Monday, April 29, 2013

Age, in Boy Scouts and in Love

Seeing as how my brain is preoccupied with a 10 page paper at the moment (on the topic of an analysis of a social network, which I know nothing about), I have two small in size, but big in significance, contributions to make up a meager post this week:

1. “Progress” at the expense of others is not true progress. The progress that I aspire towards seeks to leave no one behind in social movements, while addressing systematic and institutionalized inequalities. I’ve spoken about how the first female prayer at last General Conference overshadowed harmful addresses like the tolerance trap that discriminated against LGBT members. Many argue that such addresses don’t explicitly mention that’s what it’s about, but I don’t have to explicitly state my eyes are blue to get the point across…

This week, I applied my conception of progress to the Boy Scout of America’s announcement of a shift in policy. Whereas the organization previously debated about the inclusion of gay members, BSA has sought to lift the ban on gay youth, but continue it for gay leaders. This decision does nothing to eliminate the homophobia, discrimination, and the hierarchy/privilege allotted to heterosexual men in the organization. These issues remain with the continued exclusion of gay leaders, not to mention the men that are left behind as people continue to focus exclusively on one demographic (in this case, young boys) and hail this as “progress.” The cause and narrative of adult gay men gets lost, and the social movement we’re in suffers fractures.

2. This song. Has been on repeat. I may or may not have cried listening to it. And I can’t wait for The Great Gatsby to come out. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Just Imagine

Matt here.

Imagine you’re in the back yard at your parents’ house. Well, my parents’ house. There’s a patio, two lawns, and a long deep blue cold pool. Wind, sunshine, sculpted concrete. You’ve just finished weeding the flowerbeds around the ancient splintering fence. Probably that’s the beginning of a sunburn on your neck, you notice as you lean back on your heels and wipe the sweat off your face.

“It’s good to see you again.”

Ice, fire, a tiny earthquake up your spine. You turn around and see him there, white stubble, t-shirt, cargo shorts, barefoot, and that smile you remember in your soul.

You scramble out of the dirt and hug him, crying. “You're back!” you mumble into his shoulder, in the sun. The wind. On the sod you laid fifteen years ago, grown into itchy green puffs.

The man is God. He proceeds to tell you that the Mormon church is his, and he wants you to never be with a man again. (Be with a man, anyway.) He would like you to marry a woman or be celibate, whichever you like best.


Could you do it? If all doubts about the Mormon church, being gay, and God’s will were removed beyond a doubt, if you knew, could you do Mormonism?

This is a useful question, I think. You know I am often not impressed with the gay community’s attitudes and arguments. Blog posts and articles like baby vomit, dribbling out at more or less regular intervals, saying “We can’t be expected to do that. That’s too hard. We’re not strong enough.” I hate these posts, I hate how they limit us, how they imply we're not enough on our own, that we need boyfriends, husbands, or partners to be happy, successful, and vibrant.

Our worth is not dependent on binding ourselves to another person.

Yet, even though I believe that firmly, I don't know if I could do it, be a gay celibate Mormon.

When I drafted this a couple of weeks ago I thought I could, but I've noticed something about myself over the past long while: I go through phases. Happy phases, sad phases, dedicated phases, procrastinating phases, believing phases, cynical phases, asexual phases and homosexual phases and sometimes the barest flutter of a heterosexual phase. A couple of weeks ago I was willing to believe, focused on the good bits of Mormon theologythe happiness, the expansive vision, the family, the inclusion.

Then I volunteered serving food at a community event, and I flirted with a fellow server, and I started focusing on the bad bitsthe uncertainty, the dystopia, the solitude. And in that phase, which is ongoing as I publish this, I don't know if I'm strong enough to do Mormonism.

I figured that if I didn't have doubts about the church, there'd be nothing to it but throwing myself into the church and its activities. I'd serve a mission, which I am in fact still young enough to do. I would at least date women, a thing I haven't done since I was a teenager, and maybe marry one. Even if I didn't, I'd lead a full life, heavily investing myself in the church community, improving it and being improved by it. And they would love me! I would be adored and celebrated, showered with love like the prodigal son.

But, knowing myself, knowing about my waves, how long would it take me to discredit what I'd seen, or rationalize it away, or find some kind of loophole? Especially since the lovely active excellent life I would be leading would not erase the phantom ache of my absent other half, which, with all my doubts and worries, I found unbearable before. I have a feeling that in some years, a decade or two at the outside, I would be back to miserable indecision. Maybe I'd get other witnesses to boost me up and keep me believing, but wouldn't I have gotten those before, if they were forthcoming? I feel somehow that those continuing witnesses are less realistic hypotheticals than a visit from God.


The realization that maybe I couldn't do Mormonism does not, of course, answer the question of whether or not I should try.


I wonder how this would turn out if all his shareholders were Mormon.

"We are also driven by meaningful work, by others' acknowledgement and by the amount of effort we've put in: the harder the task is, the prouder we are."

