24 May 2009

Eliot Was Right

Sunlight splashing on the bright spring green of grass and tree leaves next to where I once again sit on the steps of the LDS chapel in Los Altos, where Stuart left us. Last time here for a little while; my extended travel assignment is ending for now, so soon I'm heading home to stay for more than a couple of days. Why do I come back here? Is this morbid? I don't think so. I think of it as paying respects to one who, as he fell, tossed the baton to me and so many others to continue the race. Someone I feel a connection to and look forward to meeting someday. Besides, it's a beautiful spot to sit and think and write.

I've been pretty much away from home for a long time now, nearly four months. And it's made me think about how we are all wanderers in a way. Yesterday I took a long hike through the mountains here that border the coast. Beautiful country I'd never seen before. Today I visited four different churches : LDS, Episcopal, Greek Orthodox, and Roman Catholic. I stood for a long time before Bloch's paintings of the Savior on the cross and being laid in the tomb, and pondered the depth of His sacrifice for me and of my gratitude for it. And was wiping my eyes as I walked away, of course. My faith in Him has always been there, it comes as naturally as breathing. I don't know why. It's the anchor to which I cling.

I drove a lot today, just to get out and explore, to see places I hadn't seen, learn new paths. After services at Grace, I walked down the hill to Chinatown for dim sum and to buy some treats for the kids. As I walked down the hill through those charming old San Francisco neighborhoods I looked at those old houses and thought "What am I doing here? How did I end up here, now?" I thought how different life is from just a year ago. The places I've been, the people I've met, the things I've learned and perspectives I've gained, unimaginable just last summer. And what will next year bring, and the year beyond that? Where will I go? What will I learn and do? Will I ever be able to fully reconcile my faith with what I've learned about myself? Will we finally see the divine instruction the Church desperately needs? Will I ever meet the one I'm looking for? Lesson for my friends who are younger: these questions never stop, so don't think that when you "grow up" you'll figure it all out. Nope.

So here I sit, on Stuart's steps, wondering where it's all going to go. Thinking back amazed at the adventures I've had so far, the luck good and bad, the incredible blessings that are mine. Wondering what's yet to come. Mind boggling at the omniscience of a deity who designed it all and somehow keeps track of everything. His perspective must be staggering, His love for us beyond imagining. How can I not try to emulate that in my own weak and fallible way?

Herewith one of the good fruits of coming out. I am no longer the judgmental person I used to be. Having found myself on an unchosen path so different from that of most around me, I am grateful for the lesson of true charity I have now learned a bit better, as opposed to the lip service I used to pay to it. Today I had the privilege of meeting the Right Reverend Sebastian Bakare, retired Anglican archbishop of Harare, Zimbabwe. His sermon on being perplexed but not cast down, bruised but not defeated, because of faith in the sustenance of the Savior, was as inspiring as anything I've heard in a long time. Clearly he is a man of deep faith and Christian conviction and I was fed abundantly by his words, and honored to meet and talk with him afterward. A year ago I wouldn't even have been in the place to hear him. Today I count myself blessed because coming out made it possible for me to be inspired in a new way, one I never would have dreamed of when closeted and conflicted. Another facet sparkling on the brilliant mosaic of faith and creation, whose beautiful variety I am appreciating more and more.

So what's the point of this post? I guess it's just to say that while I like having a home to go back to and am glad I will be going home soon, I like wandering too. I'm sure it won't be long before I get restless again; heck, 24 hours after arriving back home, I'm going to hit the road again with the kids, but that time purely for fun, racing northward to rejoin and embrace my other family in Salt Lake. You all know who you are.

