31 March 2009

Would I Take The Change Shot? A Response

David's question on Youtube: if I could get a single injection of some magical thing that would transform me into a 100% heterosexual, would I do it?

I choose to respond in writing because I can organize my thoughts better and present them more coherently. And you can't re-read a video.

Setting aside the fact that the question is pure fantasy, of course, because all reputable evidence shows that no reparative therapy has ever worked, here's my answer.

I have a different and more experienced perspective on this than most, because I have been married and my marriage was at times very happy and fulfilling. So when I contemplate the proposed vaccination, I already know what its results would feel like.

And at this point in my life, I wouldn't do it. I would remain as I am. Yes, knowing all of the even if's. Why would I do that, knowing all of the social opprobrium, the judgment, the potential consequences?

Probably for the same reason that I dislike tattoos. Others will differ about tattoos, and that's fine. But I see tattoos as disfiguring, artificially changing and damaging the pinnacle of God's earthly creations, the human body. To me, nothing is more beautiful or sacred than that, in its original and ideal state. In my eyes, no tattoo could ever do anything but detract. Its insufficiency as art or a statement is made all the more stark in contrast to that which it purports to decorate. No tattoo could ever hope to approach the beauty or magnificence or mystery of the body. Tattoos seem to me like a 10 year old spraying crude graffiti onto the Sistine Chapel ceiling because he thinks his own personal touch can improve Michaelangelo's creation.

I did the heterosexual thing for long enough to know that, while I was capable of it, it wasn't ultimately what I really wanted or where I felt the most fulfilled and complete. As I've said repeatedly on my blog, I have never been as happy or as content or filled with joie de vivre as I have since coming out. I'm no longer at war with myself, pretending to be someone I'm not. I am finally a fully integrated person of integrity, content and confident in everything about who I am. And I absolutely believe that this is how God created me. The Savior told us to judge everything by its fruits, and I've done that for myself. I could never accept that such happiness and fulfillment could come from following a path that is wrong. To try to change that by artificial means like a magic vaccination or reparative therapy or anything else would be like tagging the Sistine Ceiling with fluorescent orange spray paint, disfiguring my own creation by the hand of someone infinitely wiser and more loving than I can be for myself. How dare I presume to correct His work, especially when having finally recognized it for myself, it has brought me so much happiness?

To try to change that just because I feared someone else's judgment would be to abandon control over my own life, my own spiritual growth, my own connection to God, my own knowledge of who and what I am and what I have the capacity to be. It would be to live my life in fear. I've done that. I will NEVER go back.

Would it make a difference if this magic vaccination allowed me to feel the same way about being exclusively heterosexual? Well, apart from the fact that that is all purely theoretical anyway, it kind of begs the question. It doesn't change the fact that this would still be an artificial intervention, a human attempt to change what God created in order to conform the soul and spirit of a child of God to what other fallible, flawed, darkly-seeing humans believed was "better." More presumption. I am the way I am. I actually have lived the other way because I was told that's what I should do and want, but it never felt as right as the honesty and confidence of acknowledging who and what I really am, the way I am convinced God made me.

The question itself is judgmental. It implies a pre-conceived conclusion that being gay is inherently second-class, less preferable. While LDS theology as currently understood may lead some to believe that, it is also true that the LDS scriptural canon is open and the 9th Article of Faith affirms an expectation of learning many "great and important things" that as yet we have no idea about. It is presumptuous in the extreme to conclude that Section 132 is the summum bonum roadmap for all eternity for every one of God's billions of children who have ever lived, among whom, proportionally speaking, there are likely to have been and be more than a hundred million of His sons and daughters who were, are and will be gay. To think that the LDS Church knows everything there is to be known about their eternal destinies and possibilities because of a handful of verses in one section of roughly 140 chapters of one of four canonical books is at best presumptuous. Laughable is more like it.

Alma 29:45 says that God grants "unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life . . . according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction. Yea . . . he that knoweth good and evil, to him it is given according to his desires." I can speak only for myself here, knowing that God sees everything in my heart already. He knows that all the desires there are good, as I've said on this blog before. I have never been and will never be promiscuous. I can live an honorable, moral life and still be gay. I want only what is good, virtuous, lovely, of good report, and praiseworthy. AND I want it with a partner of my own gender, both in this life and the next. In all good faith I see nothing wrong with that. I recognize that the LDS Church would not at present sanction a committed same-sex relationship, even one that otherwise followed exactly the same standard of chastity and fidelity expected of heterosexual couples. But that doesn't change the fact that all the desires of my heart are good and godly ones. I'm glad I don't have to rely on the institutional Church as the final arbiter of my eternal possibilities.

During a recent visit to Salt Lake, I walked through Temple Square on a Saturday morning, always a busy time with temple weddings. There were lots of happy couples all over the place. As I strolled past, I saw the smiles on their faces, and I was genuinely happy for them. And I had no desire to trade places either. I can't explain all the reasons, but the end-of-the-day fact is that, having once been as they are myself, I have no desire to be there again. And I think that's how I know my answer to David's question. The daughters of God are wonderful and beautiful; I have a little daughter myself and she is priceless, one of the joys of my life. She deserves every blessing imaginable. And for whatever reason known only to God the Father of us all, her dad has no desire to be an eternal companion with any of God's other daughters, but only with one of His sons.

David, I won't tell you what to believe or what to decide, or try to influence you one way or the other. I will only tell you not to forget the inspiration you told me about that you've received so far.

Now, I do try to practice what I preach. Just as the Church's current knowledge on this is demonstrably incomplete, so too I concede is my own. I am not infallible or perfect. I too hope for greater light and knowledge. Can I say my current beliefs will never change? No. Could I be wrong? Sure. But the best I can do right now is marshal every bit of experience and wisdom I've accumulated from all sources, examine my own heart rigorously and honestly, and draw the best conclusions I can, seeking whatever inspiration God chooses to give. Having done all that, these are my conclusions. And I'm content.

Maybe Not As Doctrinaire As Thought

At the Sunstone Symposium I picked up a few back issues of Sunstone Magazine. One includes an article by John Kesler called "Discovering A Rich Tradition." One bit jumped out at me because not only did it seem to vindicate so much of what I and other of my blogger friends have come to believe, but because of its source: Joseph Fielding Smith, who had a reputation in his earlier years of being one of the most black & white, hardline, uncompromising, toe the line or else General Authorities in the history of the Church.

