Monday, November 14, 2016

Not bullying to call out racism, not whining to protest it

A few people I really love, family, voted for Trump. Thanksgiving will likely be a night of word vomit and actual vomit from the stress and over eating. Mormons don't drink, so sadly it won't be alcohol-induced. There have been civil and meaningful discussions and other discussions where I'm yelling into my headphones in the park to the point of making me and the dog embarrassed. Other people I could have just unfriended because, thank Eleanor Roosevelt, they aren't tied to me as family. I still care about them and want to understand though. Instead of unfriending, I was a prick and went on a few social media tirades. To you I've been challenging the last few days, here is where my head is at, trying my best to understand.

He's a jerk. Try to explain away the blatantly racist things he's said, such as labeling illegal immigrants from Mexico rapists. You keep telling me it's the only racist thing he's said, which it isn't - he's offended many, as if it wasn't enough from our Commander and Chief (elect). The solution is building a wall to keep the rapists out. Or if they're not rapists, they're definitely a drain on our resources. That's how they're talked about, rather than contributors to our society. There is talk of those he's given jobs. There was the gracious taco bowl shout out. Then he insulted Latino immigrants again for saying taco trucks would be on every street corner if we didn't build a wall to keep out the rapists, who also come with taco trucks apparently.

Banning members of a religion from entering this country means we are targeting a religion in addition to the rapists and taco truck owners. The solution of banning all these people as solution to your problems is also xenophobia, whether you want to admit that or not. It is. Life for those in this country who wouldn't be banned or deported will feel like, well, a Trump rally.

The first act of protest against Trump I really loved was Rose Hamid in South Carolina back in January. I'll never forget her. She was escorted out of Trump's rally out to boos and chants. He said of this woman who stood silently wearing a shirt saying "I come in peace" that it was "their hatred, it's not our hatred." She now lives in a country where that guy makes the executive decisions. He's said to solve the issue of terrorism we need to go after terrorists' families, a war crime. Again as with the Mexican rapist comment I get, "he only said that one time." Voicing that thought out loud and televised one time is enough. It's too much to say, for the Commander and Chief (elect), ever. It shouldn't be a thought.

Imagining what it would be like for a Muslim in America right now, I feel completely vulnerable and unsure. I've signed up to help refugee families in Utah adjust, connect, and apply for citizenship after government assistance stops. This election has inspired me and a lot more people to care about my neighbors and country. For my part, no one will be made to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome here.

Some Trump supporters really embrace the racist message and chant and graffiti and name call and beat up. Others among you hate being called racist. "It's worse than anything Trump has said." "You're bullying me by calling me a racist." The only way to combat racism is to call it out any and every time I see or hear it. I'll do my best to do that with respect until my dying breath. I'll continue being the prick commenting on the memes you share or challenging you out loud in public. I, we, have to say something and never stop. Your hurt feelings about the association with racism are less important than calling out the racism.

The people I know who voted for Trump wouldn't call someone a name to demean them, or chant something in a crowd to intimidate a smaller group. I can't separate the racism from the vote like you must have. The vote supported a man who says terrible things about Latino and Muslim immigrants and advocates having less of them around. It was key to his platform. That wasn't enough for you to vote for someone else. The vote for him is not separate from that. You are complicit. If worse comes to worst with Trump, I won't have to shame you as a racist, Islamophob, or homophob. We'll all live with the consequences, and you can decide whether or not to to carry the shame of supporting it when the moment came.

I didn't and won't support it. I'll do everything I can for his impeachment or for the electoral college to change their vote on December 19th. The Electoral College allows for the electors to vote against the vote of the state if it's in the best interest of the country. That orange blowhard would not be my or most Americans' President. That is not the country I live in. Most of us - the popular vote anyway - don't live in his country. We don't accept his speech or plans to reduce those people he belittles. We should refuse him as our leader.

The right to peaceably assemble and petition our government for a redress of grievances is key to our progress as a country. Dismissing the #notmypresident protesters as sore losers or babies makes you feel better about the legitimate reason they have to protest. I applaud any peaceful protesters who want to stand against Trump instead actually just whining about it like we've heard the last eight years from Fox News. I'm adding protest to my list of things to start contributing. I'll be out there with the people to try and make a difference.

Protest is why we exist as a sovereign nation and is protected in our First Amendment. A large portion of our people are unhappy enough about this man to cause a disruption. Take notice instead of calling it whining; we have nation-wide unrest at Trump's election. Acknowledge why they are there. Look at how the decision impacts your country men and women and what you can do to help them now you've voted Trump into place.

My candidate was Bernie. Hillary and the DNC sabotaged him. Bernie stood for the same things I can understand on the vote for Trump. Both spoke to the hurting middle class, corruption in politics, veteran support, and national pride. I voted for McMullin, thinking he had a real chance in Utah and could take votes from Donald and maybe have a chance if neither Trump or Hillary got enough votes. My experience Utah made me think there was no way Hillary would win Utah, even though they hate Trump. She had more votes than McMullin. That was my real disappointment. Come on, Mormons. You knew better than this. An anti-Mormon is now advising the President. I lost my vote for Bernie in Hillary's quest for the office, my vote for McMullin in Utah's fear of liberalism, and a little faith in my fellow citizens to a social media circus.

