Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Nothing Wrong With US

I read this article today and was reminded of something Jonah said in reaction to an active LDS woman's assertion that Josh Weed is a "blessing and an example to all the Mormons who are gay and lost."  (I told you Jonah is obsessed with Josh Weed.)

Jonah told her  (and again, I'm paraphrasing some of this), "Well, I just want to say that as a gay Christian man, I don't feel like I am lost.  Josh states that he is gay, so why don't you consider him lost?  I guess it's because he made the choice to marry a woman. We all have our own journeys in life and believe it or not, God made us out of the same perfect mold that you came from. I don't see myself or any of my gay brothers and sister as the broken clay molds that God put aside to fix later. I feel that our Heavenly Father made no mistakes.   I am made whole because I am assured by God's word that I was created in his image just as you are . The only challenge we really face in life is not our homosexual orientation, but it is this idea that we as gay people have something wrong with us that we need to fix or overcome.

"Yes it's true we all have trials and tribulations in our lives, but being gay should not be looked at as one.

"If you think that this is a moral choice or just a choice all together let's go back and read what Josh Weed has said in his blog: 

"'I want to make it very clear that while I have found a path that brings me profound joy and that is the right path for me, I don’t endorse this as the only path for somebody who is gay and religious. I will never, ever judge somebody else’s path as being “incorrect” and I know many people who have chosen different paths than myself. '

"My partner and I are just as special as Josh and Lolly.  We dated each other for a few years and after that we were engaged on my birthday in Cedar City, Utah.  The whole time during our courtship we remained virgins.  Yes, virgins - as in never having sex of any kind until after our commitment ceremony in 2008.

"Can you believe it?  Both my partner and I had never had sex with a man or women before then.  That same year my partner was excommunicated by The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-day Saints.

"Today I am proud to say that he is still attending church and knows that it is possible for us have a happy Christian home just like Josh and his family.  We both look forward to our eternal life together someday.

"It's true we are also a rare kind, but I am here to tell you that there is really nothing here to fix except for the idea that we as gay people can't have the same eternal home or connection to God as the rest of my brothers and sisters.

"So pray for us like any other person out there. Let your prayers not be to fix us, but that God guide us all to a better understanding, that we are all created equal and that one day we all may have the same right's across the board."

You tell her, Jonah.

There's such a consistent attitude that there is something wrong with being gay.  Just recently there was a big hoopla in the Davis County school system about a library book called In Our Mother's House being sent to the restricted section because some mother was offended because the book's subject matter dealt with a lesbian couple and their child.  Never mind that the book was put in the library precisely because the school has a student whose parents are a same-sex couple, and the library wanted to foster an attitude of inclusiveness that would concentrate on all families in the district and not some.  Never mind that the mother could have used the book as a teaching moment for her kid to say, "Well, some families are different than ours" instead of making a stink about it, which only serves to to instill in the child a feeling that there is something wrong with same-sex couples.  The child who checked out the book probably wasn't bothered by the family in the story until Mom made her feel like there was something wrong.

Or there's the story of Mia Love, who's running for congress here in Utah, who declined to participate in an interview with QSalt Lake (Utah's gay newspaper) not because she dislikes gay people but because she was worried about how her opponent might make it look like she associated with gay people, which might not appeal to her constituents.  Never mind that her opponent, Jim Matheson, spoke to QSalt Lake himself.

I just get so tired of this attitude that gay people individuals and couples are broken or wicked or evil or second-class or are taboo or unworthy or "struggling" or "enduring a trial" or not whole.  I assure you, we're fine just the way we are, and many of us are quite happy (and those that aren't are often that way because their religions and families make them feel that way - i.e. it's not the condition of being gay that is the problem, but how people are made to feel about it by their religions, families, friends, societies, and cultures.

Get over it, people!  This rolling stone can't be stopped, and when it finally gets to the bottom of the hill, you're going to feel ashamed that you were on the wrong side of history.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Day Josh Weed Made My Husband Go Crazy or....Not Just Another Weed, But Hoping to Have the Same Rights As One

Jonah is not much of an activist.  He’s not particularly political.  Although he has written his share of letters to city officials or businesses, he only does it when really moved to do so.  It’s rare to see Jonah commenting on a blog or an online forum.  He doesn’t get riled up about things very easily.

I, on the other hand, am always writing letters to the editor and commenting on blogs and getting involved in Facebook discussions about politics or social issues.  Sometimes it gets me in trouble.  Jonah is always telling me that I need to be very careful what I say on Facebook because once it’s out there, it’s out there, and actions have consequences. 
Jonah doesn’t have much on his Facebook wall.  He doesn’t tend to get involved in Facebook discussions.  To the best of my knowledge, he’s never commented once on this blog.

Josh Weed, however, has Jonah all riled up now.  I talked about my feelings on the Josh Weed blog post here.  While I’ve kind of had a “live-and-let-live” attitude about Josh while still being worried about the unintended consequences of people misusing Josh and Lolly’s story to further their own agendas, something about Josh Weed’s post really got under Jonah’s skin, and it’s rare that a day has gone by since then that Jonah and I don’t have a discussion about it and about the fallout, both good and bad, that has resulted.
Jonah is pretty passionate guy, but it’s rarely about social issues.  It’s usually about art or flowers or me.  But Jonah has gotten way passionate about Josh Weed’s story and his (Jonah’s) worries that it has and will cause people to hold up Josh’s standard as the only one or the best one, and thus cause a lot of heartbreak and frustration for those who can’t achieve that “ideal” or for those whose loved ones can’t or have no desire to achieve that “ideal.”

It’s actually been kind of amusing to see Jonah get so worked up about it.  I don’t really think Josh Weed made Jonah go crazy; I just thought that would be a funny title.  (Well, maybe a little crazy - Jonah is on fire about it.)  It’s really been interesting to see how fanatic he’s gotten about it.  I’ve joked to Jonah that he’s so obsessed with Josh, he must secretly be in love with him.

The more I talked with Jonah about Josh Weed’s story, however, I began to realize that the reason he has gotten so passionate and worked up about it is because it really does relate to his passion and his love for me.

Jonah, who did not grow up Mormon, by the way, thinks it unfair that Josh is being held up as if his story is the standard or ideal in Mormonism while people like me are basically cast out.  In Jonah’s words (and I freely admit to paraphrasing everything in quotes below, but which Jonah has read and agreed that it's the basic gist of what he's said), “You’re a good person, [Cody].  You’re not a murderer.  You and so many like you tried your hardest to do everything the LDS Church ever asked you to do.  You gave everything you had to the Church.  You sacrificed the very essence of who you are to stay true to the doctrine of the Church, and it only made you unhappy and unfulfilled.  You did the best you could, and it made your life feel empty.

“Then you met me, and your life turned around.  You became happier and fulfilled, and your supposed sin was falling in love with me and choosing to be with me, and for that, your church carried out what I feel is the outdated and outmoded practice of excommunicating you.  They have taken away your ability to participate in a church you still very much love.  You can’t comment or bear testimony or pray or pay tithes or hold a calling, and it seems in doing so they push you away rather than embrace you.

