I’m moving! …Again.

Yeah, I know. There hasn’t been a lot of activity here. I recently bought some web hosting and will be moving my blog to my new website http://www.trentmenssen.com

I felt the blog here was a little too narrow in focus and I wanted to be able to write and make other types of content (thinking about YouTube videos and podcasts) and post all of it in a central place.

To any WordPress subscribers, you’ll still see my updates once the move is completed in your Reader, but you’ll have to resub for email subscriptions. It’s in the upper right on the new blog. I hope you’ll follow me as I get back into the swing of things. I’m excited about writing about all of my passions: Religion still, as always, but also video gaming, LGBT issues, TV/movies, and whatever else strikes my fancy.

Lots of love,


Answers to the ’22 Messages From Creationists’ – Part 1

I know a lot of my blog deals with LGBT issues, so this will be an interesting turn (maybe uninteresting for some) towards my love of science, atheism, and being a skeptic in general.


You may have heard of a recent debate between creationist Ken Ham and Bill Nye. Someone at Buzzfeed asked some creationist viewers of the event to ask a question or send a message to Bill Nye afterwards.

Here are my answers and responses to their questions and statements. Obviously this is just my opinion and not that of the great Bill Nye. I just found it would be a good medium to expose my audience (all 10 of you 😉 ) to another side of my personal views. I’ll ask these as if they’re addressed to me, except for the first one because it was explicitly addressed to Bill Nye. Disclaimer: I’m not a professional scientist. There are better answers to these questions by people who study this for a living. I promise.

1. “Bill Nye, are you influencing the minds of children in a positive way?”
I don’t know if he means specifically in the debate itself, or in general, but the latter is definitely yes. The Science Guy is all about educating children and raising a generation that can meet the scientific problems of the future. In terms of the debate itself, if you believe science and the scientific method is the way to evidenced-based reason and truth, then absolutely. Exposing a child to reality is always better than telling them a comfortable lie.

2. “Are you scared of a Divine Creator?”
Are you scared of Sauron, Voldemort, or Glory(Buffy, Season 5)? Me either. I feel very sad for you that you are scared of something that has as much evidence for existence as do other literary villains.

3. “Is it completely illogical that the earth was created mature? i.e. trees created with rings… Adam created as an adult…”
Yes. Is it impossible? No. There is just no reason to assume it happened that way because of an ancient story. You’ll notice my answer to this question will start a pattern of sorts for evolutionist, atheist, and skeptic reasoning. Just because something is possible doesn’t make it true, and there’s no reason to believe something until you have justified evidence that it happened that way. Everything we know about human and tree existence is that they don’t suddenly appear as mature lifeforms.

4. “Does not the Second Law of Thermodynamics disprove Evolution?”
My super smart boyfriend shared this as a response when someone on social media asked the same question. The second point is the one you want for this question specifically. The direct answer to this question aside, I have to marvel at the reasoning behind the question. If Evolution was so easily disproved by what seems to be a very basic law of science… why would so many scientists and experts not have disproved it? I can almost guarantee that person would with a Nobel prize, at the very least they would get money from the Templeton Foundation…

5. “How do you explain a sunset if their[sic] is no God?”
Well… you see the rotation of the Earth makes it so that sometimes where you live is facing the sun, and sometimes it’s not. The transition into and out of those dark or light states, what we call night and day, are called sunrise and sunset, because it appears as if the sun is rising or setting from or into the horizon line. If you’re with me so far, the pretty colors we sometimes get with sunsets come from the way the light from the sun refracts off the atmosphere and the various particles in the air. Some colors like pink and purple are actually caused by pollutants. National Geographic describes it very well this way, “at sunset, the light takes a much longer path through the atmosphere to your eye than it did at noon, when the sun was right overhead. And that is enough to make a big difference as far as our human eyes are concerned. It means that much of the blue has scattered out long before the light reaches us. The blues could be somewhere over the West Coast, leaving a disproportionate amount of oranges and reds as that beam of light hits the East Coast.”

To turn off my sarcasm and address what I’m assuming your actual question is “How do we have natural beauty without God?” The universe is vast and mysterious. We as humans have an interesting connection to art and the social construct of beauty. We find certain things in nature to be beautiful, but even those aren’t universal. I had a friend once who found spiders beautiful much in the way you and I do sunsets. We…disagreed on that point. The point to come back to is that beauty and the emotions it evokes exist in our brain, something we are still in the process of mapping and understanding, but we do know that those warm fuzzy feelings you get when you see a sunset are chemical reactions in your brain reacting to visual stimuli. There’s no God required.

6. “If the Big Bang Theory is true and taught as science along with evolution, why do the laws of thermodynamics debunk said theories?”
The easy answer is that they don’t, and you don’t understand the laws of thermodynamics. For a better explanation, ask a scientist. We covered evolution and these laws earlier. I don’t know what part they apparently debunk, but the Big Bang Theory doesn’t prescribe the creation or loss of mass, energy, heat, or matter, just that they used to exist in a ‘hot dense space’ and then they weren’t anymore.