Monday, April 22, 2013

I Didn't Ask for Morals With My Dish

I had a wonderful time visiting home this weekend. I was constantly on the go, with the exception of Friday night. As a college student residing in a college town, I'm always able to find something to do on a Friday, whether or not I want to or am trying to. So when I found myself home alone on a Friday night, with no plans and no one to hang out with, I did what any stereotype-abiding gay man would do:

I went on Grindr.

Now, the extent of my Grindr usage since it's release in 2009 is, to date, 8 days. 7 of those are when I first got my iPhone and decided to give the app a try in Santa Barbara, only to delete it a week later for my large dissatisfaction with it. But I was home. I was bored. I made a profile and let the good times roll.

I went in with a good attitude, a positive state of mind, and confidence. The only expectations I had were to have a good time and be safe. And as the chats rolled in and the ping sound became music to my ears (anyone with a Grindr knows what I'm talking about), I was disappointed at the discovery I made:

These boys wanted to talk and get to know me. They had standards.

Umm, I'm sorry. I thought I had downloaded one of the most popular hookup apps, not chit-chat-and-be-lifelong-friends app. My 7 previous days on Grindr taught me these boys are ready to go the minute you log on.

Does location make a difference? Is the clientele seeking something different, so much so that activity turns from casual to serious?

I guess a good lesson came from my bored, weekend night at home: to never assume, and that there are guys out there who aren't seeking to instantly bang. Not what I was expecting, but I'll take it.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bisexuality Rant

Here is a (condensed) list of reasons I was afraid to come out as a bisexual, or to label myself with the term bisexual:

1) I was afraid people would be like, "...but your'e in a committed relationship with a why bother coming out? It's not like you're actually *gay*."

2) I was afraid my boyfriend would be like, "but your'e in a committed relationship with *me* why bother coming out? It's not like you're actually *gay*."

3) My parents. Which is a whole different can of worms that finals week will not bear going into right now.

4) I was afraid people would be like, "Are you sure you're just not actually *straight* and you're just rebelling against your parents?"

5) I was afraid people would be like, "Are you sure you're not actually gay and you just haven't experimented enough and the boyfriend is just a cover?"

So, turns out, these are fears a lot of bisexuals have, and experiences a LOT of bisexuals have had as well. Here are my experiences with my fears:

1) no one's ever said that to my face, but it does come across A LOT in the media (cf one very strange episode of Happy Endings, which I generally like as a show and was therefore disappointed in, and A LOT of other things) and in offhand comments by acquaintances/classmates who don't know that there is *gasp!* a bisexual in their midst.

2) My boyfriend did not say this, having always suspected something of the sort, and though he was perhaps a little perplexed about my need to label myself, we talked about it a lot and are (I think) both pretty comfortable with it.

Did I mention that my boyfriend rocks?

3) comment. Yet.

4) Multiple people have said this to me, namely my LDS bishop and my parents.

5) No one said that to me, presumably because I've been into boys as much as I've been into girls for my entire life.

So what is it about bisexuals that freaks people out? Obviously people are freaked out by homosexuality and queerness and transgenders because they go against standard norms, but I've found that there tends to be a prejudice against bisexuals because they aren't one thing or another. They defy our human belief that things need to be in shades of black and white--you're either all gay, or you're all straight. Of course, the Kinsey scale itself pushes against this, and I'm not trying to say that this same issue isn't applicable to the LGBTQ community as a whole (and human life in general, really), but the way the media (and my classmates) tend to deal with the issue of bisexuals is to write them off as confused, because really they should just be all gay or all straight.

I still struggle with the issue of why I wanted to "come out" as bisexual when I could have just stayed hidden as a typical (...kind of) heterosexual in a monogamous heterosexual relationship. But I think it had to do with wanting to be true to myself, and wanting people to know that for me, a real expression of love wasn't necessarily dependent on gender. I told my parents not because I wanted to "rebel" against them, but because I wanted to show them the thing they were the most scared of in the world--ie, being kinda gay--and see if they could still love and accept me. It was kind of a plea for acceptance, and since I relied on them for my self-worth, I think I was also saying, "Tell me that I can be this way and still love myself, because if you love me, then I can love me too." Needless to say, that didn't turn out very well, and while I know that my parents still love me, they don't love me in a way that translates to me as "love," ie respecting my decisions and treating me like a capable, inherently good human being. But hopefully throughout this experience I can move closer to choosing how I want to define myself and how I want to see and love myself, and feel less like I need outside sources to define and evaluate me to determine my self-worth.

I'm not sure how I feel about Single Dad Laughing; I'm not crazy about him, but I do think he makes some apt points occasionally, including this list about what it means to be bisexual:

That doesn’t mean that I sleep around.
That doesn’t mean that I am confused.
That doesn’t mean that I am attracted to everyone.
That doesn’t mean that I am in transition.
That doesn’t mean that I am not faithful in my relationships.
That doesn’t mean that I will always want and miss the gender I am not with.
That doesn’t mean that I am denying my true self.
That doesn’t mean that I am into threesomes. Or orgies. Or swinging.
That doesn’t mean that I am always horny.
And, believe it or not, that doesn’t mean that I am attracted to you simply because you’re breathing and you have two legs with something in between them.
It simply means that I will fall in love with whomever I will fall in love with.
Here's the full post if you want to check it out. I thought it was interesting, though I don't know how he can live with someone who says that if she could change one thing about him, it would be his bisexuality. That seems...terrible. But it's his life, not mine.

