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. ;-)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Coming Together

Last week Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) said this in relation to President Obama's health care reform plan: "If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him."

It somewhat reminded me of Rush Limbaugh's quote earlier this year where he said, "I hope [Obama] fails." Much as I dislike Rush Limbaugh and his philosophies, I do understand that what he was saying was that he wanted Obama to fail because he didn't want policies he disagreed with to succeed. That being said, I do not like the attitude that both Senator Demint and Rush Limbaugh seem to promote of wanting someone to fail because they don't align with their political ideology.

One thing Rush Limbaugh said in the same commentary from which his above quote came was, "[The liberals] didn't give Bush a chance in 2000. Before he was inaugurated the search-and-destroy mission had begun...Were the liberals out there hoping Bush succeeded or were they out there trying to destroy him before he was even inaugurated?"

I have to say that I think President Bush is the worst president I have known in my lifetime, but I can't remember ever hoping for him to fail or wanting to "break him." I certainly feel, too, that I often tried to give him the benefit of the doubt until he proved himself unworthy of it. Again, I understand what Limbaugh is saying. He probably feels much the same way about Obama's policies as I felt about Bush's, and I would assume he means that he is just as uneager for the the policies he disagrees with to succeed as perhaps I was regarding some of the Bush policies I found distasteful. But that doesn't mean I wanted to Bush to fail to be a good leader or to do things I hoped would be in the best interest of the American citizens. And perhaps that's the problem; that how we achieve those things are different for Rush Limbaugh or George W. Bush or Barack Obama or me. I mean, I think most people want a lot of the same things: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, etc. But different people and factions have different ideas about how to achieve those things.

In response to Senator DeMint's comments, President Obama said, "Think about that. This isn't about me. This isn't about politics. This is about a health care system that is breaking America's families, breaking America's businesses and breaking America's economy. And we can't afford the politics of delay and defeat when it comes to health care. Not this time, not now. There are too many lives and livelihoods at stake."

Look, I'm not saying that Barack Obama's health care plan is the way to go. In this economy, especially, I understand people's concern about the cost of a major overhaul of our health care system. I also understand people are afraid of socialized health care (I'm not one of those people, but I get it). But what is true is that our health care system is broken, and a lot of people are suffering as a result. I just wish Senator DeMint had more of an attitude of "How can we help the American people with their health care issues?" rather than, "Ooh, Obama's gonna go down if this fails!" And maybe he does, and this sound bite just doesn't reflect that.

I just wish instead of criticizing each other and bickering and rejecting each other simply based on party lines that somehow politicians could come together and figure out how to help the people they represent. I know that's hard, if not impossible, when you're dealing with factions that have very different ideas about how to achieve the same goal, but it just annoys me.

I always feel, too, here in Utah that whenever I write my representatives about anything, they almost always seem to have the opposite point-of-view as mine. I'm not saying my point-of-view is right or better than theirs, but it is frustrating sometimes when you feel you have no voice.

I don't think Barack Obama is perfect, but I did vote for him and I genuinely like and respect him, and I do think he is doing his best to serve the American people (much as I'm sure many people felt about our last president). And I also think after eight years of policies that have gotten us into a lot of trouble, in my opinion, it might be nice to see what happens if we try some new tactics. Maybe those will fail, too. I don't know. I certainly don't hope so. But somehow people have got to learn to come together for the greater good.

If Obama's plans are flawed, then I am hopeful that people from both parties can work together to fix those flaws and help the people they serve. Naive, I know, but I can dream, can't I?

In other news, my mom and I ran into my pretty conservative uncle today. He and his family are the only ones I have not talked to about my sexuality (nor did I invite them to my wedding, which I'm not sure was the right choice, but was the one I felt I needed to make at the time). Anyway, I finally told him. He didn't even bat an eye. In fact, his first question was, "So what does your partner do for a living?" Just another lesson to me that when it has come to my sexuality, I have often underestimated the people that I felt would most have a problem with it. Some of the people I have expected the most guff from have been the most compassionate.

My extended family is getting together for a party next week when Jonah is in town. It will be nice for him to get to know them better (and vice-versa). Jonah will be here for a whole week. I'm so excited. I miss my husband terribly. In fact, I'm looking forward to unemployment just because it means I can go be with him in Las Vegas for a while (although the lack of a job is somewhat worrisome).

