnishing the Church's brand with mainstream Americans.

It is also interesting that Idaho is the only other state that is similar to Utah's pattern of gay-related public opinion (for example, in very low support for gay parenting).

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Friends as family

It's been a long month. One of my best friends, a person I've been close to for twenty years, died on May 19 after a long illness. With the help of a hospice nurse and her friends, she was able to pass away with dignity at home, in her own bed.

One of the conditions of gay life is that our closest friends become our family in a way that you almost never see in the straight world. Like many things gay this is poorly understood from the outside, but it is noble and sacred.

May this dear one rest in peace.

Friday, June 5, 2009

This week in Australia

I found this funny image:



It's from a gay blogger in Australia who was doing a photo shoot of his buff friend when the LDS missionaries came by. The blogger writes:

One of [the missionaries] seemed a little too happy to pose with [the bodybuilder], while the other one seemed a little scared that he might catch “sinner” if he got too close. The dark haired one even said “we saw you from a distance and I said WOW he’s BUFF”.
This is pretty funny. Can you pick out the gay Mormon in the picture?

Defenders of marriage (funny)



Via TJ Shelby

Friday, April 17, 2009

Mental health break

This video has nothing to do with the usual subject matter of this blog. It's just a great use of YouTube. I liked it a lot.

Colbert on the NOM ad

Apologies in advance if you've already seen this. Steven Colbert takes apart the recent anti-gay marriage ad. Special bonus for gay Mormons starting at 4:15 and then again 5:30.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Amazon Fail

I'm sure many of you have heard the news that Amazon.com recently reclassified virtually all gay-themed books as "adult." This eliminated them from the bestseller lists and in some cases disabled search. They have claimed (contrary to prior communications with customers) that this is a software "glitch."

I can accept this explanation, but the sales rank issue is not the only anti-gay part of Amazon. Did you know that Amazon's "search suggestions" feature is completely disabled for searches using "gay" or "lesbian" as their first word?

Normally Amazon shows you suggestions as you type characters in the search box. For example if you type "Christian m" you will see a list of suggestions including "Christian marriage". You don't have to type the full search, just select from the suggestions.

If you try this same search by typing "gay m" you get nothing. Unlike the term "Christian", the word "gay" just shuts off the search suggestions feature completely. Same for "lesbian."

If you type the search characters "hustler" you get plenty of search suggestions, including some I can't print here since this is a family blog. Clearly, the issue isn't adult topics... it's anti-gay prejudice, and it's not a glitch. (Go to the Amazon Web site and try this out yourself.)

I'm mulling over what I should do to convince Amazon to quit suppressing gay and lesbian search terms. Any suggestions?

Offered without comment

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Another voice from the ranks

This is a video by a gay Mormon man in a mixed-orientation marriage.



I found it interesting that he obliquely refers to the issue of suicide near the end.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

If only

My favorite April 1st blog post is found here.

In a surprising move, the head of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today has publically apologized for some of the Utah based church's past missteps.

...

The statement reverses the official LDS position opposing same-sex marriage. "We regret our participation in this battle for human rights. As of today, we agree to cease any official sponsorship of anti-gay causes and encourage our members to prayerfully ponder their own participation in such causes."

It appears that as of today, April first, the church will be reviewing its policies towards women and gays, modifying existing teaching materials and pamphlets to vigilantly oppose discrimination based on race, gender, creed or sexual orientation.

...


Read the entire post.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Coming home in a pine box

My jaw dropped open when I read this post written by Kurt, a young gay Mormon man:

I have asked Bishops if it was better for me to kill myself or live my life with a husband and they told me they didn't have the answer.

I don't know quite how to respond to this. It's a level of pastoral malpractice that borders on abuse. It renders me speechless.

It would be one thing if this were merely one isolated case of a well-meaning member of the lay clergy with no training in pastoral counseling providing harmful advice. However, it is not isolated. Kurt asked this question to more than one bishop and got the same answer.

Then there's the case of John G-W, whose near suicide was averted only with the intervention of a kindhearted Episcopalian priest. John says:

[A]t that point in my life when I was getting ready to end it all, my LDS leaders were more or less AWOL. In fact, given where I was, some of the things that were said and done by certain leaders crossed the line from being missing in action to being callous and irresponsible.
.

John is a diplomatic guy. I'm not. Where do these bishops get the idea that the sobbing 18-year-old in their office should be led to believe that ending his young life by violent means is more honorable than entering into a stable and loving partnership with a life companion of the same sex?

