31 December 2009

This is the place?

Observe the depth of my idiocy. Having survived and enjoyed a wonderful week with the worlds' two most wonderful children in the balmy sunshine of "America's Finest City," I choose for my own personal holiday to drive north into a black ice-ridden, frostbite-risking, extremity-freezing, traffic accident-prone ice bucket called Salt Lake City. As a native Southern California beach boy, I agree with Dante Alighieri that the lower in hell one goes, the colder one gets. Yes, that's my car night before last, poor thing, first time it was ever exposed to snow. At least I put new tires on it.

So why would I volunteer to leave paradise for this? Only one thing could pry me away from the beach and put me into the freezer: the prospect of being with friends I love. You all know who you are. The warmth that's there more than makes up for the cold outside. In that regard I am blessed far beyond what I deserve. Blogging, chat and phonecalls are great of course and irreplaceable, but there's nothing like seeing the smile and patting the back. So this will be a "recharge the batteries" trip. And assuming I don't slide off some slick road and hurt or kill myself in the process, I will count myself very very lucky indeed to have been here.

27 December 2009

The Parent's Revenge

I faintly remember hearing them bustling about the house at around 3 a.m., still obviously wide awake. And at 8:30 I bustled right back and went in to wake them all up with the thunderous, relentless cadences of the 2nd Movement Scherzo from Beethoven's 9th Symphony. "What time did you finally go to sleep?" "Between 4 and 5, maybe." So they are operating on 3-4 hours of sleep. Thus far they all seem pretty normal, but we'll see. This should be a fun day!

26 December 2009

Boxing Day

Last spring a brother & sister pair of the twins' friends moved away. Twins very sad. Earlier this week, though, these friends suddenly showed up in the neighborhood again, their mom brought them back to visit. Twins overjoyed. Before I knew it, I'd been lured into agreeing to a sleepover. Lasting from noon Saturday to 8 pm Sunday. Twins now ecstatic.

Was I nuts? With next door neighbor's kid also included, this means I am housing and feeding and shushing and first aiding five middle schoolers for 20 hours. Would I be up for this?

Sure, why not. They are all great kids, at that fascinating time of life when they're capable of flashes of impressive maturity and sometimes squabble like three year olds. But having hopped on the roller coaster, I can't get off now, so I'm going to enjoy the ride as much as possible. The swimming pool, the X-Box, ice cream in the freezer, and a trip to the grocery store tonight so they can pick what they will cook for themselves for breakfast tomorrow should all help. I can't wait till tomorrow morning to hear what pranks they've pulled on each other during the night. I've already gotten private requests for advice on that. Why on earth would they think such an angelic person as myself would know anything about pranks?

I'll probably take them to Balboa Park tomorrow or something like that to get them out of the house and work off some of that energy. And no, they're not sleeping in tomorrow either. If I wake them up early, they'll hate me--which is part of the ritual, no?--and the other parents will thank me later. Should be a delightful day.

25 December 2009

It's A Most Unusual Christmas

If you were a kid, and were having your Christmas at Dad's house, knowing you'd have to go to your Mom's house two days after opening your presents, would you want to wait for four days with those wrapped packages just sitting there under the tree, torturing you?

Didn't think so. And that's why we actually had Christmas this past Tuesday morning. The twins know who Santa really is, and Santa thought "why not let them open presents early so they can enjoy them all week." Besides, Santa had to work M/T/W and if the twins were preoccupied with Christmas presents, they'd be more likely to give Santa the quiet time he needed to concentrate, right?

So that's what we did. The twins arrived mid-day Monday and hung out with friends while I finished the afternoon's tasks. They went and did some Christmas shopping of their own for me as well (how nice they're finally old enough that, when they're together, they can be trusted to go do things like that on their own!) Then we walked to the shopping center for a few things, got some dinner at Red Robin, and came back for our own personalized Christmas Eve. We watched the Cleanflix version of Love Actually, and talked about why Christmas was so important. About what the Savior's life and teachings mean for each one of us. And I told them why, after all the studying I've done of all the world's religions and faiths, the life and example and atonement of Jesus Christ are the things that resonate most deeply with me, give me the most answers and the most guidance, the most hope for healing and justice to fix this beautiful but broken world.

Tuesday morning I woke them at 6 a.m. and by 7 a.m. of course all was done. They were delighted with their loot, which had the desired effect for the rest of the day. Tuesday evening we ventured forth to redeem various gift cards and had a late dinner, then home to watch more Christmas stuff on TV. Wednesday largely the same; Santa Claus worked (with flagging enthusiasm) while the twins played with toys and friends. Another walk to the grocery store where we got some fresh lobster tails and salmon for dinner. The twins had never had lobster before, and they didn't like it (hence the salmon as a back-up). My kids are weird sometimes. They don't like shrimp, they don't like Jell-o. But he loves peas, she loves carrots and they both love salmon. Go figure. On balance, I'd prefer them liking salmon over Jell-o, though.

Thursday Santa Claus was finally free and could actually enjoy a holiday of his own. Male twin was of course keen to spend day #3 with his new X-Box, while female twin was keen for some time with dad. So male twin stayed with next door neighbor overdosing on video games while his sister and I went to LA to meet a friend. We ended up at the LA Farmer's Market which has been there since 1934. Had a great lunch and a saunter through all the shops and stalls, collecting delicacies for Christmas Day dinner, and reveling in the 70 degree sunshine.

Then back home to collect male twin and suit up in full dress matching kilts, etc. for the Christmas Eve service at St. Paul's Cathedral. Wonderful music and I loved the focus on the real reason for the holiday. Male twin--who is not a night owl--slept through much of it but woke toward the end. Female twin--the night owl--stayed wide awake and loved it all. They both loved the part where the whole cathedral went dark as everyone lit hand-held candles and sang Silent Night and The First Noel to end the service. THAT is how Christmas Eve should be done.

Then home by about 12:30 a.m. and guess what. Both were wide awake again. So by the twins' mutual request we settled in to watch The American Ballet Theatre's production of The Nutcracker. When I think of what they could have asked to watch, I realize how lucky I am to have such great kids!

So here we are on the actual Christmas morning. Twins still asleep but about to be awakened with pannetone French toast with fresh pineapple & pears for Christmas breakfast. Then we'll walk to the movie theatre to see Sherlock Holmes. Then we're going for a walk on the beach so we can take pictures and make all our snowbound friends jealous. Then back to make Christmas dinner.

Throughout the week I have tried to pause to reflect and savor all these many moments with my two precious children, because I know how fast children grow and how fleeting these moments are. I've also thought of all the friends and family members who bless my life and whom I also love so much (many of whom I'll see next week). I am so very, very blessed, and wish for all of you the same happiness. Merry Christmas to all.

18 December 2009

Hello Mr. Bigelow

Dear Mr. Bigelow:

Welcome to my blog. I'm actually glad you found it, because now we can continue our conversation in a format and location which will get lots of ongoing visibility.

By now it's clear to you where I stand on the subject of homosexuality and marriage equality. And it's clear that you are nearly as far opposite as could be imagined. That's fine. Anyone who states their position clearly, with logical and rational analysis, evidence to back up their claims, and respectful consideration of other viewpoints will be welcome here. I apply this same standard to myself, so you need not fear any ad hominem attacks from me. I apologize in advance if any of my questions below come across as disrespectful or combative. I have tried hard to avoid that and to be respectful, while at the same time stating my questions and thoughts forthrightly.

All that said, I'll now respond to your blog post and your reply to my comment there. I have put your statements in italics and responded to each of them in turn. Since the comment function on Blogger has some limits, I'll invite you to send any responses to me by e-mail, and I will promptly post them on the blog. That way readers can comment on our statements separately. All right, here we go.

