Why I Care About What the Duck Guy Said

homophobia

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.

Family-Rejection-Suicide-Attempts

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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,
Trent

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.”

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.

Gays in the Boy Scouts

I’m taking another shift in my ‘normal’ routine. This is another topical, current event perspective on the Boy Scouts of America ban on openly gay scouts and scout leaders. I wrote a rather long response on a friend’s Facebook thread, a thread that is already over 70 comments long, and I realized that as I wrote it, I was putting as much, if not more, time into it as I would  a blog post, and I’m interested in more people knowing my opinion on it. So here it is, with some modifications (removed specific references to comments made earlier in the thread that will not make sense to anyone reading it here 🙂 )

Personally, I think the BSA delay is cowardly. The major lobbying push to get this to happen has been going for well over a year or two. With the general issue the writing has been on the wall for well beyond that. 

I’m a very practical guy when it comes to stuff like this, and assume it mostly comes down to money. While they are a non-profit organization, they have to maintain certain operating costs and they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. They are losing corporate donors such as UPS, but if they change their policy they could lose the participation of the LDS church, which would devastate the program just in terms of sheer numbers of participants and annual events. However… it doesn’t take another three months, in addition to the years they’ve had to see the polling and read the culture shift, to run the numbers and projections and make a decision.

If you’re taking the position that it’s a moral choice based on religious principles, then the BSA needs to be clear which religion they’re basing their core values on, and I’m sorry but “Christian” is way too broad a term. Christians can’t even all agree on the nature of God, predestination, revelation, authority, even what version of the Bible to base their teachings on, and even today, there are Christians on both sides of the gay rights debate. There are even agnostic Christians (which some could say Thomas Jefferson was, google the Jefferson Bible) that believe in the moral and philosophical teachings of Jesus but don’t claim belief in a supernatural God.

As to whether the BSA should change? I actually don’t care. This isn’t like Chick-fil-a where the owners are also advocating and donating money to anti-gay hate groups. They want to be an old-fashioned boys club? That’s their prerogative. I think that the people who want to change the scouts should just make a better organization that includes boys and girls, gay and straight and everything in between, oh yeah and the atheists too. Let me be clear, I think it would be wise for the BSA if they decided to lift the ban, because that is the way culture is shifting, and since they are in fact not a church, they have the freedom to move any way they like.

A brief side bar for internet and Facebook discussions in general and the people that engage in them: I love that you’re participating in discussions like this. It’s a good sign of an open mind and a willingness to be challenged that can actually serve to strengthen your faith, despite what some will say. It will also lead to people understanding your views better, and you understanding theirs with more clarity as well.

To dispel a few things I see being posted a lot, ad nauseum,  from people seeming to think they are the first to make this point… being gay is not something that needs to be cured or ‘overcome.’ Being gay does not mean you are more likely to be a pedophile, or a murderer, or a rapist, or any of the other things. Can we please just put this to rest? It’s utterly silly and the fact that I constantly find myself having to refute it in people’s logic is staggeringly exhausting.

In a similar vein, I know that Mormons tend to have their own special definitions of these terms, due mainly to the leadership of the church avoiding saying the words gay or lesbian for decades… Let’s be clear. Homosexuality and same-gender attraction(SGA), or same-sex attraction (SSA) are synonyms. They mean the same thing. Homosexuality is what the rest of the world calls it. This is because homosexuality is a subset of sexuality, which deals with the capacity for sexual feelings. Look it up. It is the physical, mental, emotional, and social attraction to other human beings, and in the case of homosexuality, the attraction of the same gender.

When it comes down to it, you people who know me treat me differently, because you know me, than they might strangers you might be treated as the caricature (for good or bad). 

I have a special request for all of the active LDS people, and other actively religious people, and all parents in general who might be reading this. What I would stress to you is to remember that these 11 and 12 year old boys you are so worried about have a roughly one in ten or one in twenty chance, depending on the study, of being gay themselves. Think of the messages you are sending these children, many of whom I guarantee you are just starting to figure out what this means for them in their life. I was in 6th grade when I first put a name to what was going on in my life, which is the 11-12 age bracket. It was then when I first started to label myself as broken, an abomination, and told myself that this was something I absolutely had to keep secret, that I couldn’t even trust my parents with, because I was so ashamed of myself, and was afraid (wrongly) that they couldn’t love or accept a gay son. I hated myself for who I was, convinced that somehow God had punished me with this, wondering what I had done, maybe in the pre-earth life, to have warranted it.