John Kesler was a nephew of Pres. Smith's and went to see him the day before the prophet died. They talked about Kesler's own spiritual journey which was unorthodox, to say the least. Here's what Kesler said about their visit, and it gave me great comfort to know that in many ways, I and many of my friends are in Kesler's situation, so we can confidently follow the same instruction he got:

"He listened to my doubts about the literalness of the Church's truth claims. Although weak, he was lucid. He smiled and gently told me the following. Who I am is more important than what I precisely believe, and what I manifest based on who I am demonstrates my actual belief. He counseled me that if I exercised faith and aligned myself with the Spirit, the truths I needed to know would manifest themselves in the way I needed to know them, that they would settle in me and bring me peace and joy. He encouraged me to be godly in all that I did, to walk humbly before God, to love wisely by and through the Spirit, and to do my best to bless the lives of others."

Can't do better than that.

29 March 2009

The Psalm of Rob

Sitting on a worn, weatherbeaten white marble bench in the peaceful, green Shakespeare Garden in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, shafts of afternoon sunlight darting through the cherry blossoms overhead, as the blossoms' sweet fragrance scents the cool air, two grey squirrels scampering fearlessly through the shrubs not 5 feet from me. Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna playing softly on the iPod, the perfect peaceful soundtrack for this beautiful garden.

This morning I went to services at Grace Cathedral in the city and enjoyed it very much. Yes, that picture there is the actual place. The soaring architecture and music speaks to my soul in ways that, sadly, LDS services don't. How I wish it were otherwise. If only I could take the LDS theology and put it into everything else Episcopalian, it would be the perfect place for me.

Yesterday I attended the Sunstone Symposium which by sheer dumb luck just happened to be not two miles from my office. I spent the whole day drinking in presentations about fascinating LDS-related topics that would NEVER be discussed in regular church meetings: scriptural analysis, church history, sociology. Immensely interesting and stimulating. Total brain candy. We are supposed to worship God with all of our mind, among other things, and the Symposium was almost like church in that respect. The presenter for the first session I attended converted to the LDS church with his family as a child, served a mission, married in the temple, but gradually grew dissatisfied and finally found what he thought was his best home in the RLDS Church, now Community of Christ. Very interesting to talk to him afterward; we swapped e-mail addresses. This was the first public event in which I was not afraid to let people know that I was gay. I didn't go out of my way to bring it up, but I didn't shy away from references either. It is wonderful to savor some growing courage.

Today as I drove into the city the hills were green and pastoral, the sky blue, the sun bright. Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna also playing on the stereo (am I addicted? yes) and I sang along with gusto. My spirits were high. It is a beautiful day! My life is so good in so many ways! Ways I never could have imagined a few years ago as I was forced into crashing, flaming wreckage. What I thought was a fatal disaster, never to be recovered from, has proven to be one of the greatest blessings of my life. Funny how that works sometimes. I was set free from a marriage that, despite my best efforts, had become hell on earth. It gave me a new opportunity to wrestle with my faith and really mature and grow and decide where I wanted my life to go. It opened the door for me to gather my courage, face "the integrated me," come out, and learn that God loves the gay part of Rob too, just as much as everything else about him. Life had been an endlessly escalating cacophony of discord and stress and doubt and fear and shame and worry; now there is still stress, of course, but I am no longer at war with myself. I can still scarcely believe how happy I am as a result.

I hope I don't come across as Johnny One Note. But nearly eight months after coming out, I am still as joyous and giddy as ever and I just have to write it down. The peace and contentment I feel are beyond anything I ever dreamed possible. I guess when you've been silently fighting World War Three with yourself all alone for a couple of decades and have resigned yourself to the internal chaos raging on till you die, then suddenly pffft--it vanishes and all is peace--it's the most incredible relief. Like walking inexorably toward the gas chamber then just as they strap you in, the governor calls and you are instantly taken outside and set free into the sunlight. You gasp and laugh and run and whoop and holler and jump and throw your fists in the air! Whoa! I'm finally alive and free! (insert burst of incredibly relieved laughter here) I have no choice but to ascribe to inspiration the prompting to finally come out. Nothing else could explain the miraculous results.

All things in life fade somewhat with time but I hope this feeling never goes away completely. I never want to lose this feeling of gratitude and peace and contentment. This knowledge that God really does love all of who and what I am. Nor do I ever want to lose the delight of reaching out and finding new friends and relationships that coming out has made possible, friends and brothers I can talk to and rely on and help and steady and to whom I can look for comfort when I need it too. Friends and brethren, you will never know how much you mean to me.

It's also truly amazing how this experience has deepened my faith and grounded it where it always should have been. Now that I finally feel safe being honest with God about myself, my spiritual confidence has grown tremendously, in ways I never anticipated but which I think I couldn't have done if I'd stayed shackled to the old paradigms. I no longer see life and others through Mormon Culture-colored lenses. I really can now see them simply as other children of God, whom He loves just as much as me, so who am I to accord them anything less? The "love your neighbor as yourself" commandment finally makes sense! I think I can finally do it! And I'm actually eager to try! Surely God and the Savior are pleased. It's hard to do that when you are fighting a losing battle to kill off part of yourself inside, because if you hate part of yourself, how can you love others completely? My reliance on the Atonement is deeper and stronger than ever before, because I have had a microscopic taste of protracted, silent, agony and suffering and have learned too well of my own fallibility. To think that someone would love me enough to suffer for all of my sins so I wouldn't have to face any more pain--I am awed into silence. I now comprehend it better than I ever did before because I thought my own pain would go on forever. Now it's stopped. How can I not have indescribable gratitude to the One who made my redemption possible, and who I believe finally whispered to me that it was okay to finally step into the sunshine?

All of this is why I have such a hard time with those in the LDS Church who bemoan homosexuality as a burden to suffer and struggle with, and who patronizingly assert that I shouldn't worry because death will magically take it away. The Savior said we should judge all things by their fruits. Well, every fruit of my coming out is good. Greater happiness, stronger faith, enhanced relationships, more self-confidence, and more ability to love all of God's children. This is no struggle, no burden. This is liberation. I don't want this taken away. Would that I could stay this happy forever. I don't know all of God's purposes or designs for me or anyone else, but I have absolute faith that He knows what is best for me and that if my heart continues to desire what is good and true and right, then He will in His own good time bless me with everything I hope for. And He will do so for all of my brethren too. The road may be rocky sometimes but I trust its builder.

