Thursday, February 28, 2013

50 Shades of Human

Race, my professor concluded, was something that we have created. There is no biological basis for it. But we made it, and we give meaning to it, so it influences our lives. The girl on my right agreed. “If I were to find out tomorrow that my mother was Caucasian, not Puerto Rican, it would be a huge identity shift. I don’t know if I could deal with it.”

That struck me. But that’s exactly what I had to do, I thought. That’s what all LGBT people did. For every one of us there was that moment when the lies and self-deception collapsed on itself, and we had to stare the truth in the eye. I am not what I believed I was. What’s worse, what I was had big consequences. 

I knew the truth in my classmate’s statement on loss of identity. For many of us, coming to terms with our sexuality was a complete paradigm shift. The world itself changed color. Friends had the potential to become enemies, and those we avoided or even despised became unexpected allies.

Looking from a post-Mormon context, I could also see how I lost my culture, yet couldn’t escape it either. I cannot run from what I was, because it has made me who I am. I must learn to live in both. In the past three years I have had to completely reinvent my identity, and learn how to defend it, at the cost of all I had before.

The journey for me was gradual, as it has to be, because it’s too much for a person to take all at once. The crucial moment that forever kept me from backtracking was finally experiencing what I had craved for so long. To finally feel that love, deep, potent, and completely uninhibited. That led me to reevaluate my religious and spiritual identity, and it gave me the courage to allow my world to crumble, and then rebuild it, brick by brick.

It’s not a journey for the faint of heart. But it’s one I will never regret taking. It has refined my character and led me to the life I have today. And it’s a pretty good one, if I say so myself. I’m not bound by identities like gay, straight, Mormon, or not. I’m allowing myself to settle in to who I am, to just be me. Be Nick.

The other day I was thinking about the point my professor made. If race has no biological basis, and we’ve created it, then potentially we have the ability to deconstruct it and cease using it to divide and discriminate. Maybe we’re not African, Caucasian, Asian, Latino, etc. Maybe we’re all just different shades of human. And then it struck me. Perhaps sexuality is something we have created as well. Maybe that’s why we still haven’t found the “gay gene.” Maybe we’re not gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, etc. Maybe we’re all just different shades of human.

What would it mean to deconstruct these things? I think part of the cost would certainly be what my classmate said; we would lose significant parts of our identities. But you and I are proof that this is survivable. What I think it would do, if we could push through the identity crisis, is allow us to define one another based on the content of our character. Perhaps the day will come when we can stop defining ourselves and others with categories, and just see people. It’s just me. It’s just you. And certainly you and I can find ways to get along. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Monday Bluuuuuuuuuues, I’m Gonna Getcha Good

There are two women who stole the heart of my childhood self: Leann Rimes and Shania Twain. And while the 4 year old me self-identified with Rimes’ "Blue" (or at least her ability to hold the note), it was evident to everyone that I connected most with Twain. Indeed, her cassette tape (90s child and proud of it) Come on Over was on constant repeat in my mom’s car. “Honey I’m Home” became the first song I recall enjoying in its entirety. It is no wonder that my love for all things Shania has lasted through the years. But it was only this morning that I truly understood how long Shania and I have lasted.

I will not pretend like it is easy for me when my exes move on and meet someone else. Thanks to Facebook and being an active social creature, I have been around long enough to witness every ex boyfriend, date, crush, and hookup move on to someone else. And the majority of these exes share one thing in common: they move on to something bigger and better, or at least more serious and long lasting. The trend has not been broken with a recent ex, who mentioned to me the idea of us turning serious a mere month ago. But to log on to Facebook last night and see his status as in a relationship with some other guy was upsetting, to say the least. Cue feelings of inferiority and emo-ness, and preparations for a life as an old cat lady.

When I awoke this morning, I felt no different, until I decided it would be best to blast some Shania on the way to school. Indeed, Ms. Twain (and more importantly the shuffle feature on my iPhone) blessed me with “Today is Your Day,” her most recent (and not well known) track from 2011. What burst through my earbuds was this:

You just gotta make up your mind//That today is your day

In that moment, I realized it was up to me to turn my mood around. I could allow other people and events that do not involve me to bring me down, or I could choose to make the most of the day I had been given. Soon after that decision, I realized something even bigger: just because two people are labeling themselves on Facebook as in a relationship, does not mean that it fits my schema of what I want in a relationship. It does not indicate that their bond will be as fulfilling, gratifying, or solidified as the one I aspire to have. Therefore, when I get envious of others, I cannot say I’m envious of their relationship, nor can I let it affect me and deem me fundamentally unable to ever fulfill the role of a boyfriend for someone, somewhere.

Seems like Shania is still the one I run to…

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Today was a gorgeous day in Provo. It snowed yesterday, but today it cleared up and the sky was finally blue and the mountains were a brilliant white swathed in clouds and mist. It was sunny and wonderful, especially if you have season affective disorder and are tired of being smothered by smog.

