Monday, December 29, 2008

Taking the Plunge

Well, in just two days Jonah and I will be having our commitment ceremony here in Utah. If you've read my blog from the beginning, you'll know this has been quite a journey for both of us.

I can't tell you how excited and happy I feel. Someone asked me if I was nervous. I don't feel nervous. I feel good. I feel like it is the right thing to do and what I want to do (and, hopefully, what Jonah wants to do. ;-) ).

Love is a good thing. "Where love is, there God is also./Where love is, we want to be."

This is where I want to be. It has not always been an easy road, and I still have questions about how I got here and what awaits me, but I do feel this union is very blessed and divinely inspired. I know that Jonah has shared with me one of the best, most fulfilling, and joyful relationships I have ever had, and I want to continue it.

I probably won't be able to write much during the next week, for I will be busy with other things. ;-)

Thank you to all who have lent me support and encouragement and advice these past (almost) three years. It is greatly appreciated.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

We're All In This Together

Lots of thoughts have been running around in my head today, and I find it's been difficult to coherently focus them. I enjoyed church today quite a bit. In Sunday School the lesson was about the Jaredites. We were talking about many things, and while I had lots of thoughts to contribute to the discussion, I didn't. There was just too much going on in my head to state what I was thinking.

The first thing I was thinking about was this idea of America being a promised land. I completely believe that's true, but I also realize that many of us living here don't live up to that promise. But what I really was thinking about was how the idea of America being a "choice land" and a "land of promise" sometimes gives people the idea that it means we're superior to everyone else or entitled. I think the same idea goes for the LDS Church as well. Because we're taught that it is God's true church and has the fullness of the gospel, we as members sometimes come out of it acting like we're better than everyone else. I mean, the fact that we always refer to it as "the Church" can come off as a little superior to other people who aren't of our faith. US citizens have always seemed to have a great national pride, and, of course, Mormons, have a great faith and pride in their religion. But sometimes I think this attitude can come off simply as pride, which the Lord often warns us about.

As far as country goes, we tend to act like the United States is the greatest place on earth, that all other countries should follow our lead, that we're "right," and they're "wrong," etc. Don't get me wrong. This is a great country, and I'm proud to be an American, and I am certainly thankful for the liberties and freedoms I have because I live here. But I am also well aware that we have a lot of serious problems in this country, and we might do well to take a cue from other countries on certain issues. we don't have all the answers and rather than acting like the authority on everything, we might do well to listen to and learn from others.

Whatever your political beliefs, I always thought it was arrogant for us to invade another country and expect them to embrace our way of life, no questions asked, simply because we thought it was the best way to live. Believe you me, I would rather live in the culture and under the sort of government that we have than I would to live in the culture and and dictatorship that existed in Iraq before we came along. Nonetheless, I still think it's arrogant to ignore a people's culture (which has existed for thousands and thousands of years) and expect them to fully embrace ours (which has only really existed for a few hundred) simply because it's working for us. I think it's arrogant to lambaste other nations (such as, oh let's say, the French) simply because they disagreed with us. It's arrogant and hypocritical to boast about what a terrific nation we are when we've got problems of our own (some of which are being handled better by other nations than by us).

On the same line, I feel the same way about our religion. Sometimes there is an attitude (and I find this more in Utah Mormons than in any others) that if you're not of our faith, you're "wrong." I maintain that we can learn a lot from other faiths and philosophies if we would just take the time to listen and respect. You don't have to be Mormon to be a good person. You don't even need to believe in God to be a good person. There are many people out there whose beliefs are just important to them as ours are to us. There's one lady in our ward who's constantly criticizing gay people and atheists, in particular, as being "bad." Well, she doesn't know the atheists and gay people I know (some who are better "Christians" than some self-professed Christians I know) because they are good people. For all our talk about Christ and his gospel, we can sometimes be a very exclusive religion, disrespecting others' faiths, beliefs, and philosophies often without even being conscious of it. We sometimes use Mormon terminology unfamiliar to those of other faiths and beliefs because we just assume everyone around us understands it (and I am especially talking about Utah Mormons here).

Now granted, there are many Mormons who are inclusive and open-minded towards those of other faiths and philosophies. I am just talking about some behaviors I see that bother me. I've often thought if a homeless man or a gay couple or a person who reeked of smoke or alcohol or a prostitute walked into an LDS ward house, how would they be treated? It would be interesting to see the reactions. Maybe I would be pleasantly surprised.

I read a really interesting article in the Faith section of The Salt Lake Tribune yesterday. I include the link here. I think it speaks for itself, and I'll let you decide for yourselves what you think about it.

I guess one of the thoughts I've had today is that we're all in this together. Sometimes there is an attitude of "us" and "them." Whether you're Republican or Democrat, black, white, Asian, or Latino, rich or poor, Christian, Jew, Muslim, or atheist, gay or straight, man or woman, handicapped or able-bodied, or all the other things a human being can be, we're always putting each other in categories and focusing on each other's differences rather than looking at what we have in common. I still believe that most people are essentially good and that most people are just trying their best to live good lives or to just live the best life they can. Yes, there is a minority of people that are not good people, but I adhere to the belief that most people are good, and I even think most people essentially want the same things; they just have different beliefs about how to accomplish getting those things. I think we can learn so much from each other if we just take the time to listen and get to know one another. We don't even have to agree with each other, but I think we can respect and still love each other if we try. Maybe that's naive and idealistic, but I believe in it.

I bore my testimony today (yes, in spite of the choices I make, I do have one). I said I was reluctant to bear my testimony not because I don't have one, but because I feel like a hypocrite saying I know the Church is true when I also know full well I am not living according to what I have been taught is true. I said I wasn't perfect and never claimed to be and that I am trying, as I suspect most people are, to live the best life I can under the circumstances life has dealt me. We all fall short. Rather than pick each other apart and criticize and judge, we should be picking each other up and practicing unconditional love. Like I said, we don't have to agree with each other (and I realize some of the misguided things people sometimes do are often based in love), but can't we all help each other instead of tearing each other down?

Here is one thing I know: God loves us and wants us to be happy. He doesn't want us spending our lives feeling depressed or uptight or unworthy stressed or feeling that we'll never measure up to the high ideals we often set for ourselves. God doesn't expect us to be perfect in this life; he wants us to do our best, whatever that is. I do not believe in a Father that picks at us or scrutinizes us or judges our every bad move as some sort of failure. I do not believe in a God that looks at us every time we fail and says, "Oh, Cody screwed up again. There's another point off!" I think I used to believe that even though I didn't think I did. I believe in a God who is loving and merciful and feels great joy when he sees his children happy and full of joy themselves. I believe in someone who is constantly pulling for us even when we don't believe in ourselves. I believe in someone who is always giving us as many chances as He can provide; whose love never fails, falters, or dissipates. I believe in someone who judges with a perfect love and understanding of our intentions and desires that a mortal, imperfect being cannot understand in this life. I don't not believe in a God who is all black and white, and I believe in a God who sees every angle and every facet and every side of every issue, problem, and trial in our lives in ways that we are not able to see ourselves. I am absolutely sure that God is happy I am happy. I am not necessarily saying that he condones or approves of everything I do, but I am 100% that He loves me and is happy I am happy.

It was interesting. Right after testimony meeting finished, a friend who is aware that I am gay just came up to me and gave me a big hug and said, "Cody, I love you so much. I just want you to know that I will be there at the last day standing in your defense because you are a good man." She continued with, "I don't know why people are given the trials or life experiences that they are given, and yours is a doozy, but I believe things will work out for you well in the end." I replied, "I hope you're right."

The scriptures say you will be judged with the same judgement with which you judge others. I have tried (not always successfully) all my life to not judge others too harshly, to give people the benefit of the doubt, to try and see things from another's point-of-view, to forgive, to show mercy. I am not perfect at it, but if I am indeed judged the way I feel I judge, I think my friend is right that "things will work out well for [me] in the end." I hope so, anyway.

As I have said, I am very happy right now, and I know I've been greatly blessed these past few years, and I am thankful for that.

Last week in Sunday School a ward member made reference to a mutual friend's ex-husband (also a friend) who had left her because he had come out of the closet. The ex-wife was confused because her ex-husband claimed to be happier and more fulfilled and satisfied with his life since he had come out, and she didn't understand why if "wickedness never was happiness" this would be the case. The ward member's husband suggested that even though he might feel happier in this life, that didn't mean he would feel that way in the next. I silently thought to myself, "or maybe he's just happier, and that's all that counts." Maybe the husband is right. Maybe we'll regret our choices in the afterlife. I don't know or claim to know. But I know that a world of difference has occurred since I came out. I used to be so sad, so depressed, so uptight, so repressed, so guilt-ridden, so alone, felt so unworthy and imperfect, so full of angst and confusion, so miserable, so unfulfilled, so unable to be myself. It's all melted away. I feel so joyful, so happy, so loved, so in love, so free, so at peace. Life is unquestionably better. I don't claim to know why. I just know it is, and that's what counts to me.

