Sunday, March 31, 2013


Since it's Easter today, I guess a post on religion would be pertinent. However, since it's late and I'm tired and grouchy, I think I'll put Jimmy Carter's decision to leave his religion because of its gender inequality here for your consideration. It's pretty interesting and makes some good points, including the following:

"This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries.
The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions - all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views."

Aw. Thanks, Jimmy.

Also, here's a nice article about the first Thai woman to be ordained as a Buddhist monk. She heads a female temple in Thailand--built buy women, for women. I want to go to there. She says, "Religion is never complete without the participation of women." What a great lady!

As you can tell, I have a fairly strong investment in religion, and am trying to figure out a way to reconcile that with how it's traditionally been very problematic and detrimental to women in particular. Anyway, that's what I've been thinking about this Easter. Have a good week!

Oh, also, I'm writing a paper on Naomi Shihab Nye's political and environmental works. Here's one of my favorites.


Relative to our plans for your country,
we will blast your tree, crush your cart,
stun your grocery.
Amen sisters and brothers,
give us your sesame legs,
your satchels, your skies.
Freedom will feel good
to you too. Please acknowledge
our higher purpose. Now, we did not see
your bed of parsley. On St. Patrick's Day
2003, President Bush wore a blue tie. Blinking hard
he said, "reckless aggression."
He said, "the danger is clear."
Your patio was not visible in his frame.
Your comforter stuffed with wool
from a sheep you knew. He said, "We are
against the lawless men who
rule your country, not you." Tell that
to the mother, the sister, the bride,
the proud boy, the peanut-seller,
the librarian careful with her shelves.
The teacher, the spinner, the sweeper,
the invisible village, the thousands of people
with laundry and bread, the ants tunneling
through the dirt.

-Naomi Shihab Nye (You and Yours)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Point of It All

Matt here.

Some time ago I wrote a post about the phrase “I love you, but . . . ” and then a post about the hypocrisy of gay people denying other people’s feelings, and then a post about the importance of making people feel loved. It’s time to finish the series with today’s post, the fourth and last, about why I think all this is worth so many words.

This is my dad:

Actually, he's clean shaven now. And not Japanese.

Dad's a retired military officer and an active member of his local ward. Yesterday, he and I spent the day in Kyoto with Adam, the last man I dated before moving out here. Dad knows Adam was my boyfriend.

I wouldn’t have believed that this could be a good thing when I first came out and Dad was talking to me about hormone therapy to ‘fix my problem,’ but we had a blast.

This is my mom:

Not really. My mom would be smiling.
She married Dad at nineteen, raised five excellent children (I’m number four), and is now one of the masterminds behind her ward’s Relief Society.

When I was in college she consistently spoke about me finding the right girl someday; last year she blew my mind by casually mentioning that I should “get a man who sings.” She was not referring to party entertainment.

The point of this series is that when I first came out, my parents loved me but believed homosexuality was chosen sin. I had a choice in how to react to that. I could have insisted that their beliefs meant they didn’t really love me, or that if they really loved me they would change their beliefs. I could have bawled that it was the LDS church or me. I could have started dating right away and rubbed my orientation in their faces, ignoring how it would hurt them.

I did not do these things. I can’t say for sure how my life would be different if I had, but I seriously doubt I would have the quality relationship with my parents that I have now. Instead, I trusted that they did, indeed, love me. I respected that they had lived three-plus times as long as me and might know something I didn’t, and I came out slowly, in stages, as gently as I could.

Let me be clear: I am not saying that people should be given a green light for ass-hattery when they say “I love you, but . . .” I am not saying that there are no circumstances in which delicacy and respect for others’ feelings should be dropped.

I am saying that the “but” in “I love you, but [thing]” does not automatically negate the love. I am saying that when someone says they love you, there is no valid way to disprove them. I am saying that loving someone is often meaningless if you don’t make them feel loved.

I’m saying that it is best to not give people me-or-your-beliefs ultimatums.

I’m saying that eventually, after panicky gay adolescence, we can afford to be generous toward people who believe differently. Even when our rights are being voted on.

Maybe especially when our rights are being voted on: This article from The Atlantic tells the fascinating story of last year’s four marriage equality wins. The secret is pretty simple. We gave up on pointing out the factual inaccuracies of anti-gay rhetoric and focused on making people feel our love for each other.