Also, I wanted to note that it's okay not to label your sexuality, or to label it in a way different from the norm. Identifying as "queer" instead of going with the more traditional labels is often really helpful for people and really cool. Alternatively, if you choose not to label yourself, I think that can be as freeing as choosing a label for yourself instead of letting society choose one for you. This is just kind of the way it worked out for me.

(ironically, perhaps, I am now going to choose my "labels" for this post so people can search for it in the blog...I guess I can label it whatever I want to)

That's pretty much my unedited rant for the day. Now back to paper writing. Have a good week, everyone!

Also, here's a poem I found today on my friend's tumblr that served as a good reminder that if you haven't read any of ee cumming's erotic poetry, YOU REALLY SHOULD CONSIDER DOING SO.

i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite new a thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which i will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh … And eyes big love-crumbs,

and possibly i like the thrill

of under me you so quite new.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


Matt here.

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post about the weakness inherent in using "God wouldn't . . . " as justification; it seems there's rather little that God wouldn't. Today I want to explore a thing that Ditto brought up in a post of his own: Would God send some percentage of his children to Earth pre-damned? He says no. I say no too! It seems we've found a thing that God actually wouldn't, unless I'm seriously misunderstanding things, do. The conclusions we draw from that base are wildly different, though, and of course I think mine make more sense, so rather than unload in the poor man's comment section, I wrote a post.

Ditto starts out with a lovely scripture, Moses 1:39. I'm not convinced that the LDS cannon as a whole is inspired (large swaths of the D&C come to mind), but this particular scripture has worked its way into my personal theology. "This is my work and my glory," God says, "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." I love that. A vision of eternity where God is on our side, where what's best for uswhat helps us become eternally aliveis what he's all about. Love it. So when Ditto concludes that God "does nothing to keep us from progressing to eternal life," I agree with that. God's whole point is to bring as many of us up to his level as possible. We've found a thing God would not do. (Unless it were necessary to damn one to bring up more than one? After all, the scripture talks about the immortality and eternal life of man as a group, not of each individual man . . . But that's a thought for another day.)

Soon after that, though, Ditto's argument makes a few assumptions that I don't think are reasonable. He says "The Lord created every one of us. He created every aspect of our very being. And thus he created me and all his LGBT children with homosexual 'tendencies.'" Coming at this from a Mormon perspective (because let's face it, somewhere not so deep inside that's what I still mostly am), that doesn't hold water. Mormonism says clearly that God did not create our spirits, or "intelligences"; those have always existed (Abraham 3:18). They will always exist. If homosexuality is part of one's spirit, as many people (but not the Church) believe, then it's not something God makes, and if you claim that God made you gay, then you can't be referring to your spirit.

Given the uncreated nature of the spirit, we would need to refine Ditto's statement to something like this: "The Lord created our bodies. He created every aspect of our bodies. And thus he created me and all his LGBT children with homosexual 'tendencies.'"

That is a bit more solid, but it still needs clarification. Science in general holds that homosexuality is the result of a combination of environment and genetic factors. (The Church has no opinion on that.) I think twin studies are the most interesting and bluntly informative onesthe high correlation between gay twins shows that there's certainly some genetic component, but the fact that the incidence is far below 100 percent shows that there are other factors involved too. If we accept science's working conclusion, it's entirely possible for God to create a body with the genetic portions of same-sex attraction without actually creating a 'gay body.' The body doesn't become gay until after the environmental factors jump in there, which are the result of human agency, not God. Or, I suppose you could blame those on God too, but if you do that, why not blame everything on God?

Now, an omniscient God like the God of Mormonism would know that the body would eventually become gay, but providing the circumstances in which a thing can happen and making a thing happen aren't the same. The fact that people are gay is not proof that God created them that way.

Ditto continues: "Heavenly Father creates perfection. He did not accidentally create me gay or forget to turn on my 'I like girls' switch. No, he created me perfectly the way he intended, one of his male children who will one day love another perfectly created male child of his." There are more problems here. First, God does not create perfection. The purpose of life (according to Mormons) is to become perfect, a task which wouldn't be necessary were we created that way. Utter ignorance is perfect? Cleft palates? Deafness? No. God doesn't create perfection. However, he also doesn't create people who are unperfectable.

Second, I don't think anyone in Mormondom is saying that homosexuality is an accident, or due to divine forgetfulness. Those things are impossible with an omniscient God.

Third, it doesn't follow that just because God created us or allowed us to become attracted to our own sex he intended us to love (in the sexytimes sense) another man or another person, and every single person should know that. Why? Take the argument apart. "Because X is the way things are, X is the way God wants it to be."

Yes, that's rightit's the same argument used by the South for keeping slavery and by the Christians for keeping gays from marrying each other and by men for keeping women from voting. Or working. Or owning property.

