28 March 2010

Brother Comes Through

I have one brother, many years younger than me. We've spent most of our lives apart, separated by thousands of miles. We don't hate each other or anything, that's just how life has worked out. He is the classic youngest child, has always been happy go lucky, even-tempered, quietly confident, a peacemaker.

So when I wrote a coming out letter to him on Saturday morning, I took a bit of a gamble and wrote it as if I were confident he'd respond with love and acceptance and no harshness or judgment. I wasn't sure, but I sure hoped.

And little brother comes through. This evening he wrote back, and here's what he said:

Dear Big Bro, There are some things in life that I am sure of.

1. I love you and always will. You are my big brother no matter what.

2. We are all on this Earth to make choices and those are fueled by our experiences and our spirits. We don't always agree with each others choices but each person has to live with their own.

3. All of us just want to be loved and accepted. This is a big fuel for many of our actions.

A wise man said something once that impacted me greatly. He said that God does not love us because of who we are or what we do but because of who he is. I am trying to emulate that and love people because of who I am and not who they are or what they do.

I understand the shock this has caused our family. It will be hard for some to recover from it. It will take time and patience on both parts. My only confusion comes at your claim of being gay and yet saying you have not acted on the feelings. That is my only confusion.

I hope that whatever choices you make that you will feel at peace. It will not change my feelings or love towards you. Feel free to share feelings, thoughts or anything else with me as long as I might do the same.

I love you. You are a great man.

And my reply this evening:

I've been a bit on pins & needles since sending you that note yesterday, wondering how you'd respond. I'd hoped you would do and say exactly as you have, but wasn't sure. Thanks for your kindness and generosity, it means more than you know. I agree totally with all three of your numbered points. And with that great observation about why God loves us and how we should try to do the same.

You said you're confused as to my claim of being gay and yet not acting on the feelings, apparently you're wondering how that works? Best way I can explain it is to say imagine back to when you were in your early teens and suddenly found yourself increasingly preoccupied with thoughts of girls. You can't explain where that came from, it just happened. One day you just found yourself thinking and feeling that way. You just knew. You didn't need to hold her hand or kiss her or go further in order to know. In fact, you probably knew quite a while before you got a chance to do anything about it.

It's as simple as that, really. I just knew, like I knew I was right-handed or that my eyes were blue. Unfortunately I didn't have the courage to be honest about it for a long time afterward. For years I even pretended in my prayers that I was straight, how lame is that, trying to hide yourself from God. But then one day some time after I started coming out, I finally got on my knees with the courage to say "OK, God, I'm gay, now what?" I was just that blunt. And that still small voice spoke very clearly: "I know what you are, and I approve." I have numerous LDS friends who've had similar experiences. I could go on for hours and tell you stories and why I believe the way I do about this, but bottom line is that I think God is a lot more okay with His gay children than the members of the LDS Church are right now, and someday the Church is going to have to accommodate that. That's a story for another time, though.

Happy to continue the dialogue with you if you want or to answer any other questions you might have. Thanks bro, you are the best.

When he was little, I carried him everywhere. How cool is it that now he carries me for a bit. That's how it's supposed to work. I am so lucky, so blessed.

27 March 2010

iPhones in Sacrament

[Thanks to LDS Brother for the idea that inspired this post.]

Rats, late for church again. And I forgot to do laundry, I hope nobody notices I'm wearing the same white shirt I wore last week. It's not too wrinkled and I only wore it for three hours last time. And the church was air-conditioned. So I should be good.

Oh great, there's an empty seat in the back of the chapel. I'll just slip in there, nobody'll notice I'm late.

[20 minutes later]

Sheesh, these Primary kids' programs are the same every year. Sure all the mommies and daddies like to see their little ones up there droning through the same songs we all learned but OMG it's so boring. I don't have kids, I have to find a partner and then we'd have to find a doctor and a donor before I have my own, so could I get a pass on Primary Program Sundays from now on, I wonder.

Now I know why nobody watches the conductor during the hymns. They start out at age 3 not watching the conductor in Primary. Good thing I have the scriptures on my iPhone, I should just read a little bit.

Oh, wait. There's Grindr. I haven't checked it in days. Hmm. Decisions, decisions. Can anybody see what's on my screen here? No, that folding room divider thing is just behind me, and I'm in a corner. I guess I could sneak a peek to see if there's anybody interesting in the neighborhood. OK, here goes.

O.M.G. ZERO feet away? No picture? And a green dot? O.M.G. Somebody else in this building is on Grindr right now. And we're the only ward in the building. He's gotta be in this chapel too! O.M.G.

Hit the Chat balloon. Hey, r u where I think u r?

Waiting, waiting.

[iPhone vibrates]

OMG yes r u?

Whoa. Who r u?

Who r u? Where r u?

In the back row in the corner!

I can't turn around right now, somebody will see my iPhone screen.

Oh, okay.

Had enough of the Primary songs?

OMG yes, had enough of them when I was in Primary. They seemed so patronizing.

Totally. But I always liked learning the ones about the BoM because we got to look at Arnold Friberg pictures.

I know, right? Only Scott Herman has arms like that.

And this one guy I was with in the MTC. Yowza. Too bad we weren't comps later.

Probably a good thing though, right?