7. “What about Noetics?”
What about them? To be honest I’ve never heard of it before, but Google and Wikipedia tell me that, “The Institute of Noetic Sciences proposes noetic sciences as an alternative theory of “how beliefs, thoughts, and intentions affect the physical world.” So… we use our brains to will things into or out of existence? I mean, that’s what people did with God… so…

Heh, I kid. Kind of. Anyway, as soon as there is sufficient evidence that I can Neo the world with my brain, I will be happy to believe it, and will immediately learn Kung Fu and bend spoons. Until then, I don’t see any reason to worry about it.

(Yeah I realize my entire answer to this question was a sarcastic straw man, but I put it at the same level of astrology or anthropomancy.)

8. “Where do you derive objective meaning in life?”
Ah, excellent! Finally a good philosophical question. This topic could fill many, full blog posts all by itself. To give a very inadequate, short answer: I would say I find meaning in life through experiences, relationships and legacy. Experiences can be anything from watching a great show to bungee jumping. Relationships from romantic to platonic, professional to personal, I enjoy interacting with the other fantastic human beings who share this planet. Finally, legacy: what will my life add to the lives of those around me? Will I have contributed to the betterment of humanity because of my brief life. See, I don’t think that a lack of an afterlife makes my life less important. I think the opposite happens. Every second of every day becomes that much more important and valuable, because when I’m done… I’m done.

9. “If God did not create everything, how did the first single-celled organism originate? By chance?”
Let’s define, “By chance,” real fast. Google tells me, “the occurrence and development of events in the absence of any obvious design.” If that’s what you mean, then yes. However, often in these questions there is the implication that such an event was just completely random and unpredictable. Everything we currently know about abiogenesis (the process of getting life from non-life) tells us that it is a natural process, just like evolution (and no they’re not the same scientific theory). Natural processes are anything but random or unpredictable. Given the right circumstances, and given the vastness of our universe, they are inevitable.

10. “I believe in the Big Bang Theory… God said it and BANG it happened!”
Oh, good for you. Really, I’m happy for you and your belief. I don’t. There’s no reason to assume that God is the answer for the things we don’t fully understand.

11. “Why do evolutionists/secularists/huminists [sic] /non-God believing people reject the idea of their [sic] being a creator God but embrace the concept of inteligent [sic] design from aliens or other extra-terestial [sic] sources?”
Numerous spelling mistakes aside and forgiven, the flat-out answer is that ‘we’ don’t. I put ‘we’ in scare quotes there because I’m sure some atheist evolutionist somewhere for some reason believes we were created by aliens, but there is just as much scientific evidence for that idea as there is for creationism, which is to say none. Many people believe the right thing for the wrong reasons and because they don’t have good critical thinking skills they can then go on to believe some other non-evidenced, also ridiculous thing. Once again, it’s not impossible that we were created by aliens… but there’s no reason to believe it until we have evidence to do so. Claims require evidence, and really big claims require a lot of evidence.

I’m going to stop here for now, because this is already getting long. I’ll do the next 11 in my next post. What do you think? Agree, disagree? Leave your comments below, I’m happy to answer questions, discuss or provide clarification.

Have a great week!
– Trent

Why I Care About What the Duck Guy Said


I’ve seen a lot of reactions on social media from my moderate or conservative friends, and even some allies and liberal friends, wondering why we in the LGBT community and our allies are making such a big deal out of a random celebrity, a stranger who we most likely don’t know, and what he has said. I cannot speak for everyone in the community or for our allies, but this is my reason.

Somewhere in the US, or anywhere in the world with the internet, there is a young gay, bi, or trans teenager who is trying to come to terms with their sexuality or gender identity and could be dealing with all kinds of self-worth issues. This kid has just read the statements from this famous person, from one of the most watched shows on TV.

This famous guy has equated this kid, and something tied into their very identity, to a deviant who has sex with animals. Duck guy then also tried to stand behind God and his religious teachings as an excuse for that statement.

To compound the problem, that teenager also might have just seen a good friend, or a sibling, or even a parent go on Facebook and loudly proclaim how such a statement isn’t hateful, that he should be celebrated for ‘answering honestly’ and how dare anyone disagree or make a big deal of it?!

When the average, non-LGBT kid, is dealing with prejudice in a lot of areas, be it based on gender, race, religion, body size, intelligence, anything that a young person is often bullied for, almost always, NOT always, but almost always, they come home to a family of the same race, religion, similar body size or intelligence, people that can relate to their experience. They can confide their pain in their friends and family.

Many LGBT teenagers either cannot or feel that they cannot confide in their friends or family when they hear statements like this in the media or elsewhere, especially if they are yet to come out. Often these kinds of damaging statements can be echoing out of the mouths of their friends, their family, their parents or their church leaders as well.

Many LGBT many kids have to find their only support from what they hear in the media from organizations like GLAAD and from liberal allies and friends who make a stand in their own personal social networks.

Statistically it is likely that I have gay friends and family in my social network that have yet to come out and might be struggling with their own self-worth and acceptance like I was just a few short years ago.