I've been reading a fellow gay Mormon's blog, and he is struggling in his marriage and is tempted by something outside of it. I have not participated in the discussion because I don't want to influence him in a negative way. I, fortunately, never had to deal with marriage to a woman or deal with any unfulfillment or fallout that might have occurred as a result. It makes me sad to see him struggle, yet at the same time I admire his devotion to his covenants and his marriage. I feel sad that he feels sad, unsatisfied, and misunderstood. I know how that feels. I just want to say, "it doesn't have to be that way. It didn't have to be that way." But I think a broken marriage is a high price to pay. My choices aren't for everyone, nor would I want to be responsible for causing someone to make a choice that would potentially wreck lives. Whatever he ends up doing, I just hope he can be happy and satisfied. It's tough. My heart goes out to him and others like him. Each of us has to make our personal choices and live with them. I am satisfied and content with mine.

One of my friends who is also very active in the church and knows of my issues called me "one of the good guys." I don't know if that's true, but I appreciate the sentiment. It's good to know that even when people don't understand what you're going through or even condone or approve of your choices that they can still be in your corner. Like I said, we're all in this together.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Love And Be Loved

I am currently in rehearsals for a musical called The Light in the Piazza. The basic story is that of a mother with a slightly retarded daughter who is on vacation in Italy. They meet an Italian boy who falls in love with the daughter without realizing her disability. Although the mother tries to tell the boy and his family the truth, she is unable to and the boy and his family do not recognize that the girl even has a disability. The mother, who is in an unhappy marriage herself, recognizes that the boy and the daughter are truly in love and finally consents to their being married. At the end of the show the character of the mother sings a song called "Fable," which goes like this:

You can look in the forest
For a secret field
For a golden arrow
For a prince to appear
For a fable of love that will last forever

You can look in the rooms
For a wishing well
For a magic apple
For a
For a fable of love that will carry you

To a moon
On a hill
To a hidden stream

Sail away from time forever

To a valley beyond the setting sun
Where waters shine and horses run
Where there's a man who looks for you
But while you look you are chained turning
You're a well of wishes
You're a fallen apple


Love's a fake
Love's a fable

Just a painting
On a ceiling
Just a children's fairy tale
Still you have to look

And look and look and look and look and look and look and look and look

Through the eyes
On a bridge in the pouring rain
Not the eyes but the part you can't explain
For the arms you can fall into forever

For the joy that you thought you'd never know
For here at last away you go
To a man who looks for you

If you find in the world
In the wide, wide world
That someone sees
That someone loves you

Love if you can now, my Clara
Love if you can
And be loved

May it last forever


The light in the piazza

I get to hear this song every time we rehearse, and it brings me to tears every time. The lyrics that particularly move me are:

Through the eyes
On a bridge in the pouring rain
Not the eyes but the part you can't explain
For the arms you can fall into forever

For the joy that you thought you'd never know
For here at last away you go
To a man who looks for you

If you find in the world
In the wide, wide world
That someone sees
That someone loves you

Love if you can now, my Clara
Love if you can
And be loved"

When I hear these words I think of my relationship with Jonah. I've said it before, and I will say it again: I cannot explain homosexuality nor do I know what causes it. I don't care anymore. It doesn't matter to me. I may not be what some people would consider "normal," but homosexuality is my reality. Before I met Jonah I had given up on love and figured I would never find as deep and meaningful of a relationship as the one I have now. I have found it, and it is good. So good. In this "wide, wide world" I have finally found someone that "sees" me; that someone "loves" me, and that is a blessing indeed. If a person is lucky and blessed enough to find that, then they should "love if [they] can and be loved." That is what I am doing.

I guess because I am an actor and singer, the spirit has often spoken to me through song and through plays and musicals. Some of the greatest trials I've been through were eased through words and lyrics from plays and musicals and songs. This time is no different. I am convinced that God is happy that I am in love. He loves us and wants us to be happy, and I know He knows this relationship has made me very happy. I do not claim to understand the seeming contradiction between the truthfulness of the LDS Church (which I still believe in) and what is viewed as a "sinful relationship," but I know God knows I'm happy, I believe that meeting and falling in love with Jonah was divinely inspired, and I believe anything else will work itself out the way it should. I am convinced of it.

Today I had Thanksgiving at a neighbor's house, and there was a cross stitch on her wall that said, "The greatest joy in life is to love and be loved." It just reaffirmed what I've been feeling. I love someone who loves me, and we are both far happier as a result. This is good. Good fruit doesn't come from a bad tree, and I am eating some very good fruit.

Thoughts On Proposition 8 and the Fallout

I know, I know! I'm sure everybody is sick of talking about it, and quite frankly, so was I. But I've had many thoughts brewing in my head, and I had to step back for a bit before I could write them all down, and now I'm finally in the mood to talk about it again.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, obviously I was an opponent of Proposition 8. That being said, I do feel that as a gay man and a still active Mormon, I can see both sides of the issue and can empathize with both positions somewhat. Although I was disappointed with the passing of Prop. 8, nothing has disappointed me more than the fallout I've seen as a result. For some time I didn't want to talk or write about anything having to do with Prop. 8 because I was just sickened and torn by so much of the behavior I saw on both sides.

First off, I want to say this: as a gay man I would love the right to be legally married to my boyfriend, and I am obviously disappointed by the passing of a gay marriage ban in California. I should be as upset as anyone. But these accusations that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints hates gay people are ridiculous. I will not deny that there may a small fraction of people in my church that probably do hate gays, but I do not believe for one minute that the overall percentage of Mormons are fighting gay marriage because they hate gay people. I will not even deny that motivations may be based in fear or ignorance even, but I do not find them to be based in hate, and I'm tired of gay activists accusing the church of hate. I believe Mormons (and other organizations supporting Proposition 8) are simply standing up for what they believe is right just like gay activists are standing up for what they believe is right. Whether each party agrees with each other or not is not the issue to me; my beef is that we need to disagree with each other in a civil and respectful manner or we will never come to any sort of compromise or understanding.

Now please don't think I am absolving the church and its members and leaders of any wrongdoing, either. While I support an organization or individual's right to defend what it believes, I do not necessarily believe that the church or its leaders handled this matter in the best way. Church leaders are well aware of the power they hold over their members. They know a call to action will bring results. I find it a bit underhanded for church leaders to ask its members to "do all [they] can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of [their] means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman," not because the church doesn't have a right to do that (they do), but because of the way in which they did it. My church claims political neutrality and is able to keep a tax-exempt status because the organization itself doesn't donate money to a political cause, yet it asks its members to donate money (without actually explicitly saying those exact words) to a political cause knowing full well they will, and then it's the members who take the heat.

People keep crying that this is a moral issue, not just a political one. Let's assume it is. Why are so many other things like genocide in Darfur, global warming, a needless war in Iraq, etc. not worth having a public stance on? Why are two people who love each other and just want a committed and legal relationship more threatening. If it's the sanctity and eternal nature of marriage, fine, but is it moral for me or my partner to be denied health benefits or the right to see each other in the hospital or property rights or custody rights or what-have-you? If heterosexuals want to keep marriage, fine, but don't deny me the same legal rights you have just because you don't approve of what many people mistakenly believe is a choice and don't treat our relationship as though it's inferior to yours. People may not agree with or understand homosexuality, but don't try to convince me that our homosexual relationships hold any less love, devotion, and commitment than hetreosexual ones do. I'm not saying all do, but then I could say the exact same thing for heterosexual relationships. I pay taxes, I live a normal life, I love my partner. Where is the justice in being denied basic legal rights associated with marriage?

And I'm sorry, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is not poltically neutral. They can say they are all they want; that doesn't make it true. I'm not just talking about this particular issue, either. The church holds great power, and they often use it to influence legislation (especially here in Utah) while maintaining the appearance of political neutrality. As I said, the church can stand up for whatever it believes is right. I'm not arguing with that. But I get tired of them claiming political neutrality. I just don't buy it.

I actually think this whole thing is going to backfire. I think it has turned into a public relations nightmare, and I still maintain that the gay civil rights movement will go forward. If anything, this has just made it stronger.

I have been equally disappointed in some gay activists. I know of instances of vandalism, protests that were supposed to be peaceful but ended up being filled with hateful language or acts. I don't think the scare tactic of sending white powder to the LA and Salt Lake Temples as well as a Catholic organization was a cool move. Threatening to boycott Utah is ridiculous to me as most of the people being targeted (Sundance Film Festival and the ski industry) would most likely be sympathizers, not opponents. The act of scrutinizing the donor lists and targeting, harrassing, or boycotting specific individuals causes more harm than good, I think. I don't think targeting specific people for "payback" is the best way to positively influence them to see things from your point of view.

One particular case that has really bothered me was that of a man I know, Scott Eckern, who was Artistic Director for the California Music Theatre for 25 years. He personally donated $1,000 to support Proposition 8, and when gay activists found out, gay theatre artists and composers threatened to pull their shows and boycott the theater. Scott, who is a good man, finally decided to resign for the good of the theater. Now, Mormons are threatening to boycott the theater because of what they believe was "forced resignation." Can a man not vote his conscience (even if I don't agree with his position) without fear of retribution? It makes me sick. I've seen the same intolerance from the gay community that they are accusing others of showing them.

On a personal level, I've seen friends of mine refuse to be friends anymore with those who disagreed with them on this matter. I've seen other friends resign their memberships from the LDS Church. All of this is immensely troubling to me. There is so much pettiness and bickering and name-calling and ignorance, it's really saddened me.