“As someone who grew up in a different religion, we have nothing like excommunication in my church.  While my religion also believes homosexuality is a sin, I could still go in there today and participate.  I could testify or sing or pray and contribute, and there would be no penalty for it.  I would still be welcomed.

“But you can’t, and I just think it’s wrong.  And even though you don’t admit it or try to show it, I know your excommunication was hard for you and I know you still feel pain from it.  Even though individual members still treat you in a welcoming fashion, I know it’s still hard for you to attend a church that doesn’t give you full membership.  I know that it hurts you when you can’t participate in your niece’s baby blessing or your niece’s baptism or bear your testimony or comment in Sunday School.  I know that even though you love your religion, you still feel pain from it.  All you want is your basic membership rights that all other members have, and not just attendance.

“And I know in an ideal world, you would like for both of us to attend church together and be full participants.  But let’s be honest – if you and I were to sit in a Mormon Sacrament Meeting as a gay couple with kids and show the same kind of affection a straight Mormon couple shows each other in a church meeting, it would make people uncomfortable.  It doesn’t matter how progressive or welcoming people tried to be, our family would not be recognized in the same way a straight family would be.  The Church is still not willing to recognize a gay couple as a legitimate family.

“And yet, here is this guy, Josh Weed, who is living in this marriage, and although he and his wife may be very happy together, the fact is it is also his Mormonism that has driven him to make the decisions he has made.  He flat out asserts that he is not physically attracted to women the way he is men; that men turn him on more than women.  If that is the case, would he have chosen to marry a woman if his religious beliefs didn’t convince him that a relationship with a man is wrong?  Would Lolly have chosen to marry him if Josh thought it was permissible to have a relationship with a man? 

“Mormonism has conditioned gay people to doubt their self-worth as gay individuals; to choose to enter into straight relationships and marriages because it is supposedly the ‘right’ thing to do even though the majority of mixed-orientation marriages seem to lack the fulfillment that both the gay and straight partners desire.  Gay people in the church are brought up to believe that marrying is the right and good thing to do, and yet you and I have both seen examples of the consequences of that mindset.

“We’ve seen marriages fall apart because neither spouse was getting what they really wanted in a relationship; we’ve seen gay men cheat on their wives in an effort to fulfill their homosexual desires; we’ve seen them engage in behavior that is destructive to themselves, their wives, and their families; we’ve seen couples living in unfulfilled and empty marriages out of a sense of duty and obedience, but longing for something more and living lives of regret; we’ve seen gay kids striving for the ideal of falling in love with a woman and marrying, but constantly beating themselves up because it isn’t what they really want and feeling shame because what they really do want is termed ‘sinful.’  And couldn’t all this be avoided if people didn’t have this mindset that homosexual relationships are wrong?

“There is this idea in your church that all will be worked out in the afterlife; that people’s homosexual feelings will be taken away in the afterlife; that although one must endure the ‘trial’ of homosexuality in this life, if you live ‘faithfully’ you can still be with a woman in the next.  If you were to tell me that you and I wouldn’t be together in the next life because you wanted to do the ‘right’ thing and seek out a woman, that would hurt me deeply.  Who would want to hear that; that their marriage on earth is only temporary one; that our relationship would be nonexistent or invalid or not recognized in the afterlife; that we would never be together again; that you would leave me for a woman?  Who would want to hear that?

“And if you and I hadn’t met, [Cody], where do you think you’d be?  Would you be alone and depressed, but trying to live according to your church’s teachings?  Or would you have convinced yourself that marriage was the right option and be making yourself and some poor woman miserable while longing for a relationship with a man?  Or would you have completely abandoned hope of a happy life and ended your own in desperation?  Because that’s exactly what so many of God’s gay Mormon children are doing, and Josh Weed’s story, although perhaps not intended that way, is not helping matters any.

“And yet there will be people (there already are) who hold his story up as the words of a prophet and who will use it to try to convince their loved ones who are gay that if Josh can do it, so can they.  There will be gay people struggling to reconcile their sexuality with their religious belief who will see Josh’s example and believe they can do what he has done, too.  There will be straight woman who will marry gay men thinking that what Josh and Lolly have done will work for them.  There will be people who criticize their gay loved ones, saying, “Well, Josh did it.  You must not be trying hard enough.”  And that’s dangerous.

“This isn’t to criticize Josh and Lolly or any other gay-straight couple who is trying to make a mixed-orientation marriage work.  But for every Josh and Lolly, it seems there are hundreds of mixed-orientation marriages that aren’t successful, and I worry about the young, na├»ve kids who think they will walk into a Josh/Lolly marriage only to find something completely different which may lead to a lot of unnecessary heartache and pain.

“There are many of us that would love to stand in church and testify of our unique family like Josh Weed does, but we can't because the LDS Church teachings do not allow it.  The church does not recognize our divine worth as a gay couple. They would rather have us sit there in silence as if our journey really has no connection to God, our Creator.  Clearly we are also being true to ourselves by saying we are gay or by being in gay committed marriages but, oh wait, we can't say ‘marriage’ because the church won't recognize that either.
“How can a gay Mormon adhere to a religion that obviously fills him or her with joy, but then says it will only accept you if you choose celibacy by not acting on your homosexual feelings or if you choose to marry a woman even though you’re gay?  We are not ashamed of our gayness, so why is the church?  We have chosen to build a life of fidelity with each other as two men, but the church will only love us, but not recognize our unique families.

“Is there anything wrong with us wanting the same rights that Josh and his wife are afforded in the church and in society? Is there?
  Would it be wrong of us to have the rights to share our love and unique family in a testimony meeting?

“Sadly the church uses its outdated practice of excommunication to try and keep people like you silent.  Many end up abandoning the Church (and sometimes God) in the process, but there are also those like you who walk BRAVELY into church every Sunday, who sit there in silence but have even stronger testimonies then ever before, whose faith was never taken away, and who's connection to God is even stronger.

“I want Josh Weed’s story to inspire people, but I also pray that Josh and his family’s story opens up more communication to the fact that a heterosexual marriage doesn't SOLVE the problem or is the KEY to any gay youth that is struggling with their homosexual feelings.

“I love you, [Cody].  I would do anything for you, and when I see this story being held up as the standard when there are so many other stories of people like you or like our gay friends and family members that have grown up in the LDS Church and are being taught that acting on their gay feelings is wicked or that finding a fulfilling, loving relationship with someone of the same sex is wrong or detrimental, it upsets me.  And when I see the fallout from that belief – wrecked marriages, homeless kids, suicides, unfulfilled lives, feelings of self-loathing – it upsets me, and I can’t stand by without telling you how I feel about it.”

As for me, I agree with what Jonah is saying.  I have to say, I do find the Weeds to be a likeable couple.  They seem genuine to me.  I’m glad they have found a happiness that works for them.  And I do not condemn their relationship or the relationships of those mixed-orientation couples who are trying to make it work.  However, I still believe marriages like theirs are the exception and turn out more like this one than Josh and Lolly's, and I also wonder if they could have found equally and fulfilling marriages if there was nothing standing in the way of Josh pursuing his same-sex attractions.  That being said, I put no judgment on them for their relationship.  I just ask that people do the same with mine and Jonah’s relationship and those like us.

