Thursday, December 10, 2009

New Adoption

The other day when I was visiting Jonah in Vegas, he said he had a surprise for me but that I might not like it. Later that night he came home and told me to come outside. He was in his truck and sheepishly looked at me, pulled out two kittens, and said, "I couldn't let them go to the pound."

Admittedly, the kittens were very cute. And I am an animal lover. I love animals very much, and they seem to have quite an affinity for me as well. However, we already have two cats, and they are responsibility enough, in my opinion. So I wasn't terribly pleased, especially since Jonah hadn't at least discussed it with me (although, in retrospect, he had tossed some hints about.

The kittens had come from a litter from Jonah's mom's cat. He has tried to get his mom to get that cat fixed, but she hasn't. I think it's irresponsible to not spay and neuter one's cats. It just leaves a lot of orphaned cats that can't be taken care of.

Jonah looked so concerned about the future of these two kitties. However, four cats is just too much for me. One of the kittens was almost all black with some white and a little Charlie Chaplin-esque or Adolph Hitler-esque mustache. He was very cute. The other cat was gray or brownish, as I recall. Also cute. Although I did not necessarily want another cat, the black one was quite unique, and there is also the fact that the two cats Jonah has were his originally, before we married (although one of those cats adores me; the other one pretty much views anybody but Jonah as an unwelcome intruder). Anyway, I told Jonah I was not comfortable adopting two new kitties, but that I would compromise by allowing us to keep one, provided that I could name it.

I jokingly said we should name it "Hitler," not by any desire to offend, but simply because my dark sense of humor likes the juxtaposition of a cute, harmless kitty-cat with the name of one of the most evil dictators in human history. However, my sense of decency wouldn't allow me to actually do so, even if Jonah would go along with it (which I know he wouldn't), so I named him Chaplin instead.

We think he's a boy, and as far as we can tell, he has the parts that would indicate that he is (although they're very small, so we are not sure). If he turns out to be a girl, we will still call him Chaplin, and he'll just have to suffer through life with an identity crisis.

I admit it, he's adorable. He's a little ball of energy and very hyper and likes to jump around. I am amused at his innocence and curiosity. He loves to bite (not in a malicious way, but in a very pure manner. While I did not necessarily want him initially, it's fun to have him around.

The other two cats have been wary of him, but both are slowly becoming acclimated to him, and I'm sure they will enjoy him in time.

Anyway, here's Chaplin! (He would not hold still very well to get a really focused picture; my apologies).

Sunday, December 06, 2009

"Song of the Heart" and The Welcome Wagon

I just got back from church. The meetings weren't too bad: testimony meeting, which I generally like and Sunday School, which I enjoy mainly because I think the lady who teaches it is a good teacher. I don't typically attend Priesthood.

The ward choir sang some prelude music, and as is my experience with most ward choirs, they were kind of lackluster. They were singing so tentatively that I was truly tempted to yell, "Sing out, Louise!" which surely would have outed me to everyone there. (If you don't get the reference, look it up.)

Singer Gladys Knight, who converted to Mormonism a few years ago told President Gordon B. Hinckley, more or less, that we could use some more soul and pep in our worship music. I completely agree. Music is such an important part of Mormon worship services, and I think we should be using music to celebrate the joy we have in being members of the Church and in expressing the love and adoration we have for our Heavenly Father; and yet, what happens so often is that it comes out sounding very stiff and repressed and joyless. One quote attributed to a choral group Gladys Knight has helped create is, "[I]t is the fulfillment of Sister Knight's desire to bring a new level of passion and cultural awareness to the traditionally reserved LDS hymns."

I've been to several different churches in my life, and musically Mormons often to be the most reserved and straight-laced. I think it's unfortunate. Music is such an important tool to invite the Spirit of the Lord, and I know I have felt it in other religions. That isn't to say I haven't felt it in LDS meetings, because I certainly have. But I do think we could work on bringing a bit more "pep" (and maybe even more variety) into our worship music. I'm not asking for electric guitars or timpani; just a little more joyfulness.

One thing I've noticed in my current ward is that the bishop has never shaken my hand or asked me who I am, although he has had many opportunities to do so. Granted, I could introduce myself to him. I mean, I'm not complaining or anything. Frankly, I don't really care to draw too much attention to myself or have to explain about my excommunication or my husband. I just think it's odd that he specifically shakes the hands and welcomes those he already knows, but ignores me even though I'm sitting right next to them. Like I said, I don't mind. I'm not bothered or offended by it or anything. I just find it strange, especially since we're in a small town where everybody seems to know everybody, and yet he doesn't seem inquisitive enough to ask about a stranger in his ward. It's just odd to me.

I also found it a little strange that he invited the newly baptized eight-year-olds to come join the bishopric on the stand, but did not invite two newly baptized convert children who couldn't have been more than eleven. I don't think they cared either way; they looked pretty happy. I just thought it was strange.

He seems to be a very well liked bishop among his congregation. Many, many people have said very kind things about him. I just find his actions a little odd at times. I felt so too when my first introduction to him was when he gave a talk and stressed three things: that we (the members) must have family dinner together every night, we must shun pornography, and that the economy was never, ever going to get better so we'd better get used to tough times ahead. It wasn't that any of the topics were weird in and of themselves; it was just the way he strung them together and his conviction that we were forever economically doomed that made me find him odd. I can't really explain it. He's a likeable guy; he's just odd to me.

Even more odd was the lady in Sacrament Meeting today who said she used to pray that God would have mercy on Satan because he was, after all, God's son and in need of mercy (not necessarily an unchristian sentiment, but still an odd thing to say in a testimony, I thought). She did also add that she doesn't do that anymore since she's realized that the consequences of some choices are irreversible. She said something else I found really odd, but unfortunately I have forgotten what it was (although if I do remember I'll update this entry).

I did feel myself tense up in Sunday School when the topic turned to the destruction of the family. I was sure homosexuality was going to come up, although it never did (although abortion and STDs were mentioned). I did find it interesting that many of the positive values they were talking about regarding the family unit (such as mutual love, commitment, nuturing, based in Christ, etc.) were just as applicable for a gay couple as they are for a straight one. The only one they talked about that wasn't is the ability to bear children (although I know some gay people are capable of raising and nurturing a child equally as well, and in come cases, better).

Anyway, that was church.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

My View

I am not a regular watcher of "The View." Jonah watches it, however, and because he watches it, I have watched it on occasion, especially since it's one of the things that's on as I'm getting ready to go to work. My main reason for not watching "The View" is that I often feel like it's just a bunch of woman gossiping about stuff; at least that's how it comes across. But once in a while it's interesting to hear their discussions during the "Hot Topics," especially if the subjects are political in nature (although Elizabeth Hasselbeck's opinions generally make me want to put my head in a vice, and Sherri Shepherd often comes across (to me at least) as not the brightest bulb in the universe). Joy is just loud, and Barbara is pretentious. Whoopi Goldberg is the only one that even remotely shares my wavelength.

Anyway, it happened to be on Friday as I was preparing my lunch for the day, and a subject came up that I found interesting. Actress Meredith Baxter recently came out, and actor Rupert Everett had commented that when he came out, it ruined his career.

Joy made the comment that in America there is this mentality where audiences cannot watch an actor who they know to be gay in a romantic leading role. If they see him in a role that Brad Pitt or George Clooney might play where he's kissing and love-making with an actress, according to Joy the audience will subconsciously not buy what he's doing because they know he's gay. Sherri added that when she watches a male actor in such a role, she needs to believe that he would be romantic with her.

Whoopi disagreed, saying that if you've got really good actors, they should be capable of making you believe whatever they need you to believe, regardless of sexuality.

I'm with Whoopi on this. As an actor myself (and whom most people, I think, would regard as "straight-acting"), I've played many, many heterosexual roles (most of my roles have been) as well as acted with many gay people who can pull of heterosexual roles very well. True, I know some gay people that just can't pull off straight, but many of us can be seen in straight roles with no problem. So why is it when people suddenly know a person is gay that it makes a difference? Nobody has a problem with straight actors playing gay roles (in fact, they're often lauded for it as if acting gay is the ultimate acting challenge for a straight person (believe me, acting straight is no challenge for me (probably because I had years of practice ;-) ))).

And there are examples of gay actors doing just fine. Neil Patrick Harris plays a womanizer on "How I Met Your Mother," and does it well. I never thought of Ian McKellan's Gandalf as "the gay wizard" in Lord of the Rings. Portia de Rossi plays a "ball-busting" heterosexual woman on "Better Off Ted" with no problem. Dan Butler played a very convincing chauvinistic, macho sports-talk radio host for years on "Frasier." Richard Chamberlain, Tab Hunter, and Rock Hudson played romantic leads very well (granted, they did so before it was known they were gay, but what difference should that make?). Cherry Jones played a heterosexual president on "24." I never watched "Star Trek" or "M*A*S*H," respectively, thinking, "I'll bet Sulu and Major Winchester are gay." Never crossed my mind. Yet the actors who played them are. Oh, and I guarantee you, people, there are plenty of actors still in the closet doing an excellent job of convincing the paying audience that they are as straight as an arrow.