This is a logically bankrupt argument that always fails, and it is not worthy of us.

Moving on. "Because he created me [gay] and wants nothing more than for me to be happy and obtain salvation and eternal life, how could he then tell me, 'if you choose [sexytimes], you will not be able to obtain eternal life.'" Does the Church say God says "if you choose [sexytimes], you will not be able to obtain eternal life"?

No, the Church doesn't say that, and if you know of a place where it does, please share. It does say some pretty harsh things, but it doesn't say sexual sin disqualifies you from eternal life. To quote the missionary I asked on, "Repentance is available to all. That shouldn't be taken cavalierly; repentance is never easy and can take years of consistent effort before forgiveness is given. But sexual sins, as far as I am aware, if repented of fully, will not keep one out of the celestial kingdom." We also have Mosiah 26:30, which plainly says "As often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me," and also the whole lovely chapter of Alma 42, which talks about how justice is balanced with mercy. Mormon doctrine is pretty clear about everything except murder itself--not its next door neighborbeing repentable, if you choose to repent of it.

So when Ditto continues to say "No, Heavenly Father would not do anything of the sort," I agree insofar as he means God would not do anything that would impede his work and his glory. However, I'm not convinced that making or allowing people to be gay and commanding them not to have gay sexytimes would be an impediment. I see no reason why God might not do exactly that, especially since, as Mormons believe,  the laws of right and wrong are not malleable. If gay sex is inherently wrong and gettin' it on is inherently an impediment to God's work, how could he not command us to avoid it?

Good to review: Bill Bradshaw on nature/nurture and Bill Bradshaw on Mormon Stories
Funny, but crude, webcomic. (This one I linked to isn't particularly crude, though, and I relate.)

Sunday, April 14, 2013


I'm sorry I forgot to post last week! I was in St. George, having a fun time with my (extended but real) family. I probably should have been working on homework, just like I should have been working on homework today instead of watching Anchorman and Quest for Camelot, but sometimes you just need a break. Or several breaks. In the words of Donna and Tom from Parks and Rec that have frequently caused me to postpone homework until a later moment:

Or, if the eerie over the modern comic is more your style, you can remember Cooper in Twin Peaks saying, "Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Could be a new shirt at the men's store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot black coffee."

Cooper with his hot black coffee.

I'm sure I've already posted about treating yourself on this blog. I've probably used this exact same title before. My apologies. But all I'm saying is, if you read or write for this blog, chances are, you're under a lot of stress. Also, if you're currently in school, you're under a lot of stress. Also, if you're a human being, you're under a lot of stress. If you're straight, you are under a lot of stress, and if you're lgbtq, you're often under a specific type of stress in addition to other life stresses, especially if you go to BYU or somewhere like unto it. Things can get rough. So, even though we all have responsibilities to fulfill and completing goals can make us feel accomplished and taking our finals is good in the long run and school can sometimes count as eustress and blah blah blah, remember to take time to 

perhaps to some delicious cupcakes. And also coffee.

In other news, re the bisexual in your life, remember that the way media portrays bisexuality is incredibly problematic. Obviously the way the media portrays all members of the lgbtq community is problematic, but since I identify as bisexual, I wanted to take a second and talk about not objectifying bisexuals. The media (and some terrible straight men) often take the approach of "oh, so you're bisexual? so you like want to have sex with everyone all the time always and/or participate in some hot threesomes with me????? wow you like ladies AND dudes that's sooooooo hottttttt!!!!!!

bisexuals <3333 threesomes wow so hot this is me all the time
...just kidding

I assume that no one reading or writing this blog does not have this perspective; all of you are smart people. I just want to rant about how I'm often scared of defining myself as bisexual on facebook or tumblr or wherever because so many people instantly fetishize you. And, again, this isn't just bisexuals--it happens to gays and lesbians and transvestites and, really, anyone who identifies as queer. But I think it's important to address this particular issue, and, of course, it applies to me personally.

That didn't really have anything to do to treating yourself...except for treating myself to a brief rant, I guess. Since Sundays are often rough anyways, it's nice to come here and rant about whatever I feel like, too, so I guess blogging here counts as treating myself today when I really should be working on any of my three papers that are due this week. Oh well. I consider myself treated. Also treated by Anchorman, which is a pure delight.

just looking at this picture is a treat.

Anyway, even if you are under severe stress and have deadlines and work and school, take time to treat yourself! I plan on reading the second Gregor the Overlander book this week to treat myself in between paper writing. Last week it was chilling at the Provo library for an hour just looking at books. Today it was watching Anchorman and treating myself to Mormon feminist blogs. Friday it was a long lunch with one of my best friends. Tomorrow it might be doing some relaxing yoga before work or catching up on one episode of tv, like Hannibal or Doctor Who. Anyway, remember that you are a) awesome b) don't need to be confined to media stereotypes c) should treat yourself! 

And always treat yourself to poetry when you're feeling sad.