Spes mea in Deo est. With all my brethren, in te Domine speramus.

27 March 2009

Count My Many Blessings, Add This To The List

It's WAY late and I should be asleep but wanted to post briefly about some fun times this evening.

I have a friend who works for a major US electronics manufacturer. We've known each other for a number of years, used to work together, and though we live on opposite coasts, whenever either one of us is in the other's neighborhood we always do our utmost to meet up. We have been through a lot together and I'm lucky to have him as a friend.

Turns out he was in San Francisco for 36 hours on business and his evening freed up. He called me immediately. We found this totally out of the way known only to the locals Mexican place with more great food than I could possibly eat, and then, since we're both dark chocolate obsessed, we drove into the city and binged at Ghirardelli Square. I will repent tomorrow with a longer workout, as will he when training for his next triathlon. He is married and totally straight and I'm not out to him, but it doesn't matter, he knows everything else about me and we are best buds anyway. Lots of fun to walk into Ghirardelli Square, order ice cream, share one sundae with two spoons, whack each other on the shoulder from time to time, sit close. Didn't bother him a bit. Can't help wonder what others in the place thought! Probably nothing, it was San Francisco after all. But probably the closest thing to a date I've been on in a while! Gee, I could get used to this . . .

Back to his hotel, big bear hugs as we parted. Thank God for good friends. He's one of many I am blessed with. Lots of readers of this blog are also in that group. I am so very, very lucky. Just thought I'd remind myself of that.

21 March 2009

My Coming Out Story

I love coming out stories. But I realized today that I don't think I've ever shared mine. Not that I think many people would be interested. But if you are one of the few, here's how my adventure happened.

I am a little different from many of my blogger friends because I dated girls in school and even married one. That’s what the Church said I must do, that's what everyone expected me to do, and I did desperately want to be a dad. But around age 13 or 14 I also realized one day that even more than girls, guys were really interesting. Yeah, that way. Somehow even at that young age I sensed the dangerous implications, so I never breathed a word to anyone. I have no idea where these feelings came from, or any "cause." One day they were just there, bang, ton of bricks time.

I dated because it was fun to be social, but I never wanted to get close. I was a "good boy" because I never wanted to be bad, if you know what I mean. I thought "yuck, why would I possibly want to do that." Once during sophomore year a girl who had a crush on me reached over and held my hand during a movie in class while the lights were out. I knew her well and we were friends but I didn't like her holding my hand like that. I knew what she wanted and I recoiled. Though I couldn't articulate it yet, I think I knew even then what that recoil portended. But I was too scared to say anything.

Then one day as I read the Old Testament for Seminary, I came across the story of David and Jonathan and was nearly knocked over. Two important people, one a prince of Israel and the other a “man after the Lord's own heart” who later became king, had felt just as I did! This meant that feelings like mine had been around for a long time. If the Bible told this story in such glowing terms, with no criticism of their behavior at all—even when they kissed in public—then surely my own feelings couldn't be bad, since they were just the same as those of David and Jonathan. I was elated as I read of how deeply they cared for each other. I wanted to cry with them as I read that scene where they had to part, and especially as I read David's lament at Jonathan's death. I was amazed that he would describe Jonathan's love for him as “passing the love of women.” I understood that feeling. I wanted a relationship like that too, to be able to say to someone what David and Jonathan said to each other and mean it—and have him say it back and mean it too. But at the same time I also wanted to be a dad. I knew this meant I would have to marry a girl, and I was okay with that, I guess. I was hopelessly confused, wanting two things that seemed impossible to reconcile.

Eventually I gave up trying to make sense of all this. I felt like I had two hearts inside and I was scared to death because I think I always knew which one might end up being stronger. So I never breathed a word to anyone, and I became an expert at stifling my feelings and playing the totally straight guy. I prayed incessantly for God to take these other feelings away, but He never did. All the influences and people I trusted said they were wrong and sinful and thus by extension I was too, and most infuriatingly, treated these feelings as if they were a choice. But I knew they weren't. How could all these people I trusted and the Church be so wrong?
What sane person would choose to feel or want things that their society and their faith said were sinful and would condemn them to hell after a lifetime of shame and mistreatment?

Gradually I realized that it was about more than just the physical aspect, and ultimately it wasn't about sex. I craved closeness, intimacy, a connection, a bond with someone of my own gender in the most deep and fundamental ways, far more than any of the guys around me seemed to. I've since learned that this is a common and consistent theme: ultimately it's not about the sex, it's about who we really and most deeply feel the emotional and spiritual attractions to. And that does not go away or change. So I get upset when people talk about “the choice to be gay” or treat that orientation as if it's nothing but wanting the physical buzz. It's neither a choice nor just about sex, and people who think so just don't know the facts.

I learned to ignore the rampant ignorance and homophobia in the LDS Church because I became so good at bifurcating the "two hearts" inside of me. There was the one everyone saw, the stalwart faithful Orthodox Boy, Mr. Junior Spiritual Superhero who was president of all his Aaronic Priesthood quorums, an elder at age 18, ZL on my mission, temple worker at 22, youngest guy in the bishopric and then the high council, temple supervisor, married with cute little kids, with the classic overachiever's Church resume. Then there was the real Rob which nobody ever saw, the one who shared much of Orthodox Boy's faith but knew Orthodox Boy was going through the motions because the Church said he had to in order to "qualify" for exaltation, the Rob who knew that if he really could have followed his heart, he would have searched for and found a way to make a life with him, not her, and who always felt hollow and cowardly inside for not doing so. By this time I was so deeply closeted that it would have taken a major explosion to get me out.

And guess what, that's exactly what happened. I did eventually find a girl to marry, and things worked for a while, then she began to have mental health issues and she pulled the plug on the marriage. It was ugly. But the more time passes the happier I am that she did so. It's been a huge blessing. It's forced me to grow and be strong in ways I never could have imagined. It made all of what followed possible and I thank God every day for that.

Yet I still remained closeted. For a while I went through the charade of telling people that I wouldn't remarry until after the kids were grown up because they deserved all of my time and attention. It was a convenient pretext; in fact I always knew I would never marry again.