There are many ways to stand up for ourselves, and some are more effective than others.

In the coming years, I hope to see gay marriage legalized in all fifty states. I hope to see fewer gay kids on the streets, fewer suicides, less bullying. At the same time, I feel the need to offer a counterpoint to the chorus of voices like Clyde’s, which seem to me to be saying that we have no power; that there’s nothing we can do; that we are victims. That our behavior, our attitudes, our beliefs are beyond reproach, and it’s up to Them to fix this mess.

I firmly believe that insisting They clean up the mess alone is a strategy intoxicated with righteous indignation, and it is a strategy that will keep the mess worse and leave it longer than it would be if we stopped thinking of ourselves as victims and did what we could.

I will not insist that "negotiations" consist solely of me getting my way, now--that is what children do.

I will not be controlled by indignation that is so there, even when stupid arguments are invoked.

The reason is simple: People who "love us, but . . ." are not enemies, and I am not a victim.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

From 10 to 3

My mother (and, by extension, my father) had 10 people in their house. My sister, who is anxious and wanting to go on a mission, my other sister, who is a drama queen (not as in dramatic, but acting/singing musical ability) and my brother, his wife and their four kids.

So, even with me gone, my parents have a full house. And, because of my anxious sister, cruel sister-in-law, subservient brother and four grand kids ranging from 2-8, the house is stressful. (And I'm being nice).

As you guys know, I wrote about my sister-in-law once. It is in the archives. I wrote about how terrible she is to everyone, especially my mother, and justifies it with a holier than thou attitude. (I mean, reading scriptures in public and commenting about how perfect her kids are (because of her good parenting) really drives this home, right?)

Well, my parents lost 7 out of the 8 people that were in their household. My anxious sister got called on a mission and left three days later. (Take that at face value, because it is a little complicated and she was a special exception.) And then, because my anxious sister was out of the house, my father finally pressed, strongly, his decision to kick out my dead weight brother and his terrific wife, the house went from 9 to 3. And their house is a whole lot less hectic, a lot less mean-spirited.

Despite this calm, I have never heard my mother cry so hard when I called her. And never even thought my father could cry.

Because kicking my brother and sister-in-law out of the house was harder decision then the black and white I wish it were. The threat was that if they got kicked out, my mother (who adores her grand kids and has always been about family first) would never see the grand kids again. And so, my sister-in-law who doesn't make idle threats, has hurt my mom in more ways than she could have while living with my parents.

Logically, they needed to be kicked out. But after hearing my mother, I too am heartbroken. I love my mother. I know she loves me. I may have doubted that once, but that was me being silly and dramatic. And now, she has been hurt by losing all her beloved grand kids. She has five more, but that doesn't make the pain of the four's disappearance any less sad. And so... I wish I could pray and believe that someone would do something about what I feel. Because I want my mother to be better. I do. And I feel for her. And it makes me sad. Sadder than words.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Dreams Can Change

Allow me a moment to revel in the glory that is post-finals week: that period after exams and papers where I am liberated from any academic obligations. After a week of three in-class exams, three papers, and a presentation (all for just four classes? Ludicrous.), nothing can make me happier in this moment than knowing last quarter is behind me and I am free to enjoy my week long spring break before starting another quarter next week. I am at liberty to write just for the sake of writing and for creativity, letting my mind wander and my keyboard recording the journey.  It feels incredible.

As is the usual at the end of every quarter, I always think back and reflect upon what I learned. In this reflection, random facts and points authors attempted to make in their writing elude me. What does present itself, however, is what I’ve incorporated into my own life and how my classes have helped me to grow as a person.

Coming to mind is a conversation between a teacher of mine and me during office hours. As we sat down and began the usual exchange of major, year, and plans for after graduation, I expressed that I had no clue what I wanted to do after graduation. I don’t know the kind of job I want to have, what I’ll do with my degrees, or anything that we students are expected to know. And while I do still have another year left before I graduate, these thoughts still cram my head and cause me worry.

As I expressed these concerns, my teacher advised me that it’s perfectly okay to not know what I want to do. That even though I may soon figure out what I want to do, dreams can change and life can change my course. As she related this viewpoint to herself personally, someone who has had (in my opinion) much success thus far, I was able to conceptualize the idea that disorientation is okay. It’s okay to not know what I want to be, what I want to do, or where I want to end up. It reminded me of my favorite Lana Del Rey quote:

“I believe in the person I want to become. I believe in the freedom of the open road. And my motto is the same as ever. I believe in the kindness of strangers. And when I’m at war with myself, I ride. I just ride."