I'm currently in a nature poetry class, which basically means we're just reading a lot of nature poetry. I just got a brand-new anthology of ecopoetry, or poetry that in some way deals with nature and describes our relationship and obligation to it. I thought about this while I walked to the last hour of church today. I was stopping along the way and taking pictures of the mountains. I had good thoughts and bad thoughts. The good thoughts included:

-wow, this is a gorgeous day, and the sun just makes me feel like smiling.
-I'm really excited to read this poetry anthology.
-I heart Robert Hass.

The bad thoughts included:

-One time the bishop told me I was welcome in Relief Society as long as I didn't try to "advocate for" or "make a big deal about" being bisexual, and as long as I didn't ever bring it up in my comments.

Basically that one thought over and over and over again. For obvious reasons, since it was obviously quite hurtful. Still, being out in the sunny snow and looking at the blue sky and the mountains kind of helped crowd out the sad, hurt bit of me. This isn't always the case, and sometimes (a lot of times) it's probably okay to just sit around and puzzle over some terrible things people have said and try to figure out how to deal with them and what your relationship can be. But as we warm towards spring, I find myself thinking about how we're just small systems who are part of larger systems and that we have an important, integral, and humble place in nature. We fit. And that makes me feel better.

I didn't upload any of the pictures I took today, but there are lovely places around the world, and here are some pictures of those.

That last picture is kind of crappy, but it's of a hippo that I saw in Senegal, so you gotta deal with it.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. Mostly I just want it to be summer so I can go outside and bike around and my SADness can go away, but in the meantime, I'll try to enjoy nature where I can.

Should the Fox Come Again to My Cabin in the Snow
Patricia Fargnoli

Then, the winter will have fallen all in white
and the hill will be rising to the north,
the night also rising and leaving,
dawn light just coming in, the fire out.

Down the hill running will come that flame
among the dancing skeletons of the ash trees.
I will leave the door open for him.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

What do you trust you'll regret?

Matt here.

I hate feeling stupid. In that sense, moving to Japan was probably the worst thing I could have done two years ago. I didn't understand what it would mean to live in a thoroughly foreign culture (this despite having lived in Europe and South America, which as it turns out are not that different from the states when compared with the difference between the states and Asia), so I hopped in without thinking twice.

When, as occasionally happens, I wonder whether God is real and homosexual action is indeed sinful, I remember the awful, awful times I've had here. That time when I understood just enough Japanese to tell my co-teacher was telling a joke about Americans not bathing and then forty students laughed uproariously The many times when the group conversation was going along at a normal clip (read: too fast for me to follow) when suddenly everyone stops and looks at me expectantly and I have no idea what question was just asked. The times when I've misunderstood the school lunch system and taken someone else's food by accident, and then had to ask the explaining principal to repeat himself three times before I understood. Any time the word 'girlfriend' comes up in conversation.

The thing is, the awful times don't make me regret coming here, being here, and doing what I've done.

I have the feeling that if, at some future time, I come to believe or know that I've been treading the wrong path in regards to homosexuality and religion, I won't regret what I've been doing. I have the feeling that all these experiences shall be for my good even if, in the future, I come to see them as awful sin. I'm willing to trust that the discomfort that might come from action now will be, all things considered, worth it.

What's interesting is that this same mode of thinking works for people who stick with the church. They're willing to trust that the discomfort they feel now will be worth it.

We're all acting on trust; it's just that we have trust in different things.


I am in an unpleasant mood this afternoon because tonight I'm going to my last kendo practice in Japan, and I am not very good, and all those smiling, sword-swinging people speak full Japanese vocabularies too fast for me to understand more than one word in five, and I will feel stupid. Still, I'll go. I trust I'd regret it later, not going.


I saw this video on TR's blog and immediately wanted to share it with everyone everywhere.

Friday, February 22, 2013

I Got My Wish

Lately all I've wanted to do was cry. Just have a cathartic bawl fest... Well I got my wish and I don't like it. I didn't like the uncontrollable sobs and the choking and the trying to curl up just to keep myself from falling apart. But I don't really want to talk about it so here is Pork Chop.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

God's Grace and Bus Rides

One of my personal struggles as I go through my social work program has been how insensitive those of the conservative right can be, how unwilling they seem to be to look upon the pitied and the despised to search for the humanity in them, and to take compassion on them.

I’m sure part of this stems from the way my own family has struggled to see the humanity in my situation as I have come out. To this day I have not told my story of coming out to myself and my spiritual reconciliation to my parents. They believe that my spiritual reconciliation over being gay was deception from the adversary. Clearly, they’re not ready to hear my story.

What has irked me even more is the claim the conservative right makes to Christianity, when I feel that many beliefs and practices of conservatives directly contradict the teachings of Christ. How can they so blatantly look upon the poor and the needy, the struggling and the outcast, and feel justified by their faith to pass them by? Why can’t they see that those who struggle are just like them? “There, but for the grace of God, go I!” When we can honestly see others that way, then we can act with compassion and see the true humanity in others.

At least, that’s what I thought. Until I met a man on the bus yesterday.

I hopped on the bus in the morning determined to hit the gym and break this streak of not working out that I had slipped into. The day had begun well enough, and I was determined to be productive. The bus was packed, but I wormed my way into a spot near the front where I could stand without hitting anyone with my backpack.