The travel, the following of my nose, the ability to indulge insatiable curiosity to learn and experience new things, that's one of the things I love most about life and about the gospel. It's why, though I have difficulties and disagreements with The Corporate Church and no hesitation worshiping and seeking inspiration elsewhere too, I couldn't trade LDS theology for any other, because no one else has centralized that principle as much as we have: the desire, even the responsibility and obligation to be curious, to seek, to explore, to learn, to grow eternally. We are all wanderers and feel alone sometimes, but that's how it's supposed to be, I think. I love the journey, the learning, the struggle. I love having others alongside sometimes so we can boost each other when necessary. Imagine how bored we'd get if we just sat around the Garden of Eden for eternity. Ugh. More paradox. I love it.

T. S. Eliot had it right: "We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time." That day is VERY far off for me. Meanwhile I love the journey and I love sharing it with so many of you.

23 May 2009

OGTs and OSTs

I wrote this for amusement a while back not intending to post it, but Sarah's recent list got me thinking and I thought why not. The fun with OSTs (Obviously Straight Traits) and OGTs (Obviously Gay Traits) pops up in the blogosphere from time to time so I thought I'd throw mine into the mix. It seemed like a good time to do it since I will be meeting up with a lot of friends again next Saturday (some for the first time) and I thought you might like a little more insight into this Rob guy. So at the risk of seeming shamelessly self-aggrandizing, herewith I open a window on your humble correspondent's hopelessly conflicted history. If you can figure out how all this somehow ended up inside one person, let me know!


1. Had my first crush on a girl at age 6 (first kiss) and more afterward, enjoyed dating and managed a marriage that was successful for a little while at least
2. I love hiking, baseball, and sports bars, I play rugby and love the strain, the sweat, the pain, the yelling, the bruising competition
3. As a boy I would spend hours making scrapbooks of pictures of cars, organized by make and model year. I was also a self-taught dinosaur expert
4. I like James Bond movies, Kurosawa movies, and Ultimate Fight Club
5. I know basic kickboxing
6. I could watch Alicia Silverstone, Sophie Marceau, and Eva Green for hours. Even if they were asleep.
7. I like to build stuff with hand tools and the tool dept at Home Depot is as much fun as Williams-Sonoma
8. Airplanes fascinate me
9. Effeminacy really turns me off
10. I don't much care if the sink or shower hasn't been scrubbed for a couple weeks
11. I'm secure enough to wear a kilt in public and I enjoy all the female attention I get
12. Certain womens' perfumes really crank me up
13. I'm so straight-acting that some gay friends have accused me of being a closet straight guy
14. I hate to ask for directions


1. Did high school musical theater
2. Hated sports as a kid (how ironic)
3. Have a good eye for interior decorationg
4. Loved fragrances and cologne since I was a kid, picked out my first bottle when I was 9
5. Have no problems kissing my straight male friends on the cheek
6. I resent when female stars get top billing and I always watch the guys instead
7. Footrubs and watching old movies together while enjoying a cuddle on the sofa sounds really nice, and no, not with a girl
8. I love to cook and can't resist cookbooks or places like Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table
9. I love flowers, especially roses
10. I instantly memorize the name of a handsome movie or TV star and will often forget the women
11. I have watched every ATWT episode on Youtube that has Luke & Noah in it
12. I unknowingly gravitated to the music and writings of a disproportionate number of composers and authors who were gay but I never knew about them until much later
13. I love "It's a Football Thing" on Youtube and think the kiss at the end is the sweetest thing I've ever seen (warning, some sidebar stuff is a little explicit)
14. I've actually known I was different ever since I was 14

Anybody else match any of these?

Sensory Overload

Take one huge theme park, outrageous roller coasters, raucous music, thousands of gay guys and gals, and throw Alan into the middle of it and what do you get? Near sensory overload, that's what you get.

Wow, what a party. I have never seen anything like it. Yeah, the music wasn't always quite to my taste, and yeah there was a little more smoking & drinking than I normally see, but meh, NBD. It was amazing. All the bills this weekend are on my nickel, I don't get reimbursed for weekend time, but I don't care, last night was SO worth it. I've never before been part of such a huge crowd with which I shared one particularly distinguishing characteristic!