It turns out that there is a source for this malignant idea, and the source might surprise you. Apostle Marion G. Romney reported that his father said the following to him just as he was boarding the train to go on a mission:
My son, you are going a long way from home. Your mother and I, and your brothers and sisters, will be with you constantly in our thoughts and prayers; we shall rejoice with you in your successes, and we shall sorrow with you in your disappointments. When you are released and return, we shall be glad to greet you and welcome you back into the family circle. But remember this, my son: we would rather come to this station and take your body off the train in a casket than to have you come home unclean, having lost your virtue. (Conference Report, October 1952, pg. 34.)

Isolated quotes by General Authorities have little power on their own, unless they resonate with the underlying culture of Mormonism. This one, apparently, resonates because it has taken on a life of its own. It gets circulated frequently around LDS culture and is adapted to various new situations. At best you can consider it a dangerous, undisciplined use of hyperbole intended to provide shock value for a moral lesson; at worst, it's fully canonized theological support for honor suicides.

I recall being shocked as a young missionary when I heard a General Authority repeat Romney's anecdote in an all-hands meeting of the Missionary Training Center in Provo. A feeling of coldness that I will never forget rushed over me in that moment. I knew in my heart, although I couldn't have articulated it at that time, that they wanted me dead. My only sin at that time was homosexual orientation. I had never touched another person, of either sex, in my entire life. (Back then same-sex attraction was a sin; you would be excommunicated and shunned just for admitting the inclination.)

One of the more recent and troubling applications of this principle was when the mother of Stuart Matis, who tragically took his own life on the steps of his local LDS chapel, used it to console herself:

Although losing our son was difficult, it has been comforting to know that he was faithful to his temple covenants." (In Quiet Desperation, pg. 20).


I'm sorry, but WTF.

I should add a postscript. A little over ten years ago one of my nephews, the son of my sister, ended his life with a .22 caliber handgun he had been given as a Christmas present the year before. He was 19 and just two weeks away from starting his LDS mission. I do not know for sure that my nephew was gay. He and I never talked about it. There were enough signs (for example, no dating experiences even though he was handsome and an all-state track star) that I'm reasonably confident that gay issues were involved.

I was one of the pallbearers at the funeral, and I felt the weight of his lifeless body as we carried the casket from the hearse to the snowy, desolate grave site. I saw the look of devastation on my sister's face as she buried her son. The loss of my nephew's life has echoed through my family from that day forward. (FYI, this is not the same sister I wrote about here.)

I reject the LDS doctrine of suicide as remedy for shame. Until the Church eradicates this by public and repeated teaching to the contrary it will have blood on its hands.

Kurt, I only know you through your blog, but I am very proud that you have rejected shame and have started to walk with your head held high. I wish you well in your journey.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Deseret News news

Now this:

[N]ine reporters for LDS-owned Deseret News, the largest newspaper in Utah, recently went public with having received an editorial directive before the marriage campaign in California which prohibited them from publishing any negative news stories toward the Mormon Church or positive toward gay people. At least two editors at the paper were demoted due to their disputes with Editor Joe Cannon [over] the directive.


Via: Oasis California News

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Defending the family

Anthropologists categorize cultures as either guilt based or shame based. (See here for a quick summary of the differences between the two.) The U.S. and Europe are thought to be guilt based due to the influence of Christianity. Cultures like that of Japan, Mexico and ancient Greece are thought to be shame based. The difference is the relative power of social conformity and the role of internal versus external morality. The Southern U.S. is more shame-based, compared with the more guilt-based North and West. Honor plays a larger role in shame-based cultures. Conscience is more important in guilt-based cultures. (There’s a reason that duels were popular in the South but not in Minnesota.)

I think LDS culture is moving more towards being a shame-based culture. It is not alone in this; to me this is the biggest difference between U.S. Evangelicals and mainline Protestants. The evangelicals are more shame based, while the protestants are guilt based. Mormons are following the lead (and political causes) of their Evangelical brethren.

“Avoiding the very appearance of evil” is classic shame-based behavior. The pressure in LDS culture to use particular and instantly recognizable vocabulary and set phrases is a sign of a shame-based culture. Rigid gender roles are another characteristic of shame-based societies. The rhetoric about "defending the family" is part of a shame-based culture where honor is to be defended.

Unfortunately, I think the larger picture can be summarized as the Church following the political lead of U.S. Evangelicals whose worldview carries over elements from the shame-based culture of the American South. This is absolutely not native to Mormonism. It’s a relatively recent import. If the Church leaders weren’t so obsessed with getting the popular kids (the evangelicals) to like them, we could have avoided this mess.

