Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In a recent conversation with my mom, we discussed some problems that I am having with my roommates and what I should do about it. We also talked about possibly reasons why this was happening. Among many of the good ideas that my mom presented, though, she decided to engage in a topic that I no longer want to discuss with her: my "same gender attractions."

To her the problem between my roommates and myself was that perhaps I was being too noticeably obsessed and chatty about my having same gender attractions. There is some humor in this because of the simple fact that all my roommates are gay. For them to be offended by my being gay is a bit ludicrous and odd. But as strange as it was to me that my being gay would be the problem was perfectly reasonable to her.

I would guess that this logic is couched in the beliefs of her religious experience and it saddens me. I ended up sending her an email last night asking her to stop talking to me about my being gay until she could do so reasonably and respectfully.

What concerns me most with this situation is that ten years of trying to help her adjust to this understanding of who I am as her son as resulted in stagnation and entrenchment. Now she seeks to discuss this rather private and personal side of me as though it were a disease that just needs a little understanding shed on it to cure me of it. And while it may be said with meaningful intent, the results do not match up. Rather than achieve more kindness and understanding between us, alienation and hurt feelings are fostered.

Once more I have to wonder at the intentions of my mother. What sort of relationship does she want to create with me? I realize that for her this is a very difficult situation for her to find her place in. Her son is admitting to not wanting to be a part of anything she holds precious and dear to her. Now she must sort through her priorities and figure out what she truly wants in life and what truly matters to her.

But...and I must be harsh here. How long does it take to finally adjust and figure things out? For ten years she has had the chance to ask questions, adjust, and seek some kind of meaningful relationship with me. Now, she makes no effort to communicate with me. When we do talk, it focuses on the fact that I'm gay. So, on the one hand, I understand that it's difficult to accept that I have changed in a way unfamiliar to her. Ok. All right. That's difficult. That's frustrating. That's emotional painful and hurtful. But how long must this stage last?

What I found disappointing and revealing about her attitude towards me is that she was more upset that I might not be going to my cousin's wedding than about the fact that I will have to find a new place to live. It's good to know where her priorities are.

So...for now I feel I must exercise love and forgiveness for now. But I feel that I must establish boundaries with her. I sent her an email explaining that what she had said on the phone was offensive and not all right. I asked that for the time being that she refrain from talking about my being gay with me.

My life is caught up in being busy with work, spending time with friends, spending time with the boyfriend; and in general, just working on improving my life in little ways. When she claimed that I have an obsession with being gay, it struck home to me how little she knows of my life. How little she understands. And how little she wants to know and understand.

So, Mom, you have chosen this path. I have done everything I can to reach out to you. I have done everything I can to help you understand me better and you have rejected every single time I have attempted to do so. It is with a heavy heart that I must shut you out of my life even further. When you are ready to be my mom again, let me know and I will respond.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

It's been quite a while since I last posted. And I must admit that that's because I have been busy and not really sure what to write. Summer is upon me now and I'm grateful. I realize, though, that I do have much to write about. But first, a little commentary on a fun experience that I had earlier this week.

A friend of mine - who happened to have her foot run over by a friend's car that night - was given some alcohol to take the edge of the intense pain she was feeling. While doing so she got in a real chatty mood. Now, who am I to pass up a potentially fun conversation? Much of the conversation, though, is a blur now. But at one point she admitted that she had been called to serve a mission for the LDS Church but had ultimately declined to go.

As is all to familiar to any of my friends, I am an atheist. I'd like to believe I'm pretty set in my ways. I've tried and tested the "spiritual" realm enough. And for that, I've been given the title "Spiritual Atheist." Nothing shocking really, if you know me. Nothing shocking in the slightest. Let's be honest, categories help us understand and perceive the world around us. But humans are pretty complex creatures. To create simple, one-dimensional categories to fit each of us into is bound to have problems. Therefore, the atheist description is accurate for me, yes. But it's also really narrow. Anyway, back to the story.

She spoke wistfully of how our calling was inspired and even expressed how sometimes she wondered what might have been. You can't really blame her. The mission is quite an amazing experience. It's unlike almost any other experience you can willfully decide to have. So why did she decline? She was afraid she'd develop a crush on her companion and all the other fears that go with that. When I heard this, it echoed the same sentiments that so many other men and women I have known have expressed when deciding to serve a mission. It's the same (though for other men and not women) sentiments I once was worried about.