LOL, probably. Except now he lives in the next stake over, and he's still not married. All these years later. Hmmm!

Wait. Does he have dark wavy hair, about 6 foot, green eyes?

Yeah! How'd you know?

I think I saw him when I went clubbing last Saturday! He was dancing with one of my old roommates from BYU! I think they're together!

No way! I can't believe this! Well, kill that dream then.

That's okay. Hey, looks like the program's over. Who r u? We should get together. What r u doing later today? I have an Elder's Quorum Presidency meeting after church, but after that . . .

What? I have an Elder's Quorum Presidency meeting too!


25 March 2010

A Letter To My Family

Dear Family:

Now you all know. Your initial reactions were about what I expected, polite rejections of "the lifestyle" (which I've never lived) with disclaimer expressions of "we still love you." But over the last few months it's also become clear that all of you wish I'd never come out. You've gotten angry with me for "stirring up contention and division in the family" by simply telling you I was gay. You've urged me not to tell anyone else, and repeatedly called me "selfish" for simply speaking this truth about myself because it made everyone else so agitated. You've called me an "activist" who is trying to "pressure you" into "accepting an abnormal lifestyle" because I tried to share with you some information you didn't have about this topic. You've jumped to the conclusion that I have done something that justifies being kicked out of the church.

You know I'm not the type to play whining victim. So believe me when I say you have no comprehension of what it's been like, as someone said, "to spend years denying your own deepest truths, to sit silently through classes, meals, and church services while people you love toss off remarks that brutalize your soul." I finally reached the point where I just couldn't take that anymore.

We have always been a close-knit group. We've supported each other through a lifetime of ups and downs. I've been there for you, you've been there for me. No family is perfect, but I've always felt very lucky to be part of this one.

But now, for the first time in my life, I question whether my family is capable of unconditional love. I knew nobody would be thrilled at my news but I honestly didn't expect to encounter such hostility. The fact that I've seen such pushback, panic and anger at a short, simple statement of truth tells me that my evidently homophobic family is going to have a difficult time with my presence from now on. I'm sorry if that hurts anyone's feelings but I can't explain your reactions any other way. It sounds like you are willing to accept me only if I conform to your templates for living, and if I don't, well, I could still come round but I mustn't talk about anything you don't like. And when who I love and who my friends are and all that even hint at this thing that so agitates you, you're going to say--as you already have--that it's all off-limits. That's conditional love and it tells me you want me back in the closet.

I'm particularly puzzled by the "selfish" thing. I spoke a simple fact about myself, I'm otherwise unchanged from the same person you knew before, the only difference is that you know me a little better now. I wanted you to understand and know the real me. How on earth that's "selfish" I can't quite make out, unless you've all assumed that extreme agitation and anger over this is a normal reaction that anyone should expect, so I must be inflicting them on you all deliberately and that's selfish, is that it? But doesn't that really just indicate your own attitudes toward being gay, rather than my motives? How is it not "selfish" of you to say to me "It's not about you!" when I'm the one who's dealt with the slurs and homophobic jokes and hurtful attitudes all these years, and suddenly my disclosure tells you that you can't get away with that anymore?

I've heard of other active Mormon families who, when a son came out to them after years of frightened hiding in the closet, all rallied round and said "We had no idea you were wrestling with this for so long, we're so sorry you had to face it all alone, it must have been awful for you, and we're sorry if we said or did anything to keep you in there. Thanks for telling us." And then life went on as normal.

Why can't my family be like that? I think I know the answer, but I'd like to hear it from you.

Dear family, I love you all so much. I don't think you have any idea what I've been through with this. I'm not selfish, I'm just tired of a charade and want you to know who I really am. All of your hurt and anger and fear is so unnecessary. I wish you'd just calm down and listen to me explain why. I'm out of the closet and I'm never going back; we're all going to have to live with that reality. Please don't force me to choose between my own integrity and remaining part of the family. Other LDS families have done just fine after one of their kids came out, please listen to me and I'll tell you how. And how coming out made me a better Christian than I ever was before.

I know I've challenged your paradigms and I don't expect you to change your opinions overnight; God knows it took me long enough to come to terms with this myself. But please don't refuse even to talk about it. Please try to set aside your fear and anger and suspicion. I really do think I have the answer that will help you do that, but you have to be willing to listen first, to do what St. Paul said: investigate, search, don't be afraid to question a status quo. Don't be afraid to learn something new or to seriously question the bases for your own beliefs. Joseph Smith wasn't. If what you believe is true, then it can easily withstand examination. Don't be afraid. Please learn from my experience; I let myself stay afraid for far too long and I suffered needlessly for it. When you're ready to talk, I'll be there.


24 March 2010


Well, my fears weren't justified after all. It was far worse than I imagined.

Recently my father tearfully begged me not to come out to anyone else in the family, especially the one sister I hadn't yet spoken with. "Family cohesion" was at stake, he said. Out of respect for him and his opinion, I agreed to defer, though this was against my own better judgment. I warned him that if she found out some other way, she would be even angrier than if I'd told her personally. It wouldn't be hard to discern this from my Facebook page, I told him, and she's the type who would actually read at that level of detail and figure it out. Then you'd better take all that stuff off your Facebook page, he said. And that I wasn't going to do, because it would have meant basically dismantling the whole page, un-friending dozens of people I care a lot about. I'm done with the fear-filled self-censorship.

