Why I Support #blacklivesmatter

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Remaining silent or passively supportive isn’t an option for me any longer. So, I’m going to explain my WHY.

If nothing else, I explain here so that my kids and grandkids will know on which side of history I landed, because even though I later explain here how my parents behaved, I don’t really know what they thought about racial issues.

Here are three true experiences that formulate why I think like I do about the topic:

First, in 1980 I was a high school freshman sporting a large white-boy afro of naturally curly hair. I had befriended some upper classmen in the drama class and one weekend night we were driving home from performing at a Shakespeare festival at UCSD. I mention that only to give you the picture that by no stretch of anyone’s imagination could we have been considered “thugs.” We were basic white boys with a beat up old car and a trunk full of our Shakespeare costumes of tights, hats and silly shoes driving home on the southern California freeway at about 9 or 10 at night. At one point, bright police lights flashed on us and as the driver pulled over to the side, we joked with him that he must have been speeding and was therefore going to be ticketed and he’d get in trouble with his parents….

We sat there joking around waiting for the police to arrive at the driver’s window, like they do. Suddenly we heard heaving metal tapping on both side back passenger windows and turned to see 2 cops positioned behind the car at 5 and 7 o’clock with guns and flashlights pointed at our heads shouting “Get the F*^&% out of the car!” Shots of adrenaline and terror raced though us as we frantically tried to exit the 2 door car. I was in the back seat and had trouble moving the seat up so I could get out and that only caused more shouting with the guns still at my head. The police made us lie face down, spread-eagled in the ice-plant at the side of the freeway while the officers searched our car (illegally). One officer remained guarding the four of us lying on ground and cocked and pointed his gun at me again when I barely moved and tried to adjust my position. Long story short, of course they found nothing. They took the driver aside and tried to get him to confess…to what, I don’t know. Eventually we were released with a warning… again a warning of what we had no idea.

The experience was terrifying, humiliating and destroyed at once any default confidence I had in the police. Our parents were furious, and their cumulative complaints led to a meeting weeks later with the station sergeant. At this meeting, the sergeant failed to provide any satisfactory explanation and his purpose was clearly to defend and make excuses for the officers. Our parents wanted an apology. We didn’t get one. They wanted the officers to be disciplined. They weren’t.

Of course, I know those officers don’t represent ALL police officers. I know good men and women who are police, but I also know from my experience that there are also bad ones and some of the good ones defend the bad ones or fail to hold them accountable.

I also suspect that had we been black, that experience would have ended very differently. In fact, I suspect that we were pulled over precisely because from outside the car, driving on the freeway they thought we were black. I was the most visible to them in the back seat with my curly afro hair. I can only imagine their shock when 4 lily white boys climbed out of that car and then again later as they found our tights and Shakespearean clothes in the car rather than guns or drugs.  

I wish no harm on any police officer and have dear friends with police officers in the family and I sympathize with their worry. But trust and respect still need to be earned. The uniform alone doesn’t grant that.

Second, jump forward about 10 years and I found myself working and living in Japan. I lived in a smallish town where I was the only western-looking human. I loved my time in Japan. Final answer.

Yet, there were also some exhausting elements to the culture that took a while to get used to. For one, I got stared at a lot. In the beginning it’s quaint. Months later it’s just annoying.

I also sometimes got followed by security in shops and malls as if I were a criminal and they were trying to catch me shoplifting. You might say, “well just don’t shoplift and you’ll be fine.” True. But I know from experience that to be profiled as a criminal by sight like that is demoralizing and an unfair theft of peace of mind and plain unjust. It creates anger, resentment as well as the thought, “If I’m already a criminal to you, then I might as well just do it.”

I’m convinced that the founding fathers knew this feeling when they created the 4th Amendment against unlawful search and seizure. I think it’s one of the least understood and most violated part of the constitution. I value it as much as many of my friends and relatives support the 2nd Amendment (I do too, but you know what I mean).  Here in the US I believe my brothers and sisters of color deserve the freedom and protection of the 4th Amendment and yet it’s repeatedly violated against them. They deserve their 4th Amendment rights just as much as you deserve your 2nd Amendment rights.  

Third, I grew up in a racist church. I apologize to my LDS loved ones for being so blunt, but it’s the truth. It’s the truth about the organization’s history, but for individuals within the church things are more complex.

I honestly don’t believe my Mormon parents were “racist” in the way that most white people would define it. I don’t recall them saying anything or doing anything negative about anyone of another race, not even in jokes. Having both grown up in Salt Lake City Utah, I don’t believe they had a lot of exposure to any non-white folks, and our lives in the suburbs of San Diego, CA didn’t provide much exposure either. Racial diversity just wasn’t a common theme in our home, positively or negatively (white privilege, I get it).

I do remember vividly in 1978 when the Mormon church announced that “all worthy males” could finally be ordained to the Mormon Priesthood, (thus partially erasing over 140 years of organizational racism). My mother told me about it in positive terms (Women are still banned, btw).

Without getting into the nitty-gritty details of Mormonism, what that basically meant was that black men could finally be ordained and hold leadership positions and black women and children could finally participate in Mormon temple ceremonies, which is the gateway into the highest Mormon heaven. Prior to that, anyone of black ancestry were barred from all that. Blocked from the top tier of Mormon heaven. How is that not racist?