I enjoy moments and conversations like this, when people in such high academic standing are relatable and impart their knowledge to me. It’s instances like those that make the high tuition and stress of school worth it. Often times, this wisdom is more valuable than anything else being taught in lectures. And it’s what I’ll remember most out of everything I learn in college. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Supreme Court

Like one of the other writers on this blog, this winter I went to the Sundance Film Festival and saw the movie "God Loves Uganda," which was about a group of evangelical American Christians preaching a very anti-gay message in Uganda. In the question and answer session after the film, the filmmaker said that the evangelical group let him film them and follow them around because, they said, it was a chance to let God direct their filming and their portrayal in the larger world.

The crowd laughed about this because it was funny, but, also funnily, I kind of agree with them. I agree that if God had a hand in this film, then she/he did a great job in showing how terrible gay hate groups are and how we need to love people instead of hating them (which, ironically, would include the evangelical Christians, which is kinda hard). The Ugandan bishop who was interviewed in the film was also there for the question and answer, and he talked about how he believes in a god who created everyone differently and is showing us that we are on earth to be nice to everyone, regardless of how different we feel from them, and is teaching us acceptance and love for other people.

Anyway, the thought of God intervening in people's lives (and films) has me thinking about the Supreme Court case, and how many religious people are probably praying their hearts out right now that God will influence the decision in the correct, moral way. For some people, the correct, moral way means that gay marriage will be struck down and that Prop 8 will be upheld. For other people, like me, the correct moral thing is that equal rights for everyone throughout the states will be upheld. This is the problem of prayer--people pray for different things, and sometimes people thinking that God has "answered" their prayers is at the expense of people who were praying for different things. Like, say, the people praying for the reelection of Barack Obama vs. the people praying (so very, very hard, bless them) for Mitt Romney to be elected. Which I guess is why each religion's view of prayer is really problematic and has the potential to be damaging and hurtful. But if you believe in prayers or sending out good thoughts or agitating for social activism and demonstrating and peaceful marches or all of the above, and they help you out, then go for it.

I guess what I'm really saying is that if there is a god, then I firmly choose to believe that he/she wants everyone to be equal and wants everyone to be happy. If there is a god, he/she loves everyone, even if he/she doesn't actively intervene in everything all the time. I know what I'm saying is problematic, and the idea of a god intervening sometimes and not all times to help people remains deeply disturbing to me. But if all those people out there are praying for God to intervene in this case, then I choose to hope that he/she will intervene for what I firmly believe is the better, and not for what the conservatives in our midst believe is a correct religious moral imposition. And I'll keep sending positive thoughts out into the universe, and maybe go to some rallies this week. If you want to, feel free to do the same; if you don't want to, that's cool too, and if you want to pray to whatever God you believe in for the best possible outcome, that's cool too.

Ask Me
Some time when the river is ice ask me 
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether 
what I have done is my life. Others 
have come in their slow way into 
my thought, and some have tried to help 
or to hurt: ask me what difference 
their strongest love or hate has made.
I will listen to what you say. 

You and I can turn and look 
at the silent river and wait. We know 
the current is there, hidden; and there 
are comings and goings from miles away 

that hold the stillness exactly before us. 
What the river says, that is what I say.

William Stafford 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Known Thing

Matt here.

I don't know where I'll be living a month from now. I don't know when I'll get a new job to replace the one I'm leaving on Monday. I don't know if I'll get a chance to date the man I'm interested in. I don't know if I want to start being a little active in the LDS church or have my name taken from the records.

The first two have been impending for a while, but seeing them coming hasn't, unfortunately, helped me figure them out. The third I didn't really hope for until a few circumstances changed and he started calling me by a certain nickname. The fourth I thought I had figured out, but then I got Rick's letter.

The letter itself didn't mention the church and the couple of letters that followed (before he went silent again) were mostly about books, but they made me think about churchy things. After reading it, I looked back over the whole of my correspondence with Rick, and I found a version of me I'd forgotten about. In one of my letters I said that "I can honestly say I believe in the church now." This was while I was in Argentina, the semester after Prop 8. I'd forgotten I ever felt that way. I'd forgotten what I was actually feeling and thinking back then.