Right now, Trump is not Hitler. You're probably sick of the comparison. It's what a lot of protesters are worried about, so I'm taking it there. I wonder how many German people consoled themselves with "I wasn't that type of Hitler supporter." I hope Trump isn't President for long, and that however long that is he's better than candidate Trump. I hope you get the luxury of being able to remove the xenophobic policies and ideas from your vote this year. Whatever the case may be, I'm not bullying you along the way as I call out the racism associated, and our fellow citizens are not whining when at its protest.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Our Given Donnie Moment

We have been given a pivotal moment that requires serious thought on everyone's part. If war erupts and I end up with Muslims and Mexicans (apparently with a proclivity for rape) in a camp where I'm promised that work, reconditioning, or repentance will make me free, I want my opinion known for whatever it's worth.

This moment is pivotal because it has the potential for such horror or promise. I don't know the future or what Donnie will accomplish if given the highest office in our land. As a nervous gay liberal, it's easy for me to say he'll only accomplish evil. Then again, it's easy for me to say that when Donnie adopts the most conservative platform I've seen in my lifetime. Citizens don't get to decide what their family looks like, because Donnie and friends already know what it has to look like. Our melting planet needs more coal and oil burned. Terrorism is now a global threat, so Muslims must be targeted and screened for EVERYONE's protection. Oh, and Mexicans must be kept out. Why is there not also a call for building a Canadian wall? I'd love to see that Tweet storm. It's self-preservation for me, my life as it is, to assume the worst of this man and possible time in office; I am part of one of the groups Donnie's platform says hurt our country.

Current circumstances what they are, we're given a choice as citizens to vote for: Hill, Donnie, someone else, or not at all. 

Hill is known to be shady AF. That's the attack being made against her, and I agree with it. The campaign for her presidency is and will continue to present this inescapable part of her persona as "adaptive." I do want a president who can say they've changed their mind about something when presented with better evidence. Someone married too married to their ideas without input from others or diplomatic compromise is not our Commander and Chief. Personally, I voted for Bernie. His consistent ideals inspired me to be more involved in my civic duties. I stand behind him and the decision to nominate Hill as the candidate to avoid contention in the party. Shady as she may be, I know this woman wants to leave a positive mark on the world in the name of women. She wants this time in office to mean something for the little girls watching her on TV. That is something positive I believe we can expect of her and the possibilities her platform supports.

Good ol' Donnie boy promises to make us great again, just like good ol' Adi did. What made America, and Adi's Germany, not great? An embarrassing war and collapsed economy. Our embarrassing war was caused by an idiot president who took an idiot action inspired by greed, and our tanked economy caused by greedy banks lending to people with no business borrowing money. Thus emerges our American Adi with equally recognizable, albeit uglier, head hair to save us with empty promises fueled by anger and hate. Donnie speaks to a legitimate frustration but with dangerous solutions. His passion and motivation is not any more admirable and should not be lauded any more than Adi's. The selfishness and intended pain behind it is what you vote for when you vote for the opulent pig on his golden throne. Donnie as president would prove that our country does give the trophy to any petulant child who whines about deserving it. That's what this is to him. Look ma! I wanted a real army and now I command one!

I hate that we say "someone else" when it comes to voting options. We encourage variety in the free market, but we're really given two choices when it comes to our representatives. My favorite option, if we lived in another time, would be having the serious choice between Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or Hill and even Donnie if enough of our people support those ideas, dumb-ass as they may be. Multi-party systems encourage people to think about where they align on several issues, think about several possibilities of handling those issues, and examine candidates who support those possibilities. Right now that is not our country. Voting third party is commendable because it means you did right by your fellow citizens and conscience. If Hill, Donnie, and Gary all come in below the required electoral vote, the House decides for us - I personally don't trust that group to make the best decision on our behalf. In this election, I hope we as a people can rally behind a single candidate to defeat what has proven a common and formidable foe.

Not voting is directly supporting whichever candidate wins. Your apathy or desire to prove a point that you're displeased with your choices allows whichever evil happens to happen. You said nothing when it counted and although I'm sure it won't, should weigh on your conscience. We have our moment, and if you never vote again, vote this time and for Hill, especially you Bernie-or-bust weirdos. I love living in this country and want to see it change for the better. Get behind making it safer, cleaner, smarter, prepared, employed, healthy, compromising, and accepting. There's so much to which we can look forward and into which we can pour our time, resources, and effort. The democratic candidate isn't perfect and neither is the platform, but it is future thinking. I would rather have that world and will vote with that idealistic dream in view. 

Our moment doesn't need to be about being casual with the evil presented us, or feeding it the attention in needs to survive, but it can be about uniting against Donnie and the complete crap for which he stands. No one expected Adi was capable of what he was, dangerous as he spoke. Regardless of how far he takes it, the mindset promises much, for few, with devastating costs for the rest. We have our moment to say no before Adi's pain is relived in Donnie form. Nie Wieder, bitte.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Were their parents another sinner

There are a myriad of easy ways to be a bad Mormon: drinking coffee or tea, smoking the pot or cigarettes, drinking alcohol, masturbating, premarital sex, not giving 10% of your money to the organization, and disagreeing with leadership. Point of fact, most Mormons would tell you there are no good Mormons - everyone endureth to the end and screws up constantly along the way.