Now, to be fair, the LDS church has come leaps and bounds forward on this issue since that time period, stressing the love and acceptance that people need to have. Keep in mind that when you tell your future son that you don’t want him associating with gay people because what they do is wrong, etc, etc, that you might be informing your child what you think of him (or her).

I’m not saying any of you would do this in the wrong way, but please keep in mind, and I cannot stress this strongly enough, that there are absolutely gay kids in your wards and congregations right now, that are paying very close attention to what is being said in sacrament meeting and in sunday school, by their parents, and by their leaders, and they hear and internalize every single word

Please, think about what messages you want to send with positions on subjects like this. Make sure you are very, very clear how you want them to hear about the love and acceptance first, and then the ‘spiritual danger’ that ‘those people’ bring to the table secondly.

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to leave a comment below and tell me your thoughts.

What is ‘Real’ Happiness?

Happy New Year! I have to apologize for the short hiatus I went on at the end of 2012. Writing is one of my passions, but as some of you know I was enrolled in a Comp 2 class online last fall. Writing 1000 word papers just about every week was a fun exercise and helped me grow as a writer, but it did leave me very unmotivated to write here for the simple joy of expressing myself. That class recently culminated, successfully I might add, in a brilliant research paper and I’m now back to my own devices in terms of writing.

It’s about 9 pm  here so I don’t know how long this is going to be, but I felt like writing and didn’t want to pass on that motivation. I’m doing another break from the ‘my story’ format to do something topical. I’m sure I’ll get back to that next time. Also, if there’s something you’d like me to write about specifically, drop me a line in the comments or send me a message. I’m happy to fill in the gaps if you guys think something is missing from my story or want my take on a specific topic. The reason I’m addressing this topic is because it is something that weighed heavily on my mind as I considered leaving the church. These are the kinds of thoughts I went through while trying to make that decision.

With that, on to the topic. As I’m sure the title gave away, I’m wanting to dig into a curious phrase I found on the church’s website today while doing research for a future blog post. Here’s the quote:”As we seek to be happy, we should remember that the only way to real happiness is to live the gospel.”

(http://www.lds.org/topics/happiness?lang=eng)

As someone who enjoys writing, you might imagine I enjoy words. I love playing with them, learning their meanings, discovering new words… I’m just kind of a big word nerd. I also find that, especially in print when much is left up to the imagination (e.g. tone, body language, etc), the question of ‘Why did the author choose to use a particular word in a particular place?’ is especially interesting to unravel. So what is ‘real’ happiness? As always with endeavors like this I turn to the dictionary, which recently is Google. (Did you know you can just do a Google search with “Define <word>” and it’ll give you the definition? I love Google).

Google gives us the following for happiness:  “[The] state of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.” How about for real?  “Actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed.” A few synonyms include actual, veritable, and factual. So, logically, when you’re talking about real happiness, then you’re talking about the opposite of fake or pretend happiness.

Chew that over while I switch gears before I bore you all to tears with the word nerd stuff. This isn’t a new phrase to me, or even a new idea really. Anyone who’s been around the LDS church has heard it dozens, if not hundreds of times. Whether it’s from parents, teachers, leaders, friends in the church, you’ve probably heard the,”Yeah, but they’re not really happy.” Or maybe you’ve heard, “They only think they’re happy.”

It’s easy to deduce where this thinking comes from. Two scriptures jump to mind. One is from King Benjamin in Mosiah where, and I’m paraphrasing, he asks the reader/listener to consider the blessed and happy state of those who keep the commandments of God, for they are blessed in all things. The most quoted, hands down though, is “Wickedness never was happiness,” which comes from Alma the Younger’s counsel to his son Corianton (the one who got too friendly with the harlot, and doomed some Zoramites with his unrighteousness… that’s a whole separate post.) The passage is the end of Alma 41:10, but what most people don’t look at when using the scriptural soundbite is the following verse which puts it even better:

“11 And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.”