The Journey 
Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew 
what you had to do, and began, 
though the voices around you 
kept shouting 
their bad advice—
though the whole house 
began to tremble 
and you felt the old tug 
at your ankles. 
"Mend my life!" 
each voice cried. 
But you didn't stop. 
You knew what you had to do, 
though the wind pried 
with its stiff fingers 
at the very foundations, 
though their melancholy 
was terrible. 
It was already late 
enough, and a wild night, 
and the road full of fallen 
branches and stones. 
But little by little, 
as you left their voices behind, 
the stars began to burn 
through the sheets of clouds, 
and there was a new voice 
which you slowly 
recognized as your own, 
that kept you company 
as you strode deeper and deeper 
into the world 
determined to do 
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Show and Tell

Matt here.

I'm back in the United States, safe, sound, and unemployed. We'll see how long I stay that way.

For today's post, I offer you a perspective and discussion outside our normal ken, brought to my attention by  Gay BYU Student Blogger, who really needs to come up with a shorter handle.

Here is the first post, which is about supporting gay marriage and answering the temple interview questions. GBYUSB comments a couple of times.

Here is the second post, in which the author clarifies many things. (I know the feeling.) Also in this post, GBYUSB exchanges a few more comments with the author and I pop in toward the end with comments that are quite long and may be the kernels of several future posts. Fun times.

If you join the conversation over there, please be nice. Please don't be whiny or illogical or rude. I think I kinda like this guy, although I disagree with him about stuff.


For your viewing pleasure: Animals About to Become Dinner.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


            It seems to me that life divides itself into stages. Perhaps it is simply our memories categorizing things according to easily distinguishable chunks, but regardless of where those delineations come from, it appears that they exist.
            A new stage begins with a great unknown. Perhaps it’s moving to start college. Perhaps it’s a new relationship, a new city, a new job. Maybe it’s coming out of the closet. Whatever it is, there’s a feeling of excitement, perhaps to the point of anxiety, and sometimes a sense of groundlessness, not knowing how to fit in this new world.
            It’s always easier when others around you are going through that new beginning as well. That way there are others to share the experience with, to sympathize with over the struggles of the new world. And experiencing the joys of newness is always a very bonding experience.
            Beginning alone is more difficult, and can sometimes feel alienating. Being the rookie at work, being the only gay kid in town, or moving to a new city alone definitely fit in this category. This requires greater growth, and teaches us to be comfortable by ourselves, but it also allows for reinvention, which can be a great gift if we recognize it.
            In time, things become familiar, campuses and city streets easier to navigate, and groups of people easier to relax with. New friends become simply friends, and confidence grows.
            Later, familiarity leads to expertise, and we become the veterans. We teach rather than are taught. We run the show, with the bright eyes of the rookies admiring us.
            Sooner or later, however, all things must end. All things, even experiences or stages of life, must die.
            Death scares us, I think, because we are brought face to face with uncertainty. We are also made to face the fact that the world we inhabited and the identity we claimed within that world are not permanent, and not truly real. The groundlessness hits us not only externally in the world that is ending, but in the internal identity that is fading. The truth of the matter is, however, that this identity was only a mask, albeit a comfortable one.
            We move on to different worlds and different identities. When we look back to the past, however, it can appear as if the life that seemed to us to be the entire world was a different life altogether. For a moment, that old identity and those old experiences come back, and we experience nostalgia. The truth is that nostalgia is no more fleeting than the identities we claimed when they were present. We just feel the immaterial of it more.
            Death is painful only when we have put something on as our identity. When I think of this, I think of the experience of coming out over the past few years. My identity as a grade-A Mormon, a model son and grandson, and a picture-perfect member of society slowly died. They were never truly real, but I had clung to them like they were. The experience of others’ disapproval felt life-threatening, and the anxiety I felt from my fight-or-flight response seemed to be proof that I was truly under attack.
            When the dust settled, however, I found my heart was still beating and my chest still rising and falling with each breath. I was still alive, even though those identities were surely dead. The only time I still feel the threat and pain of death is when I try to cling to those things, though nature or God has dictated that it was time for those things to end.
            The reality of who we are transcends any identity we can claim, or anything anyone else can do to us. It is greater than the opinions of others or the oppression or privilege we receive from society. It is greater even than health and physical death, as even the body is an identity we can incorrectly claim. The truth is that the core deep within us cannot be threatened nor killed, and so it does not need to fear. It is the sense of peace we feel when the world seems to stop and everything fall into place. It is the connection we feel when we have nothing to gain from someone else, but have only absolute love for them. It is that moment when the voice in our head finally stops talking, and we just see. In that moment, all the identities fall away, all of the fears and anxieties and heartbreak vanish like smoke in a breeze. We are totally at peace, and completely within the confines of joy and unconditional love.
            I love the way that the book The Perks of Being a Wallflower puts it:

“I can see it. This one moment when you know you're not a sad story. You are alive, and you stand up and see the lights on the buildings and everything that makes you wonder. And you're listening to that song on that drive with the people you love most in this world. And in that moment I swear, we are infinite.”