There’s no other way to color that than to say it was racist.

It was constantly preached in racist terms and called God’s will…until it wasn’t. To date there’s been no adequate apology. Just a lot of double-speak and pretending that they didn’t teach it as doctrine. They did.

And guess what? That I’m aware of, my parents and older Mormon relatives never questioned it or spoke against that racism prior to 1978. They went along with it and agreed with it even if at times they found it uncomfortable (I hope). Obedience to racist leaders trumped their inner voice of integrity that they must have heard (I hope). That was racist of them. I’m embarrassed by that fact because they weren’t helpless. They found themselves on the wrong side of history and sat comfortably in that state without protest (that I know of).

But there were Mormons who behaved differently. For example, Mitt Romney’s father, George Romney, famously supported civil rights demonstrations at the same time that Mormons leaders were vilifying the civil rights movement and its leaders. There’s even evidence that Mormon leadership shamed Romney and called him out for his contradiction to their racist policies. He persisted anyway. Others were excommunicated for pointing out that the doctrine and policy was racist.

One thing that isn’t recognized much is that as good as the 1978 policy change was, there were some racist undertones in Mormonism that persisted for decades. For one, they still discouraged interracial marriage for years after 1978. In fact, I don’t believe they officially denounced their policy against miscegenation until 2013. Even then, it was without an apology. Leaders and people just stopped talking about it and now pretend it never existed.

But in 1984 I went to Sao Paulo, Brazil on my Mormon mission just 6 years after that “revelation” and while interracial marriage was still discouraged.  Brazil opened my eyes to a whole different racial world and the hurtful ramifications of that earlier Mormon doctrine. For one, racial lines were a lot blurrier in Brazil than in the United States. Interracial marriage was historically a lot more common in Brazil and therefore a majority of Brazilians I interacted with had some form of African blood in their veins. I met white Mormon bishops married to black women which in 1984 would have still caused a stir in US Mormon congregations. It quickly became apparent to me how utterly ridiculous any statement against interracial marriage was because it was far too late for so many people there and how disrespectful it was to their ancestors to say that they did something wrong by marrying across racial lines.  

During my 20 months there, I heard story after story of people who had wanted to join Mormonism pre-1978 but as soon as there was any genealogical sign of African ancestors the missionaries walked away and never returned. In fact, the day I arrived in Brazil I sat in a training session where my mission president instructed us to not teach poor Brazilians in the favelas because “they weren’t ready” for the Mormon gospel. I remember it vividly because one of the Brazilian missionaries in that training meeting called him out on the racial undertones of that policy and they argued back and forth for several minutes (most of the favelas residents had darker skin). The policy to not teach people living in the favelas persisted in my mission at least from 1984 – 1986. As a side note, I disobeyed that policy and taught in the favelas several times on my mission and converted several black favela dwellers to Mormonism (something I’m simultaneously proud of and embarrassed by).

Still, I’m embarrassed that, like my Mormon ancestors, I was primarily a silent follower and participant in the organizations racist policies, and I apologize that as a young adult I had any part of those racial undertones of Mormonism. That’s what I hope my kids understand. I want them to know that I was a willing participant but that I currently recognize and reject any implication that I agree with it or excuse it now.

I also apologize to my black friends today that it takes some sort of personal experience like mine for white people to admit that even when we don’t consider ourselves racist, we’re part of the problem even if in very small ways. Cumulatively the small things add up.

I know my isolated singular personal examples are trivial and maybe even laughable when held alongside your lifelong struggles with being profiled, treated more harshly and not seen, but it’s all I’ve got and I believe you. I support you. I have dear friends with little black children that need to have conversations with their little ones that I’ve never had to have with my kids. That pains me to imagine. My current support for #blacklivesmatter is specifically for them and their smart, creative and adorable children who deserve all the opportunities, freedoms and good assumptions that my children have had in life.

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Scientology-Lite

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Reblogged from 2011 in honor of Leah Remini’s A&E series on Scientology

 

I’ve joked several times about Mormonism being “Scientology-lite” but until recently I never had the chance or much interest to do a compare/contrast. But I suppose you can’t say that without backing it up, so here goes.

I probably have as much knowledge or interest in Scientology as the general population has regarding Mormonism.  I’m familiar with several buildings in my local area, I know some of the absurd parts of the doctrine and I’ve heard rumors.  Of course, I know about the celebrity members and I’ve also witnessed several  “Anti-Scientology” street protesters (former members I presume) holding placards declaring it to be a cult.

I was recently shocked when over dinner one night a friend and colleague came out as a former Scientologist.  She spoke well of several Scientology beliefs and practices and said she still utilizes them.  She’s a very successful business woman, but I had to scrape my jaw off the floor as she related her experience…some good, some bad…just like my experience with Mormonism.

Then, last week there was a pretty extensive New Yorker article which profiled Paul Haggis (Hollywood Director, “Crash”), an apostate of that religion. I found that his experience rang true in many respects to mine as a Mormon apostate so I’ve decided to list the similarities that I uncovered in the article.  I make no claims that this is a result of extensive research.  It’s anecdotal.