There are different levels of sin of course. Some offend God worse than your average sinner. Felons and the gays are not in the same boat as, say, someone who refuses to pay tithing because the church paid to build an upscale mall (Jesus Christ Superstore, or City Creek Center to the layperson). Knowing certain sins are more egregious, it makes sense that some are excommunicated and others just told not to take the blood and body of Christ the next time they're in sacrament.  

Since coming out as gay, I've been compared to all other excommunicable sinners: felons, pedophiles, rapists, adulterers, murderers, and heretics. These are obviously false comparisons since those sins involve taking agency from and directly harming another being. Except the heretics; I'm comfortable with that comparison because I do consider myself a heretic. I believe leaders' demands of total acceptance with consequences for otherwise makes them authoritarian. This isn't to say Mormon leaders are cruel or tyrannical; to my knowledge there aren't Mormon Killing Fields. Rather than any corporal punishment, Mormon authoritarianism uses the one legally available - expulsion. 

In all cases, from smoker to criminal, each person is held accountable for their own actions. God wouldn't judge someone for something for which they weren't responsible. If my dad were a murderer (he isn't, unless you count livestock), my siblings and I wouldn't be condemned for being related to him. As you've all probably heard by now from the unproductive Facebook reply wars, the Mormon church does not always operate by the same principle. Some people are punished (or rejected) for Adam's (or their parents') transgressions, despite it being against the church's second tenant.

The policy to deny children of gay parents membership in the church is commonly justified with: "What's the big deal? This isn't new; we already ban polygamist kids." Ironic that Mormons feel so justified in banishing this group of people, including their children, when Mormons were banished from several states or executed for practicing polygamy. The church predetermines the polygamist child's eligibility for acceptance into "God's fold" because of something they've not done wrong. If polygamy were a sin (perhaps they'll one day excommunicate the dead, starting with Joseph Smith), the children have not carried out that action and yet suffer the consequences. Should we not allow them to make that mistake before they pay for it?

This leads to the second, and more cruel, justification: "What's the big deal? They can get baptized when they're 18. If they die before then they'll just have to wait in Spirit Prison to be baptized. And it's not like Spirit Prison is hell." Perhaps that's true and it's like being stuck at the airport, uncomfortable and sad but not legitimate torture. Assuming that is actually the case, the parents (gay or polygamist) still would like their children not to wait in that place. They'd like to know their child has what they believe are the necessary ordinances to prevent that shitty time in the airport. By the way, those who are baptized into the church and try to be good people wait for judgement in Spirit Paradise, which I imagine is a lot like a country club in Switzerland. These children don't get Switzerland because their parents deserve LaGuardia.

I've also heard "What's the big deal? A lot of straight parents don't let their kids be baptized." This is very true but doesn't apply. In the case of gays and polygamists, the church tells the parents that even if parents support it, the child is not eligible for baptism. If a child from a Jewish family wants to get baptized Mormon and their parents consent, the church isn't the one saying no. Likewise if a parent who's been excommunicated for adultery agrees to their child's baptism, I've never heard of the church being the one to deny them. The church is now the party responsible for forcing the ultimatum between faith and family.

Finally we come to the crux of the situation - what is it about polygamists and gays in particular that justifies the banning of their children, guilty of nothing? Someone said to me the other day: "Jewish families consenting to baptism is different because those parents don't actually believe the church. They think their kid and the church are nuts for believing. Polygamists and gays still believe in the church but want to change it. They're like a cancer destroying from the inside." I ended the conversation before it went further. I've already been compared to a pedophile, I didn't want to continue with a life-threatening disease analogy. The troubling part is that I agreed with their point.

Children of gay and polygamist families are a threat to the authoritarian nature of church leadership. The church says these families will put ideas into the child's head that are in direct conflict with the church's teachings. If enough children become members and stay in the church until adulthood, there will be more pressure for church to change policies, more pressure on members to question leadership. "The church is protecting the kids from being confused." The church is not protecting children by denying them entrance into its gospel. It's protecting itself from those children growing up and standing in defense of their families.

So this policy isn't acceptable because it also happens to polygamists, or because kids aren't banned forever, or because waiting in Spirit Prison isn't that bad, or certainly because parents can also choose to deny the child. This policy is wrong because the church determines a child's worth in the church based on another person's life and decisions. If only their parents were another sinner, their parents could consent to their baptism. If only their parents were another sinner, the church would likely grant them access to the gospel. As it is though, their parents are sinners who will raise their children to question. The ultimate justification for this is preventing a generation of believers who force leaders to see that their families, too, have a place in God's eternal family.

I don't need or want the church to accept my lifestyle; I am happier and feel God's love without membership. This is about kids who haven't done anything wrong and the leadership's reprehensible decision. I'm also not saying the church is entirely false. That "all right or all wrong" dychodmony is part of the problem. Any human, no matter the faith or priesthood level, is capable of error. Jesus wouldn't turn these kids away, but leadership has decided to do just that. Mormon members trying to condone the church for doing so doesn't make them noble, it makes them spiritually lazy. In its attempt to stymie the questioning spirit, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has sacrificed part of its soul. Such is the opinion of this lowly heretical homo.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The shared garage

It's election season already. We don't actually elect someone for another year, and it's so much on my mind, it makes me want to gag. There's so much to weigh in on, so many problems we have to solve. Our world is changing, and I feel like if our founding fathers were alive today, they would be aggressively seeking change to adapt with it.