Sitting in front of me was an older man with a cane and a set of laminated cards in his hand. He was babbling incoherently to a man dressed in nurse’s scrubs on his left, and my first thought was that he had a mental disability. When I looked at the cards in his hand, the ones he was pointing to as he grunted to the nurse, I suddenly understood. The top card read:

            I am deaf and blind. Please assist me by taking this card and returning it to me when we reach the location indicated below.

Bus Route: Metro 48
Destination: UW Hospital

I could suddenly hear the worry in the sounds he was making. He wasn’t sure that he was on the right bus, or when he should get off. The nurse was trying to tell him that he was going to the hospital as well, and that he would let him know when they arrived. The older man didn’t seem satisfied, but he stopped trying to communicate with him.

He must not have been completely blind, because he turned his face to me, and began motioning to me and trying to get me to understand through his gibberish. I nodded, and told him, “He’s going there too. We’ll let you know when we’re there.” As I spoke I pointed to the old man, then to the card, then to the nurse and the card. Finally, I pointed back and forth several times to the old man and the nurse, then to the card. The older man’s face changed, and he understood. I could tell by his posture that he was still slightly concerned, but he knew that we understood him and that we would help.

We arrived at the stop, and the three of us got off the bus. I watched him and the nurse walk away, and I turned the other way toward the gym.

This man had struck me. I had never met someone who was both blind and deaf. One of my first impressions had been that this was the sort of man that Christ would have approached, to touch his fingers to his eyes and ears and heal him. How could people seriously see a man like this, someone that would have claimed the attention of the Son of God himself, and not find some compassion for him? “There, but for the grace of God, go I!”

As this thought went through me, I suddenly felt the faultiness within it. This mindset was still incorrect. There, but for the grace of God, go I? I realized that this very phrase still carried the idea that one was privileged, and the other oppressed. One had been granted the grace of God, while another had not. This was a phrase of pity, and pity only exists if one views himself higher than another.

I felt like the Pharisee who when praying in the temple said, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.”

There, but for the grace of God, go I. Who’s to say that I am the one who has received the grace of God? How am I to know that this man did not think as he walked away “Thank God that I cannot see and cannot hear, because unlike the masses I am not blind or deaf to that which is truly valuable”?

Surely, had Christ approached this man he would not have pitied him. He would have had compassion. And compassion only works between equals. There, but for the grace of God, go I? No. There go I. That’s it.

Each of us is faced with the difficulty of this life. Some bear the burden of bodies that do not function. Some bear the burden of poverty. Some, the burden of wealth. Some spend their lives being abused and treated as though they were worthless. Some are cursed or abandoned because of who they love. Regardless of what our individual crosses may be each of us approaches the throne of God with the same absolute need for grace. We are all beggars before the Lord. And each of us has claim on the God who walked among men, healing with compassion, not with pity.

So this man, blind and deaf? There go I. That woman on welfare with three children to feed? There go I. That wealthy man, conservative to the core? There go I. My family, unable or unwilling to see my struggles and to accept all of me for who I am? There go I.

It is not for me to decide who has been granted the grace of God, only to see those around me as fellow bus travelers, each trying the best we can to make it to the end of the route. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Worst Valentine's Day Ever

Valentine's Day. All about couples, cuteness and shit. And, this was the first valentine's that I actually was in a relationship. (I mean, no complicated I'm mostly with you, on your good days, and pretend I'm with you on your bad days. Yeah, current relationship=actually functioning.)

And it was crap.

Nothing to do with half-asian. Nothing at all. Just, I had a crappy morning, he had a crappy afternoon, and the combined evening didn't make anything better. And neither of us could even cuddle afterwords we hated Thursday so much. So... valentine's is officially my least favorite holiday. (And trust me, with the how much I hate Christmas music, this is saying a TON.)

So... I promised a story I think. Unfortunately for you slightly less "liberal" readers out there, the only stories from my past that I have not told have adult themes in them (or teenage themes, because I was only a teen then, but still, continue on knowing that sex might be brought up.)

After a brief scan of previous posts, I don't think I've ever mentioned my cousin! Blond, blue eyed, looks exactly like my sister fourth-cousin. The guy I was friends with and didn't know I was cousins with until my grandmother from Idaho visits us and pulls out the family history books to prove we are related. We'll call him Jamar.

Jamar is straight as they come. (Okay, cliché. Don't kill me.) He had a girlfriend that lived a couple hours away. He recently had moved to my ward in Southern California. Didn't think much of him. He hung out with an old childhood friend of his often, so... I just let him be, I guess.

But then, he went on a bike trip. And I talked with him. And thought he was funny. And cool. And not my cousin. (Seriously, what are the chances?) So, we hang out. Become friends. Play video games together. (Mortal Kombat, storyline version for whoever is interested.) And I'm better at bosses, he's better at killing the normal bad guys. We were... well... for lack of a better term... and I really hate using this word... bros.