Anyway, that's it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Quote

I heard this quote last night in a movie I was watching:

"You're about to begin a new life. Embrace the new. Don't forget the old. And your new life - enjoy it fully!"

Sounds like good advice to me.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

My Stake President

My stake president finally got back to me regarding the letter I wrote him after I was excommunicated (which you can read about here if you want). He actually tried to meet with me right after I sent it, but our schedules didn't mesh. Anyway, he had left me a phone message today saying that he appreciated my letter very much and that it was a "wonderful letter" and that he's been very touched by some of the things I said. He also said he felt embarrassed that he'd been slow getting back to me, which I didn't mind at all. After all, I know he is a very busy man, and he did, after all try to set up an appointment with me right after he received the letter.

Anyway, I was able to call him back, and we had a good chat. We're also going to try to meet on August 8th just to catch up and because he wants to see how I'm doing. We also discussed a matter I put in my original letter, but did not include in my post, which was that I wanted to know if it was permissible for me to read scriptures or from the manual out loud in Sunday School or Priesthood if called on to do so. He said to me today that he had discussed the matter with his counselors right after getting my letter, and they agreed that this would be all right, and he also said if I was ever asked to make a comment in relation to what I read that I could go ahead and do so. I asked if it was permissible for me to volunteer to read scriptures in class. He said he didn't see any problem with that, either. I then asked him if I needed to clear that with the bishop as well. He said he would take care of that as it would be more proper for it to come through him.

This news makes me happy. Even though I am prohibited from doing certain things such as bearing public testimony, giving public prayers, wearing my garments, taking the sacrament, commenting in class, and paying tithing, it does make me feel like I still belong if I can do the things I'm allowed to do, such as participating in the choir, singing hymns, reading scriptures, and being able to listen and learn from those around me who are allowed to do the things I am not. I like that.

My stake president also asked how my job was going and just how I was generally. As I've said before, I consider my stake president a friend, not just a stake president, and I do feel and have always felt for some time now that he really is genuinely concerned for me as a friend.

My former bishop, who is also a good friend and who knows I was excommunicated, is good about asking how I'm doing and seems happy that I am happy.

I am very blessed.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Oh, Say What Is Truth?

So in a previous post I talked about the news story where two gay men were cited for trespassing after becoming belligerent and refusing to leave the LDS Main Street Plaza after being asked to leave because they had engaged in inappropriate behavior. What that behavior exactly was is now subject to speculation.

The LDS Church came out with the following statement Friday regarding the incident:

There has been a good deal of publicity surrounding an incident where two men were cited for trespassing because of belligerent and profane behavior on the Church Plaza, which is an extension of the Salt Lake City Temple grounds and Church headquarters. While this property is owned by the Church, we want it to be a place of beauty and serenity in downtown Salt Lake City for everyone.

As we said earlier on this matter, these men were asked to stop engaging in behavior deemed inappropriate for any couple on the Plaza. There was much more involved than a simple kiss on the cheek. They engaged in passionate kissing, groping, profane and lewd language, and had obviously been using alcohol. They were politely told that the Plaza was not the place for such behavior and asked to stop. When they became belligerent, the two individuals were asked to leave Church property. Church security detained them and Salt Lake City police were called.
There is nothing satisfying in learning that there have been problems for anyone on Church property. We hope the Plaza will continue to be an asset to the community and enjoyed by the many that cross it each day.


Okay, so somebody isn’t being completely honest here, and it’s either the LDS Church security officers, the gay couple, or a combination of the two. I’m not even saying that anyone is blatantly lying, either. It’s also possible that actions or points-of-view on both sides have been subject to misinterpretation. And since this is a case of “he said”/”he said,” it’s not likely we’ll ever know the full truth of what occurred. In reading updated information on what occurred, here in The Salt Lake Tribune and here in The Deseret News, everything is not as clear cut as I felt it was in my previous entry. In the original story, Derek Jones said he and Matt Aune were walking home, holding hands, and said, “Matt paused to say something to me and hugged and kissed me.” In the police report, the reporting officer says that Matt “said they sat down and he gave Derek a kiss,” which is also what The Deseret News reports. When the couple was on the news, Matt demonstrated how he kissed Derek, which was just a kiss on the cheek, but the Tribune reports that it was a “kiss on the face,” and the Church’s statement is that the couple “engaged in passionate kissing” and “groping.”