And guess what. Sure enough, she did exactly as I predicted. Yesterday she called, I couldn't pick up. This afternoon I called her back.

I couldn't possibly recreate here the hour-long torrent of anger that gushed through that phone at me. It was a fire hydrant on full blast. I knew she would have a difficult time but I had no idea it would be this bad. Condensed version as follows, quoting her.

"I am so angry with you that I'm shaking [and I could hear it in her voice]. How dare you? You have stabbed me in the back by making me the last to know. You should never have said anything to anyone about this and I wish you never had. You are tearing this family apart with your selfish publicizing of this thing. This is not about you. You have betrayed my trust. You have become an activist for immorality with your pro-gay posts on Facebook and you are going down a sinful path that will take you right out of the Church. I can't imagine what your mother would think of what you're doing if she were still alive. I think homosexuality is disgusting, and don't preach to me what President Hinckley said about accepting gay people in the Church, I could preach right back to you. Your support for so-called same-sex marriage is wrong, it is apostate. Go ahead and call me an ignorant homophobe if you want, but I refuse to listen to anything you say, I will not read anything you send me, I will not entertain any attempt by you to twist the Scriptures or the words of the prophets to justify your immoral lifestyle choices."

There were many variations of course but these were the central themes, and many of them were almost verbatim from my dad so I'm confident they have talked. I didn't try to argue with her; it was clear that logic or reason wasn't going to penetrate such vehement hostility. I stayed calm, and let her talk as much as she wanted. I told her I was very sad that a sister I cared so much about would refuse to listen and seemed to be afraid to learn something new. But nothing I said seemed to make any difference. This was raw, powerful rage in full force. Like a flash flood, the only thing I could do was get out of its way. So I ended the call as calmly as I began it, by saying how sad I was to have heard all this, and that she should let me know when she was ready to talk again.

If she were here, and calm, and willing to engage in rational discourse after all these negative emotions were spent, I would ask some simple questions, as follows.

1. Why is it selfish of me to want to share this sensitive, vulnerable part of my heart with the family I should be able to rely on for unconditional love and understanding?

2. You built your life around the spouse you love, your kids, and all that has flowed from that. Your entire life centers on that relationship. You refer to it, think about it all day, every day. You talk about it constantly to others. Why is it fair for you to angrily insist that I never speak of my own life in the same terms, of my own aspirations to find someone to love and build a life with exactly as you have, just because you get icky feelings when you imagine what we might do behind closed doors? Are you truly incapable of understanding that it's not about sex, it's about love and connection and companionship for me just as much as it is for you? Is my heart not entitled to the same love and happiness you take for granted? Why do you think you have the right to try to prevent that?

3. Why is it okay for you to furiously accuse me of propagandizing activism and promotion of "the gay lifestyle" just because you notice that some of my Facebook friends are gay, and then to demand that I go back into the closet when I finally object to the years of my own family's homophobic jokes and cheap shots at fags who are allegedly out to destroy the family and civilization?

4. Why do you insist that it's only about your comfort and avoidance of what you think is a difficult subject, while you ignore my suffering for years in silence at bigoted, homophobic mockery by my own family and the church they raised me in?

5. Do you think I enjoy all this drama and rejection? Can you possibly believe I'd willingly subject myself to this kind of ostracism by my own family just because I think it's fun to go through this?

6. Why won't you just listen to me, please?

It's one thing to have your heart broken in a romantic relationship. It's quite another to have it broken by family members you've loved all your life and relied on for support and understanding no matter what, only to discover that their love is actually conditional. I never thought this would happen to me. But I guess I am loved and accepted within my own family only as long as I toe the official Mormon line. Isn't it sad that this family-focused, family-centered, family-obsessed church creates a culture in which so many families are so willing to angrily evict some of their own for simply talking about things that make the others uncomfortable. The only thing I can do now is just back off and give them all time to calm down and perhaps come to their senses. Fortunately my kids are solidly with me and we are a happy family ourselves. The rest will just have to get on without us for a while until they are ready to re-engage on a more civil basis. Today was not the time to say such things, but at some point I will tell them the kind of words and treatment and assumptions I'm no longer going to accept.

I'm feeling very beat up tonight. Very sad, very abandoned. Thanks to those of you who've shared your time on the phone with me today, I can't tell you how much it's meant just to be able to talk about all this with you. I guess that's why we call ourselves family, because we're there for each other when our natural families--who should be--aren't. Even with all this dreck to wade through, I'm still very blessed in so many ways, and I will never go back into the closet though the entire extended family may fume and rage and try to push me there. If they want me to remain in the group, they're just going to have to learn to deal, and to give me some respect. Because I won't sacrifice my integrity for anyone's temporary comfort.

I'm sure the soap opera isn't over.

21 March 2010

Sunday Afternoon

It's Sunday afternoon so I decided to post a post called Sunday afternoon. Another opportunity to say "Awwwwwww, sweet."

19 March 2010

Letter From An Apostle

Dear -----:

It was a real pleasure to greet and have a moment to visit with you and your wife here this past week. It is wonderful to see how enthusiastically you are received by the good people of Utah.