Spent all of our time together. Literally. I was in high school, he was a year older and thus graduated, and he would wait for me to get out of school so we could hang out. Then we would go to crap. Like strip poker (with females, of course.) And paint houses. And chores. And, well, anything that exists in real life, really.

Then he starts sleeping over (I mean, we spent 24/7 minus high school time together anyways, so sleeping over wasn't that big of a deal.) Until he climbed into my sleeping bag on night. Then... our relationship (though still resembling bros by MOST standards) became more sexual. For months it remained this way. And I didn't have a shred of guilt. (Remember the girlfriend.)

A year later, my conscious catches up with me. And, after a letter to him on his mission (of which he was serving "unworthy") I got over it. I didn't get depressed. I didn't get mad at myself. I got sad, and moved on.

I don't know how I did that. Logged it away like it was nothing. However, ever so often, I see Jamar's girlfriend (they are still together) post on facebook links to her blog "Waiting for my Missionary" and I get sad. Go to dark places.

Still the most solid advice I was given was to just avoid the blog. Because that is when the guilt returns. However, like tonight, sometimes I just HAVE to see it. And get all sad.

Life continues. I kinda still see Jamar as a good friend. And maybe, if I could, I should visit him when he gets off his mission. Maybe. Sometimes I decide I won't see him. Sometimes I decide I will. But usually I'm left wondering if I will ever decide. For how long? Who knows. I've got a few months before the mission is up.

And wow, the length of this blog post got out of hand.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Soy Sauce? Meet Couture!

When animals feel threatened or fearful, they rely upon natural instincts to communicate their feelings. Some animals show their teeth. Some will attempt fighting to ward off potential danger, or they’ll escape the situation altogether. Even cats have their own system: urine marking as a way to claim territory and keep other cats at bay. So if other mammals have these instincts when it comes to feeling threatened or fearful, what are mine? Do I subscribe to the popular “fight or flight” theory? And more importantly, where do my instincts come from and say about me as a person?

These questions arose last night. After a lovely afternoon at the theater, my family and I went to a restaurant for a nice, sit-down dinner. Of course, I was dressed to impress and couldn’t be happier with my outfit. As I browsed the menu, I couldn’t help but notice the paper secreted a red liquid. Only a second later, I heard the waiter say, “Oh my god, I’m so sorry” as I realized he had spilled a whole dish of soy sauce. In my lap. All over my pristine outfit.

Initially, I was too shocked to respond. Even as he brought damp washcloths and napkins for clean up, I could not muster nearly enough sass as I wanted to. Even as the manager gave me her business card, offering to pay for any dry cleaning necessary to remedy my outfit, I accepted, apologizing for the incident, and feeling too embarrassed to pursue it any further.

But once the situation and attempts at resolution were done with, only one thought raced through my mind, pulsating as it did: “I have to let them know it’s not okay to do that to me.”

And I couldn’t shake that thought from my mind for the longest time, until my food came out and I blissfully chowed down on my meal. But even then, the question lingered.

Because as a child, I let people whisper about me, talk about me behind my back. In middle school, I let them call me a “faggot” and burst out in laughter at me. I let them publically mock me, push me, and threaten me. And what did I do? I ignored it. I took it and dealt with it internally. I let people treat me like that.

And I can’t help but notice those “natural” instincts are still in tact today as I defend myself. Maybe I’m more sassy and vocal about my feelings now, but I can’t help but think that it’s not enough. I still feel it necessary to do more so people know how to treat me and how not to treat me. But what? And why? And if I’m acting rationally?

Loving Yourself

Late night post again. I really should just write these the night before and then schedule them to be published in the morning, but how much forethought does that require? A lot. Too much for me. And so here is your 11 pm post again.

I was in a group therapy session for anxiety on Friday and at the end of our two hours we were doing relaxation exercises. We were supposed to visualize a relaxing place, and then visualize ourselves into it, but I couldn't think of anything. Every pretty place I could conjure had some memory of my family associated with it, so visualizing them was just making me more and more panicky. Obviously, the anxiety therapy wasn't working.

Then I remembered a beach where I spent a lot of time with my family when I was little, and visualized myself on the beach as a little kid. I was this small, stringy girl with hair so blonde it looked bleached. I had a perpetual smile and was covered in bruises and scrapes from running around and crashing into things and falling down, like most kids. I could be loud and extroverted with my family, but was quiet and shy at school, and felt responsible for absolutely everything (kind of like the little girl and the butterfly effect in Beasts of the Southern Wild) (and wait, I still feel that way) (even though she learned the valuable lesson that she doesn't directly cause every bad thing in the world, and is a lovely, good person even though bad things have happened to her) (end parenthesis). Back to the therapy session--we were then supposed to cover ourselves with something symbolizing peace. I thought of blue paint. I pictured adult me sitting down in the sand and covering smiley, hyper, white blonde-haired, sunburned young me with deep blue paint. And then I smiled and ran all over the beach getting drops of blue paint on everything.

I've learned that sometimes it helps to picture yourself as a little kid. As adults, we tend to blame ourselves for things. We feel okay criticizing and hating ourselves. But it's hard to hate a little kid. Or, at least, it should be. And I've found that seeing myself as a kid made me want to be less hard on myself.

