Elbow: August 2007

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

All That Fits

I've cried more in these past three months than I have ever cried in my whole life. It's really hard to be lonely, to feel lonely and to let my myself feel the consequences of my choices. I don't regret anything. I feel at peace with the divorce and with my present life choices, but I miss my wife. My heart feel torn apart and destroyed even. I'm at a loss for how to comfort myself. I spoke with a friend on the phone today who had lunch with my wife a couple of days ago. She mentioned that there was sadness and worry but that there was also a moving on in what my wife was going through. We haven't spoken in about a week and a half. I'm going crazy because I miss her to no end. I want my best friend back!

I know I can't have a divorce and a great relationship with my wife at the same time. I have faith that we'll be friends someday, that we can talk to each other on the phone and hang out in some semblance of what we use to have, but the truth of our current relationship strikes me with such sadness that I'm almost too shocked to do much else with my life.

And maybe that's the problem. I started my Doctorate program yesterday. I met my cohorts, the professors, the current students and got familiar with the curriculum. I keep asking myself why I'm going to school, why I'm going to more school.

It's crazy that I can feel so much pain and confusion, but still feel peace. Underneath it all I'm happy. I can stretch my arms out and look up to the sky and feel free and big and radiant. It's weird that so much juxtaposition is floating around in my heart. I'm crying and I'm relieved at where my life is at. I'm heartbroken and joyful all in the same breath.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Gay Culture Falls on Deaf Ears

I worked with a guy three or four years ago who was gay and once at work he refered to the collective consciousness of homosexuals a "culture" or "the gay culture." At the time I challenged him on it. For me it was hard to believe that gay was a culture, like the latin culture, or even the Mormon culture. But a couple of years later I was introduced to a group of deaf people and suddenly I was saturated in the deaf culture.

All these deaf men and women who I was starting to associate were so proud of who they were, how they were brought up and what they were doing to spread the knowledge of thier deaf culture to all areas of their lives. At that time in D.C. at the school for the deaf called Gallaudet, the student body there were outragged at the announcement that there would be a new dean who was a deaf woman who was "reformed" as she put it. She had been born deaf, but she had since learned to speak and communicate with out using sign language through the use of technology and various proceedures. For the students of this school their culture was being threatened.

Their identity, the things they thought about, talked about, stood for and planed for, were being questioned and being looked at as second rate. Most of these same student who were fighting to have this particular dean removed from her position in the school had the same opportunities that this woman did. They could have learned to speak and aclimate themselves to the hearing world, but they didn't want to. They felt connected to the deaf culture, they thought that the sign language they were using and the gestures and manerisms that were specific to them and their culture were just as valid as any other form of speak and they didn't see any reason to give into the mentality that their culture as deaf men and women was less valid than that of someone that can hear.

I've thought a lot about that incident since that time. And in thinking about the deaf cutlure I draw a lot of parallels to gay culture as well. Some might say that being gay is a disability, and maybe it's true, it was a definate handicap in my marriage and in my relationship to the way I have a lack of sexual interest in women, but that doesn't mean that my choices are any less valid than the choices of someone who is straight. I didn't choose to be gay, and regardless of if I was born gay or not, I know it's not a choice, and I know that it's not going to change. And within that structure of thought I see clearly the collective connection I have with other gay men and women who have the same stories, fears and desires as I do.

Just as the Church has made special wards and branches for deaf people to accomodate the deaf culture, what is the Church doing about the gay culture? Why shouldn't there be a gay ward? There are gay bishops and gay stake presidents in the Church (not out, but gay nonetheless). There are enough gay members and 90% of the gay population in the Church leave the Church because they feel like there is no place for them. Why push these sons and daughters of God out of the Church when it would behoove every member of the Church to open their hearts and minds around the concept of what it means for someone to grow up gay and to embrace the gay culture for what it is and what it is not and just love without judgement.

How much more amazing would the Church be if they just accepted gay men and women just as they accept straight men and women and hold them to the same standards of monogamy and family and Church callings? The Church isn't doing any good by ignoring the problem and tolerating the presence of gay men and women who have so much to offer in service of others and the Lord.