            The reality is that there are no stages to life. It’s all illusion. There is only one streak of light as we go from minute to minute, that light being the core of who we are. If we are living true to that light nothing can touch us. Nothing can hurt us. We only lose what was never truly there. Death only claims illusions. The underlying beauty of it all is that the things truly worth having in this world are infinite. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Mormons Be Like, "Progress!"

“Wait…women weren’t allowed to pray before??”

This was my first reaction upon reading that Jean A. Stevens, first counselor in the Primary presidency, gave the first prayer ever given by a woman at a worldwide Mormon meeting during Saturday’s General Conference session.

(Reason why I’m not a good Mormon: I’ve never watched a televised General Conference event. Ever. In years past, I’d read the talks online or in print if I perhaps was interested in any of them. Otherwise, I’ve never participated in General Conference.)

Women have been able to pray during regular, local Sunday services for as long as I’ve been alive. And truth be told, women’s prayers often captured my attention and spirit better than their male counterparts. I was baffled as to how a woman had never before prayed in a General Conference before. Welcome to 1925, y’all.

As per usual, the drama started while reading my Facebook newsfeed, blown up with news of the “first prayer by a woman at Mormon conference.” The response was an overwhelming “yay progress!,” to which I groaned.

In an email quoted by The Salt Like Tribune , Kristine Haglund, editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, offered an explanation as to why women had never before been invited to pray at worldwide Church meetings:

"It was the unintended consequence of the institutional systematization of patriarchy.”

And it was Steven’s prayer that uncovered the existence of patriarchy at an institutional level. A system that didn’t acknowledge the capabilities and capacities of women to pray at worldwide meetings until 2013, 183 years after the Church was formed. And a system that is still in place, despite a historical prayer this weekend.

A system where at the same conference as the first woman’s prayer, talks were given that weren’t so welcoming and loving. Some warned us against the “tolerance trap,” as it was coined. Talks like these are especially harmful to members of LGBT Mormon spaces, and do much to show how little progress is being made, and how the institutionalized patriarchy is still operating at its finest. 

I am glad that women are now able to pray in these spaces. But it’s only one of many worthwhile causes Mormon feminists are working on. These people are continuing to work on the causes pertinent to bringing about substantial changes. A Facebook event the other week clued me in to a movement of women nationwide to wear pants on a specified Sunday. Besides this, people are working to challenge this patriarchy and other systemic issues limiting the participation and equal treatment of fellow churchgoers. Some promote tolerance and acceptance of women not complying with social expectations of marriage and homemaking. Others are working towards the inclusion of their fellow members who happen to identify as lesbian or gay. The Exponent illustrates the many issues Mormon feminists are working on and steps to take towards resolution. 

I do not wish to downplay the historical nature and significance of Sister Stevens’ prayer during General Conference. I accept it as a long overdue change that needed to happen, and hope it’s only a pit stop to real progress and adjustments of systemic and institutionalized issues present. For me, progress runs deeper than putting a woman on a pulpit and letting her speak. It’s making changes so that everyone may be able to partake in worshipping their God, and eliminate fear for being accepted or safe in religious spaces. That will be progress worth tuning in for. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Little Children Burn

Matt here.

Sometimes I think we, gay people, are like little little children. We get our fingers pinched or go in for our shots and scream like we've been set on fire.

From time to time I hear an argument, usually in the comments sections of articles but occasionally from dear dear friends, that God would not let people be born gay and then expect them to live celibate lives. I understand the appeal of the argument, of course; if God wouldn't command us to be celibate, then we're good to go on the sex thing. Hallelujah!

The problem is that this argument isn't actually an argument—it's just a denial. It's sticking your head in the sand, thinking that if you can't see the consequences, they can't bite you in the butt.

In fact, it's worse than a flat denial. If you say "Gay sex is a sin" and I say "No it isn't," we can argue all day about who has the authority to declare what's sinful and what's not. But if you say "Gay sex is a sin" and I say "God wouldn't let me be born gay if gay sex were a sin," the argument now becomes about what God would not allow, and that list appears to be remarkably short.

Assuming God exists, he either causes or allows an amazing range of horrific events. I flatter myself I needn't list them, though I'm thinking of one particular thing. I was in Hiroshima last week, at the Atomic Bomb Museum, where I was perfectly fine until I saw a mannequin wearing a torn, burned boy's junior high school uniform and I involuntarily pictured my favorite student's face. I was not fine after that.

God lets little children burn to death. Every awful thing that has ever happened, God let it happen. How presumptuous, to say that because God allows a thing it's not a tragedy, and the consequences can't hurt. How ridiculous, for grown men and women to caterwaul that the pain the church asks them to suffer is more than God would ask.

Bitch, please.