To piece together the logic behind the cultural interpretation that many have from these scriptures and others, you have the following idea: 1) People who follow the commandments of God are happy. Pretty self-explanatory. 2) Those who don’t follow the commandments after being convinced of the truth of them are almost always unhappy, depressed, and cursed in some way, especially in the Old Testament. 3) Those who are in their ‘natural state,’ those who haven’t yet heard the Gospel or haven’t become convinced of it, are living in a state devoid of ‘true happiness.’ They might think they’re happy, but it’s like comparing a candle to a furnace, they just don’t get it.

Confirmation bias is especially fun when dealing with this kind of paradigm. The hardest part about belonging to such an all-encompassing faith and world view is that it is very difficult for many within it to even consider the views of those that exist outside of it. I mean, why bother? Everything good you see in life is confirmation of a blessing from God. Everything bad that happens to those outside of the church is confirmation of their lack of blessings from God. However, things get trickier, and indeed apostles have dedicated entire sermons to this, what about when things don’t work out this way? Well, then it’s conveniently labeled as a Job-type experience that is meant to test your faith and boom, all is well. After all, I’m sure God will get around to blessing you more for your obedience when he’s finished finding your neighbor’s keys, right? I jest.

So what about those of us who do experience positive feelings after leaving the church. I mean, the pleasure from all the sinning I’ve been doing has got to wear off soon, right? What are these feelings that myself and billions of others feel on a daily basis? As a missionary I always taught new investigators about the fruits of the spirit from Galatians. The ‘warm fuzzies’ of happiness, peace, love, contentment… the super positive feelings that can only come from God, which Satan tries to counterfeit with adrenaline rushes, lust, drugs and alcohol. One of the issues I suddenly found was that I felt those feelings when I wasn’t doing things that were particularly ‘spiritual.’ Like while watching Lord of the Rings, or reading The Giver.

The most poignant example for me was the feeling I got when I held my boyfriend for the first time. I’m not talking about anything coital or sexual in any way. We were watching a movie together, he turned and leaned into me. I wrapped my arms around him as he rested his head back on my shoulder as we watched whatever it was. Now, I’d cuddled in the same exact situation in college with my female friends, and I’ve given loving embraces to my male friends in the past, but this was something so incredibly different from any of that. Holding someone to me that I cared about and was starting to fall in love with, wrapping my arms around him was the first time I’d understood anything from those funny romance novels I used to peak at that my Mom would bring home while growing up. Words fail to express it, but it was as if a surge of pure joy and peace rushed up my spine and it was so powerful it almost brought me to tears when it happened. It was a moment I’ll never forget.

Want to know the best part? That feeling hasn’t gone away, I still feel it almost as strongly every time I see him and pull him into my arms. I still get emotional and teary from good movies like The Help, I still feel inspired by the President’s speech in Independence Day. What do my family and LDS friends think about this? What would their explanation be for what I’m experiencing? Who knows. Likely it’s an elaborate ruse from Satan as he leads me carefully down to hell or something of that nature.

So what is happiness, and how does one know it’s real or not? I mean, even if a person thinks they’re happy… aren’t they happy, even if you don’t think so? That would seem to be my take on the situation. I think my opinion can be surmised by Morpheus from the Matrix:

“Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure it was real? What if you were unable to awake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world, and the real world?

What is real? How do you define real? If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”

So what is real happiness? Maybe they’re right and I’m imagining it, maybe I’m not ‘really’ happy. Who really knows I suppose. All I know is me, where I was before and where I am now. I used to live with a constant ache in my heart. Something that would throb with pain every time I saw a happy couple, or an attractive guy, and that ache was absolutely persistent no matter how much I prayed, or fasted, or studied my scriptures, or did service, or focused on work, or school, or anything. Every year that ache seemed to get heavier and harder to deal with. There were times in church I felt like I would be physically torn apart by it, because on the one hand I was feeling the spirit, or so I thought, and feeling comforted by the teachings I had always been taught, and simultaneously I was being swallowed up by the pain from this ache in my heart.

Today? The ache is gone. It’s been filled by a love for and from an amazing man. Filled by being able to be honest with people. Filled by choosing my path, and owning my own destiny.

What is real happiness? Who cares. I’m happy.