(See here for a related post on one of the Mormon blogs.)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The shame in their grandchildren's eyes

I liked what Sean Penn said tonight at the Academy Awards.

For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, and, I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way of support. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.

Friday, February 20, 2009

No More Goodbyes, Please - Part 3

My boyfriend Tobi is in an immigration crisis. I blogged previously about this here and here.

Tobi recently found another job, so the deportation clock has quit ticking. (Yay!) I can't really go into the details here, but the job he found is provisional at best. He is continuing to look for other employment in his field, and the situation continues to entail a lot of risk and uncertainty. Of course, if Tobi had state-approved anatomy, we would not have to worry one minute about our ability to live together in the U.S.

A bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate that would help same-sex binational couples like Tobi and me. The law would give "permanent partners" the same immigration protections that opposite-sex married couples currently enjoy in the United States. You can read a summary of the pending legislation here.

In order to pass, this bill needs support. You can help couples like Tobi and me by writing your congressional representatives. It's easy, and you can do it online via the Immigration Equality Web site.

Tobi and I do not know what the future will bring for us. That we are "at risk" is an understatement! If anyone ever tells you that legal protections for gay people do not matter, feel free to use Tobi and my situation to let them know otherwise.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The longest thread ever

Here's a story of how one woman's family was affected by Prop. 8. It's one of the 400 or so comments on a particularly lively Feminist Mormon Housewives post about gay marriage. The commmenter, Lorian, is a married Californian with children:


"That said, Lorian, I really do understand how [having your marriage invalidated] felt to you, and frankly, it is sad to hear your story. Putting myself in your shoes (trying to, anyway), I can understand how it must have all felt. It makes it all the harder to take a stand, but ultimately, we still each have to make choices based on what we believe is best in the long run.

I guess I hope that someday you can understand [the LDS viewpoint on gay marriage] at least a little."


I thoroughly understand your side of the coin. I simply disagree with it. I was raised with the same prejudices you were raised with. On the other hand, since you are not gay, and since you just worked, by your own admission, so hard to deprive my family of civil rights, I sincerely doubt that you DO understand how it felt to me. If you did, you could not have done the things you did.

"I didn’t make this choice as an in-your-face thing. I remember talking to someone who deliberately chose to demonstrate in a place that wouldn’t be where so many gays were. I know people were concerned about this along the way, even if it didn’t feel like it to you and others."

Um… really? That should make me feel better, that people made an effort hide their actions from me while stabbing my family in the back? Sorry, I know I’m expressing some overt anger here, and I don’t wish to cause offense on this board, but your posts display such a complete and utter lack of any real understanding of the magnitude of what was done to gay-parented families in this state last November.

YOU don’t seem to understand what YOU, personally, helped to do to MY children — MY Ruth and MY Rose. They are beautiful little seven-year-old twin girls. They knew they had two moms, but never even knew what “gay” meant until Prop 8 taught them all about it. They know that their “Mommy Honey” (that’s what they call their other mom — I’m “Elmo Mommy” for reasons which can only be understood in the mind of an 18-month-old, but it stuck) had to adopt them in front of a judge, and they know that this was unfair, and that now in California families with two moms or two dads don’t have to do that anymore. They don’t know that in other states, they still do, except, of course, those in states where the non-bio parent can’t form any legal relationship to his or her children at all.

Rose is autistic. She is the most beautiful child you can imagine, with flowing golden waves of hair and innocent blue eyes. She is an artist and has been drawing and painting the most unbelievable works of art since she was less than three years old. She perseverates, as many autistic children do. We had to stop attending church when she was 4 because she began perseverating on “the cross” and “When is mommy going to die on the cross? When am I going to die on the cross? Are they going to put me on the cross, Mommy?” If you know anything about an autistic child’s perseverations, they are intense and inescapable.

We have finally been able to begin attending church again in the past couple of months, having finally located a church in our area which accepts families with two moms. Rose has outgrown that particular perseveration, but, again like many autistic kids, is extremely concrete in her thought processes and has difficulty believing in things she cannot see or touch. Ruth, on the other hand, is receptive to God and to spiritual ideas. We have to protect her from those who would portray God as the hateful, vengeful being that Mommy Honey and I were raised to believe in.

Ruth is a brown-haired, brown-eyed beauty who loves music and singing, is a star pupil at school and has already memorized all the advanced extra-credit spelling words for her entire 2nd-grade curriculum. She swims like a fish and loves everyone. When she was three and four years old, she used to walk up to people when we were shopping at Costco and tell them things like, “Your shirt is so beautiful!” or “I love your brown hair!” Their faces would light up with pleasure. I remember one incident when we were waiting for our turn in a restroom. A very elderly lady made her way out of a stall with difficulty, leaning on a walker. Ruth turned to us and said, quite audibly, “Mommy! That woman is SO beautiful!” The woman’s face just melted into a smile of joy. I still cry when I think of that memory.