So I just think it's just B.S. that audiences can't accept a gay person playing a straight person. That's just my View.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Part of the Family

I took my mom to see A Christmas Story, a theatrical adaptation of the movie. It was good. We quite enjoyed it (it was certainly better than Michael McLean's The Forgotten Carols, which I've written about below).

Anyway, while I was home, I was looking at some of our family photos in the living room and commented that my niece had grown quite a bit since the photo had been taken. Mom agreed, and asked me if she noticed the new pictures she had put on the wall. It was three photos in one frame of Jonah and me at the zoo and at a nature preserve in Las Vegas (two outings we had taken with my mom).

I have really been happy about how welcoming my family has been to Jonah. He is treated just like any other spouse, and it has really brought me much joy (and I'm sure Jonah feels the same way). My family really goes out of their way to include Jonah in our family activities, and I really am grateful that. I know many gay people (including Jonah) who are not as fortunate in that respect. I know every family is different, and I also know of families who not only don't include their child's significant other, but also practically disown the child as well. I am thankful for a family that treats my husband as they would any other family member. It makes me so very happy.

I remember more than a year ago, I had written a post that said, in part:

"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."

I'm glad we're past that stage, and that there is now a photo of me and my husband in the living room with the rest of the family photos. And the photos are still unobtrusive enough that I don't think they will put my mom in an awkward position should anyone ask about them.

Anyway, it just made me glad.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Forgotten Carols? Forget It.

As with most topic in this blog, I am only stating my opinion here:

So the other night I saw a production of Michael McLean's The Forgotten Carols directed by my friend. Those of you unfamiliar with The Forgotten Carols, it has become a holiday tradition among many Mormons. Michael McLean, who I have alluded to before without actually mentioning his name, is a Mormon composer famous for his inspirational and uplifting music. I feel the way about his music as I do many Mormon pop artists (defined as contemporary Mormon composers who write music specifically for a Mormon audience): I find a lot of his stuff cheesy and kind of sappy. That isn't to say I haven't been inspired or moved by some of his songs. I remember being very touched at a difficult point in my life by one of his famous songs, "You're Not Alone." Even in The Forgotten Carols itself, I quite like the song "Joseph (I Was Not His Father, He Was Mine." And although I mostly find his tunes a bit treacly, I think he's a relatively talented composer of overly sentimental songs.

What I think he absolutely sucks at is playwriting, and this production of The Forgotten Carols only reaffirmed that. I have seen The Forgotten Carols. In fact, the version I saw starred Michael McLean himself. The version I saw was done more as a reading, with McLean telling the story of Constance, a nurse with a stick so far up her butt that she needs an angel of sorts named John to help her open her heart to the true spirit of Christmas. McLean sang all of the songs himself (yikes! Composer, yes. Good singer, no!) with a choir backing him up. I thought the show was so-so, but at least thought it sort of worked in a kind of "bedtime story" format.

This production I saw was a full-scale, dramatized production with individual actors playing the various characters in the story. The script has also suffered some "improvements," and is somewhat different from the version I saw. What is blatantly obvious to me is that McLean's dialogue, plot development, and character development are very weak. There are scenes that are completely unnecessary. Instead of moving the plot along, they leave you asking, "What the...?" There is a backstory for Constance that is poorly developed and, frankly, of little aid in helping us understand why she is the way she is even though that is its exact intended purpose. When her character does finally have a change of heart, it happens on a dime and seems to have nothing powerful enough behind it to warrant it. Most of the dialogue is very wooden.

I get why people like the show. It's got some moving music and it's got a positive, family-friendly message. I just think it's terribly written and poorly developed.

My director friend agrees whole-heartedly with my assessment of the show, and in fact, knew what my criticisms of the show would be before I even told him. Like he says, "it is what it is." Why is he directing it, you ask? Well, he knows (as do I) that it will be a sure-fire hit in this very conservative, Mormon town in which we live. And I guess that's what annoys me the most; that audiences so often would rather see mediocre, feel-good entertainment even if its badly written than they would thought-provoking, well-written material that offends their sensibilities. Furthermore, they will give that same poorly-written material standing ovations and cheers as if it's the greatest theatre they've ever seen.

I wrote about this before when I saw a production of Michael McLean's show The Ark, which frankly, makes The Forgotten Carols look like Hamlet. I'm far more offended by mediocre (or less-than-mediocre) theatre than I am by nudity or profanity in a well-written, thought-provoking piece. I'd rather see some edgy independent film than a mainstream Adam Sandler movie. I'd rather see some experimental musical by Stephen Sondheim that the general populous doesn't get than some overrated show about cats or trains by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

I guess another thing that bothers me is that I've met Michael McLean. I have nothing against him, but he does come across as having a bit of an ego. He regards his work in a much higher esteem than I do, and he probably can justly feel that way because the Mormon masses have taken to it so readily. I'm sure in his mind because his music and shows have touched, moved, and inspired people, that must mean they're well-written and beautifully constructed; but I say just because something makes you feel good, that doesn't make it a masterpiece. Mamma Mia! makes me feel happy and gay (pun intended) when I leave the theater, but I'll be the first to admit it isn't Shakespeare or Shaw or Chekhov or Sondheim. There are plenty of feel-good movies out there that you may leave feeling moved, but you realize it did so with artificiality and manipulation rather than through a well-constructed storyline or characters.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying there isn't a place in the world for feel-good entertainment. I love Mamma Mia! for example. I like the movie Deep Impact, but I won't tell you it's a great movie. The movie "Scavenger Hunt" always makes me laugh, but it is a terrible movie. I understand why silly melodramas or overly sentimental shows are appealing to people. What I tire of is the accolades some works receive without really being deserving of them, and what's even worse is when those works are presented in a shoddy manner. Mamma Mia! and Deep Impact are certainly a lot better constructed than The Forgotten Carols, but I wouldn't dream of awarding either a Tony or an Oscar, respectively. I teach musical theatre, and while I enjoyed Mamma Mia!, it is a mere blip in musical theatre history as far as I'm concerned and is barely worth mentioning. The Forgotten Carols isn't even in the same league. The songs are salvageable, but the script needs major help.

I don't know why I'm on such a tirade about this. It really isn't that important, and now that I've written my thoughts, I wonder if it's even worth posting. I just hate bad theatre! Oh, well. Here it is, for what it's worth. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fortune Cookies

Whenever I'm in town, my mom and I have this Chinese restaurant we really like to go to. At the end of the meal they give us fortune cookies, which is an enjoyable part of the whole "eating-out-at-a-Chinese-restaurant" process.

Yesterday, I got two fortunes in the same cookie. The first said, "You will soon witness a miracle." The second one said, "You will spend many years in comfort and material wealth." That's probably the aforementioned "miracle." ;-)

Today we went to the same restaurant because we like it so much. My fortune today said, "You will take a chance in the near future and win." Maybe that's how I get the miracle of material wealth and comfort. :-)

Truthfully, I don't put much stock in fortune cookies, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I wouldn't mind if these particular fortunes came true. ;-)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Benoit

A friend of mine who I taught on my mission and who was baptized by my companion and confirmed by me is one of my Facebook friends. We'll call him Benoit (not his real name). Yesterday he wrote in his Facebook status something that touched me very much (probably more so because it was specifically dedicated to me and my old companion (also Benoit's Facebook friend, and mine as well).

The status said: "We wonder sometimes if life has any meaning...and then we meet people who give life meaning." - Brassaî

It honors me that he feels that way about my old missionary companion and me. I love Benoit. He is such a great guy. I loved him when we met and enjoyed teaching him very much. When I met him, he was a confused guy trying to find some meaning in life and who was trying to find truth. He had a big smoking problem and also drank (although socially more than anything). I remember being drawn to his enthusiasm and youthfulness (although he is only a year younger than me) and his thirst for knowledge. I also admit I was attracted to him (although I no longer feel so). I remember one time when we greeted each other with a customary Belgian bise (kissing the air by the person’s cheek) and actually being a little turned on by our close proximity (not a very missionary-like thought) and being a little embarrassed that it would show.

He was an easy guy to teach and to befriend, and the three of us have remained friends all these years. Getting Benoit to quit smoking was probably the most challenging aspect of his conversion, but his heart was (and still is) very pure. I still have his old pipe among my missionary mementos. It thrilled me to no end (and still does) that he was baptized, went on a mission, married another member in the temple, and has two children born under that covenant. I remember confirming him. At the time, my French was still a little rough, but the minute I put my hands on his head, the Spirit was so strong and words poured out of me effortlessly. I was amazed by that miracle.