I agree with Jonah that religion (not just Mormonism) is making life a lot harder for those who are gay and for those that love both them and their religion.  I am unable to find the “wickedness” in my relationship with Jonah.  Anyone who knows me (namely me) will affirm that I much happier in my life with him than I was in my life without him (which is also the time I was trying so hard to do what the LDS Church taught on this matter).  We have a good relationship with God and feel very blessed in our lives.  The evidence of suppressing and fighting against my same-sex attractions was a lot of misery, angst, unhappiness, confusion, guilt, feelings of unworthiness, repression, stress, and wishing for death.  The evidence of pursuing my relationship with Jonah is happiness, fulfillment, freedom, joy, love, an increased closeness to my Father in Heaven and Savior, being able to be who I always felt I was, but was too scared to be, being more at ease and emotionally healthy, and loving who I am.  If that’s wrong or wicked, I’ll take it any day over what life was like before.

And maybe that’s the point.  So many gay people are letting their religions convince them that being who they are is bad.  It causes a lot of psychological, emotional, spiritual, and relationship problems, and I don’t see how that is good.  We’re taught that homosexuality is a cross to bear, a trial to be overcome, a state to battle against.  I just don’t believe it anymore.  Being gay is just a part of who I am, and my love for Jonah and his love for me is just as valid and worthy of upholding as any straight relationship. 

People talk about how gay marriage will cause the destruction of marriage and families.  It seems straight people are doing a pretty good job of that without our help.  I just want to be with the guy I love and have the same legal rights as anyone else.  What works for Josh is Josh’s business, but this is what works for me and Jonah and so many others like us.  I want that to be recognized, too.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Dad: A Late Father's Day Post

This is a little late because by the time I finish writing this post, Father's Day will likely be over.  Nevertheless, I did want to write a few thoughts about my dad, who passed away 20 years ago while I was on my mission.

Seven months prior to my leaving for a mission, serving a mission for the Church was the furthest thing from my mind.  I was estranged from the Church, completely inactive, had started coming out to people, and was very much focused on college and my future career as an actor.  I had barely any relationship with God at all and what relationship I did have was filled with anger, bitterness, and confusion.  You can read about what changed me here.

In the last years of his life, Dad has suffered a series of debilitating strokes that had both racked him physically and changed his personality somewhat.  This was one of the many reasons I was angry at God at the time.  I couldn't understand why God would let all this suffering happen to such a good and decent man who had spent so much of his life serving Him.  I was angry that the dad I had grown up with was "gone" and replaced by this crippled, slow, and dependent dad.  I was impatient with his health issues and because I was such a selfish kid at the time anyway, I wasn't always as kind as I ought to have been.

But as God softened my heart in the months leading to my transformation, I started to realize that there were things I really liked about this dad.  Old dad was very quiet and didn't show his emotions easily.  He was very loving, and I knew he loved me, but he didn't share very much of his inner feelings.  New dad could not control his emotions.  If he thought something was funny, he laughed so hard he would drool and choke.  If something upset him, he would sob uncontrollably.  At first, seeing this scared me because I was not used to seeing my dad this way; but I actually grew to like it because it helped me see this man who was usually so guarded with his emotions expressing the things he actually felt inside, and I think that was very healthy.  I think Dad often kept his feelings bottled up, and I theorize it may have contributed to his health problems.

Dad was very shaky on his feet.  His equilibrium had really gone kaput after the strokes.  I recently remembered a time we went bowling (a sport Dad quite enjoyed) shortly before his strokes made doing that impossible.  His balance was off, and every time he'd bowl, it would knock him off his feet onto his butt.  If he would've gotten hurt, it wouldn't be a pleasant memory, but it is a good memory because each time it would happen, Dad would just laugh.  I don't know that I thought it funny at the time, but it makes me smile now.

Dad had to walk with a cane and a walker.  The summer before I left for my mission, Dad had kind of given up on walking, and I started getting him walking again.  I would make him walk with both the walker and cane, and I grew to be much more patient with him.  It was good for both of us.

Dad had to have a catheter hooked to his penis because he kept wetting himself.  In my bitter moments, I was resentful that Dad had lost his independence, and I know Dad felt embarrassment that we had to change his catheter (and I admit I couldn't do it; it was too embarrassing to me, too), but Dad never complained about his condition (to me, at least), and I admired how he handled his illness.

The only time I ever heard Dad get angry about his stroke was when he started to lose his ability to speak clearly.  He was really frustrated this one time and Mom asked him what was wrong, and he just spewed, "I CAN'T TALK!"  That was the only time over the years of strokes that I heard him get angry.  But then, Dad rarely ever showed anger.  He was a very gentle, mild-mannered man.

Dad was so happy when I gained my testimony.  He was thrilled that I was going on a mission - something I think he had lost faith I would ever do.  Yet he never judged or scolded me during the time I was inactive.  Like Mom, I think he was prompted to let me find my own way, which I think is exactly how it needed to be.  I think if they had pushed me towards the Church, it would have pushed me away instead.

When I went on my mission, they were still doing farewells, so the whole meeting was dedicated to my leaving, and my whole family was involved in the program.  I had assigned everyone to talk, including Dad, who could barely get anything out.  I think I just assumed God would provide a miracle and make my dad well enough to give his whole talk.

Dad shuffled up to the podium and attempted to give his talk.  He spoke haltingly, struggling to get the words out...and then he started sobbing as emotion overtook him.  Then he tried again, but couldn't do it.  I finally realized that he either wouldn't get through it or that by the time he did, there would be no time left for my mother and sister to speak.  I stood up next to him and asked him if he wanted me to give his talk for him.  He nodded, "yes," I placed my arm around him, and proceeded to read the words he had written himself:

"'And they who endure to the end, they shall be lifted up at the last day.'  I have chosen this subject because it's the hardest for me, especially with health problems I've had.  The dictionary defines 'endure' as 'to hold up under pain and fatigue.'  This is so hard for me.  Because of my first stroke, I was able to take an early retirement which allowed me to serve my fellow man in a way I could not have done otherwise.  With my last stroke, I met a lot of people at the rehab center who have had a great influence on my life, and I pray that I have been an influence on them.

"We've been told that it is important that we 'endure to the end.'  This is necessary to enter into the kingdom of God.  We all have different endurances.  Mine is health.  Yours may be something else, but whatever it is, I pray that we can all endure to the end because the reward will be worth it.

"In conclusion, I know that [Cody] will do a good job.  Anything he puts his mind to, he always does a good job, and I know that he will be able to handle the endurances that will come from his mission."

After I finished reading Dad's talk, he looked at me with such loving eyes and said, "Thank you."  When I hear it on the recording of my farewell, it just breaks my heart (in a good way).

Somebody told me after my farewell that the last time they saw a father and son exhibit the love he saw was when he saw David O McKay with his father on some occasion.  I do not remember what occasion, but the point is he was moved.  It wasn't my intention to move anybody.  I was just trying to help my dad get through a difficult thing.

In my own talk, I talked about prayer and trusting God, and I talked about how I had found so many positives in my father's health issues, and that we were closer than we had ever been, which was true in some ways.