I'm proud to be part of the gay culture, and I'm also proud to be part of the gay Mormon culture. And just as those student at Gallaudet University fought for a culture that they feel so connected with and proud to be a part of, I too am willing to stand up for what I believe and ask why there isn't more acceptance for gay families and gay men and women who are in monogamous relationships to be welcomed into the Church with open arms.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Gay Companions 4eva!

This will be the last of my San Francisco chronicles, I promise. Another reason why I had such a great time there was because I met up with a mission companion that I hadn't seen in eight years! He and I were together four months and we had the best time. I was sent to him having recently been made senior companion, but I had only been out in the field for about two months. He was new as well and our energy together was pretty amazing. Having a companion that you can laugh with and have fun with, even when you're dying from walking under the hot sun and dust filled air all day. He and I were just so cool together.

Once we had this "falling out" (over post-its) and he was getting on my case about saying something to an older sister member in our ward. And I felt like his accusation was a little off and I remember arguing with him about it and noticing how intensely stubborn he was and the more I got frustrated I realized that I was just as stubborn as he was. We of course resolved it, but I remember him saying some pretty hurtful things to me and even still to this day it's kind of hard for me to forget, not that I feel like I'm still hurt by them but I sometimes think about what he said to me when that particular theme comes up in my life.

I remember one time when we were changing out of p day clothes and I looked over at him getting ready to get into the shower and I had a hard time not wanting to keep looking. But I was a good missionary and felt like I kept integrity in good standing with what I was trying to accomplish as a missionary.

Anyway, when I first moved to New York to start school I had recently become a married man and I got an email from my companion filling me in on his life, in the email he told me that he was gay and that he and his boyfriend were living together. Part of me felt so overjoyed that he was gay, and it was a big shock to me. I have excellent gaydar and he completely escaped my speculation. But there was also a piece of me that felt bad for myself. When I read about his life and read about what he was doing and how he felt about everything I got jealous. I felt like I had become someone that other people wanted me to be and I wanted so baldly to be the person that I wanted to be. I wrote him and told him how proud I was of him, and how much I loved and supported him and I hinted that I had some of the same issues, but because I was married I felt like it was inappropriate to engage in that kind of a conversation.

Well, we lost contact and then recently when I left New York and was separated from my wife, I found my old mission journal and I looked him up and called him. It was like nothing had ever changed. We laughed and shared some really good moments over the phone and I came out to him and he gave me some good advice as to how to handle my new identity as a gay man. I told him of my plans to go to San Francisco and he mentioned that he was going to be in town that same weekend. So when I was there we met at Dolores park, had an ice cream and just talked. He looked pretty much the same except 20 pounds heavier and he just looked more at peace and more settled. He has a great job, he and his boyfriend are doing really well and I'm just really proud of him. And come to find out, his boyfriend lives like 30 mins from where I'll be starting school.

I feel really blessed that I got to meet him and that we were able to talk and share things about ourselves that we otherwise were not able to share. He's such a good and honorable person. He's sweet and kind and real. I love him and am so happy that he is happy. I was thinking back on how fast time goes. Life is too short to live for the Church, or to live for my family. I have to live for me. My companion and I were the best of friends on the mission, we were the best missionaries we could be and now that we are off the mission and even have left the Church so to speak, I have a sure knowledge that we are who Heavenly Father wants us to be. God would be unhappy with me if I had decided to stay married and pretend like I was straight. And God would have felt unhappy with my companion if he had stayed in the Church out of fear or out of a desire to serve his family.

It was hard to say goodbye and it was crazy that we hadn't seen each other in so long and he had to hurry to catch a flight. When we were talking and saying our goodbyes I asked him how he met his boyfriend and he mentioned that he had met him on a website and I was curious which website it was and he got embarrassed and I was like "hey, look at me and my life. There is nothing to be embarrassed about!" He consented to tell me with his face red he said that they met on Bear411.com. I laughed really hard, because I would have never thought of him as a bear, but looking at the extra pounds he had put on I can see why. I won't tell you his screen name although it's almost as funny as the site, but I can't judge because he's the one with the man.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Facing Gay Mormon

The other part of my trip that I wanted to talk about was Carl Lynn Pearson's play Facing East. I got a call from "Stripping Warrior" when I was in San Francisco and he told me that since I was there that I should go and see Facing East. I was so glad that he called me because otherwise I don't think I would have seen it. And I had plans to hang out with "Gay Mormon" who goes by the name of James and so I mentioned that we see Facing East. The combination of such encounters was pretty amazing.

