Monday, September 30, 2013

And in the End, You Begin Again

(I’ve had this saved in my computer for over a month. The time has come, though, to finally publish it).

A little over a year ago, a scared young man experienced the straw that broke the camel’s back. Feeling lost, alone, and struggling to find what he was looking for in romantic partners and his newly acquired queer community, he hopelessly began his quest for resolution with a Google search: “gay mormon.” This simple phrase returned a plethora of results, including the blog for a figure prominent within the gay Mormon movement. After exchanging a few emails, the young man became connected to numerous Facebook groups and individuals all gathered for the same purpose: to support each other under the common alias of “gay and Mormon.”

One year later, I’m wondering where the support went.

Initially, that curiosity wasn’t present. I took part in some wonderful discussions and critical dialogue. I witnessed some incredible stories and saw individuals triumph and achieve huge successes. I even attended a conference to explore these ideas and discussions even further, and connected with an amazing group of people that I still keep in touch with to this day.

But the winds have swiftly changed. No longer is my voice given merit in these spaces. In fact, it’s often silenced by allies claiming to know what’s best for me. Often times, this is done by speaking over those of us who do identify this way and attempt to speak out. My desire to address issues on a systemic, Church policy level has been ignored by individuals seeking to assimilate into those Mormons who have oppressed them and others like them. Instead of recognizing our differences and variation in experiences as LGBTQ Mormons, we are now prescribed the way to enact both aspects of our shared identity. The stories of individuals in mixed orientation marriages are deployed by many in the Church as the way to be LGBTQ and Mormon. Sadly, this is not the only prescription LGBTQ Mormons are given. Many other similarly harmful prescriptions are in circulation, ones issued even by allies and our own movements.

And the more I speak out, the more I struggle finding resonance.

When the straw broke the camel’s back this time, I asked myself to reflect upon why I’m involved in these spaces and movements, and if that’s being fulfilled. I was searching for people like me that I could relate to. And on the surface, I found that. Beneath it, I only found out how different I am.

But while my pursuit requires me to step back these spaces, I will still very much be there. My background in feminist studies and activist work within the queer community only enriches my understanding of societal issues at play within Mormon spaces. I, along with other Mormon feminists, as well as other religious feminists and non-religious ones, will be there to address these issues and work at dismantling them in an institution which thrives on their presence. 

I’ve had a wonderful time writing for “Breaking the Silence;” I’ve grown so much since I first started writing. I’ve learned that to critique something does not mean to get rid of it or disavow of it completely, but to take a critical and honest look at something. In the words of Debbie Ford: “If we deny our ugliness, we lessen our beauty.” And I’ve learned that I make the rules for myself, that I should never feel like I must abide by stereotypes and rules set forth for me, even in queer spaces. This blog was one of the first I ran into in my quest for gay Mormons, and I look forward to returning to my spectator role and keeping up with the brilliant posts these authors continue to come up with. Because I feel like I have shifted from a gay Mormon to a queer…secular.  But for now, perhaps another young individual could utilize this space to grow and develop some. I know I did. And my silence has been broken. More accurately put, it can’t be contained.

“Did you find what you were looking for?”
 “No... no. But I found something I thought I'd lost: Faith to keep looking.”
                                                                        - The X Files “The End Game”

Saturday, September 28, 2013

This Utter Rightness Burning Up In Me

Matt here.

Some of you are friends with me on Facebook, and you know that I've been extremely happy this past while. Every day—not right away because I'm bad at waking up, but within a few hours—I get this joyful bubbling in my chest and I can't help but smile. I'm not in love. I'm not rolling in dough. I'm just . . . happy.

My Facebookies also know that I recently finished reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged; I don't know if anyone has made the connection between these things.

The book wasn't easy, and it wasn't pretty, and it wasn't soothing. It took me two months to finish, and let me tell you, I am a talented reader. War and Peace took less time and was significantly more pleasurable. Nevertheless, I found Atlas Shrugged to be challenging and insightful, and I appreciate those qualities at least as much as gorgeous prose and engaging story. I'm still mulling over bits of philosophy and chunks of words, and I keep finding things that are true. I've been applying them to my life, and I think that that has a lot to do with my gradually rising and now stable-ish high spirits.