After Benoit joined the Church, he was on fire, was a great member-missionary, and several of his friends followed him by becoming members themselves. To the best of my knowledge, at least two of them are still active (I do not know about the rest).

A year or so after Benoit's baptism, as I was close to finishing my mission, I received a letter from Benoit announcing that he himself would be going on a mission, and I was so excited and genuinely moved by how far he'd come in just a year. Benoit was always a great person, but after he joined the Church, his life became much more focused and purposeful.

Later, after I'd come home, Benoit came to Utah. He and my old missionary companion came to see one of my shows and then we went out to eat, and it was marvelous. We also went to ZCMI to buy matching ties. That was the idea, at least. Unfortunately we all had different tastes in ties and couldn't agree, so we each bought what we liked and knew we'd think of each other every time we put the tie on. It's true, too. I still have mine and think of both of those guys every time I wear it.

Later, Benoit informed us that the LDS girl he was dating had agreed to marry him, and they got married in the temple, which pleased me. Not too long after, my sister and I visited Benoit and his new wife in Europe, and it was so wonderful to see him in love and happy.

Since then, he has had two boys, and they, with their parents, make a very happy family. I'm grateful I was able to be a part of Benoit's journey to where he is now, and I am happy he is happy. I am humbled by my role in his conversion, knowing full well that I was simply a tool in the Lord's hands at that time.

After I came out of the closet, I remember telling my old mission companion that I was gay, fearing he would judge me or think less of me, and instead he surprised me by revealing that his brother, too, was gay, and just as he loved and cared for him, his feelings would remain the same for me, too, and they have.

Strangely enough, I have never told Benoit that I am gay (although he might be able to figure it out from subtle hints I give in my Facebook statuses). I'm not sure why I haven't told him. I do not believe he would think any less of me or love me any less. That doesn't seem his nature as he is a very compassionate, Christ-like individual. No, I think the reason I've never told him is because as a missionary, I helped bring him into the Church, and while I am not ashamed of the way I am living my life now, I guess in a way I don't want to taint Benoit's image or memory of me then. Maybe that sounds stupid, but I don't want to go from being the good Mormon missionary boy to the excommunicated gay guy in his eyes. None of it changes who I am; I'm still the good, spiritual person I've always been (and am actually happier) and was; I guess I just want Benoit's image of me to remain pure. Does that make sense?

Anyway, here's to you, Benoit. I love you, and I'm glad we're both where we are in life.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A World Gone Crazy

Yesterday, I was afraid the apocalypse was upon us. First of all, Elizabeth Hasselbeck (on the TV show "The View," and whose voice normally gives me seizures) actually said something that I fully and completely agreed with. This rarely happens.

Someone had sent her a photo of Barack Obama supposedly on Veteran's Day that showed a bunch of soldiers saluting while he just stood there. The implication was that his refusal to salute American soldiers on Veteran's Day, of all days, showed just how un-American he is.

To her great credit, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, who is not an Obama fan, not only explained that the photo hadn't been taken on Veteran's Day at all; and not only explained that the reason Obama wasn't saluting was because he had just joined the soldiers who were saluting him as Commander-in-Chief on the podium and therefore had no reason to salute; and then not only went on to show several photos of the President saluting on other occasions; but then pleaded with right-wing extremists such as the one who had sent her the photo to please concentrate on the real issues rather than creating trivial ones based on falsehoods and misinformation. I really respected and admired her for doing so (and for me to say that about Elizabeth Hasselbeck is no small thing). But I agreed with her 100% and was glad she did what she did.

Then later the same day Chris Buttars, the anti-gay senator from West Jordan, Utah, said he is actually considering sponsoring a statewide bill that will mirror the one Salt Lake City just passed that protects gays, lesbians, and the transgendered from housing and employment discrimination. Of course, his cohort, Gayle Ruzicka (local anti-gay lobbyist) was not pleased by his announcement, which made me even happier.

When asked why he suddenly changed his mind after years of constantly pushing against gay rights, he said because the LDS Church had endorsed the Salt Lake City law, he saw no reason why he couldn't do the same. Of course, he did stress that he is still against gay marriage or gay adoption rights. But, still. To see such an "about-face" (even if he wouldn't have done it had the LDS Church not done it) was pretty jaw-dropping to see.

If all this weirdness this keeps up, the next thing you know Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck will announce they're socialists and are marrying each other. What is happening?!

I Just Love Jonah!

He really is one of the sweetest, most generous, most giving, spiritual (and in tune with the Spirit) people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, and I am so happy he is mine.

It baffles my mind when I see these so-called Christians holding up signs that say things like "God hates fags!" or what-have-you. I am 100% more sure that God is working through a gay man like Jonah than through people like them. I think if homophobic bigots were to really get to know and understand someone like my husband, they would realize how wrong they are in their thinking.

Jonah is amazing, and I have no idea what I ever did to deserve him or why he puts up with me. ;-)

I love him! That's all.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

This Rolling Stone

It's interesting, I have been simultaneously reading two books. One is called The Sixties Chronicle, which is basically a pictorial history of the events of the decade from 1960-1969 and also includes first hand accounts and commentary on the events. The other book is a biography of President David O. McKay called David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism and which, although written by two Mormons, is a pretty truthful and fairly unbiased account of President McKay's tenure as Prophet of the LDS Church and isn't shy about tackling controversial issues such as the church's opposition to the civil rights movement, for example. I'm really enjoying both books immensely, and I've decided that in spite of his faults, I really like David O. McKay. He seems to be a great proponent of free agency, free thinking, and seems (to me, at least) to be a "spirit of the law" kind of individual as opposed to a "letter of the law" individual.

With the recent endorsement of the LDS Church, an ordinance in Salt Lake City which bans employment and housing discrimination against gays, lesbians, and transgendered individuals was passed. Many gay rights activists were surprised by the Church's endorsement, and I admit I was surprised as well (but was very pleased by what I see as a positive step). The LDS Church is still adamant that it will not support gay marriage and will continue to fight for what it believes is right as far as that issue is concerned.

Some in the gay-rights community are skeptical, feeling that the LDS Church only did this to save face with those who have a less-than-favorable impression of the church and did it simply to boost their image. That may be true, although it seems to me the LDS Church usually does what it feels is right regardless of how popular those decisions make them.

Some in the gay community are also indignant, feeling that they owe the LDS Church no gratitude for this endorsement when the church is still actively working to stifle their civil rights. This is an understandable feeling. I, for one, am grateful for any strides the LDS Church makes in regards to gay rights, just as I am thankful for strides that those in the gay-rights community make in creating an atmosphere of communication rather than antagonism. I think we all have a long way to go, but I am thankful for small steps even if it is "two steps forward, one step back" at times.

As I've been reading about the sixties, I am reminded of how volatile the issue of civil rights and desegregation could be, and although racism still exists today, it is fascinating to see how far the civil rights movement came. It is interesting to look at these photos and be reminded of a time not very long ago at all when black people couldn't sit at the same counter as white people or use the same restroom or drinking fountain; black people couldn't attend white schools and were denied employment because of the color of their skin; that a black person couldn't vote or marry a white person; that the whole "separate, but equal" idea was such a sham. One looks at these pictures and sees very plainly that whites were always given preferential treatment. They were given the better jobs, got to sit in the choicest seats, and weren't denied many of the normal things life didn't offer the African-American.





And when blacks attempted to fight for their rights, they were assaulted, beaten, hosed, attacked by dogs, intimidated, threatened, and killed, often by the very people whose job it was to supposedly "serve and protect."

And as I've read about these issues, it dawns on me that there were many segregationists who probably felt that the threat of civil rights for blacks was completely destroying the foundation of their very lives. They literally felt as if their world would fall apart if blacks were to obtain equal rights. I've seen pictures of a woman holding a picket sign that says, "Integration is a mortal sin." Another sign held by a young man says, "The only way to end niggers is exterminate." Another white man with a gun threatens a black man who is attempting to enter his store. Still another pours hydrochloric acid into a swimming pool where blacks are having a swim-in. Parents pull their white kids out of a school where a little black girl is attending first grade for the first time since desegregation has taken effect and has to be protected by federal marshalls. Police and local government leaders refuse to follow the policies the federal government has laid out concerning desegregation, and it is only through federal government protection that they publicly back down (although in private, they still commit some horrendous acts). A church is bombed and kills several black girls. Civil rights advocates are tortured and killed.





















This was not so long ago. Even as I read this book about David O. Mckay, it is interesting to see where the LDS Church stood on civil rights issues. Realizing that church leaders and members were a product of their time, it is still amazing to me to see how blacks were treated by people who belong to a church established by the Savior himself. Most church leaders were opposed to racial integration, including David O. McKay, and were suspicious of the civil rights movement. J. Reuben Clark, Henry D. Moyle, Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B. Lee, Ezra Taft Benson, and Mark E. Peterson all opposed civil rights and said things that would be considered racist. There was a resistance to change and progression as far as this issue was concerned.