When I said goodbye to my dad at the airport two months later, something very strange happened.  I had the distinct impression that I should make the hug I gave him really count because I would not see him again in this life.  At the time, I dismissed the thought (although I did give him a good hug) because Dad, although he was experiencing inconvenient health issues, was certainly not having any life-threatening issues.  Less than a year later, however, Dad contracted pneumonia, and it became clear that he would not survive.

People have often asked me, "Wasn't it hard staying out on your mission when your dad died?"  It may sound weird, but no, it wasn't.  I knew I was supposed to be doing what I was doing, I was happy to be doing what I was doing, it felt important to be doing what I was doing, and most important of all, Dad wanted me to be doing what I was doing.  It was a no-brainer.  It wasn't like I could help Dad; but I could help the people I was teaching.  And it wasn't as if I didn't think I would ever see him again.  I know I will.

Dad hung on for about a month.  He was miserable.  I'm actually glad I missed all the suffering.  And I was glad when he was finally released from the pain.

Dad never knew I was gay.  The only person in my family who I told prior to gaining a testimony was my sister, and once I gained one, I felt no need to share that part of myself because I thought I would overcome it.  Dad never knew.  I always wonder how he would have responded to my coming out and to my relationship with Jonah.  I suspect he would have been accepting and supportive.  He may have reacted the way my brother initially did, which was not approving, but still loving and supportive.  I think Dad would like Jonah.

I think Dad would be proud of who I've become.  I hope so anyway.  Some of my best qualities came from my dad's example.  I know Dad would be very pleased at how I've tried to take care of Mom (and by the way, Dad's health problems helped better prepare me for how to more patiently and lovingly deal with Mom's, so thanks, Dad.).

I miss Dad.  He was a truly great guy.  I don't know anybody who ever had a bad word to say about my father.  I admired him a lot.  Actually, there is a lot of my dad in my brother (who I greatly admire as well).

Sometimes little things remind me of him.  If I hear a country song like "Elvira" or a folk song like "Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley," I think of him.  When I see old pictures of him, I think of him.  Sometimes I'll run across an item of his in my mom's house like an old briefcase or his tool box, and I think of him.  Or when I glance at whoever happens to be the ward clerk (a position my dad held for many years), I think of him.

I loved him.  Still do.  Happy Late Father's Day, Dad!  Thanks for your example.  It has helped make me who I am.  I hope you're proud of me.

[Side note: When I re-listened to some of my farewell, I was struck by yet another example of my unorthodox nature: I had long hair at my farewell.  Quite long.  I had put it in a pony tail, if I recall, to make it look more "missionary-like," but I was doing a play shortly after my farewell, and I was required to have long hair for the part.  But I am pleased I had long hair at my missionary farewell because that really describes the kind of person I am.

I was also struck by the fact that my bishop at the time was struck down later by some terrible health issues which eventually caused his death.  The last time I saw him was in the hospital, and it reminded me so much of my dad.

I also was a bit nostalgic for how much sharper and "with it" my mom was than she is now.

I also thought it funny that my best friend at the time, with whom I sang a duet (a pretty good one at that) has also since come out of the closet.  Unlike me, I don't think he attends church anymore, although I don't think he has any hard feelings toward the LDS Church either.

Finally, I was struck by how young I am.  I've matured a lot, I think.  But I am also impressed with how fervent and absolutely full of the Spirit I seemed to be.  And, boy, is my voice nasally (something I became more aware of in Speech class in graduate school).]

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Josh and Lolly Weed: How I Feel About That

I'm sure many of you have seen or read about this blog post from a gay guy who's been married to a woman for ten years and came out to the world via his blog to let everyone know that he and his wife are very happy and satisfied with their relationship.

Jonah brought this blog post to my attention two days ago, and in the following days I have seen many of my Facebook friends posting links and comments about it.  Obviously, it has gone viral.

The post got under Jonah's skin.  I didn't feel as strongly about it as he did, but understood why it upset him, and I agree with much of what he felt.  As I've thought more about it, I decided to post my feelings about it.

If you don't feel like reading Josh Wood's entire post, let me sum it up for you.  Basically, Josh Weed is a devout, believing Mormon who is also a therapist, but is also homosexual and has been in a mixed-orientation marriage for ten years.  He says that in spite of the fact that he is attracted to men, he and his wife have a fulfilling marriage and sex life because it is built on "intimacy, communication, genuine love and affection."  He loves his wife, his career, his education, and his three kids.

Josh's wife, Lolly, knew Josh was gay before she married him.  Lolly actually writes about her experiences dating and deciding to marry Josh.  Josh and Lolly knew each other from a young age, and she was the first person (aside from his parents) that Josh told about his homosexuality.  Although she could see Josh was very devoted to God and the teachings of the LDS Church, she didn't initially see herself marrying him.  Eventually, however, she realized Josh was everything she was looking for in a husband (well, except for the gay part).  Josh felt she was everything he wanted in a wife as well.  Lolly, however, had doubts, and Josh asked her the question, "Am I worth it to you?"  

Although the full impact of that question did not hit her until later, she realized, in her words: "When you get married, you are accepting a person as a package deal—the good, the bad, the hard, the amazing and the imperfect....I knew that I loved Josh. I loved All of him. I wanted to marry him. I wanted to marry Josh Weed because I loved the man that he was. I loved everything that made him him. I didn't want anyone else. I knew that we had the kind of relationship that could work through hard trials and circumstances. I had faith in him and I had faith in our love. I did not choose to marry someone who is gay. I chose to marry Josh Weed, the man that I love, and to accept all of him. I have never regretted it."

Josh explains that the reasons he chose not to pursue a same-sex relationship in spite of his attractions were because he believes the doctrines of the LDS Church are true; he wanted a wife and biological children; and ultimately he loves Lolly and wanted to be with her for the rest of his life.  Josh didn't feel the sacrifices he would make being in a same-sex relationship were worth the sacrifices he would make choosing to be with his wife.  For him, "It all comes down to what you choose and why, and knowing what you want for yourself and why you want it. That’s basically what life is all about," and Lolly and he both chose the life they have and, according to them, have never regretted it.

Josh does make it clear (his words) that "while I have found a path that brings me profound joy and that is the right path for me, I don’t endorse this as the only path for somebody who is gay and religious. I will never, ever judge somebody else’s path as being “incorrect” and I know many people who have chosen different paths than myself."

He further goes on to say that those who know and love someone who is gay need to just love them and fight the impulses to correct or control them or force them down what they feel is the right path for that loved one; that even if what they do goes against what you believe to be true, you need to let go, let them govern themselves, and trust that they will find the path that is best for them.

He also pleads for those gay Christians out there to accept themselves as they are; that they are not broken or evil, and that God loves them and will take them where they need to go.  He then tells the readers of his post that however they feel about his post, it's okay.  He says it's okay if you think that being gay is a matter of choice or that it's hard to believe that a gay person could be happy in a mixed-orientation marriage or if you think a marriage like his is impossible or if you think that a person can't be gay and Christian.  He says whatever emotion you feel, it's okay to feel it because this issue is both emotional and complex.  But he promises that whatever each reader is feeling, he is not lying to them.  This is his truth.