Tonight is my last night in Japan. By the time you read this, I should be back in good ole California.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Effect of Paradox

         The psychologist Carl Jung made the claim that when an individual holds two contradictory parts of himself together, rather than destroying one another, these two parts will eventually shift, linking like pieces of a puzzle, becoming a third whole that did not yet exist. Holding these two opposites together is like holding the repelling ends of a magnet together. They push away with a fierce energy that seeks to either run from or annihilate the other. Keeping these two paradoxical parts together is uncomfortable, and sometimes altogether painful. But it is the pain and effort involved in this process that Jung claims purify the man like a refining fire.
            The revolution of faith that I experienced was much like this. I could no longer ignore the reality of my sexuality, and I had few options. I could either run from it, deeper into Mormonism. I could dive into my sexuality headfirst, abandoning faith altogether. Or I could muscle the two together.
            I chose to wrestle with the painful issues on both sides. It has been no easy road, and few have been able to see the logic in my choices, but as Jung promised, I have experienced a shifting in these parts. Now my faith and my sexuality fit together perfectly in a whole, no fighting and no fragmentation. This experience has allowed me to step back, in spite of my fears, and see so many issues from a new perspective. Holding to my preconceived conventions is not an option, and there is a liberation that comes along with that letting go.
The effects of this transformation extend far beyond matters of sexuality and faith. It has led me to reconsider the very way in which I view the world. Lines of black and white have blurred and rules of what are and what are not have fallen away. Things that I used to fear I am now stepping into, allowing myself to experience. The deeper connections of all things human, spiritual, and meaningful are becoming more evident to me. As the old grey walls I lived within are crumbling away the radiant colors of the wild are taking flight. Let me give an example.
This past Sunday was Easter. My boyfriend and I went to the Episcopal cathedral for the service, finding the pews full and the folding chairs on the side filling quickly. We took our seats, and listened to the exquisite organ music. As the eleven o’clock hour arrived, a full orchestra began to sound, playing music that my boyfriend said sounded like Star Wars. I smiled at the comparison. The majesty of Star Wars is something I would happily welcome. As the trumpets joined the revelry we all stood, and the clergy stepped into the cathedral, waving massive poles with rainbow colored streamers flying at the top. Other poles bore paper butterflies, the symbol of rebirth, dancing around the tips.
The music grew bolder, and the organ finally joined, shaking the cathedral to its core as we added our voices, singing,

Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss, Alleluia!

The voices of hundreds of people filled every remaining space in that great stone hall, and the magnificence of it overcame me. Tears came to my eyes and I struggled to sing.

Hymns of Praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
Unto Christ our heavenly king, Alleluia!
Who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
Sinners to redeem and save, Alleluia!

As the music continued I could not help but feel the divinity in it. My thoughts went to Jesus Christ, and the reason for our massive celebration. There is great power in the belief in a Savior. He is the great unifier, the one who makes right all that seems to have gone wrong, and the one who delivers us from suffering and sorrow. To believe in such a being is to believe that when all is said and done all will be right, for it is all in the hands of a majestic and loving God.

But the pains which he endured, Alleluia!
Our salvation have procured; Alleluia!
Now above the sky he’s king, Alleluia!
Where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!

The voices of my fellow worshipers sounded more clearly in my ears, and I realized that in addition to the personal joy faith in the Savior brings, belief in Jesus Christ means that every single person in that room is my brother or sister, that every person outside of that house of worship is as well. Regardless of religion, belief, nationality or race, it doesn’t matter.
I realized then my own tendency to criticize right-wing conservatives and those that speak one thing and do another. If I truly believe in this man Jesus, then they too are to be given mercy and forgiveness. I was then reminded of my own family, who I had not made an effort to talk to in months. Once again, if I believe in Jesus Christ then I need to offer them my love as well.
The music swelled, building until I didn’t think I could contain my emotions, and with all the fervor that could be mustered we sang,

Sing we to our God above, Alleluia!
Praise eternal as his love; Alleluia!
Praise him, all you heavenly host, Alleluia!
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Alleluia!

There was a power in the air that was nearly tangible as the music fell to silence. The priest stepped to the front and proclaimed,
“Alleluia! Christ is risen!”
In one voice we replied,
“The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!”
And as I said it, I knew those words held so much more meaning for me as a Christian.
Easter has become one of my favorite days of the year, because for me it means so much more than simply religious tradition. The new perspective I have gained from holding together the contradictory parts of my life has changed the way I interact with religion, and the world. Life has become more challenging, especially since it’s not plotted out in black and white, but when it all comes together the effect is simply breathtaking. Faith is more potent, more real. Joy is brighter, and comes in more colors. Magic moments come into my life much more often. The world has become a beautiful place since I opened my eyes to see it.
I still deal with conflict and contradiction. I am still learning to love and to forgive. I am still learning how to build a healthy relationship and a satisfying future. I still have my insecurities and my inner demons to battle. But I know from experience how to better sit with my inner paradoxes. Sometimes I simply need to settle into the quiet, inside and out. Other times I have to wrestle with the issues in an emotional free-for-all. But I know that if I hold on long enough, and keep these seemingly contradictory issues in my life together, eventually it will all come together in one magnificent burst of light.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Overall, I Think I'm normal!

I know that this week is an important week for human rights. I was going to say an important week for gay people, but I realize that this bill effects everyone. Getting a positive decision out of the supreme court that favors gay marriage will help promote tolerance from everyone. Anyways, I don't think I have anything really new to say on the subject that would be particurally insightful, so I'm just going to leave it at "I support gay marriage and I support people who support gay marriage." :)

What I want to talk about is insecurities and where mine stem from. 