So, I spoke - or rather waxed eloquently in speech. What I write next is not me bragging but expressing what I have finally come to understand over the years. I have a gift for speaking and writing. Words are something I'm good at (most of the time). I can be very persuasive. So she and I talked some more on this.

My take on things is this: if your reason for not doing something is a fear that is either irrational or not important, you shouldn't heed that fear. I may not believe in the truthfulness of the institution of the Mormon Church. I may think it causes a lot of harm to people. And that may be true and it may not be. But none of that matters to this friend. None of it. Her world consists of an idealized, safe place. The Mormon faith is her home and she feels that within that home the safety and inspiration in that calling. But she also feels somewhat trapped by who she is and troubled. Somehow, her own interests have potentially disqualified her. Yet they haven't.

I spoke as a person of the Mormon faith would have. I used scripture, spoke with kindness, and used my voice and tone in such a way as those in the faith do when acting like they are inspired by the Spirit: soft, gentle, and unbecoming. I spoke in a way that would touch her where it mattered. Logic and reason would have failed. But appealing to her spiritual attitudes and perceptions wouldn't fail.

A mission is a place where a person can go and discover themselves. There are many other paths to do so, yes. There are many experiences you won't have while doing the mission thing. There are many mental hoops you must jump through in order to maintain a neat and tidy belief system while on it. And yes, you are engaging in the time-honored deception of telling others about things that are not there.

But a single drop in a sea of such a situation is hardly going to make a difference either way. Her going won't really matter in the scheme of things as well as her not going. But it will matter to her. She has settled to accept a diminished life where she wistfully wonders "what might have been" instead of facing her fears and discovering a part of who she is out there in this world. So, that's why I thought she should go.

My two atheist (well, one atheist and one apathetic towards religion) friends were a shocked and not sure how to react when I did this. You can't blame them. They had never seen this side before. And it was hilarious to watch their faces! The looks of shock and confusion that crossed them were just priceless, truly. But what was most rewarding was just how they were so unsure of what was going on.

I read the scriptures of the Mormon faith, I studied intensely some of the doctrines espoused in them. I read as much as I could and listened to all the lessons in Church. It is my opinion that such learning should not go to waste. Whether for or against the Mormons, that knowledge is mine to use and do with as I see necessary and good.

Funny thing, also. The first friend now thinks that somewhere deep inside me is a testimony of the LDS faith and what not. I must admit that I hardly think so. I think what she sees is an echo of the person I was long ago rising to the surface to be able to communicate with her. I do not hold hatred towards when I believed and I have no animosity towards my non-believing so those parts of me interact freely. I don't want that to sound like different personalities. Just different parts of my personality interacting. Once I was religious. Now I'm not. So, yeah.

Finally, I think a video should be shared to close this particular rant of mine:

"Are there any women here?"

Monday, April 2, 2012

What if Revelation?

I confess that I love Les Miserables, especially the musical. It's such a musical that is both dramatic and meaningful. What I love about that musical is it speaks of destiny and of a failure to reach your potential. But in that failure, there is hope and eventually redemption. That, I think, is key to human existence. I think in order for us to become better than we are now, we must first accept our many, many failings. Accept the injustice we have done towards our fellow human beings and fellow animals.

General Conference happened this past weekend. Until a few years ago, I was forced to watch all ten hours of it. As a child and teenager, this meant boredom that I could not resist. I tried to listen to the talks as though they could improve my life and improve my habits. As a missionary, I would listen with such hunger. I believed that revelations would pour out upon the congregations and wisdom and understanding would at last be given. I had read the revelations of the founding prophet, Joseph Smith. I had heard and read the stories of the past. But all I saw ever at such meetings was a sort of dull, sheep-herding mentality going on there. It was the same as church meetings. It was the same as the temple ceremonies.

I have always found it found that a church that claims such divine revelation, would be one of the most boring faiths in existence. I mean, Catholics can be pretty desperately boring in their wrote and memorized masses. But even they are fun compared with Mormon meetings. My mom used to complain about how I would fall asleep through nearly every sacrament meeting where the speakers would either share talks/sermons or bear testimony of things they believed (or claimed to know) were true.