Another friend of mine who is leaving the Church (although she's been inactive for years) showed me temple work that had been done on behalf of Adolph Hitler and Eva Braun in an attempt to show me the injustice of allowing Hitler and Braun to marry, but not two gay people in a loving, committed relationhip. I agree that it is sad irony that Hitler and Braun would be given an opportunity to accept eternal marriage in the afterlife while I can't even get a civil ceremony in this one, but the fact is the Church has always discouraged the submitting of names of famous people, the church can't control an overzealous member who might have submitted those names, and there is no guarantee in the slightest that the temple work done in this life would give Adolph Hitler or Eva Braun an eternal marriage. Frankly, I think they'd both pass, and that's between them and God anyway. Temple work doesn't mean a free ticket to heaven. One's acts will certainly have an influence on where one ends up. Luckily that's for God to decide, not me. My point is really this: while I understood the intentions of my friend, all it did was make me feel sad because I just felt like it was stirring up trouble.

Are the leaders of the LDS Church perfect? No. Are its members? No. Are gay activists? No. I just wish we all (ALL) would make more of an effort to try to understand and educate each other rather than disrespect and hurt one another. No one will ever listen to what you have to say if you aren't informed and civil about it. I've heard many hurtful, ignorant, and even hateful remarks from people on both sides, and it breaks my heart. I just want us to understand one another and come to some sort of agreement on how we can live together. Maybe that's naive, but it's what I wish. being stuck in the middle is especially hard.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Keith Olbermann

Whatever one's views on same-sex marriage, I thought this was at least worth a look:

Monday, October 27, 2008

Off To Vegas

I'm going out of town for a week to visit my fiancé and see our new house for the first time (and move my stuff in). I don't know how much internet access I will have during that time, so just letting you know that if I'm not heard from during the week, that is why.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Two Videos I Like

I am truly naive. It has floored me how much ugly racism has crept out during this presidential election. I've seen video clips in the news or on YouTube of ignorant people saying, at best, misinformed, and, at worst, hateful things. Naive idealist that I am, I thought people were better than that and that we had come much further than perhaps we have. When I look at Barack Obama, I don't see the color of his skin; I just see a man I admire a lot whom I feel would make a great leader, especially in what I predict will be even more perilous times. Regardless of whether people like Obama or not, I hope it has to do more with his policies than his color. Here are two videos I've seen recently that hit on issues I agree with:

Donna Brazile speaks about race.

Colin Powell endorses Barack Obama.

If you don't have time to watch the entire Powell clip, this is the part I want to focus on in this post:

"I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, 'Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.'

"Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim; he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian.

"But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America.

"Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?

"Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, 'He's a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.' This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

"I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards -- Purple Heart, Bronze Star -- showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old.

"And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross; it didn't have the Star of David; it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life.

"Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way. And John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know. But I'm troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Theatre Snob or "Now For Something Completely Different"

I've spent much of this blog talking about my gay LDS issues. Today it's about theatre.

I am a theatre snob. I freely admit it and do not apologize for it. I like going to see excellent theatre, and anything below my high standards receives criticism. My mom doesn't always like going to shows with me because she thinks I am too critical. Whether I am too critical is up for debate, but I admit I am very critical of any play (or movie) that I see. Frankly, I wish I could just go to a show and enjoy it without the critic in me constantly making mental notes about what I am seeing, and there have been times when I get so lost in a show that the criticism stops. Those ones are the best; but the majority of things I see are scrutinized (and sometimes torn apart) by my inner critic. Mostly it's acting and directing and performance that receive my toughest criticisms because those are my focus. Jonah, for example, criticizes costumes a lot because that is his forté.

The other night a good friend of mine (who is also quite critical about theatre) and I went to see a friend of ours in a show. Neither of us particularly wanted to see the show itself because we both had low expectations, but we really wanted to see our friend perform. True to our suspicions, the show was pretty terrible. Our friend (and actually most of the performers) gave good performances and made the most of some weak material, but the material itself was pretty mediocre. The premise was interesting, but the execution was not, nor were the stakes high enough or the characters deep enough for me to be moved in any meaningful way. At intermission my friend and I proceeded to pick the show apart, and I'm sure if anyone around us heard our conversation they probably thought we were huge theatre snobs. So be it.

I said to my friend that it was typical "bad Mormon theatre," which as a Mormon and a theatre professional I feel I am qualified to say. He replied that it reminded him of a bad BYU Young Ambassador show (is there a good BYU Young Ambassador show? Kidding.). We felt the show came off as disjointed, condescending, and preachy and thought overall that the songs, book, and choreography were uninspired and superficial. When we got together with our friend after the show, she agreed with every assessment we made about the show, and said her director also thought the material was weak and tried to do the best she could with it. I had a feeling our friend knew she was in a bad show because she is a pretty theatre-savvy individual.

The composer of the show came out prior to the Act 1 beginning to tell us that the show had been 22 years (I think) in the making, and when the show was over I thought, "It took you 22 years to come up with this?!" What really annoyed me (as is often the case when I'm seeing theatre in the Beehive State) was that so many people around me were buying into it, and several people gave the thing a standing ovation (but then I find that Utah audiences are often willing to give a dog taking a crap onstage a standing O). It's appalling to me how willing people (both theatre professionals and audiences alike) are to settle for mediocrity.

I'm not saying that all theatre has to be deep or meaningful or socially relevant nor do I hold community theatre up to the same standard I hold professional theatre. What I do want is to be entertained or moved or see some issue from another perspective in a polished, professional, and interesting or clever way. The musical Mamma Mia, for example, is not high art or anything other than a big ball of fluff; but I saw a touring company give a terrific performance of it that was very entertaining and well done. On the other hand, I just saw a socially relevent play at Salt Lake Acting Company called The Overwhelming which I found to be extremely well written, well acted, and well directed, and I left feeling I had seen a great piece of theatre. Pioneer Theatre Company just did a production of My Fair Lady that I found to be extremely well done. I saw a community theatre production of Caroline or Change in the recent past that was more invigorating and interesting than some of the professional theatre I've seen. So I don't think I am unreasonable in my request.

I do find, however, that so many audiences here in Utah (and probably elsewhere) have this attitude that if somebody's putting their heart into something and doing a passable job of presenting something mediocre or even downright awful that we need to celebrate it and applaud it as if it's the Second Coming or something. I disagree.

I worked for several years at a theater that thrived on mediocrity and sloppiness. We did half-assed shows to sell-out crowds, and our audiences acted like we'd given them top-notch entertainment worthy of a brilliant production of Shakespeare or Sondheim. I was constantly frustrated by our troupe's unwillingness to strive for perfection and polish and even more frustrated by our audiences' willingness to accept it. I can't tell you how many times I said to myself, "Imagine how these people would respond if the show was actually any good." Now that isn't to say we didn't do some good stuff there, but we also did some things that I just thought were mediocre and even terrible. One of the reasons I chose to move on from that theater (because it was a well-paying job) was that I no longer felt challenged or particularly proud of what I was doing. Nor is that to say that I don't still take jobs for money rather than the art (call me a hypocrite). I'm just saying that I wish we as a society (both as theatre professionals and audiences) would try to raise the bar in what we deem acceptable as good entertainment and/or thought-provoking theatre. I think we should demand more of ourselves.

Now if you think I'm being too critical of theatre, imagine how high that beam of criticism is focused on myself as a performer. I do not claim to be the greatest actor or singer (and certainly not dancer), but I sure strive to be, and I am constantly dissecting and picking my own performances apart to see what can be improved and polished. I'm not asking perfection of anybody; I'm just asking that we strive for perfeaction and not settle for mediocrity in the theatre.

That's all.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Only Thing We Have To Fear...

About three or so years ago my mom's house was robbed. She had only been gone an hour, and it was the middle of the day, and a thief (or thieves) broke in and stole some costume jewelry, her wedding ring, a camera, her pillow cases, her passport, some stationary (WTF?!), and some other various things. All in all, I think it was maybe $2,000 - $3,000 worth of stuff. The police actually think it was kids and certainly not professionals. It was surprising to me actually how much else they could have taken that was worth more money that they left remaining.

The fact that they stole these things was not a big deal (except the wedding wing, which of course had great sentimental value to my mom). After all, it was only money, and most of these things were either replaceable or not worth much to begin with. What has always upset me about the robbery is what else they stole: my mom's sense of security and her peace of mind. Three years later, my mom is a different person in some ways. She's far more paranoid, she jumps at every little sound (even sounds the house has been making for years), she locks the door even if people are home, she doesn't like being alone at all, and even though she bought an extremely efficient and well-endorsed home security system, I don't think she feels all that much safer.

That's what upsets me the most: my mom is still scared of being robbed or attacked. Her peace of mind of feeling safe in her own home is gone, and it angers me that these robbers took that as well. And now with my sister having just gotten married and me eventually on my way out, it concerns me that she will be living here all by herself because I think it will only make her fears worse.

I remember when 9-11 happened. I flew that very week because I had a wedding to go to, and I remember how many seats on the plane were empty because people had canceled their flights. I also remember various people around me seemed nervous and scared to be flying. I wasn't nor was the guy next to me. We had a small conversation about it and agreed that whatever was going to happen would happen, and that we weren't going to let it stop us from living our lives.