What am I insecure about? 
- Underperforming
- Not being able to be useful
- Not being useful
- People finding out that I LOVE pokemon
- Not waking up on time
- Not being autonoumous
- Not being able to take care of my deepest friends
- Being illogiacal in my actions and emotions
- Losing my half asian

I think most of these are pretty normal, personally. I mean, I'm not afraid that some dragon named Vlegger is going to come out of Y mountain and eat all of the gay people at BYU. So, I think I'm pretty normal.

One of the more abnormal insecurites on the list include being illogical. As a scientist, and a person who hangs around a lot of logical people (Hell, I'm dating one), I hate myself when I do stupid stuff like think that I want to break up with someone for no good reason. Or hating on a roommate who watches TV all day simply because I don't like TV. I actually get upset at myself for this. Like, really upset. And then I get prissy, and then I have to drag myself out of the funky mood that is sure to co-evolve with my prissiness. I just hate when my prissiness and hatefullness and other such emotions have nothing to do with logic.

"You are harder on yourself than anyone else is on you, Lee" -Kim, my best friend, a quote from three years ago or so.

Whenever I do something that I deem as less sufficent, I hate on my self, make myself fell the pain of guilt, and put myself in a general bad mood. But, on the bright side, I'm not dating someone who can't get over one certain impulse I have. Instead, he just looks at me like I'm stupid and, instead of lingering on it, moves on. I made a mistake, I did something stupid, and he calls out on it, tells me to get over myself and then moves on. Unless I do it again (and God I hope I don't), he doesn't think twice about it (or at least bring it up).

Anyways, learning to be less hard on myself and less irrational when I feel like I've made a mistake. 

On the brighter side of things, I also wanted to make a small list of important things I'm not insecure about.
-Vlegger attacking BYU
- My body/weight/looks/hair (Admittadly, the lack of care about my hair can get me in trouble sometimes)
- Finding accepting friends at BYU
- Hang gliding
- Going on a week long vacation with my half-Asian
- My mad skills with board games
- My love of pokemon
- Losing my best friends
- Getting kicked out of BYU
- Losing my half-Asian to his ex

I'll end it here. But, the list could go on for a while. Point is, I may be insecure about some things. But there are many more things that I'm not.

Judging by the two mini lists I made, I think I'm a normal person! With normal insecurities.

Monday, April 1, 2013

True Equality Won't Come with Marriage

A peaceful spring break quickly turned into a hectic one. Surprisingly, the continuous plans I made to keep me busy weren’t the most hectic part of it all. Dinner and Jersey Boys, a Giants game, and catching up with friends were the least of my chaos. The most frenzy came from Facebook and this symbol:

and my having to explain my position.

This post is not about arguing for or against the issue of same-sex marriage. That’s not the point. I myself am weary about marriage as an institution, specifically because of the inequalities it perpetuates and small population marriage is even applicable to. I invite anyone to click here, here, and here, for more reading on this topic, as more educated people have been better able to articulate their thoughts on the matter.

And yes, I do realize that this issue reaching the Supreme Court is historical and could produce significant legislation, so that’s not what this post is about. 

What this post is about, however, is how the issue of same-sex marriage is being deployed as a solution to injustice towards the LGBTQ community, the solution to everyone’s problems. And as I struggled to formulate my opinion on the matter, Jack Halberstam, Director of The Center for Feminist Research at University of Southern California and queer theorist, came as my saving grace with the following quote:

"Get married by all means--gays, straights, whatevers--but don't confuse recognition with liberation or the cementing of social norms with social justice."


If anyone needs any proof that other and more crippling problems persist, then I wish I could show you my Facebook News Feed, filled with posts from conservative LDS Facebook friends that directly and indirectly denounce not only same-sex marriage, but most importantly homosexuality and being attracted to members of the same-sex. Attraction. Within these spaces, many are not even at the point of grasping the acceptability of individuals interested in members of the same sex, and allowing these people to express their interest through romance and relationships. Even if same-sex couples are granted the right to marry, there are still many problems facing people in the LGBTQ community. The fact that people identifying in such a way can only be accepted in my church if they abstain from romantic relationships is one issue, as it’s unfair to deny anyone to feel and experience the Christlike emotion of love, and build a family, which is one of, if not the, most important teaching of the church.

I admire those allies in support of same-sex marriage, as, for some, it reflects a genuine interest in gay and lesbian politics. But I beg that these same people become allies to the LGBTQ community as a whole, and keep this vigor and passion in issues much more plaguing and vital to the larger community. There are causes and actions more worthwhile than changing a profile picture, and these movements call for personal involvement to work towards solutions towards these problems. Because when “faggot” continues to be yelled at me as I walk down the streets of my community at night, I must admit that same-sex marriage is only a pit stop on this journey, with stops of homophobia, acceptance in religious spaces, and LGBT youth and homelessness needing to be addressed. There are many more issues plaguing the community that are vital to the mere survival of some. Before marriage, survival and basic necessities must be met first.