Revelation is a tricky thing, or so I've read. It is a call that seems to happen regardless of what you want. It has such force of will that you are merely the passenger in this journey. You are the mouthpiece and revelation is the speaker. I remember the claims of the Mormons: revelation would continue on and on. The heavens were not sealed up. God would speak continuously to the Mormons. But God seems silent towards the Mormons.

He seems to speak without the voice of many waters from mythical times. His power, which made the earth and broke up mountains and stayed the mouths of lions, now seems to just grant happy feelings and whispered warnings. Where once devils haunted the religious landscape, tiredness and apathy now plague our mental landscapes. Where is revelation now? I have read the accounts of other faiths. They too claimed some kind of revelation, some new story for humanity to follow. The divine had spoken to them. Whether it was enlightenment itself, the voice of God, or the awakening to the mystical realms that are around and within us, these revelations pointed to a higher calling for humanity. The revelations of Joseph Smith don't really seem all that different. Humanity was called to a higher way just as Jesus of Nazareth had done the same in the past.

But the years roll on. The message becomes obscured and even flattened and ironed out of its wrinkles and curious contradictions. The wild, intoxicating nature of the revelation becomes like a fire over time: cooled down to mere coals. Only the memory of the flame lives on. But like fire, it to fades. Passion yields to conformity. Rightness yields to apathy. And what about revelation? Hm, well revelation appears to be quietly bound and gagged and shoved somewhere dark and hidden. Revelation is replaced by bureaucratic revelation. It is a neat and tidy form. But it is nothing like its original. It's a pale form that calls its hearers to nothing higher except the empty, lofty ways of the power-hungry or well-meaning individuals that use it.

Les Miserables never claims revelation, I realize. It never claims a wild nature like that of early religions. Les Miserables does none of this. So why did I open with it? I opened with it because it speaks of fallen destinies and a chance to let go of the past. Les Miserables is about forgiveness and redemption. Mormonism is about doing and obedience. Where a story tells of a tale that invites us to do better, Mormonism reminds us to pay our tithing and heed our local leaders.

There is a boring nature that seeps deeper and deeper into Mormonism as the years go by. It comes about from a bland search for meaning that it will never find. A search for purpose and calling to bring their followers to a higher plane of existence. Yet, from all that I have seen, their members achieve a stupor of thought that they can't ever seem to escape from. But all of this is masked by the soft, persuasive whisper that "All is well in Zion. Yea, Zion prospereth." In that, I mean, that with all of society's injustices and cruelties, a religion of once social change seeks merely to impose its ways and avoid change.

It seeks to ignore revelation now.

Friday, March 16, 2012

HCO Strategy

A friend of mine and I have been discussing recently the inactivity of the Honor Code against the USGA group at BYU. After much thought I figured I'd write my thoughts on it. 

First, there must be some basic assumptions described and some basic questions to ask before continuing into my theories. 

What is the purpose of the BYU Honor Code? I believe that the BYU Honor Code Office exists not only to help enforce the Honor Code but to assist in creating a community of students particularly homogenous morally. By achieving this, it destroys most discussions that would take place on a typical college campus. It also works to create dependence upon the university and to create an atmosphere of obedience and (for some students) fear in the face of disobedience. But I believe the reason the BYU Honor Code exists is to provide an atmosphere wherein the Church's PR machine can actively promote the Mormon lifestyle and ideas to the world at large.

Does the Honor Code particularly despise or dislike gay BYU students? I do not believe so. I don't think that the HCO staff dislikes anyone so long as they don't upset the carefully created atmosphere at BYU. If the gays toe the line, the HCO is fine. They do not care one way or another about gays, in my opinion. They are not there to provide true counsel or help students achieve a higher level of understanding about the Gospel or complex moral situations. They are simply the foot soldiers of the BYU PR machine. 

So why hasn't the HCO acted against USGA? I think the HCO is being held back from doing so in this climate of heightened awareness and favor for LGBT causes. The high profile involvement of the LDS Church in Prop 8 has not been forgotten. The ongoing PR efforts of the LDS Church to cast themselves in a kindlier light has bound the hands of the HCO. The HCO can't be seen attacking nice gay kids. That would be a horrendous scandal on the Morg and BYU's hands. No. Rather, they are being forced to wait.