1. Homosexuality is "one of the most dangerous issues of our generation, with the potential of dividing our society as catastrophically as the slavery issue did back in the nineteenth century, if not more so."

Why do you consider it dangerous? Dangerous to what? Do you really believe it will generate armed conflict within the United States before some general consensus can be reached? What "more so" do you foresee that is worse than actual civil war?

2. Same-sex attraction and its difficult dilemmas are real, but they're not the world’s hardest challenge or even harder than some challenges within straight marriages, though some make it sound like mixed-orientation marriages are "absolutely unreasonable and undoable."

Please explain which challenges within straight marriages are more difficult to deal with than the homosexuality of one spouse, and on what evidence you base your claim.

3. "Today's gay identity is a huge deception, and it sets off many of [your] last-days alarm bells" and "from a Mormon viewpoint, the emergence of the gay movement is clearly a sign of the times."

Please define "today's gay identity" and explain how it is a "deception." Please also explain why you believe "the emergence of the gay movement is clearly a sign of the times."

4. "At some point we Mormons will have to withdraw from society when society becomes wicked enough to try to shove homosexuality down our throats, which [you're] sure will eventually happen with even more gusto than when society pressured us to end polygamy."

Please explain what you think will be the tipping point at which this will happen, and how you think the Mormons will--or could--"withdraw from society" thereafter. Gay marriage is the law of the land already in numerous countries where the Church has many members and temples (Canada, Spain, and others), and I don't hear of any mass exodus of the Mormons from there.

5. The Church was wrong to endorse "Salt Lake’s ordinances spelling out special protections for those who’ve chosen to pursue their gay inclinations." Its support "counters what some apostles have said" and you "seriously doubt" the Church's move was "based on revelation."

This one puzzles me. You are obviously keen to toe a very conservative Church line in so many ways, but when the Church itself states an opinion different from yours, you say the Church is wrong. Please explain why this should not be construed as indicating you will support the Church only when it agrees with your opinions.

Please explain how an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, which is a condition and not an action, is both unnecessary and a "special protection" as opposed to an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on the conditions of race or gender.

The Church took a very public position in support of these ordinances. There is no way it would have done this without President Monson's approval. You point out that it contradicts what some of the apostles have said. Please explain why this should not be construed as acknowledgement that there is disagreement amongst the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve over this issue, and if so, why we should not therefore conclude that the matter is not yet settled even within the ranks of those sustained as prophets, seers and revelators.

You "seriously doubt" that the Church's support for the Salt Lake City ordinance was "based on revelation." Please explain why, if you are right, you believe the Church took this action without any revelatory guidance, and why your statement should not be construed as an admission that sometimes the Church makes statements and takes actions which are not inspired or revealed but rather based on individual leaders' decisions or even political calculations. And if so, how are we to tell the difference when the Church itself doesn't make the distinction?

6. "The phrase 'God's gay sons' makes it sound like you think God purposely created them that way. I don't think he created someone to be gay anymore than he created someone to be an alcoholic or a pedophile or a shoplifter or any other mortal weakness/compulsion. Mortal life includes flaws for us to overcome through the atonement, and we're not meant to celebrate our flaws and embrace them as our identity."

Please explain why the condition of homosexuality is a "flaw", how it can be "overcome through the atonement," and why it is equivalent to alcoholism or pedophilia.

7. "I've never heard your quote about gayness being a "core characteristic"—do you have a reference for that?"

In an interview with two members of the Church's Public Affairs staff in August 2006 about homosexuality and which has since been published on the Church's Web site, Elder Lance Wickman of the Seventy, speaking on behalf of the Church with Dallin Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve next to him, stated that one's gender (euphemism for sexual) orientation was a "core characteristic".

8. "It is absolutely possible for one gay person to try to "recruit" or seduce someone else into gayness and be successful doing so, especially in a person's younger years when sexual identity and orientation are still fluid. I have heard many people say that they became gay through trying out the sex and enjoying it, not because they felt attracted exclusively to their same gender prior to experiencing gay sex."

Please explain your basis for this belief and identify, as much as you can without breaching confidentiality or privacy, the "many people" you've heard say this and what they actually said. Please explain why it is not possible that these people enjoyed it because they were innately gay already but perhaps didn't realize it, rather than that the experience "converted" them.

9. "If the Church ever says it's acceptable for people to give in to their gay inclinations, then I'm going to go ahead and start giving in to my inclinations to, for example, enjoy intoxicants once in a while, which I naturally would like to do but don't do because it's not in harmony with the gospel and because its unholy and impure, which also applies to gay sex."

Straw man fallacy. Please explain what you mean by "giving in to gay inclinations". Please also explain why you believe alcoholic drinks are "not in harmony with the gospel" and are "unholy and impure." How do you reconcile your statements with the fact that Joseph Smith and other general authorities regularly drank alcoholic drinks throughout their lives, including the Quorum of the Twelve who used wine when taking the Sacrament in the Salt Lake Temple until early in the 20th Century?

10. "While homosexuality is more complicated than most vices, it's still at heart a vice to be resisted, not someone's real identity that can provide eternal happiness, even if some temporary earthly companionship and sexual gratification can be found in living gay."

Please explain the basis for your belief that the quality of homosexuality itself is a "vice to be resisted."

11. "This whole gay argument is really about something deeper: Is our society a secular society in which humans are the ultimate authorities and we should do whatever we feel like doing, or are we a god-fearing society that wants to find out God's will for us and obey? I see the fight over gay rights becoming an unprecedentedly intense focal point for that deeper struggle in our society, which is why it's so alarming to me. It's going to make the fights over abortion and the E.R.A. look like child's play in comparison."

Please explain your perspective on the Savior's commandment to render to Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and to God the things which are God's. Please also explain what kind of government you believe the United States should have in light of the two alternatives you have stated.

I look forward to your responses.

17 December 2009

Here We Go Again

Some of you may know of, or even have read, a recent novel called No Going Back by Jonathan Langford. It's about a gay LDS teen and how he & his family deal with his situation. I haven't read it so can't judge it.

I recently ran across a blog post by Christopher Bigelow, the owner of Zarahemla Books, which published No Going Back. Bigelow is a former employee of The Ensign. His post was one of the most unusual I've ever read. On one hand, he talked very even-handedly about Langford's book and how he was glad to have been involved with publishing it. On the other hand, his personal beliefs about homosexuality prove to be startlingly extreme. The contrast between his tolerant tone about the book and his visions of The Gays Destroying Civilization was striking. I posted a brief comment to the ongoing thread, to which he responded. I plan to reply, so here we go on another interesting dialogue.

And as I've done before, I'll invite anyone who wants to chime in with suggestions on how I should engage with him. His post is kinda long, so here are his key points to which I'll be responding:

Homosexuality is "one of the most dangerous issues of our generation, with the potential of dividing our society as catastrophically as the slavery issue did back in the nineteenth century, if not more so."

Same-sex attraction and its difficult dilemmas are real, but they're not the world’s hardest challenge or even harder than some challenges within straight marriages, though some make it sound like mixed-orientation marriages are "absolutely unreasonable and undoable."

Open discussion of "this dilemma" within the Church is valuable and we need more of it to "better inoculate children against misinterpreting and mishandling the same-gender attractions some will feel during youth" and against "society’s growing encouragement and even pressure to pursue one’s gay impulses."

"Today's gay identity is a huge deception, and it sets off many of [his] last-days alarm bells" and "from a Mormon viewpoint, the emergence of the gay movement is clearly a sign of the times."

Mormonism can never "endorse the misdirection of romantic/procreative emotions and spirituality into gay relationships, let alone endorse actual acts of gay sex" and "at some point we Mormons will have to withdraw from society when society becomes wicked enough to try to shove homosexuality down our throats, which [he's] sure will eventually happen with even more gusto than when society pressured us to end polygamy."