Then one day, something happened in Massachusetts. Orthodox Boy was startled and went along with the harrumphing at church about courts imposing their immoral will on helpless citizens. Inside, though, Rob was intrigued. Slowly he gave himself permission to start re-thinking that whole issue with more sympathy and less knee-jerk cultural dogmatism.

I have a friend who lives far away, we chat frequently online. He has shared some private things with me, and one day last September, after one particularly probing conversation, something inside said "You can come out to him safely." I instantly knew I had to do it. I'd never had the courage to even think of coming out before and I was incredibly nervous for days in advance, but was surprised to find I was excited too. I told him, and he said, basically, "Oh, okay." The sky didn't fall! Lightning didn't strike! The world didn't screech to a halt on its axis and throw me off into the pit of hell! I couldn't believe how liberated I felt. For the first time in my life, part of the weight was lifted because finally there was one other person I didn't have to hide from anymore. Such immense relief and excitement. I couldn't stop smiling. I had no idea how good it would feel to finally unburden myself even to just one other person. For years I'd heard of people coming out and how great they said it made them feel, but I never understood how that could be. I do now!

For days I was practically hyperventilating, spontaneously laughing out loud because it felt so good to finally have shared who I really was! Then I began to wonder if there were others like me out there. I got on line and began to search, and was astounded to discover the MoHoSphere. Finding A Mormon Enigma was like Christmas morning! I spent hours clicking every blog link and reading the incredibly poignant stories of so many other gay LDS men, the feelings in their hearts, their challenges and struggles, their highs and lows, their loves and hates, and was astonished to see how many I could have written myself. So many have experiences and thoughts and traits and tastes just like mine, even down to favorite books, activities, sports, movies. It was beyond amazing, these similarities (another reason I think being gay is genetic). I identified so closely with their experiences and challenges and it was so comforting to realize I really was not alone.

The one that struck me particularly was Troy's blog. I wanted to talk to him directly. So, hands shaking, I sent him an e-mail to say I liked what he wrote. I'll always be grateful for his kind reaction. It was brief, but welcoming. Though I was a total stranger to him, he graciously listened to me tell some of my story, and then suggested I start blogging myself.

What? Me? What could I possibly have to say to anyone? How could I possibly go public with any of this? Oh the irony. I thought about it for a few days, then decided why not. I've come out to two people, give blogging a go. My first post was maybe three lines of nothing. But it sure didn't take long to rev up the engines.

And thanks to that one first tiny little step, the last seven months have been among the happiest of my life. I have been blessed with so many new friends that I've come to care very deeply for, I can hardly believe my luck. I am finally courageous enough to actually be open about who I am with others, and even to laugh about it. I am part of a "family" with a unique bond, with whom I can freely socialize, and whom I actually miss a lot when I'm not with the rest of you. I have come out not only to all of my blogger friends, but to other friends too in other places, and last New Year's Eve I even came out to my own two kids who fortunately are still young enough to be untainted by prejudice. My disclosure made no difference to them; dad's gay, so what, they said, gay people are much nicer than straight people anyway. How lucky is that? So amazing to have their support, even just a few months ago I could hardly imagine this would happen.

I've also been forced to confront the difficulties of trying to reconcile my faith with my heart. I have begun thinking about things I never would have imagined just a year or two ago. I have no illusions about life as a gay LDS guy; it can be damn difficult sometimes. Like it's been some sort of picnic so far, right? But at least I will be honest with myself and those I trust. And I really don't have any choice anymore. I wasted a lot of years trying to pretend to be something I wasn't. I don't care what the repercussions are, they aren't worth any more of that torture of self-deception. Things will be difficult largely because I retain my faith in the gospel as taught by a church which remains profoundly anti-gay. That is the truth, I don't care what rhetoric I hear from Salt Lake claiming to the contrary. Actions speak louder. When I saw senior Church leaders spreading what I absolutely knew, objectively and based on proof, were distortions and falsehoods in the campaign against Proposition 8, my faith in them was shaken to the core. I no longer trust the Church as an institution like I did before. My faith in the gospel remains strong. The Church as an institution is a different matter. I will sustain the leadership as best I can, but I am much more careful now in choosing whom to trust.

Sure, I still want to be a faithful follower of the Savior, I always have. I don't see any inconsistency between that and being gay. For most of my life I pretended even in my prayers that I was only Orthodox Boy, that the real Rob didn't exist. How lame is that, trying to hide myself from God. But when I finally worked up the courage to go to Him in prayer and say "OK, this is really who I am, now what," the answer came crystal clear, just like it says in the Doc. & Cov.: "I know what you are, and I approve." As comforting and bright as any spiritual confirmation I have ever received. I will never forget those words. I cling to them like a lifeline.

I can also now acknowledge openly what I've always secretly wanted, that I would love to find a guy who thinks and feels as I do and with whom I could do all the sharing and bonding and loving and giving that I think everyone wants, in a committed relationship. In a marriage. I want what David and Jonathan had, right down to the covenant between them because each loved the other "as his own soul." I have no idea how that will happen. I'm just going to leave it to God to sort out. Nobody knows the future. I have no idea what direction I will be led. Every day I seek inspiration and guidance as I try to find my way forward. I have to trust that God knows the reasons He made me this way, that if I trust Him then He'll make sure all of this turns out for my good and someday all the desires of my heart will be fulfilled somehow.

What we know about the eternities is microscopic compared to what we don't, and when I remember Joseph Smith saying even the apostles would kill him in outrage if he told them what he knew about what lies ahead of this life, and when I feel nothing but good, pure, uplifting, loving, kind, charitable, ennobling things resulting from my coming out and the relationship I want with another of God's sons, I must conclude that somehow He'll provide for me and all of my brethren--and sisters--whom He made this way. As a dad myself, I always do everything I can to give my kids every happiness. Surely God, the best dad in the universe, is far better at that than me. I trust Him.

But meantime, I have not been treading water. I have crawled out of the shell. And what an amazing experience it's been. I have moved from the deepest of closets to being able to acknowledge openly and freely that not only am I gay, but I'm delighted about it and am happier than I have ever been. I wouldn't want my gayness to be taken away even if that were possible. I love being this way. Even friends who don't know I'm out tell me I seem different, happier, more genuine, and look years younger!