After listening to your talk on homosexual rights, I am very much concerned. Several others have expressed the same concern to me. It does not altogether harmonize with my own understandings regarding this subject; therefore, I thought to drop you a note--not in my official Church position, but as a personal friend. Only President Monson can speak for the Church.

I felt that your views were most liberal on this vital problem in light of the revelations, but nevertheless, I cannot deny you the right of your position if it represents your true belief and feelings.

I would like to suggest you read the teachings of leaders of the Church on this subject. President David O. McKay said homosexuality was even worse than heterosexual immorality and called it a "filthy and unnatural habit." Spencer W. Kimball called homosexuality a habit based on selfishness and caused by masturbation, said it was unnatural and contrary to the nature of God, and declared that no real love could ever exist in any homosexual relationship. He affirmed that it could be cured and suggested that those who failed to overcome it simply had not tried hard enough. As you may know, the organization called Evergreen International, which has unofficial Church backing, offers resources and support for members of the Church with this problem and who wish to change their sexual orientation.

When I reflect upon the statements of these Church leaders and remember what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah, as well as to the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations which all tolerated and supported homosexuality, I am sobered by their demise. They went contrary to the teachings of the prophets, unwittingly, no doubt, but nevertheless, the prophecy of Joseph Smith, " . . . those who are determined to pursue a course, which shows an opposition, and a feverish restlessness against the decrees of the Lord, will learn, when perhaps it is too late for their own good, that God can do His own work, without the aid of those who are not dictated by his counsel," has and will continue to be fulfilled.

In this respect, let me give you a personal experience. A friend of mine in Arizona--not a Church member--a great champion of homosexual persons--came to me after my call into the Twelve, and acknowledged President Monson to be a Prophet of God. He wanted me to ask President Monson to inquire of the Lord to see if the Lord would not lift the curse from homosexual persons and give them the privilege of same-sex marriage. I explained to him that the Lord had prohibited homosexuality; therefore, it was the Lord's responsibility--not man's--to change His decision. This friend of mine met a very tragic end by drowning. He was a most enthusiastic advocate of same-sex marriage privileges for homosexual persons and went about promoting for them all the privileges, social, opportunities, and participation enjoyed by the heterosexuals.

The statements of the prophets I reference above have been a helpful influence on me because they accord with my own understandings regarding the homosexual. I cannot, in my own feelings, accept the idea of public accommodations. I do not have any objection to recognizing the homosexual in his place and giving him every opportunity for education, for employment, for whatever contribution he can make to the society of men and the protection and blessings of God. Yet, all these things, in my judgment, should accord with the expressions of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

It is not right to force any class or race of people upon those of a different social order or sexual classification. People are happier when placed in the environment and association of like interests, sexual instincts, habits, and natural groupings.

I am enclosing a little booklet entitled "God Loveth His Children", which you may already have. If not, it is an enlightening exposition and quite well reflects the Church position in regard to these people.

I am not against legislation that would establish basic civil rights for the homosexual if it conforms to the views of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the other leaders of the Church according to the references above given. I fully agree that the homosexual is entitled to considerations also stated above, but not full social benefits nor marriage privileges with each other, nor should heterosexuals be forced to accept homosexuals into restricted heterosexual areas. In my judgment, the present effort to establish so-called "gay marriage" is vicious legislation. There needs to be some modification. The position of the Church cannot change until the Lord changes it Himself. Certainly I am not for exploiting gender-based or religious prejudices, but it is the present play-up to the homosexual voters which is unnecessarily creating problems that by a more firm, sensible approach can be avoided. There will always be a few die-hard leaders, but then that has always been true with any debatable issue. Principle--religious or otherwise--cannot be abrogated for political expediency.

Now, don't think I am against the homosexual, because I have several in my employ. We must understand and recognize their status and then, accordingly, provide for them. I just don't think we can get around the Lord's position in relation to the homosexual without punishment for our acts; going contrary to that which He has revealed. The Lord will not permit His purposes to be frustrated by man.

Please understand that I have a great respect and admiration for you, but because of my feelings I thought I should express myself as I have so you will know my personal position.

This letter is for your personal use only (also your wife's), and is not to be used in any other way. It does not require an answer.

With best wishes and success to you both always, I am

Faithfully your friend and brother,

Surprised? Astonished, even? Think this is a fake?

Well, it sort of is, but sort of isn't either. Replace all the gay references with "African-American" or "race" or what have you, as necessary, and take out one paragraph where I had to substitute some quotes from past LDS leaders, and you'll have the exact text of a 23 January 1964 letter from Mormon Apostle Delbert Stapley to Michigan Governor George Romney, in which Stapley essentially told Romney that his support for civil rights was contrary to God's will. Yet how much of this letter, as I've "amended" it, falls right into line with current Mormon thinking about God's gay children?

We all know how opinions like Stapley's ended up. And they didn't end that way because everybody sat around on their hands and kept their mouths shut and just waited for God to decide to speak. No, change happened after years of effort and lobbying and discussions and persuasion and dialogue and yes vigorous disputes over what was really right and what was wrong, what the scriptures really supported and what they didn't.

One of the main purposes of this life is to learn, grow, explore, exert ourselves, stretch, investigate, ask why and why not. The scriptures confirm time and time again that God rewards those who ask Him, who debate with Him, who aren't afraid to question and even dispute Him. And there is precedent for His children persuading Him to change his mind.