The Church was wrong to endorse "Salt Lake’s ordinances spelling out special protections for those who’ve chosen to pursue their gay inclinations." Its support "counters what some apostles have said" and he "seriously doubts" the Church's move was "based on revelation."

"What pushes [Bigelow's] buttons most is when so-called fellow Mormons try to normalize and romanticize gay relationships." He has been banned from some Mormon blogs for saying so, and has "weakened" his ties with more liberal Mormons, but he doesn't care because "the gay issue alarms [him] so much."

Comments to his post included two from LDS women who'd been married to and divorced from gay men, with tragic consequences. I posted my own comment as follows:

Maybe if the Church recognized reality and hadn't tried so ferociously to pressure God's gay sons into marriages they weren't equipped to handle in the first place by telling them it's that way or the road to hell, no alternatives, then tragedies like Kathy's and Ann's could have been avoided.

Fortunately, it is finally moving in that direction.  It no longer promotes such marriages and admits that being gay is a "core characteristic."  Yet a generation ago, leaders sustained as prophets, seers and revelators preached with absolute certainty that being gay was a choice, was "curable" by traditional marriage, and was something people could be "recruited" to.  Now it's reversed course on all of that.  This record of flip-flops is one reason why it's difficult for many gay Mormons to trust anything the Church says on the subject.

Mr. Bigelow then replied with what is probably the best concentration I've ever seen of the attitudes and beliefs that I believe must be respectfully challenged, countered, and overcome if there is ever to be peace on this issue. Because if he and the Church cling to what he espouses, I fear such attitudes will themselves bring on the apocalyptic resolution Mr. Bigelow claims to fear from The Gays. I plan to try to engage him in a respectful discussion of the bases for his beliefs and see if we can't come to some common understanding. I'll leave my responses for another post, but here are his key points to me specifically:

"Your phrase 'God's gay sons' makes it sound like you think God purposely created them that way. I don't think he created someone to be gay anymore than he created someone to be an alcoholic or a pedophile or a shoplifter or any other mortal weakness/compulsion. Mortal life includes flaws for us to overcome through the atonement, and we're not meant to celebrate our flaws and embrace them as our identity."

It's true that some gay people shouldn't enter straight marriages, but "many can make hetero marriage work even if their same-sex attractions never go completely away" . . . while it's "a struggle at times, there's nothing any more special or exceptional about that struggle than many other marriage-related struggles not related to same-sex attraction."

"I've never heard your quote about gayness being a "core characteristic"—do you have a reference for that?"
[This confirms that he's not up to speed on the Church's recent statements, including the "core characteristic" description by Lance Wickman of the 70.]

"It is absolutely possible for one gay person to try to "recruit" or seduce someone else into gayness and be successful doing so, especially in a person's younger years when sexual identity and orientation are still fluid. I have heard many people say that they became gay through trying out the sex and enjoying it, not because they felt attracted exclusively to their same gender prior to experiencing gay sex."

"If the Church ever says it's acceptable for people to give in to their gay inclinations, then I'm going to go ahead and start giving in to my inclinations to, for example, enjoy intoxicants once in a while, which I naturally would like to do but don't do because it's not in harmony with the gospel and because its unholy and impure, which also applies to gay sex."

"While homosexuality is more complicated than most vices, it's still at heart a vice to be resisted, not someone's real identity that can provide eternal happiness, even if some temporary earthly companionship and sexual gratification can be found in living gay."

"This whole gay argument is really about something deeper: Is our society a secular society in which humans are the ultimate authorities and we should do whatever we feel like doing, or are we a god-fearing society that wants to find out God's will for us and obey? I see the fight over gay rights becoming an unprecedentedly intense focal point for that deeper struggle in our society, which is why it's so alarming to me. It's going to make the fights over abortion and the E.R.A. look like child's play in comparison."

See, I'm Not The Only One

Meet another gay rugger.

13 December 2009

Scrum Central Meets Nelson Mandela

This blog's name alludes to my passion for rugby. So when I heard that a Clint Eastwood film about rugby was opening, and featuring Matt Damon even, I reacted like Jesse Jackson when he sees a TV camera. I would have broke down brick walls to see this movie. Fortunately daughter was at a slumber party last Friday, so it was guys' night out for me and #1 son, who's old enough now that he can sit through serious fare like this and appreciate it, I think. I had a feeling we were in for something special.

And I was right on all counts. Beyond the brilliance of the rugby, it was inspiring to watch the leadership of Nelson Mandela (played by an astonishingly good Morgan Freeman) and Francois Pienaar, captain of South Africa's almost all-white national rugby team (Matt Damon, with an amazingly accurate accent), as they work together to implement Mandela's vision of forgiveness and national unity. And, oh, BTW, also manage to beat New Zealand's All Blacks, the world's scariest rugby team, for the 1995 world championship.

The rugby action was wonderful, of course. The eye candy was just enough to add an extra little zing of interest. I will watch rugby even if played by kangaroos. But put God's Own Sport into such a setting, at a pivotal point in history, with two gifted leaders united in purpose to bring reconciliation to their strife-torn country, and you have a picture of inspiration that is rare indeed. I couldn't help analogizing their brave efforts to overcome their country's deep-seated hostile racism with current efforts in the United States and the LDS Church to overcome similarly deep-seated homophobia. Mandela's patience and forgiveness was truly an example of the calm foresight and focus on the goal which we should all try to maintain.

Go see this movie. You will be inspired, I promise. And if you're really lucky, you'll catch the rugby bug as well.

08 December 2009

My Snarky Streak

Disclaimer: I am probably going to come across as very snarky and punchy in this post. So I'm human. We all have our moments. Even you, gentle reader.

Last Saturday I was driving on the freeway when I looked over to the next lane and saw a silver Honda Odyssey minivan with Utah plates and a Ken Garff Honda license plate frame. We don't see many of these in SoCA. As I slowly passed, I saw its front seats were occupied by a very corpulent 40-something guy and his even more ample wife. Classic Utah Mormon couple. I think the guy had a white shirt on. They were even sticking to the speed limit, which in SoCA sometimes gets you pulled over and admonished for obstructing traffic.

I have a not ostentatious but very noticeable HRC sticker centrally placed on the back of my SUV. If you're driving behind me you can't miss it. So what'd I do? I swung into the lane in front of Brother and Sister Overfed and immediately slowed down in order to force them to look at that bright blue & yellow Equality symbol. I watched them closely in the rear view mirror. I could tell they saw it. Did they recognize it? Yeah right. "And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not." (John 1:5) Utah plates? Ken Garff Honda? White shirt on a non-Sunday? Ya think? They probably wouldn't know the Human Rights Campaign from a Panda Express all you can eat buffet. No, wait, they would recognize the buffet. It didn't take them long to start falling further and further back in the lane, so eventually I resumed normal speed and left them behind. Metaphor?

I will now return to my regularly scheduled efforts to be more charitable than this post would indicate.

07 December 2009

When I Knew

Last week I bought a book called "When I Knew." Yeah, you can figure out what it's about. It's a compilation and some of the stories are poignant, a few tug at your heartstrings, but some are hysterically funny. So I wanted to pass a few on here, tell my own "when I knew" moment, and invite readers to post their own memories of when they "knew."

Me first. One day after school when I was 13 years old I was packing for my first Boy Scout campout. At the last troop meeting a couple of the older Scouts had been trying to scare some of the younger ones with talk of compulsory skinnydipping during the trip. It scared me, yes, but suddenly I found myself pausing to imagine what it would be like, what I would see, how I would feel if I actually did that with the other boys. And that's when it hit, like a ton of bricks. I knew. I wouldn't honestly admit it to myself for a while yet, but that's when I knew.

Okay, quotes from the book.

"I knew fairly early on. In fact, right after the doctor slapped me on the butt in the delivery room. I looked up at him and said 'Don't you think it's a little soon for that? I mean, you're totally hot, but let's at least have drinks first.'"