(I'd also forgotten a letter I wrote to him about conflating the holy spirit with conditioned mental responses—felt a flush of pride at that one. My argument still feels solid, which isn't something I can say for all of my old writings.)

Remembering the old me was important. After relying on memory to keep my history for a few years, it got distorted. I forgot what I knew, or what I thought I knew, and even that I thought I knew it. I forgot the texture and nuance of my internal debate. I remembered that I never really solved the old dilemma of what I believe about Mormonism; I just shelved it. That was a good thing—even the right thing—for me to do, then, but it's been four years since I graduated and shelved. (Already? Jeez.) Now that I'm coming back to the states (where I can communicate, drive cars, and do other grounding things) and now that I've had years of experience away from the church, I think I'm ready to de-shelf the church.

But here's one thing I'm certain about: The church isn't all it projects itself as. Its vision of eternity, particularly of eternal progression, resonates with me, but after Prop 8, where they supported bald lies and fear-based arguments, it's impossible for me to believe that the church always fights for the side of truth and God. Whatever I come to think about the church in the coming months and years, it's going to have to come around that known thing.

And whatever I come to think about the church, I will not be muzzled, and I will not be silent.

Friday, March 22, 2013

But I Don't Want To

Sorry I’ve been absent the past two weeks. I’ve had a lot to talk about but didn’t really want to share nor could I formulate coherent thoughts.

Even now I can’t decide what to talk about...

Naturally I should talk about my grandma Sara, considering she passed away on Sunday. 
But I don’t want to.

I could talk about an interesting coming out experience I had. 
But I don’t want to.

I could tell you all about how my mother finally left her abusive boyfriend because of the influence that my brother and I had on her. 
But I don’t want to.

I could tell you about some interesting attacks I’ve had lately and how I’ve dealt with them. 
But I don’t want to.

I could vent about my existential crises and how I can't figure out if I believe in God anymore.
But I don't want to.

I could write about my whorish coping mechanisms but no one wants to hear about that. 

See I just don’t really want to talk about things. Which is weird because I write for the blog because usually I can’t shut up. But I guess lately I’ve been working on shutting up more…

But I will tell you I had a good today, void of any attacks. I passed my anatomy midterm with little studying. I bought a new truck and named her Eliza (after my grandmother Sara Elizabeth) but dearly miss Rici. I cleaned my entire apartment and washed my sheets so they are warm and comfy! I am very much excited for Glee and Vampire Diaries tonight!

I’m even more excited about my plans for tomorrow; they are going to be epic. And I will leave it at that. Because next week I will tell you all about what I’m doing tomorrow and how my plans turned out J

But I’ll give you a hint… it has to do with these guys!

Imagine Dragons- On Top Of The World 

And Because I feel bad for leaving you guys hanging...

A picture that sum up my life better than I can.

The next tattoo that I want... but I should probably grab something coke like for my grams first. And plus this would not look that good as a tattoo. 

Because this gif is pretty much exactly how I feel right now. 

Actually no... wait... this is the one. 

Love you guys!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Three Bonus Otter Pics!

I get to write this post on my six month aniversary with my half-asain!!! Boy am I honered.

See, I knew that today was the six month mark (which isn't really a big deal, I'm just... giddy?) but I didn't think we were celebrating it until tomorrow. Then... after my normal days in the lab, taking tests, fighting sleep... my half-asian shows up! With a gift! I am the proud owner of a new puppy!!!

And all I got him was a lint roller (I was trying to be practical and cheap, because we both always say we are trying to save money.)

We went out to eat (the food was meh, but that just meants that we can have a better year anniversary) (Which is more important anyways).

Anyways, I'm happy to be dating my boyfriend. He's mine. I plan on keeping him. And... and... you know, I L*#$ him. You know. The Provo curse word. That everyone says beacause they can't say things like Damn.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Policy of Politics: Being Involved in the LGBT Mormon Movement

Now that I have established where I’ve been in last week’s vlog, I feel more confident in journeying forward. And though I do not know where my journey will take me and where I’ll end up, I do know that I want to do my part in creating safe and accepting spaces for LGBT-identified individuals within the LDS church. And while many may think this an impossible goal, the reality is that there are many activists working toward this common goal.