This isn't about who I'm voting for (Bernie Sanders - he is probably the closest to my political opinions, we'll fight about it later) or all the issues. This is about one issue that keeps me up at night. Working for renewable energy has been my livelihood lately as an adult, but I've been concerned about it since I was a kid.

"Mom, they keep building new houses! Why won't people start buying the older houses?" Donna, mother of 10, lovingly rolled her eyes at the son also worried he'd contracted rabies while collecting Mormon Fast Offerings and AIDS from a public toilet seat. Those childish, irrational fears aside, it scares me how fast we grow and how gross things have gotten. Growth and change are good, and all life is valuable. We need to think about the best way for that to continue for all of us. None of us matters if all of us doesn't make it.

I live in Utah now, and it is my beautiful mountain home. The winter here makes everyone full on barf, unless you ski in the mountains. This is of course still beautiful. In the valley, we see exactly what we cloud the air with everyday. In the summer the air is warm enough to carry our crap into the greater world, instead of directly on top of us. In winter, we're sometimes advised not to go outside, so we stay inside or go up in the mountains. The way we're growing, it won't take long until the mountains are also covered in our crap.

Maybe the planet does warm up on regular cycles, but don't treat me like an idiot. You cannot look me in the eye and tell me it's good to run our planet on fossil fuels. The last time I checked, running my car in an unventilated garage would kill me. We've been running our planet, and our lives, on the same crap for 100 years non-stop, and we keep growing.

We can argue about our tax system, immigration, gun rights, police brutality, discrimination of all types, and foreign policy. Those things matter, and I can see why there are such divergent opinions. But we all live in the same garage. Our atmosphere, water, and resources are shared. Maybe we could mine water from an ice planet that happens to also have fish. Someone go make that movie. The point is, we are all running the engine with the windows closed. What is it going to take for us to shut it off?

God help me, I rely on that industrial food complex. Cheeseburgers are my kryptonite. I grew up watching these animals killed, often. Because these animals had a real life (we killed our neighbors farm-raised animals for their families to eat), I felt ok eating them. Even saying that now makes me feel weird because that's not at all true of the meat I eat now. Deep down, I feel like it would be responsible of me to stop partaking in the abuse of these animals, just so I can have my double cheeseburger (after church no less - I'm such a dick).

I can stop driving to places that can easily be walked. Public transportation in Germany was awesome. Riding the train made me happy. Most people didn't have a car, and I didn't miss having one. Salt Lake City is picking up it's public transportation game, and I need to show that I support that.

All of us have things we feel like we could change to make us a better person and the world a better place. Focusing on renewable energy, and the pollution of our planet, is something we have to agree on now. It's the same garage, and if we keep running the engine, all of us will kill each other because of our greed and unwillingness to change.

Our stance on the gays, guns, and whatevers matters, but if we don't fix this one thing, no one's stance is will matter. Growth requires change. Solar isn't the only the answer. Wind isn't either. We have to change how we power our cars as well as our homes. We have to change where we work, how we get there, what we eat, how we get it. Everything has to change, because we have everything to lose unless we do so.

"People need a place to live, Jeremiah." "But what will we do when we've built everywhere?" Not only do people need a place to live, they need a place that grows their food and provides them with clean water. Whatever you're doing by denying climate change just to continue justifying the availability and profit of fossil fuels, knock it off. It's not about what you want anymore; it's about what all of us need to survive. I hope any candidate for president would have a platform focused on clearing out our garage, for all our sakes.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

He gave up social media and alcohol for Lent. What he did next blew my mind.

No, it actually won't blow your mind. And if you're the type of person who read this solely for the ridiculous cliffhanger title, I hate you on principle. I did give up social media and alcohol for 40 days, but I doubt my insights will blow anyone's mind. I'm also not going to list said insights for you (i.e. The 7 Things I Learned from Letting Go of Facebook). Quit being an asshole and expecting people to tell you how many paragraphs you have to read. Ok, not giving any frame of reference considering the global 10-second attention span is rude. This should take you about five minutes to read. Happy?

I love Lent. Seriously. I give something up every year. Lent is an awesome exercise in self evaluation and control. What do I not need in my life, that I feel like I need? Diet coke, meat, scary movies, smoking, cheese, fried food, fast food, and even running have been on the chopping block. This past year I came to terms with my identity as a social media whore and wine-o. Are some people bigger social media whores than me? Do I drink about as much as an average person drinks? Probably, but it's these justifying questions that made me choose them for Lent.

Alcohol is super gross. It must be masked with so many juices to be a pleasurable experience for me. Even wine I drink purely for the feelings, and I choose that because it tastes slightly less like hairspray. Same with whiskey. I also like wheat beer, but that's more an emotional connection to Germany.

Also, being drunk is awesome, but hangovers are very much not. When I first started drinking, hangovers did not exist. I drank whatever I wanted and was fine. Then gin happened. To drink so much acrid tasting fluid to feel awesome for a brief time and then horrible for an entire weekend, is idiocy on my part. I kept asking people if I should go to the emergency room, convinced I felt the death struggle upon me.