"My father was watching the evening news. The announcer said that Judy Garland had died. I fainted. I was nine."

"I knew I was gay when the most exciting part of my Bar Mitzvah was meeting with the party planner."

"I grew up in Meriden, Connecticut. On my twelfth birthday [1963] my parents took me into Manhattan. We went to Macy's. They gave me five dollars and told me I could buy any toy I wanted. I took the money, went to housewares, and bought a Fornasetti dinner plate."

"I was lying on the floor of the living room, watching an episode of the Tarzan series. I kept sliding closer to the TV, sort of looking under it, trying to see under Tarzan's loincloth. Seven years old. Go figure."

"Although it's very sweet that my mother always gave me a present on Valentine's Day, it does seem odd that two years in a row she gave me albums by the Village People."

"On summer trips to Brookside Pool, my brother, sister and friends usually went with us. One time, for some reason, I went with only my mother. At the doors to the men's and women's changing rooms she asked if I needed help, and said I should change in the women's room since I was only six years old. At that moment, two sun-bronzed lifeguards passed, laughing and peeling their shirts off, on their way to the door with the MEN sign over it. I waved to mom, followed the lifeguards, and said "I'll be okay!"

"I went to Choate Prep School. All the boys in my hall got Sports Illustrated. I seemed to be the only one with a subscription to Women's Wear Daily."

"I knew at seven. My favorite pastime was shutting my eyes during The Dating Game and listening to the guys' voices to see if my pick would match that of the female contestant. I couldn't wait to grow up and be on the show myself, picking my own bachelor number one, two or three."

"When I was ten I would put on my mother's leather evening gloves--they came all the way up to my elbows. I would sing "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" into the mirror. One day my mother walked in and caught me mid-song. I tried to cover, screaming out "To the Bat Cave, Robin!"

"My mother had me tailed. She did. She called her best friend Sheila, who was known for carrying a full flask of Kahlua, her loud opinions, and her seemingly endless supply of Leroy Neiman paintings, to have her son Tom tail me in the West Village.

My mother had 'found' a love letter written to me on the back of a math test with a very high score (which is what caught my mother's eye in the first place since math was not my strong suit).

Anyhow, I was visiting my high school flame Michael at his family's apartment when we stopped into the infamous corner store, Optimo Cigars on Seventh Avenue and Christopher Street, to buy some gum, and wouldn't you know it, we were spotted by Tom as we innocently stepped out of the store and onto Christopher, 'that gay street.'

It was confirmed. My mother's best friend's son 'outted' me and all because of a pack of Trident sugarless gum. There was nothing else she could do but sit me down that evening with my dad and ask me if I was 'engaging in any homosexual activity.' That was the most terrifyingly liberating question I had ever been asked.

Of course I said yes. I was free."

So, when and how did you know?

05 December 2009

The Talk With Dad, Final Chapter

This is the last installment. Dad's in regular font, I'm in italics.

Something I haven't understood, taking the civil and the moral issues and trying to separate the two, because to me it's more of a moral issue than a civil one, but what civil rights or in the courts or whatever, what is it that the man/woman spouses have civilly that two people with a civil union don't have? Just give me some key ones.

On a federal level, I think the number is a little over 1000 legal benefits and advantages, for example, a married couple is entitled to certain federal deductions for medical expenses. I'd have to go look up more specifics for you.

Just give me a few when you get a chance. You see, I'm not aware of a single civil right or benefit that a traditional married couple has which a gay couple in a civil union also doesn't have. To me, that's been the big issue. That they don't have the same rights a man and woman have in a civil marriage. And I'm saying why not?

Well, would you support that equality then?

I would support the fact that if two guys want to live together in a civil union, they ought to be able to have the same civil rights that a man and a woman have. But it's not a marriage. Now I go to the moral side of it, and say a marriage under religious law is different than a civil union, morally. And it's all because of the sexual issue. I find oral and anal sex between two men to be one of the most disgusting things I can think of.

Men and women do it too.

Yes, but in that case, it's a recognized relationship in the church, and how their sexual life is together, that's a separate issue, and they can also procreate. Two men can't. And that's one of the biggest commandments. And one other thing, the phrase "coming out" is unusual for me. I don't go around telling people that I'm a heterosexual. I don't have to do that, I don't need to do that emotionally. I don't understand why people who are "homosexual" feel like they have to go around telling everybody about it. I don't understand why your sexual orientation is important in anything, why me knowing your sexual orientation is important.

Because it's such a fundamental part of someone and when you live for a long time in a society, especially the church, that tells you this fundamental part of who you are inside, and the way you love, is abnormal, is morally wrong, is going to be punished by God, when you live with that kind of negative reinforcement for a while, you don't feel like you can safely say anything about it to anybody, at some point you eventually say "I've had it, I'm not going to put up with this negative messaging anymore." And I push back.

Here's the second reason. Put the shoe on the other foot. Look at all the ways you probably aren't even aware of that every single day you actually do advertise the fact that you're heterosexual. You have your wife's picture on the wall. You talk about her to the clerk in the drugstore. You talk about your first wife. All this stuff. Every single day you are giving little cues to everyone all around you about your sexual orientation.


And it's never noticed because it's considered "normal." Yet when a gay person mentions their orientation to just one person, or talks about their boyfriend, or puts a picture up on their desk of them and their boyfriend, the "normal" world around them thinks that's being aggressive and in their face and flaunting their homosexuality when in fact, all they're doing is just the same things that everyone around them who's straight takes for granted and does without even thinking about it.

Well, that's very sensible. I can understand that.

It seems aggressive because it's different. But in fact it's the same thing.

It seems like lots of people as they work through some personal issues feel a need to tell everyone about intimate personal details because apparently it's part of working through the self-therapy of healing themselves. My impression is that a large number of people who've had the experience you've had, it's part of the way you deal with healing of the feelings.

Yeah, I think that's valid.

And over time, the more you're comfortable with where you are, you have more self-confidence, you realize that in building a relationship with someone else, you don't have to do all that disclosure anymore, you have to build trust first, and you don't do that by sharing everything about you when you've known them 10 minutes. So I think you need to be judicious about this.

Then you and I are on the same page. My approach has been "does it help? Does it help them to know? If I disclose this will it benefit our relationship mutually? And if it doesn't, what's the point? If it happens to come up, I don't mind, but I'm not going out of my way to advertise it."

That's very wise on your part.

I think one of the greatest disservices, the biggest faults of the "gay community" is these gender-bending promiscuity flaunting thong-wearing prancers in pride parades who perpetuate these myths that being gay is all about a wild promiscuous self-obsessed irresponsible party lifestyle. It's not.

Right. You understand that I don't and will not accept the behavior. But it doesn't mean that I don't love you and will not respect you. We all have our challenges, mine are different than yours.


04 December 2009

The Talk With Dad, Part Three

The conversation continues. Dad's in regular font, I'm in italics.

I'm curious about a couple things. Why did the gay community in California try to get a law passed that psychologists could not teach or offer as an option returning to a more traditional lifestyle when talking with their clients?

You mentioned that in your e-mail and I went looking for any record I could find of that. I asked my friends. Nobody had heard of such a thing. Would you please find it? Because I tried and there was nothing.

Yeah, it happened. And it got killed in the Legislature.

Please find it.

OK, I'll try. The other question is what about your kids, short term and long term?

The kids know about me.

[long silence ensues]

What do you think about that?

I think it's fine.