I have no patience with those who moan about "struggling" with a "burden" of "same gender attraction," because they seem to be "halting between two opinions"--having decided to come out but regretting it and still fighting who they are. Man up, wimp! The weepy Hamlet routine makes you look pitiful and weak. Cut the euphemistic crap. You're gay, face it and say so with a man's courage. It's not radioactive. Accept it. Stop moping about and trying to pray away the gay. Hold your head high and be proud of who you are. Attitude is everything. Find the good in the hand you've been dealt, because there's a lot of it. Sheesh. I was once where you are. It sucked. Don't stay there. Life is much better in the warm sunlight of self-acceptance and confidence in the presence of God and everyone else.

I know that coming out is no panacea. Given the homophobic history of our culture and the Church, it creates a whole new set of issues, especially for LDS guys. I am still learning about these issues and trying to figure out where I stand on some of them. But at least I am finally honest with myself, with God, and with others about myself. Even knowing what may lie ahead, I am so happy to be where I am and I would never want to go back. Big rib-crushing rugby scrum hugs to all of my friends who have read this far and are with me on this amazing journey. I love you all, I really do.

And that's my story.

18 March 2009

Hey, It's Really Okay! In Fact, It's Great!

No pedantic scholarly dissertation this time. Hold the applause please. Just a quick note to record a realization over the last few days. I have a white knot pinned to my black computer bag. I don't know who will notice it, or who will know what it is. But I realized just a few days ago that I've finally reached the point that if the subject of my being gay comes up in casual conversation with a business colleague or associate, I wouldn't blink an eye about acknowledging it. Like the color of my eyes, or what kind of car I drive. I'm not going to go round advertising it, but if it comes up, NBD. Sure, that's what I am. And your next point? Politely, of course.

WOW this feels good. And I guess it's noticeable, because this morning I had a business meeting with someone I worked with at another company, I hadn't seen him for at least 5 years, and when I walked into the conference room he said Wow, you look 25, you look great! Like I said before, I never imagined how much happier I would be about life and everything in it as a result of coming out. Amazing.

15 March 2009

Past Is Future, I Hope

A year ago I couldn't have imagined writing something like this. But you learn new things, and if you're intellectually honest, sometimes those things change your perspectives. I try to practice what I preach.

LDS and other defenders of "traditional marriage" relentlessly reiterate the point that marriage between one man and one woman based on romantic love is "how it's always been since the dawn of civilization" so for that reason alone, we shouldn't "tamper with the wisdom of the ages" because doing so would be "a radical experiment" that's "never been tried before" and "the consequences are unknown."

I don't blame people who think this, because for most of my life I thought the same thing. It was just received wisdom, didn't seem to need questioning.

But guess what folks. It might not be quite that clear after all.

Respected Yale historian John Boswell has concluded the following, based on impressive research:

"Same-sex unions . . . in various forms were widespread in the ancient world, where heterosexual matrimony tended to be viewed as a dynastic or business arrangement . . . Ordinary men and women were more likely to invest feelings the twentieth century would call "romantic" in same-sex relationships, either passionate friendships or more structured and institutional unions as exemplified by the recognized [same-sex] couples of Crete or Scythia, the swearing of perpetual love among the Greeks, and the social phenomenon and legal stratagem of "brotherhood" among the Romans.

Christianity's main innovation was to privilege and make real widespread voluntary celibacy, . . . suggesting that heterosexual matrimony was a mere compromise with the awful powers of sexual desire, even when it was directed exclusively to the procreation of children, the one rationale Christians found convincing [and still use today, obviously, e.g. Prop 8 hysteria about the perversions kids would be forced to learn in schools]. But passionate friendships, especially among paired saints and holy virgins, continued to exercise a fascination over the early Christians—still residents of the ancient world—and in time were transformed into official relationships of union, performed in churches and blessed by priests.

In many ways from a contemporary point of view, the most pressing question . . . is probably whether the Christian ceremony of same-sex union functioned in the past as a 'gay marriage ceremony.' It is clear that it did, although, as has been demonstrated at length, the nature and purposes of every sort of marriage have varied widely over time . . . Indeed, in all times and places in its history (including the present) the official teaching of the Roman Catholic church (one of the two bodies in which the [same-sex union] ceremony developed) has been that the two parties marry each other, the priest merely acts as a witness. If the couple intend to be married, they are. By contrast, in the Eastern Orthodox church the priest does perform the ceremony, and in all known cases priests performed the same-sex union.

Such are the historical facts. . . Even persons who argue that same-sex couples should now have the right to contract marriage like anyone else are apt to view such unions as an exotic indulgence of our time, a novel experiment in a liberal society. And many people—both homosexual and heterosexual—argue that same-sex couples should not undertake traditional relationships similar to heterosexual matrimony. . . A well-known prelate . . . [said] that heterosexual matrimony had become such a ragged institution in the second half of the twentieth century that it hardly constituted a useful model for same-sex couples . . . I replied that I had not composed the same-sex union ceremony that seems to parallel heterosexual marriage, but only discovered it . . . Whatever significance the ceremony might have for persons living at this juncture of history, its greatest importance lies . . . in its role in European history. 'Humanity does not pass through phases as a train passes through stations: being alive, it has the privilege of always moving yet never leaving anything behind. Whatever we have been, in some sort we are still,' observed C. S. Lewis in a related context.

Recognizing that many—probably most—Western societies institutionalized some form of romantic same-sex union gives us a much more accurate view of the immense variety of human romantic relationships and social responses to them than does the prudish pretense that such 'unmentionable' things never happened."

Now, of course Boswell is not omniscient. He was a fallible human. His knowledge, like ours, was and is incomplete. But his research is exhaustive and his conclusions appear to be based on solid evidence. This is more than I can say for any of the Prop 8 proponents whose myth-mongering seemed to scare a lot of innocently ignorant people into believing the California public schools would start indoctrinating their children in "the gay lifestyle" if Prop 8 didn't pass.

The implications of Boswell's conclusions are profound. If he is right, then "traditional marriage" is not and has not been only what current conservative Christians would have us believe, and there is solid historical precedent for same-sex unions in Christianity. If you really want to have some fun, print out this post and read Boswell's conclusions in priesthood meeting the next time the subject comes up.

Any honest non-LDS Christian ought to have great difficulty explaining away Boswell's conclusions, especially since his book includes the actual texts of multiple same-sex union ceremonies dating back many centuries. Latter-day Saints might be expected to blithely dismiss every one of his conclusions as trumped by Section 132. But that would be hasty and ill-advised.