I admit that there’s not much to compare as far as doctrine goes, but it’s not doctrine that defines a restrictive religion, or a cult, or whatever you feel comfortable calling it.  It’s generally the practices, the procedures and the behaviors of the leadership, of the membership and the manner in which it sells itself to the public (to both members and non-members). So those are the things I’m listing here that are similar between the experiences of two apostates: Paul Haggis and myself.  Most of this list includes ideas or statements taken directly from the article that could apply just as much to my experience as they do to his:

In no particular order…

  • The church refuses to account for member behavior even when they are quoting or following leaders
  • There are a lot of “unwritten laws”
  • Members default to defending the church, even to lying or turning back on family members
  • It’s all subjective…so how do you “know”?
  • Converts are often “loners looking for a club to join”
  • Testimonies are overly effusive.
  • There’s “some good” in it, so “what harm can there be?”
  • The crazy S#!$ is introduced later … there’s a long process until you are fully entrenched. Most Mormons, for example, have no idea about the “Second Annointing” the highest ordinance in Mormonism.
  • Fascinating, enigmatic founder
  • Church underpays its employees and designates the people doing the real work as volunteers.
  • Requires “sincerity” for it all to work. If it doesn’t work it’s the lack of sincerity of the person, not a fault of the system.
  • Doesn’t “look” like a cult initially
  • Proof is in the lives of its members
  • Testimonies often include, “I don’t know where I’d be without….”
  • Levels of membership.  Focus changes over time.
  • Perverse pride in membership
  • Charitable but not egalitarian
  • Lack of curiosity keeps members in – they are uninterested and afraid of information
  • Willed myopia of membership
  • Hard to get through “scriptures”
  • At upper levels of membership they are deprived of adequate food and sleep
  • Members tell themselves they are wonderful examples to the world of good living
  • Inability of membership to laugh at themselves
  • Certain processes are confusing and unsatisfying
  • Members project unambiguous, non ambivalent view of world
  • “If it changes me for the better, who cares if it’s true?”
  • Arrogance of membership with lots of superlatives used in sales pitch
  • Church avoids “overt political stands” but membership is almost entirely homogeneous politically
  • Apostasy is all the apostates’ fault.  All disconnection to family  and friends is blamed on that decision
  • Wives tend to stay and denounce husbands who leave
  • Church discipline (kicking people out) is seen as “for their own good”
  • Members consider membership “safe” and a “protection”
  • Members  maintain positive exterior, but a very reproachful interaction with former members
  • Public image of religion is MOST IMPORTANT
  • There’s a difference between public tenets and private interaction
  • Greatest fear is expulsion from religion
  • Church holds the power of eternal life
  • Members are taught to handle internal conflict within church’s own justice system
  • Big Brother type files kept of high level apostates
  • Members attack apostates’ character rather than address the issues
  • Church doesn’t live up to its own standards for its members
  • Special service is supposedly to “help people” but most of the time and energy is really just spent on  serving the purposes of the organization
  • Sells itself as “fastest growing religion”
  • Members think it “does more good”
  • Critics are vilified and suspected of “anti” sentiment
  • Members sacrifice a lot with little to show for it
  • Original books are changed and church denies the changes are significant
  • All or nothing claims, “base stories are true or else it’s ALL a lie”
  • Shame in leaving, “Everyone else could see it was a sham, why couldn’t I?”
  • Apostates who leave claim they feel “alive” and can think clearly for the first time in a long time (or ever)

I must also say that I think the “-Lite” portion applies here because there are some serious accusations of institutional violence in Scientology and of literally being held hostage that don’t apply to Mormonism in my experience.

But a comment on the Mormon Expression version of this post made the following excellent point:

“The thing that really struck me in the article is that Scientology is in its Brigham Young phase both timewise and in their organizational behavior. I think if we compared some of the organizational things that are more extreme in Scientology, the Mormon church was a lot more like that under Brigham Young.”

Additional Reading:

Cult is as Cult Does (10 Friendly Suggestions)

A Lil Bit O’ Coming Out History; Why You Should Care (Yes, YOU Mr. So-Called Straight-Acting Homo)

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Today’s post has been festering inside me for a long time.  Today, October 11 is National Coming Out Day and it’s the right time to post it.

First, I need to back up a bit.

Ancient artwork tells us that homosexuality has always been around. Phallic male figures and depictions of male intercourse are the first incidence of open homosexuality that we know of. The Neolithic and Bronze age brought us the world’s first intersex art sculptures. Was homosexuality accepted as part of those societies? Or, are these depictions just the equivalent of today’s underground media?

In the centuries that followed, artists became bolder in their depiction of LGBT related matters; from visual depictions of homosexual intercourse to lesbian themes in literature, homosexuality has long existed in society.

That’s not to say this previous artwork was all created without resistance. The first debate we know of was when Plato published Symposium in which Greek intellectuals argue that love between males is the highest form, while sex with women is lustful and utilitarian. In the first century CE Nero, the Emperor or Rome married two men, Pythagoras and Sporus. A hundred and fifty years later Rome  punished homosexuality. How did all the other homosexuals at the time live their lives?