Part of this is because my parents keep telling me how much I've changed. A favorite expression of theirs for a while was that I'd become a robot who had replaced their daughter. I tried to talk to my dad about this over Christmas break. I only stayed at home for three days, and when he was driving me around in a blizzard so I could run errands, I tried to tell him how uncomfortable I'd been feeling at his house, that I'd cried myself to sleep every night, that I was feeling highly suicidal, that I'd had to leave the house on Christmas night and go to my boyfriend's, where I spent several hours crying because Christmas was so miserable. I told him that I felt incredibly anxious whenever I went home, even though everyone was very nice to my face, and his response was, "Why do you feel that way? We've been so nice to you and aren't trying to make you feel uncomfortable. We want you to be comfortable at home." And I said I was grateful that they'd been nice to me and that it wasn't necessarily the things they did that made me anxious. It was more the way I am. I tried to remind him of how I'd been as a kid--I would wake him up crying because I was so scared our house was going to catch on fire and he'd have to come tell me that our house had smoke detectors, that we'd call the fire department, and that everything would be okay. In the home videos we watched on Christmas, I was the awkward older sister lingering in the background cleaning up wrapping paper from my brother's birthday party and following the baby around to make sure she was happy. I was telling him that nothing had changed in my personality-wise, and that I just wanted everyone to be comfortable and happy. He said, "Well, those were good things that you did in those home videos," implying a contrast between how I acted then and how I act now.

My parents tell me that they've seen a shift in my behavior when I started taking anti-depressants. This is probably true, as this is what should happen when you start taking anti-depressants. I became a lot more vocal about my opinions. I let myself get annoyed about the dumb things people would say in classes, and I complained about them to other people and tried to make responses in class. I became more empowered and vocal. I said more things that I wanted to say. Of course, there were some weird side effects too, and I don't remember a lot of what was going on in that weird adjustment period where I was taking these new medications. For some reason, my parents interpreted this change in my behavior as me becoming a robot. What they fail to understand is that I'm still the same little kid who was scared to talk about things and who wanted to be happy and make sure that everyone else was happy. I'm tired of being seen as someone completely disconnected from my past--sure, I've changed, but so has everyone, and some parts of us just stay the same, no matter what.

I think my parents think that I told them I was bisexual just to shock them. That's what my bishop thinks. And I can see how that looks true--it's not like I needed to tell them. I'm in a committed relationship with a man, and bisexuals are known as the invisible sexuality--we can blend in with whichever sexual orientation depending on who we're dating at the time. But I'm a confessional person ( you may have gathered from my lengthy posts) (sorry), and a huge part of me wants my parents' approval. I wanted to tell them what I knew they thought was the worst possible thing in the world to them and still be able to feel like they loved me. And I didn't feel that at all. I got cut off entirely, I got yelled at, I got told I was on a speeding train to self-destruction and that my parents were moving out of the way before I took them down to hell with me. I got told I was the Laman and Lemuel of the family (a reference you'll understand if you are or were raised Mormon) and, in that same earlier discussion, my told told me that both suicidality and bisexuality are mentalities of the world and I need to "get over them." Because I can definitely control both of them. Obviously.

I guess I'm learning what not to do to your depressed, suicidal child. I guess I'm learning that it's important to see the adults around you for the vulnerable children they once were and that some part of them will always be. I'm learning to have more compassion for people and to be less judgmental (though I very much doubt that I'm succeeding on that particular front). And I'm trying to learn to stand up for myself and do what I think is right for me, regardless of what others, even my parents, think. And that's empowering.

Sorry for the lateness and the rambling. These are just the things I've been thinking about this weekend. I hope you all have a lovely day off tomorrow! Enjoy those dead presidents, or whatever. I'm sure I've posted this poem before, but it's one of my favorites, and everyone should print it out and hang it up on their wall for all those times when you feel lonely and shitty and down.

Wild Geese
Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Act of Fantasy

Matt here. Still not ready to finish that series I started, but getting closer.

For the last several days I’ve been full of fantasy. In the morning before work, still damp from the shower and half dressed, I’d lay on my bed and think about how life might be in two months, when I’ll be back in the US. In the breaks between classes I swept my fantasy across the backs of worksheets with a particular pen whose weight is perfect. Pages and pages of hopes and dreams looped out and hanging there, dependent on other people’s reactions to my several stateside applications.

Back in my dark days at BYU I tried to imagine a life in which I was straight/married/happy/unconflicted, and I couldn’t do it, couldn’t get my brain to make those leaps from where I was. Too far. Too bogged down. Too dark out there, too unknown.

When did the future stop being something to dread and tremble at?

Answer: January 2009. That month, with the help of my counselor, I got up the courage to take responsibility for my life and trust myself. That was the first step.

That month, I stopped going to church. I rejected the church’s claims to my body and my life. That was the second step.

Sometimes I wonder if it could have gone another way, if I could have taken a different second step. Several friends have. I wonder if I could have trusted the feeling I once confided to a friend that “everything just seems to go better when I’m reading the scriptures every day,” or the heady, burning feeling all through me when I performed my first and only live baptism. Sometimes I wonder if I would be happier in the church.