As I immerse myself in political causes and activism, I find it helpful to set some ground rules initially. Here are a few points I’d like to incorporate into my own politics as I work towards creating acceptable spaces for queer Mormons.

1. It’s about the power, not the identity
            Rather than rally around our identity of sexuality, we need to rally around our position to power, more specifically God. The idea of using relationship to power as the basis for coalitional politics is theorized by Cathy Cohen in “Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics.” If we truly apply biblical teachings that we are all his children, equally loved by him, and that our duty is to love one another, then members who don’t identify as straight can be included in the conception of the LDS church. Each of us is here on this Earth to experience life and learn what we need to before returning with our Heavenly Father. And that's something that *everyone* is and should be doing, regardless of sexuality or romantic relationships.

2. There’s strength in interfaith
             In addition to resisting to center politics around sexual identities, it may become useful to resist rallying exclusively around the identity of Mormon as well. I attended the “Circling the Wagons” conference in San Francisco last summer. As part of the conference, an interfaith worship service was held. This was, singlehandedly, one of the most spiritual and neatest experiences of my life. Not only was this personally useful, but helped me to realize that socially, the acceptance of LGBT members in religious spaces isn’t only a problem confined to the Mormon church. The point to include other faiths resists building a community around identity and prioritizing one identity with another, as noted in Miranda Joseph’s “Introduction: Persistent Critique Relentless Return” from her book Against the Romance of Community. And while religions may vary and spaces based on sect are still useful, politically uniting various religions is useful as it focuses on religion’s, as a whole, denial to queer worshipers the same treatment as their straight counterparts. In other words, it reiterates Cohen’s point on rallying around one’s relation to power and not identity (our religious ones, in this case).

3. A shift from politics of shame to politics of humility
            In collectively organizing, it is important to recognize the varying identities and experiences those who I am working with have. People involved in the LGBT Mormon movement are not all just gay, white men: these participants vary in gender, sexual identities, romantic relationships, and – most prominently – activity levels within the Church. While some remain active and attend church services, others choose not to do so. In collectively organizing, it is important to refrain from shaming other people and their experiences. Moreover, there should not be a hierarchy that privileges certain people and experiences over others. Instead, a politics of humility, where each individual is embraced and welcomed, should be stressed. For further reading about the politics of humility, the text “What’s Queer About Queer Studies Now” by David L. Eng with Judith Halberstam and Jose Estaban Munoz does an excellent job of dissecting this.  

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Not much to say here today. I've spent too much time on the internet already getting in facebook fights with relatives and reading up on the Steubenville rape case and becoming more and more infuriated, though I was very, very, very relieved that the defendants were found guilty. In lieu of a compelling post, here's an article about how John Boehner can't imagine ever supporting gay marriage in his life. The article mentions other things that, alas, he will never be able to imagine, including but not limited to a talking horse, a duck and a cat being friends, and having a regular-sized body with tiny hands. Isn't it much more fun to imagine a lovely world? It is, John Boehner. It really is.

Also, in the theme of my being angry and okay with that this month I guess, here's a poem that I pull out on special occasions to make me feel better about the assholes in my life. I should clarify that there are A LOT of great people in my life, but this poem is for the times when I'm pissed at terrible people, and that's okay. Have a good week!

Dear ---

This morning
I meant
to say
that I
love you
but somehow
came out:
“Fuck you.”
Forgive me.
I don’t
know what
happened there.
But, on
a lighter
note, it
felt so
fucking good
to say.
-Alex Dryden

Saturday, March 16, 2013


Matt here.

Today I pictured myself married to a guy. Very thorough daydream on the train. I hope someday I can do that without a voice in my head saying "One day you'll be sorry."