Alcohol was much easier to give up than social media. For the above mentioned reasons, after a couple days without it, I wondered why I'd been drinking so much. I have more energy, feel like I'm doing better at work, and I'm saving money. There are people I like to go out and drink with, but there are many who don't drink that I have fun with. I don't want to be a person that needs a drink to enjoy myself.

Social media is super awesome. It helps me stay in touch with people all over the world that I really care about. Sure I could take the time to write a letter, or even better, visit. But it's nice keeping them in my day-to-day life too. I get to keep up with my friend Ben in England, and chat with him about vacationing in Europe. It's awesome seeing my friends in Vermont, enjoying the snow with their kids or significant others. I love hard and hate when someone goes beyond out of sight, to out of mind.

Social media is also quite annoying. Cliffhanger titles: "You won't believe what happened next." Bitch, yes I will. They made a fucking snowman out of sock. THAT'S the shocking twist? Lists: "The 27 Things Only Return Missionaries with Lisps will Understand." Just go to hell already with the lists. Everyday selfies: If you're making a progression video for your funeral montage, keep the everyday details to yourself. Let us see the finished product all at once.

Everyone has their annoyances on Facebook or Instagram, I won't keep going on about mine.

Wait, one more. People saying idiotic things. This gem about the Five Dissenting Votes in LDS General Conference prompted a slew of crap. A few friends posted similar sentiments to: "I think people have a right to oppose things, I just think there is a time and place to do it-and the time and place to do it is not in general assembly." Why do they even ask if there are any opposed, if no one should say anything?! You can't actually be that stupid. "It was very sad to me to see that evil is coming in and people are doubting, losing their faith." Just because they doubt the leadership, does not mean they doubt their faith. The two are not mutually exclusive, dickhead. And it doesn't make someone evil to question their church. That's how and why Joseph Smith founded Mormonism.

Rant over. Three deep breathes. Despite all that annoying stuff, social media was probably the hardest thing I've given up, and I want to know what that means. It's good to want to stay in touch, a little scary feeling out of touch without it. How do I find the balance between connected and social media whore?

Consumption is my choice. If I'm getting tired with all the tripe people post, I can read more of my book or news. I'm the conscious consumer, I'm not being forced to consume as much as I did. True of other "social media fast" posts I've read, I text and called more people. I can stop being a dickhead, and check it without living by it.

I'm one of the producers; I feed the feed. Why do I post - is it to remember things or is it so I feel like I matter? I do love screening my timeline occasionally to remember parts of life, but I also like the likes. And the comments, and the shares. I post to social media so much because its part of how I convince myself I matter.

So what I learned about giving up social media is no different from all the previous Lent epiphanies. Alcohol isn't bad in and of itself. Having too much and being a douche bag are bad. Social media isn't bad in and of itself. Placing too much stock in it is bad. Life is still fun without alcohol, and life still exists outside social media. Maybe it took too many paragraphs to get here or the notion doesn't blow your mind, but reminding myself every Lent helps me be a little less of an asshole.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Excommunication Address

On October 2, 2014 I was called to a disciplinary council where I was excommunicated. For years I thought it was the worst thing that could happen, and now that it has, I feel an overwhelming sense of relief. The council of 15 men did what they thought was right, given the circumstances and what they know. What follows is what I had to say: trying to do the right thing, considering my circumstances and knowing what I know. 


I have known this moment was coming for six years. Now it is here, I have only two questions. Why am I in this disciplinary council? And what is the intended outcome? I want to share my thoughts on the answers.  

Why am I in this disciplinary council? 
You tell me because I am breaking the law of chastity, not because I am gay. We agree that I am not keeping the law of chastity and, like a straight person guilty of the same offense, I am violating covenants made in the temple. Where we disagree is that I believe loving a man undeniably factors into why I am here today. 

If being gay had nothing to do with this, I could marry my boyfriend Henry and have sex without breaking covenants like straight couples are capable of doing, and this council would not be happening. You tell me the choice is celibacy or disciplinary action. You, as straight men, are not faced with the same ultimatum. The option to share your sexual desire within the bonds of chastity exists, and in parts of our history, hasn't even been limited to one partner.

Often church members compare my choice to the ultimatum rapists or pedophiles must face. If they give in to their appetite, they should be removed from church (and really society). Rapists and pedophiles do not share their sexual desire, they force it upon the unwilling or unknowing. All of you in this court had the opportunity to share your sexual desire with an able and willing partner who loved and supported you. I am not going to deny myself the same joy because you do not understand why I want that with someone who is male.

Gay couples can find the same joy you have. You asked that I read Second Nephi, looking for the nature of God and life's purpose. Chapter two pertains most to this meeting. Opposition in all things, but there is also beauty in between. It is not just joy and misery, good and bad, life and death, heaven and hell. If we believe in varying degrees of heaven and all are part of God's glory, then why expel things here on Earth that still have good? Christ taught that there is a perfect and an imperfect, but we are all connected because we are somewhere in the middle and therefore incapable of defining others' place on that spectrum. 

Just as exaltation is made possible for individuals despite our imperfect nature, so can families be exalted that do not meet the ideal. I may be imperfect as an individual, but God sees my love for people and life. I may live life with a man, but God knows my goal is a family. When my partner and I die, we will be two souls who move on to the next part of the journey. I make no apologies to you for whom I love and take with me. 