I think, though, the answer is no: I couldn’t have taken a different second step. It was distance from the church or standing still for me, because the church offered nothing for the pain. There was a lot of pain, then. Most BYU days I don’t remember individually, just as a feverish black cloud like last February when I had the flu. Stepping away from the church was my antibiotic. Stepping away from the church, I could slowly stop hurting and imagine turning twenty-one.

Now the pain is mostly gone. (Oh-my-god-the-pain-is-mostly-gone!) I can imagine turning twenty-five.

I’ll live on the west coast, said the loops on worksheets between classes. I’ll have a small, vibrant houseplant and a job I don’t hate. I’ll have my people, and more people. Books. I’ll keep learning stuff, whether languages or how to build stuff or how to make a relationship work for more than a few months.

It may not turn out anything like I imagine (the last four years sure haven’t), but because I was gay and Mormon and in a very dark place, I don’t take the act of fantasy for granted.

If you haven't read this essay by Adrienne Rich, you might want to do that.
If you have been or still are at BYU, you might want to look here.
If you haven't realized Eminem's just stopped trying, you might want to listen to "Lighters."

Friday, February 15, 2013

I’ve Lost My ME-Ness

Today I’m going to let you guys into my writing brain. Usually throughout the week I keep notes of what I want to talk about and then something happens on Thursday night and I throw away all the thoughts. So while I would like to keep to the original script I had planned for this post, I also need to recognize some things that happened this evening.

I came up with this idea where all the great ideas are born: the shower. I was blasting my music per usual and the song Girl On Fire came on. Now for those of you who haven’t listened to Girl On Fire… scroll down. If you need a refresher it’s simple: she’s passionate yet alone. As I was belting out the chorus and pretending to be a rockstar I thought Yea! this is so me! Then a tiny dull roar yelled That WAS you. Was? WAS? As in, not anymore? I’m passionate. I’m hot. 

But the voice was right. I’d lost my ME-ness. Now before I continue on you should realize something about me. I’ve realized that I’ve lost my ME-ness a lot. This is not an uncommon experience. I also realize that I’m better off alone a lot. However this time I didn’t really want to realize that I’m better off alone. I know that I am. And I should be grateful. Because I could be in a crappy relationship or married like some of the goons around here but I’m single (and have always been) and almost 21 and if we’re being completely honest, that’s not, nor was it ever, my choice. Now you’re probably wondering why I’ve tangented into being alone. It’s because originally this post was going to be about myself and being alone and being awesome and being happy about it. But if I was happy about it I wouldn’t continually try to change that status and then it would be lying so let’s just focus on the good: ME… I’ve lost my ME-ness and have realized that I must go out rediscover it.

This was my original post:

I just feel like I've lost myself.  I used to be crazy and passionate and now my free time is spent bonding with my bed.
I miss the girl who laid, danced, jumped down the middle of the road.
The girl who skipped class to go nude sunbathing at the lake.
The girl who would go to the club by herself to dance with eyes closed and just completely lose herself.
The girl who drove home with the windows down in the rain.
The girl who rode the train into Portland just to forget about her small town life.
The girl who would walk on the wall above the mill pond.
The girl who drove fast and sang loud and for God sakes gave zero FUCKS!
What the hell happened to me? Yea I get that college can tire you out but these are my glory years and I'm spending them being sniveling and pathetic.  I want to dream big. I want to desire to see the world and to just leave this place and to love and to explore. God I just want my curiosity back. I want my excitement back! Even as I write this post I feel an insatiable madness to be wildly passionate and crazy about something. I'm tired of mediocrity; I'm tired of routine. 
I want to scream
I want to cry
I want to get angry
I want to dance in the rain 
I want to kiss in the rain
Maybe I just want this snow to end so that it can rain!
I want to sing in front of people, LOUDLY!!
I want walk down campus and not take my headphones off once. 
I want listen to the doors on campus unlock at five in the morning. 
I want to not constantly worry about my next assignment or what I'm going to do after graduation.

I still want most of those things… I just don’t want to be so selfish about it...

This evening was the grand opening of my place of employment. My favorite band was coming and two of my favorite guys were there as well. I got off my shift early and just in time for the third (and best) act to start. Now one of these boys (ya’ll know him as Lee) is kind of affectionate with me. Which is nice; he’s my GBF. But for the most part I make people believe that I hate to be touched. I shove them out of my bubbles, scoot away from them on the bus, generally make my hugs the most awkward things possible so I don’t have to hug them again. Why? Because I really Really REALLY love to be touched. No that wasn’t a typo. I love to be touched. I love to feel someone next to me. I love it when people are affectionate with me; when they play with my hair or scratch my back or lean on my shoulder. But I’m not really used to it because it just wasn’t something we did in my family. Now I’m trying to figure out how to let people close to me without having a nervous breakdown; constantly wondering if I’m actually allowed to be near them. And that’s what I love about Lee and R. I can just cuddle with them and it’s great. Yay for gay men and straight women.