It occurs to me that perhaps that voice will always be there.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Incorporeality of Ghosts

            I remember looking out the large window at the street below. Old soviet cars were bustling up and down Gagarina Avenue alongside newer European models. Pedestrians were flowing along both sides of the street like ants in a line. The sun was shining. Another summer day in Kharkov, Ukraine.
            I distinctly remember the words forming in my mind. I can’t lie to myself anymore. I like guys.
            It wasn’t devastating. Nor was it angry. It was a simple admission. No more games, no more lies. Time to come clean and admit the truth, at least to myself.
            That was nearly five years ago, and half a world away. Even now, as I just searched Googlemaps to find my old apartment, I am bombarded by images of a life that seems like a story or a dream. For the first time in ages I felt the overwhelming urge to walk those streets again, to feel the distinct feeling of being foreign, of not belonging. That sense of oddness and discomfort became a friendly companion before the end, though it was certainly an anxious journey.
            Being an outsider didn’t leave once I returned to the states. It simply changed. As the admission from that summer day grew within my consciousness I became less and less like the people I was surrounded by. The difference this time was that I was becoming a foreigner in my own culture. By choosing to date boys I was breaking the unspoken (and some spoken) rules of that culture, but I also found myself relating less and less. I didn’t agree with this view, I believed differently than that person, and so on.
            Once again I live outside my original culture. This time I am a citizen, though, not a foreigner. And the more distance I put between myself and that world the more I can see the events of the last few years more clearly.
            I can see the fear, the secret desire, and the terrifying urge to explore it. I can see the hidden love, the frightening exposure of that secret, and the pain of rejection from friends and family. I can see the ache of losing the boy who was a constant during all this chaos, a wound that has taken its time to heal. I can see that I’ve grown, matured, and learned personal strength. I can see the pain, all the pain, from so many places. It festers next to the fear of pain that was there whenever pain was absent.
            Once I could see things from more of a distance a restlessness set in, like the feeling of being wrapped in too many blankets and fighting to throw them off before going mad. I wanted to be free of the judgment and the pain from my family, from my old culture, and from a broken heart.
            I fought this for a while, trying to undo it, trying to understand how to let go of the past, and walk away from it all. Then one night, something was said to me that changed everything. I was ruminating over it all for the hundredth time, that battle between the desire for love and acceptance and the pain of betrayal. And when it was said it cut the pain like a knife.
            “Nick, you don’t need their love or acceptance.”
            Suddenly the flood of pain and frustration stopped cold. There was nothing but serenity and clarity. The thought didn’t fully register, but I knew that there was truth to it and I needed to explore it.
            I have let it sit in my mind for about a week, and I feel its strength growing. I do not need their love or acceptance. The less I agonize over it, the more I can move on.

            The other night I had a bit more to drink than usual. I put my earbuds in and played music from a very different time, when love and loss were very fresh. The pain of heartbreak flooded me. It brought back all the sorrow that was still living deep within me. I wept, as only an inebriated person can. Beneath the haze, though, I sensed a thread of logic. I breathed in, listening to what was sounding so softly. As I gave it room to speak it became clearer.
            These people, this boy, don’t exist in my reality, and they don’t even exist in my memory. I’ve forgotten so much of that life. The only memory that remains is the pain. All that is left is the pain.
            Part of me felt foolish for weeping when I truly couldn't even remember that life and that relationship. I felt foolish for giving life before the breakup more weight than the time after, especially for giving it more weight than the present.
            I recognized that a ghost had been following me, when the reality it represented ceases to exist. I was weeping for a phantom, when life is right before my eyes. And I was missing life, seeing it opaquely through the fog of something that is not real.
            I was not mourning the loss, I was mourning the pain. I was suffering because I had been suffering. If that seems illogical and circular, that’s because it is. It is a phantom pain, like an old veteran’s gunshot wound. It doesn’t hurt anymore, but it does because it used to hurt, and that hurt was jarring and violent.
            There is almost a hesitancy within me, though, when I see the pain for the fallacy that it is. Am I allowed to let go of it? Will I lose anything if I do? The pleasure and heat and sheer intensity of the love and passion I felt was so new and so impactful. The pain was just as intense. If I let it go, do I lose it all? The chaos and insanity of the last five years have been my demon and my lover. I do not know life beyond it, without it holding my hand. Will the world without retain its vivid color, or will it be dull and grainy?
            Within me there is a madness that feeds off of the memory of pain. I return to it to be drowned in it, to feel the intense searing pleasure and pain. It fills me with a smoke and a flame that clings to me with rabid animalism. I hunger for it and I am slave to it.
            And the restlessness returns. The craving yearns for fulfillment around me, in the living world. Enough of the hazy ghost. I want life. I want reality. I want now. Time to look forward, not behind.
            Suddenly the sun shines from behind a cloud, a rarity for Seattle in March. The light clears the fog in my mind and pulls me into the now. It is time to move on. To let it go. The pain and the pleasure, and let it settle into the dust of the past. The past never truly dies, for it lives in the man I am today. Beyond that, though, it does not exist.
It’s odd, how often we enslave ourselves to ghosts, when all we have to do is walk away.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Listening to Podcasts...