I remember arriving for my friend's wedding, and her mother would freak out whenever a plane flew over the area because she was convinced that more terrorists were coming to kill more people (never mind that this was podunk town in Pennsylvania).

I remember how overreactionary I thought people were about airport security, and to this day I still think it's all a facade designed to make people feel safer rather than providing any genuine security. I feel far more inconvenienced by airport security than I do more safe.

I've looked at how this administration has exploited people's fears in order to achieve its often self-serving goals and how people have bought into it because they are afraid. And often thought when I've heard them recite the mantra, "If we don't do 'such-and-such' the terrorists win," and thinking to myself, "No, if we don't continue living our lives without fear, the terrorists win."

You read the paper or turn on the news, and someone is telling you that you have to worry about this and that; there's some new disease out there; studies have shown that something is bad for you; the economy is plummeting; terrorists are after you and your family; etc., and people let their fears paralyze them and stress them out and prevent them from living their lives.

I try very hard not to allow myself to get scared by stuff. Certainly I have fears, but I find the best way to tackle fear is to just throw myself into whatever it is I'm afraid of, and I would say 99.9% of the time the reality is nowhere near as frightening as my imaginings were.

I remember as an acting student we were often given crazy exercises to do, and you would stand in front of your classmates in a very vulnerable position doing whatever it is you were asked to do. It was scary to put oneself in that position, but I always found that if I just threw myself into it, it never was as bad as my fears allowed to me think it was and quite often was very rewarding and fun.

As an actor, it's always nerve-racking to go to auditions, and there's always this fear that I might screw up and make a fool of myself. Guess what? 9 out of 10 times the audition goes fine, and the one time that I do make a fool of myself is not as big a deal as I imagine it to be. The world still keeps on turning, and I end up learning what I need to do to avoid feeling that way at the next audition. And each audition makes me better at it. Even if the audition isn't my best, I always learn something that I can do to be a better auditioner.

For years I spent my life in the closet, scared that if I came out or acted on my feelings that somehow the powers of hell would snatch me up, that my family and friends would treat me badly or somehow stop loving me; that God would think less of me; and that my world would somehow implode. Guess what? It never happened. If anything, life is better now. I'm not saying that is the right choice for everybody. Each person has to find their own path. But it was very right for me, and I spent years being paralyzed and repressed by this fear, and once I let go, life became so much easier to live.

My point is (and I really believe this) that the fears we have are almost always more terrible in our imaginations than they are in reality, and if we allow our fears to paralyze us or stop us from living our lives or doing the things we desire to do, I think we often do ourselves a great disservice.

It really is like Franklin D. Roosevelt said.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Who I Was Then

I attended my nephew’s choral concert at his high school a few nights ago (ironically the same group of students I substitute taught the week before), and as I was watching this group of high school students singing in their various choirs, I thought, “My gosh! That was me nearly 20 years ago!” It is almost unfathomable to me that it’s been almost 20 years since I graduated from high school (I imagine my reunion will be next summer). First of all, I don’t feel it. I feel quite young. And second, I just can’t believe that much time has passed.

I was sitting on the row with my mom, my brother and sister-in-law, and their children, and I thought how even though it didn’t seem so much time had passed that at the same time it also seemed like a lifetime ago. I thought to myself, none of my brother’s kids even existed in mortality 20 years ago; my dad was still alive; my brother and his wife were just newlyweds; I was working at an ice cream shop for minimum wage; I was very much struggling with my homosexuality in a very negative way at that time; and I was starting to lose my faith in God. In fact, just a year or so after my graduation, I was completely inactive in my church, very bitter towards God for my perceived troubles, and slightly estranged from my family. And I thought to myself, “What if I had stayed that person? Where would I be now?” I actually shudder at the thought.

I was a different person then; much more self-centered than I feel I am now, and I was losing faith that God even cared about me. But one night I was praying, and a whole new world was opened up to me where I saw that not only did I matter to God, but that he knew me individually and very much loved and cared about me. I also felt that the LDS Church was God's true church on earth, and I felt very compelled to serve a mission and felt compelled to not give in to my homosexual feelings at that time. As I sat at the concert last night I thought, “Why would God tell me to fight those feelings then, and yet, several years later would I feel that same God telling me it was okay to let go and come out of the closet?” Of course, the obvious argument was that it wasn't God that told me it was okay to come out, but I do believe it was. I'm not even saying that I believe God necessarily condones my choice, but that He knew it would be better for my emotional health to do so. I do also very strongly believe that Jonah and I are supposed to be together, and as I've stated many times before, I certainly feel happier and more at peace having made the decision to be with him. What has been affirmed to be time and time again is that God loves me regardless of my choices and that things will be okay for me.

As I was at this concert, it occurred to me that if I had come out at an earlier age or if I had chosen not to follow the promptings I had to serve a mission or be active in the church, then my relationship with God would be different today and perhaps negative or even nonexistent, and I don’t think I ever would have met Jonah, or if I had, I don’t know that I would have been as emotionally or spiritually attracted to him like I am. I also think I might have done some things I would have regretted later on.

I’m not sure if my thoughts are coming across the way I am intending or why I even feel compelled to write about it, but it was just interesting to think about the path I am on in life compared to the path I was on and how different my life is in some ways than it was when I was 17 and yet there were also aspects that remained the same as well. I guess what really hit me was that God sees my life all at once, unlike me who experiences the present and remembers fragments of my past. He sees my past, present, and future all at once (at least that is what I believe), and so I believe the revelations he gives me are based on what he knows about me throughout my life and not just now. Perhaps that is why He has made me to feel that being with Jonah is a good thing and that it is appropriate for this time in my life to have made the decisions I've made. I am simply trusting him. I wish I could clarify what I really felt at the concert, but it is not coming out in this post the way I am intending. Perhaps someone can help me better articulate what I am trying to say (or perhaps I need to dwell on it a bit more. Anyway, part of the point I am trying to make is that it was an unusual experience just having different memories and realizations flood into my mind while this concert was going on. The concert was enjoyable, too, by the way. Quite good for a high school choir, I thought.

Sorry if this post is confusing.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Proposition 8

I've been meaning to write my feelings about California's Proposition 8 which is trying to ban same-sex marriage in that state. The LDS Church, of which I am still a member, has put a lot of money and manpower into trying to get Californians to pass the bill.

Jonah and I have set a date to get married on December 31 in Orange County, so obviously I am hoping the proposition is defeated. I am sad that my church has put so much time, money, and blatant political effort into passing a bill that I disagree with. I am not surprised, though. The LDS Church is very focused on marriage between man and a woman being an eternal and moral principle, and they do not believe that man has the right to to try and monkey around with an eternal law.

My position is that even if same-sex marriage is wrong in the eyes of God, a man-made law isn't going to alter that nor will it force the LDS Church to have to abide by it. I just want to be married to the person I love and have the same rights and privileges that come with that. I know my religion doesn't see it that way, and I can respect that.

I refuse to get on the LDS Church-bashing train, though. Many of my gay friends see it as a personal attack on them, and perhaps they are right to feel that way. Regardless of the fact that my religious leaders and some of my fellow members are trying to pass a law that I disagree with, I do respect their right to fight for what they believe in just as I am trying to fight for what I believe in.

In spite of differences of opinion, I do love my religion and all it has taught and given me throughout my life. I still enjoy being a part of it. I hold no malice towards it. But it is true that I do not always agree with the way things are handled, and this is one of those times.

I do not claim to know with absolute certainty God's mind or his will concerning me. I do know with absolute certainty that since I found Jonah and since I came out of the closet, I am far happier than I was when I was trying so hard to live in the "Mormon box," as I call it. How that will affect me in the afterlife remains to be seen. But right now my life is very good, and I do not regret the decisions I've made regarding my relationship with Jonah and my coming out. I am trying my best to live as good a life as I can, and I am trying to live according to what I believe is true and good the best way I know how. I would like marriage with my partner to be a part of that. I hope I can marry Jonah legally in California, and I hope one day that right will be allowed to all gay couples in all states. If Proposition 8 passes, Jonah and I will have a commitment ceremony here in Utah. No matter what, it will not diminish the love or devotion we already have to one another.

So many people are scared of giving gays and lesbians the right to marry. We're truly no different than our heterosexual counterparts. We just want to live, love, and grow old together like everyone else.

I found an interesting quote from a talk Thomas S. Monson gave at the April, 2005 conference. The entire talk can be found here, but here's the quote:

"Several years ago we had a young paperboy who didn't always deliver the paper in the manner intended. Instead of getting the paper on the porch, he sometimes accidentally threw it into the bushes or even close to the street. Some on his paper route decided to start a petition of complaint. One day a delegation came to our home and asked my wife, Frances, to sign the petition. She declined, saying, "Why, he's just a little boy, and the papers are so heavy for him. I would never be critical of him, for he tries his best." The petition, however, was signed by many of the others on the paper route and sent to the boy's supervisors.