[another long silence]

Let me tell you the story of when they first confronted this issue. I was not out to them. I was driving them to school and we passed an LDS chapel. This was before the election, and there were people outside the chapel waving Yes on 8 signs. [Young daughter] turned to me and said Daddy, what's Proposition 8? She knew nothing about this, I'd never mentioned this subject to either one of them. So I explained it in as objective and simple terms as I could, here's what it is, why it's there, supporters say this, opponents say this, President Monson said he'd like everyone to support it and he's said we're free to make our own choices. What do you think? She thought for a minute, and her first reaction was "how does two guys getting married hurt somebody else's marriage?"

Hurt somebody else's marriage?


How does two guys getting married hurt somebody else's marriage. What did you say?

I said "what do you think?" And again, I had never discussed this with them, this was purely her own thought. She said "I think you should be able to marry who you want."

Hmm. [another long silence, and then he dropped the subject].

02 December 2009

The Talk With Dad, Part Two

The conversation continues. Dad's in regular font, I'm in italics.

I don't know if I ever told you, but when I was a kid, I always had this idea that divorce would be the ultimate personal disaster. And I don't know where that came from.

I saw that on the day your marriage blew up. When you came with us and you laid on the floor in the fetal position and just cried. That told me you saw this as a huge failure on your part.

But you know dad the lesson I learned from all of that and since then? It's that what may seem to be a terrible disaster can in fact turn into a tremendous blessing. Because I never would have pulled the plug. But I'm so glad, looking back, that she did. Because it's made possible a lot of things for me that never would have happened otherwise. Things I've been able to do, to learn, experiences I've had, relationships I've formed, never would have been possible if I'd stayed there.

What contribution did you make to the divorce?

I think in part she started to figure out I was gay.

Yes, I'm sure of that.

And maybe the marriage never should have happened in the first place. But the church said that's what you have to do, nothing else is acceptable. And I wanted to be a faithful church member.

And that was the expectation of your family too.


Yeah, whatever your proclivities were, I think she felt that, she knew it. You know, when your mom was in her final illness, she couldn't do many simple things for herself anymore. She'd drop things, she needed help in the bathroom. And there was a time in my life when I would have gotten really upset with her. You know, "Why can't you do the simplest things?" But then I had an epiphany of sorts, I guess. And I realized she really honestly couldn't do these things, that she had zero control over them. And it was really a huge wake-up call in terms of me understanding myself. And since that time I've had lots of little epiphanies about myself. So I think it's important that a guy that's as socially in tune as you should know his contribution to why he got divorced. I do think it was the fact that she knew you were gay. So my heart has softened some toward her.

You know what, mine has too. And you know what did it? Coming out.

Well, . . .

Let me explain. When I finally did that, I started having my own series of epiphanies as you say. Because I'd finally reached a point where I felt courageous enough to say "I'm not going to continue going along with all the opprobrium, the criticism and stigmatization that I've been stuffed with for most of my life about this. I'm not going to go along with that anymore." And after that, I started noticing that I had much more ability to be genuinely empathetic with other people than I ever did before. I think that's because I finally chose to embrace this part of myself that I knew other people would see as a challenge or a trial or a curse, even, and I knew what I was in for as far as public treatment from now on. So I have become much more emphathetic with others' difficulties and struggles, even with her, despite the fact that she will always treat me like crap. I understand more where she is, how she must hurt, and I don't blame her as much as I used to.

Did you know that the church used to excommunicate people just for saying they were gay?

I didn't know about that.

Yes. It's true, I've seen the records and history. That was the doing of Spencer Kimball and Mark Peterson.

Yes I know they were very harsh.

They preached that just being gay was a choice, that people could be recruited into doing it, and that it was "curable." All of those perspectives have now been not only rejected by the entire medical and psychological professions, but the church itself has reversed course on that. It now acknowledges that this is a "core characteristic," those are the words of Lance Wickman of the 70, . . .


Lance Wickman, sitting with Dallin Oaks, giving an interview about this subject. It is a "core characteristic" that may not be changeable in this life.

May not.

Because they don't know. The Church no longer excommunicates people for being gay. So there's been a significant shift in what's been taught as doctrine about this issue by the church.

Like blacks and the priesthood.

Right. So the source of the epiphany for me was finally saying "No, I'm not going to take that anymore." Whatever the reasons, whatever the sources, they really don't matter, because this is how I've been since I realized it at age 13. It has never gone away. I worked and sweated and prayed and tried for a lot of years to do every single thing the church said I should do to "keep it at bay" or "make it go away." And it was absolutely, totally ineffective.

Only when I faced it squarely and said "This is who I am, this is the way I was made, this is what comes naturally to me, it may be abnormal on a curve, but this is what comes naturally to me," only then was I able to say to her "I'm so sorry, I was doing what I thought was the right thing. I was trying to be faithful, I was trying to live according to what I'd been taught was the right thing to do by the church leaders that I trusted. It was in good faith, and I loved you the best I possibly could. I'm so sorry for the damage, please forgive me, and at least we have these beautiful children."

I have absolute faith and confidence in the Atonement, and if anything, I've found my faith in that to be much stronger since coming out than it ever was before. I found my capacity to understand the things you understand about Mom far greater than before. My ability to treat everyone with respect and Christian charity far more than before, with none of the judgment and the pretense of being fair but privately inside my heart still being just as judgmental as ever, I don't do that anymore. It's much easier now for me to see everyone as a child of God, with struggles and pains and difficulties that if I expect forgiveness for, I need to extend charity and help and hope and tolerance for as well. That's much easier now than it ever was before. So having acknowledged this, I say to myself "how can I best put this to use for the same kind of benefit to others, the same sharing of the pure love of Christ that I always wanted to share anyway, but maybe in just a different way now?"

29 November 2009

The Talk With Dad, Part One

Yes, this is word for word. Dad's in regular font, I'm in italics.

What does that really mean? I don't understand this when you say I am gay? You like boys better than girls, in simple terms?


Do you believe that was something you were born with?


It's not genetic.

Well, you know, the research on that is ongoing.

Yeah, I know, it's inconclusive.

Not according to every professional organization's report I have read

Yeah I read that stuff. It's inconclusive.

All of them are unanimous that there appears to be a genetic component. Nobody says it's absolutely indisputably programmed in the DNA, but the conclusion of everybody that has studied it is that there are definite indications of a genetic component to it.

Well the stuff you sent me that I read doesn't say that. It says they don't know whether it's in the home or genetic.

OK well I can send you more if you want, 'cause trust me, it's there

No, I don't need any more. It doesn't matter. What wolf are you feeding?

Tell me what wolves you see. I know the story of the wolves.

There's the dark side and there's the light side or whatever term you want to use. And homosexual behavior is abnormal. Sexually abnormal.

In your opinion.

No, it's not a question of opinion at all.

Then define normal.

Well, you have a normal distribution curve, and you've got got sexual activities, and you've got people at one end, and you've got people at the other end, they're eunuchs who don't have sex at all, then you have this large population in the middle that tends to be normal, and it's very consistent with the Lord's commandment to multiply and replenish the earth, and that's the first commandment, and people who are homosexual can't do that. And that's abnormal.

So you see the purpose of sexual activity as procreation?

No, I didn't say that.

It sounds like it.

That's the first commandment, they can't do that. There's a lot more to sexual relationships than having kids. There's passion, there's love, there's intimacy, all of that.

All of which exist in same sex relationships as well. It's a constant, it's existed throughout history. So I see it as normal.

Yes, you can do that, you can take that argument, you can take the distribution curve and make another distribution curve and say here are all the people that are eunuchs and that's normal, and you can take another distribution curve, and . . .

OK I guess the way I see it is it's not a question of normal as defined by a given culture. It's a question of is this a component of human behavior throughout history.

No that's not where I am.

Well that's how I see it. It's always been there, there's always been a portion of the population that is this way.

That's right, and there's always been a portion of the population that are pedophiles, there's always been a portion that are prostitutes.

Dad, that's a non sequitur. There's always been murderers too, but you can't say that because there's always been murderers and there's always been anorexia, that therefore murder and anorexia are morally equivalent.