Then, for some reason, Nonnus’ Dionysiaca written in the late 4th and/or early 5th century AD became the last known piece of literature for nearly 1,000 years to celebrate homosexual passion. It is safe to assume that extreme measures were taken against homosexuality. There were laws enacted and punishments served. What did homosexuals do during that time period? How did they hide? How did they meet?

Homosexuality pops up a lot in legal history. In 1642 Richard Cornish was
executed in Virginia for alleged homosexual acts with a servant.

The late eighteenth century marked the first time a modern Western author treated homosexuality openly in art and it was done as activism, or an attempt to make a change.  “Different from Others”, one of the first explicitly gay films, was released in 1919. A man named Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld  co-wrote, co-funded and acted in the movie a silent film whose main character comes out to thwart his extortionist gay ex-lover, but subsequently loses his job and commits suicide. The project was intended as resistance against Paragraph 175, the 1871 German law that criminalized male homosexuality.

Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935)

Hirschfeld was an adult male in the early part of the 20th century who was out and not being quiet nor polite about it. He traveled and lived openly with his male partner Li Shiu Tong as he argued for tolerance and acceptance of sexual minorities like himself. What were all the other homosexuals doing at this time?

Closer to home, in 1924 Henry Gerber formed the Society for Human Rights, the first gay group in the US, but the group was quickly shut down. We know he was pretty obviously gay because in 1917, Gerber had been briefly committed to a mental institution because of his homosexuality. Things like that didn’t happen to the covert straight-acting guys who could hide it and blend in. Gerber was at the vanguard of a growing awareness among gays and lesbians that their problems stemmed not from their sexual natures but from oppression.

History began to see homosexuals resist and come out from hiding. Whereas homosexuality was always a fact, there appeared to be false starts in artistic fascination, appreciation, and acceptance. I believe it’s safe to say that the vast majority of homosexuals lived quiet lives of desperation, loneliness and fear of punishment. Whether they lived on the fringes of society or hidden among acceptable society in mixed orientation marriages or as confirmed bachelors we don’t really know.

The first known protests in the U.S. for gay rights and equal treatment were not conducted by “masc”, straight-acting guys who could blend in with society. More often than not drag queens, trans women and gay hustlers were the ones who spoke up first and who had the balls to be out, loud and proud 24 hours a day.

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Compton’s Cafeteria Riot

When in 1966 a policeman in Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco grabbed a drag queen, she threw a cup of coffee in his face. People flipped tables and threw cutlery.  Drag queens swung their heavy purses at officers.  The crowd trashed a cop car and set a newsstand on fire.

Stonewall in 1969 is often thought of as an uprising of gay men. In reality, it was drag queens, black drag queens, who fought the police at the famous Stonewall Inn rebellion in 1969.

It’s safe to say the current path to LGBTQ equality has been paved primarily by misfits and the flamboyant. These are the same parts of our community that are criticized at Pride events for making too bold a statement, or for being too “in your face”, or for being too “Fem” for the self-described “Masc” newbies.

I cringe a little when I hear newly out gay men trying to prove their masculinity by emphasizing how “normal” they feel compared to the stereotypical gays they’ve seen depicted on film and TV.

Those “fems” they try to distinguish themselves from were the ones who came out because hiding wasn’t an option. They either wouldn’t or couldn’t hide. Some of us were able to pretend in mixed orientation marriages. Others couldn’t or wouldn’t. I have one gay friend who actually vomited on his girlfriend when he tried to have sex with her. He had fewer options than I had. He came out in his 20s.

Men like him did it before it was easy.

There’s never a wrong time or a wrong way to come out. Every gay man I know did it differently but throughout history it has changed.

No one should be shamed by coming out in their own time and in their own way.

If you’ve come out or just know someone who has, today is a day to honor that most difficult of choices, but don’t do it on the back of men and women who made it easier for you to come out today, or 12 years ago like I did.

Most of us today are coming out because it’s easier, because the majority of people we know will like or love us anyway. We have rights and community support. We can see a future. Just 30 years ago I couldn’t see a future as a gay man, so I didn’t come out. I couldn’t even fathom it.

I honor the men I know and the men throughout history who came out then, the ones who came out before it was easy.

I confess, when I came out I made sure people knew I wasn’t going to be one of those effeminate gays. I was still me. I felt the need to defend my 40+ years of convincing myself of my own masculinity.

But, you see, none of us know what we would have been like had we been able to be who we really were from birth. I spent 40 years in hiding and desperately modifying my behavior to appear less gay. From an early age I made sure to pick clothes that weren’t too gay. I modified my voice because I cringed when I heard too much “gay” in my recorded voice. Although I was drawn to playing dolls and doing hair, I avoided such activities that would have been too gay. As a teen I constantly thought about how I walked and talked. I dated girls as a cover. I ended up marrying with the primary goal of convincing myself and others that I was masculine enough to be considered straight.

It was exhausting and both emotionally and spiritually damaging. For years I pulled it off and many of those efforts were internalized. It’s no wonder that I can pass as a straight guy because I white knuckled it for 40 years. I made that my primary emotional task. It wasn’t healthy and it’s nothing to brag about.