One man in the First Presidency, Hugh B. Brown, was more progressive in this area and said the following in the October, 1963 General Conference when members of the NAACP threatened to picket Temple Square after being rebuffed in their desire to meet with the First Presidency:

"During recent months both in Salt Lake City and across the nation considerable interest has been expressed in the position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the matter of civil rights. We would like it to be known that there is in this church no doctrine, belief, or practice that is intended to deny the enjoyment of full civil rights by any person regardless of race, color, or creed.

"We again say, as we have said many times before, that we believe that all men are the children of the same God and that it is a moral evil for any person or group of persons to deny to any human being the right to gainful employment, to full educational opportunity, and to every privilege of citizenship, just as it is a moral evil to deny him the right to worship according to the dictates of his own conscience.

"We have consistently and persistently upheld the Constitution of the United States, and as far as we are concerned that means upholding the constitutional rights of every citizen of the United States.

"We call upon all men everywhere, both within and outside the Church, to commit themselves to the establishment of full civil equality for all of God's children. Anything less than this defeats our high ideal of the brotherhood of man."


While not sanctioned by the church at the time as an "official statement," it later was reluctantly elevated to "official" status two years later when NAACP leaders threatened to organize a series of marches in front of the Church Administration Building.

As I've read all these things and thought about today's current climate, I cannot help but see the parallels between the civil rights movement of the 60s, the women's rights movement, and the gay rights movement. Just as whites feared their world would come crashing down as blacks tried to gain equality; just as men thought their worlds were crashing down when women tried to gain equality; so I think many straight people feel the same way as gay people try to gain equality. It was not so very long ago, too, that you could be arrested for being gay or when homosexuality was considered a disease (and some people still feel that it is).





Although I do think gay people have suffered discrimination and hate-crimes, I do have to say that I think black people have been treated far more harshly in American history than gay people have (although I do think gay people have been treated very unfairly, too).

It is interesting to me that the LDS Church always seems to be in the rear and very slow on the uptake when it comes to equal rights. Church leaders in the 60s opposed civil rights legislation, and the state legislature consistently shot down bills that would give equal rights to blacks. The church also opposed the Equal Rights Amendment in the 70s. This quote is taken from a Utah history website:

"The attack against ERA seemed, at times, alarmist and hysterical. Equation of ERA with sexual permissiveness, abortion, child care, homosexuality, and unisexuality drew the debate away from the constitutional principal of equality to issues of 'traditional family values.' But the attack did reflect the fears of many about the changing roles of women and men and about the changing form of the family. There seemed to be danger in equality for the ideological/cultural concept of the father as head and provider, mother as nurturer and manager, and children as replicas into the next generation. Many feared the equality would make women more vulnerable and exposed, that men would feel freer to abandon family responsibilities.

"Certainly it was these fears which prompted Mormon church leaders to eventually join their financial resources, their promotional skills and their far-flung network of members to the counterrevolution. Church leaders in 1976 described ERA as 'a moral issue with many disturbing ramifications for women and for the family as individual members as a whole.' President Spencer Kimball declared it 'would strike at the family, humankind's basic institution.'

"Donations to support the anti-ERA effort were solicited by ward bishops; speeches against the amendment were deemed appropriate at all church meetings, and church buildings were used as an anti-ERA literature distribution points. Church sponsored anti-ERA organizations operated in Florida, Nevada, North and South Carolina, Missouri, Illinois and Arizona."


The parallels to both fights seem very similar to the current gay-rights struggle vis-à-vis the LDS Church. But just as blacks and women have received more equality over the years (although there is still inequality, racism, and sexism that exists), I think it is inevitable that gay people will receive the rights they long for. I really do think it's a difficult, if not impossible task to stop "this rolling stone."

And just as I think it's hard to look back and read about the way the civil rights movement and the battle against the Equal Rights Amendment (which people are still trying to pass) were handled by the LDS Church, I am reminded about the current battle that is happening with gay rights and wonder how history will view the LDS Church. I don't know what will happen or even necessarily what should happen, but I do think gay rights are going to be a reality, especially as the older generation dies and the newer generation, many of whom seem to support gay rights, comes to the forefront. There will be some lost battles, but I think the war will be won, and just as I know there were people who thought their worlds would collapse as blacks and women gained more equality, I think those people who oppose gay rights will be surprised at how their worlds will remain intact. Heck, they might even discover that they are better. Change can be a very good thing, even if some people don't believe it is progress.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Obituary For A Friend

Yesterday I took an old, reliable friend who's been with me through many momentous times in my life and sold her for a fraction of what she was worth to me. It made me feel dirty and depressed, and yet I knew it had to be done. I am talking, of course, about my 1997 Saturn SL1, the first car I ever owned myself and one that I have had for nearly ten years.

I remember when I bought her. I had two jobs at the time, and after test driving serveral cars, I knew she was the one for me. She was used, but she was great, and most of all, she was mine. She cost me $11,000. and only had 54,000 miles on her.

I paid her off relatively quickly and was so happy when the day came when I finally owned her free-and-clear. She was a terrific and dependable car and lived and traveled with me for almost a decade. She saw me through graduate school; traveled with me to many spots in Utah, Nevada, and California; took me on many job auditions and, subsequently, many jobs; she was there for many enjoyable talks I had with fellow passengers, including good friends, family members, and my now husband; and she took me on so many adventures. I loved her very much.

Sadly, the last year of her life was a hard one. After nearly nine years of no problems whatsoever, she began to ail. First she started burning oil at a very quick rate, and I was told I could either repair the problem at a cost of $2-3,000, which I could not afford, so I just kept filling her with oil. Then, on a terrific trip to LA, as I was coming back home, her timing belt broke and she died. I was able to get her repaired, but, of course, the oil problems persisted. Then her muffler and spark plugs needed replacing and her fuel injection needed cleaning. It seemed to me that the money I was putting into her would actually be better spent in buying another, more reliable, vehicle, and since I do travel often and I knew I would rather buy a new car than fix the main problem, the oil waste, I decided it was time to look for a new car.

It's silly, especially since I know cars are inanimate objects, but looking for another car almost felt like I was cheating on my old car. After all, she'd always been there for me, had been completely reliable until relatively recently, and was still running well enough to get me from point A to point B. But I feared she would let me down, and I knew I had to find something I could depend upon.

Perhaps because of my fondness for my old car, I found another Saturn (this time a 2000 SL1) for $7,000 with 73,000 miles on it. It would have been nice to get a newer car or one with less miles on it, but this is what I could afford now, and I test drove it yesterday and liked it very much. In some ways, it's actually in better condition than my old car was when I bought it. So I bought it. Carmax, who I bought it from (and who I was quite impressed with overall) offered to buy my old car. I was only able to get $250 for my baby, which seemed like a slap in the face, but the used car industry isn't doing well, my old car has some problems that will make it harder to sell, and I don't have time to sell it privately or shop sround for other offers, so I took what I could get.

As they removed her license plates, I could almost hear her weeping, crying out, "Why are you abandoning me?" I hope she knows how much I loved her, and I hope whoever gets her next will find as much joy in owing her as I did. I hope she gets a good home (the thought of her being demolished and used for parts absolutely horrifies me; I'm glad I don't have to know).

The new Saturn drives really well and is a nice car. It has power locks and a CD player, too, which my old car did not have, so that's a nice addition. In many ways, the new car is very much like my old one; so much so that to make myself feel better, I've decided that the spirit of my old car is inhabiting this new one. It's so stupid, but it's comforting.

Weird how I get attached to inanimate objects. I'm very sentimental about things. Jonah jokingly told me he hopes I feel as strongly about him when I have to put him in a home. lol

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's All About Image (What A Double Standard)

On October 1st the following article appeared in The Salt Lake Tribune:

Deseret News pulls ad for gay suicide memorial by Rosemary Winters

In addition to irreverent coffee pitches and same-sex wedding announcements, a plug for a memorial for gay Mormon suicide victims can be added to the list of ads the LDS Church-owned Deseret News won't run.

MediaOne, which handles advertising for both the News and The Salt Lake Tribune , accepted payment from the nonprofit Foundation for Reconciliation to run an ad, announcing a memorial service this Sunday, in both papers. But on Wednesday, a MediaOne employee told the group's Cheryl Nunn that the ad had been rejected by the News.

"Anything that's related to the church we have been asked to present that to [the Deseret News ] and then they decide," said MediaOne President Brent Low. "This one was directly talking about the church and sexual orientation."

Without receiving the discount offered from advertising in both papers, the group asked to pull the blurb from the Tribune , as well, and received a full refund, Low said.

In August, the News declined to run a wedding announcement for a gay couple wed in San Francisco. In 2007, it rejected a coffee shop ad that showed the store's owners wearing Mormon missionary uniforms -- but the News has a policy that bans all ads for coffee. Same goes for alcohol, tobacco, tea and adult entertainment.