I was lucky enough to be there with a bigger employee group so already knew a couple of people, and was even luckier enough to meet more and hang out with them for the rest of the night. Including one who's been to law school, and one who joined the LDS Church when he was young, then got to a point in his life where it had served its purpose for him. That's fine, doesn't bother me, everyone has their agency to choose. We all screamed and yelled our heads off on the coasters, ate horribly unhealthy food, talked about life and work and family and coming out and everything under the sun. It was 1 a.m. before I knew it. More smiles and back slaps and big affectionate hugs all round. What a contrast from a year ago when I was conflicted and fearful and wound tighter than a Citibank credit line. Now open, honest, no more duking it out with myself inside, accepting of who I am and accepted by others. SUCH exhilaration.

So to Greg, Nate, Shaun, Russ, Jason, Costas, and everyone else from last night's group: you are wonderful, amazing people and I feel so fortunate to know you. Thanks for making me feel so instantly welcomed and accepted. More and more I see why it's called "family", because that's exactly what it feels like! I am one lucky guy.

17 May 2009

A Little Thank You Note

I talk endlessly about stuff I'm passionate about and am hopelessly addicted to big picture extrapolations and philosophizing. It's dangerous because I don't want to monopolize conversations or bore people either. So I mostly try to hold it in. No doubt this amazes those who know me and still wish I'd shut up. Imagine how insufferable I'd be without self-policing. So I'll take a page from Scott's latest post and try to be pithy for once. [cue sound clip of cheering]. I've been so busy with work lately that my posts have slowed a bit, but after last night I really have to say this.

My patriarchal blessing is curiously specific on one point: I was instructed to associate with those who believe as I do and to whom I could give strength, and if I did this, I would have many friends and wouldn't want for assistance when I needed it. I never got the strength bit, seriously I'm nothing special, but I always had friends so thought "Eh, of course, self-evident, NBD, sounds kind of like filler to me."

Since I came out this passage has taken on a whole new meaning, and a main reason I'm so much happier than before is the boatload of new friends that now bless my life. Friends all over the place in terms of geography, age, experience, background. Doesn't matter. They are all wonderful and I can scarcely believe my luck to associate with them. Obviously I am still associating with those who believe as I do, though perhaps not in a way the patriarch envisioned! Still, his words do seem even more inspired as a result, no?

As any guy who's raised in a traditional Mormon family and follows The Traditional Mormon Boy's Map will attest, that Map often leaves little if any time for things not demanded by work, family or church--things like just hanging out with friends and building priceless relationships which give unmatched purpose and poetry to life.

No more of that for me, however. Yesterday I politely declined an invitation to attend a probably predictably routine stake picnic and instead hung out with AAT&T. Kids joined us for part of the time and were pampered and coddled (so I know gay guys can make great parents). Effervescent conversation that whirled and fizzed and and amazed me with its quick wit and imagination (the others, not me), a preview of a new hit musical played live, pizza with 2 hour delivery time, war stories about families and friends and coping with coming out and Prop 8 and how to deal with it all, a video with everything from Shakespeare to classic show tunes, laughter and smiles and hugs all around. How did I get so lucky to be part of this? To share all of that with others around whom I can be completely open and honest about myself still seems miraculous. AAT&T I don't think you realize the impact of yesterday for me. Blogging is great of course, but actually being together with you all, seeing the sparkles in your eyes and the warmth in your smiles, warms my heart like few things can. I fought the conflict inside myself for long enough that I never dreamed I would actually be able to experience things like yesterday.

So to AAT&T and all of you whom I've been privileged to meet and get to know, and to those of you whom I know on line and still look forward to meeting, "thank you" seems so pitifully inadequate but you get the concept. I wish I could give each one of you a big bone-crushing rugby scrum hug. Thanks for showing me that I can be an internally consistent integrated self and still be welcomed and accepted. Thanks for your warmth, your caring, your support, your laughter and your enthusiasm and your talents and your joie de vivre. You all inspire me in ways you know not of. "Behold, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel."