That's basically the gist of his post.  Jonah and I had a long discussion about it, and I've discussed it with a couple of other friends as well.  If Josh and Lolly are being completely honest (and really, I have no reason to believe they aren't), then who am I say that their path isn't right for them?  If they are truly happy, why would I have a problem with that?

What I do have a problem with (and I do not feel that it is Josh's intent) is that I hope that people will remember everything Josh has said and not just the parts they agree with.  Josh, himself, says his path is not necessarily the right path for anyone else and pleads with people to allow them to find their own path, and I think that is key.

I have always said in my blog that my path was right for me, but I do not dismiss that other paths are just as valid based on each individual's circumstance.  Never in a million years would I say that Josh and Lolly's path is wrong if it's truly working for them.  Whether it is, only they will know.

As I discussed this with Jonah, one of our fears is that it would be irresponsible if Josh or Lolly or any readers of the post (including ecclesiastical leaders, therapists, family members of gay people, friends of gay people themselves, or gay people themselves) use this story to promote the idea that what may have worked for Josh and his wife will work for them.  It is my opinion (and it is just that: an opinion) that people like Josh and Lolly are the exception, not the rule.

  Jonah and I worry that naive or unprepared people will read this story and think, "Well, if they can do it, so can we," but instead be left with heartache and disappointment. We worry that ecclesiastical leaders or family members will use this story as a way of saying, "See, you can change," and end up doing more harm than good. Although he doesn't indicate it and actually, seems to indicate that he doesn't push the idea, I worry that someone like Josh, who is s therapist, will say, "Well, this worked for me, so it can work for you, too," when in fact, it may not.

I have seen too many people attempt the same kind of relationship as Josh and his wife, and I have seen marriages end in messy divorce, seen wives' self- esteem deteriorate, seen innocent children left in the dust, spouses cheating on each other in same-sex liaisons, and couples unhappily trudging through unfulfilled and empty marriages out of a sense of duty or obedience. I don't think it's good. But I admit that I have seen a couple of rare couples like Josh and his wife who do seem to be making it work, so I think it can be a valid choice provided that both parties are happy with it.

Jonah and I both know that such a relationship would not have been a good path for either of us.  Having been in several opposite-sex relationships and just the one same-sex one, I know without any doubt what has made me happier, and I would not give that up for anything. 

The bottom line is that each person's story is their own, and I can't control how they choose to share that story, nor I can I judge them for telling their own truth. I just don't want people to think that their truth is the only truth.

From reading Josh's post, I suspect that he does not feel that his truth is the only truth or the only option, but because that path has seemingly worked for him, I fear that he may be biased towards his own option.  I hope, like he says in his blog, that he would truly let each of his clients who may struggle with homosexual feelings find their own path in that regard and not try to force his own on them.

Ultimately, each person has to figure out what makes them happy.  Josh's path would not have made me happy, and perhaps my path would not have made him happy.  But each person does have to find their own path.  

Jonah is skeptical that Josh is really living an authentic life and that, due to his wiring, Josh and his wife are sacrificing too much.  I can't speak to that.  Only Josh and his wife know how their relationship truly is.  But Jonah and I do agree that if people try to use Josh and Lolly's story to steer them on to a path that isn't good for them, that's no good.  And especially during this time when so many gay youth are already having such confusion and conflict, we worry that this story could cause more heartache than good because of false expectations.

Josh did say a couple of things that I wanted to highlight.  One was the following quote:

"One of the sad truths about being homosexual is that no matter what you decide for your future, you have to sacrifice something. It’s very sad, but it is true. ...If you are Mormon and you choose to live your religion, you are sacrificing the ability to have a romantic relationship with a same-sex partner. If you choose a same-sex partner, you are sacrificing the ability to have a biological family with the one you love.  And so on. No matter what path you choose, if you are gay you are giving up something basic, and sometimes various things that are very basic. I chose not to 'live the gay lifestyle,' as it were, because I found that what I would have to give up to do so wasn’t worth the sacrifice for me."
"I find that when I think of what alternative lifestyles could offer me, they pale in comparison to the full, joyous, bounteous life I live. Thus, I believe that to live my life this way is being true to myself, and to go down any other path would be egregiously inauthentic and self-deceptive."

That may very well be true for Josh, but quite the opposite is true for me.  I gave up my place in a religion I loved and some would argue that I sacrificed my eternal salvation.  I would have been miserable trying to live as a gay man in a straight relationship, and I've written many times about how much happiness my relationship with Jonah has given me and how blessed we are because of it.  Living in a straight marriage would have been inauthentic and self-deceptive for me.  That is just as true for me as I have to assume Josh's relationship is for him.

Josh wanted biological children.  That was important to him.  But there are plenty of gay families out there whose children are just as precious and theirs as Josh's are to him and Lolly.

I was reading a story today about gay parents and their kids.  A straight couple can just have kids if they're fertile.  Many straight couples have kids by accident.  That doesn't happen much in gay relationships.  Having a kid involves a lot of planning and often a great financial investment.  Children of gay couples are rarely unplanned.  If Josh wanted biological kids of his own, I don't take issue with that.  But non-biological kids are just as important and loved by their parents.

I like Josh's last two recommendations:

"1. If you know and love somebody who is gay and LDS (or Christian), your job is to love and nothing more. Let go of your impulse to correct them or control them or propel them down the path you think is right for them. Do what you need to do to move past that impulse.  Do not condemn the choices your loved one makes. Love. Only love. Show your love in word and deed. Embrace them, both literally and figuratively. I promise they need it—and they need to feel like they can figure out this part of themselves in a safe way without ridicule and judgment. It’s what Christ would do. It’s what your loved one needs. Accept them. Love them. Genuinely and totally.

"If you are a parent or guardian, teach them what you know to be true in appropriate moments, with the Spirit. But then let go and let them govern themselves. Trust that they can find their own path. Let them live their life and have the experiences they need to learn and grow. Trust that they are in charge of their own agency and destiny. I promise you they will thank you. I also promise that pressuring them to live the life you want them to lead will only hamper their ability to make a genuine and authentic choice for their own future, be it what you hope for them or not. You will never, ever give your gay loved one a better gift than to love and accept them for who they are, right now, no matter what, period. The friends and family who did that for me (at varying points in my journey, including very recently) are cherished and will go down in the history of my life as the people that truly loved me, and as true Christians who helped me on my path. (And, btw, some of them are not technically even Christian—but to me are like Christ in their actions.)

"2. If you are gay and Mormon (or Christian), I want you to know how much love I feel for you, and how much I admire you. I know how hard it is to be where you are. I want you to do me a favor. I want you, right now, to take a deep breath, look in the mirror, and accept yourself as you are in this very instant. You are you. And your attractions are part of you. And you are totally okay! I promise. I want you to stop battling with this part of you that you may have understood as being sinful. Being gay does not mean you are a sinner or that you are evil. Sin is in action, not in temptation or attraction. I feel this is a very important distinction. This is true for every single person. You don’t get to choose your circumstances, but you do get to choose what you do with them. 