"Not many days afterward, I came home from work and found Frances in tears. When she was finally able to talk, she told me that she had just learned that the body of the little paperboy had been found in his garage, where he had taken his own life. Apparently the criticism heaped upon him had been too much for him to bear. How grateful we were that we had not joined in that criticism. What a vivid lesson this has always been regarding the importance of being nonjudgmental and treating everyone with kindness."

Some of us in this world are "little paperboys" who have tried our whole lives to get that damn "paper on the porch," but we just can't do it. The "papers are so heavy" for us, and even though some people wish we could get it on the porch, sometimes the "bushes" or the "street" are all we can manage. Please don't sign a "petition" that will diminish us further.

How's that for metaphorical overload? ;-)

Friday, October 03, 2008

My Sister's Love

My sister was married recently. In fact, she just got back from her honeymoon a few days ago. She seems happy, if not a bit overwhelmed by the life changes marriage brings. But my mom told me something very touching about my sister that she had recently found out herself. When my sister was first dating her now husband, one of the things that she told him very early in their relationship was that I was gay, and that if he had any problems with that, the relationship wouldn’t work. Her husband is fairly conservative (as is my sister), but neither one has had anything but good vibes and thoughts when it comes to Jonah and me. My brother-in-law, upon meeting Jonah for the first time, gave him a big hug, and he seems to like both of us a lot. Jonah flew in to help alter my sister's wedding dress, and we gave her and my brother-in-law a wedding gift as well as a prank gift that my brother-in-law quite enjoyed. I like my brother-in-law, too, even if I think he’s an enormous goofball (which he, himself, would be the first to admit).

My sister has wanted to get married and have kids for a long, long time, and it touched me immensely that in spite of her conservative values and in spite of her desires for marriage and kids, that her love and support for me transcends all that; that she was willing to say goodbye to a potential relationship if this guy wasn’t willing to accept me. It made both me and my mom cry as my mom shared this with me. Certainly I shouldn’t be surprised that my sister, who is one of the kindest, most loving people I know, would feel this way, but not all people do, and it was nice to have it reinforced. And my sister and her new husband are very good for each other, I think, so all is well.

Anyway, I was extremely moved by this grand gesture from my very quiet and reserved sister.

One other thing I wanted to share that shows my rebellious streak. My mom is a worker at the temple, and for the most part, she enjoys it. One thing she is not so keen on is how rigid many of the rules are and how everything has to be done an exact way. I'm not speaking of the ceremonies or ordinances. I'm talking about how the temple clothing after it is laundered has to be folded in an exact, precise way. My mom folded some things and then somebody went in and redid everything she had done because it wasn't done the exact "right" way, and it annoyed her because she felt her hard work had been for naught. I told my mom that I think I would purposely fold things wrong just to annoy people and get a rise out of them. As I said it, I realize that rebelliousness and unwillingness to conform is strong in me. I enjoy rocking the boat and knocking people off balance sometimes. I think it's good for people. Perhaps I'm wrong, and perhaps that line of thinking isn't right, but that's my nature.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

God's Love

Church was really good on Sunday. Two things really sang to my spirit.

In Sunday School the lesson was about Samuel the Lamanite, and as I was listening, it struck me that, Samuel, righteous as he was, was actually an outsider preaching to members of the church who had become prideful and wicked. I assume Samuel was considered a member of the church, too, since he was a prophet and living his life in righteousness. But my point is that it struck me as ironic that these high and mighty Nephites, who probably felt Samuel was beneath them, were being preached to and called to repentence by him, who was actually more righteous in his life than they were. I just thought it was interesting.

What really lifted me up spiritually was that the Special Needs Mutual came to our ward to sing and speak. I didn't even know that such a group existed. What was interesting to me was that during the sacrament, one of the special needs women started commentating on the proceedings at full voice. She was pretty much shouting stuff like "Here comes the bread!" and "Oh, he's passing by us now," etc. She wasn't doing it to be rude. In fact, she was quite joyful in doing it. It's just the way she was. As I sat there, I thought about how social rules have taught us all our life to be "normal," whatever that means, and that one of those rules is that we're supposed to be quiet and reverent during the Sacrament, and I thought, "I'll bet there are people in the congregation who are uncomfortable or bothered by this woman, and I asked myself a question I have asked myself often (and have even blogged about): "Why are we so afraid of people that are different from us?" I myself was not bothered by her behavior; in fact, I found it sweet in a way. And I always am interested in things that "rock the boat" a bit. In my mind I thought, "This woman is who she is. She can't help behaving that way nor does she view it as being wrong or un-normal." As I thought about this, I equated it to my own situation of being a homosexual, something I feel I just am even if it means I don't always fit in the "Mormon box."

What really moved me was that this special needs group sang a song that I know very well from having sang it in high school many years ago. I'm sure many of you are familiar with it as well. It is "In This Very Room," and these are the lyrics:

"In this very room there's quite enough love for one like me,
And in this very room there's quite enough joy for one like me,
And there's quite enough hope and quite enough power to chase away any gloom,
For Jesus, Lord Jesus ... is in this very room.
And in this very room there's quite enough love for all of us,
And in this very room there's quite enough joy for all of us,
And there's quite enough hope and quite enough power to chase away any gloom,
For Jesus, Lord Jesus ... is in this very room.

In this very room there's quite enough love for all the world,
And in this very room there's quite enough joy for all the world,
And there's quite enough hope and quite enough power to chase away any gloom,
For Jesus, Lord Jesus ... is in this very room.

What was interesting was their configuration as they sang it. Unlike a "normal" choir that would be in some proper formation, one guy with Downs syndrome came to the front of the group all by himself, and yet another sang the song from the aisle near the congregation (still a part of the group, but completely on his own at the same time). Their voices were varied. Some sang just fine, others couldn't sing well at all, and that one woman just commented while everybody was singing until she was the last voice heard muttering various things long after the song itself had ended. It was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen or heard in church, and I was crying throughout, especially because the words seemed so poignant to their situation as well as my own. Sometimes one doesn't fit the conventional definition of "normalcy," at least by the world's standards or the church's standards or society's standards or what-have-you. But what really hit me was that it doesn't matter so much because God's love is so far-reaching, so eternal, so abundant, so boundless that there is a place for everyone at his table. No one is beyond the reach of his love. No one is excluded. Sometimes religion can seem like a very exclusive thing, and it is interesting that the irony is that God is completely inclusive.

I was reminded of a song from an Off-Broadway show called Altar Boyz called "Everybody Fits." It goes like this:

Some days you just can't begin.
You feel outside looking in.
It's like you're the odd man out.
Let me help you end your doubt.

It doesn't matter if you're different and out of place.
It doesn't matter if there's acne upon your face.
It doesn't matter.
Take my hand and then you will see
Everybody fits in God's great family.

Strangers seem to stop and stare,
Wonderin' why you're even there,
Feeling so left out and wrong.
I'll show you that you belong.

It doesn't matter if you have a gigantic nose.
It doesn't matter if you're born with eleven toes.
It doesn't matter.
You can trust and believe in me.
Everybody fits in God's great family.

In the family of God you'll learn
That there is no such thing as others.
All the woman and men on Earth
Can be your sisters and your brothers.

It doesn't matter if you're wrinkled and old and gray.
It doesn't matter if you face Mecca when you pray.
It doesn't matter.
Won't you listen and hear my plea?
Everybody fits.
It doesn't matter if you're yellow or white or red.
It doesn't matter if you're pregnant and you're unwed.
It doesn't matter
'Cause the truth, it can set you free,
Everybody fits!
Everybody fits!

It doesn't matter .
Every murderer on death row
It doesn't matter
Every prostitute that you know
It doesn't matter
Welcome to the fraternity.
Everybody fits in God's great family,
You and me,
We fit into the family.

I really believe in an all-loving God. I think sometimes people and religion make us think we lose his love if we sin or that if we're not living our lives perfectly according to society's norms that we're somehow unworthy of that love. I wish I could convince everyone that this isn't true. My heart powerfully received the message on Sunday (as it has many times before) that there is a place for all at God's table regardless of your situation. I don't care if you're a murderer, an adulterer, an atheist, gay, mentally-challenged, mentally-deranged, suicidal, a woman, a man, if you've lost all faith or have plenty, whether you're a prophet, or the biggest sinner in the world. God loves you and me in terms that are inexplicable to our finite human minds, and nothing we ever do will cause him to stop loving us. I become more and more convinced of that as I continue on my life's journey. It's good to know.

Anyway, that's all for now.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

My Mom

I've been thinking a lot about my mom and her mortality lately. In recent years, my mom's memory is not as sharp as it once was (her short-term memory, in particular, seems the most affected, and it also seems that the synapses in her brain don't fire up as quickly as they once did). This makes me a little sad just because it's hard sometimes to see one's parents become older and more frail. I felt the same way in regards to my dad, who passed away in 1992. Don't get me wrong. My mom is still pretty active and certainly not in bad shape or anything. Her long term memory is actually quite good and physically she is fine, for the most part. But it is still hard sometimes just to see her getting older and to know that, eventually, she will die. She will turn 70 next June. If she were to die at the same age as her own mother, she's still got another 15 years of life left (and her mother was quite active almost to the end).