So when things like this blow up on the internet, you better believe I am going to be yelling as loudly as I can how ignorant, idiotic, and hateful these kinds of comments are in the hopes that someone sees it and knows that there are people on every level fighting for their acceptance who cares about them, that their attraction is not evil and says nothing about their character.

My reach and influence may be small, but I’m going to use it anyway, because I have to. I cannot be silent about it.


Productivity, Fear, and Change

Hello everyone! Sorry that I haven’t posted since August. I kind of want to address why in today’s post, and not so much with any specific examples or excuses and more unpacking the underlying issues.

Those of you who know me know that I have a love/hate relationship with productivity and other related areas like organization. Every now and then I will do house work for seven or eight hours straight, other days I’ll stare at a sink full of dishes and my brain will work out some perfectly reasonable vindication to put off doing them… much to the boyfriend’s chagrin.

I’ve also lately been thinking a lot on various creative projects I want to do. You know the saying that when it rains, it pours? That’s been my brain lately and creative projects. I want to revive my video game podcast, I want to continue to run more video game tournaments for my increasingly growing group of online gaming friends and maintain the website and scheduling tied to it, I want to start a YouTube channel (though I have no idea what about, ideas welcome), I want to see if I can teach myself graphic design and photoshop so complement my web building skills, something that truly terrifies me because I’ve never been very visually creative.

On top of all of this, the one thing that I’m moving forward on is that I’m going to be a writer, assuming everything pans out, for Pride PAC and their new blog. More info on that as it comes! 🙂

All of these ideas in my head, and no real barriers to doing any of them, and yet… day after day goes past, and the ideas get more and more numerous and my routine stays the same.

I am a creature of habit and necessity. I’ve always had the same problem, and it lives near the ever elusive realm of procrastination. In school I would often do my huge projects in some epic all-nighter but the finished product would still be high quality.  The problem is I’m still dealing with the why. I mean, I can’t say that it’s just delayed gratification, because I get an odd sense of relaxation and accomplishment from doing tasks like ironing or doing the dishes. In fact it’s often while doing these activities that I get some really great creative thinking accomplished and a bearing on life.

Part of the reason is a weird sense of priority. My brain tells me, “Trent, you can’t start a podcast when you haven’t folded your laundry from yesterday yet, go do that, or at least clean your kitchen or something.

I had an epiphany today while watching YouTube videos on self empowerment and productivity (yean, yeah, I know, definition of irony right there): I realized there was another big component to putting off starting these ideas is fear… and not even a fear of failing though that is certainly a part of it.

I’m kind of afraid of succeeding and what it would mean for my life. I’m not the biggest fan of change and things messing up my routine, what if I end up doing one of these things so well that it becomes a much bigger part of my life and causes some big changes? World knows I have had enough major changes in the last few years between dropping out of school, leaving the LDS church, coming out, getting a career that I’m super proud of, meeting and falling for my awesome boyfriend, all the while trying to maintain relationships with the important people in my life.

That was the second part of my epiphany though! It’s why I also felt inspired to write here for the first time in four months. Change is terrifying and frightening and sometimes painful and usually stressful, but change can also be incredible! I wouldn’t trade my current life for anything, certainly not what my life used to be. My life is a thousand times more awesome than it used to be, and I have those sometimes painful moments of change to thank for it.

These two epiphanies received and processed in tandem today have given me the motivation to move forward and to continue changing. Life is a journey and while there are rest stops here and there, you don’t arrive at any finish lines until you die, and I have so much to do before then and I ain’t getting any younger, also as the boyfriend likes to remind me. (Completely unrelated side note, join me in mourning that spell check didn’t flinch at ‘ain’t’…) I certainly won’t change my life by not being productive and motivated.

So, here’s to new projects, productivity, change, healthy fear, and tackling new goals!

– Trent (Neznem)

Internet Debate Fails: Text


Hello again my wonderful blog friends. I hope you’re having a fantastic weekend. Here in Kansas City the weather is beautifully overcast in the low seventies, perfect for blogging on a Sunday afternoon. This summer is definitely turning out better than last year, and I’m grateful for that.

In my efforts to branch out my blog I immediately had quite a few ideas come to mind. The one I want to write about today kept getting more involved so I broke it up into a few different sections. I’m calling the ‘series’ Internet Debate Fails. As someone who has involved myself in my fair share of internet debates, and as someone who sees a positive side to them, I want to talk about different aspects of online debates and discussions and the pitfalls involved and why they often fail. First up is the failures of a text-only medium.

Any internet discussion or debate you enter into, unless you’re trading videos on YouTube, which would be awesome, is all done in a text-only format. There are certainly benefits to this level of online discourse that we have, but there are a number of failures. The easiest to see, or the one that frustrates me the most is the limited communication medium of text. Text is just insufficient to incorporate the full nuance and complexity that our language has evolved with.