So despite recent requests by members of my own family to keep quiet and not talk about this because "nobody needs to know," I will respectfully decline and will continue to speak out. Silence perpetuates the problems and the injustice. Sunlight, honesty and freedom are far better.

To see the original letter from Delbert Stapley, click here.

16 March 2010

Slogging and Jogging, Ups and Downs

Some ups and downs today.

On the down side, another issue with ex-spouse. These are always depressing, but on reflection, I am a lot stronger than I used to be. I decided not to be down-hearted. I'll get through it, I've made it this far.

On the up side, several things.

First nice thing. I was honored and humbled by being asked to officiate at the wedding in June of two friends whom I love dearly. I'm thrilled.

Second nice thing. I actually broke loose from the office at the insanely early hour of 5:10 pm and drove to a nearby wilderness park for a 2 mile hike through some of the most beautiful country around. Fresh forest air & scenery did wonders for this deskbound mandarin. The weather still being somewhat cool, there weren't a lot of other people on the trails, which was nice.

At one point along the trail the forest gives way to rolling meadows covering hillsides. There wasn't a soul around. In front of me stretched a long road going up, up, up a hill. Yeah, that hill over there to the right. Same one. Suddenly I was struck by how much like my life that moment was; I'm surrounded by beauty, yes, but I'm trudging alone up a long and demanding road that ends I know not where. My natural instinct was to look up and say "Are you there to help?"

And a very funny thing happened. Just as quickly, just as quietly, but just as unmistakeably as anything I've ever heard, an answer came back. "Yes, I'm here. You'll be all right. Keep going."

And that was that. So I did. I kept going, heart glowing a little brighter from that brief touch like the fingertips on the Sistine Ceiling. And on to the top of the hill, where I was rewarded with a beautiful view that stretched almost the entire length of San Francisco Bay north to south. Had it been a little less cloudy and hazy I could have seen all the way from Novato to San Jose. It was magnificent. Lesson: When you have to trudge up a hill alone, keep going, you may be rewarded beyond what you expect.

Third nice thing. Having descended from the hilltops, as I walked along a trail toward my car, a jogger approached. Late 30's, dark hair, muscular, good-looking. Not going too fast. He looked at me, I looked at him. Eyes locked, gaze didn't break. He smiled. I smiled. Not just a polite half-hearted one. Genuine full smiles. Eyes stayed locked as he passed. Nice to see another family member on the trail.

I headed back to work (yes, that's right) with a happier heart. I should hit that trail more often.

A Little Light-Hearted Therapy

My latest guest column at Brody's Notes & Scribbles.

13 March 2010

Zeus Flings A Thunderbolt

This is going to be a lot harder than I thought.

I recently came out to another sister, a staunch TBM and cultural conservative. She was polite, gave me the standard PC Mormon line about "I still love you," and also "I will never accept 'the behavior' or 'the lifestyle.'" She also forbade me to say anything to her husband or kids, insisting she would tell them the way she wanted, when she wanted. While I have to respect her family prerogative, I also knew this was codespeak for "I want to be sure this information is spun to them through a Church-approved filter." And we all know what that means.

Today I had lunch with my dad and stepmom. After lunch he took me aside and said he'd had a call from this sister who told him all about our conversation. Remember, when I came out to my dad he begged me not to tell anyone else in the family, so he's already going to be displeased about this. "How do you think she reacted," he asked.

Suspecting she'd sugar-coated things when talking to me, I said what I was almost certain of: "She was angry and frightened and upset." Bingo. From that point my conversation with dad lasted another 20 minutes or so and I can't hope to rehearse it all here. But the highlights from him were as follows, much of it said with such urgency and earnestness--and sometimes a raised voice--that I could see the tears in his eyes.

"You must not tell any more family members about this. I have the cohesion of a very large family to think about and your telling anyone else will threaten that unity. This is not about you, it's about the feelings of those you talk to. The other sister you came out to over a year ago now says she resents your crusade to pressure all the rest of us into accepting your abnormal lifestyle choices. There are gay people in the church who serve in callings and even in the temple, I have no problem with that, but they know what lines not to cross. So you must stop pushing this in everyone's faces, I don't advertise the fact that I'm straight and you should stop pushing the fact that you're gay onto everyone else. If you tell your other sister it will fracture your relationship with her and if you think she will figure it out by exploring your Facebook profile or the identities of your Facebook friends then you had better remove all that material from your Facebook page. Please don't send me any more articles or information about this issue, I don't need to read them. You are causing discord in the family with your campaign to push us to accept your abnormality as if it were proper. It doesn't matter if our feelings are irrational or have no factual basis, they are our feelings and you must defer to them."

I was stunned at this. The sister I first came out to over a year ago always seemed totally accepting and I've laughed and joked with her about it since then, feeling completely safe to open my heart to her. Apparently that trust was misplaced. The sister I just recently came out to pretended to be tolerant and loving when we talked, but then went running to daddy to vent what I guess I suspected would be her true feelings anyway, ones far harsher and more judgmental than she expressed to me.