Another thing to consider is this: USGA offers the HCO the golden opportunity. Prior to USGA's existence, the HCO had to be hyper vigilant about the activities of those bad gays. They had to seek out a minority that could practically be invisible amidst the student population. USGA has members proudly proclaiming their sexuality for the whole world to know. Take a casual stroll through USGA's meetings and after social gatherings and one could easily assimilate information about which members are in same-sex relationships. Pry a little further and knowledge of those intimiate aspects of the relationship will be known. It isn't hard. USGA is full of friendly and happy kids. They aren't afraid of the HCO, ironically. The HCO's silence has emboldened the students of USGA and created a little utopian world where the gays can live in peace and harmony. All the HCO has to do is sit and wait for the USGA group to become louder and more pronounced about their lives and their relationships. 

Also, the longer the HCO waits, the more politically active USGA becomes. The USGA is becoming more activist in their activities, a normally good and typical thing. But BYU's obsession with political neutrality creates a potentially tense situation for USGA. The more it creates a climate of activism, the more the HCO can document and create a long list of violations USGA has done. USGA's unique situation of not being officially recognized on campus means that they don't have to follow the neutrality requirement of BYU's clubs. However, this doesn't shelter them either for there is no legal or bureaucratic protection for USGA. Should the BYU administration or the HCO ban USGA from campus, there is no recourse. USGA stands vulnerable to the favorability of their message to the administration and powers that be on campus. 

Essentially, I propose that the HCO waits to act because they don't have to research that extensively. If they are smart individuals, and I assume they are, they just have to wait for USGA to mess up. And it will. The desire for freedom is too tempting a prize to avoid. How could you not want to be treated equally? And that is where the HCO lies in wait. USGA members at BYU forget that while the HCO does not hate or dislike gay students, they also do not see them as equal to their heterosexual counterparts. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thoughts on Family

Anyone who has ever read my blog or previous blogs will know that I can't stop talking about my parents. The weird relationship (those I realize it's entirely normal) swings between love and frustration seems never ending as we create friction between each other as we grow older and more apart.

That's the reality.

My attempts prior to try and avert this situation have been met with disapproval, arguments, and eventually throwing of hands up into the air in surrender to the inevitable. All I can do now, it seems, is to accept the current and ongoing trend of us growing apart and hope that maybe in the future something will stop that or, miraculously, reverse that.

I was raised like any good Mormon boy on the promise by Church officials and God that families "can be together forever" someday. That somehow family was the most important thing. Nothing would come between us and family. I read the scriptures, the talks, and the declarations made by holy men and women of my childhood faith. I listened to testimonies given by people in the different ward I've attended, words from my own parents, and so on on this very promise and its validity. I have listened to it all and believed.

I believed without question.

But belief hardly ever coincides with reality. The two have never been mutually exclusive. Even now as I write this I can still hear the Primary hymn, "I Have a Family Here on Earth" whispering softly in my mind. But it seems that such promises, talks, and testimonies were all shared and given with an asterisk next to them. The asterisk seems that children like me are not actually part of the family. We are merely apart of the physical, biological family here on earth, but we will no doubt be cast aside in that mystical Mormon heaven known as the Celestial Kingdom.

This life must be endured, it seems. This life must be lived in but not lived completely. Such ideas, it appears fade in the promise of eternal salvation and life that goes beyond the grave. We sell our time on earth for cheap, untested virtues that lie beyond the impenetrable veil of silence, total silence. Where is Hades guarding that gate or Hel or Pluto or so many scores of deities that have marked the passage of those halls with hallowed footsteps? What difference does it make that some new god has undertaken the role of these gods? What difference does it make that this god has reconstructed all of the afterlife into some new order? It doesn't matter, really.

God fits so little into this world or the next. The promise of families being together forever is so bizarrely believed to be fact based on some mystical spell of belief. The reality, in my opinion, is that if you want to be with your family in the "afterlife" try getting to know and loving them now. You aren't going to like them anymore in the mythical millenniums to come. You might even like them less.