If your sum knowledge of Ayn Rand has come from Republican quotes or Comedy Central, you might think I'm being silly. I don't think I am, though. Huge swaths of the things she articulates (if not the accompanying story) seem like things people already get behind, and others are things that maybe they would get behind, if they ever spent any time thinking about it. The big thrusts of the novel were, briefly, that actions and results are irrevocably linked; that you are the only one responsible for yourself; and that another way of saying "good versus evil" is "thinking versus not thinking."

Before reading the novel, I had a certain sense of all these things, as I think most people do, but it was rather weak. Her arguments and declarations challenged me to really engage with the concepts and apply them in my life, and the results are already showing. For example, earlier today I played a piano piece I've been working on for some time better than I've ever played it before—nearly perfect. This is because (since reading Rand) I've sat down most every day to practice my way through a book of exercises for the first time since I was nine. Actions and results are linked.

For example, I began logging my overtime. I do quite a few things for my employer outside of work hours because they're very small and on a restricted budget and because I want them to succeed. At the end of the year I plan to argue for a raise and a promotion, and I want to be able to give an account of my own worth and what I've done to help us thrive. I'm the only one responsible for myself.

For example, I turned down a drag show outing with my roommates. Once upon a time I would go with anyone's plans, no matter what else I was doing. But this time, I thought about it: I hate being out late, I don't like bars, and I wasn't in the mood for a drag show; I wanted to keep practicing the piano, and then I wanted to go to bed. They went, and I stayed home and was happy. Thought is good; unthinking isn't.

These are true principles. These are having the sort of "by their fruits ye shall know them" effect that I always expected of living by the church's standards. I'm not discounting a possible divine calculus that I don't understand, but I can tell you this: I have kept neither the Word of Wisdom nor the Law of Chastity; I don't recognize the church as an authority in my life; and I am happier than I've ever been.

Not perpetually. Today, for example, I have been achy and cranky because it's been a busy week and the landlord woke me up with construction noise and Spanish radio and the movies I rented were nearly late and the houseguests who were here used all my shampoo and toilet paper and I haven't exercised since Tuesday. There are down days, because life is still life and while we're the only ones responsible for ourselves, we still often have to deal with the consequences of others' actions in addition to our own. (While reading Atlas Shrugged I was reminded of Ana Karenina, of Cosette, of the Joad family, of the women from Paradise, of everything Tillie Olsen ever wrote.) Yet, I believe that on the whole reality is as just as E=mc2; 2+2=4; A is A.

If you aren't happy, look at your actions; look at your attitude; look at your thought. It appears that for myself, at least, there were answers there. (Though whether they'll be lasting answers, I can't say. Check with me tomorrow. And tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow . . . ) Perhaps for you as well.


This feels like an appropriate place to tell you that I'll be finished writing for BtS in two weeks. It will have been one year.

If you have anything you would like me to write about over those two weeks, I would appreciate suggestions. If you have any burning questions, feel free to ask them in a comment or email or what have you.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a date.

Monday, September 23, 2013

When She Found My [Unused] Condom

It could have been the death of me.

It could have forced out the facts about my sex life I've kept secret.

It could have called into question larger issues with me.

It could have strained our relationship.

Instead, I laughed about it.

What else could I do?

By now, the condom should not surprise anyone.

Because she already knows about me. 

But for very many, the condom is the death of them.

My privilege made it not be.

But different lives and identities means different situations for everybody.

Damn, though, I've come far. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013


Matt here.

Two or three hours after my post last week, the missionaries knocked on my door. They were new and looking for my roommate, who wasn't home. I thought that when I told them that they would leave, but the senior companion has been out for quite a while and he asked if they could come in and share a message with me. I said yes.

They came in, they sat down, and they wanted to start with a hymn. I chose "Lead Kindly Light," which has (ironically) been my favorite for some years now. We chatted a little, and I felt a bond with the younger one, a writer. At the end, I asked them to read something from the Beatitudes for their spiritual thought. For some reason he only read the first two, which was a shame. I think they're beautifully written, and I love hearing beautiful words read.

It turned out that last week's post was the inoculation I needed, because my belief and my confidence didn't shiver.

It did remind me of the pretty and pleasant parts of Mormonism, though, and I went to the church the next day. It was stake conference and everyone was gone, but I had beautiful walk in the hills and then I sat in a coffee shop and read for a few hours, so I was happy.