In the Tribune article, Matt Aune says, “I guess they consider hugging groping. Regardless of if a kiss is on the cheek or on the lips, it still is not inappropriate -- unless you are gay, according to the LDS Church.” So was it a kiss on the cheek or a kiss on the mouth? Was it a short peck or was it sustained, passionate kissing? Were they on their way out of the plaza or did they stop to take a break or, as some have accused, were they even baiting church security or trying to make a statement? Had they had a simple drink or were they intoxicated? Were the guards justified in their actions or were they overzealous and insensitive? Do the answers to these questions matter?

It is fairly clear to me that once asked to leave the plaza, the gay couple (or at least Matt, as far as I can tell) became belligerent and uncooperative and did use profanity. It is for these reason they were detained, perhaps manhandled, and eventually cited. Some people are saying they were arrested or handcuffed or “slammed to the ground” or cited because of the kissing incident. No, they were detained and cited for refusing to leave (i.e. trespassing). Now whether or not I agree with the Church’s rules on the private plaza or whether I agreed with the sale in the first place (for the record, I didn’t), the fact is the city of Salt Lake did sell it to them, and they now own it, and they can create or enforce whatever rules they see fit, I suppose. Some of these rules include no sunbathing, no skateboarding, skating, or bicycling, no profanity, and no inappropriate behavior. The couple was evidently using profane language and was also refusing to leave the property, so that’s why the cops were called and why the couple was cited for trespassing. I’m fine with that.

If the couple was making out, and it wasn’t a simple peck on the cheek and holding hands then I also would say the LDS Church isn’t being discriminatory because I know straight couples have been asked to stop and/or leave for the same reason. However, if it was a case of hand holding and a peck on the cheek and that was it, then I disapprove of the way the matter was handled because it does seem discriminatory to me.

Although I am all for gay rights, my gut feeling at this time is that I’m leaning towards believing the Church in this matter. I find it hard to believe the Church would come out with such a statement if they didn’t know they had something to back it up. I’m not sure, but I would suspect they have security cameras on the plaza, and if they have reviewed the footage, they would have a leg to stand on in this case. I also sense that the story subtly changes the more we hear from Derek Jones and Matt Aune, which doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying church security handled this incident as well as maybe it could have nor do I think there is even a problem with two men kissing in public. I also strongly feel that no matter what happened, members of church security did show a great lack of sensitivity and perhaps ignorance in the matter. To say the kissing itself was “unwanted” or “gross” or that they (security) “don’t come to your house and make-out on your property,” quotes that have been stated in accounts from the police report, Derek Jones’ own account, and news stories, well, I do think that shows a lack of sensitivity.

I also can understand why the gay couple was upset. While some anti-gay individuals say that the couple should have either known better or that they were, in fact, baiting the LDS Church or making a statement of some kind, it would certainly not be beyond the realm of possibility that this is a couple who simply love each other who were coming home from a fun night, forgetting in the moment where they were and simply were showing the same affection for each other that a straight couple might. It was late at night, and there were few, if any, people on the plaza. I think if they had really wanted to make some sort of statement, it would have been more effective to make if there had been more people around. But I’m not denying there is the possibility these two guys were on the plaza saying, “Hey, I love you. Won’t it be great if I show that love in the one place I know it will piss people off?” I tend to believe they were just having a good time and weren’t necessarily thinking about where they were or if their actions would have negative consequences, and when confronted, they became understandably defensive.

No matter what happened, I think there was poor behavior exhibited by both parties (i.e. Church security and the gay couple). Both did things that I feel make the Mormon church and gay people or gay rights activists, respectively, look bad.

And if Church security isn’t being fully honest about the situation, and it comes out, boy, is that going to be big trouble for the LDS Church.

My main opinion on this story is that I don’t think there is anything wrong with displaying one’s affection publicly, whether one be straight or gay (although I am not interested in seeing public make-out sessions from either homosexuals or heterosexuals), and although I don’t agree with the Church’s views on homosexuality, I also think that as the owner of private property, they have every right to dictate whatever rules they like and ask people to leave if they aren’t following those rules. For example, I have friends who smoke marijuana, and if they wish to engage in that activity, that is their right, but I wouldn’t be comfortable allowing that activity in my own house. Granted, marijuana is illegal and homosexuality is not, but I hope you get my point.