I’m certain that I am not the only person who has entered into a discussion online and had the person I was talking to completely misunderstand what I was trying to say despite the fact that the words I was using were clear as day for everyone involved to see. The problem is that while intricate and powerful, words alone often fail to communicate exactly what we are trying to say. Whenever I see this is happening, I try to take people through the following mental exercise that I want you to go through with me, it might make you better at online communication. Take the following sentence:

I didn’t say that about you.

Most likely this is a response to an accusation. What does it mean? Well that depends entirely on how it’s said. I’m going to place an asterisk next to each word in the same sentence. Read the sentence out loud and emphasize the word with the asterisk and watch how it changes, or at least adds a whole new level of depth to the meaning of the sentence, when you emphasize that word.

*I* didn’t say that about you. – This implies that someone said ‘those things’ about you, it just wasn’t me.

I *didn’t* say that about you. – This doubles down and reinforces the original meaning that I didn’t say those things about you.

I didn’t *say* that about you. – …but I certainly thought those things about you.

I didn’t say *that* about you. – I said something else about you..

I didn’t say that *about you*. – I said them about someone else. (Yes this isn’t a single word, but emphasizing the preposition doesn’t really do as much and it’s kind of awkward, just go with it.)

Tone, inflection, and emphasis add complexity to our language and our ability to communicate. There are entire levels of speech and types of dialogue, like sarcasm, that are almost completely undetectable when written unless you know important context clues or have a really good relationship with the person doing the typing, which you often don’t have online. As a society we’ve tried to circumvent that problem slightly by adding emoticons (  🙂  😉  😛  etc.), but they’re not always effective, we haven’t agreed on how they should be used, and certain types of people still refuse to use them so their meaning is lost.

Speaking of meaning being lost, I want to address a common issue I’ve been seeing. For anyone older than forty or fifty, you might not understand the following, and yes I know this is kind of tangential, but it needs to be said. In common online usage, if you do something in capital letters, people are going to think YOU’RE SHOUTING AT THEM. If you don’t want that to be how you come across, find another way to emphasize your point.

That brings me to one of the failures in our current online predicament. How do you emphasize a word? Normally you’d use italics, bold, or underline. Yet you won’t find those options on Facebook or any online forums that I see on a regular basis. I’ve taken to adding asterisks as I showed you above, sometimes surrounding it with -hypens- but that sometimes creates formatting issues.

Next is mood, or tone. There is no way that I know of to paint the tone of what you’re saying except the words you choose and the punctuation (period vs. exclamation point). Not exactly nuanced, is it? Putting this into a real situation, let’s take it back to the 2012 Presidential Election. If you’re a democrat commenting on someone’s pro-Romney meme with what you feel are legitimate questions or concerns, the person reading your comments has exactly three things they know about you: They know you disagree with their position, they know the words you chose to use, and they know your profile picture, that’s all. Everything else is left up to them. Are you being sarcastic in your questions? Are you heated and inflammatory, or are you honestly seeking a discussion because you’d like to see their point of view? That is entirely up to them.

Language is so much more than the words we speak. It is nuanced with tone and emphasis, with body language (grinning, winking, rolling your eyes, leaning forward, leaning back, not to mention the amount of things people do with their hands while speaking) and  noises (laughing, dismissive snorts, sighs, gasps, grunts). Written language can relate almost none of that, and yet we use it in every person to person, or even phone conversations (body language not included of course).

This is all just scratching the surface, of course. I guess the main point I want to get across, is that online debates are usually very complicated, and we tend to have them on topics that are sensitive and complex, yet we do them in one of the least expressive ways possible, which is text. The best way to make this work despite the weaknesses in this forum, because I do still believe they are worth having, because I’ve had too many good ones to ignore, is to give the other person a break. Ask a lot of questions, until you have a really good handle on what they’re saying. Begin your posts with, “I think you’re trying to say ______, is that what you meant to convey?” I’ve been constantly amazed at the number of arguments where people actually are really close to agreeing with each other, or finding a compromise, but they’ve spent the last twenty comments or more just talking past each other’s real points at the assumptions they’ve made in their head. I’m definitely guilty of it, but I’d like to see everyone improve on it.

Thoughts, comments, questions, disagreements? Let me know below in the comments! Happy Sunday!

“What the deuce is Neznem?”

Alright, those of you who have followed me through my blog refresh and my handful of newer readers, thank you! I’m happy to have you along whatever crazy journey this blog takes me on. I have a lot of ideas planned for things to write about including one for this coming this Sunday, if my plans work out.

Because I’m awesome, and my boyfriend had to work late, I’m at home on my Friday night and in between games with my friends online, so I thought I would do a quick blog post while I was in the mood to, as well as address something I’ve been getting a few questions on.

Some of you, maybe even some people that have known me for a long time, like my friend Jeremy who asked the question that is the title of this post, might be curious about ‘Neznem,’ which is part of the new title of the blog. Also it allows me to showcase a bit of my nerdiness.

The story takes us back again to my LDS mission. On my mission, as I have pretty much all through my life, I gravitated towards a group of geek and nerdy friends. We played Magic the Gathering on our days off, board games (before they were banned), and just in general spent time together as much as possible and discussed nerdly things.