To be honest I’m now rather ashamed that I’m not obviously more gay than I am. Had I grown up in a household and in a society that would have nurtured and cherished my innate qualities who knows what kind of outward character traits of mine would be different today, or how “Fem” I would appear. You newly out self-described “straight-acting” men, you don’t know either.

Trying to appear straight is a numbing activity. It’s an attempt to numb the pain of society’s non-acceptance of your core identity. It’s an attempt to justify a lifetime of living in the closet.

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Jordan Roth and husband Richie Jackson

We need to stop honoring “straight-acting.” We need to stop prizing the cover up. You’re not as straight-acting as you think you are. Without exception, every man who has described himself to me like that has triggered my gaydar upon first meeting. If you are sexually attracted to men, you’re not straight-acting. You don’t look very straight with a cock in your mouth. Your absence of a lisp or your interest in football make you no more valuable, and no better a representative of homosexuality than the queen wearing a rainbow jockstrap at the Pride parade.

Let’s honor coming out as early and as loudly as possible. Let’s live in the gratitude that we can come out more safely now than ever, that those who are at all different points on the Kinsey Scale can be who they are. As a pretty solid 5, I thank all the 6’s out there.

Those who did were braver men than me because they made it easier for me.

Thank you.

Happy Coming Out Day

 

References, Read More:

Gay Influence

Excuse Me While I Slip Into Someone More Comfortable

Today in Gay History: The First Gay Protest

Ladies In The Streets: Before Stonewall, Transgender Uprising Changed Lives

Henry Gerber – Wikipedia

Henry Gerber – PBS

LGBTQ HISTORY TIMELINE REFERENCE – GLSEN

A Timeline of Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual, and Transgender History
in the United States

LGBT Rights Milestones Fast Facts – CNN

Timeline of LGBT history – Wikipedia

To My Son on His 21st Birthday

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(Here’s the letter I wrote to my son in his birthday package. Among other gifts I sent him a book. The link is at the bottom. He’s working a summer job on the other side of the country right now. He’s still LDS and is attending BYU-Idaho this Fall)

Happy Birthday, son!

Since I won’t be taking you out for your first drink at 21, I decided I still needed to get you a gift that says, “I recognize your adulthood and I honor it” in some other way.

I hope you’ll read this explanation thoughtfully before you open what is obviously a book.  You probably don’t want to open it in front of your friends…maybe you do. Just read this first.

I’ve researched and asked around and this book comes highly recommended by at least one well-respected LDS marriage and family therapist. It has been adopted as a textbook in several universities for those who are studying marriage and family therapy like you want to.

It’s about sex.

Now, before you open it, roll your eyes at your crazy dad and throw it into the bottom of your suitcase thinking “it’s not something I need yet,” I hope you’ll at least peruse certain chapters when you have the time alone. It’s not necessarily meant to be read cover to cover in one sitting but to be kept as a resource. It uses frank language. It doesn’t shy away from any topics, and you certainly don’t need to be afraid or shy about reading it now that you are an adult man.

In spite of the rather provocative cover and the title, it’s not pornographic, nor is it meant to encourage you to do anything you’re uncomfortable with at this point in time. But as a man, one day your body and sex with a loving partner is going to be a major part of your life. You should be comfortable talking about it and learning about it. I promise you that you don’t already know everything in this book.

It’s funny because there’s a weird paradox that happens with sex. The more you fear it or think it can’t be discussed openly and honestly or that it’s shameful or sinful the more obsessed with it you become. I’ve never seen any group of more sex-obsessed people than my fellow students at BYU. Even in marriage, the more hush-hush and the more “no” that happens in the bedroom the more it will overpower you. Repression breeds obsession.

But when you respect the significant place it does and SHOULD hold in your own life and in your partnership, the more it will comfortably couch itself softly in the background of your life and allow you to live a content, happy, fun and energetic life. I want that for you.

In other words, it’s not everything, but without it everything seems out of whack.

Sex is a gift. Once you start having it regularly with someone you love, a switch will turn on and it will become an enormously important part of your life. Regardless of what you are doing or not doing right now, your body is shouting at you to turn that switch on. And when you do it is amazingly wonderful!

Many people live in frustration because they are afraid of their own bodies or misunderstand them. Or, they misunderstand the bodies of their partner. That’s a cocktail for an unhappy relationship, an unhappy marriage and a mediocre existence. I don’t want you in any way to miss out on the beauty, the fun, the intensity and the intimacy of sex throughout your adult life. You were created with sex to be an integral part of who you are as a man.

Any parent/child relationship gets weird when discussing sex, I respect that. I’m not giving this to you because I’m afraid or shying away from talking to you about these things myself. I’m always willing to talk. I’m hoping that you’ll come to me for opinions or advice at any time. But whether it’s because I’m gay, or because I’m no longer LDS I feel like you think I might not understand, or that I am so bad at it that I couldn’t make it work. LOL

Parenting advice always says you should answer a kid’s sex questions, but not give them more than they are asking for. I think I’ve done that but I may have left out some important talks about sex because I feel like there’s more to say than I’ve said. There’s more to say than you’ve thought about asking. Even if sex is only conceptual at this point for you, you are an adult man and there are things you should know now and not wait only until weeks or days before you get married. School, church, church leaders, the internet or just talking among your friends isn’t good enough. Getting advice from people who have their own awkward relationship to sex isn’t helpful either, which is why I wanted to give you something more.