What difference does it make who I love? It matters not. That has always been my plea. A religion so fixated on dividing families over the issue of attractions between two consenting adults is no place where families can be together. Instead it is an organization not in the business of love and mutual understanding but one that promotes a false worldview that encourages hatred, division, and suffering. Such a group is one I want  no part of.

Maybe without Mormonism my parents would be where they are now. Maybe it is just their nature to not want to accept their own children for their various deviations from what they have been told is "normal." Maybe. But the fact that I have lost my parents to this faith and that some illusory god matters more than our relationship tells me only one thing: I will hate this and every other religion out there for this one fact. I may be tolerant of faiths, I may be tolerant of individuals of faith. But I will forever hate their organizations that promote hatred, fear, and misunderstanding towards their own children and communities for the fact that it divides, destroys, and kills.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

From Another Time in My Life

I found a poem that I wrote in the Bible that a Christian gave me. Stumbling across the poem was interesting for me. It was from a period of my life that was still grim but beginning to yield to happiness and peace. When I wrote this poem, I was still struggling with the idea of God and whether such a being existed or not. On the day that I wrote the poem, I was preparing to go see the Honor Code the next day. I was terrified and felt backed into a corner. I felt alone and lost and could only turn to something that I felt was reliable and trustworthy: my faith. There's no title to this poem. But I find it interested to read into a window of my thoughts from that time.

Walk with me this day,
Before I fade
Into gloom and darkness.
The shadows are long,
Their purpose grim,
And I am without solace.

Where is the Comforter 
By whom the day was formed?
Does not the Shadow know
Him that gave it power?

Go with me, I am weary,
My heart is heavy,
Sorrow already accompanies me;
No darkness clings to my soul,
For which Shadow would attach to
To destroy me.
Still, I need you.
For I do not wish to go alone.
Be with me,
My soul is bare and
Ravening wolves are drawing near.

The poem was written June 28, 2009

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Say No More

I may be wrong, but I will go forward anyway and assume I'm not. I try to make make decisions, when I have time to think it through, based on what I've seen around me, what I've read, and what I believe to be correct, true, and good. 

That thought process led me to come out a few years ago. That same thought process finally allowed to me accept that I had lost my faith in idea of God actually existing. And it was that same thought process that allowed me to embrace the beauty of life around me. Now the past few years have felt like a great and titanic shift in thinking. I have felt my mind slowly shift to and from on different ideas on religion.

I've been waiting for that. I've been waiting now for the full depth of not believing to sink in and to let that non-belief become deeply rooted in me. I have read, watched, and talked about this for a while now. The sense I felt of my world spinning out of control, of darkness consumes my being until I would be forever lost to depression, has all long since ceased. What remains within is a sense of reality coming into awareness in me. 

These past few years have been a restoration of my soul long since succumbed to a death-like slumber. The restoration, the reawakening of that part of me is happening more and more. I feel a sense of peace now. I feel a sense of the deepest core of my being has come alive again. What had previously felt like a contortionist's act gone wrong, feels like all the pieces have come together. I have long since realized and accepted my sexuality. There is no mystery, no coming to terms with who I am. I am gay. And I like this about me. There is no desire to wrestle with it again because I feel at peace with myself. That aspect of my humanity has been restored and I am grateful I stopped resisting earlier so I could feel this now instead of much later in life. I can now post pictures of men and not feel guilty or deviant in doing so.

The freedom and peace of the silence that now exists in the absence of God moves me to have greater respect and awe at the wonderful and frightening power of ideas. We are not removed from our ancestors though they are gone. But our world is the direct result of their being here. We live amid the results of their efforts and counter efforts to create a world for us. The old empires may be gone, long since crumbled to dust and a shadow of memory, but the gifts they gave to humanity continue on, having evolved and lived on. 

Coming to terms with all of this was not the end (otherwise I'd never have created this blog, ha ha!) but the beginning of my journey. There is life that exists beyond the efforts of coming to terms with yourself, of college life, and of all other things that society seems to think are so desperately important. What matters is the journey, the effort to be someone. At least, that's what I think. 

Now, hopefully I can start writing some fun posts instead of some of these dreary (what feels like) treatises on some of these topics.