The foundation's memorial, "From Despair to Hope," honors lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) suicide victims as well as "those who have successfully overcome conflicts involving their sexual orientation and the LDS Church," the ad states. The event features a video appearance by actor Will Swenson, known for his roles in Mormon-themed films "Sons of Provo" and "The Singles Ward."

Peter Danzig, a Salt Lake City spokesman for the foundation, called the newspaper ad "innocuous."

"There's nothing anti-Mormon," he said. "We tried to create an event that would be welcoming to everyone on either side of the issue."

Danzig hopes remembering the "suffering" of those who have taken their own lives because of despair felt from conflict arising between their sexual orientations and Mormon faith and families will "compel" attendees "to create hope for other people."
The service is Sunday at 7 p.m. at First Unitarian Church, 569 S. 1300 East, Salt Lake City.


When I read that MediaOne and The Deseret News wouldn’t run an ad for this memorial, it upset me; not because they chose not to run an ad that might be seen as contrary to what they represent (heck, The Deseret News can run whatever they want to run), but because it makes me wonder what they do represent.

If you’ll recall, in February of this year MediaOne and The Deseret News (and, to be fair, The Salt Lake Tribune) chose to run an ad by an organization called America Forever. You can read my comments about that here. If you want to read about what this moronic organization stands for, their website is here.

Let’s do a side-by-side comparison of the two ads in question.

The ad The Deseret News chose to print contains the following quotes:

“Stand up on stop the homosexual movement.”
“Gays will have more rights than anybody else.”
“If a hooker displays her conduct, a druggie displays his conduct and a homosexual displays his conduct, it is our right to not have them part of our lives…”
“No one loses their job for just being gay….”
This is what [gays] want: to use the law to Force good willed responsible citizens to accept their sexual conduct as Natural behavior; to force an entire society to endorse, promote, and tamper with our children’s identity.”
“DO NOT BE FOOLED BY The Common Ground Initiative. It is not just about a few people here in Utah, it is part of a well-engineered movement, targeted to VALIDATE HOMOSEXUALITY TO THE CHILDREN.”
“Overwhelmingly, the gay agenda is liberal, godless, and very outspoken…Moreover, they are intolerant and do not emulate any Christian ethics.”
“Shame on UTAH GAYS For using the LDS Church to promote the Homosexual Movement.”
They also quote a piece that was printed as satire, but make it sound like it is a legitimate “Homosexual Declaration of War”, quoting, “we will sodomize your children. All churches who condemn us will be closed. The family unit eliminated…”


The ad The Deseret News chose not to print says, in part:

“The Foundation for Reconciliation…presents a Memorial Service, honoring LGBT suicide victims as well as those who have successfully overcome conflicts involving their sexual orientation and the LDS Church. Join us for an evening of music and the spoken word…”

Understanding that the LDS Church is against homosexuality, I still contend that the second ad holds closer to the values I feel I was raised with as a Mormon than the first one does. The first ad is full of lies, misconceptions, ignorance, generalizations, and, frankly, hate (isn't the LDS Church about truth?). The second ad, whether one agrees with homosexuality or not, at least contains some compassion. It does not vilify the LDS Church. The only mention it makes is that these people it wants to honor have overcome their conflicts with homosexuality and the LDS Church, but in no way do I see it as anti-LDS Church. I have great love for the LDS Church and still attend it regularly even though I am not even a member by name. I feel I have come to a place in my life where I have resolved my conflicts between my sexuality and the LDS Church, but in no way would I consider myself anti-LDS.

The first ad does vilify gay people. It is anti-gay. It would have you believe that gays are “godless,” that we don’t have “Christian ethics,” that our sole aim is to corrupt your children. These things are simply not true, certainly not of myself, my partner, or any of the gay people I know or associate with. It’s offensive to me, much as I’m sure gay behavior is offensive to some people out there, including those who belong to America Forever. And yet, that ad is okay to print, but the other isn’t. Why?

I wrote a letter to the editor of The Deseret News on October 2. It said,

So let me get this straight. An ad for a memorial honoring gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual suicide victims and those who have "overcome conflicts involving their sexual orientation and the LDS Church" (quote from the ad) was rejected because it's "directly talking about the [LDS C]hurch and sexual orientation." (quote from MediaOne President Brent Low, "Deseret News pulls ad for gay suicide memorial," Salt Lake Tribune, Oct. 1, 2009); yet MediaOne had no problem printing an ad by the group America Forever back in February of this year which was full of lies and misrepresentations, compared gay people to prostitutes and drug addicts, accused gay people of preying on children, and said gay people were "godless" and had no "Christian ethics."

That ad contained the headline, "Shame on Utah gays for using the LDS Church to promote the homosexual movement" and had an entire paragraph devoted to the LDS Church and gay activist groups. I realize America Forever is not an LDS organization, but I would think that the hate and ignorance in that ad would have been far more contrary to the values of the LDS Church, MediaOne, and The Deseret News than the ad for the memorial that Foundation for Reconciliation is holding.

As Peter Danzig, spokesman for the foundation, says "There's nothing anti-Mormon" in the memorial ad, yet there is plenty that is anti-gay in the America Forever ad, and I venture to say that if the same ad had been run about black people or Jewish people, MediaOne wouldn't have dared to print it.

Is this really the image that MediaOne, the LDS Church, and The Deseret News want to project? Sounds like a major double standard to me, and it is shameful.

By the way, I don't really care if you print my letter. I just hope whoever reads this really thinks about the kind of values they claim to have.


As I said, I really didn’t care if they printed the letter (and, no surprise, they didn’t); I just wanted somebody over there to think about what they are doing and what image they are trying to project.

I know I am biased. Of course I am! I’m gay! I know this issue isn’t important to everybody, and that there are those who can’t see my side of the issue (and I admit that my bias probably prevents me from seeing their side in an objective way, too), but I find it disturbing.

Here is a sampling of letters to the editor The Deseret News did choose to print:

Chase Kirkham, (Readers' Forum, Oct. 8) misses the comic strip Lio. That should not be hard to remedy. Just get a copy or two and read one daily. His theme is very consistent. The only variable seems to be his gruesome characters.
John Sorenson
Layton


My wife and I are avid fans of "American Idol," "America's Got Talent" and "Dancing With the Stars." The judges on all three shows have the background and expertise to recognize talent when they see it. The one thing we abhor is the way Simon Cowell ("American Idol"), Piers Morgan ("America's Got Talent") and Len Goodman ("Dancing With the Stars") criticize performers they feel are not up to par. The other judges let the performers save face.
Stan Jacobson
Ogden


I cannot believe that Dane Henderson (Readers' Forum, Oct. 10) and Brian Mott (Readers' Forum, Oct. 9) call Glenn Beck a "mad man." I watch him every day, and he makes me laugh and at other times makes me cry.
He gives us true facts about government issues. He backs up everything he says with video and investigation. If you would watch him, you'd understand what I'm saying. Duly watch with ears to hear and eyes to see and hearts to understand.
Connie Rigby
Sandy


I guess my concerns are not as valid as a yanked comic strip (of which many letters were written), TV reality show judges, or the rantings of a crazy guy (see, I told you I was biased). That’s fine. Whatever.

But what image is being conveyed when a paper chooses to print an ad full of hate and lies, but not one that wants to do something to honor people (oh, that’s right. Those people are gay! Mustn’t do that.)? It seems such a double standard to me.

I still haven’t quite figured out what people are so scared of. Believe you me, I am not out to corrupt your children or turn them gay. As far as I’m concerned, one is either gay or not; there’s not much I could do to turn someone gay even if I wanted to. I’m not even out to convince people to think that being gay is a good thing (I think it is perfectly lovely, but it’s not my goal to convince anybody else that it is).

I am not trying to destroy your marriage. It seems like there are many heterosexual, married couples who are doing just fine destroying their marriages without my help, even if that were my goal.

I am not out to take away anybody’s religious rights. If you want to teach that being gay is a sin and that we’re all going to hell and deny us the right to get married in your church, fine. That’s your business. It doesn’t sound like a church I want to belong to anyway.

I’m not out to flaunt my sexuality in your face. I don’t like watching anybody snogging in public, gay or straight. Jonah and I don’t tend to engage in public displays of affection, not because we’re worried about offending anybody or scared, but because it’s not our style.

You know what I would like? I would like to know that if Jonah or I were to fall ill or get in an accident or, heaven forbid, die, that we wouldn’t have to worry about the legalities of hospital rights or home rights or property rights or visitation rights or what-have-you. I would love to be able to fill out our federal taxes together instead of separately. I would love when I’m filling out an application of some kind to be able to check the “married” box instead of the “single” one. I would love for people like us to be able to share insurance. I don’t know what this “homosexual movement” or “agenda” is. I guess I must have missed the “Gay-People-Who-Want-to-Corrupt-Your-Children, Destroy-Your-Marriages, and-Take-Away-Your-Rights” meeting where they explained all that. I get the feeling some people think we’re this big union of gay people setting about taking over the world. You know what Jonah and I are? A boring “married” couple. I would just like the same legal rights as other boring, married couples.