10 May 2009

Where's The Beef?

Warning: I am in philosophical argument mode again. If you're looking for light fluff, go elsewhere. This thing reads like a legal brief.

If you're part of the handful of friends who still take time to read my drivel, I hope this post doesn't bore you. I don't want to sound like Johnny One Note. But the California Supreme Court's decision on Proposition 8 is due within the next few weeks, which in light of recent actions in Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, means that we can expect yet another round of major public attention on the issue of same-sex marriage. That means more attention on and by the Church regarding the issue. And for those who are hopelessly addicted to analysis and debate, like your humble correspondent, that means more puzzling and deliberation over how to harmonize what's heretofore seemed completely irreconcilable. So if you're tired of this topic, now's probably a good time to click elsewhere.

Lately I've been puzzling over the reasons for the Church's suddenly ferocious activity on this issue last year. If the Church doesn't oppose civil marriage between a man and a woman for time only when that marriage is purely a matter of civil law with no religious aspect or implications, why would it oppose exactly the same thing if the only difference were that both parties were the same gender? Obviously the gender difference is crucial for the Church. But why? Why does the Church obsess so much about the gender difference as allegedly essential to a marriage? On what does the Church's opposition to same-sex marriage rest? There are several possible sources.

First, because there's a doctrinal basis? That means we have to look to the Scriptures. But careful examination reveals that the answers are less cut & dried than most Mormons think. Other Christian sects are all over the map on this issue, and they all speak from the same Bible. Sound historical and theological scholarship from other Christian churches makes a compelling case that, despite popular opinion, the handful of Bible scriptures which touch on homosexuality do not condemn it as many modern Christians mistakenly believe. So the Bible by itself is no infallible guide.

What about the uniquely LDS canon? First of all, it says nothing--nothing--about homosexuality. And if there's a theological basis for the Church's insistence on opposite genders in marriage, it's Doc. & Cov. 132, which says that to achieve the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom, a man and woman must enter into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage which then facilitates eternal progeny. But that Section also acknowledges that even within the Celestial Kingdom there are two other "degrees" for which eternal marriage is not a prerequisite, and it further acknowledges that the overwhelming majority of God's children will not end up in the Celestial Kingdom at all, whose highest degree is the only place where the temple marriage of a man and woman makes any difference (as far as we know now).

In addition, the 9th Article of Faith declares as a matter of doctrine that the LDS Church does not have the full picture on anything right now, so any Latter-day Saint who pronounces the 132nd Section as the ultimate definition of anything is contradicting him or herself. Accordingly, if our own scriptures affirm that our knowledge is incomplete and we expect more instruction from God on this and other things, and if most people are destined for other places where it won't matter whether they were married in the temple to someone of the opposite gender or not, then it is difficult to say that the LDS Scriptural canon prohibits same-sex marriage or justifies the Church's opposition to it on theological grounds. The best that could be said is that same-sex marriage may not be eternally "optimal" as far as we currently understand. But if civil marriages for time only won't be effective after this life anyway, why should the Church care what the genders in those civil marriages are?

This suggests that the Church's opposition rests more on socio-cultural grounds than on theology or revelation, more on a historical tradition of homophobia than revealed knowledge. But maybe the Church is blending the two. Which leads to the second possible explanation.

That second explanation is that it's essentially a missionary effort. The Church may be trying in good faith to make temple marriage as widely available as possible in order to maximize the top tier's population (to put it bluntly), and therefore believes it must fight anything that might detour otherwise available candidates from that goal.