Well I'm not saying that's wrong, I'm saying the analogy you use I could take and apply it to every form of behavior in society. And it would be equally valid.

But you're drawing a moral conclusion for two different types of behavior.

I'm not drawing a moral conclusion at all, I'm drawing a statistical conclusion. It's not moral at all.

But from the statistical behavior you're then saying one is normal and one is not.

No I didn't say "not".

You said it was abnormal, though.

No, I'm focused on your statement that homosexuality is normal because it's always been part of the population, it's always been there. I'm saying if you use that argument, then you can say that about any form of behavior, because there's always been murders, always been prostitutes.

So then we have to conclude from that that it's morally neutral.

No no no, I didn't say anything about that. I'm talking about behavior, not morality.

OK I understand. What I'm talking about is the orientation, not just the behavior

Well you can say the same thing about sociopaths.

Same logical error then, Dad.

Not in my view. The behavior's what I'm talking about. The morality is a matter of what man creates in his mind or revelation or what God has told us to do, what is moral or what isn't moral. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about behavior. And I'm saying that if you use the argument you use which is the argument homosexuals use, then any form of behavior can be normalized in that population group.

If you define normal as what people do, then yes, understood. I understand your logic and see the point.

Well it's not logic, or maybe it is. It's purely a function of behavior. So I have this normal distribution curve, I've got a group of people who are murderers, that's normal behavior among murderers.

OK, I'm taking a more expansive view. I see the range of sexual behavior, and I see a predominance of heterosexual behavior, . . .

Of course. If you lump everybody in that same normal distribution curve, not morality, let's talk about behavior. I've got a bunch of people who are eunuchs, and among them . . .

Understood. I'm looking at the whole thing and saying "where are the boundary lines for normal"?

Well, you'd have to say the sixty-eight percent in the middle.

And what's the source of that determination?

Just a normal statistical distribution of population.

So normal is what most people do?

Yes. And then you have standard deviations that go out . . .

Sure, I took statistics, I understand.

And then the same thing is true with alcoholism and any abusive kind of behavior, you have a certain percentage that do crazy things with their bodies, and you can do the same thing with sex. It's an argument that's been made for hundreds of years. So your "social behaviors" separate from sexual behaviors are not in the center part of the normal distribution curve, they'd be to one side.


That's all I'm saying. You belong to a small percentage of people, or you feel like you belong to a small percentage, or you do belong to a small percentage that would not be within the statistical realm of "normal".

As you've defined it, that's correct.

And that's fine. As long as you're willing to accept the consequences, both spiritually and otherwise of your behavior.

And I lived with the other consequences for long enough to know that I couldn't continue to do that.

That's fine.

So the answer to your questions is yes.

Yes you're willing to live with the consequences?


OK. As long as you're willing to do that, regardless of what they are at this stage of the game, we don't all know what they are, it's just like any choice. Maybe I see it in a different way. When we talked about it before, I believe that the scripture that says where much is given, much is expected, and I also believe that the more talented you are spiritually, the bigger the challenges you have. And you've been blessed a lot in your life. Far beyond what most people have been given. And it just may be you also then were cursed in some ways, because you know there are blessings and cursings, whatever you want to call it, but the challenges of your life are going to be equal to the blessings.

23 November 2009

The Thanksgiving Post

I went to a funeral last Sunday. A co-worker's father passed away recently. I never knew him, but since I was in the city as usual on a Sunday, it was right and proper that I attend the memorial service and support my friend and his family.

The service was held at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Francisco, a beautiful Romanesque church well over a century old. And apart from the magnificent pipe organ which I was allowed to play and invited back to play again anytime I wanted, woot woot, I was struck by one key thing at this service.

Frankly, it might as well have been held in a hotel conference room or in a park. It was warm and human and funny and contemplative and there was not a single mention of God or faith or resurrection or the Savior or eternal life. There were no prayers. This good man's wife of 28 years, sweet and smiling as she was, seemed to have the attitude "oh well, it was nice while it lasted." Even the minister, a man in his 60's with weatherworn face, ponytail, and a silver hoop in his left earlobe, spoke only of hope that my friend's father had now finally found some answers to "the eternal mysteries of existence." I understand why a Unitarian prayer begins with "To whom it may concern."

I don't say this to diss anyone. All in attendance were wonderful people I'm sure, and faithful in their own way. But wow, what a contrast between that almost completely secular approach and the faith I have. It really got me thinking about how lucky I am to know what I know.

This week is going to see a flurry of Thanksgiving-related posts. That's great, and as it should be. I've always felt lucky that gratitude and a "glass half full" attitude seems to come easily for me. And I do have tons to be thankful for: health, my wonderful kids, my faith, my family, my work, my friends, opportunities for service, the steal of a deal I got on a Calvin Klein suit recently. But this year I'm going to focus this post on one particular thing.

Last year at Thanksgiving I had only been out a couple of months and was still kind of giddy, bewildered, even disoriented. I hadn't met any other MoHos in person and was still figuring a lot of things out. This year, what a difference. I'm out to my dad and half my family (and don't worry, I'll blog about our upcoming conversation separately), I don't bat an eye if the fact that I'm gay comes up in casual conversation, I have an incredible new virtual family of dozens of brothers and sisters all over the place. So add to the list for this year "solid confidence in who I am." I feel kinda stupid that it took me so long to get here, but as I've said before, I may be late to the party but at least I showed up.

Since I'm a musician, I can't express those thoughts better than with what I wrote last year around this time. So forgive the re-run, but it's even more valid now than before. Some customized lyrics to the hymn "For the Beauty of the Earth":

For the beauty of my bro's,
For the beauty in their eyes,
For the love that each one knows
Over and around us lies,
Lord of all, to thee I raise
This my hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of my friends,
For their hearts and helping hands,
For their support that never ends
Stronger still than iron bands,
Lord of all, to thee I raise
This my hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of brothers' love,
Giv'n by God to each and all,
Friends on earth and friends above,
Firmly standing proud and tall,
Savior, Lord, to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.

20 November 2009

Next Letter To Dad

Thanks to everyone for your thoughts about my Dad's letter and how to respond. I agree it's going to be a long process and I can't expect him to instantly embrace something like this when it took me so long to do it, and his cultural . . . well, I'll call them what they are, prejudices, are a lot deeper than my reticence was. I realize that it's almost miraculous that he and I are even talking about this, since as a lot of you know, just a couple of months ago I expected we would both live the rest of our lives without any mention of it.

So I used the time during today's flight to draft the next letter to him. Thoughts and comments welcomed.

Dear Dad:

First of all let me say again how truly grateful I am that you're willing to continue our dialogue about a challenging subject. No two people ever see things exactly the same way all the time, but as long as we continue to talk and try to understand each other, that's what counts. It took me a long time to accept this part of myself and to learn that I really would be (and have been) happier since acknowledging that this is who I am, who I've always been. So having taken that long myself, I can't expect you or anyone else to instantly acclimatize and accept this disclosure, especially coming from the perspectives that I know you have. Patience will be a good thing for both of us.

I regret that my last letter made you sad and disappointed, and I understand your reaction based on the opinions you've expressed. This subject is giving not just you but the whole church fits right now, and it will continue to cause some of the greatest individual and collective wrestling matches and difficulties the church has faced in decades, as old notions and paradigms are challenged and changed. A friend of mine is well-acquainted with several members of the Quorum of the Twelve and quotes them as saying even the apostles and First Presidency have widely differing opinions over this whole issue and how the church should address it. Some people will choose to see the resulting current and inevitable future social changes as the biggest attack on the church and society in their lifetimes. I see them as an opportunity to participate in ending a history of centuries of terrible prejudice, abuse, and faith-based persecution of a group of God's children who've asked for nothing more than the simple freedom to be who they are and love who they love freely and without fear, things that everyone else takes for granted. Some decry that as "against the natural order of things." But remember that slavery, strict racial segregation and discrimination were also accepted for millennia as God's will too, part of the "natural order of things" and defended with scripture, even by LDS apostles and prophets who clung to their racism long after much of the rest of the country had abandoned it. Until suddenly all the LDS assumptions were completely up-ended. So there is precedent, Dad, for change that could well shock everyone.