When I see newspapers print ignorant, hateful ads over sympathetic ones; when I see security members of a church I have loved and revered my whole life kick a gay couple off their property for kissing (maybe more – I don’t know, I wasn’t there); when I hear a sitting Utah senator make ignorant, biased ant-gay statements and then watch senate leaders “reprimand” him at the same time they defend him and those ignorant statements; when I hear religious leaders make ignorant (and sometimes hateful) remarks about gay people; when I see my own religion pour so much time and energy into defending the institution of marriage from threats I am unable to see myself; when religious teachings or quotes cause people to feel suicidal or hopeless, I just wonder what image is being conveyed.

Regardless of whether one believes homosexuality is wrong and sinful or not, I have to ask myself how Jesus Christ treated people, who he hung around with, what he taught, and how he judged. The Jesus Christ I know and believe in is sometimes very different than the one that I see promoted by certain individuals or entities. It’s disheartening at times. The double standards I sometimes see make me think of the Pharisees of old.

Monday, October 05, 2009

"I'm Mad As H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks, And I'm Not Gonna Take It Anymore!!!"

My goodness, did anyone else see Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's talk in Conference Sunday afternoon? Here it is on YouTube in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2

It was a very powerful testimony and defense of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. It starts out simply enough, but as he gets going, he gets pretty impassioned, as is well his right.

I recommend you watch the whole talk, but it's at about the 8 minute mark in Part 1 that he really gets going. If I were to choose a subtext for this talk, I would say that he is very clearly saying, "The Book of Mormon is true, all you jerks who claim it isn't, and I'm sick and tired of it being attacked!" It is very evident he feels very strongly about The Book of Mormon, and it was kind of refreshing to see such a fiery and no-holds-barred kind of talk.

I enjoyed the talk quite a bit, but I also sensed a lot of anger and frustration from Elder Holland (much of which is probably justified), and it almost felt like he was going to jump over the podium and bash some unbelieving mockers' heads, and I feel much of that anger was directed towards those members of the church who have been deceived and walked away.

Anyway, I certainly paid attention to it.

I also found Dallin H. Oaks' talk about God's law and God's love very interesting, although it also disturbed me somewhat because there is a part of me that just has a hard time understanding why justice must trump mercy when my heart feels like mercy must trump justice.

There were other talks I enjoyed. I liked President Monson's talk on service very much. I think sometimes we (meaning me) get so wrapped up in ourselves that we forget to help others, even if it's in the smallest of ways. I would like to do better at serving other people in some way.

There were others, but those are the three that stick out at the moment. Especially Elder Holland's. Pretty straightforward and bold. Sometimes I think it needs to be that way.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Discovered

Well, it was only a matter of time. Someone I know has discovered my blog. Interestingly enough, it is my neighbor who attended my disciplinary council. This comes as no surprise to me since she reads some of the blogs that are in the same circles as blogs I read.

She had asked my mom if I had a blog and that she thought she had stumbled across a blog that most likely belonged to me. Mom asked me, and I said I did and said she was welcome to read it if she wanted and sent her the web address.

I'm not embarrassed or ashamed by anything I have written here over the last three or so years, but at the same time I wonder if I will censor or edit myself knowing that people I know are reading (although most of the stuff here is stuff I've been pretty open about with those in my life).

What does concern me more is how Jonah feels. I think he feels uncomfortable with the fact that some of our personal stuff is here for the world to read and even more so that it may be read by people who are not strangers. He told me he doesn't mind my having a blog, but that it makes him feel weird to know that people who know me might be reading about our personal life and that the whole idea in the beginning was for it to be anonymous. He has a valid point and one that I need to consider.

When I think about it, my original reasons for having a blog (to sort out my feelings and conflicts with my sexuality and my religious beliefs) have pretty much been taken care of. Now it's just become a place to think out loud, but I no longer need it like I did then, and there is, admittedly, a lot of personal stuff contained in it. Everything I have written in this blog (and then some) is in my journal that I keep. I also hoped this blog could be a place where others could learn what it's like to be in a gay Mormon's shoes and take what they could from my own personal experiences, and I feel it's done that, too. Maybe the time has come to shut it down. I've actually considered creating a new blog under my actual name that would contain humorous musings on life rather than all this serious, personal stuff. Maybe this is my excuse to do so.

In any case, I'm thinking it over. I'll let you know.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Long Way Around

One of my favorite quotes is from J.R.R. Tolkien: "Not all those who wander are lost."

I remember a friend of mine who came out of the closet before I did had the quote on a bumper sticker on the back of his car. At the time I was still a member of the church, and he had recently chosen to leave the MTC while preparing to go on his mission because he no longer wanted to live a lie. He was coming out and seemed very happy in doing so. I remember being jealous because I wished I could do the same thing. At the same time, I also felt concerned for his spiritual well-being because I felt at the time that he was giving up and giving in to things that would take him away from Eternal Life. When I read the quote at the time, it made me think, but I wasn't sure I believed it was true.

Now that I'm on the other side of things, I very much believe it. It's interesting being an outsider looking in (I mean as far as Mormonism goes). I'm still active (as active as a non-member can be) and attend church as often as I'm able. Although I miss some things about being a member, in some ways I actually enjoy church more because there's not as much pressure. Not only that, it's interesting to see Mormonism from a different set of eyes than when I was entrenched in it.

Today in Sacrament Meeting, this lady gave a talk on adversity. The talk itself was fine, but what struck me is that she was talking about how her son had not been able to serve a mission for whatever reason, and he was losing his testimony, and she was talking about how for a great deal of her life, her goals and dreams included her son serving a mission, and when that didn't happen and when his faith was shaken, it shook her own world and caused her feelings of anger, unhappiness, and confusion.

Now, I don't know the circumstances of her situation, and the main point of her talk was that she finally found a place of peace after this adversity, but it got me to thinking about the expectations people have as members of the LDS Church and what happens to them when those expectations are not met. So many people feel that if they just keep all the commandments and do everything church leaders tell them to do, all will be well. People expect to serve missions, fall in love with a member of the opposite sex, get married in the temple, have a family, have those kids go on to live as honorable members of the church, and then eventually die and go on to eternal salvation.

But what happens when you're faced with a time when you're not sure you have a testimony anymore? What happens when you realize you can't be perfect? What happens when you find out you're gay or that you're unable to serve a mission? What happens when you can't find someone to share your life with and you find you're alone or when you do meet someone who won't join the church? What happens when your temple marriage falls apart? What happens when your spouse cheats on you or abandons you for whatever reason? What happens when your kids get involved in drugs or premarital sex or have a baby out of wedlock? What happens when your child doesn't believe the things you do and wants to leave the church? What happens when your spouse is suddenly struck with a terrible disease and you have to take care of them? Or what happens when your spouse is in a car accident or has a sudden heart attack, and you're suddenly left alone? What happens when you or your spouse lose your job and are left with huge bills that can't be paid?

Sometimes people have this false idea that if they are faithful members of the church, they will be free of adversity. Or sometimes when loved ones make choices they disagree with, they think all is lost and their world is shattered.

What really intrigued me was the Sunday School lesson. The instructor piggy-backed off the woman's talk and brought up some of these very points I was thinking of. An illustration he gave was that most of the pioneers crossed the plains to get to Salt Lake City, but he talked of one group who left from New York, sailed all the way around South America, landed in California (where some chose to stay) about six months after they left, and eventually made it to Salt Lake. They went the long way, and some people probably thought they were crazy and wrong to do so, but that didn't make it the wrong way. Many of them still got where they were supposed to end up. And even those who didn't end up in Salt Lake, who's to say that California wasn't where they would be happiest?

Anyway, it got me to thinking about my own situation. There is still no doubt in my mind that I am happier and more at peace than I was when I was trying to be a "good" member of the church. I have not made the wrong decision. Maybe I'm just taking the "long way around." Fortunately, I am very sure God knows exactly where I am in my journey, and I feel (and have felt) His assurance that all is well, and that's the only person's opinion that matters regarding my choices.

Recently, a general authority spoke at an Evergreen Conference. You can read his whole talk here. I suppose I understand his position as a general authority speaking before a body of people who are wanting to change their sexuality from gay to straight, but I fear the expectations that are put before so many people who struggle with feelings of homosexuality are unreasonable, and what will (and does) it do these people when those expectations are unable to be met? Especially when these expectations are being presented by people who have no idea what it's like to be in a gay person's shoes.