For the first time in my life I have cause to question whether I am loved unconditionally within my own extended family. This is bewildering, to say the least. My father is a wonderful man in many respects; he has worked hard all his life to provide for us, to overcome some great challenges in his own childhood, and I have great respect and love for him. But with all due respect to his many admirable qualities, I don't believe him when he says he has no problem with gay people in the Church even if they "toe the line." He keeps talking about my "abnormal lifestyle choices." I've never even held another guy's hand, let alone kissed one or done anything more than that. So far my "abnormal choices" consist of simply saying "I'm gay" and associating with gay friends. Yet apparently that is enough to freak him out and bring him to the edge of tears as he accuses me of threatening to fracture the family if I so much as talk about this anymore.

He and my sisters would not act like this if they really believed just the status of being gay was okay. It's obvious that they aren't able to walk the talk and that they have a huge problem with this, far more than any of them have been willing to admit.

What did I say to dad in response to all this? Again, I can't hope to capture everything, but basically I said the following.

"It sounds like you are trying to push me back into the closet. Well forget it, I'm not going back. I have spent most of my life making decisions about that life based in part on fear of what the rest of you might think, and I'm not going to do that anymore. This is a data point, that's all. It changes nothing about who I have always been. The only difference is that you know me better now. I have never shoved this in anyone's face but I'm not going to stop talking about it either if it's relevant, because it's a part of my life. Oh yes you do advertise your heterosexuality every single day, you just don't think of it that way when you do it. We already had that conversation and you acknowledged I was right. Why is it selfish of me to want to trust my own family with this very personal disclosure if it will upset their prejudices and make them feel uncomfortable? Is preserving their sense of security in their homophobia more important than my ability to be honest and open with the ones I should be able to rely on the most? Out of respect for you I will defer the conversation with my remaining sister, but she is going to learn about it in time regardless, and she may be even more angry then that I wasn't the one who told her. And why haven't you answered all the questions I asked you before about why you believe various things like the Greek and Roman civilizations collapsed because they tolerated The Gays?"

He said he thought he had answered all those questions, but he hadn't. So he agreed I should re-send them, which I will. When I told him of all the professional associations who said homosexuality was a normal part of human sexuality, he said "it's a fringe thing, it's out there on the edges, and by that standard alcoholism is normal too because it's always been there but it's never been acceptable."

If I had answered his question directly, I would have said Yes, absolutely I DO want you all to accept my being gay and my seeking happiness in a gay relationship as good and normal. Because you are all shot through with more homophobia than I thought and you need to get over it. You are so locked into your sealed systems of thinking that you won't even consider that there may be more information or other ways of looking at this.

But that would have done no good. First I have to get him to stop crying in panic that the mere mention of my being gay is going to splinter the family he's worked hard all his life to build. Line upon line, precept on precept, here a little and there a little. Rome wasn't built in a day. I have myself acknowledged that if coming out to someone will damage the relationship, then perhaps it should be deferred. So I will do so with my remaining sister, for now.

Meantime, I think the best thing is for me to back away from the rest of the family for a while and count my blessings elsewhere, as those family members take time to reflect and, I hope, adjust. I have plenty on my plate work-wise, I have wonderful kids who love their dad and are solidly with me on this issue, and they'd be plenty pissed off if they knew how the rest of the family is reacting. I have wonderful friends who I love so very much, two of whom have already this evening patiently listened to my rants and frustrations and offered solace and comfort (thanks and hugs and love to you both).

And if one of these sisters eventually notices that they haven't heard from me for a while and pings me to ask where I've been, I'll tell her. I don't trust you anymore. I am not trying to shove your nose in this but you have to accept that I am not going back into the closet and you're going to have to deal with this openly, as is every member of your family eventually. Will you do it as a Christian with true kindness and tolerance and charity? Or will you continue to feign politeness while privately still believing that I have deliberately chosen an evil abnormality? Will you allow yourself to believe when I say I am happier and more authentic and more of a true Christian now than I ever was before, because I came out? Will you believe your own eyes if I find a partner to love and share my life with, and you see how happy we are together? Because you're going to have to confront all of that eventually. I have tried to respect you and trust you by sharing this part of my life with you, and I don't think you comprehend how difficult it was to do that. It looks like my trust may have been misplaced, but I hope not. Was it?

I will never again be as I was. If you want me in the family from here on out, you're going to have to accept me as I am now, and that may (I hope) include a husband in the future. How you feel about this is your choice, your issue, not mine. I won't be ashamed of the way God made me, or of what I know is my best way to happiness. Deal with it.

Your move.


This one's a keeper. If you don't smile and say "Awwww!" at the end of this video then your heart is colder than any stone.

10 March 2010

Hot Cookies and Pulchritude

Constant travel can be tiring, but one of its benefits is that I never know when circumstances will surprise and delight.

Tonight I ended up in an airport security queue behind a young woman with a very full carry-on bag. My first instinct was to regret being there, fearing she would take forever to prep for the x-ray. But then--first delightful surprise--I saw atop the pile of stuff in her open bag a small pink box with a Hot Cookie label on it. Some readers may recall posts about my own visits to Hot Cookie, what I bought there, and how I had a hilarious adventure myself with airport security screeners as a result.

Did I say something to her? Need you even ask? Of course I did. "You went to Hot Cookie?" And instantly she was all smiles and we began a conversation as animated and jovial as if we'd been lifelong friends. As we prepped for the x-ray screen I told her what happened last time I'd tried to carry one of those cookies through. She giggled and said she hoped she'd be spared that.