So I am here because I am breaking the law of chastity and because I do not agree with the Church's position regarding my sexuality, nor will I apologize for that. This brings us to the next question - what are you trying to achieve with disciplinary action?

What is the intended outcome? 
You tell me that disciplinary council is a mechanism to help me realize my departure from God's path. This meeting is intended to bring me closer to God. We disagree regarding my place along God's path. Where we agree is that disciplinary council has ultimately brought me closer to my maker. 

Here is what I know of God's path. God sends good souls to us when we are ready to learn more about the path. Eve was sent for us to learn wisdom exists in the mistakes. Life is pain and that often comes from disobedience, but the same pain allows us to recognize higher joy. Moses was sent to teach us that God's people respect life's joy by living true to a common code. Jesus taught us that the common code is less detailed, yet more difficult than we thought - love God and love our fellow beings. Buddha helped us learn to connect with each moment, both within ourselves and with those around us. Mother Theresa showed us that even if God is lost to us, we can find God in compassion for others. These are just a few examples of people who continually show us our path. 

Joseph Smith helped us learn our relationship with God must be a personal one. We should live according to God's personal revelation because every church on the planet could be wrong. The Mormon Church is not exempt because it was founded by the person who delivered the message. I do not have to be a person of color to know it was wrong denying them the priesthood until 1978. I do not have to be female to know it is wrong refusing women the choice to remarry in the temple, while males can marry as often as they please. You do not have to be gay to know it is wrong revoking membership of committed gay couples. God is no respecter of persons and does not isolate power, agency, or love to white males who are straight.

Just as I know you cannot accurately judge me for my imperfections, I know I cannot condemn the Church. I proudly continue my association with the Church, despite our flaws. I may not be an exemplary person; I make mistakes. I certainly do not know everything or have all the answers. However, God knows I try my to live worthy of life and the truth it shares. I do not feel so far from the path to warrant this meeting. 

Disciplinary council has brought me closer to God. No matter what you decide today, this moment has brought me closer to my maker. It has highlighted some imperfections I want to work on, although living my life with a man is not one of them. This council also brings me closer to the message Joseph Smith died teaching us. A Church is led by humans, and humans are always not God. Never be afraid of questioning Church because we think it means losing God. Often, that is the moment God comes into clearer view.

If you think my behavior is unbecoming, and I should no longer be counted among you, then deliver your discipline. Until you remove "Visitors Welcome" from that door, I will continue worshipping among you, bothering no one and seeking to understand God. From this moment, I will sit in sacrament a little nearer to my maker. I know my relationship with this human Church is a benefit but was never a necessity in finding God. 

Your judgment aside, I await the judgment of divine understanding, with grief for my abuses and gratitude for my time here. I say these things in the name of all good souls who lived and died teaching us more about our path to God. Amen.  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Rough times and loss lessons

I've been through rough times in my life, just like anyone has. My childhood on the dark farm, butchering animals or dealing with idiot hunters, wasn't by any means an easy one. With 10 siblings, middle child syndrome would have seemed like a picnic. Then my "awkward stage" lasted the better part of a decade. My adult life and coming out as a gay man in a Mormon world were equally uncomfortable, although puberty finally set in. Thank God.

I've dealt with loss, just like anyone has. Friendships have ended and I've felt the pain of exclusion from an entire social circle. In college, my dad almost died and was only saved because someone else wasn't as lucky, but was selfless enough to donate their liver. Friends have passed on from cancer and suicide. A year ago, I lost a relationship I truly believed would last my lifetime. You'll notice I equate loss with loved ones and not stuff. I can buy a new couch or house, loved ones... not so much.

My tendency is to analyze the deeper meaning in these situations. My brain is this way for a reason and it doesn't work for me to just "go with the flow."  I don't just go with the flow; I want to know why the flow is. More importantly, why I was placed in the flow to begin with and what I'm supposed to do once in it. Just keep being because that's all we can do is a bullshit answer to me. Something is to be learned and I want to know what that is so I can feel my time here was worth it. Also, I apologize if the word flow is conjuring images of periods. I couldn't think of another phrase. Sicko.

Right now is a rough time in my life, and I'm dealing with loss. Work stress, financial struggles, isolation from moving to a new place, and the gross world of dating are what make it rough. The loss I'm feeling, and the impetus of this blog, is my dog Geneva. I've said to myself these last few rough months, "I've always got my family I can call on, and Geneva to love when I get home." Losing her so suddenly, on top of all the rough stuff, is almost unbearable. She was a truly remarkable being and I'm lucky to have been her dad. She made me a better person and (hopefully one day) a better dad to my kids.

So what's to be learned from all the rough stuff I'm dealing with? In other rough times, the lesson has been to believe not all times are rough.  This may sound like going with the flow, but it takes more responsibility. Going with the flow implies a passive existence in the negative and positive. In the universe of possibilities, positive and negative outcomes are equally likely. Why not actively work towards the positive one? If one falls in a river, it's a good idea to call for help, reach for passing branches, etc. rather than laying there and seeing what happens (or worse, purposely giving in). Unless you're a jerk. Maybe you should lay there and see what happens.