I finally finished reading Atlas Shrugged. It was an ugly but powerful book.

"Francisco, what's the most depraved type of human being?"

"The man without a purpose."

Monday, September 16, 2013

...But Words Will Always Rate Me

This is something that has long since bothered me. And I need to get it off my chest.

Beauty can come in all shapes and sizes. While I’ve always been able to accept this for everyone else, it’s taken me some time personally to accept this fact for myself. When I express these thoughts, I’m always met with disbelief and positive affirmation: “You are handsome.”

And handsome has stuck. Many mothers have remarked handsome I am. Friends have told me how handsome I look. Guys tell me how handsome I am in my pictures.

The part that bothers me, however, is that handsome is never used to describe the underwear model in magazines. He gets hot, sexy. The movie star will be called beautiful, a gorgeous if his fan is especially adorning. Rarely, however, do these men get a handsome.

The issue I have is not a personal one; it’s not about the fact that I’m being called handsome, or being called it instead of other words. The issue is this: in our words and our adjectives, we have begun to rank beauty and put different forms of it above another. Someone that’s handsome is never sexy, and someone that’s hot is never handsome. While beauty comes in different shapes and sizes, why do our words have to make some forms of beauty better than others? If all people are beautiful, why do we distinguish between them so that some are less than others? Why is beauty put on a hierarchy?

I might be overanalyzing, or I might not be. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

All the Promise

Matt here.

My roommate who used to be Mormon and our Mormon friend and I were hanging out a while back after having dinner. Maybe it's just me, but I feel a weird dynamic in that threesome. There's a hunger in the air from the gay ones to be part of that world again, and a whistfulness from the straight one that I at least interpret as a longing to get out of it. The conversation always drifts to Mormonism, our old ward and who's dating who and who might be moving to Utah to chase that person they've been not-dating for years and callings and age limits and I miss it.

I miss parts of it. I miss having a cohort. I miss having a Plan. I don't miss feeling utterly separate from my cohort or finding my love at odds with the Plan. 

Honestly, I'm sitting in front of a trendy cafe in Berkeley, sipping too-sweet cocoa and watching a farmer's market get set up, and I feel like if there were a syringe of Mormonism in front of me, I'd shoot up. If it were Sunday, I'd be on my way to the chapel, t-shirt notwithstanding. If I were sitting across from a bishop, I'd ask for help. I want the plan and the cohort pretty bad right now. My life is good, but it's misted with uncertainty. The Navy has somehow still not given me a decision about my officer application and may continue not giving me a decision into the new year. My roommates are planning to move in the unknown but nearish future. My new job starts in a couple days, and though I think I'll like it it's hard to tell beforehand. And then there's dating!

It all comes together to make me crave stability, certainty--a cohort, a Plan. I don't know that I've ever found that outside of Mormonism. Certainly not to the extent of eternity in both directions.

I'm glad it isn't Sunday. All the promises of Mormonism notwithstanding, the endless childhood repetitions of their story notwithstanding, goodwill and friendliness of the members notwithstanding, it's all spoiled by my disbelief ( / its falsehood, if you want to see it that way.) I don't believe, so the cohort can't be mine even if they want to. I don't believe, so the Plan is just a bad fit. 


Postscript: I felt ill and depressed all that day and the next. I chatted with my sister, and after she'd heard all the evidence she chalked it up to recent love life angst--efforts were thwarted a couple different times by a couple different people.

It's interesting that the first thing I thought of to try and fill the "significant other" gap was Mormonism. Makes sense; they're pretty well interwoven. I'm glad I didn't try to make myself feel better by going to church, though. Mormonism isn't what I really wanted, though there's a lot of overlap and similarity.

Mormonism is like a McGriddle. Sometimes I think it's exactly what I need, but every time I partake I feel sick after. The trouble has always been knowing what I'm actually craving and how to satisfy it.


I forgot about this guy. I like him.


Happy Affirmation conference! Maybe next time I'll show up just to rub elbows with all y'all.

Monday, September 9, 2013

What Do You Say?

My eyes could not keep up the charade anymore. After a busy morning of chores and errands, I made my way to my bed. I had only just laid down, eyes closed tight, and drifted off to sleep when I awoken by THUD THUD.