I remember when we were younger, my mom and I would play Trivial Pursuit, and she used to be so good at it. Nowadays, when we play a similar game, she often will know the answer, but draws a blank on the name of whatever she is remembering. Often I'll just give her a free pass if I know she knows the answer even if she can't give me the exact answer. Of course, this is a minor thing and doesn't mean a whit in the long run, but I do miss the sharper mind she once had.

Or she'll tell me something she just told me five or ten minutes before because she has forgotten or vice-versa (she will forget information I just told her). Again, not a big deal. Just a minor inconvenience. Nothing major. But it's just hard to see her mortality show.

Last week I attended the funeral of a dear friend's mother, and as I was sitting their listening to the musical selections and talks of tribute, I thought of my own mother, whom I love dearly, and thought about how much I will miss her when she leaves this mortal coil.

Two days ago, my mother's doctor wanted to see her immediately because he thought she might have developed a blood clot in her leg. Of course, blood clots can cause death if the clot becomes loose and is released into the bloodstream. A relatively young friend of mine died suddenly of a pulminary embolism a few years ago because of just such a complication. So I was needfully concerned. Fortunately, there turned out to be no clot. But it made me think, and really, you can lose any loved one at any time without any warning, and I just don't feel ready to lose my mom yet.

I guess what's really been hard lately is that my sister is engaged to be married and will be moving away soon. My other two siblings are already married and live in their own homes. And I know I will be moving eventually. Jonah and I are pretty close to finally getting a home of our own (in another state), and while my work will keep me here in Utah for at least another 4 to 6 months, I know it's only a matter of time before I leave, too. I know my mother already feels the pangs of loneliness and boredom as her children are off doing their own things. Granted, we are with her often, but we are also away often, and it makes me feel sad to know that she will be by herself relatively soon.

She does stuff around the house and has a calling at the temple and does have a few friends she does stuff with, but I know there are also times when she feels lonely. Our family is quite close, and my mom and I have a particularly close relationship, so it's just going to be a hard adjustment for her and me, I think. I often do things for her at the house (maintain the yard, lift things she can't lift, help around the house, help her with computer or technical things (she's completely helpless when it comes to technology), and we also play games or talk or go out to eat, and I know that when I move away, it will be hard.

I am lucky in that Jonah is very aware of the transition my mom is going through and that she likes having me here, and he maintains that as long as I am working here, I might as well stay here. But I expect that my work will require to come back here from time to time. But I am also aware that I will have to be away from my mom for extended periods, and that I will worry about her just as I know she worries about me when I am away.

I love my mom so very much. We are very good friends, and she has been an amazing source of love and support doing my life and has been particularly supportive since I've come out and since I've been in this relationship with Jonah. She (along with my late dad) has taught me wonderful values that have shaped my life in positive ways. I truly can't imagine having or wanting another person as my mother. I love hugging her and discussing things with her, and I feel incredibly blessed and lucky to have her in my life. She is, perhaps, the most important mortal influence I've had in my life thus far.

I sang a song in church last Mother's Day that goes like this:

My mother's love has guided me from birth,
A gift from heaven for my life on earth.
What would life be without the sweetness of
That precious gift, my mother's love?
When I am hurt, my mother feels my pain
And gives her heart to make me whole again.
And when I fail or when life seems unfair,
I still can trust my mother's care.
My mother's love is warmth and tenderness,
A love that tries, in ev'ry way to bless.
For all my days, she's knelt and asked in prayer
That just for me, God would be there.
When that day comes that we must be apart,
More than before, I'll know with all my heart
Her precious love can never be replaced.
But I will feel, again, her warm embrace.
My mother's love, my mother's love.

("My Mother's Love" by Jean Erickson Barnes)

Truer words could not be spoken. I could barely get through the song because it described so well my feelings for my mom. I love her, and I am thankful for her. I just hope I'm ready when the time comes when we must say goodbye temporarily.

One other thing I wanted to say is that in his tribute to his own mother, my friend said something akin to the fact that we have to give God the best life we can. I think that's true, and I feel that is what I'm doing. This point was again driven home in Sacrament Meeting today when the speaker told a story about a cracked pot that was discouraged because he was only able to give half of what he was intended to give. Out of context, the part of the story I've given you might not even make sense, but I felt the Lord speak to my heart that even if a person is only able to give half of what he was made and intended for, it is still enough provided he is doing his best to give that.

It has hit my mind that as human beings (and, more specifically, as members of the LDS Church, we sure can be a judgmental lot. I don't think it serves us (or God) to be so judgmental (and I include myself). I need to do better at not judging others. Only God can really know a person's heart and intentions.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for today.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


I saw quite a lovely and unexpected sight this afternoon.

A friend and I went to Gateway Mall in Salt Lake City today to see a movie. Afterwards we window-shopped a bit and then sat on a bench just to talk. It was a gorgeous day (although pretty hot which is why we found a bench in the shade). As we were talking, my friend, who is well aware that I am gay, pointed and said enthusiastically, "Hey, look at that!"

As I looked in the direction he was pointing in, I saw a young gay couple walking away from us holding hands. It warmed my heart to see them openly expressing their love for one another and warmed my heart even further that no one around them thought it was the least bit odd for them to be doing so.

I am not to the point yet where I would be comfortable holding Jonah's hand in a very public place. I admire the couple I saw today for not feeling self-conscious about it at all.

So to the anonymous gay couple at Gateway today, kudos to you guys for being brave enough to show your love and for being an example to me. I applaud you! You made my day.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Happy, But Dissatisfied

I've been out of the closet for nearly two years now. The other day I was thinking that I kind of miss going to the temple. My reasons have little to do with how the temple made me feel. Truth be told, I rarely got much out of going to the temple. I never really seemed to have those spiritual experiences one is supposed to have on attending. Most of the time, it just made me feel lonely and out of place. No, I miss going to the temple because I no longer can. It's not like I was a frequent temple-goer even when I had a current temple recommend, but I guess the thought of being excluded from that is hard at times.

It's been an interesting month. Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I'm not sure anybody even reads my blog anymore anyway. But then that was never really the point of this blog in the first place.

It's been intriguing to see the California Supreme Court overturn the ban on gay marriage. It's so great to think that Jonah and I could go to California and be legally married (at least in California), if we so desired. It will be interesting to see if it sticks or if it will be voted down in November.

It's been equally troubling (although certainly not unexpected) to see the Church come out publicly and encourage its members to vote on the ban against same-sex marriage. I'm still active. I still pay tithing and go to church. My bishop still knows about my relationship with Jonah and thus far has not seen fit (thankfully) to excommunicate me. And thus far I have managed to find a good balance in regards to my sexuality and religion. But there are times when it is hard to know where to stand.

One one hand, I understand the Church's position. Marriage between man and a woman and the importance of family in that particular unit is a big cornerstone of the Mormon faith. And I understand their position that anything that calls itself marriage that does not fall under that particular cornerstone is a mockery of what marriage is according to the LDS faith.

At the same time, I did not choose to have same-sex feelings and tried for many, many years to live my life in such a way that I was trying to be obedient to the tenets of my religion, and doing so made me feel unworthy, discouraged, angst-ridden, frustrated, miserable, repressed, and generally unfulfilled. Now that I've found someone of my own sex who I want to be with and have lived my life according to that view, I am much happier, I feel more at peace, more able to be myself, more satisfied, and more optimistic about life. There is no question that I am happier now. And yet I am still trying my best to live my life according to the values I was taught. I attend church, I pay tithing, Jonah and I are still virgins (if you can believe it) and monogamous, I don't drink or smoke, and I am hopeful Jonah and I will be legally married soon. Why am I happier if I am supposedly doing something so wicked? And how is my marrying Jonah and having the legal rights that come with it going to diminish any other marriage? The church is free to teach what it must and has every right to promote those teachings, but it is frustrating to me that the church gives me little aid or options when it comes to homosexuality other than to say that even though my homosexual feelings are not likely a choice nor is it likely that they will ever disappear in this lifetime I can't act on my gay feelings nor is marrying a woman a good idea for getting rid of them and that living a lone, celibate life is really the only feasible option. I just can't do what is asked of me. I tried, and it didn't work. Yet I'm told not to fall in love with perhaps the greatest person that has ever happened to me nor am I supposed to marry him. It just doesn't make sense to me.

My family and friends have been very supportive throughout all this, but there still are frustrations. My youngest sister recently was engaged, which I was very happy about because my sister wants nothing more than to be a wife and mother, and it seemed for such a long time that this would not happen for her. She's met a great guy, and they are very much in love, and it is wonderful to see her so happy.

Recently my mom put a photo of my sister and her fiance on our piano in the living room. That's where many of the family photos go. There are several photos of my older brother and his family and ones of my older sister and her family. And now there is one of my youngest sister and her soon-to-be husband. But there are none of me and Jonah. My mom loves Jonah a lot and she also loves me a lot, and I don't expect her to put a photo of us on the piano because I know it would be awkward for her to explain to visitors about us, and I don't want to put her in that position. But it still makes me sad. Jonah has it even worse. He can't even talk to his family about us, and I also suspect that it is his familial challenges that has caused him to delay our getting married.