While this may be well-intentioned, it betrays ignorance of the realities of sexual orientation. "Sexual" orientation in this context is probably a misnomer, because evidence is overwhelming that sex is only one part, and ultimately not the most important one, of any person's attraction. Overall orientation is a function of who one desires to be with emotionally, physically, spiritually, psychologically, as well as sexually. It's a question of who you feel that deepest desire for connection with on every level, of who makes your heart race and your breath short, of who your eyes instinctively go to when you or they enter a room. It's a matter of spirit to spirit, and to dismiss it simplistically as either a choice or nothing more than hormones gone slightly haywire is to betray profound ignorance. Unfortunately, most of the Church's history of dealing with this issue has been based on ignorance of this fact and of the growing body of scientific research that verifies it. But the point is that, with this understanding, there's really no point in trying to "maximize" the availability of temple marriage through essentially enforcing heterosexuality by banning same-sex marriage. Orientation is ineradicable. Some claim to change but all they really do is learn coping skills. Their desires remain the same. If this is the Church's motivation for opposing same-sex marriage, then it's going down a blind alley and its efforts will make no difference.

Another implication of this response is that a gay person of honesty and integrity who is not already married is probably going to conclude that they are not capable of the honest commitment that a temple marriage requires. In which case, why punish them for their integrity by insisting--even if they are not LDS!--that for some future purpose which the Church itself can't even define, they must deny themselves any of the rich fulfillment of sexual intimacy with a married partner, the sort of fulfillment which every apostle of the LDS Church obviously recognizes as essential for themselves? We don't insist that non-LDS heterosexual persons who don't meet temple standards stay celibate and unmarried. Why do it for gay people, especially those who are honest about their orientation? Caught like mice in a maze with no exit by such mandates by the LDS and other churches, is it any wonder so many gay guys particularly resort to drink and drugs and promiscuity? What else is left to them?

Third, "the prophet said so and he will never lead us astray." Many in the Church interpret letters from the First Presidency as essentially canonical. For them, "when the prophet speaks the thinking has been done" even though past presidents of the Church have specifically stated that this popular attitude in the Church is wrong. Furthermore, the First Presidency's letter requesting support for Proposition 8 was stated in the form of a request. It was not mandated or made a matter of faith or doctrine. No canonized scripture was cited in support to illustrate why the Church may have had no choice. L. Whitney Clayton of the Seventy, one of the Church's spokesmen during the Proposition 8 campaign, stated publicly that Church members were free to disagree with the First Presidency's request to support Proposition 8 without fear of repercussion.

If opposition to same-sex marriage were a matter of doctrine, then open support for it would constitute apostasy and Mormons could lose their membership for it. While that actually has been threatened in a handful of cases by zealous local leaders, most LDS opponents of Proposition 8 have been treated as Whitney Clayton said. Bear in mind that I am not talking about individual faith or obedience here; my inquiry is limited to the bases for the Church's opposition to same-sex marriage. And the First Presidency's letter really didn't give much justification.

Rather than being a sudden and unexpected revelation, many members of the Church probably don't know that the Church's opposition to Proposition 8 was simply the latest step in a well-orchestrated and nearly 2 decades old plan by the Church to oppose civil unions and same-sex marriage throughout the United States, one germinated long ago by senior Church leadership at a time when they apparently clung to the idea that orientation was either a choice or could be changed. The Church has now backed off that position and grudgingly acknowledged that orientation is a "core characteristic" but still hedges its bets by saying this characteristic "may" not be changeable "in this life" for "some". But with God apparently choosing not to speak yet on the matter, the Church finds itself in an ever-more delicate dance trying to reconcile its theology with the increasing body of evidence about orientation that simply cannot be harmonized with that theology. Ultimately one of them will have to give way. That is also probably why the First Presidency's letter was not couched in terms of official doctrine. I believe it's also because, as with Pres. Hinckley, the current First Presidency simply doesn't know the answers and so they are defaulting back to familiar territory but, recognizing the implications of the 9th Article of Faith and their own lack of revealed knowledge, recognized that they couldn't make compliance a doctrinal requirement. They are smart men walking an increasingly fine line. What else could they do?