Finally, what is to be learned from the loss? With all the other loss I've experienced thus far, the first lesson seems to be "love until it hurts, because it's going to hurt anyway." At one point, we are all going to have to miss each other. Whether it's distance or death, everyone is missed and others will miss us. That hurt is inevitable, loving in the mean time is the optional (and enjoyable) part.

But that answer applies to all loss and doesn't satisfy right now. I want to know why Geneva in particular had to go at this particular moment. What's the lesson in adding loss to rough times? Maybe her passing means I'm ready for another part of life to begin. My years with her were some of the most uncertain, scary, and sad. When I was terrified no one could accept me as a gay man, she was my constant. Now I know who I am and ready to start my family. Maybe the lesson is that moving past the rough times means saying goodbye and being grateful for what got you through it in the first place. Geneva was one of the greats, and I'm going to believe in the positive possibility that's the lesson she was here to teach.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Few Reasons I Hate Deer Hunting

Mama took this
I recently worked for my dad at the butcher shop (aka the Dark Farm) during the opening of the deer hunt here in Utah. I always knew I hated the deer hunt as a child, but chalked it up to the child labor laws I was breaking. However, after four days of observation as a grown man, I realized five reasons I actually hate the deer hunt.

1. Many hunters are real true dumb. Me: "What name am I putting this deer under?" 
Customer: "I don't know." 
Me: "You don't know whose deer this is?" 
Customer: "Well a lot of us were there." 
Me: "......"

2. Size actually doesn't matter. 
Whether it has two points or 15 points, it's still a dead deer. Gathering with your fellow hunters to discuss the enormity of your horns is thinly-veiled discussion of your cocks. Not to mention, without fail, hunters who bring in deer with a "smaller rack" apologize for their misfortune. The God damn deer is dead and now you're going to apologize for its small horns? You suck as a world citizen.

3. The poor planning. 
Customer: "What's the processing time?"
Me: "About ten days to two weeks."
Customer: "Woah that's not going to work! I can't do it! I've got to be back in California in two days."
Me: "We can do a rush job. How many deer do you have?"
Customer: "Well we haven't shot one yet."
Me: "....."

4. The lack of actual skill.
Me: "You didn't gut the deer after you shot it?"
Customer: "I thought that was something you took care of."
Me (internally): "The fact you were allowed to roam in the woods with a loaded firearm astounds me."

5. Hunting to say you've hunted. 
Me: "Here's how we normally cut a deer (explanation). Does that sound ok or do you have something specific in mind?"
Customer: "Oh I'm not going to really eat it. You could throw it away if you want. I just want the cape (head and hide) Haha!" (No shit, they actually laughed.)
It's a living breathing creature for hell's sakes! Or it was. If you're going to hunt, at least participate in the intended purpose: food. If you need something to do on a weekend, or are looking for ways to solidify your manliness, take up street racing or whatever it is manly men do these days. Don't satisfy your insecurity or boredom by killing an animal you're not even going to eat.

So my hatred of this opening weekend goes much deeper than the unholy hours I worked as a kid. My grievances boil down to this one problem, the deer hunters who show no respect for the life they ended. I'm aware it's a deer and not a small child, but it's still something that died at your hands. If you're going to hunt: learn how, make the time, quit making it about your cock, and at least eat it. Although, I don't know why anyone would; wild game meat smells and tastes like sour milk. One of many reasons I myself don't hunt. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Spirituality Coin

I'm slowly trying to wean myself off Facebook and plan to stay off for a while; way too much time was wasted on it. Too many selfies, political posts, and cat memes. And yes I'm aware of the irony that I posted a link to this blog on Facebook - the key word in the last couple sentences was wean. I'll get back on, but I needed time to do something different. So Facebook has been replaced by more reading. Sadly, I haven't done much in the past few years. It makes me feel dirty admitting that. Reading (and the subsequent thinking it inspires) have been my passion since I was a little weirdo.

Most recently, I've been reading a series of poems by the Buddhist philosopher Tai Sheridan, Ph.D. They're called Buddha in Blue Jeans and I highly recommend them - especially since they're free on Amazon Prime. Buddhism speaks to me for several reasons. The Buddhist view of and relationship with death fascinate me. Primarily though, I love that Buddhism fits within any other belief system. You can be a Mormon Buddhist or Jewish Buddhist. Buddhism is a way of thinking that leaves the specifics up to the believer, but keeps one focused on the core elements of any belief system that actually matter. This concept got me thinking about the specifics versus the core of spirituality. 

I think we all know the douchebags in any religion are the ones that forget the core that binds us all, and get caught up in the specifics that separate us. Whether you're Mormon, Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, or follow any other philosophy, you can still be an asshole. Or you can be a nice person in any of those faiths as well. The choice is up to the individual what they make of their spirituality or faith. Just as life and death are two sides of the same coin, I think spirituality has two sides - wisdom and self-righteousness. 

Douchebaggery arises when a person has landed self-righteous side up on the faith coin. Self-righteous people believe they have the answers that no one else has figured out yet. Self-righteous people aren't able to let others be happy another way. I think it's because they've convinced themselves the specifics will achieve absolution, but deep down they know it isn't true. I think they react by becoming afraid of things that stand outside their specifics, because it exposes the specifics for the absurdities they are. Human beings are inventive and there are endless ways to believe what ordinances/paperwork you need, who you should or should not love, what is a sin and what isn't, and which scriptures you should adhere to.