I did not answer the door, but I knew who it was. I heard my mom’s sleepy voice, awoken too by the raucous, and heard her step outside as someone else came in and headed for the bathroom, closing the door behind them. It’s the missionaries, I thought. As a child of a single mother, I knew the rule: no missionaries could be alone with a woman in the same house. But it must have been leaked that I was home, because the next thing I knew, they were in my living room talking with my mother.

In my sleepy consciousness, I thought about going out there. I’m sure Jesus would have, even if he was wrapped up in his Spongebob blanket. But then I thought about what I would say:

Hi, I’m a fourth year sociology major and feminist studies minor, and I work on a commission to provide funding to queer organizations and events, as well as our coalitional allies on campus. I also write for a blog chronicling the lives of members who also identify somewhere in the queer spectrum, and the struggles that come with being persecuted and discriminated against for our sexuality.

I pictured the looks on their faces if I was to tell them that, and I wrapped up tighter in my blanket and closed my eyes. Because I knew it wouldn’t be worth the resulting disagreement and dialogue about how I need to see the light.

To make sure I wasn’t wrongly being a jerk, I googled “lds church view sexual abuse” and read all sorts of stories about members being sexually abused and the resulting cover-up Church leaders executed in order to preserve a pristine public image. Many of these individuals were urged not to share their stories so that their perpetrators who were high ranked and held positions of power within the Church could continue to do so. I thought, “those poor individuals whose experiences are not being acknowledged so that an institution that runs on patriarchy and the thriving of males can live on.”

And then I wondered what happened to those perpetrators, and if they would have been outcast and expelled like many queer identified Mormons are, or if they go through an extensive repentance process that will get them at least somewhat near where they used to be.

I don’t think I’m ready for a missionary discussion anytime soon. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013


Matt here.

I went back to Sacramento over the weekend to visit my family, and I had a great time. If I were to give colors to the things that happened, they were mostly yellow and blue and white, with one purple exception.

My parents and I were having a little picnic, and it was gorgeous. I was telling them about life and my recent dates and then we got to talking about my younger brother. When my dad got up to throw some stuff away, Mom talked about a conversation she'd had with the little one. (The little one is 20, but I'll persist in calling him the little one until . . . well, probably always.) The little one seems to be spinning his wheels and not being too concerned about it, or anything. A while back Mom had a sitdown with him and said that she felt his life wouldn't turn around until he started getting back into the church for himself instead of going as a condition of living at home.

Predictably, he brought up the "But Matthew" defense: Matthew doesn't have anything to do with the church anymore and look at him! He's doing great.

Mom's counterattack surprised me. She pointed out that although I'm a-Mormon now, I was quite into the church until I was, I dunno, eighteen or so. She said she'd never seen someone with such a strong testimony, and if I weren't into dudes, I'd still have that testimony now.

When she told me this, I responded with a "hm," and moved the conversation along. (Because how awkward, right?) It made me think of my youth in the church, though, like I haven't in a long time.

Coming from a wholly Mormon family and being homeschooled through junior high and high school, I didn't know anything but Mormonism. By nature and nurture I was quiet, thoughtful, good natured, and--above all--earnest. In fact, while I don't know if I had "a testimony," when I was a younger man I was full to bursting with faith and trust and self loathing. I can see how that might come across as a testimony if you call the last bit "humility." Being as well in touch with the loathing as I was, my first instinct was to judge my mom and to be hurt that she misunderstood my childhood so thoroughly.

My second thought was, what if she's right? What if the loathing is just my current interpretation of what actually was humility or . . . something. Or what if the loathing was incidental to the earnest faith and trust, which are the actual components of testimony? I guess you could see it that way and not be horribly mistaken and out of touch. In that sense, sure, I had a phenomenal testimony.

What I worry about with that interpretation (or whatever variant of it that my mom has) is that it could easily be twisted into a way to discredit me, my thinking, and the person I am now. It could be quite the tool for patronizing: "Well, you _would_ think that (you're into dudes!) but that's okay, it's not your fault, you knew what was right before your struggle corrupted you. Run along now and let the straight people talk."

I don't know if this is a widely held attitude or not, but it frightens me. I feel strong and confident most of the time, but then things like this happen and I realize that there really are a lot of ways to see the world, and not all of them play nice.