I do think if the Church applies completely different standards to heterosexual and homosexual couples, that can get into a dangerous area. Whatever the rules are, I think they should apply to all equally. I also think the Church would do well to say exactly what those rules are since at the moment, some of them seem vague to me. And I do think it’s very possible that Church security treated this couple differently because they were gay, even if they insisted that wasn’t the case. If that is true, and I actually believe it is, I think that’s wrong and contrary to the spirit of what Christ taught.

One thing that has really bothered me about this issue is the backlash I see in the comment boards on the websites of The Deseret Newsand The Salt Lake Tribune and in letters to the editor and in other articles I’ve seen. I saw this same behavior during the Prop. 8 debate and when Chris Buttars made ignorant remarks about gay people.

I am continually disheartened by what I see as an undercurrent of hatefulness and ignorance. These issues have really shown me the ugly side of people on both sides of the issue. It genuinely saddens me to see people on both sides of the issue treat each other with such contempt and viciousness. I believe it is possible to disagree on an issue, whatever it may be, and still maintain civility, decorum, and respect.

I remember when Senator Chris Buttars compared gays to radical Muslims, said we were the greatest threat in America, and compared our sexual practices to pig sex. At that time, many in the Utah Senate defended Senator Buttars, and there was a letter to the editor in the Tribune that said:

Had the anti-gay comments by Sen.Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, been directed at blacks, Jews, women or Mormons, he would have been forced to apologize and resign immediately. These groups all share a common thread with the gay lesbian bisexual transgender community -- they are not the same as everyone else, and it isn't a matter they had any choice in. They have different beliefs, colors, lifestyles and means of creating a family unit. These differences don't make any of them a threat to America. It's hatred and lack of acceptance that are the greatest threats to society. Buttars embodies both of these values.
When the rest of the Utah Senate stand behind their colleague and his right to serve, and admit that they agree with some of his statements, but refuse to say which ones, they all need to be called out ("Buttars asks: Why should I apologize?" Tribune , Feb. 21). These people represent all of us to the rest of the world.
Living on Planet Utah has become an embarrassment.

Lisa Viehweg

Holladay


I agreed with the writer of the letter at the time (still do). What I didn’t agree with (as is often the case when I read the comment boards on the Tribune's site and (although less often) the Deseret News) is the name-calling and childish behavior exhibited by many of the commentors. I don't care whether you're for gay rights or against it; whether you believe homosexuality is a sin or whether you think there's nothing morally wrong with it; resorting to name-calling, insults, and mean-spirited behavior is uncalled for and, frankly, counterproductive.

Among the things I read at that time were the generalized statement that all Mormons hate gay people; a query as to whether Chris Buttars' wife has to get drunk and put a bag over her husband's head in order to stand having sexual relations with him; the insinuation that bigotry against Mormons is justified, but against gays it isn't; disparaging personal comments against a particular letter writer simply because she disagreed with homosexuality (the letter writer basically called her a hateful bigot who had no soul and compared her to Hitler (happily, those comments were removed)); sarcastic comments about the temple garment; accusations that Mormons can't think for themselves, etc.

Over at the Deseret News site, I read comments that equated homosexuality with bestiality, incest, and pedophilia; accusations that the gays were coming after your children; accusations that homosexuals are weak-willed and moral deviants; accusations that gay people are "godless" or don't love god; calls to leave the state of Utah if you don't like it here; labels of gays being "children of the devil," etc.

With this new plaza controversy I have read much of the same: terrible and ignorant words full of hate directed towards Mormons by anti-Mormons and gay activists and terrible and ignorant words of hate directed towards gay people by members of the church I used to belong to and still love and carry a great deal of love and devotion towards.