In summation: what I’ve concluded this week is that yes I want to get back to a more passionate me but no I don’t want to do that by myself. And also I’m on a lot of drugs right now, like 6 doses of DayQuil, so if none of this made sense, pay no attention to it.

Much love and peace,

Girl On Fire

Hotter than a fantasy, lonely like a highway 
Filled with catastrophe, but she knows she can fly away 

Everybody stares, as she goes by 
'Cause they can see the flame that's in her eyes 
Watch her when she's lighting up the night 
Nobody knows that she's a lonely girl 
And it's a lonely world 
But she gonna let it burn

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Divine Chaos

“Hi, I’m Nick. I grew up Mormon. A few years ago, though, I had a crisis of faith, and now I just identify as Christian. That crisis came mostly because I am gay and couldn’t deny it anymore.”

Twenty-someodd pairs of eyes looked back at me, standing at the front of the classroom at the University of Washington. I waited, but there was no change in their expression. They seemed to say “okay, so what?” It was in that moment that it suddenly all hit me. This existential crisis I had been through, the excruciating process of accepting myself and reconciling my spirituality, it wasn’t a big deal. It certainly wasn’t going to change these people’s perception of me.

That moment standing before my new classmates was the birth of a paradigm shift. Suddenly, being out of sync with Mormonism wasn’t good or bad, it just was. Being gay wasn’t good or bad, it just was. These major issues that I had been wrestling with had become my identity, and now they really didn’t matter. For the first time in my life I realized that there was nothing left to be, no identity to claim, other than the very first line I had spoken to my class: “Hi, I’m Nick.”

I had never had so much freedom to determine what that meant. Sure, maybe the freedom was always there, but now there were no strings, no social expectations pulling me down. I was a blank slate and could be anything I wanted. But as I looked at the expanse of possibility I felt a bit lost, and I had to accept a bitter truth: I didn’t know who I was, or even what I wanted.

There was a period of time that felt pretty much like I was floating in limbo (to some degree I’m still there). But all this open space has allowed me to dream, to listen to my heart as I figure out what passions excite me and give me purpose and meaning.

As I fell into limbo the work of author Paolo Coelho became a guiding star. The theme underlying all his books is that there is something each of us is meant to do, our Personal Legend. When we find that legend, that passion, we will feel ourselves fall into sync with the rest of universe and we will truly come alive. Life cannot be completely fulfilling unless we have found that passion, that personal legend.

The last five years have taught me the tough lesson that in order for grand creation to take place, and especially for that personal legend to emerge, there has to be destruction of anything standing in its way. It was this way with my sexuality. It was this way with my faith. And now with my identity and my dreams it has happened again. Creation requires divine chaos. Though I haven’t yet mastered it, I can sense that there is a certain power in being able to react to that chaos like a sculptor to a mass of clay, rather than desperately trying to stop the inevitable. We don’t need to fear change. Change isn’t tragedy, it is opportunity.

I leave you with a line from Coelho’s masterpiece The Alchemist that has framed much of my journey through fear, destruction, chaos, and creation:

"Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.  And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”

Monday, February 11, 2013

My Funny [Problem With] Valentine

To be honest, I’m not too fond of Valentine’s Day. It’s not even because I get to watch privileged couples flaunt their love and relationship in front of my face. No, it’s because I really do not see the point in going all out to show your love for someone on one specific day of the year. Annually, I wonder why more people can’t treat everyday like it’s February 14th. Who’s to say that on some ordinary day, a day with no holiday or celebratory significance, I can’t do something special for the person or people I love just because I love them? Add in the capitalist element of cards, flowers, chocolates, expensive dinners, and Valentine’s Day just seems like a financial expenditure. And didn’t J.Lo sing about how love doesn’t cost a thing?

For the single population, Valentine’s Day is another reminder that we must find a romantic partner so that our cats, ice cream, and television aren’t the only things keeping us company at night. The abundance of speed-dating events and other activities on this holiday seek to eliminate the single population. But to be real, I would rather curl up with a warm blanket, dessert, and an intellectually stimulating documentary than meet a crop of failure guys who cannot stimulate me in any sense.

However, there are 2 perks of Valentine’s Day:

1    1). Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in the shape of hearts. Yes, these are exponentially better than the eggs at Easter time, trees at Christmas, or the pumpkins at Halloween. If love had a taste, it would be these.

2    2). Plans with my best friend. This is the third year in a row that we've done this. The tradition started when she broke up with her boyfriend 2 years ago, just a few days before Valentine’s Day. I suggested we go to a fancy dinner together for February 14th, and the tradition has since stuck.

For those of you out there feeling alone this week, I want to say sorry. Sorry that life can be unfair sometimes. Sorry that you have to go throughout Thursday thinking about whoever broke your heart, or whoever is no longer present in your life, or when you’ll have people in your life who you care about and cherish. If you’re lonely or bitter, keep your chin up. I discovered this video a few years ago. It articulates everything I wish I could, and so eloquently too.

