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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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.

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.

Quest for Understanding

I’ve started the first paragraph of this post at least five times in my mind already before sitting down to write this, and yet as I sit here to write it they all come up short, all feel wrong or inadequate for different reasons. I feel like despite my warnings, and disclaimer, and change of locale, I still have people that have read and not understood my purpose for writing.

I’ve always considered it somewhat ironic that despite a love of words, reading, and expression, being understood by others in the way I want escapes me. I know that part of this comes because communication is a two way road. I can’t control the way my words are taken despite intentions. A talented English professor explained to me once that words do not have meaning in and of themselves. Words call forth a meaning in the person that hears or reads them. This meaning is unique to that individual based on their personal life experiences. To illustrate this, if you were to say the word Germany to someone who lived in the 1940’s, you would most likely get a different reaction from a teenager today. This leads to the initial problem with people being unable to understand each other in general.

These unique and varied definitions are enough to create confusion and misunderstanding, and it doesn’t even begin to address the amount of communication we do through tone, volume, inflection, body language, and any other non-verbal means. When you have situations with text-only mediums, such as on internet blogs, it is amazing that we manage any kind of meaningful dialogues as it is.

Cut down to the base intention, this blog was first and foremost only for me. In that regard, the reflection and inner dialog this blog affords me means I can already consider it a success. I am way more at peace now than I have been. I do know, however, that people read this, and it’s one of the other purposes for the blog, which was to share my experience. I am a firm believer that hate and misunderstanding is the product of ignorance and lack of perspective. Which means I can’t help but be concerned for those that I know are reading it, their feelings, and how they are taking my words. If anyone comes away from my blog with less understanding, or a bad taste in their mouth, or even more of a negative feeling towards gay men or those that have left the church, I will feel that I’ve failed in part. That may sound unfair and unrealistic, but it is what it is and I can’t keep myself from feeling that way.

One of the things I cherish about my LDS upbringing is the firm learning of some universal principles like opposition in all things. Strong reactions come from strong actions. Those that express strong feelings about the church, or their family, or their college, or anything in life all stem from strong feelings in the beginning. If you know anyone who is having strong negative reactions towards something, it is often because it was tied to something they used to have strong positive feelings about. I’ve heard from others in my position that leaving the church is very often similar to going through the stages of grief. This makes perfect sense to me.

To those brought up in the church, the idea of leaving is incredibly painful. I was taught since before I could understand all the words being used that I was part of an eternal family, that I would be with my brother, sister and parents forever. Not only do we have to deal with the notion of losing that, but with the guilt that we are creating that loss in our family members, parents especially. The thought of what my mother must feel about this situation brought me to tears many times before I made my decision. It still does if I dwell on it too long. Family is so central to the LDS faith, it’s almost impossible not to feel guilt over being the one that ruins that for the rest of your family. Depression was a part of my journey to say the least.

I’ve definitely been through Denial, years of pretending everything was fine. Bargaining happened with every prayer before my decision. I would love to say that I’ve been able to avoid Anger…wouldn’t that be nice. Obviously it hasn’t been true, and bouts of it still surface. ‘Who’s to blame?’ ‘Why me?’ ‘Why did I let this go on for so long?’ All of these questions and many, many more went through my mind just before and after, and all the days since. My public coming out on Facebook was one of my steps of Acceptance. While I still have plenty of time to go to figure things out and come to terms with everything, I’m happy that I finally feel like I’ve started to find peace and true joy in my life again.

What scares those closest to us is that they normally don’t know anything is going on until the Anger stage. The other stages are mostly internal and often quiet. Anger is usually very outward and hardly ever quiet. Human beings are still quite in their infancy in terms of the internet and social media communication. We seem to have all lost the ability to give each other the benefit of the doubt. I’m definitely guilty of that also, but I think it’s something we all need to work on. Given all the possibilities for misunderstanding communication on the internet, we should all strive not to create problems where none exist. Especially if it is a family member or a close friend involved. I’m not going to apologize for the life changes that have brought me so much more happiness and joy, I am sorry if I’ve hurt anyone on the way. I’ll just keep doing what I can towards furthering understanding, knowledge, and appreciation for how we’re different, and for what we still have in common.

Lots of love.