I just find all of this insulting and ignorant behavior so counterproductive and completely contrary to what I believe Christ taught. I have to say that the pro-gay rights people whose remarks I have read seem to be full of more vitriol and mean-spiritedness than the anti-gay rights faction (although I have read many remarks that are just plain ignorant and, yes, some that are just as mean-spirited as those of the pro-gay faction). The Tribune's comment boards are generally far more heated and nasty than the Deseret News (although I have also read many comments from Mormons that I find abhorrent). I know people supporting gay rights are angry, and they have every reson to be, but I find it so hypocritical of those demanding tolerance to be so intolerant themselves. Disagree all you want, but when you start making personal and generalized attacks, I think you become just as bigoted as the people you're accusing of being bigots. Don't think I'm excusing the anti-gay faction, either, because I'm not. I'm never seen such a self-righteous, hypocritical group of people than the ones who claim to espouse Christian beliefs while spewing hate and ignorance.

The bottom line is that neither group will ever convince the other to even listen to their point of view if they can't discuss the issues civilly. Have you ever worked retail? When a customer is yelling at you and calling you names and insulting you, does that make you feel more prone to help them? It certainly didn't make me feel that way when I did retail. I was far more inclined to help people that treated me with courtesy and respect. It's the difference between a civil debate and a heated argument. Yelling at your spouse and digging at them is less apt to solve communication problems than if you discuss a sensitive matter with each other in a calm, respectful manner. Disagree all you want, but no one will ever listen to you if you're insulting them or things that are important to them. Gay rights are important to gay people, and Mormonism and Mormon beliefs are important to Mormons. If one group picks at the other and insults the things most precious to them, do you really expect them to listen to you or even respect you or your opinion?

I have a pretty good knack (although not perfect by any means) of being able to see things from other people's points of view, even if I disagree with them. Take Chris Buttars, for example. I do not defend his actions by any means. I find much of what he says distasteful, and I think he can be very ignorant about many things and say things in a very tactless way. I do happen to think that he is a bigot with some very prejudiced and uneducated views about certain things such as race and sexuality. I think comparing gay sex to "pig sex" or comparing homosexuals to Muslim extremists is very distasteful and wrong. I believe his assertion that gay people are the "greatest threat to America today" is uninformed and terribly biased. I think his use of "the gays" or "the gay" is uneducated. I think many of his ideas are antiquated. But one thing he said was that gays are the meanest people he has met, and if he gets the kind of letters from the pro-gay faction that I imagine he gets, I can see why he would draw that conclusion. If more of us would be kinder, it might not make a difference to Buttars, but at least it would prevent us from stooping to his level. When we use insults and foul language and nastiness, we become exactly what we accuse him of being. How does that make us any better?

Should Chris Buttars have been reprimanded? Do I wish we would resign or be relieved of his position? Does he need to take responsibility for actions which are tactless and even hateful? Yes, yes, and yes. But he is still a human being (admittedly, one I do not care for), and whether he is a distasteful human being, I still think I would rather take the high road and treat him the way I wish he would treat me than call him names and insult his wife (who my mom works with at the temple and who my mom says has been nothing but nice to her). A man in my ward was once close friends with Chris Buttars. He does not agree with his manner of expressing himself, and found the situation I referred to so sad. I don't hate Chris Buttars, although I do pity him, and I do wish he could see past his prejudice and get to know the people he thinks he hates.

I wish that for all people. I wish anti-Mormons could get to know the good, decent Mormons and see that there are some really good, kind people in that religion. I wish the anti-gays could really get to know the good and kind gay people and see that there is a lot of good in them. I wish church security had been kinder to the gay couple. I wish the gay couple had been kinder to the church security members who stopped them.

You know, a friend of mine calls me a “conundrum.” I suppose he’s right. I am openly gay and have been in a relationship with Jonah for over three years, and the two of us recently had our commitment ceremony in December here in the great state of Utah. I’ve also recently been excommunicated from the LDS Church. But I was also raised Mormon and still love my religion very much and still attend my ward every Sunday I am able to. My bishop and stake president were both aware of my relationship and always showed great compassion in regards to my being gay and my relationship with Jonah. The members of my family, all who are active Mormons, have been nothing but supportive of me and welcoming of Jonah.

When I tell people this, there are some who don’t understand why I would choose to still devote my time to a church that preaches against homosexuality and which is viewed as one that actively fights against gay rights. I don’t expect people to necessarily understand. It’s complicated. All I can say is something I’ve said repeatedly in this blog: that my religion has made me as much the person I am today as my sexuality has, and I owe some of my most positive values and traits to both. I understand very much what it’s like to be caught in the middle; to be on both sides of the fence. I very much support gay rights, but I also maintain a great deal of loyalty to my religious beliefs and the church to which I still feel I belong.