Fourth possibility: same-sex marriage legitimizes homosexual sex, which God (that, is, the Scriptures) says is wrong. But the Scriptures also condemn heterosexual divorce, adultery, and fornication much more frequently and vigorously than they do gay sex, yet countless "good Christians" the world over make common allowance for divorce and don't condemn the institution of marriage because many of its adherents don't keep their covenants. As noted above, there is compelling historical and theological scholarship from other Christian churches which concludes that the few Bible scriptures which touch on homosexuality do not condemn it as many modern Christians mistakenly believe. If the popular and mistaken interpretations of those scriptures are actually the foundation for the LDS Church's opposition to Proposition 8, then Mormons should be free to reach their own conclusions about it. Oh, wait, that's exactly what Whitney Clayton of the 70 said we were free to do.

The question here is whether gay sex is inherently wrong solely because it is between two people of the same gender. If non-marital sex is condemned far more frequently and severely in the Scriptures than gay sex, then it is reasonable to conclude that it's not the genders that make the difference but rather it's the lack of the marriage covenant. Sex is a wonderful and special and intimate thing with profound repercussions for the partners far beyond the physical buzz. It should be respected and cherished. Marriage places safeguards around its expression that are wise and good. If marriage covenants are in place and both spouses do their best to honor them, then the protections for sexual expression are the same regardless of whether the genders of the spouses are the same or different. In which case, why would the genders matter?

So to sum up. The scriptural basis for the Church's opposition to same-sex marriage is questionable at best. If its opposition is socio-cultural then it has no more claim on inspiration for its position than any other conservative political organization. If it's a matter of following a modern prophet's mandate, well, there was no mandate to follow; the First Presidency expressed its support for Prop 8 and urged members to do likewise, but left everyone free to make their own choices and did not make this choice a matter of doctrine. If it's a matter of opposing gay sex as "inherently" wrong, well, the Scriptures are just as open to the interpretation that it is the lack of a marriage covenant that makes sex wrong, regardless of genders.

What's left?

09 May 2009

Pick-up Story

Last night I was cruising around San Francisco and picked up a couple of guys just walking along the street outside the Moscone Center. A wild party ensued. And guess what, these guys just happened to be Matt and Kyle. Okay, okay, calm down, it was pre-arranged. Blogging is great and therapeutic and immediate but it's not the same as actually getting together with friends. Especially when those friends are full of intelligence and wit and interesting life experiences and the conversation can touch on certain commonalities, shall we say, freely and without a second thought. I still marvel at how wonderfully refreshing it is to be able to do that.

Before dinner I dragged them both to one of my favorite downtown destinations, Grace Cathedral because I knew shutterbug Kyle would be entranced by the stained glass, and he confirmed that yes, he definitely wanted to see the place for precisely that reason. We arrived to find it packed with hundreds of people being seated for a major concert and the whole nave roped off. Smooth-tongued Alan talked us in anyway so Matt and Kyle enjoyed (I hope) a walk around that amazing place. Certainly Kyle's camera was going non-stop. Then we stopped at the Fairmont a block across the park for expert concierge advice on a decent local non-trendy neighborhood Thai restaurant, which I'd talked self-admitted picky piscophobe Matt into trying.

I love this city and not for the one reason some of you might guess. I know lots of people in Utah County consider it a modern day Sodom and wonder why God hasn't wiped it off the map already. But I think that's because God sees that there are still lots of good people here and lots of good things, and certainly lots of beautiful places. Matt and Kyle remarked several times how much they liked it here. I was glad. I do too.