Anyone else impressed with Ryan's video yesterday? I mean, wow. Just the openess, the honest truth, that Ryan gave was very... stong? Maybe emotional is the word I should be using but I don't know if I really want to acknowlege that I can feel emotion.

Anyways, I've been listening to a bunch of podcasts lately. And yes, there are great. And yes, I love listening to them and may or may not do extra cleaning around the apartment so that I can retreat into this private world of podcasts. I mean, there are many great points brought up and, most of all, I love the people who run these podcast's perspectives on life (and Mormonism) (and on being gay) (and on how being gay impacts young Mormons) and I'm again amazed that I did not actively seek these type of discussions out. Mainly, I'm surprised that I'm not what I use to be (or imagined myself to be); I'm not seeking out intellectual discussion, I'm not wanting to examine new people's perspectives on the universe, I'm not trying to challenge myself.

I had a friend introduce podcasts to me. The same friend that reminds me almost everytime I see her what being an intellectual should really be.

I need this reminder because, I think, I lost my sense of being an intellectual and instead settled on just being "smart."

Being smart generally just means getting the grades that can label a person as smart. It means winning arguments. It means intellectual superiority.

In my case, it especially means taking a tone of arrogance. I see all these Mormons around me who put blinders up and use the prophets/scriptures to justify that they will always be right. They are more holy (they are part of the one true religion) and thus they will win any argument. They are on a high horse and will not be knocked down.

Well, I seem to have gotten on my own high horse recently but I don't perceive it as such because a lot of people at BYU (including my douchey/unthoughtful roommates) have high horses that are way above mine. I am surronded by that steriotypical Mormon who can't hold a "real" intellectual argument because, in the end, they cannot be proven wrong. I began to think I was always right because MY bias isn't as bad as the people around me. But I do have bias. I don't know all the arguements.

And that's why I'm loving the podcasts. And why I love when my boyfriend or this mysterious female friend I was talking about earlier get me into intellectual arguments. Because I now realize that I've changed since coming to BYU. I see the world as Mormon vs. non-Mormon arguments. This might be true for the a large part of my near future, but it isn't be true for all aspects of my life, and this Mormon vs. non-Mormon argument will be completely irrelevant in a few years from now.

So, keep me on my toes, podcasts (and  people in general). I've got to get back into the real world, a non-Mormon bubble mindset. Because my enviornment will be changing back to what it once was in under a year. Back to normal.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

On Being Offended

I realize this post might be kind of redundant, given that last week I wrote about being angry. But this week, I wanted to write about some of the virtues of being offended. I feel like there's a stigma against being offended in the culture I live in, perhaps traceable back to a certain conference talk by a certain General Authority saying something about how a lot of people have left the church over being offended, and how that's a stupid reason. I'm paraphrasing, obviously. And, to some extent, I agree with whoever said this; I feel like it's very important to believe the best about other people, and to forgive their shortcomings. People are dumb and make mistakes all the time, and I've accidentally offended people who knows how many times, and I'd appreciate it if they'd let me apologize and then we can both move on with our lives. In short, I feel like it's important to be nice to people.

However--and this is an important however--sometimes it's okay to be offended. It's okay to be hurt by things and it's okay to reject things people say as offensive and terrible. It's okay to not be okay with what people say. And it's okay to tell them that. This goes back to what I said last week about not being a doormat--it's incredibly damaging to just go along with whatever people say and act like you're not bothered by it. It's okay to be bothered sometimes.

Maybe no one else has a problem with this. Maybe it's just the way I function as an awkward, anxious, introverted person worried about hurting the feelings of people who are hurting my feelings. I don't want to make people feel bad, so I just go along with whatever terrible thing they're saying without standing up for myself or my beliefs.