Gay Mormon (his link is to the right) was THE gay Mormon blogger. When I logged on and did a search for gay Mormon men who were struggling with identity, spirituality, acceptance and every day jargon, I found James. He was the guy that inspired me to start my blog. He has since taken long pauses in between his posts, which made it even more exceptional to see him face to face and to truly feel how happy he was. We had talked on the phone and emailed and shared a lot of each others stories but we never had the opportunity to meet up.

So when I arrived at the play I was nervous and excited to finally meet the guy who inspired me to blog and said blog eventually led to me becoming more accepting of myself and more of an advocate for my wife's happiness and because of it I'm happier than I have ever been and my wife and I are closer than ever and she is in such a good place. I guess that's a lot of responsibility to place of James' shoulders, but he was definately part of the process. I respect him for the way that he has handled his challenges and how he has been able to find happiness where people claim there is none.

Anyway, while I was waiting for him I was sitting outside of the theater in the hall way and I noticed that Carol Lynn Pearson (author of the play and of the AMAZING AND IMPACTFUL book "No More Goodbyes") was sitting just inside the doors organizing her book display. I immediately felt myself get emotional and super excited because I was going to meet a woman who is not only a pioneer in the Church for homosexual men and women, but who is elevating the consciousness of the entire Church with her works and words of unconditional love and acceptance. She has not only ispired me to be more compassionate with myself, but she has ispired members of the Church to embrace more fully and with more charity. She's just so great! And when she came out into the hallway I went up to her and told her thank you for writing her book and without hesitation she gave me a huge sincere hug and asked me with such intensity how I was and I was proud to tell her that I was great and amazing and that I had never felt more peace in my life. She listend to me tell my story about me and my wife and she was thrilled that we are still close and still best friends. She asked about my parents (and I'll save my response for another entry because I don't want to get into that now) and how they were handling "it," and she just made me feel...the spirit. Like I've never felt the spirit before in a long time she made me feel loved and appreciated.

She led me to her son who was sitting down and she introduced him as her and Gerold's son (the man who she was married to before he came out of the closet and she eventually took care of him while he died of AIDS). It was amazing to look into his face and see the way that he respected his mother and how proud he was to be his father's son. Just humbling and inspiring. And then I met James. He was a lot taller than I expected, and he was a lot nicer than I thought he'd be. We didn't have a lot of time to talk before the show started, but watching that play sitting next to him almost made my journey and the journey that I was watching on stage even more meaningful.

The play was well written and yet somewhat dramatic in places that maybe were a little over the top, but all in all it was excellent and the point of love and acceptace really hit home to everyone in the audience. It was weird to just sense who was a member of the Church and who wasn't by the people who laughed at certain "Mormon" themed jokes and who didn't get them. But one thing that was consistant was that everyone was touched in a humbling way. There was a guy who was sitting behind me who sobbed through the whole thing. It was a sad play, but the end brought a lot of hope.

When I was talking to Carol Lynn Pearson about it before the show started she said that her Stake President and Bishopric and other members of the Church came to opening night and were all very supportive and interested in how they could be better advocates for gay members of the Church who are suffering from the effects of being brought up in a Church that teaches a lot of self-hate if you are a homosexual. I was glad to hear that her Church leadership was so supportive and that people in her ward were willing to come and see what her play was about. And that they actually liked it and thought it was important.

Afterward I ate with James and we talked about how far we've come, how our families are reacting to our different situations. We talked about dating guys and going out and what that's like being new to the "scene." We talked a lot about the Church and then again we just talked about normal work, life stuff. He's just a fantastic person and reallly fun to be with. I wish we could have had more time to hang out. But I'm so glad I finally got to meet him.