It seems clear from your letter that you believe being gay is a choice: "It is also a choice and not something you were born with." You state that there is "not one scientifically valid longitudinal study that has been done that connects your DNA with homosexuality." We need to reach a common understanding on this point above all others.

Dad, do you really believe that after all I have learned and done and the ways I've served, the faithfulness I've exhibited, the desire to follow the Savior that has characterized my whole life, that I would suddenly choose to dump all of that and plunge headlong into a debauched "lifestyle"? What Mormon guy in his right mind, knowing what the church currently thinks of homosexuality, would consciously choose this? What sane person would say "Hey, I think it would be fun to volunteer for membership in a persecuted misunderstood minority that is shunned and ostracized and called perverts and feared and discriminated against and possibly beaten up and threatened with hellfire and loss of eternal blessings"?

I'm sorry but with all due respect, that just makes no sense! Only a crazed idiot would choose to be gay in such an environment, knowing those likely consequences. Homosexuality is as old as history. There is no eradicating it. Evidence shows it is consistent across all cultures in roughly consistent percentages of a given population. That sounds quite "natural" to me, as natural as hair color or any other consistently recurring biological feature.

But beyond that, Dad, beyond all the scientific studies which do say there is likely a genetic component, beyond the evidence that this feature of someone's personality can't really be changed, I ask that you simply trust me and my knowledge of my own heart. I don't know where my being gay came from. But I know it's always been there, as deep and as permanent as my musical talent or anything else about me. I didn't choose it. I was as surprised as anyone could be when I realized this was part of me. You accept the testimony of the witnesses who saw the gold plates; you've never met those witnesses but you accept what they wrote as true. Can you also accept the testimony of your own son, whose goodness and honesty of heart you've known all his life, that he never chose to be this way? Can you accept, based on what you know of him, that there are countless others who tell the truth when they say exactly the same thing? As a lawyer, I submit to you that such a body of witness testimony is as compelling as any group of Latter-day Saints testifying of the truths they know.

I hope you'll read the materials I put on that CD for you, particularly the pieces by Gary Watts. He has two gay children and has studied this issue for a very long time from your same perspective, that of a traditional conservative LDS parent. I hope you will therefore trust his observations and conclusions. Please Dad be willing to consider that some things may not be as you have thought or been taught. I don't expect that you will ever fully comprehend my perspective on this issue, because you're not gay. And that's fine. But I hope you will keep in mind that I haven't told you anything new. Yes, I did make a choice. But that choice wasn't whether I should be gay or not. The choice was simply to be honest with myself and my family about who I've always been. I chose to no longer live my life in fear, but to embrace everything about the way I was created. I was gay when I was in high school, when I served a mission, when I went to college and law school, when I embarked on my career, as I've built that career and accomplished all of the things I have. Think of every time I've ever said or done anything to make you proud, any achievement I've reached, any service I've rendered, and then please also remind yourself "that was my gay son." Everything in my last letter to you was as true years ago and all along that path as it is now. The only choice that's been made now is to acknowledge it to myself and to tell you about it too.

You've asked a number of valid and pointed questions. I'm going to defer those until after you've read all the materials on that CD, because I think they will give you many of the answers you seek. So please let me know when you've finished reading all that stuff and I'll be delighted to continue our discussion. Looking forward to seeing you next week.


18 November 2009

Latest Letter From Dad

Sigh. Dad has responded to my letter below. Last time I saw him, I left on his desk and told him about a CD full of materials from Family Fellowship and other really good resources that I thought would help him understand this subject better. But it doesn't appear that he's read any of that. I asked if he had, but he hasn't responded yet. If he hasn't, then I'll wait to reply to his latest letter till after he's done so because I think that material could give him some new perspectives. But if he has read it and still replied as he did, then I'm going to be seriously depressed. That will be some of the result I always feared. He will continue to show love and concern but he will also live the rest of his life believing that I have chosen to not just drift from but to bolt away from The One True Path at the cost of his family's eternal integrity and my own & my children's eternal blessings.

(P.S. He forgot all about the CD so obviously hasn't read any of it. Whew! I reminded him about it so I'm sure he'll read it now. And that will be a very interesting conversation after he's read so much new scientific information and statements from multiple church members that directly contradict his perspectives!)

I don't blame him, in a sense. He had a very rough childhood and is a convert to the church. Everything stable, hopeful, loving, secure, trustworthy, and beneficial in his life has come from that conversion. It literally saved his life. So he is simply not going to consider the church in any other light.

Here are salient points from his letter. I welcome any and all thoughts on how to respond. No matter what, I want to keep this dialogue going. Mind, though, I will delete any comments that gratuitously diss my Dad.

I have read your letter of the 9th with a deep sense of sadness, disappointment and wonder. I appreciate your efforts to help me understand the decisions you have made about your life-style as you go forward, and your sensitivity to the importance of propriety regarding the family. I sincerely appreciate your concerns and love you for them.

So you will clearly understand where I am on this choice you have made, please know that I do not accept homosexual behavior as a normal social or sexual behavior nor do I accept the life-style as one that promotes a stable, emotionally and spiritually healthy society. A man can have a long-term emotionally close and healthy friendship with all of the characteristics that you describe with other men and not live in a homosexual relationship. It is also a choice and not something you were born with. Lest you believe everything you have been told; there is not one scientifically valid longitudinal study that has been done that connects your DNA with homosexuality. A lot of self-serving homosexual professionals have tried, but to date they have not been successful.

I do not have any difficulty with men who have a close personal friendship like David and Jonathan, a brotherhood of sorts. There is nothing to imply in the scriptures that they had a homosexual relationship. Lots of “gay” leaders have tried to make those connections with other notable people, even Abraham Lincoln in the past, without success. That kind of brotherly relationship can be found by any two men. It is that kind of thing that has led to all kinds of men’s groups being formed about the world for hundreds of years. But the thought of my wonderfully talented and loving son having sex with another man I find morally repugnant. It is as Paul said, “without natural affection.” That is what homosexuality eventually leads to and I am sure you can understand my concerns. I might add; that it is difficult for me to believe that you believe that the Savior would tell you that he finds the behavior you have chosen to be acceptable and within “the bounds the Lord has set.” particularly after your work in the temple.

Be that as it may; what is, is what is, and we both need to move forward, even though we believe different things. The answer to this dilemma may be found in the future. In the meantime and I have some questions of concern. What are you doing to deal with the issue of your personal exaltation as explained in the covenants you made during your endowment? What will tell your children about their eternal relationship to you and their mother? What do you see in your future regarding the sealing to our family? Are you giving up all those future blessing as a result of this choice? What are you going to do if it turns out you have been and are wrong?

My final concern: “Me thinketh thou protestest too loudly.” Homosexual marriage is an abnormal social contract and a moral issue. A normal marriage contract is between a man and a woman, not two men or two women. You know that. The long-term social impact on our culture could be devastating and that is why the Church must take the position it has taken. Your temple experience must have told you that. The Lord is not going to change that and it surprises me that you would expect that to happen. My concern is that you find yourself “kicking against the pricks” as you move forward and find yourself totally alienated from your family and your Church. I sense the anger and intolerance in your choice of words when you describe the position of the Church.

To my knowledge there is not a civil right that “gay” members of our culture do not have that any married couple has. If there are I am not aware of them.