"I want you to know that God loves you, and that even though you are attracted to people of the same gender, you are a completely legitimate individual, worthy of God’s love, your family’s love, and the love of your friends. You are no more broken than any other person you meet. You are not evil. You are a beautiful child of God. Please don’t be ashamed. Know that you can be forgiven for any mistakes you have made, and that God is not judging you. He loves you. Turn to him. He has a plan specifically for you. He wants you to be happy, and he will take you by the hand, and guide you step by step to where you need to be if you trust Him. He is not angry with you, and He knows you completely, every part, even the parts you wish you could keep hidden. He knows it all, and he still loves you! He couldn’t love you any more, and he is proud of you for your courage. I wish you could know of my sincerity as I write these words, and how deeply I feel compassion for you." 

Anyway, those are my thoughts.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Mormons Building Bridges: Backlash And Why I Marched

Well, as I assumed would happen, people on both sides of the issue have commented about the Mormons Building Bridges march in the Utah Pride parade that I participated in last Sunday.  I've read comments ranging from gay people who thought the whole thing was a political stunt engineered by the LDS Church to improve their image to comments from pious LDS members who questioned just how "active" the members who marched really were and chastised them for breaking the Sabbath and supporting a deviant and sinful lifestyle.  I've read comments from gay people who appreciated the sentiment of the marchers but berated them for continuing to belong to an organization that is so intolerant and abusive to gay people, and I read comments from LDS members who appreciated the sentiments of the marchers but berated them for showing support for gay people in a misguided way.  Some people were mad at the group for not taking more of a stand in favor of gay rights and marriage equality; others were mad that they marched at all.  I've read comments from gay and straight people who were touched and incredibly moved by what occurred and I've read comments from the marchers themselves proclaiming that it was such a spiritual, fulfilling, moving, and worthwhile experience and that there was a great feeling of love involved.

Look, I can't speak for anybody but myself.  LDS members can certainly question my devotion and activity in the LDS Church since I am not officially a member anymore.  As far as I could tell, the majority of marchers are active members of the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I know some were nervous about being there because they didn't know what to expect, how they would be received, or what the reaction of their church leaders and fellow members might be.  At the same time, they wanted to do something active to help bridge the gap between two groups of people that are often at odds with another and who don't seem to understand each others' position on this issue.

As for me, even if I'm not officially Mormon, I still consider myself Mormon.  It's true that I don't support or agree with the Church's position on this issue, and I think there is a lot leaders and members of the Church have done in the past to cause harm to those who identify themselves as gay.  Obviously my views and my relationship with Jonah are the reasons I have been excommunicated, and I own and take full responsibility for that.  However, even though I have been excommunicated, I still feel connected to a religion that has given me a great deal in spite of its flaws.  I still enjoy church and I go frequently.  I'm pretty much as active as a non-member can be.

My reasons for marching in the parade weren't to change church doctrine nor were they to promote any sort of political agenda.  For myself, I see so much hurt and misunderstanding from both sides.  Obviously, I'm for gay rights and marriage, and while I'd love for the Church to come out in favor of that, I don't see it happening nor do I expect it to.  So many gay Mormons or former Mormons have carried such pain and hurt from their families, their religious leaders, the society in which they grew up, and their religion.  Whether intentional or not, that pain and heartache exists.  Some people have felt abandoned by the very people and institutions who claim to love them.  And there are many in the LDS faith who are aware of that pain and wanted a way to reach out and say, "Hey, we love you.  We support who you are.  We know you have been hurt and want to do something symbolic to tell you that you are not as alone as you might feel."  Many LDS people are probably afraid to voice those feelings in a church setting for fear of being shot down or challenged.

The group went out of its way not to promote a political message, challenge church doctrine or to advocate anything other than love.  As for me, the march provided more meaning for me by allowing me to march as someone who has experienced much of the same alienation from a religion I still very much love.  It was my way of saying, "I know what some of you have experienced and where you've been and where you are, and even though Mormonism and the LGBT community have had their issues and conflicts, we can still close the gap in small ways like this and hopefully find more common ground and more love for one another over time."  At least, that is my hope.  I think I can understand the bitterness and cynicism other people feel toward the Church.  I think I can understand the devotion LDS members feel and the need to follow the leaders of Church and the gospel as it is understood.  I can understand that neither side believes it can or should compromise.  But I just want to find ways that I personally can help either side understand one another better; I want to find ways to let struggling gay Mormon youth know they are not alone; I want to find ways to help Church members and leaders understand what it's like to grow up gay in the Mormon Church and surrounded by Mormon culture.  I don't know if marching in a Pride parade accomplished any of that.  I did feel it was healing for some and brought opposite factions closer together, even if but for a moment in time, and that made it worth it for me.  It was also healing for me personally, and that certainly made it worth it.

I sometimes wonder if Thomas S. Monson were to stand up in a future General Conference and declare that after much contemplation and prayer, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve felt impressed that it was God's will that those who deal with same-sex attraction should be afforded all the same rights and blessings as their heterosexual counterparts, would those faithful Saints who currently oppose gay rights and gay marriage be able to get on board?  That would never happen, many say - the Prophet would never declare such a thing - the Church will never, ever accept that - sin is always sin, etc., and they very well may be right in those assumptions.  But what I wonder is, hypothetically, would those same faithful Mormons who follow Church leaders' counsel without question do the same if such a thing were to occur, and if not, why?  If they believe God would never let the Prophet lead the Church astray and if they believe that the Prophet is indeed the mouthpiece of the Lord, if hypothetically the Prophet did make such a statement, would they have the faith to get on board or would they let old prejudices convince them otherwise.  Of course, if the Prophet actually did make such a statement, and it really were God's will, I imagine that those who took issue with it might pray about it and receive their own confirmation of whether it was God's will or not.  The point is probably moot, but it's something I think about.

Here are some various comments, posts, articles, and commentary, both positive and negative and also in-between, about the Mormons Building Bridges group's participation in last Sunday's Utah Pride parade. They are simply examples of many of the things I have read about our march.  Some I like better than others; some I whole-heartedly agree with; some have valid points; and some annoy me and make me mad.  Here they are, all for your perusal:

A post from a blog called Telestial State

A post from an active Mormon who didn't quite approve on The Cultural Hall Podcast

A simple and positive thought from somebody on

A discussion on MormonDiscussions

Somebody who wished they had marched

Joanna Brooks' reporting of the event

An active Mormon who disapproved (and frankly, I think her sanctimonious tone negates the title of her blog)

This blogger says essentially the same thing, but in a less self-righteous tone, in my opinion.

A poster on who criticized The Salt Lake Tribune's reporting of the story

A discussion on that started with someone who was very cynical of the marchers' true intent and another on the same website that criticizes the marchers for not going far enough

Someone on Main Street Plaza who is a bit skeptical

A couple of posts on Wheat and Tares and a blog written by the same author, but which I have not finished reading.  They look interesting to me, though.

Comments by Troy Williams, gay activist, on his personal blog

Reflections of some of the marchers here, here, and here

A guy who wrote an article for City Weekly and didn't have many positive things to say about the marchers or the LDS Church

A discussion over at Mormon Mentality based on the question, "Would you march?"

A beautiful collection on Feminist Mormon Housewives of firsthand accounts from some of the attendees

Jana Riess' thoughts and a blogger's reaction to what she posted

And I found this post rather touching.  Stuff like that makes it all worth it to me.