So, that’s why I’m giving you this book in celebration of the absolute privilege that was mine 21 years and 9 months ago to do my part in creating you. It was fun. It was beautiful. It most certainly has been the foundation for a thrilling roller-coaster of a ride in life in being your dad. And it all started with sex.

I love you!

Daddio

 

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Reclaiming Honesty

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A common refrain among those of us coming out of the closet later in life is the phrase, “to live authentically.”

Once I came out, it felt amazing to begin living on the outside in a manner consistent with how I felt on the inside. It didn’t happen overnight, but the peace and clarity were rejuvenating compared to my life lived in hiding.

After the initial honeymoon phase wears off, however, sometimes we are left with the collateral damage of a life lived in pretense for 20, 30 40 or 50 years prior. What I mean by that is that pretending isn’t a light switch that is can just suddenly be turned into the OFF position. It strikes me as a rather stark reality that in order to pretend to be straight and fit in with society’s expectations of me like I did, I had to lie quite a bit.

I lied about a lot of things. In the hopes of not getting caught or discovered I sometimes overcompensated to appear straight.

Between the ages of about 5  to 40 I pretended to:

  • Like things I didn’t like; and not like things that I loved.
  • Feel things I didn’t feel; and not feel things that I felt.
  • See things I didn’t see; and not see things I saw.

To be clear, while I was in the covering up mode for 40 years, what I actually liked, felt and saw became vague and unclear over time. Mormonism had taught me to question both the accuracy and the validity of who I really was.

It took some experimenting to settle onto many of my own tastes. Sure, once I let go of all that I was free to admit that I DGAF about sports talk; I liked to talk theatre, films and crass humor instead. I was free to feel warm and tingly inside when a guy flirted with me. I no longer had to pretend not not cry during a movie. I could stop pretending to be looking at the beautiful woman walking by and clearly appreciate the man at her side and acknowledge it without guilt.

But the impulse to lie about small insignificant things sometimes still slaps me across the face. I just did it the other day. A friend simply asked me if I liked to read. I said yes and so he asked what I was reading at the moment. Instead of saying the truth which is that I do like to read but that I haven’t picked up a book in about 2 months so I wasn’t reading anything at the moment, I talked about the last book I read and made it sound current. The lie morphed into a bigger one that I ended up changing the subject to get rid of the discomfort. That may seem like a small insignificant lie but it bothered me that I was pretending something that wasn’t true. Even more so that the actual truth isn’t even embarrassing or unworthy. I’ve simply been too busy and caught up in other projects.

So, why not just say THAT?  Because my impulse is to lie.

I’m sure recognizing it is a significant part of changing, but I also think being more impeccable with the truth in all aspects of my life will help me change that impulse. Getting rid of pretense and exposing the raw, vulnerable me is a habit I want to nurture.

To honor that, here’s an embarrassing truth just as trivial and meaningless, but funny and more of who I really am. This happened to me this weekend and I don’t think I’m going to be allowed back to the gym because of it.

I had In N Out last night for the first time in months so I had gas this morning.

Anyway, at the gym I’m in a boot camp class and we’re doing our workouts in stations. I’m in the corner so I figure it’s a safe time to fart. Plus, the music is really loud so…. I let it go… And the trainer immediately tells everyone to take a quick water break.

Guess where the water fountain is…. Right behind me

It was bad. No one said anything though. But they had to know.

That’s the real me.

Children Living at Home as Adults

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In the case of my ex-wife and I, having two adults in our home happened somewhat abruptly. My son had left for his two year LDS mission almost immediately upon turning 18. He then returned just as our daughter was turning 18 herself. Suddenly we had two 18+ year old young adults in our homes almost overnight.

I’m sure we aren’t the only parents unsure of how to handle this unique life milestone.  It was clear that our expectations did not match those of our children. But, how do you most effectively pivot and start treating your own children as adults while still  providing and caring for them under your roof?

We put our thoughts on paper and later arranged to review these expectations with our two adult kids as a united team over lunch. Only one other time in the 11 years since we divorced have my ex-wife and I actually sat together during a meal, but we took them out to eat and presented a united front with our list. That meeting alone was a pretty remarkable feat in our post marriage history.

Our lunch went well, and tonight as I was sharing this story with some friends they asked if I would share the list of expectations that we developed. Here it is:

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Living at Home as Adults

We want you around!  It’s exciting having adult children and we want to point out things that may seem insignificant but that make a big difference when living with others. They’ll help you in marriage and family life too.

Here are some specific ways you can prepare for being successful independent adults and help us all to avoid misunderstandings while still living under the safety net of your parents’ homes.

  • You are old enough to stay at either house but we will assume you are following the younger kids’ schedule unless told otherwise. You can change your regular schedule but let us know. Even though you are adults, we want you to have some sort of accountability to us so that someone always knows where you are in case of an emergency. We’re asking for communication, not saying you have to ask permission.