One of the things we discussed was playing World of Warcraft together after we were all done with the mission. We thought it would be cool and funny to all follow the same kind of naming pattern for our new WoW toons. I don’t even remember who thought of it, but we decided we would do our last names backwards. We knew each other by our last names because when you’re a missionary you’re known, to everyone, as ‘Elder Soandso” (insert last name.) All of our last names backwards actually sounded kind of cool, and at least one person other than me still uses theirs also.

My last name backwards is Nessnem. I wasn’t a huge fan of that, also I didn’t want people to think of the kid from Smash Brothers, so I changed the double ‘s’ to a ‘z’ and it became Neznem.


(Neznem, first of his name)

In the past seven years since coming home and creating that WoW character, a Blood Elf Mage (though he started out as Undead, for those who remember) if you’re curious, but I’ve also just used that nickname for all of my online gaming and nickname-driven social media like Twitter. I know that with the advent of social media, we’re seeing the death of online ‘handles’ and nicknames in lieu of just your actual names, but I’m a sucker for that soon to be bygone era perhaps best idealized by The Matrix movies. So, in picking a name for my new blog where I wanted the scope of it to expand more than just my coming out and religious struggles, I thought it would be fitting to bridge it with a name that represents many of my hobbies and bring it all together.

So there ya go, almost 500 words on where my nickname of Neznem comes from. You’re welcome, and hopefully see you again Sunday!

-Trent / Neznem

Fresh Look, Fresh Direction

Hey all! After a very short internal debate with a few comments and perspectives, I have given the site a new name, address, and graphical face lift. After an hour and a half, no joke, of browsing free WordPress themes, because I’m cheap, I’ve decided on a look and have started to customize it. There are a few tweaks and changes to come, but welcome to the new site! Don’t worry, all of my old posts are here, and I’ll be giving them their own page (once I figure out how that works), and lots of experimentation with new kinds of posts to come. Expect to see posts about music, politics, sports (especially Sporting KC), religion/atheism, and whatever else my brain thinks up.

Opinions, comments, leave them below, tweet to me @Neznem, or email them to lifeofneznem@gmail.com

Happy Monday everyone!

– Trent / Neznem

Mission Accomlished – Course Change?

Hello faithful readers! (if I have any left at this point 😛 ) I know I’ve been very hit and miss with this blog. I was thinking about it the other day and wondering how I wanted to continue with my creative outlets and I decided I didn’t want to stop writing, as it’s probably my best creative outlet, but I had a major epiphany as I was thinking about it:

At the outset when I wanted to write this blog, I did it because I needed a place I could go to unpack all the business surrounding my coming out and leaving my church and just kind of telling my story. I had just hundreds of thoughts swirling around in my head and my mind is the kind that just doesn’t shut up. I often go to bed listening to music so my mind has something singular to focus on to drown out all the noise, otherwise my brain just kicks around thought after thought, scenario after scenario, analyzing everything that’s happened that day, thinking about what’s going to happen tomorrow, the next day, the next week, and on and on.

This blog was and is extremely therapeutic for me because it allowed me to take all those random thoughts and work through them by putting them down on paper (digital paper?) and allow me to work through all of the random emotions and thoughts that come with going through what I did. The other purpose was to share my story with friends and family members in a more succinct way so people might understand me a little bit better.

With all of that said about why I started the blog, and I think the reason I haven’t been writing as much lately.. is because…

Mission Accomplished!

I am in a completely different place than I was a year and some change ago. So much has happened that it’s almost kind of staggering how fast it all went down and how far I’ve come in the last two years.  So much is different and better, and yet so much of it fantastically the same. I’m out, happy, in a loving, committed relationship, have found a lot of peace in my searching, and don’t know that I need to use this blog in the way I have been in the past. Even the title to me now makes me laugh at how dark and serious everything felt at that time. It’s funny what even a year’s perspective can give you in this journey.

So what does that mean for the blog? Well, I know I want to continue writing, in some fashion. I don’t know if I want to keep this blog and just change the purpose, try to rename it somehow, or just scrap it altogether and create a fresh new blog with a fresh new design, perspective, and purpose something that is more broad and encompasses more of my interests than just my coming out and dealing with leaving a religion.

I’ve also flirted with the idea of video blogging in addition to writing to explore that avenue and maybe a podcast of some kind, but I’m just not sure.

I would love any comments, suggestions or thoughts as I mull this over in the coming few days. Feel free to leave a comment here or on Facebook if that’s where you found it and give me your two cents.

Love and thanks,

A Josh Groban Love Story

Hey everyone, happy May! I hope your Spring is going as well as mine, now that Winter has finally decided to go home like that awkward guy at the party that just doesn’t seem to know when to leave. Unfortunately that annoying neighbor Summer is calling from next door already, asking if you want to hang out. No, Summer, I don’t want to hang out yet!

Anyway, moving past the weather, I’m sorry for my disappearance in the month of April, I spent most of it recovering from mono after a day in the ER not knowing why it hurt to breathe and why my heart rate and blood pressure were through the roof. That was fun.