On the other side of the faith coin exists the wise. A wise person believes no one has all the answers but that the life-long pursuit of answers matters. A wise person is comfortable letting others find their own path, enjoy their own happiness, and make their own mistakes. I think it's because they understand that some of the specifics are confusing, but don't have to matter if we all live to the core of our spirituality. I think they know loving each other is most important and can discern which specifics only distract from that.  

I don't think I'm either and also think I'm both. Lord knows I'm guilty of being the occasional douche nozzle. Just like the life/death coin, we can't have wisdom without occasionally facing our own self-righteousness. We can only hope to recognize when we're lying self-righteous side up and have the courage to flip the coin. In the end, a wise person is one who accepts a level of uncertainty so they can focus on the human bond - and a self-righteous person invents their own certainty to separate themselves from humanity. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Look at you, living and shit.

My friend Bethany is a seriously intentioned human being. She feels her feelings, really loves the people around her, and makes the world a better place. The past few months, while recovering from the relationship and it's end, she would send me funny or meaningful quotes found on pinterest. The picture to the left is my favorite. It's helped me immensely.

(Side note) The quotes I send to Bethany: "Never marry at all, Dorian. Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious: both are disappointed." - The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Secretly, I'm a little neurotic. Or maybe not so secretly. I love it about myself, but it can cause problems. My ex-fiancee (he asked that his name not be mentioned on the blog for fear of Google searching...) was a very happy-go-lucky person. I was too (for the most part) when we met. However, the (for the most part) in the previous sentence is what separated us. Was my ex so concerned about being happy-go-lucky all the time that he neglected some serious matters in our relationship? You bet. Did I in kind start overreacting when he did it about smaller things? Indubitably. I'm tired of thinking about what went wrong. Always examining the lessons I learned about myself, what I want in a partner, blah blah blah. It's been five months and I'm tired of having that in my head.

So I've been shifting focus. My relationship didn't work, so what? Now what? I genuinely thought I couldn't live without the ex by my side, but look at me, living and shit. So my "now what?" is just enjoying what is right now, and it is exponentially better than it was.
Jamie, me, and Anne at Bethany and Turley's wedding
  • Reconnecting with family: my nephew Everett and I are finally able to bond. I see my brothers, sisters, parents, nieces and nephews on a weekly basis and I love it. I've spent more time with my side of the family than I have in four years.
  • Reconnecting with old friends: I've had good times with Bethany and Anne (the best temporary roommates a gay divorcee could ask for) my BYU Nauvoo pals, Jilleena and Joellen (some of the closest friends Soleil and I have), and even friends from Maine. 
  • Meeting new ones: I've met some unforgettable people here in the SLC. My roommate Jamie, co-workers, friends, and my boyfriend Aaron - all great, interesting, smart, funny individuals. On top of the friends I've made here, my time in San Francisco was much needed and I met some wonderful people. 

My Aussie friend Sharlene and I in Germany
Because this is me we're talking about, I've given myself a timeline of purely enjoying myself. I plan, even when my goal is not to have a plan. I get a year. The culmination of the selfish year will end in me taking my 30th birthday trip. The 25th birthday was a 48-hour birthday (time zones and the freakishly long trip back from Thailand). So for my 30th, I thought it might be fun to have a summer skiing birthday. I'm planning on spending June 2014 in New Zealand, skiing with my friend Sharlene, whom I met while living in Germany.

Turning thirty is when "living and shit" really hits the fan. I know what I've always wanted, being a dad. After my trip to New Zealand, all my focus will be on adopting. I have no idea what to expect trying to adopt. People keep telling me that as a gay man it's going to be difficult emotionally, financially, and legally. But... that kinda sounds like having kids in general to me. Rest assured, there will most likely be bitchy blogs about the red tape and obscene expense involved with the adoption process.  Being married to a partner I can raise them with would be the icing on the cake, but I'm ok with just the cake too. Don't get me wrong. I believe it could happen, and am open to that, but if that doesn't happen, I still know my kids will. 

Meet Everett - he's my best friend
There will be some other decisions to make. I may be relocating again in the meantime. Salt Lake is a lovely city, but I moved here because I needed support. The universe was kind and gave it to me. It's just a little too dry and Mormon for me. Now, I would be ready to move for the right career, where I can raise the kids in a place that would recognize the rights of both their daddies (or just their dad). The job hunt to fund the family starts in a couple months. I'm picking one west coast city, one east coast city, Colorado, and a wildcard location. I'll apply to every job I think would be a great enough opportunity, keeping in mind my real goal of kids. If I have to move for a better chance of making that happen, neat.

Living and shit is enough right now. Life in Maine got really hard for a lot of reasons, not just the very unhealthy relationship (although that certainly didn't help). My work life and the commute attached were intense; I wasn't able to build a social circle outside of the ex. He was almost all I had to come home to and we weren't working. I became introverted, suspicious, angry, self-conscious, and afraid. The person I was in Maine is not the person I wanted to be the rest of my life. It turns out that thinking I couldn't live without the ex, made me think less about my own value. I took the step to leave the relationship because I'd forgotten who I was, what I wanted life to look like. I'm so glad I did and he is too (I'm assuming of course).  I'm going to enjoy the last year of the 20's, and prepare myself for living the 30's the way I want. So... on with the living and shit!