And that's what I'm talking about. When we're given expectations of what a "perfect Mormon life" is supposed to be, and those expectations are unable to be met through no fault of our own, how will we respond? Will we lose our testimony? Will we beat ourselves up and self-flagellate? Will we become estranged from our loved ones or embrace them in spite of choices we may not agree with? Will we be strong enough to endure whatever we've been asked to? Will we decide we have to do what is best for our personal peace and happiness even if it goes against the grain of what is expected? Will we leave the church or become excommunicated? Will we maintain our testimony and stay faithful no matter what? These are all choices or conditions personal to each and every one of us. As for me, I know what I had to do. It has not shaken my testimony of the LDS Church, but at the same time I'm able to live my life as I feel I need to, and I am happier for it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

AntiSocial, That's Me!

I am a pretty antisocial individual. It's not that I don't like people; I just don't like being around them. :-) j/k

I'm the guy that when I go to a restaurant, I choose the booth furthest away from other people. I sit on the far aisle in movie theaters. I am a homebody. I have gone three or four days in a row without ever leaving (or wanting to leave) the house. I hate crowds and loud parties. When my fellow cast members go out for drinks or dinner, it is rare that I will go with them. Again, it has nothing to do with my like or dislike for people; I'm just kind of a loner and truly value my alone time.

In the Salt Lake Tribune in August, the following article appeared (I believe the exact date was August 1):

Fort Myers, Fla. - The Vangelakoses' southwest Florida condominium has marble floors, a large pool overlooking a river and modern furnishings that speak of affluence and luxury. What they don't have in the 32-story building is a single neighbor.

The New Jersey family of five purchased their unit four years ago, when Fort Myers was in the midst of a housing boom and any hints of an impending financial crisis were buried in lofty dreams of expansion and development. They made a $10,000 down payment and eagerly watched as builders transformed an empty lot into an opulent high-rise, one that now symbolizes the foreclosure crisis.

"The future was going to be southwest Florida," said Victor Vangelakos, 45, a fire captain who planned to eventually retire and live permanently in the condo.

Most of the other tenants in the 200-unit condo didn't close on their contracts, and the few that did have transferred to an adjacent building owned by the same company because more people live there. The Vangelakoses' mortgage lender will not allow them to do the same. That leaves them as the sole residents of the Oasis Tower One.

"It's a beautiful building," said their attorney, John Ewing, who is representing 27 others who made deposits on units. "The problem is, it's a very lonely building."
When the Vangelakoses travel from Weehawken, N.J., to spend a week or a few days in their Florida home, they have exclusive use of the pool, game room and gym, but they miss having a few tenants around.

"Being from the city, it's very eerie," Vangelakos said. "It's almost like a scary movie."

A large, circular fountain in front of the building is dry. The automatic glass doors that lead to the front lobby are locked. On the front desk is a guest sign-in sheet. The last entry: Feb. 13, 2009.

"It's like time froze here six months ago," Ewing said.

Betsy McCoy, vice president and associated general counsel with The Related Group, which sold the family their unit, said they have tried to help find a solution -- even offering them a unit in the building next door, free of cost, while the situation is resolved.Some interested buyers who put down deposits lost their jobs, others were unable to get mortgages and some were just nervous when the financial collapse came.


The obvious slant in the story is "Oh, these poor people who have to live alone in this huge building, what can be done for them?" But my initial reaction was, "Oh, my gosh! That sounds ideal! I would love that!"

How's that for antisocial?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Memories

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I've been very, very busy and just haven't had time for the blogosphere as of late.

About three weeks ago (a little less) I finished the run of the show I was doing. As I alluded to in a previous post, about a month ago I was offered a job by a former professor (who to this day remains my favorite theatre teacher (and perhaps my favorite teacher overall) that I ever had and is a man I consider to be my mentor). The job itself was as an adjunct professor at a small college I attended many years ago, and the two subjects I was being asked to teach were acting and musical theatre history, which happen to be two subjects I am very qualified to teach and that I enjoy teaching. The time frame for the job was for the first semester, exactly the time frame when I knew I would be unemployed. Many things about the job appealed to me, but the salary offered was way too low for me to accept the position. I would be paying my house payment with Jonah, and I would have to move to the town where the college is and pay rent there as well, and the amount I was being offered was not enough to cover that, plus it was pretty low compared to my experience and degree.

My former teacher was actually embarrassed by what the college was offering to pay me, and he really wanted me to come work for the theatre department and said he would try to do anything he could to negotiate a higher salary. After much waiting, I was offered a better salary, but still not enough that I would be earning any money (and in fact, I would be losing money by taking the job). Yet, as I prayed and thought about it and discussed it with Jonah, I felt very strongly that I should accept the job offer; that it was something I was supposed to do and something that would pay off for me somehow later in life.

So I took the job. My former professor (now my boss) was thrilled, and even though I am losing money on this deal, I do not regret making this choice. I had to find an apartment fairly quickly, which I thought would be more challenging than it actually ended up being. Actually I found a nice place rather quickly, and I have the place all to myself. There's no bed or microwave, which is inconvenient, but I've been sleeping on the couch, which isn't too bad, and cooking on the stove, which isn't too bad, either. The biggest drawback about the apartment is that there is no air conditioning (something I did not realize until I signed the lease), so it gets pretty hot sometimes. Fortunately, I brought my fan, so it's not too bad, and it is starting too cool down (hopefully the heat works).

As for the job itself, I'm having a delightful time. I really like the students here, and I'm enjoying the classes I teach. Because I didn't accept the job or get my course curriculums and textbooks until two weeks before I started, I did feel a little behind at first, but now I feel like I am catching up (although I also feel like I'm creating my courses as I go along rather than having a long term plan in mind, and that's challenging).

Although I know a lot about musical theatre history, I've never taught it, so it has been interesting doing the research for my lectures, and since I've never taught a lecture course before, I've really tried to figure out ways to make it stimulating and engaging for the students. The acting class, which I have taught before, is a lot easier, although I've also had to tailor my methods to the department's course content, which hasn't been too hard, but still has been some work.

I truly am happy to be here. I went to college here myself, and some of my best memories are from my times here. It's also been interesting to see who I was then and who I am now. One of my first nights here I took a jog past so many of the places that had been a part of my life nearly 20 years ago. I ran past my old apartment building (which looks basically the same, but has a different name); past the old football stadium (which looks so small to me now) where I first told someone that I was gay; past the malt shop where I used to go all the time; past what used to be a convenience store where my friends and I would get snacks for late-night cramming sessions; past the parking lot where I used to park my car when I would go to class; past what used to be the theater we used to perform in (which has since been torn down and another, much better, performing arts facility has been built in what used to be a vacant field); past the place where there used to be a fountain I hung around a lot (after seeing a picture of the old fountain and how ugly it was, I kind of understand why they got rid of it); past the park where my friends and I used to play (and where the current generation of students is still playing; past the shops and eating establishments, which have changed somewhat since I was here as a student. And as I ran, I was listening to the music on my IPod, and I felt so good, so happy. So happy with the memories I had, and so happy with the person I've become.

I remember once, three or four years after I graduated from the college here, I came back for a visit and I understood what the statement "You can never go home again" meant. It just wasn't the same. But this time, about eighteen years after I graduated and probably 15 years since I'd even stepped foot in this town, I realized you actually can go home again. I felt the same joy, the same feelings I felt here so long ago as a student.

And, it's interesting, although this town has grown a little since I was here last and some things have changed, it is very interesting to me how little has changed. The first week I taught, the theatre department had a little gathering where the faculty and staff were introduced and where the students got the opportunity to meet and get to know one another. My boss introduced me and asked if I had anything to say. I told these kids how lucky they were to come to school here, how lucky they were to have this performing arts facility that I never had, and how lucky they were to have my mentor as the head of their department. I got a little emotional, which I was a little embarrassed by, but I meant every word I said. If these kids' experiences are anything like mine were, they are SO, SO lucky and blessed to be going to school here. I told them to make the most of their time here; to seize the day.

It has been so awesome being with my old teacher. I love him so much. he had an enormous influence on me both personally and in my career. It has been fun to watch him in action again. I had forgotten how much I have missed him. And he really has done everything to make me feel welcome and included and important. It's been interesting working with him as a peer. I'm really enjoying it. I know he is equally glad to have me here and is really grateful for all I am doing for him. He wants me to stay on for spring semester, but I told him it will be impossible unless I can get more money. I really like being here, but I can't afford to do this another semester (besides if I get an acting gig, I wouldn't be able to anyway; plus I miss Jonah terribly. Since we had our commitment ceremony nearly a year ago, I've spent all of two or so months with him). I know my boss will do all he can to work it out so I can stay, but I do not believe the college will pay what I need to stay here. Jonah said if they do, he's okay with my staying, but part of me just wants to be in my house with my husband.