These are my children. I love them beyond all thought or reason. They are fun and loving and difficult and smart and full of energy. They push my buttons sometimes, and melt my heart ALL the time. I would give my life for them without a moment’s hesitation.

THEY, these two beautiful little children, are the people YOU harmed by helping to pass Prop 8. They are the children who desperately need ALL the rights that are given to children whose parents are allowed to be legally married — not just SOME of the rights. Not just a FEW of the rights. Not just the rights you think are “fair” for same-gender couples to have. No, they need and deserve ALL the rights that are due to them in this society.

Prop 8 did not primarily punish homosexuals (hey, that’s easy enough to justify, right? They’re flouting “God’s laws,” flouting the rules imposed by your church. That’s just wrong!) Prop 8 primarily punished the children of same-gender parents, both those here in CA who are at least left with Domestic Partnerships for their parents, but also those all over this country, who are counting on CA to do the right thing and grant full marriage rights to gays and lesbians so that gay-parented families all across this country are one step closer to being able to protect THEIR children, their little Ruths and little Roses, with ALL of the CIVIL rights of CIVIL marriage.

No, the LDS Church was not by any means the only culprit in converting this religiously-motivated prejudice into a restriction disenfranchising children in this state (and, by extension, all over this country) of their CIVIL rights. But the LDS Church certainly did their part. And I’m addressing that part here with you because you admit that you participated in this terrible, horrible injustice, motivated at least in part by your church leadership’s urging and instructions to do so.

...

I am not suggesting that the LDS Church change its stance on homosexuality. I’m merely raging (maybe I should cap-lock that) that it saw fit to impose that stance on people who are not LDS members, by encouraging and, in some cases, compelling its membership to support a program of blatant, bald-faced lies to pass a law disenfranchising a percentage of the population of CIVIL (caps-lock again!) rights.


It takes a long time to read through 400 comments, but for those of you with patience and way too much time on your hands, or possibly insomnia, the thread is an excellent exposition of how Mormons and those who were harmed by Prop. 8 view the situation.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Video: Don't Divorce Me

This is video shows the faces of those who will be forcibly divorced if the California Supreme Court listens to Ken Starr.

I don't understand the hardness of heart that it would take not to be moved by the injustice these couples are experiencing. How can you look at the face of a couple that have dedicated their lives to each other for almost 50 years and say, "You are legal strangers"?

Anyway, enjoy the video (it has a good soundtrack, too).



See Courage Campaign if you want to sign the petition.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Christmas in Utah

I mentioned a while ago that I was facing a some Prop. 8 fallout while spending Christmas with family members who are staunch LDS believers.

On the appointed day Tobi (my boyfriend) and I, along with my son A., packed our bags and headed for Zion.

 Tobi helped spread the Christmas cheer by bringing some Japanese snacks. If you click on the photo you can see the jelly beans I bought plus the pickled octopus and dried baby crab shells that Tobi so generously provided. The visual effect of the pickled octopus was just great. (My sister's family is not particularly adventurous when it comes to food.) I have to give them credit; everyone tried the octopus and crunchy crab shells. I have to say that the jellybeans were more popular.

Tobi liked the American style of Christmas celebration. It was the first time he had spent the holiday with a large Christian family. He was shocked by one aspect: there was a huge pile of shredded wrapping paper and ribbon after the massive frenzy of present opening. In Japan it is very bad manners to rip the wrapping paper off of a gift. You have to unwrap the present gently and neatly fold the wrapping paper, even if it will be thrown away later. The idea is that the wrapping is part of the gift, and you shouldn't show disrespect to the giver of the gift by tearing off the paper.

Prop. 8 was the elephant in the living room during our visit. My sister and her family were generally kind to Tobi and me, but we weren't welcome to stay in the house with the rest of the family. Instead, we spent nights at a nearby bed and breakfast. To be fair, the house was full, but nonetheless I think some accommodation would have been made if we were a married opposite-sex couple.

One evening my son (who did stay with his cousins at my sister's house) came down the stairs and heard two of his uncles (two of my brothers-in-law) talking about gay marriage in the living room. My brothers-in-law didn't know my son was passing in the hall, and so my son overheard their conversation. My son stood in the hall with a sinking feeling in his stomach as his uncles dismissed gay marriage as unholy and civil unions and domestic partnerships as a slippery slope. Hearing this really hurt my son a lot, especially because he knows very well the tough situation that Tobi and I are in precisely due the lack of civil protections for our relationship. I guess I'm glad that at least my brothers-in-law didn't have the guts to say what they thought to my face.