  • If you are going to be out after midnight, let us know where you are and when/if you will be home that night. Let us know if you are going to be home for dinner or not.

  • As adults in the house, we expect you to treat your siblings with kindness and respect, and help out around the house without being asked.  Do chores each week by your own doing, not being told and not getting paid to do it.

  • You should have a full-time job and/or be in school.

  • What we will pay for:

    • Housing, food, household items, toiletries, and other items we choose to help out with.

    • As much schooling as possible at the time. (Mom & Dad will split what each can) You should plan to contribute what you can.

    • Car insurance until 22, graduation, or marriage. (Mom & Dad will split)

    • Half of car repairs until 22, graduation or marriage. (Mom & Dad will split)

  • You will be responsible for the following:

    • Gas

    • Clothing

    • Entertainment

    • Personal care items

    • Any other luxury or necessity items you desire

    • Paying back debts to us consistently without missing a payment and before your own luxuries or entertainment. (We should not be the source of side jobs if you are short paying us. If your job isn’t able to cover the gaps perhaps you need a different job.)

    • Starting some sort of savings no matter how small for emergencies (This is a form of paying yourself)

    • Paying for your own fines and tickets and other emergencies

  • Show respect of being an adult living with other adults and siblings

    • Clean up after yourself – Kitchen, bathroom

    • Clean up after your friends. You and friends are welcome to eat our food and spend time in our home but things should be cleaner when you’re done. If you dirty some dishes, put those AND the ones in the sink into the dishwasher and start it.

    • Turn out lights, lock doors if you’re the last one in at night.

    • Clean up even messes that others make when you notice them.

    • Talk not SHOUT no matter how upset you may be in the moment.

    • Buy some earplugs if your schedule differs from the rest of the house.

If these things are not being done, what should the consequences be?

Once you have reached 22 years of age, you should be self sufficient and should have a plan to launch if you haven’t already.  If still in school, we will evaluate and come up with a plan. At that time you should plan on paying for your own: Car insurance, phone service, rent, food, emergencies and car payments and repairs.

Love,

Mom and Dad

 

 

In full disclosure, we haven’t really come up with a substantial consequence if they don’t live up to these expectations. Short of kicking them out, there isn’t much leverage to enforce anything. Maneuvers such as withholding cars or phone service become burdens for us, the parents. For them to live up to our expectations of jobs and schooling, they need the cars and phones. They both seem to have the natural desire for more independence and freedom, so I expect that we’re never going to get to that point anyway.

Know someone who is gay and closeted?

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I am working on a project with gay-dads.org to anonymously record and preserve stories of men and women who have never come out of the closet publicly. I’m talking about men and women who either remained single or entered into a mixed orientation marriage with little to no discussion of their sexual orientation.

This population of folks will likely be reluctant to share their stories, but if you know of, or suspect you know of, anyone to whom this would apply please share this survey link with them. There is an opportunity at the end to leave an email voluntarily but otherwise no identifying information will be collected or shared.

https://goo.gl/forms/tCg85r23cNElwlhP2

Heritage Update: Irish?

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So…. Never felt much of a connection to St Patrick’s Day. Until this year. As far as I knew my maternal ancestors were exclusively English and my paternal ancestors were German (Yes, unlike my avatar here I’m pretty white).

Two years ago I even wrote a couple of posts (post one and post two) about my Mormon heritage, specifically about my great grandmother Evelyn Nessie Eleanor Rudd. She was the first convert to Mormonism in England.

Then, this last year a few siblings and cousins did that DNA testing and they all found Irish in their blood. Everyone was left scratching their heads. One cousin confessed to me in private that her research leads her to believe that our great grandmother, Evelyn Nessie Eleanor Rudd was an Irish prostitute in England.

Her detailed explanation of the facts and reasoning seem sound. She even believes it might go back a couple of generations. Prostitution might run in the family.

Several generations had held onto their maternal surname, a common marker of prostitution. She had several children out of wedlock. She lived in an area known for such sordid activities. Once she did eventually marry she was never accepted among the local town folk because… well that was always blamed on her eventual conversion to Mormonism, but it must have run deeper than that because it seemed to pre-date the conversion. It also further explains her deep attraction to Mormonism and the doctrine of forgiveness. That must have been deeply comforting to her. It’s also ironic how little she would be accepted in today’s Mormon culture of Pharisaical fanaticism.

Suddenly I’m all about the Irish!

We can’t all be royalty ya know!

That We May Be One

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The other day things got heated at home.

I don’t remember exactly how it started, but it ended with my 20 year old returned missionary son crying, shaking, bearing his Mormon testimony, and then leaving to “take a walk.”  Between all that I said some things, while true, that I regret and that he’s not ready to hear. He and a couple of my other children shared a few LGBTQ LDS experiences, both positive and negative, and things got a little too sensitive.

Without even trying to accurately report the full conversation, I’ll say that at one point my son said that the LDS church is very different from what it was when I was part of it. In 11 years since I left, things have supposedly so dramatically changed from the previous 40 years that I wouldn’t recognize it especially with regards to LGBTQ issues.

I didn’t and I don’t buy it.

One of his biggest pieces of evidence for such a claim was Tom Christofferson’s book, That We May Be One; A Gay Mormon’s Perspective on Faith and Family.