Now that I’m back, and feeling mushy and nostalgic, I wanted to tell you a story from my mission and bring it to today. Disclaimer, I’m about to get disgustingly mushy, those with severe aversion to “Awwww,” should leave now.  😉

I’m something of an eclectic music lover and honestly one of the hardest things about my mission in terms of the wacky rules was the restriction on what kind of music was allowed. Now, this isn’t something the church spells out explicitly in the white handbook, but most individual missions have their own rules and for most of my mission ours was pretty ambiguous as long as you could explain its existence to your zone leaders. A very popular one among a lot of missionaries, that I actually discovered through one of my first ZLs was Josh Groban’s album, “Closer.”


It’s actually a great album and something that I still pull up on my iTunes pretty regularly. I bought this album when I was about three months in to the two years and listened to it constantly. My family had bought me about twenty or so Mormon Tabernacle Choir albums, and they were really good, but eventually they get old and this one at least felt somewhat modern and closer to music I listened to back home.

I remember sitting in a little apartment in Murray, Utah, with my headphones in listening to this song. This all took place around the same time I had started reading the book that started me down the journey of accepting my sexual orientation. (See my second post). I turned to track #5 and really listened to it for the first time and I was overcome with the beauty of the music and the lyrics. It is an incredible love song. Here’s a video for it, take a listen, and I’ll post the lyrics too.

“When You Say You Love Me”

Like the sound of silence calling,
I hear your voice and suddenly
I’m falling, lost in a dream.
Like the echoes of our souls are meeting,
You say those words and my heart stops beating.
I wonder what it means.
What could it be that comes over me?
At times I can’t move.
At times I can hardly breathe.
When you say you love me
The world goes still, so still inside and
When you say you love me
For a moment, there’s no one else alive.
You’re the one I’ve always thought of.
I don’t know how, but I feel sheltered in your love.
You’re where I belong.
And when you’re with me if I close my eyes,
There are times I swear I feel like I can fly
For a moment in time.
Somewhere between the Heavens and Earth ,
And frozen in time, Oh when you say those words.When you say you love me
The world goes still, so still inside and
When you say you love me
For a moment, there’s no one else alive

And this journey that we’re on.
How far we’ve come and I celebrate every moment.
And when you say you love me,
That’s all you have to say.
I’ll always feel this way.

When you say you love me
The world goes still, so still inside and
When you say you love me
In that moment,I know why I’m alive

When you say you love me.
When you say you love me.
Do you know how I love you?

I sat back in my chair and let the music wash over me and felt the familiar mixture of a thrilling happiness and an aching pain as I imagined some future day when someone would be in my life that would fit this song. Looking back, it all seemed like a fantasy, a dream to pursue and to cling to, something that helped to push me forward each day. Seven years, and some change, after that day, and just over a year ago now, my dream became a reality. I met the man that I would be able to sing this song to and mean every word of it, and the last thirteen months have been the best of my life.

So, for the man that has stolen my heart, I’m adding this song to our growing list of ‘our songs.’ A list I know will continue to grow.

I love you.

Response to Mainwaring’s “I’m Gay and I Oppose Same-Sex Marriage”

Hello faithful blog readers! Another topical one today, away from my personal story, though it contains a little bit about me of course. There has been a certain article floating around by a guy named Mainwaring called “I’m Gay and I Oppose Same-Sex Marriage.” I’m writing a response to this because I’ve seen too many people read this and say, “Aha! See, he doesn’t want gay marriage and he’s gay, that means something!” I hate to burst your bubble, but it does not mean anything for the millions of gay people and our allies who are fighting for Marriage Equality, and it certainly has no legal relevance.

The article in question can be found at http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2013/03/9432/

First let’s get the topic of slant out of the day. Mainwaring’s article is an opinion and anecdote article, and my response will be the same, so the political stances of each author will be important for anyone who plans to read them.

The author, Doug Mainwaring, has been described by the Human Rights Campaign stating, “This Doug Mainwaring is not just some random gay man but rather a Tea Party activist who has adopted opposition to marriage equality as a major (if not most major) focal point on his conservative agenda.  He is an advocate who, increasingly, seems to be working with (if not for) NOM [National Organization for Marriage]. (http://www.hrc.org/nomexposed/entry/nom-determined-to-make-doug-mainwaring-seem-like-a-coalition-rather-than-an#.UVR6rxyG1yw) In the article itself, at the end it reads, “Doug Mainwaring is co-founder of the National Capital Tea Party Patriots.”

The publisher, the Witherspoon Institute, is described by its Wikipedia article (go there for further sources) with “The Witherspoon Institute is a conservative think tank in Princeton, New Jersey. Founded on religious principles, the group is opposed to same-sex marriage, stem cell research, and abortion.”

As for me, if you’ve read my blog you know I am a non-religious, gay man who believes in full, federal, legal, marriage equality regardless of gender. I was raised in an active Mormon household and have a solid grasp of typical LDS and also mainstream, Christian theology.

Now, with all of that aside, time to dig into the guts of Mainwaring’s article. If you haven’t read it and would like to, please go do so now.