As my youngest sibling prepares for her wedding, everybody is excited and talking about it at the ward. My sister is buying a wedding dress, reserving the church for the reception, having a bouquet made, etc., and it makes me a bit jealous that I cannot have the same outpouring of enthusiasm or that we somehow have to be more "covert" in our wedding plans. Please don't misunderstand. I am overjoyed for my sister. I am just jealous that a homosexual wedding cannot have the same footing (at least in my particular situation) as a heterosexual one. I didn't choose to be gay, you know? I spent many years fighting it. But I am, and I'm not going away. I am no different than any of my straight counterparts. We all want basically the same things. I wish we could have them. I at least feel we're getting closer.

I received an email from my older sister talking about my niece. She said:

She [my niece] has listened to the lesson of Adam and Eve and knows that man is suppose to marry women and that two daddies would be 'silly' - though if something happened to [us], I would want you and Jonah to raise her - and then she would have two 'dads' but right now it seems inappropriate to try and explain to her about life choices and issues than can seem complicated to an adult - let alone a four year old mind.

Two times now she has said that she does not WANT to be baptized. So I've tried to explain that one to her. And how when she's baptized, she can have anyone [perform the baptism] she wants. Dad, her brothers, [her uncles], her cousins. Both times she has asked for you.

I think when the time comes (after all she has almost four years to go) she will be ready and she will want her dad (or maybe [her brother] She misses him very much [He's currently on a mission]) and perhaps she'll have a better understanding of why it is that you are unable to baptize her. Still . . . I hope that I am able to deal with her questions in the right way - so she'll understand - so that we'll both understand.

I understand that there are still issues that are difficult to reconcile. I understand that my choices have denied me the ability to baptize my niece (if that is indeed what she desires when that day comes). I understand the responsibility my siblings have towards their kids regarding choices they may feel are wrong (even if they show support for me in spite of those choices). But that doesn't mean my feelings don't get hurt as a result.

Jonah and I talked for a bit (and I hope we have a real opportunity to talk more in depth when he visits me in July). It has been nearly a year since we became engaged, and while I know we have moved forward in our relationship in many ways, I am becoming increasingly impatient and dissatisfied that we are both unmarried and apart. I hope we can solidify our goals and make it happen sooner rather than later. If not...well, that is a discussion for another day.

Friday, May 02, 2008


Two weeks ago in sacrament meeting there was a really good talk on gratitude. The speaker gave an excellent talk, I thought. He relayed a story about how as a young man he was struggling financially with a wife and seven kids to support. He had a really junky Volkswagen as his only means of transportation to and from work and barely enough money to even fill up the tank with gasoline. Anyway, he was driving to work one day when he smelled smoke. Somehow his backseat had caught on fire. He stopped the car and quickly grabbed his briefcase and watched helplessly, along with a policeman who had stopped, as his car was engulfed in flames. A bus driver came along and attempted to use her fire extinguisher to put out the fire, but the extinguisher malfunctioned. The man’s car was destroyed and because he was so strapped for cash, he didn’t even have good enough insurance to cover the cost. He said he sat on the curb close to tears. Of course, he was worried about how this would affect his wife and seven kids. As he sat at their kitchen table that night, feeling devastated by the day’s events, his wife grabbed his hand and asked, “Where are you?” “Home,” he replied, rather puzzled. “And where are your kids?” “In bed,” he said, still confused. “And who’s next to you?” “You,” he replied. She squeezed his hand and said, “Now isn’t that a lot to be thankful for?” He said it really put things into perspective for him.

He also relayed a story about a friend whose husband had left her, and just as she was getting her life back on track, she was injured in a serious car wreck which has left her comatose to this day. But instead of being bitter and feeling sorry for themselves, her family is thankful that she is doing well physically and that the doctors are so good with her, and this woman’s family was more concerned about the well-being of this speaker, who has cancer, than they are with being preoccupied with self-pity. It’s a good lesson.

All in all, I felt that in spite of the simplicity of the lesson in this man's talk, it was a good lesson to be reminded of. It's easy to feel sorry for oneself and lose track of the manny blessings one has.

I know I have so much to be grateful for. In spite of challenges or difficulties, I have felt so blessed throughout my life, and I have felt especially blessed these past few years.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Celebrating Diversity

Lately I feel like I’ve been getting strong messages from Heavenly Father that celebrating differences and individuality is very important. It really has been reinforced many times these past few weeks. I've seen four movies, Ratatouille, The Martian Child, Ma Vie en Rose, and Stagedoor, that really hit home this point. Also something I saw on Oprah as well as some experiences I’ve had substitute teaching have reinforced this as well. I’d like to share these experiences.

The Martian Child didn’t get very good reviews when it came out in theaters, but I saw it on DVD and I was really moved by it. John Cusack plays a widower author who adopts a troubled boy who thinks he’s from Mars. The movie was mainly about their relationship. The kid that played the child was really good. Of course, the kid doesn’t fit in and does rather odd things, but rather than discourage him, John Cusack’s character encourages the fantasies (or the boy’s reality as he sees it) in order to gain the boy’s trust. Rather than making the boy feel ashamed or making him try to conform to society’s version of what normal is, he allows the boy to be himself, and by doing so, the boy is able to adjust to life better and, more importantly, to love better. I guess what touched me was that this boy was quite odd, but this father was compassionate and patient enough (most of the time; the relationship was not without its challenges) to let this boy be himself, and while other people may have been put off by the boy’s behavior, John Cusack’s character tried not to show that he was put off even if he may have been. I thought that was a very Christ-like thing to do, and it got me to thinking: why are we so afraid of people who are different? What is it that we fear so much? And I freely admit I have my own prejudices and fears because of people who may be different culturally, socially, intellectually, or mentally. But I often wonder what it is we’re so afraid of.

I’ve never been a conformist. In fact, I often feel rebellious when I am expected to conform, especially if I am being asked to conform to something that is not who I feel I am. And while I do understand the need for unity and the idea of “one heart, one mind,” I also believe that God created us as unique individuals and that we should celebrate our differences and celebrate diversity. I think it is difference that makes us so interesting as human beings.

Last week I was substituting for a choir class at a local high school, and there was a particular song that had a lot of dissonance in it. The other day I substituted for a jazz choir at another high school and of course jazz pieces often have dissonant chords. I am a big, big fan of dissonance. Some of my favorite musical chords are dissonant ones. It’s the clash of various notes and how they work together in harmony that makes them interesting and beautiful to me. I find them especially interesting because it’s fascinating to me that putting notes together that one might not expect to go together can make really beautiful sounds if put together in a particular way. I think that’s how life and human beings are. Without difference and individuality life would be bland, boring, and even dangerous, I think.

That’s also why as Jonah and I have searched for a house I have been really uninterested in those communities where all the houses look the same or why I am reluctant to live in a community with an association fee where I have to abide by others’ rules. Stepford is not where I want to live. I celebrate things that are different, and I’m not a big fan of total conformity. And especially if you have someone leading you who is misguided, conformity is dangerous. If there wasn’t dissent think of how treacherous that could be. Hitler might have had total power over the world or the Bush administration's misguided policies would go unchallenged.

Another movie I saw was Ma Vie en Rose, which was a charming Belgian film about a young boy who is convinced he is really a girl. Of course this creates a lot of turmoil among his family and in his neighborhood. And again, it’s that whole idea of what are people so afraid of? The boy tries to conform to what his parents want in order to please them, but he loses the joy in his life as a result, and it is only when his parents accept him for who he is rather than try to force him to be someone he doesn’t feel he is that happiness is again restored.

In watching Ratatouille, the main premise of the story is that there is a rat who wants to be a gourmet cook. Of course, in normal society a rat is considered dirty and vile. So in this cartoon’s reality the rat is expected to be just an ordinary rat and his dreams of being a gourmet cook are considered silly or foolish. But the rat dares to be different and goes after his dreams and ends up the head chef at a fancy French restaurant. Yeah, it’s just a cartoon, but I liked its message (I also observed that same message (breaking away from what one is expected to do to reach for higher dreams) to a much lesser extent in the animated picture, Bee Movie, as well).

Another film was Stagedoor, which profiled five students at a theatre summer camp. I certainly related to much of it and was drawn by the idea that so many of these kids who don’t belong or are made fun of in the “normal” world find a place of acceptance in the theatre world (or world of the arts). I know that’s how it was (and is) for me. I think it’s so important to feel like one belongs, and it’s great to find a group of people who accept you as you are, idiosyncrasies, faults, quirks, and all. I know I certainly feel that way.

I was picked on a lot as a kid because I was weird. I felt completely at home and well-loved in the theatre world. I know for gay people, the arts often provide a place of solace and normalcy. I know that I have found much acceptance by my theatre friends. I’m sure that’s why people join the church (and I would imagine the inability to belong is why many leave the church as well). I think whatever kingdom I end up in the afterlife will be the one where I feel I belong the most and where I will be the happiest.

A most unusual thing I saw on the Oprah Winfrey Show, which I rarely watch, was a pregnant man. What was really fascinating to me about this case was that the man used to be a woman (a very pretty one, in fact), but had received testosterone treatments to be a man. However, she had kept her reproductive organs, so she was still able to bear children. On Oprah she (now identifying herself as “he) looked fully like a man. I wouldn’t have known he used to be a woman. Anyway, he had married a woman who couldn’t have kids, but he still had the capability of bearing children, and because they wanted a child, they inseminated the husband (who, as I said, still had female reproductive organs). He is now pregnant, has been off testosterone for a year, I think, and the baby and pregnancy, thus far, appear to be normal.