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I’ve had lots of opinions on that book and the unintended consequences of its publication but I’ve held off saying anything because I hadn’t actually read it.

So, I read it.

I read it after it was being used as a weapon to diminish my voice and my LDS experience or to support an imaginary world where the LDS organization and community is LGBT friendly and anything but homophobic.

I am clearly NOT it’s intended audience.

I had completely forgotten the sycophantic tone of LDS authors but this was a big slapping  reminder of that. Every time there’s a grand point to be made an LDS General Authority quote is inserted and the reader is supposed to ponder it in awe that a human being could utter such goodness. Each time that happened my eyes rolled back into my head a little more.

If there’s a sweeping theme of the book it’s that we (and by ‘we’ he means anyone who is a believing LDS member with an LGBTQ person in their midst, family, friend or ward member)  should love and accept one another. THAT I can get behind, except that it completely ignores the status quo in most LDS wards, families and leadership quorums. According to Christofferson we’re not supposed to worry about LDS policies or leadership and the damage that they can do. It’s the old, “I don’t know and I don’t care. It will all be figured out in the afterlife.”

That’s naive and not good enough for me.

Let’s face a few facts. This book would never have been published if:

  1. He were not the brother of an LDS apostle
  2. He had not returned to the LDS faith like a prodigal son in his advanced years
  3. He were still in a committed homosexual partnership like the one he was required to walk away from in order to get re-baptized and have his temple blessings restored.

As much as he and others pretend that the intention and message of the book is to honor any path and any choice, there would be no message and there would be no book without those 3 key elements. Those ARE the message.  Given that fact, I’m left actually feeling sorry for the poor  sap who, after 60 years, couldn’t break from the LDS homophobic indoctrination to remain committed to his loving partner.

The book reads like a tragedy to me for that reason.

It’s about the breakup of a family, but it’s just a gay family so the reality of that crisis never gets the full light of day.

It’s about an aging man who still so desperately wants to please his older brother that he’ll throw himself on the sword to do so.

It’s about the isolated goodness and kindness that some humans can show towards one another when there’s something that they don’t understand.

It’s about those very same humans not flinching at all when their gay brother, son, uncle and friend trades love for a solitary life to achieve their FULL acceptance.

It’s about the depths of indoctrination and how that thick muck NEVER leaves.

If the book was reflective of any sort of change in the LDS faith why didn’t his brother, the apostle, write it?

And let’s not let one little glaring fact escape this discussion: Tom Christofferson left the church and completely ignored the leadership for over 30 years during a time that many of us instead stayed. We followed the LDS plan of marriage, kids, callings, temple attendance, scripture study, etc based on our faith that it was true and that we and our families would be “blessed.” Instead of blessed, we got screwed and we caused a lot of collateral damage in the wake of our following the brethren. He escaped all that.

It strikes me as incredibly callous for someone like Tom to have avoided the pain of church activity and then to re-enter the picture later in life with a softened libido and tell his story of faith and family.

I was WAY more committed for far many more years when it was crucial and my divorce and financial ruin and raw emotions are all a result of following the brethren. His current life is only possible because he DIDN’T follow the brethren. His story, more than anything is a testament that leaving the church allows you you maintain some semblance of favorable attitude towards it.

I do believe that there are loving and accepting LDS members out there and I still desperately want to believe that my own children are counted among them. I’m glad those were exclusively the ones that Christofferson encountered in his east and west coast wards. My experience has been quite different for the most part. And yet I do recall my year long stint in college in a Manhattan ward that was much like he described even back in the 80’s. Nowhere else but in coastal metropolitan areas is it remotely like that.

But my point to my son and readers of this book is that for the most part it doesn’t matter. The end result will still be the same. Tom Christofferson is still alone. He’s still gay. Every single one of those “kind” and “loving” LDS members in Christofferson’s life and in my life will still walk into an election booth and vote exactly as the LDS leadership want them to, homophobic choice or not. They’ll still raise their hands to the square in obedience to the leaders in Salt Lake City even if it goes against their personal experiences and their own moral compass.

Yes, Brother Christofferson, we may all be one. It’s just that that one is in the image of a stale, tired and out-dated group of 90 year old homophobic dudes in Salt Lake City. That’s my perspective on your faith and your broken family.

Protect LDS Children

Three and a half years ago I posted on this site the details of a conversation I had with a friend of mine. In that conversation I related an experience  during my first LDS bishop’s worthiness interview at the age of 11 wherein the bishop taught me how to masturbate.

Recently, due to such stories as mine, a gentleman by the name of Sam Young has started a movement to halt such invasive and inappropriate interviews among LDS youth.

I fully support this movement called, Protect LDS Children.

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I would encourage you and anyone you may know who may be supportive of this cause to sign the petition, read the stories, or even join their March for Children on March 30, 2018  at the Salt Lake City/County Building.

This is important for anyone even remotely connected to Mormonism, in or out. To illustrate that point, here’s a scene with the recently crowned Best Actress Frances McDormand in her film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri explaining to a catholic priest why he’s culpable regarding the abuse of children even though he personally may never have done anything inappropriate:

*Warning: Language

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