We found our way to a great Thai restaurant (passing by "the city's most fabulous thrift store" called "Out of the Closet" - no kidding) and had a dinner that I think surprised everybody but me with how good it was. I discovered Matt's unfortunate opinion that Jane Austen's books are worth more than use as birdcage liner. We debated this crucial question vigorously off and on for the rest of the evening without resolution. He thinks her stuff is wonderful. I think it's a great pity she was allowed to die a natural death. He will come around eventually. Kyle sat quietly, listening to this entertaining but fruitless debate with the same look on his face as one might have when regarding a new and unusual insect while still unsure whether it bites or not.

After dinner we drove past City Hall, all lit up, and it's quite a stunner at night. Imagine a miniature US Capitol with lots of gold leaf on outside trim. That's it. Kyle's shutter clicking again repeatedly from the back seat. Then on to the Bart station on Market where we said goodbye and the guys hopped on the train for home. And despite earlier vows, your humble correspondent went where? Back to the office. I couldn't stay away, just had to finish something. Am I nuts or do I just like what I do? I am going back there today but I won't stay all day, I promise. And I'll try to stay away tomorrow. Maybe.

One other quick story. Not a pick-up exactly, just call it something I picked up on that proved both interesting and funny and tells me the ol' wireless is working pretty well. Aisle seat on the last flight, cabin crew all guys. A dark-haired one quite striking. He walks past many times and each time the air is suddenly filled with the most interesting enticing scent, I've never encountered it before. He stops several times in that narrow aisle with, ah, shall we say "thigh" right against my shoulder. I'm sure it was just coincidence. That scent just wouldn't go away, and you know what they say about guys who are flight attendants, right? But this guy looked and sounded straight as they come (like I'm one to be fooled by that). Getting off the plane, I stopped to ask him about it. What did you splash on this morning? He smiled and didn't even have to think about the answer. It was Moonlight Path body lotion from Bath & Body Works. I thanked him, we smiled, and I got off the plane, laughing all the way to the baggage claim. Not because it was funny, but because I was so right!

03 May 2009

The Complete And Total Idiot

I'm a slow learner in some ways. It takes me a while to realize some things at a macro level. Heaven knows it took long enough enough to realize completely who I was, admit that to myself, and then gather the courage to come out. I envy the courage of many of my brethren who were smarter and quicker than me in many ways. But I am where I am, and have a lot to be thankful for.

Veering off now toward total fluff for which that pedantic prelude will actually prove relevant, trust me. By the time this post is over I will have revealed myself as a complete and total idiot. Should be entertaining.

I've been accused laughingly but more than once of being a closet straight guy. With one exception (a person who knew me VERY well), every person I've come out to has been stunned. I don't match most of the stereotypes. I like and play rough sports. I don't mind beating myself and others up in the gym, on hikes, or with strenuous exercise that pushes to the limit. I know how cars work. I like kickboxing and Ultimate Fight Club. I know how to gut any fish I catch and the "ickiness" doesn't even register. I am a workaholic and love my very demanding profession. I am not obsessive about neatness and neither my office nor home is always picture perfect clean or organized. Typical straight guy stuff. The standard mass media stereotype of a gay guy is heavy on over-the-top gender-bending and exaggerated effeminacy. That is absolutely not me. Like I said, virtually everyone I've come out to has been floored, speechless. Once again, Alan cracks the preconceptions. I say good for that.

One particular example, the point of this post. The whole gay guys affinity for musical theater thing has always escaped me. I hear many friends wax eloquent about Wicked, I see them actually in the business, and I think Huh? I scratch my head and wonder what's the big deal. I mean, it's great that they love it, and the musicals I've seen have been enjoyable, but what's the big deal? It's theater, it's temporary. Maybe I've had my nose to the professional grindstone long enough that all that understanding has drained away.

But maybe not. And here's where I'm about to reveal myself as a complete and total idiot.

The kids' latest DVD obsession has been Hairspray. When I allow TV time, that is the show of choice right now. Soundtrack in the car too. Initially I thought Oh yeah, it's cute, it's fun, it's fluff. Fine. NBD.