The very first thing Mainwaring does it use a quote from Reagan to cast the entire issue in a right vs. wrong, good vs. evil battle, stating that what it is good will always triumph. While perhaps a little dramatic, this is a very sensitive issue, one that both sides imbue with a lot of passion, some with some supernatural involvement, so I understand why he might go there.

He makes a lot of statements near the beginning of his article that he never goes on to substantiate or give any evidence or reason for. The first glaring example is, “The notion of same-sex marriage is implausible… Genderless marriage is not marriage at all.” Why? No reason. He doesn’t even attempt to give any of the typical, though refuted, positions of procreation, benefit of the children, nothing. He just moves on.

Obviously I disagree with his notion here. Marriage is the legal and sometimes religious recognition of a commitment between two people to love, support and protect each other as long as they are able to do so, typically with a ‘till death do you part’ at the end. You can’t just say something you disagree with isn’t marriage without offering a definition yourself, at least if you want to be taken seriously.

Mainwaring’s next issue is perhaps my favorite issue with his entire article. “As a young man, I wasn’t strongly inclined toward marriage or fatherhood, because I knew only homosexual desire.”

I’m sorry… what? This is a classic black and white fallacy that creates a false dichotomy. In his mind, these two ideas are mutually exclusive. You may have one or the other, but not both. You can’t have any inclination towards fatherhood if you also have homosexual desire. My experience and the experience of millions of other LGBT people utterly discount this statement. I want to be a father someday, whether that’s through adoption or some other method. My lack of any interest in being intimate with a woman has absolutely no bearing on that.

Also, I’m curious what this has to do with marriage? I’ve been to a few weddings in my life. Traditionally, the vows uttered were not focused on children, or the commitment to having children. Marriage simply cannot be about children only for gay people if we do not also hold straight couples to that same standard.

The next mistake he makes is in regard ‘Philos love’ and ‘Eros love.’ These are Greek words used by ancient Greek Philosophers such as Plato to describe relationships and the world itself. Not only does he show a blatant misunderstanding for the definitions of these types of love, he also makes the mistake of assuming they are mutually exclusive. I’m seeing a pattern of very strong black and white thinking that is pervading every view this man has.

He talks about friends he made in his twenties, “I had many close friends who were handsome, athletic, and intelligent, with terrific personalities. I longed to have an intimate relationship with any and all of them. However, I enjoyed something far greater, something which surpassed carnality in every way: philia (the love between true friends)—a love unappreciated by so many because eros is promoted in its stead.”

Ask any happily married couple or really any dedicated loving couple, gay or straight, and I bet they would tell you they have both philia and eros love in their relationship with each other. In fact many psychologists would argue that the best romantic relationships must contain both due to human nature.

Back to address his definition issues, I turn again to Wikipedia where you can follow the sources there to find more information on the subject. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_words_for_love)

Éros (ἔρως érōs) is passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. The Modern Greek word “erotas” means “intimate love;” however, erosdoes not have to be sexual in nature. Eros can be interpreted as a love for someone whom you love more than the philia, love of friendship. It can also apply to dating relationships as well as marriage.”

Philia (φιλία philía) means affectionate regard or friendship in both ancient and modern Greek. It is a dispassionate, virtuous love, a concept developed by Aristotle. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity. In ancient texts, philosdenoted a general type of love, used for love between family, between friends, a desire or enjoyment of an activity, as well as between lovers.”

I hope you can see through this where his entire notion of Eros vs Philia goes out the window. Of course all of this is completely beside the fact that he fails to mention Agape or Storge love in any way. (See the Wiki article).

Moving on, I’m not trying to be mean with this next point, because I know it is heartbreaking, but am I the only one who sees the irony that after deciding to marry a woman, he discovered they were infertile as a couple and were forced to seek out adoption, and then later divorced?

He proceeds to go on making more unsubstantiated claims: “ Over several years, intellectual honesty led me to some unexpected conclusions: (1) Creating a family with another man is not completely equal to creating a family with a woman, and (2) denying children parents of both genders at home is an objective evil. Kids need and yearn for both.”

There are so many issues with this single statement that it’s almost difficult to enumerate them. What is intellectual honesty, aside from a way to call people who disagree with you intellectually dishonest? How is creating a family with another man not equal to creating one with a woman? How is the denial to children of parents of both genders an ‘objective evil?’ What evidence do you have that kids need and yearn for both?

All of this is utterly opposed to all, if not most, of the major psychological and sociological associations in America. The most recent of which, the American Academy of Pediatrics, that just came out in support of marriage equality, stating that it is in the best interest of the kids already being raised in loving, supporting families with same-gender parents.

Am I the only person bothered by the fact that this man, whose own children had to live in a broken home without both parents for ten years due to divorce, has the gumption to criticize loving, same-gender-parent families? It just blows my mind.

It gets better… He goes on to say, “One day as I turned to climb the stairs I saw my sixteen-year-old son walk past his mom as she sat reading in the living room. As he did, he paused and stooped down to kiss her and give her a hug, and then continued on. With two dads in the house, this little moment of warmth and tenderness would never have occurred.”