Finally it came our turn, and I said "all right, here we go, can't wait to see what happens!" And no, she didn't get flagged for a visual inspection. Know why? Because the TSA inspectors knew exactly what it was. When her bag emerged from the x-ray machine, both of them were laughing already. They'd recognized it on sight. They knew all about Hot Cookie and what you could buy there. They even called over one of their colleagues to enjoy the joke. So my new friend obligingly pulled it out. The cookie, I mean. From the box. More guffaws resulted all round. She volunteered that it was a gag gift for her mother. More laughs. I said she should get her mom a box of a dozen of them for Mother's Day. Even more laughs. Could you imagine this story happening in Salt Lake City? Don't think so. I'm sure glad I live where I do.

We walked together toward our gates, then said goodbye with big smiles and waves. And I was instantly transported from the ridiculous to the sublime, as I found myself surrounded at the gate by the entire University of San Francisco baseball team, all decked out in suits, traveling for an early season away game, virtually every one looking like an AF model. I hadn't seen such a parade of pulchritude since--well, actually, since lunch today at the company cafeteria, where even my colleague from Finance, who's also family but rarely visits main campus, noticed the plethora of eye candy. Damn, he said, I didn't know what I was missing, I'm gonna have to eat lunch here more often. And yes, you don't need to ask, I will definitely miss that particular perk when my current project ends.

So here I am again, forward window seat, writing another post and glancing outside and down 35,000 feet through the darkness to the lacework of lights that define the California coast. My regular commute. It is still strange to feel completely at home in two places 500 miles apart. My latest read is a biography of Joseph Needham, Cambridge professor who spent much of his life in China. Its author said that "despite his goading wanderlust he was often overwhelmed by waves of introspection and homesickness." Wow do I know what that's like. Another walking paradox like me, it seems. Needing an anchor, but needing to wander too. Glad to go home, then missing far-flung familiar places and yearning to go back again. Then missing home once more. Will I ever be perfectly settled, happy and content in one place, for good? Probably not. Like Lord Byron said, "there are wanderers o'er eternity, Whose boat drives on and on, and anchored ne'er shall be."

06 March 2010

It's Just . . .

Today I attended the "Just Love" seminar at St. Paul's Cathedral in San Diego. Sponsored by Integrity, the Anglican LGBT advocacy organization, the seminar's focus was on so-called "ex-gay" organizations, who they are, what they do, and why they should be confronted and resisted. This would be outfits like NARTH, Love Won Out, Exodus International, and so forth.

Having never been through one of these organizations' programs and knowing only a few people who've actually flirted with so-called "change" therapy, I was eager to learn more about these groups, about whom I knew little but was already deeply skeptical. Why? Well, I've discovered that during the years I spent fighting my orientation on my own, I ended up adopting virtually every element of what they say will work to make a miserable gay boy happily straight.

There was only one problem. Doing all that made me a miserable pseudo-straight boy, while abandoning it made me happily authentic and gay. Just the opposite of what those ex-gay groups say should have happened. I've already given NARTH-affiliated Dr. Jeff Robinson a piece of my mind about that here.

This morning I heard from and afterward met & talked with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International who subsequently left it to marry his co-founder and is now an outspoken critic of the organization, Wayne Besen, founder of Truth Wins Out, a non-profit watchdog dedicated to exposing the misinformation spread by ex-gay groups, Jim Burroway, editor of Box Turtle Bulletin, a leading gay advocacy Web site, and Scott Long, Director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.

All confirmed my suspicions about all the ex-gay groups I've heard about. They distort research, misrepresent, spread fear and shame with myths like "gays aren't really 10% of the population, being gay is a choice and people aren't born that way, you can change your sexual orientation, and homosexuality is always abnormal." And then they charge you handsome fees for the privilege of trying to cure you of this thing they say is wrong. They leverage the insecurity of their customers into an income stream. They tell those customers they are possessed by demons, that they're damaged goods, "sexually broken," mentally ill, that they're not good enough for God. They lie continuously and they profit from their innocent, trusting clients' fears. Few things disgust me more than that. Naturally it's in their financial interest to continue spreading the fear that they can then charge people for trying to "cure." And several of these organizations have ties to LDS-affiliated people and groups like Evergreen International, Dean Byrd, and others. You can't sleep with the pigs without getting mucked up yourself, folks.

When confronted with their lack of success and constantly shifting, contradictory assertions, these groups refuse to engage in substantive debate. They back off claims that they offer "change" since "only God can change people." Further pressed, they concede that they can't promise changes in actual orientation, they can only teach coping skills. This is something I discovered on my own. It shouldn't be surprising that more than one prominent "ex-gay ministry" leader has ended up exposed for leading a secret life of gay promiscuity while publicly profiting from pretending to cure what he was secretly enjoying himself after hours.

Bottom line? I heard enough today to confirm what I'd suspected. These prominent ex-gay organizations are dangerous, dishonest frauds, perpetuating not only fear and insecurity, but also the popular perceptions that being gay is a changeable choice, that it's a perverse lifestyle. In so doing they also foster the kind of attitudes that lead to homophobic hate crimes against innocent people. So to any gay Mormon boy who's thinking of submitting himself to one of these organizations or any professional affiliated with them for "change therapy," I implore you to read the Web sites linked above first.