The other thing (besides this job) that has kept me occupied was that I got a much-needed operation on my knee. About fifteen years ago I hyperextended my leg in a show I was in and tore some cartilage in my knee. Since then, it has gotten worse and more difficult to dance and walk up and down stairs. Until recently I never had insurance good enough to afford the surgery, but finally I was able to get it (and at a time when I wasn't in a show). The surgery went very well, and my knee is healing quickly. I still have a limp, and I have to go to physical therapy, but considering I had the surgery only a week ago, I feel I am in great shape. Hopefully when it is completely healed, I will no longer have the knee problems I had before.

Tomorrow after I teach my last class, I am going to visit Jonah in Vegas for five days. We are both very, very excited and looking forward to time together.

Things are good. I know my mom misses me a lot (and I miss her (and Jonah), but I guess that's part of life. Just know I am happy and well.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Duh!

I saw a headline in The Deseret News that said "Study Finds LDS Politically Conservative."

That's like putting a headline that says, "People Breathe."

Jonah's Visit This Week

So Jonah was here for nearly a week, which was fabulous. We, of course, have missed each other greatly, and it was so nice to just spend time with him. He got here on Sunday, so I missed church because I had to pick him up. After going straight home for some much-needed lovin', we went to Smith's grocery store to pick up some food for Jonah and to Fed Ex Kinkos to send something to an acquaintance of Jonah's. Having not typically shopped on Sundays, it was kind of unusual to see how dead everything was and how different the shopping crowd was. It actually looked liked Sunday would be a good day to do grocery shopping.

After our trip to the stores, we went to IHOP for breakfast, and then I had to get ready to do two shows that night. Jonah had only had an hour of sleep, so he went to bed, and I later learned that he hadn't gotten up until about 7:00 PM (it's unusual for Jonah to sleep that long).

After my shows we talked and did other things :-)

Monday we had lunch with my mom and an old friend of mine who has wanted to get to know Jonah better, at Mimi's Cafe, which I highly recommend. It was a really nice lunch and was great catching up.

After we got home, Jonah and I tried to fix a broken sprinkler in my mom's sprinkler system. We were not successful, unfortunately. Looks like we may have to call someone. Jonah also pruned my mom's rose bush and helped cut down the remainder of an apple tree my mom had had cut down. After we did that we went to some antique stores Jonah wanted to see (not my thing, but he enjoys it) and we stopped by Lowe's to get some stump killer for the remains of the apple tree. Then we came home and relaxed until it was time for bed.

Tuesday we picked up a cake at Sam's Club that I had ordered for Jonah and my nephew's birthday (which coincidentally fall on the same day). It was chocolate cake with cream filling, decorated with purple and yellow flowers. I thought it looked really good. Then we went to Ikea, a store Jonah wanted to go to because they don't have an Ikea in Las Vegas. We hung around there for a while, and Jonah also bought some knobs for our kitchen cabinets at home. We also ate at Ikea (they have pretty good food). Then we went to Target to get an iron for my mom and look at other things and also got some stuff at Smith's for a party. Then we took a nice nap at home and when we woke up we went to a "Christmas in July" party hosted by my cousin and her husband. It was so much fun. They have a really beautiful home up in the Avenues in Salt Lake City. It had a swimming pool and a great view of the valley. I have a feeling it's out of their price range and that they are struggling to make the mortgage payments.

Anyway, it was a nice chance for my extended family and Jonah to get to know one another better. Everyone was so kind to him and welcoming. I spent much of the time swimming with my niece and her cousin. We sang "Happy Birthday" to Jonah, my nephew, and another cousin (whose birthday was also on the same day). There was good food, and it was nice to see my relatives. We normally get together at Christmas (we have as long as I've been alive), but as families get bigger and obligations to see other family members get more prominent, we've decided to stop doing it and do something like this every year instead. While I am sad to see the Christmas tradition go, I think in the long run this new idea will be more practical for everyone and allow us to spend more quality time together.

After the party, we dropped my mom off at home, and Jonah and I went to see the latest Harry Potter movie (it was the only movie showing that late). As Jonah has never read any of the books or seen any of the movies, he was quite lost. I wasn't, but I still felt disappointed as I always do. The movies will just never be as good as the books, and that's that.

Wednesday Jonah and I took my mom to the zoo. We had to look for my mom's keys, which she thought she had misplaced (but actually I had inadvertently put them in my pocket the night before (since I had been driving us to the party)). I love animals, so the zoo was a lot of fun. I think Jonah enjoyed it, too. He kept telling us about the crappy zoo Las Vegas has (in fact there was just a news story about it and how the animals are suffering abuse there).

After a very fun time at the zoo, we went to a cupcake bakery because Jonah wanted to get the cast members of my show cupcakes for his birthday (that is exactly Jonah's personality to a T and one of the reasons I admire him so much). We also stopped by the cemetery (which was very close by) and briefly visited my dad and my grandma and grandpa's graves. I rarely visit the cemetery. I find it somewhat pointless. But it was nice to see the grave sites again.

After a nap, Jonah came with me to my show, which he had seen two times previously. It was a good crowd, and his cupcakes were a great hit with my cast. After the show we went to a nearby gay bar to do some promotion for the show (well, I went to do promotion; Jonah just came). I don't normally go to bars, gay or straight, but I was impressed with how nice this one was (and I told Jonah, "You are the cutest one here, but there sure is a lot of 'cute' wandering around." My cast performed a few songs, and Jonah actually won a gift card and a trinket in a raffle they were having (I wish he had won the free night at the fancy hotel instead). The whole bar sang "Happy Birthday" to Jonah, too. While I was eager to get home (a party-er I am not), I did have fun, and I think Jonah did, too.

Thursday Jonah and I went up to the University of Utah bookstore. Jonah wanted to buy a book called "Pets With Tourettes" for one of my cast members. Not my sense of humor, but it was big hit with the cast that night. He also bought another humorous book for one of his friends in Vegas. After the bookstore we went to pick up my paycheck and deposited it in the bank. We also took care of some business involving our joint account so we can have our house payment automatically deducted from our account each month. We also visited some more antique stores and tried to pay a visit to my cousin at her art studio, but she wasn't in. We also went to a sheet music store and had a late lunch at The Cheesecake Factory (on National Cheesecake Day, no less; I didn't even know there was such a thing and actually started making up words and music to a "National Cheesecake Anthem." Wish I could remember them now. They were moderately funny.)

Jonah wanted to go to Jo Ann's craft store so he could buy supplies so he could alter and hem up my mom's new temple dress for her. At the store, Jonah was grabbing stuff and handing it to me. A woman near us said to Jonah, "Oh, your wife must have sent you here." I rolled my eyes in a good-natured way that she was oblivious that we were together. It made me laugh that she didn't have a clue even after Jonah explained he was a dresser and costumer. She truly didn't have a clue we were gay. Funny. I thought it was pretty obvious.

I went to my show while Jonah hemmed my mom's dress. Many of my cast members talked about what a great guy Jonah was and how much they liked him. They said I was very lucky to have him. I agreed.

When I got home, my mom and Jonah both said they had had a really nice talk, and my mom was very complimentary about the work he'd done on her temple dress (although Jonah, being the perfectionist he is, was not as pleased with his own work). I jokingly said that my mom should tell all the sisters at the temple that her gay son-in-law hemmed her dress for her. She rolled her eyes and said she didn't think that would go over too well (although she did say she tells everybody that all her kids are married, that I live in Vegas, and that I'm an actor. She said she'll let them figure out the rest on their own.)

Friday was the day Jonah had to go back home. We were both sad about it. Jonah and I went to a fabric store and to a place called Savers where I got a really good deal on some used books. My mom took us out to Chuck-A-Rama, where we had a nice chat. Jonah and I dropped my mom off at home, and Jonah and she said goodbye. Then Jonah and I went over to Deseret Industries because Jonah wanted to look around. Then I drove him up State Street to the Capitol Building and behind it so he could see the valley from up high. Then I took him to the airport, and we said our goodbyes. Jonah's flight was delayed an hour, too, so he was at the airport for a long time unfortunately. But he barely made it home in time for work

We miss each other already. I have a potential job offer teaching acting and musical theatre at a local college. Many things about the job are very appealing to me, and I'm seeing if I can work it out financially because with my house payment, rent in the town where the college is, and the low salary I'm being offered, I'm not sure if it will be worth it or not. Jonah has been very supportive, but it means being away from him for at least four more months, and I was looking forward to spending some time with him. Still a job offer in my chosen field does beat unemployment, I think. I haven't decided what I'm doing yet. I'll let you know.

My show ends in a couple of weeks. I will miss the cast a lot, and I will miss doing the show.

Anyway, that's it for now.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Stupid People

You want to see Jon Stewart lampoon a non-issue?

Watch this.

I found it amusing.

This is one of the videos upon which Jon Stewart's segment is based:



"Scary, stupid crazy people," is all I can say.

Reminds me of this lady during the election campaign:



Hmm. Maybe it's the same lady. ;-)