Monday, June 04, 2012

Feeling Such Pride

Today was an incredible and spiritual day.  I mentioned that last year instead of going to Pride, I instead went to church and ended up having a negative experience due to a couple of judgmental members making unkind statements about gay people.  To me, church is where you ought to feel the love and Spirit of God the most, and on that day it failed to do so.  On the other hand, I did appreciate the kind words that were said repudiating those other two members’ words, and in that sense, church did what it was supposed to do.

This year I decided not to make the same mistake I made last year and decided to attend Pride.  When I heard that a local LDS woman had decided to organize a group of LDS members to march in the Utah Pride parade in support and love for their LGBT brothers and sisters, and when I was asked on Facebook to join that group, I felt very inclined to do so even though it meant essentially snubbing co-workers, who was also marching in the parade.

I had never marched in the Pride parade before, although I have been invited to do so twice previously.  I’m not much of a parade guy, either watching or participating.  I don’t like crowds or getting up early or standing (or in this case, marching) in the heat.  Yet I felt so drawn to be a part of this crowd, which called itself Mormons Building Bridges because that is, after all, what I have tried so hard to do as a gay Mormon.

Part of me wondered if it was right to march with a crowd who, as far as I know, is a majority of active, straight members of the LDS Church.  After all, I am not straight and, according to the LDS Church, I am not longer officially Mormon.  Yet I do know that there was at least one other gay, semi-active man in the group, and even though I am no longer on the rolls of the Church, I still consider myself very much a Mormon.  The bottom line for was that if there is anyone who has tried to be a bridge builder between two groups of people who often don’t understand each other or get along, it is me.  I’ve tried very hard, too, to straddle the line between my sexuality and my religious upbringing, and so I felt I belonged to this group.

I ended up getting downtown about 15 minutes before I had originally planned to be there.  I was fortunate to find ample free parking and parked my car.  We had been asked by the organizers of the group to wear our Sunday best.  I really wanted to look as Mormon as possible (whatever that means_.  I shaved and combed my hair nicely and wore a Sunday shirt, tie, slacks, and dress shoes.  I also brought a jacket, but ended up not wearing it because it was so hot.  That was a good move on my part.

I also brought my scripture case, but took my scriptures out and instead filled it with some sunblock (which I applied three different times and still got a bit red – I think it was 95 degrees), water (ah, sweet water!), a book to read while I waited, my camera, wallet, checkbook, iPod, and eyeglasses case.

We had been told to meet on the corner of 400 E. and 300 S., which was a block from where I parked.  I recognized my group right away: a nice gaggle of finely-dressed, but typically-styled Mormons.  I introduced myself and received a list of instructions.  Basically, the group was really careful not to identify itself as a political group or associate itself in any official capacity with the LDS Church.  The purpose of the group was simply to show love and support, not to advocate a political position or parse doctrine.  The instructions said to keep moving while marching; to not talk with media during the parade because we didn’t want them slowing us down.  If approached by the media, we were simply to tell our own story and why we, personally, we’re marching.  We were to stay away from arguments or speculation on official LDS policy.  We were told if there was any antagonism from anybody in the crowd to not engage them.  And, mostly, we were told to spread love and have fun.

As I hung with the crowd of Mormons, I did get the feeling that there were some in the crowd, understandably so since they had never marched in a Gay Pride parade before, who thought there would be some gay people who would treat them in a less than favorable manner because of Mormons’ history with the gay movement.  I myself did not feel that way.  I’ve known enough gay people to know that our group would likely be treated respectfully.

The organizers of the parade were happy to have us, and the Grand-Marshall of the parade, Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (who himself is gay and grew up Mormon and won his Oscar for the screenplay of the movie, Milk about gay-rights activist Harvey Milk) specifically asked that our group be put right behind him, thus making us the second group in the parade.

Actually, shortly before the parade began, Troy Williams and Dustin Lance Black came and chatted with us and Dustin got his photo taken with our group, and I got my photo taken with him.  I found him incredibly kind and supportive.  In interviews I’ve seen him do, I’ve found him to be somewhat of a bridge builder himself. 

We waited in the hot sun for about an hour before the parade got under way.  I didn’t know anyone there except a couple from my mom's ward and their daughter.  It was a friendly group of people, though.

We had been offered signs to hold such as “God Is Love,” “I’ll walk with you, I’ll talk with you, that’s how I’ll show my love for you,” “Jesus said love everyone, treat them kindly, too..,” “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” “LDS ♥ LGBT,” etc.  I didn’t feel like holding a sign for the whole parade, though, so I passed.   

Before we even started the parade, we had several people come up to us and thank us for marching.  People said how honored they were to have us; told us how happy they were that we were marching; and we even had a group of male cheerleaders cheer us for our efforts.  People were so touched that we were marching.

I loved the sight of a couple of Mormons, dressed in their Sunday best, posing with the boys from the Queer Utah Aquatic Club, who were wearing just bow ties and Speedos. 

  Or the Mormon woman with her arms around a guy in drag.  I just thought, “This is how it ought to be.”  Just people loving and supporting one another.

Since we were at the beginning of the parade, we were asked by the Utah Pride Interfaith Coalition  if we might help them carry the giant rainbow flag at the end of the parade.  I decided I probably would.

Five minutes before we began marching, Erika asked us to sing “Love One Another” together.  Singing those familiar words with this group of Mormons made me feel the Spirit so much.  “As I have loved you / love one another / this new commandment / love another / by this shall men know / ye are my disciples/ if ye have love / one to another.”  I’ve sung those words practically all my life – as a child in primary and in countless meetings – and yet they struck me with a truth and meaning that hit me in a way that was so strong and profound: that is what we are commanded to do – love one another.  God is all about love, above everything else.  The first and greatest commandment is to love Him with all our mind, might, and soul, and the second is to love our fellow man.  It seems to me that anything that isn’t about love is not of God.  Judgment, fear, hate – these are not what God is about.

A very nice prayer was given.  I wish I could remember all the words because it was really good, but the main message was about love – the love this Mormon group wanted to convey and the love with which they hoped it would be received.  During the whole parade I felt such a spirit of love, and I thought to myself, “Of course the Spirit is testifying…because there is such a spirit of unity and love here, and that’s what God is about.”  And I felt sad that there are so many who are too self-righteous or ignorant to even think of attending a Gay Pride event and felt sorry that they were missing this powerful feeling of love and closeness that was present.

We had been told to put a fairly good-sized between us and Dustin Lance Black’s car, but Troy Williams, who was driving, kept stopping, and finally a parade organizer told us that Dustin Lance Black wanted our group closer to him.  As we got closer, he kept pointing at us and smiling at the fact that we were there and encouraging the crowd the cheer for the group.  I think in his eyes we symbolized the very bridge we are trying to build and wanted the crowd to support that.

We received such an outpouring of love.  I saw so many people crying.  I know there were many in the crowd who grew up in the Mormon faith and have been deeply hurt, and I think this group represented something maybe they longed for but never received or something they longed to see but never thought they would.  One lady came out of the crowd weeping and just kept saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”  The lady who was doing the commentary for the parade was brought to tears.  

A little boy walked a few steps in front of us, and I don’t think he realized he had gotten ahead of the group.  He was carrying a little satchel and held his fingers together to make a heart.  It was beautiful.