But just this last week when I actually sat down to watch it with them, for some crazy reason I suddenly looked at it a different way. See, what little expressive talent I have is confined between my wrists and my fingertips. I can write okay and play a couple of instruments. But I couldn't dance the simplest step with any grace or coordination if my life depended on it. I watch people who can and I just ache to be able to do it, but I've tried and I know it's just not one of my gifts. It never has been. I see people expressing in movement what I can only express through music and words, and I feel so incomplete, even choked off sometimes. I know I should be grateful for what I can do, and I am. But I want to be able to do it all. I want to write like Twain and play piano like Hofmann and compose like Chopin and score tries like Gareth Edwards and speak like Cicero and dance like Kelly.

Imagine suddenly losing the power to speak. You are fully articulate, you have this infinity of thought and emotion and ideas inside you bursting for expression, but you are sealed off. It's locked up tight inside you. No possible way to let it out. Imagine the frustration. That's how I feel when I watch skilled dancers, and particularly those in Hairspray. Some of those numbers had such exuberance and technical skill that I was amazed. I was filled with admiration and envy. How I wish I could do that!

And here's where the light suddenly went on. Over the last 9 months since coming out I have been happier in many ways than ever before in my life. That long, exhausting internal battle is over. I'm finally just one person, content with how God made me, I'm no longer two confused, frightened, angst-ridden halves duking it out silently inside. The relief is still palpable. The delight still fresh. The amazement of discovering so many others like myself, for whom I've come to care so deeply, is still startling and wonderful. THAT is a reason to dance and sing and shout and throw fists in the air and cheer and celebrate. Like I've done in some of my runs on the beach.

So when I watched these production numbers in Hairspray and saw the amazing skill of these dancers doing all that stuff that I felt like doing, I suddenly thought "Aha! I GET it!" If life is made unnecessarily complex by homophobia and prejudice, it's logical that the desire to sing and celebrate and savor the happiness of life would be felt just as keenly to counterbalance. And perhaps in places and ways far removed from those harsh realities of life. Places like a theater. Duh. And beyond that, it's axiomatic that gay guys often have a heightened artistic sensitivity anyway. I probably should have started figuring all this out when I was 9 and begging for piano lessons and I rode my bike to the store to buy my first bottle of boy's cologne with some Christmas money because I really, really liked the way it smelled. See, I told you I'm a slow learner sometimes.

I'm resigned to the fact that I will never be able to do what those dancers do, at least not in this life. Maybe later! Heck, most people can't dance like that. But man, when I watch them, my heart is right there with every step. The exuberance, the celebration, the joie de vivre, the delight in the eyes, the smiles, the fists in the air, the whooping it up. I know much of life is serious and even tragic, and of course we deal when we have to, but why not spend as much of it as possible being as happy as we can, and celebrating so many gifts? Who wouldn't want to be able to dance like they do? Even the Bible talks about dancing as a way of praising God for His gifts. I get it! Thanks to something as fluffy and aerosol as Hairspray, this serious, nose-to-the-grindstone, workaholic, driven, didactic, over-scheduled, slightly OCD-ish professional now finds himself irresponsibly toe-tapping his way around the house and in the oddest public places even, like the grocery store, the post office, the kids' school, the gym. Literally toe-tapping and singing under his breath with the iPod plugged in. People must think I'm nuts. This is SO indecorous.

See, told you I would look like a total idiot by the end of this post. All dignified, authoritarian public credibility fractured beyond repair. I'm sure I'm going to get hoots and catcalls from friends and fellow bloggers. Know what? I don't care! At least I have the cojones to put this out there! I'd say that's pretty secure. Carpe diem!

And in case you're wondering, here's a clip of the total fluff finale that got me moving. It's not Bach or Mahler, and it's a little long, but it's huge fun and sometimes you just gotta go light (best part of the dancing is toward the end). If you have any artist in your heart, you will see what I mean and your own toes will start tapping too.