13 November 2009

Judge Westermark's Opinion

Okay fasten your seatbelts, this one is kinda long. But you know how lawyers are when they get passionate about something. Especially when they're trapped on a plane with nothing better to do than spin out arguments onto a page.

More than once I've been told I should become a judge. I honestly have no idea why someone would say this. I'm not going to do it though, it'd be more work and less pay. But just for a moment, I will talk like a judge and say, in response to the Salt Lake City Council's passage of an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, that I am taking the matter under advisement. That's judgespeak for "I'm not going to decide right now, I have to reflect on this for a while, so come back later and I'll tell you what I think." That's why I haven't posted anything about it before now. I'm still thinking about it. But I do have some interim thoughts that I haven't seen anywhere else.

I've seen the effusive encomia that the Church is finally "doing the right thing" with its "stunning reversal" of public position. Andrew Sullivan said "good for the Mormons" and wishes more Christian churches would follow their lead--itself a stunning change of direction in commentary. I've seen hostile hooting saying the Church's announcement is all a sham, a smoke screen, opportunistic piggybacking on a vote that was already in the bag, a too little too late attempt to repair the damage done by Prop 8, the attitude that says why should we thank the Church for finally doing what's right. I was honestly surprised that Chris Buttars acquiesced so meekly. And I'm also surprised and offended that the good name of Utah's only United States Supreme Court Justice, George Sutherland, has been desecrated by the frightening bigots at the Sutherland Institute, whose leadership has now confirmed that their individual willingness to follow their church's leadership will cave in to their intense and publicly stated hostility toward God's gay children. I've heard cynical speculation that the Mitt Romney campaign has pressured the church to take a pre-emptive strike against the further damage that will be done by 8: The Mormon Proposition in order to bolster Romney's 2012 presidential candidacy.

Lots of heat there, how much light? So as I said, Judge Westermark will, for the time being, take the matter under advisement, to see if the Church actually walks the talk later on with the Utah state legislature and in the face of the Sutherland Institute's defiance. He is willing to give the benefit of significant doubt, to believe that Church spokesman Mr. Otterson is a decent man who, like many Mormons (probably most) has no overt hostility toward gays and lesbians. I'm sure he and many of them are honestly puzzled by accusations that they are hateful because they oppose anything other than one man/one woman marriage.

Deeda Seeds of the Salt Lake City Council referred to the real "pain and fear" she found prevailing within the LDS church over this issue during discussions that preceded this week's actions. Somehow we have to find ways to reduce that "pain and fear." First step is to understand where the "pain and fear" come from. I think there's a mix of factors.

First, LDS Church history is filled with anti-Mormon bigotry and mistreatment. A persecution complex is thus more deeply engraved into the collective Mormon psyche than the characters were on the gold plates. And even though the Mormons have now reached a position of strength that they can stand up and say "we're not going to take that anymore," the collective hypersensitivity to perceived persecution remains. So when Mormons exercise their political clout and then receive the blowback that everyone in the political arena but them clearly foresees, the lag between that clout and their self-image as a hunted, persecuted minority clearly emerges as they say "What, us? We don't hate anybody, why are you doing this?"

Note to Mormons: You aren't at Haun's Mill anymore. You are a politically potent organization and if you want to play in the big leagues, you had bloody well better expect to be beaten up sometimes. You'd better be able to take what you dish out and more in this roughest of rough games. There's no place for individual or collective naivete here. You picked this fight and, whether you believe it or not, your actions have hurt thousands of people not within your religious jurisdiction who resent your political and legal interference with their personal choices. You'd better recognize that result, whether you intended it or not. You may not hate them individually, but what you have done to them is so hurtful they can't explain it any other way.

Second, Mormons aren't very good at separating church and state when the church has taken a stance on a political issue. Church rules for participation in the religion are fine as long as they prevail only within the church, but when that church starts trying to foist those rules on everyone else outside the church too, there will be problems. Mormons tend to be very patriotic as a principle of their faith, but when asked to choose between church and state they will choose church every time and will try to push church-favored policies into the state, solely for religious reasons. The Church has the right to speak publicly, of course. And those who don't share its beliefs are just as free to fight any effort to push a religiously based definition of marriage into secular law that governs people who want nothing to do with living LDS rules.

Third, Mormons cling furiously to the idea that allowing same-sex marriage will somehow "damage" traditional marriage. This is one I just don't get. Empirical evidence that this just isn't true is piling up every day. Denmark is one of the best examples; the same almost hysterical arguments about the demise of traditional marriage were made there years ago when Denmark adopted marriage equality, but now even conservative Danish clergy are conceding their fears were overblown. Massachusetts' divorce rate among gay couples is far below that of straight couples, and nobody there has noticed a rush of formerly straight people to enter into gay marriages, or any militant army of gay spouses pushing campaigns to restrict or destroy straight marriages.

I think the "it will damage traditional marriage" argument is really just a disguise for "it will make homosexual relationships seem normal and our religion (or cultural bias) can't allow that." In short, once again it comes down to either "God said so" or "that's disgusting." And neither one of those is an acceptable basis for secular public policy in the United States.

Fourth, the homophobia and misinformation spread by generations of Mormon leaders amongst membership trained to accept those leaders' words as inspired is deep and latent. It will take a long time to rinse all that toxin out of Mormon culture. LDS teachings on race up to 1978 provided a convenient cover for horrific racism to flourish in the Church long after it became unacceptable everywhere else. The same pattern is playing out with anti-gay prejudice; homophobic Mormon bigots can still hide behind the Proclamation on the Family as they kick their own gay children out onto the streets on the advice of Church leaders who say such perversions shouldn't be tolerated in LDS homes. Like I said, toxins.

Fifth, Mormon culture stresses certainty, not just belief. We don't hear people in church on the first Sunday of every month say they "think" Joseph Smith was a prophet. And in a church whose whole purpose is to get every single person ever born to the altar of a temple for sealing in a heterosexual marriage, the whole notion of homosexuality can't be explained, it doesn't fit. So it's a threat to the Plan of Salvation. And those who push its acceptance on the church are seen as trying to force the church to embrace something that, in Otteson's words, "does violence" to the core of LDS theology. No wonder Mormons--who always pick church over state when forced to choose--recoil. Hence the "pain and fear" that Deeda Seeds mentioned.

I understand all of this. But my fellow Mormons, you're going to have to face and learn to live with the fact that you have already lost this battle. Marriage equality is here to stay and it will only expand. Its supporters are legion, aren't going away, and there are more of us than many of you want to admit. We don't want to damage your marriages or your families. We just want you to stop trying to foist Mormon religious standards onto people who aren't Mormon and have no interest in living Mormon rules. LDS standards are fine within the church, but you have got to let go of the idea that our religious beliefs give us the right to impose them on everyone else. Civil marriage equality does not threaten your religious or political freedoms. That's what Jesus was talking about when he said render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's.

The Scriptures also talk about how great truths are often intuitively sensed by children, the simplest among us, while escaping the grown-ups who think themselves wise and sophisticated. When I first explained Proposition 8 to my 10 year old daughter, she thought for a moment and then said "How does two guys getting married hurt someone else's marriage"? She got it, right off. And she's been an ardent marriage equality supporter ever since. She scoffs at the "pain and fear" those older than her seem to experience over this issue. She doesn't share their prejudices so she is equally happy when John loves and marries Jane, when Clarisse loves and marries Laura, and when Daniel loves and marries Michael. She knows intuitively what the Savior said, that love is the greatest of all. And if Mormons really believed the 9th Article of Faith, I think they'd have a lot less "pain and fear" over marriage equality. They'd be content to know that everything is ultimately in God's hands and He will make all things work out for the good of those who trust Him. Who knows, maybe God has more blessings in store for His gay children than today's Mormons can imagine. And maybe civil marriage equality is the first step to learning what those are.