He’s absolutely right. If Mainwaring had been married to a man, the son might have paused, stooped down to kiss his loving dad and given him a hug before continuing on instead. How terrible that would be! The reason Mainwaring thinks this won’t work is revealed in his very next sentence, where he displays his staggering gender issues:

“My varsity-track-and-football-playing son and I can give each other a bear hug or a pat on the back, but the kiss thing is never going to happen. To be fully formed, children need to be free to generously receive from and express affection to parents of both genders. Genderless marriages deny this fullness.”

Obviously. Only women can be hugged and kissed by sons. Only men can give bear hugs and manly pats on backs to their sons. There can be no gender crossing of any kind! Men cannot hug! Women cannot give bear hugs and pats on backs! What is this, the 70s with your free-flowing love fest? We’ll have none of it! (He seems to say).

Sarcasm aside, let’s be honest. I know men much more loving and sensitive than many mothers I know, and I know women who are tougher and stronger than a lot of fathers I know. The idea that each set of husband and wife will be this perfect 1950s cookie-cutter dynamic with the strong, protective man and the doting, sensitive housewife, is a notion we gave up a long time ago. Well, at least for straight people we did. Two opposite-gender people can get married that we know will be absolutely horrible parents, and we don’t care when they want to get married. When it’s two men or two women we suddenly declare that they must prove their ability to be good parents? Where did that come from? Two men can be caring, and strong, and sensitive, and compassionate, and protective, and a provider for their children. The same is true for two women.

Moving beyond sexism, we run into another great nugget of wisdom from Mainwaring:

“Here’s a very sad fact of life that never gets portrayed on Glee or Modern Family: I find that men I know who have left their wives as they’ve come out of the closet often lead diminished, and in some cases nearly bankrupt, lives—socially, familially, emotionally, and intellectually. They adjust their entire view of the world and their role within it in order to accommodate what has become the dominant aspect of their lives: their homosexuality. In doing so, they trade rich lives for one-dimensional lives. Yet this is what our post-modern world has taught us to do. I went along with it for a long while, but slowly turned back when I witnessed my life shrinking and not growing.”

Perhaps these men should never have felt pressured to be married to women in the first place?

Living proof of the falseness of his statement can be seen all around. My sexual orientation is definitely an important aspect of my life, and a source of great joy and pride, but it is not the only thing that defines me. I’m still a brother, a son, an uncle, a boyfriend, an employee, an IT professional, an on-and-off again college student, an atheist, a skeptic, an activist, a musician, a gamer, a nerd, an avid book reader, a Science Fiction/Fantasy fan, a huge Star Trek and Star Wars nerd, and so much more.

Coming out and searching for real love and happiness in my life didn’t diminish my life at all! Do you know what I’m not anymore now that I’ve come out? I’m no longer a liar, a pretender, afraid, self-hating, unhappy, alone, and I’m no longer content with living my life for someone else’s happiness at the expense of my own. Embracing my sexuality has done wonders for me, I’m sorry that it never did for Mainwaring.

People don’t become financially bankrupt because they’re gay. They become so because they make bad financial decisions. Also to assume that people become intellectually bankrupt by living how they choose is not only insulting, it’s blatantly inaccurate.

I’ll agree with Mainwaring on one point, “Same-sex relationships are certainly very legitimate, rewarding pursuits, leading to happiness for many, but they are wholly different in experience and nature.” At least we have a tiny sliver of common ground.

He dwells briefly on the slippery slope argument about polygamy or polyamorous relationships, which gay people are not pushing for by the way, so I won’t spend any time refuting that particular red herring. Oh and he also cites the scholarly mocked, and apologized for on behalf of the author himself, study by Mark Regnerus that has been widely refuted.

Over and over Mainwaring rejects any notion that any of his decisions have been based on religious or ‘traditional’ views, that it all comes from experience and reason. He then chooses to end his article with a very curious statement:

“Marriage is not an elastic term. It is immutable.”

First and foremost, unless belief in a higher power or some kind of eternalspiritual code is part of your motivation, marriage is just a word that describes a legal contract. Languages evolve every day. I mean, look at how we speak compared to ten years ago, fifty years ago, one hundred years ago. Terms and definitions, especially legal ones, change all the time. Marriage is no exception. It used to mean a man’s acquisition of a female by trading work or goods to that female’s father. We’ve evolved past that decision.

To show how marriage has changed even in the past century, I’ll use the following example: I have two very close friends who are married. They are both atheists, come from two different racial heritages, and were married in a beautiful bed & breakfast inn by a female judge in the presence of friends and family. They have absolutely no interest in having children, and have taken steps to ensure they will have no children.

To recap: no church, no minister, no children, interracial, all reasons people in the past might have used to keep them from marrying. Yet absolutely no one bats an eye at the legality of their marriage because they’re the correct gender, and because we’ve come to a point in our culture where we accept that they love each other, want to commit to each other and spend the rest of their lives together and be afforded the rights and benefits of a married couple.

So if theirs, why not your gay relatives or friends?