I feel like I've come to an awesome place in my life. The world is open ahead of me. I'm free and I'm healthy. I have a lot of love in my life and a lot of things to look forward to. And more than ever I am determined to be an advocate for homosexual men and women in the Church who are suffering from feelings of low self-worth and depression along with every other obstacle there is when you are gay and Mormon. Being in San Francisco and seeing Facing East and being able to meet James was much needed. And just when you thought that I've said everything about my trip, I still have one more thing to write about, so more to come...

Friday, August 17, 2007

San Fran

I just got back from San Francisco and it was a pretty good trip. I have a lot to write about and I might have to go through my excursion in segments as to give the full breadth of my experience.

I stayed with an amazing girl when I was up in S.F. She and I had the same internship in New York and for a year we kept each other entertained while also learning a whole lot about our field and about each other. I never came out to her as a gay married man, but she and I were close enough that she had an idea of what was going on with me, so when I called her a couple of months ago to fill her in on what was going on she was really proud of me. She loves my wife as well, and I think that added to the excitement. I mean if you love someone and care about them and their spouse, why wouldn't you be overjoyed that they have decided to set each other free from trying to fit into an uncomfortable and pointless mold? Her support meant so much to me and being as though she is the most empathic person I have EVER met, it helped to be around her and to talk about all of the huge changes that are going on in my life.

Being as though this was my first time in San Francisco, I was game for anything and for better or for worse, she lived on Castro street and if any of you know about S.F. you might be familiar with the fact that the Castro District is where all the gay clubs, gay bars, gay shops, gay restaurants, gay karaoke bars, gay movie theaters, gay houses, gay dogs, gay subway entrances, gay flags (lots and lots of gay flags) and actual gay...people. The first night there was walked down her street to a gay bar and danced our freakin' heads off. It was so much fun. She and I were and still are obsessed with the Rihanna Umbrella song that is popular right now, and when they played that song on the dance floor the two of us went crazy. I started dancing with a guy there who asked me where I was from and I told him Utah and he pointed to his friend and told me that his friend was from Utah as well. So I start talking to his friend and come to find out of course he is Mormon, of course he served a mission and the two of us just laughed at the situation. Here we are dancing with our sweaty bodies moving together on the dance floor in a gay bar in San Francisco and one of the first two people that I talk to there is a gay Mormon like myself. They are everywhere!

The next couple of days I saw a whole bunch of stuff, Embarcadero Center, Lombard Street, Ghiradelli, Dolores Park, and that cool park that was featured in the opening credits of Full House. S.F. is amazingly beautiful. Oddly enough, I've never seen so many homeless people in my life. It was a little annoying. I mean I feel compassion when there is like one or two, but when there are like 45 transients standing around asking for money, I feel a little overwhelmed. But the city was cool and I was feeling it. Everyone there was so nice. It was a nice city. Actually, now that I think about it, the guys in the club were really nice to me, but it seemed like everytime I told them that I wasn't living in the city, they were kind of dissapointed and didn't want to really engage anymore, which I thought was a little odd considering that if they wanted to hook up wouldn't someone from out of town be a good option? But I probably attracted guys that weren't the one night stand guys, which sterotypically I thought would be the case. Not that I wanted to hook up, but I was interested in how the dynamics of the club/bar scene was. Does that make sense?

I just had a really good time and there's actually a lot more to tell, but I've got to go so I'm gonna wait and tell what happened on the rest of my trip hopefully tomorrow.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

See Sicko Now!

I saw Sicko last night and I cried in a way that I haven't ever cried before. I was touched and overwhelmed by such beautiful examples of human beings and amazing systems of health around the world where people are not only the most prized resource, but are given the chance to have more years on their life!

Health Insurance Companies are disgustingly greedy and even without seeing this movie I've felt a deep desire to make health care free to EVERYONE, regardless of how fat their check books are. My heart aches for people of the nation that I love so much who don't have health care, who can't afford medications that will save their lives, or who choose to use their life savings and in turn become bankrupt because they can't afford to keep their house and get treatment.

Go see Sicko! Please, if you care about our nation and you care about our government and the way the greedy politicians are controlling our ability to feel safe and healthy, please see this movie.

I'm not a huge fan of Michael Moore, but after seeing this movie I can't deny that what he is saying in this film is one of the most important messages to our nation today.

This website is amazing onecarenow.org and it's time to take this issue seriously!