Nephi said that God denies none who come to him, male or female, black or white, bond or free, all are alike unto God. He created all of us in this infinite variety. It's undeniable that millions of His children throughout history have found the deepest and most fulfilling relationships of their lives with those of their own gender. The weight of history is against this being an "aberration" or a "struggle" or a "temporary burden." It appears that this is simply how a portion of God's children are by nature.

Recognizing that, why should we be surprised that there is historical precedent for these children of God to seek and have the same committed relationships that heterosexual couples d0? And, more daringly, why is it offensive to think that God would not make some provision for the greater happiness and stability of all His children regardless of their sexual orientation, or for the Christian church itself to bless such unions regardless of the genders involved? I find this a much more compelling conclusion than the Scripturally groundless theory that death will somehow magically remove "the burden of same gender attraction" (euphemistically so-called).

Section 132 was a doctrinal earthquake when received. It completely up-ended everything the Saints thought they "knew" about marriage and the eternities. The 9th Article of Faith affirms that the Latter-day Saints believe God "will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God." Only the ignorantly arrogant would presume to say that we now know everything there is to know about how the eternities work. Joseph Smith said that if the apostles themselves knew what he knew about that, they would be so angry they would try to kill him. To me, that suggests we are all in for some shocking education that could challenge everything we thought we "knew" about our eternal possibilities. Do the Latter-day Saints really believe the 9th Article of Faith, or do they privately qualify it with "as long as those great and important things match what I already think"?

Two thousand years ago, slavery and concubinage were unquestioned components of the natural order of things. They were self-evidently just part of the world God created. The Bible itself takes that view. Yet now we consider both unthinkable and unconscionable. We've gained additional knowledge and understanding, and moved ahead.

Last night I watched as a Chinese-Indonesian man directed an orchestra of mixed races playing a piece by a German. He then embraced and kissed an African-American female soloist, and shook hands with & embraced a Caucasian male soloist. The ensemble included people from every race and continent, black white, male female, gay and straight, married, single, old and young and everything in between. None of that made any difference. All were God's children, united without any distinctions in one common purpose of creating magnificent music written in praise of the Creator. That scene would have been unthinkable just a couple of centuries ago. Even good Christians would have considered it unconscionable, against the natural order of things ordained by God. Guess what? No lightning bolts so far, and we seem to be doing fine.

I couldn't help watch that wonderful event last night and hope for a day when we can not only leave racial prejudice behind in the dustbin of history, but also recognize and support, regardless of race, color or orientation, the good that can come from allowing two people who love each other to commit their lives to one another. Then we can move on to a host of other societal ills that also flow from inadequate understanding and prejudice. What should stop us from doing this now with marriage, especially when, as I've now learned, we really aren't looking at some radical untried social experiment. It's been done before. Do we have the courage to learn from the wisdom of the past and do it again?

14 March 2009


Warning: Adult Content Ahead, But Not Quite What You Think

I actually sat for several minutes with fingers poised on keys, debating whether I should write this post. I worried that some might get the wrong impression from what I wanted to write about. I don't want this to come across as . . . well, let's just say less than humble. Because that's not my purpose at all. It really, truly isn't.

But you remember how it felt when you were a little kid and got some wow yowza crash bang super cool Christmas present? You were just bubbling over inside and couldn't wait to tell your friends, right? For no other reason than just the sheer joy of sharing something so fantastic, because it's human nature that happiness shared is happiness multiplied.

Well, that's this situation. I want to tell my friends about a wow yowza crash bang super cool thing I got to do last night. I am bubbling over inside and really want to share it. I have always had a touch of Imposter's Syndrome and honestly don't consider myself very well qualified for this thing but somehow I got to do it anyway. OK, disclaimers out of the way, time to be excited.

I said up above that readers should expect some adult content. Here it is. If you could imagine some way of expressing all of the highest, brightest, darkest, saddest, angst-wracked, fear-filled, peaceful, faith-filled, hopeful, tender, most longing, passionate, joyful and exultant feelings of your heart in a way that made thousands of other people feel the same, touched them just as deeply, and which words could never adequately express, how would you do it? And wouldn't you jump at the chance to participate in something like that?

That's why I said this is adult content. This question is beyond children and probably most teenagers. What I've described is a very tall order for anyone. But Johannes Brahms pulled it off in his German Requiem which I somehow got lucky enough to sing last night with the symphony here.

It runs the gamut of all those emotions. It is loud and soft and sweet and tortured and peaceful and agitated and dark and light. The hour and a quarter it takes to sing was one of the biggest emotional roller coasters I've been on in a long time. Physically and emotionally exhausting. But at the end, what a rush. On that stage, with that orchestra, the house applauding, few feelings can match that. Absolutely exhilarating. And added to it was the happiness of having two of my most treasured high school friends (also classical musicians) drive for two hours to see the performance, and when I saw them afterward they threw their arms around me in embraces that nearly snuffed out what breath I had left, embraces that said "We get it, we understand, how glorious to be able to share something like this together."

I wish all of my blogger friends could have been there too, you would have been touched and equally shaken, not just stirred, I have no doubt. To have all of you that I care so much about share something like this with me--probably would have been completely overwhelming. Someday perhaps. There are parts of this piece that talk about those who trust in God someday "returning to Zion" with "everlasting joy upon their heads." And I actually thought of all of you, blogger buds, as I sang that part, thinking ahead to some future day when we know more than we know now and, God willing, can be and love as God made us free of the challenges we now sometimes face in this fallen world. I was smiling so broadly as I sang that part that it was almost difficult to pronounce the words. But you all truly were an inspiration.

So when any experience fills your heart with such feelings of love and happiness, you know it has to be a good thing. And that's what I wanted to share. What's even better is that I get to do it again tonight, and tomorrow. Three times. I may have to be carried off stage by the time this is over!

All right, enough prologue. I hope I haven't built up too much expectation! If you want to sample this glorious music for yourself, click on the vid below. ADVICE: use headphones, not crappy built-in computer "speakers", and listen to the whole thing. Just a few cursory moments will not do it justice. This is the part I mentioned above that made me smile so broadly as I thought of all my friends. The lyrics here are from the Bible: "All flesh is as the grass, and the glory of man as the flower; the grass withers, and the flowers fall. But the Lord's word endures forever. The redeemed of the Lord shall return again and come rejoicing to Zion, and everlasting joy shall be upon them." Which is what I hope for all of us.