Dean Scott Richardson of St. Paul's Cathedral said two important things this morning. First, it's important for people of good faith to be against things from time to time, things like these "ex-gay ministries" that are pernicious and damaging. But it's just as important for those people to be for something positive, in this case, to be for the idea that we can and should do our part to turn the human race into the human family, for whom the promises of the pledge of allegiance really do come true: liberty and justice for all.

04 March 2010

Rob Comes Out Again

After I took those first furtive peeks and steps outside the closet, I started seeing and hearing comments about how the process actually takes a long time, that you end up coming out over and over again. As a newbie, I wasn't quite sure how that could be, but I caught on pretty quickly.

I'm not one to go about advertising my orientation. It's not what defines me, it's not the sole focus of my life by any means. But it is a part of what I am, and I make no apologies. I'll talk about it if/when it's relevant, just like any straight person would. But I've also found that those early comments were right, in a sense you do end up coming out of the closet many times.

So blog friends, let me tell you about the latest one for me. A few weeks ago I ran across a blog called Brody's Notes & Scribbles out of Washington D.C. I was intrigued. I made a brief comment on one of the posts.

A few days later I awoke to a long e-mail from the blog's author, Brody Levesque, a veteran journalist in Washington. To my astonishment, he invited me to become a guest columnist for his blog, which I suspect gets a little more attention than mine does. Apparently Brody knows people at The Advocate, and by curious coincidence, within 24 hours of my post about last week's memorial service for Stuart Matis, my photo of the Los Altos LDS chapel showed up in The Advocate's story about Stuart. (Raise eyebrow here)

That invitation led to some phonecalls and detailed discussions, with the result that this morning your humble correspondent's first guest column is up at Brody's site. I'm flattered by Brody's invitation and excited by the prospect of being able to speak to a wider audience.

So that's my latest coming out story. There's no hiding anymore. The curtain is now pulled completely back and Rob has stepped onto the stage. For Facebook friends who've wondered about why I recently began shifting you all to my real name profile, well, now you know one of the reasons.

And for those of you who may land here from Brody's blog for the first time, welcome and thanks for stopping by. I have only one voice, but I do have a voice. I hope you like what you find here.

01 March 2010


Most of the time your humble correspondent here manages to maintain a pretty even temperament. A calm demeanor. Working for the last year at a very high-pressure high-profile major technology company in the Bay Area where they think they're the ones with the real work ethic, my Southern California laid-back surfer boy attitudes, mannerisms and language have not gone unnoticed or unremarked.

And yet, this evening, walking back to the office from the local watering hole and reading a couple of other blogs on the iPhone, I realized I had reached a boiling point. I wanted to take that phone and throw it against a tree and jump up and down and indulge in a torrent of cursing. Mark Twain was right when he said sometimes profanity affords a relief that even prayer doesn't.

So if you heard what you thought was a hurricane from the US West Coast within the last hour, it wasn't. It was just me ranting outside about what Sarah described as the worlds of difference in how local Mormon leaders interpret things and administer or withhold privileges, and Twinky Chink's report of a senior Mormon leader who preached to his flock that Boticelli's Birth of Venus and Michelangelo's David are pornography. It was just me yelling at those Mormon leaders, saying things I'd never said to them before. Like WTF! And "Just shut up already! You've got innocent trusting people who think you're telling them the truth all the time, ex officio! Just shut up!"

And of course, my natural predilection to look for cosmic principles in minutiae led me instantly to think of all the other incidents I've seen or heard of like that where local leaders preached the most staggering idiocies as if they were unquestioned gospel truth. And more senior leaders blithely backed them up or didn't lift a finger to stop or correct. Damn, I hate priestcraft. No matter the location or packaging. For non-Mormon readers, that word comes from the Book of Mormon, which basically defines it as men setting themselves up as a "light to the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world," at the expense of truth and honesty and other things that really matter.

Sometimes it really really sucks to be a gay Mormon boy. But sometimes I'm glad I am one. Know why? Because the Mormon theological tradition has some principles that other Christian denominations don't focus quite so much on. Like this one: because the Savior redeemed all of us from the fall of Adam, we are "free forever, knowing good from evil, to act for [ourselves] and not to be acted upon" (2 Nephi 2:26). Or this one: we should be eagerly "engaged in a good cause, and do many things of [our] own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness" (Doc. & Cov. 58:27).

So I'm gonna put a little different spin on those scriptures. Like 19th Century Mormon leader George Q. Cannon said, don't trust anybody just because they're a church leader (in any church), "though he be a bishop, an apostle, or a president. If you do, they will fail you at some time or place, they will do wrong or seem to, and your support [will] be gone."

Be strong and think for yourself. Read, study, get smart about the things that matter so you can make your own decisions for your own life. Learn from others who are smarter and wiser than you. Study whatever books you accept as scripture or inspired or wise or whatever, seek inspiration and guidance from whatever divine source you may believe in. But don't abdicate to anyone else your own responsibility to choose your life's course. Don't listen to fools like the people Sarah and Twinky Chink talked about, wherever you find them. They're wasting your time. Just laugh them off and go on your way.

Listen to what Steve Jobs said over there to the left in my "Words to Live By": "Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others' opinions drown your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."