But I think this is a cultural problem as well as a personal problem given a recent experience I had while working this week. Me, a female co-worker, and three of my male co-workers were moving boxes in an elevator. I made some quip about being stuck in this elevator, and one of my male co-workers responded with an overt rape joke--"at least if we're stuck in here, we'll have women," with a creepy emphasis on the last word. I could spend a while analyzing his rhetoric, like the way he set up an us vs. them dichotomy that immediately excluded me and my female co-worker from being a part of the "we." I could talk about how sexualizing and objectifying his language was. I could talk for a long time about how disturbing it is that we were stuck in this enclosed space with three suddenly threatening male bodies, and how I went from being a capable worker to someone whose sole purpose was to provide sexual comfort to an older man. Super creepy. But what bothered me almost more than the initial joke was what happened afterward.

Me and my female co-worker being very offended at this overt rape joke seemed to be offensive to the men in our group. We didn't talk loudly about being offended, because we didn't want to offend the super old, super racist, super sexist man who had made the joke--for some reason, we still wanted to be "nice" even though we had just been incredibly offended, an impulse that I don't think was ultimately h helpful, which I'll talk about later. But one of my male co-workers got made at me and my friend for making such a fuss about it and, basically, for having the nerve to get offended. He said that we shouldn't have taken the joke that way, that maybe he just meant "that he liked that you were pretty" (??), that we need to remember that our older co-worker comes from a different time period where jokes like that were acceptable (????), and why can't we just take a joke? And then he left, now offended at us for being offended.

I  have a few points I want to make about this. The first is that our society/culture values quiet women. Women are allowed to be objects of ridicule, objectification, and sexualization, but women are not expected to respond. They're supposed to be "nice" about it. Which, in my opinion, is bullshit. If someone is being incredibly offensive, then someone should probably told, so they can learn that it's not appropriate to offend everyone around you. Men are also expected to be nice, but women are definitely supposed to be nice. Women are supposed to shut up and take it. Women are supposed to laugh at the funny jokes that older, heterosexual men make at their expense. Oh, you would rape me? I'm flattered! So funny!

The next point I want to make is that it should obviously be okay if I'm offended at a rape joke that someone directs at me and my body. I don't see why that's even a question. The fact that I will be offended should be a given, and I should be allowed to say something about how it's not okay for you to turn me into a sexual object for your gratification. Why isn't this obvious??

Finally, our culture has a skewed definition of the word "nice." I said earlier in the post that I believe that we should be nice to other people, and I do. I value politeness and kindness. But the way that Utah (and American at large) treats niceness is that you have to let other people do whatever they want and say whatever they want in your presence and you don't get to say anything that will make them feel bad. I think actual niceness should be interpreted as kindness--do whatever is kind to another person, and whatever is kind to yourself. If you're being sexually objectified, it seems kinder to yourself and to the other person to point out why that was completely offensive and ask them not to do it again. The way Utah deals with niceness, where you're nice to everyone's faces, just makes you super pissed at everyone behind their back--hence the road rage and the facebook fights, not to mention the backbiting and the gossiping that have often been the staple of various Relief Societies I've attended.

I realize this issue gets tricky because, in response to this, people will tend to assert their right to be offended at lgbtq "lifestyles"--"love the sinner, hate the sin" and all that. Which I hate. And which offends me.  I would say, based on my life experiences, that the right to marry whoever you want and date whoever you want is inherently inoffensive, since it only affects you and not the people around you. This has to do with basic human rights, and if my right to have a basic human right offends you, then I guess that's fine, but it doesn't mean you get to take away my human rights. Similarly, I guess you have the right to say whatever the hell you want, but that doesn't mean that I have to take it. Plus, being sexist isn't a right, whereas I do have the basic right to not be sexually harassed in my own workspace.

In conclusion, it's okay to be offended, and to express your feelings of being offended. It's okay to redefine the word nice as being kind to yourself and others, instead of shutting up about things that really should be addressed in our interpersonal relationships and in society at large. I will now end this rant with a poem that I happen to love that might offend people who like America more than I do, which is fine! But I will still put my opinion up here and feel good about it, because in our shared space, we all have the right to hear and be heard. Have a good week, everyone!

The United States is Not the World
 and this I was reminded of by
            mamas in silk saris
            grandpas in burgundy turbans,
                  smoky overcoats
            Sikh boys with powder-puff topknots
            braided girls munching Belgian chocolate
            and a gloomy little lad with a strange
                 golden cone on his head.

Thank you, I said. O thank you Gate
                 D-4, Amsterdam to Delhi
            months of smug Americana dissolving
            as tiny white no-jetlag pills
                        on the tongue.
-Naomi Shihab Nye