12 March 2009


I actually do try to blog about more than one subject though it seems lately I haven't been doing a very good job. My life really is more balanced than the latest string of posts might lead you to believe! Rugby season is just about over so half the purpose has gone out of life. Fortunately there is other stuff to keep me pumped. And tonight was one of those things, and I wanted to share. I hope this doesn't come across the wrong way. It's just that I get to do this really super uber-cool thing that thrills me right down to my socks, something I never thought I'd have the chance to do, and I'm really excited about it.

This weekend I will be singing with the symphony here in town. That over there to the right is where I'll be doing it. Yeah, up on that stage, that's the actual place. Pretty amazing, eh? We're doing the Brahms German Requiem, one of the choral masterpieces of the 19th century and, some say, a devilishly difficult work. It's seven movements and takes about an hour and 15 minutes to perform. Personally I thought the Berlioz Requiem was harder, we did that two years ago, it's 11 movements & takes an hour & a half.

I was brand-new in the symphony chorus then, but two years later the thrill has yet to wear off. Being up on a stage like that, performing with a world-class professional orchestra, is a dream come true, something I never thought I'd have the chance for. Just the rehearsal is a thrill. Actual concerts approach sensory overload. Damn, I'm lucky. This is why I am not tempted in the slightest by drugs or alcohol--no chemical could match the high of being on that stage. I am giddy with anticipation for this weekend.

If I can figure out how to post a clip of this glorious piece we're doing, I will. Just in case anybody's interested in actually hearing it.

And you know what? I noticed something else tonight. Even my singing has improved since coming out. It's clearer, more disciplined yet freer and more enthusiastic too. It's like I'm singing with everything inside of me now, from toetips to the top of my head. It wasn't like that before. It's like Billy Elliott said dancing makes him feel: "Just flyin'. Like there's a fire in me body." Yeah. What he said.

No funny stories, deep analysis or debate this time, folks. Just a little snapshot of this fantastic thing I get to do and I wanted to share it with you. Wish you could all be there this weekend. Thanks for reading and wish me luck!

10 March 2009

Reverting to Type - Or Maybe Not?

Well, type for me I guess. Though certainly not if measured by popular myths in the United States. Read on to understand this cryptic comment.

As The Great Sage of the 20th Century said, "April is the cruelest month". Cruel in its contradictions, something which I and most of you know a lot about. Lengthening days, more sunlight. But also the end of the rugby season. Truly a cruel trade-off! As I've said in the past, playing rugby is an exhilaration that has to be experienced to be understood. Those of you who think I'm nuts about this, just give it a go. You'll understand.

Believe it or not, there is a point to this post. The point is Chris Clemmow, and what he and his circumstances portend, God willing. Chris is a bisexual rugby player at a top-ranked UK university. He's not in everybody's face about his orientation. His teammates all know and accept it as part of life. They even try to set him up on dates with guys. They look out for him. "The boy doesn’t dance, he doesn’t dress particularly well, and it is rare to see him publicly gawk over a passing male. Conversely, he doesn’t act in stereotypical macho ways either. He doesn’t sexualize women, posture himself as aggressive, or talk obsessively about sport. He is just Chris." He lives in a culture where it's acceptable for guys to kiss other guys. Nobody thinks anything of it. He just is what he is, and doesn't make an issue of it. Nor, apparently does anybody else. Live and let live.

Naturally, it's rugby that leads the way toward a brighter future. Read the delightful and encouraging story of Chris Clemmow here. Someday, USA!

08 March 2009

A Little Light-Hearted Hopeless Conflict

It's pretty cool that I now have a sister with whom I can joke about being gay.

Yesterday we had family visiting from out of town, including parents and the sister I'm out to. We all went out to breakfast and my dad showed up in white shirt, khaki trousers, black socks, and brown leather dress shoes. I pointed out this woeful mismatch to said sister and said Gee I wish someone would explain to dad how to match his clothes. She promptly shot back "Well, you should volunteer, you're qualified!" Much laughter ensued between us, to everyone else's puzzlement.

Later on, gathered at our house again, same sister noted that there were an awful lot of shoes piled by the door (it's family custom to remove them). I said Yeah, we have a lot of shoes here. Pause. "No jokes." I looked at her and grinned, she looked back, and we both busted up laughing again. Again, more puzzled looks from those within earshot.

Later on, I watched some professional rugby on TV and reveled in the vicious combat.

Like I said, hopelessly conflicted!

05 March 2009

A Little Activism Is A Wonderful Thing

Your suburbia-bred, nose-to-the-grindstone, generally quiet, diligent, tending to conservative, analytical, reserved correspondent broke out of his shell last night and attended the San Jose candlelight vigil on the eve of the California Supreme Court's oral arguments regarding Proposition 8.

Warmly welcomed there by an MCC pastor and others whom I'd never seen before, I was given three different candles, and eventually found a work colleague and his friends with whom I hung out for the rest of the evening. It was two hours of chilly but enthusiastic waving at passers by who honked to show support and of making new friends. Men, women, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, all religious persuasions, young and old (I talked to two guys who had been together for over 20 years, one had a white beard like a summer trim for Santa Claus), all were there to show support for equality in marriage rights.

It was amazing to be amongst a group so large who all felt so keenly about this issue. And clearly the response from those who drove by was supportive. Great fun to wave, clap, cheer. And actually, for the first time in my life, take a truly public stand in support of a hot political question. Exhilarating.

Work colleague and his partner invited me to dinner afterward and we had a great time. They were polite, inquisitive but not pushy, articulate, obviously well-educated, we talked about everything from politics to rugby (of course) to travel to Gaugin to the merits of free-range beef, all with total ease. I felt so welcomed, so comfortable. An exhilarating evening. I thought of all my friends in Salt Lake and made sure to give my applause and cheering a little extra oomph on your behalf!

03 March 2009

Why I Don't Want It Gone

Robert's response to my last post got me thinking. Like him, I understand the line of thought about how being gay may be just a "test" or an "affliction" limited only to mortality. I also understand that it's only conjecture. I started writing a response to him and it quickly mushroomed into a full-scale follow-on post. So in anticipation of Scott's warning (also in a comment to my last post) that he was probably going to address the same topic, here are my reservations about the idea that being gay is limited to just this life and is akin to being blind or deaf or physically handicapped.