Later I told my son that he could have gone in and defended what he thought was right or just kept walking.

I can't put my finger on it exactly, but I sense that the recent extraordinary involvement of the church in anti-gay politics has harmed relations in my family. There's a new rift. There's a sense of caution that I didn't notice before, on my part as well as theirs. I know they view me as a sinner and an apostate, even though I am by far the favorite uncle of my nieces and nephews. (I'm the best cook in family and over the years have organized some of the most memorable family events and outings.) I, in turn, see their moral views as self-serving justifications for out-dated patriarchy. I'm a sinner, and they're bigots. That's a fine kettle of fish!

The silver lining is that the older generation's attitudes will die off. The generations are very different in terms of politics. My nieces and nephews all voted for Obama, even though their parents are social conservatives who supported the McCain/Palin ticket. The younger generation's views on gay marriage are mixed. In my family, I'd say that 60% of the active Mormon's under 30 support full marriage rights for same-sex couples and the rest are okay with federally recognized civil unions that have all of the rights of marriage without using the name. In time, the next generation will prevail, and long-held prejudice will fall by the wayside.

This is a picture of my son and the husband of one of my nieces. (Neither of them are LDS.)

You can see that the snow was fresh. This kind of weather makes me love Utah. I love my Mormon family as well. I just wish they could open their hearts.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Recipe: Pasta e fagioli

I feel inspired to pass on one of my favorite recipes. I made this for dinner tonight. It is deceptively simple, but the taste will knock your socks off. It's one of those miracles of Italian cooking. It's also inexpensive to make and super healthy.

The recipe requires a pressure cooker (my favorite is made by the Swiss company Kuhn-Rikon; I have the "Duo" set), but if you don't have a pressure cooker, you can just cook the beans in a regular pot for a longer time. By the way, I swear by pressure cooking-- it's fast, and the results are superb.

P.S. I didn't watch the Superbowl today. Instead, I went to a musical. Only afterward did I realize how that comes across.

Anyway, here's the recipe. You won't be sorry if you try this.

Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta with beans)

16 oz (2 cups) dried cannellini or Great Northern beans (or Navy beans)
2 stalks celery, diced into 1/4" pieces
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
Kosher salt (approx 1 Tablespoon, to taste; or about 1 1/2 tsp if using regular salt instead of kosher salt)
16 oz ditalini or spaghetti broken into 1 inch pieces (I use spaghetti)

Soak the beans in water for 6 hours or overnight. Use about 2 quarts of cold water.

Pressure cook the beans for 18 minutes. (You start timing once the 2nd ring of the pressure gauge becomes visible.) Be sure the soaked beans are covered by 1 or 1.5 inches of water in the pressure cooker before you close the lid.

While the beans are cooking, cook the celery and garlic in the olive oil over moderate heat in a large pot. When the garlic just starts to color, add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes and salt. Simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened.

When the beans are done, release the pressure (put the sealed pressure cooker under cold running water). Discard excess cooking liquid from the beans. Leave just enough water to fully cover the beans. Add the hot beans and the cooking liquid to the tomato sauce. Bring the mixture to a simmer, mashing some of the beans with the back of a large spoon.

Stir in the pasta and simmer, stirring often, until the pasta is al dente, tender yet still firm to the bite. The mixture should be very thick, but add a little boiling water if it seems too thick. Turn off the heat and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

This makes a large batch, enough for 8 full-meal servings or up to 16 pasta course servings. Serve with a green salad and a dry red wine (or sparkling water if you don't drink wine). It stores well (refrigerated or frozen) and can be reheated without loss of texture or flavor.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Matt Alber: "End of the World"

This is the most romantic music video ever.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Poem of the day

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

From the reap-what-you-sow department

A woman named Kathy recounts her interview with the LDS Church's market research team:

I just finished an incredibly long, drawn out market research survey wanting to know about my opinions about various religions, how I learned about them, what I thought was important in a church, blah blah blah. As these things often do, the questions got more and more specific.

So who cares what I think? Looks like the Latter Day Saints want to know my impressions of them—and specifically if I associate them with being homophobic.


It seems that the church has recently been conducting (expensive) market research to find out how severely its public image has been tarnished by its involvement in Proposition 8.

Revelation and market research are strange bedfellows.