Tanya Davis' "How to Be Alone"

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sunday Night

The dog is whining at the door. My brother is letting in a variety of ward members here to hear his customary (for our ward) post-mission fireside for the youth; he just got back from his mission a month ago. I can hear my former leaders talking in the entryway. These are the people who taught me in young women's, in Sunday school, in all the basic tenets of the Mormon church.

Now, my mom enjoyed telling me over the summer, they judge me. The ones who were facebook friends with me would comment to her on my liberal leanings and my lgbtq rights lobby. One of my former leaders, the woman whose children I babysat for years and years, came to my mom with tears in her eyes (says my mom) because I had sworn on facebook. "What on earth happened to Kylie? She used to be such a wonderful girl!" Not any more, apparently.

These are some of the people about to come into my house and hear my brother give a talk telling the youth of the ward how to be a good missionary. There's him at the front of the room, pounding the invisible pulpit, and there's me hunched over on the couch, anxious and worried about being judged by the people my mom says judge me.

Frankly, it's not that big of a deal. I'm anxious about it, but I don't actually care what they think of me. I don't care how many of them know I write on this blog. I'm comparatively comfortable with who I am right now. But the one thing that gets me is that I know they all wanted me to fit into a normal Mormon life--make good Mormon choices, marry a good Mormon boy a few years into college, settle down into my good Mormon life. A Mormon life as defined by my parents--obviously not all Mormons live this way. But for my parents and my ward, there's a perfect way to live, and I'm not living it. And I'm trying to make some huge life choices right now--a year into grad school, wanting to decide what to write a thesis on, if I want a PhD, so on and so forth--and none of the people I looked up at as role models when I was growing up no longer believe that I have the capacity to make "good life choices." All of my life choices are bad, from their perspective, which my mom and dad had no problem telling me over the summer, and now I don't know how to regain the confidence I need to move forward with my life.

Anyway, they're all here now, gathered around me, so I have to close this and listen to the devotional. Here's the poem of the week, in closing, and if you're living in Utah, be safe in the cold and the snow this next week!

Mary Ruefle

Every time it starts to snow, I would like to have 
sex. No matter if it is snowing lightly and unseri-
ously, or snowing very seriously, well on into the 
night, I would like to stop whatever manifestation 
of life I am engaged in and have sex, with the same 
person, who also sees the snow and heeds it, who 
might have to leave an office or meeting, or some ar-
duous physical task, or, conceivably, leave off having 
sex with another person, and go in the snow to me, 
who is already, in the snow, beginning to have sex in 
my snow-mind. Someone for whom, like me, this is 
an ultimatum, the snow sign, an ultimatum of joy, 
though as an ultimatum beyond joy as well as sor-
row. I would like to be in the classroom — for I am 
a teacher — and closing my book stand up, saying 
“It is snowing and I must go have sex, good-bye,” 
and walk out of the room. And starting my car, in 
the beginning stages of snow, know that he is start-
ing his car, with the flakes falling on its windshield, 
or, if he is at home, he is looking at the snow and 
knowing I will arrive, snowy, in ten or twenty or 
thirty minutes, and, if the snow has stopped off, we, 
as humans, can make a decision, but not while it is 
still snowing, and even half-snow would be some
thing to be obeyed. I often wonder where the birds 
go in a snowstorm, for they disappear completely. 
I always think of them deep inside the bushes, and 
further along inside the trees and deep inside of the 
forests, on branches where no snow can reach, deep-
ly recessed for the time of the snow, not oblivious
to it, but intensely accepting their incapacity, and 
so enduring the snow in brave little inborn ways, 
with their feathered heads bowed down for warmth. 
Wings, the mark of a bird, are quite useless in snow. 
When I am inside having sex while it snows I want 
to be thinking about the birds too, and I want my 
love to love thinking about the birds as much as I 
do, for it is snowing and we are having sex under 
or on top of the blankets and the birds cannot be 
that far away, deep in the stillness and silence of the 
snow, their breasts still have color, their hearts are 
beating, they breathe in and out while it snows all 
around them, though thinking about the birds is not 
as fascinating as watching it snow on a cemetery, on 
graves and tombstones and the vaults of the dead, 
I love watching it snow on graves, how cold the 
snow is, even colder the stones, and the ground is 
the coldest of all, and the bones of the dead are in 
the ground, but the dead are not cold, snow or no 
snow, it means very little to them, nothing, it means 
nothing to them, but for us, watching it snow on the 
dead, watching the graveyard get covered in snow, it 
is very cold, the snow on top of the graves over the 
bones, it seems especially cold, and at the same time 
especially peaceful, it is like snow falling gently on 
sleepers, even if it falls in a hurry it seems gentle, 
because the sleepers are gentle, they are not anxious, 
they are sleeping through the snow and they will 
be sleeping beyond the snow, and although I will 
be having sex while it snows I want to remember 
the quiet, cold, gentle sleepers who cannot think of 
themselves as birds nestled in feathers, but who are 
themselves, in part, part of the snow, which is falling
with such steadfast devotion to the ground all the 
anxiety in the world seems gone, the world seems 
deep in a bed as I am deep in a bed, lost in the arms 
of my lover, yes, when it snows like this I feel the 
whole world has joined me in isolation and silence.