While many around me whooped and hollered, both in the crowd of spectators and in our group, I was mostly quiet.  I thought about how far I’ve come in my life.  Ten years ago I never would have imagined marching in a Gay Pride parade.  I never could have imagined how incredibly happy I could be in my life, with myself, with a significant other, and with my Father in Heaven.  But I was so proud to be who I am, so happy and fulfilled, and that’s what I think Pride is all about – being happy and proud of who you are.  I think there are a lot of damaged people in the world.  Their experiences and backgrounds and upbringings and social interactions have caused them to feel “less than,” and that isn’t what God is all about, in my opinion.  If I could wish anything for my fellow man, it is that he (or she) could feel the kind of contentedness and fulfillment and love that I felt today.  I belonged there today.

                     Yes, I am in this photo.  It's like "Where's Waldo," but harder.

Another thought I had was that while I thought it was great that this group of Mormons was marching to support gay people and while I was equally grateful that many in the gay community was so grateful we were there, I also thought it unfortunate that it was considered so momentous that  we were there; that it was such a pleasant surprise we were there.  I thought, “Shouldn’t we as Christians “be there” anyway?  Isn’t that our job?  Why is it such a rarity to show love and support to the disenfranchised?  Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing anyway?”

The crowd was so responsive and welcoming.  After we finished walking the seven blocks we walked and finished the parade route, I walked back to our starting point.  It was so, so hot, and I was tired.  I wasn’t sure I could handle walking the same route again holding the rainbow flag.  But I just felt compelled to do so.  I had time to go to my car and remove my tie, ditch the scripture case, which had gotten heavy, and change from dress shoes to tennis shoes.  

The flag was about 300 feet long (about half a block long).  It was massive, and when we began, there weren’t as many of us, so it felt heavier.  The older lady behind me was struggling a bit.  People would throw money into the flag, which I guess goes to the Interfaith Coalition.  We would ask spectators to join us, and by the end there were actually so many that it was hard to walk without tripping on the person in front of you.  The wind blew a couple of dollars off the flag, and I went to retrieve them a block before we stopped, so after giving the money to one of the Interfaith guys, I ducked out because it was too hard to get my place back, and besides, that flag was heavy.  I had been bracing it on my shoulder, which had started to hurt.  It was all worth it, though, and was a nice lesson in unity.

I made the long trek back to my car and grabbed an egg-salad sandwich and a cold water from 7-11 on my way.  I was amazed at how quickly the line moved for as many people as there were in line. I estimate with my double parade duty as well as walking to my car and back to the Pride Festival, I probably walked about 4.5 miles today.  My knees, hips, and feet were feeling it, too.  I also made the mistake of wearing low-rise briefs under my slacks, which caused some chaffing, so that was no good.

After my second parade walk, I walked over to the Pride Festival on the way struck up a conversation with a newly-relocated woman who had moved here from South Carolina.  She said she was so impressed with the LGBT community here.  I guess in South Carolina, where she was from, it was very homophobic.  She said they never would have anything like our Pride celebration there.

Eventually we reached the Pride Festival and we said our adieus.  One of the most touching things about Pride to me is seeing gay and lesbian couples holding hands.  It’s just so normal, which exactly what it should be.  Outside the walls of Pride, perhaps we would be accused of “flaunting our sexuality,” but inside it was just as normal and accepted and taken for granted as it would be in the regular world with straight people.  I thought, “I wish it could just be like this.”  Because that’s all it is; it’s two people simply expressing their love for each other.  Wouldn’t it be great to just hold hands or kiss and not worry about what anybody else thinks or know that people wouldn’t care?

Before the performance I sat down on a bench because I was exhausted.  The man next to me asked if I was a hugger.  I said I was, so he just gave me a hug.  It was nice. 

After I finished walking around the festival, I left and went home.  I told Mom about my day and then called Jonah and told him.  My only regret of the day was that we weren't together to share it.  It really was a terrific day and, quite frankly, more than I think I would have gotten out of going to church.  It was like we were living what we preach in church instead of just preaching it, and I liked that.

Mormons Building Bridges made national news.  I felt a little disingenuous because several news groups reported that our group was comprised of straight active members of the Church, and since I’m neither straight nor a member anymore, I hoped that it wouldn’t reflect badly on the group.  It’s not like I was being duplicitous.  I was, after all, invited to march, and like I say, I felt I belonged.  I just didn't want to create any controversy about the group, if that makes sense.

The group was originally slated at about 160, but we ended up having over 300, I believe, which I think surprised a lot of people.  It was fun to read comments from people who had marched in our group, most of who carried similar sentiments: how amazing it was, what an honor it was, what a spiritual experience it was, how they’ll never forget it, how it was one of the greatest things they’d ever done, how they want to do it again, an outpouring of gratitude from participants and spectators alike, etc.  Some of my favorite comments were: “I can only hope the love we were trying so desperatly to show was as clear to them as the love they showed us.”

From a spectator: “As a gay returned missionary, it literally brought tears to my eyes as you all walked by, and all I could do was make the ASL sign for ‘I love you’ as I stood there feeling your love for your fellow Saints.”

“Hearing about Mormons Building Bridges and being able to participate in the parade today was one of those sweet ‘tender mercies’ in my experience not to be forgotten!”

“As a mother of a gay son and a straight one, it was the most wonderful experience of my life and so healing to be a part of the parade today!”

“I witnessed a miracle today. Thank you, Brothers and Sisters, for Building Bridges of Understanding.”

“Possibly one of the most spiritual experiences of my life.”

This from Mitch Mayne: “Sitting here in San Francisco, bawling my eyes out. The texts I've been getting, the photos, the updates--I don't remember the last time I've been this proud to be a Mormon.”

Another spectator: “As a returned missionary who hasn't regularly been to church in close to a decade, I went to the Pride Parade a little defensively, knowing y'all would be marching and not knowing what to expect. So what did I feel when I saw everyone go by and heard the loudest applause for the longest time? The love of Jesus. That's it, just Love.”

“As I reflected on the parade, and my entire day... knowing that this was not my ‘typical’ Sabbath Day... I contemplated on whether or not my day was as enriched as a typical day, going to my regular services. What I came up with was eye-opening to me. 

“While walking with the Mormons Building Bridges group, I saw one of my best friends, a gentleman that I've known for over 20 years, and that recently came to terms with his own sexuality. As a returned missionary, I know that he has been through a decades long struggle with exactly who he is, and I have seen a positive light come into his life, as we came to accept who he is. When I first saw my friend, he hadn't seen me, but was simply standing there with tears streaming down his face. THAT moment will be forever etched into my mind. I went up to him and we engaged in one of the most loving embraces that I've ever been part of. The beauty of this moment was not so much that it was a precious, loving moment... but, that it was happening all along the parade route.”

Another spectator: “I want to thank everyone who marched today. Seeing you all this morning was incredible. I wept uncontrollably. And the few women at the back of the group that came up and hugged me helped heal some very deep wounds. I love you all so much. Thank you for standing with me, for embracing me.”

                Here are some comments from Troy Williams and one of the participants, Marion Jensen, as well as some news stories.

              Isn't that what it's all about, people?