I think so much of the bigotry, hate, and intolerance that exists in the world arises out of fear, ignorance, and misunderstanding. Whether you’re prejudiced towards somebody because of their race, their sex, their sexual orientation, their religion or lack of it, their political beliefs, or what-have-you, I think the root of the problem is failing to at least try to understand somebody and their points-of-view. Granted, some people make that difficult to do at times, but I think so many of the problems we have with prejudice have to do with a failure to understand one another or when we’re so locked into our own position that we can’t even be moved to try and see someone else’s.

From my own experience, I think there are many Mormons (and other Christians, too) out there that are so locked into a certain belief system (a kind of warped Christianity (it’s certainly not the Christianity I know)) that they become hypocritical, judgmental, prideful, and self-righteous. On the flip-side, I, of course, know many Mormons and other people of Christian faiths who are loving, compassionate, humble, and nonjudgmental individuals. I have many of them in my life and am inspired by their great examples. I know many gay people who are in loving, committed relationships who simply want the same legal rights that are afforded to others. On the flip-side, I know some irresponsible gay people who engage in practices that are dangerous to others and themselves, and I also know gay people who are more intolerant than the people they accuse of being intolerant towards them. I know people who are social drinkers and are very responsible when it comes to their consumption of alcohol, and I know people who abuse alcohol, and a good friend of mine is in prison right now because he accidentally killed someone due to that abuse. I know Democrats and Republicans who can civilly discuss issues with one another and who try to work together for the common good even if they don’t always agree on how to do it. On the flip-side, I know Republicans and Democrats who are far more interested in being right than in solving problems and will go out of their way to thwart a good idea simply because the opposite party suggested it. I know many fine people of different religions and ones who have no religion whatsoever who are good, morally upstanding people simply trying to live the best lives they can and, hopefully, help others do the same. I also know people who just attack and ridicule those who have a different belief system than they have without ever trying to get to know them at all.

My point is that we all as human beings come from different backgrounds, cultures, and belief systems. None of us is perfect, and we all do things that annoy someone else. Somehow we have to learn how to live with and understand one another without infringing on each other’s rights or beliefs. Of course, there is no easy answer to how one does that.

I think the danger comes when we stereotype each other based on the actions of some, even if it is a perceived majority. I think it is important that we see each other as individuals rather than as generalized collectives. That’s what I try to do in my own life, although I am, admittedly, not always successful.

I know I am na├»ve in some ways. I am an optimist, even when circumstances appear dire or frustrating. I truly believe in the innate goodness of people even when people are doing hurtful things to one other. I know I have a very idealistic “Pollyanna-esque” view when I ask why we can’t all just get along. I know this. But I suppose I would rather be that way than pessimistic, apathetic, or/and cynical.

Well, this post turned out much longer than I had anticipated. I guess I had a lot to say. Congratulations if you made it this far.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Something On The Lighter Side

So I've got my mom hooked on one of my favorite TV shows, "Lost," and each episode (at least in the first couple of seasons) deals with a different character's backstory and how they came to be on the plane that crashed on the island and what their life was like prior to the crash. For example, we find out one guy was an interrogator in the Iraqi army; one girl is an escaped convict; one guy is a con man hunting the man he feels is responsible for his parents' deaths; one guy was bringing his estranged father's body home for his funeral, etc. So my mom says to me, "Everybody's backstory is so interesting and intricate. If I had been on that plane they'd just do a flashback of me sitting on the couch watching reruns of game shows on the Game Show Network and saying, 'Gee, it might be fun to take a trip,' and that would be it."

Made me laugh! Maybe you had to be there, but it truly tickled both of us. We just couldn't stop laughing at that image for a few minutes.

I love my mom!

Friday, July 10, 2009

This Really Chaps My Hide!

I don't get let the gay vs. church issues upset me very much, but this news story really chapped my hide:

As reported in the Salt Lake Tribune and The Deseret News and a first hand account from one of the men involved.