Of course, some people are a bit shocked or perplexed by this turn of events, but Oprah interviewed their neighbors who, while surprised, appeared to be supportive.

As I watched this very unusual story I felt compassion for this couple. I thought, “Why not? As long as they aren’t hurting anyone or the baby, what’s the problem?” That baby will probably grow up to have two loving parents, and isn’t that what any child deserves? Even according to society’s standard, since the couple appears to be a man and a woman, how will that child be any different than one raised in a “traditional” family?

This woman felt different and wanted to be a man, but still was capable of having a baby. Was it ethical for her to do so? As I say, as long as she isn’t injuring anyone else, I don’t see the problem. Of course, it remains to be seen what challenges or problems will result from this pregnancy, but I didn’t necessarily see a problem in these two parents having a child together.

I found it ironic that as my sister's visiting teachers were giving a visiting teaching lesson on marriage to my mom and sister that one of the women brought up this same episode of Oprah and said that there were some things you know were “just plain wrong,” and this was one of them. I quietly disagreed. It’s not for me to judge, and as I think I've said repeatedly in my blog, I just don’t believe in black and white. Perhaps I am wrong, and I’ll have to face up to that some day if I am, but that’s what I believe, and I feel I am happier for it. I was just glad this woman (who I actually like quite a bit) didn’t bring up homosexuality. Of course, she wouldn’t have known it, but that might have made my sister or/and mom, and certainly me, uncomfortable.

You know, another thing I’ve really noticed lately, especially as I substitute teach for the elementary schools, is how uninhibited and innocent these kids can be, and how sad it is that the world and society take that away, often because they try to force them to conform to what is considered normal. Certainly some inhibitions need to be mastered or life would be chaos, and certainly the loss of innocence is just a natural course of life, I suppose, but I find it sad that the end result can sometimes cause a loss of creativity, low self-esteem, cynicism, lack of kindness, anger, or a loss of faith and hope.

The other day I was teaching third grade, and the kids had to do a dance. Nobody cared how silly they looked or whether they were perfect at doing the steps. They were just having fun. I thought how sad it is that someone will make fun of one of those boys one day and say what he is doing is effeminate or that he is a sissy. Or that someone will be so interested in perfection that they criticize a child to the point where he or she is more worried about doing it exactly right rather than in the exhilaration of the pure joy of doing it. Or that a child’s creativity will be stifled because he or she is made to conform to another’s way of doing it.

Anyway, those are just some observations I’ve had lately. I mean, I know I, myself, am often too afraid of what others think or that I am overly critical of myself. Ah, to be a child again and not care so much.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tithing and Loyalty

I wanted to start this off by talking about the blessing of tithing. In spite of the fact that there are some things I am doing in my life that are contrary to the teachings of the church, I still believe in its truthfulness, I still remain active, and I’m still paying my tithing. For most of my life, I’ve been a good tithe payer. I was less active (and even completely inactive) from about 1987 to 1991, but even then I still paid my tithing. It was not much of an issue for me.

When I finally decided to come out of the closet and live my life as a gay man, I feared I might be excommunicated. I had become inactive again, and I was also struggling financially, so for the first time in a long, long time, I stopped paying my tithing. Even though I stopped paying it, I did keep track of it, intending to pay it off when I felt more able to. Of course, the amount built up so much that it became overwhelming and seemed impossible to pay off.

When I became active again, my bishop(who knows all about my relationship with Jonah) said he noticed I hadn’t paid any tithing for the year and asked me if I had decided to stop paying tithes. He did this in a very nonjudgmental way. He was just concerned about me. I explained my situation to him and said I even desired to pay it, but that it just seemed like so much. With great inspiration he said it was unlikely I would ever pay it even with the best intentions. He told me I should simply wipe the slate clean and start over again and that the Lord would understand. It was a great lesson to me about how Heavenly Father works and how merciful he is, and it released me of a great burden. I still intend to pay off the original amount I owe even if it means just adding a few dollars more each month to my current tithing, but I was very grateful for that counsel.

Anyway, when I started to pay tithing again, it was difficult at first because I am still struggling financially, and I still have school loans to pay off, a job that is not terribly secure, and I’ll probably have house payments soon. Twice now I have handed over a large portion of money that would have been beneficial for me if I had hung onto it instead. But the bottom line is that I understand that everything I have was given to me by God and that giving back ten percent is, relatively, such a small thing. I also have seen the blessings of tithing in the past, both in my own life and the lives of people I know, and I know the Lord blesses us when we pay it. It is a principle that many people do not understand, but I know it’s true, and I know it works even if the rational part of me is tempted to keep the money at times. And I testify again that it is true.

After putting forth the faith to pay my tithes, things have happened that have made up the difference: an unexpected check for vacation pay (which I didn’t even know I would be getting) from a theatre company I worked for; another paycheck from a production company that came two months earlier than it was supposed to; a check from another job that came exactly when I needed it the most; and a job offer for almost the entire summer came out of nowhere just when I needed it the most. Some may call these coincidences, but I don’t believe in coincidences, and it has been affirmed to me by the Spirit that these events are a direct result of exercising my faith by paying tithing. My brother and sister-in-law are faithful tithe payers, and there are so many examples from their lives that show that the principle of tithing is true. I just believe it. Even if one doesn’t believe in God, I still maintain that when you give, the universe gives back tenfold. It’s just true as far as I’m concerned.

It’s interesting to me the devotion and loyalty I have towards my religion. I know others have made different choices in their lives. Some have chosen to leave the church; some have chosen to be bitter and angry towards the church; some have chosen to break ties peacefully; some fight their sexual attractions and try to stay diligent to what they know to be true; others, like me, have chosen to embrace their sexuality yet still remain active in the church. So far it is working for me. I feel no guilt about my relationship with Jonah. In fact, it has brought me much joy, peace, and happiness. Nor do I feel uncomfortable in my relationship with my religion. Somehow I have managed to find a balance, and it seems to be working for me. I am fully aware that it doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s working for me.

Do I think sometimes think leaders in the church are human and, thus, make human errors? Yes. Do I think problems exist within the church? Certainly. Do I sometimes think ignorant things are said by church members in church meetings or in social situations? Yes. But do I ultimately believe the church is true? I do. Do I believe God loves me? I do. Does my religion help me draw closer to Him and help me to be a better person? It does. Do I feel I’m doing the best I can? I do. Is it working for me? It is. And as long as it is, I will stay.

Now I am fully aware that my experiences are not the same as other people’s. People have been let down by their leaders or families or other members. I recently saw a free reading of a play called 14 at Salt Lake Acting Company. It was written by one of the gay men who was subject to those terrible electroshock therapy treatments at BYU in the 70s. It is a terrible chapter in the LDS Church’s history, much as I feel about the Mountains Meadow Massacre, the fallout of polygamy, or the racial biases that have existed in church history. I’m sure this man felt very betrayed by those he trusted most, although much of that betrayal was probably a result of ignorance more than malice (at least that is my opinion). I know by the play that he feels a great disconnect from who he was then and who he is now. I also sense that his faith in God and in the LDS Church was shattered by the events that occurred in his life. I sense that his innocence and idealism were robbed from him. At the same time, I thought his play dealt with the issues in a very even-handed manner. It was a difficult play to watch, but also an enlightening one.

Now certainly this man’s experiences are very different from mine. I can’t even imagine how I would react if I had gone through what he went through. He experienced much pain and confusion, as I’m sure many people do. I’ve experienced my share of pain and confusion in my own journey, though admittedly nothing like what he must have experienced. In my own experiences, however, I have received much understanding and compassion from my leaders, family, friends, and fellow members, and the church has mostly been a force for good in my life. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t felt hurt or disappointed or confused or ashamed or embarrassed, but it does mean that, overall, my experience with the LDS Church has, largely, been a positive one, and therefore, I still carry a great deal of loyalty and devotion towards my faith even if I’m not living all aspects of my life according to its precepts.

So even when I was watching this play, I was on the defense, hoping this piece wouldn’t mock or attack the church regardless of this man’s experiences. But as I said, I thought his approach was pretty even-handed and truthful.

I do not like it when people attack the church or its leaders, even if I sometimes understand their justifications for doing so. This doesn’t mean I believe in blind devotion, either. I believe in thinking things out for one’s self, free agency, individuality, and personal revelation. But I believe the church is true even if it is filled with imperfect people and even if some things within the structure of the church are not immediately clear to me. Mormonism has produced and fostered some of my greatest values and best attributes. It is as much a part of me as my sexuality is, and I hold my religion in high regard. So when people attack or mock it, I get defensive.

I understand if people have problems with the church and its policies or teachings, and I am fine with civil debate, but when people get petty or mean, I don’t have much patience for that and, actually, will make me less likely to listen to those points of view if they are delivered in such a manner. I really think it says more about the person than it does about the entity they are attacking.

By the way, speaking of the church, it was interesting to me that the leaders of the church accepted an invitation to meet with the leaders of Affirmation in August. I don’t think it will cause any change in church doctrine or anything, but just the fact that they are willing to have an open dialogue and talk about concerns is certainly a step forward. I admire that.