Being blind or deaf or whatever is "merely" a dysfunction of a temporarily mortal body, whereas in my experience all of the attractions and feelings and hopes that are wrapped up in being gay go way deeper, to the very center, the core of the heart and spirit. They are part of one's capacity to love, feel attraction for and affinity to, be intimate with. These are all Godly attributes. To believe that such feelings and attributes are either a flaw or a test imposed by God solely because they are directed toward one's own gender strikes me as akin to believing that God allows not only the body but the spirit itself to be deformed. I just can't accept that. I've had enough experience choosing right and wrong to know how both choices make me feel deep down inside. I know how it feels to give in to sin, to fall short. And as I said in my Letter to Mom, when I imagine being with a guy who is my partner, the one I love above all others, every feeling of my heart is pure and noble and uplifting. I want to be with him not just because he's a guy, but because he's the guy. I want to be better because of him. I want to help him be better too. I want us to live our lives together pursuing everything that is good and true and praiseworthy and charitable, supporting and caring for each other and reaching out to share the pure love of Christ with others. Just like any heterosexual couple would.

The Savior said we should judge all things by their fruits. The fruits of what I want are nothing but good. I want a guy to be with, in this life and the next, for all the right, good, true, loving, pure in heart reasons, and to spend this life and the next with him pursuing all that is virtuous and praiseworthy and bringing to pass much righteousness. Is there any bad fruit there? No. That's why I just can't bring myself to believe that this is a "flaw" or a "test." I know what those feel like, and this ain't it. To me it feels not like a flaw, but like completion. Not like a "burden", but like liberation. Not like a "test", but like a privilege.

This is why, like others have said, I can't imagine not being like this in the eternities, and I don't want it taken away now or then. Mind you, this is not defensive braggadocio or mere conjecture. I speak from experience. As I said before, I have already spent years doing everything that so-called experts like Jeffrey Robinson, Ph.D. say I should do in order to eradicate this part of myself. I have been married and played the classic straight Mormon husband for a number of years. And it didn't work. This "core characteristic" remained at my very core. It has always been there. I can't imagine being me without it. To even attempt any sort of "reparative therapy" would be to deny my own nature. Some would say I'm giving into "defeat" without even fighting. To them I'd say "I've already fought, for a very long time. And I won. I won, because who and what I am finally prevailed. The idea that I had to completely transform my own nature into something that wasn't me in order to qualify for God's love and acceptance--that's what lost. But I won."

This does not mean I have to go out and start living the stereotypical "gay lifestyle." It doesn't mean I have to abandon my faith entirely. It does mean I have to recognize that the Church is almost completely in the dark on all of the reasons and the explanations and the why's and the what if's. It means I have to really have a lot of faith and hope and charity, and I really have to cling to the idea that God can and will yet speak more to His prophets, perhaps someday about this part of who I am, because so far He hasn't and all the Church is doing right now is tossing around a lot of opinions. It also means I have to recognize that what we don't know about the eternities is vast beyond imagination, especially compared to what we do know at present.

So purely in terms of averages and proportions, I would like to think chances are pretty good that even somebody with an "affliction" like mine could do pretty well after this life, if God is as Joseph Smith said so much more loving and merciful to His children than we can imagine. Ultimately He alone will be the judge of the deepest desires of my heart.

He knows that those desires are for things virtuous and praiseworthy. The only reason one of them may not currently be "of good report" in some circles is that what I believe is simply a lack of knowledge and understanding still keeps many from seeing with the pure love of Christ, in whom I place my trust. I don't place that trust in the opinions of other people, and not even in the theorizing of church leaders who are just as fallible as anyone. My faith and trust are that God and the Savior knew what they were doing when I was created this way, so I do not feel flawed or broken or burdened (other than by the misunderstanding of others). I know that they know that my heart wants only to love and be loved and to be their hands in this life to "do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly" before them, and to be with the ones--especially "the one"--I love most here in mortality and hereafter, and I trust that if I do my best to follow the Savior's teachings and the voice of the Spirit as it leads me, then I will in some future day have all the desires of my heart fulfilled.

And that's why, while acknowledging that I don't know everything either, I can't accept the theory--even if it comes from top church leadership--that this is just a "test" or a "burden" limited to mortality alone. That just doesn't ring true to me. I have never felt as fully alive, as complete, as joyous about life and God's blessings, as I have since coming out. It doesn't feel like a "test" or an "affliction." I feel ecstatic, finally free to be my real self, the way God made me. Why would I ever want that taken away?

01 March 2009

Don't Worry, It'll Be Gone When You Die

Something from the world's longest comment thread has really bothered me. It seems to have become popular for Mormons to oppose gay marriage because, among other things, they're essentially protecting gay Saints from their own misguided efforts to "settle" for something they call marriage but which never will be so in God's eyes, and which of course won't last beyond this life. Such Mormons see same-sex marriage as self-defeating because, they say, sexual orientation exists only in this life and won't exist in the next, so "giving in" to it may irreparably limit eternal possibilities.

Their basis for this "doctrine" is the following statement of First Quorum of the Seventy member Lance Wickman (made in the presence of and not contradicted by Dallin Oaks of the Twelve):

"same-gender attraction did not exist in the pre-earth life and neither will it exist in the next life. It is a circumstance that for whatever reason or reasons seems to apply right now in mortality, in this nano-second of our eternal existence. The good news for somebody who is struggling with same-gender attraction is this: 1) It is that ‘I’m not stuck with it forever.’ It’s just now. . . . 2) If I can keep myself worthy here, if I can be true to gospel commandments, if I can keep covenants that I have made, the blessings of exaltation and eternal life that Heavenly Father holds out to all of His children apply to me. Every blessing - including eternal marriage - is and will be mine in due course."

Seems to me this statement has had essentially two types of responses: (1) unquestioning acceptance as doctrine by Mormons who oppose same-sex marriage, and (2) a shrug of the shoulders from everyone else. But I can't help seeing it as a much more crucial and debatable point. If Wickman's statement is actually true, then the implications are serious. If it's not true, then Mormons who believe it are latching onto a convenient fantasy.

So, questions for everyone:

Where does this "doctrine" come from?

Does anything in the Standard Works support this belief?

Has any other General Authority ever said anything like this before?

Does the fact that this statement was made during a Church-sponsored official "interview," or the fact that Lance Wickman is a member of the Seventy and was not contradicted by an apostle sitting next to him, mean that this is now official LDS doctrine that is binding on me to believe?