My issue is not with the fact that they were cited for trespassing, but that they were singled out in the first place. Once the gay couple became argumentative and refused to leave, Church security was within their right to handcuff them and call the local police. What I really have issue with is the enormous double standard that exists here. First of all, it was about 10:00 or 10:30 PM, as I understand it, and few people, if any, were on the easement at all. Secondly, the couple was on their way home, and all they were doing was holding hands, and then one man gave his partner a peck on the cheek. That's it! If there are rules against public displays of affection on the Church-owned easement then why do I often see married couples and couples who are dating being allowed to be affectionate with each other in public on the Church Plaza without any repercussions? Heck, you see lots of couples just married in the temple kissing each other on the plaza. So why aren’t they stopped for such behavior? Because they are straight, that's why!!

You know, even if this couple had been making out or involved in blatantly sexual behavior (heck, I don't even want to see that publicly from straight people) on the Plaza, maybe I could understand. But they were holding hands and one guy gave the other a simple peck on the cheek. You can see a demonstration of this on this news feed (found under "Couple Detained for Public Affection", if you like. I'd be willing to bet a lot of money that if a straight couple had done exactly the same thing, Church security would not have bothered them at all. Making out, maybe. Hand holding and a cheek peck, not a chance.

I just think the security guards used extremely poor judgment. Even if they didn't agree with the couple's behavior, wouldn't it have been easier and less of a public relations nightmare for the Church if they had just let the hand-holding, cheek-pecking couple pass through on their merry way instead of making an issue of it? The couple wouldn't have had to get defensive (as I feel was their right), the security guards wouldn't look like complete assholes, and the Church wouldn't have yet another reason to look bad in dealing with homosexual issues.

As noted in the above articles, the Church issued the following statement regarding the incident:

"Two individuals came on Church property and were politely asked to stop engaging in inappropriate behavior-just as any other couple would have been. They became argumentative and used profanity and refused to leave the property. They were arrested and then given a citation for criminal trespass by SLPD."

The couple "became argumentative and used profanity?" Agreed. The couple "refused to leave the property?" Agreed. They trespassed and, therefore, were cited for it? Agreed. They were "asked to stop engaging in inappropriate behavior-just as any other couple would have been?" Excuse my language, but bullshit! A straight couple never would have been stopped for the same infraction. Would even two Italians men or French men have been stopped for a cultural greeting where they kiss each other on the cheek? Perhaps, but not as likely. It's such a double standard, and it makes me so angry!

At the very least, I think these security officers could use some sensitivity training. And for a church that ardently tries to cultivate an image of being welcoming, loving, inclusive, and Christ-like, I think this incident makes them look very bad.

Now the couple is banned from Church property for six months. For trespassing, yes, but all stemming from the fact that they were stopped for hand-holding and a peck on the cheek. Absolutely ridiculous! I'm glad in this world of famine and war and homelessness, we're protecting people from behavior from two people who love each other and simply express that love in the same way their straight counterparts do.

I remember when the whole controversy happened when the city sold this tract of land to the LDS Church in the first place. I was troubled by it then, and I am even more troubled by it now.

Ach! This whole thing really burns me up! Sorry for my language.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Blood Brothers and Validation

A very good friend of mine who I have written about here, here, and here is in town this week from the show he is touring with, and we got together to catch up and talk.

I've commented before how interesting it is how our lives have kind of paralleled. Unlike me, my friend was married to a woman, but mostly our paths have been very similar in many ways. Both of us were very strong in the church while we were in the closet, both of us are actors, both of us eventually came out and found someone we loved and wanted to be with, both of us have been excommunicated, and both of us retain a positive relationship with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. One thing I love about my friend is that he really relates a lot to what I have gone through and what I continue to go through. He's someone I can really talk to about Mormon and gay issues who understands my point-of-view and experiences and relates to them well. I also find it interesting that each of our partners is not LDS but comes from a very Christian background. I just love talking to my friend. We really share a lot of common ground. He was also very supportive and understanding just prior to my church court, and that was very helpful.

He asked about my commitment ceremony (since he was unable to attend), and I told him about it. We talked about his tour (I gotta get on one of those - he is making some very good money). And, of course, we discussed gay and Mormon issues and our experiences with excommunication. It was just so nice to share stuff with him, and it’s just really nice to have a good friend who’s traveled a similar road who understands.

We talked about how supportive our families have been. I know his dad has had a hard time with it, but he seems to slowly be coming around, and that was nice to hear. It was so much fun to see him, and it was just nice to catch up with him. Like the show we were in once upon a time, we really are “blood brothers” in a lot of ways.

I also discussed how odd it's been getting used to not wearing garments. He said it took him a while, too, and that he still wears an undershirt (as do I), but we also discussed our love of sexy underwear, so that was fun, too.

What I loved most is that both of us seem very healthy and happy, and for that I am grateful.

I am happy to report that since I was excommunicated, my life has changed very little. I still do what I've always done and certainly feel no loss of spirituality or presence of my Father in Heaven in any way. In fact, in some ways I feel like I'm even more perceptive spiritually. Weird. Not what I had necessarily expected, but I feel very grateful.

I had an interesting experience in church on Sunday. It was testimony meeting, of course, and it was a good meeting. At one point a man I did not recognize at all, but who has apparently been in the ward for some time, got up to bear his testimony. One thing he said was that he was thankful for the members of the ward who had had a positive influence on him by their friendship, teachings, and testimonies, and as he said this, I got the distinct impression that I was one of the people he was specifically referring to (even though I did not know this man at all). Just as this thought came to my head, the man said, "I remember, for example, a testimony this man in the purple shirt [referring to me] gave a couple of years ago that really had a positive influence on me at the time. he really said some specific things that were very helpful to me during that time." As he pointed to me I kind of smiled, and my bishop saw me smiling and smiled at me as well. I don't know, for some reason it just made me feel validated. After all, the person I was two years ago isn't much different than the person I am now, and if the testimony I think he was referring to is the one I think it is, my homosexual issues were very instrumental in causing me to say the things I said back then. It just reminded me that I did (and continue to) have a positive influence on people. Excommunication has not erased that or my relationhip with the Father or Christ. It’s funny, you just never know the influence you have on anybody.

Another interesting experience I had the previous Sunday (which I thought I had already written about, but I don't see any reference to it in my previous posts) was that it was high council Sunday, and two of the men on my disciplinary council were the speakers that day. As I think I mentioned in my post about my church court, I had asked my stake president if I could still sing in the ward choir and was told that I could. Well, it so happened that on high council Sunday the choir was to sing, and in between the two men's talks, I came on the stand to join the choir and smiled at both men knowing full well they remembered who I was. Like Jonah said to me, it was almost a silent protest in a way. It was my way of saying, "Look! I'm still here! I'm still doing all I can, just like I told you in my church court! Excommunication isn't stopping me from being the best Mormon I can be, even if I'm no longer a Mormon on record!" It felt good. Another form of validation, I guess.

In Sunday School that day I found it ironic that the teacher talked about those things that cause Satan to deceive us, and he shared a couple of stories about people who had been excommunicated from the Church who rebelled against it and became some of the Church's greatest enemies. That isn't me, and I don't intend it to be me. I've said before that I don not feel deceived. I don't see how the peace and joy and love I've felt in abundance in my life could come from anywhere except from God. And it's like my friend and I said to each other tonight, neither one of us feels any bitterness or anger towards the Church like some of our friends do. You always have a choice, and he and I have both decided that our circumstances will not alter our love and positive feelings towards the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Last Monday we had a surprise birthday party for my mom's 70th birthday. We invited a bunch of her friends from many different periods in her life. She was so surprised and so overwhelmed by it all. It was so much fun to see the joy in her eyes, and it was something she continued to talk about for days. As part of the celebration she received a book that contains photos from the party and letters to her from people who were there as well as those who were unable to attend. It was such a great party.

As part of the entertainment, I made a list of 70 things I love about my mom and told some stories relating to some of those things. She loved it. It was not hard to make such a list. There is so much I love about my mother. One thing I truly love about her is that she loves me just for who I am and loves Jonah as well. She has been one of my greatest advocates. I am truly blessed.

Life is really good. I do wish I knew where I'll be working come September, but other that that, things couldn't be better, and even as far as my job future is concerned, I feel confident that something good will come my way. Heavenly Father has blessed me so much and continues to bless me, and I know that He is looking out for Jonah and me. One thing I am grateful for is that no job will allow me to go back to Vegas and spend some time with Jonah. That, in itself, is a fabulous blessing.