Saturday, December 23, 2006
I bought it a few weeks ago, but hadn't had the chance to dive into it until yesterday, when I had a long day of travel from New York to Salt Lake City. I started it on my flight from Newark to Chicago and finished it about 20 minutes before I landed in Salt Lake.
It is, in a word, remarkable. Carol Lynn Pearson is a voice of compassion and understanding for gay people and their families, particularly those from religious backgrounds. Of course, she comes to the topic from a very personal place. She married a gay man (and told the story of her marriage in the book Goodbye, I Love You), and her daughter married a gay man. She has befriended and comforted hundreds of gay people and their families since she began dealing with the "issue" of homosexuality in her life decades ago.
If you are gay, read this book. If you have a gay family member, read this book. If you have gay friends, read this book. If you want to better understand homosexuality, read this book. If you believe in love and family, read this book.
As I read the last few pages, I was overcome with emotion. I was sitting on a plane, surrounded by strangers, quietly weeping. They weren't tears of sadness. They were tears of gratitude that we have voices of compassion such as Carol Lynn Pearson's urging us on to be better than we are, to not accept what is as what must be. They were tears of gratitude that my family has circled their wagons around me, their gay loved one. And when I speak of my family, I speak of Keri and her parents and siblings, who have loved me through a crisis that led to a transformation of our family relationships. The one constant has been love. I am so grateful to be here with them for the Christmas holidays. I love them, and I know they love me. They are my family.
Read this book.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
In that post on my birthday, she wrote of me: The year between his 34th birthday and his 35th birthday is certainly the biggest of his life. To have accomplished all that he has in terms of facing a frightening truth, treating his family in a loving and considerate way while figuring out how to come out, deftly navigating the waters of homophobia and misplaced faith with grace and respect, and finishing the year by running TWENTY-SIX POINT TWO MILES is more than most of us accomplish in a lifetime.
KK has had a similarly momentous year between 33 and 34 that deserves some acknowledgement. She has faced the biggest crisis of her adult life with grace and forgiveness, extended (to many people unfathomable) compassion to me, begun the sometimes daunting process of trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up, and put herself in a place where she can be surrounded on a daily basis by the love and warmth and support of many people who love her deeply. She didn't cap her year off with a marathon, though if you asked her, I suspect she'd tell you that she feels like she has run one.
Join me in wishing her the best. Happy birthday, Keri!
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
That said, there has been a topic lurking in my mind the past few weeks. It's a topic I have explored with my therapist as I have reflected on this past year of my life: my lingering internalized homophobia.
Interestingly, I did not seek to discuss this with him, because I didn't really even recognize it. But as I discussed some other issues, there it was. We've been talking a lot about my parents and the family I grew up in, and as we have I realized that I am still very umcomfortable talking to my parents about being gay, ending my marriage, the pain associated with the period of transition I have been through, and my new relationship. The more we talked, the more I realized that it's not just a matter of being uncomfortable. When I talk to my parents about being gay, I feel a deep sense of shame and inadequacy. This despite the fact that they have both professed their love and support for me and appear to have no moral objections to homosexuality themselves (remember, they aren't Mormon).
I think much of this is tied up in my childhood and the coping mechanisms I developed to deal with my parents' divorce and the long-distance relationship I had with my father. I never doubted my parents loved me, but I can see now with the benefit of hindsight how their conflict produced conflict within me. I was determined to have a better family life than they provided for me. I know I could do better than they did for my future children. I knew I could build a family that looked and behaved a lot differently than mine. Indeed, I think that was always part of the appeal of the LDS Church for me. It provided a solution to many of my problems with my family. And when my emerging sexuality started to trouble me as I was going through these difficult emotions with my parents, the LDS Church offered a solution for me with that as well. I could have a better family and I didn't have to be gay!
As I have emerged from my marriage and left the LDS Church, I have found comfort and happiness in being openly gay that I never imagined. Even in the face of disapproval from LDS friends and acquaintences, I no longer feel guilt or shame about being gay. No, it seems the only people I have those feelings with are... my parents!?
This has perplexed me. Why? They do not condemn or shun me or my homosexuality, so why am I so uncomfortable and ashamed and embarrased about being gay around them? One possibility is that as I was growing up I felt the need to protect my parents, to reassure them that I was okay! even when I was struggling terribly. (This is apparently not at all uncommon for children of divorce.) But the answer is also, at least in part, that being gay represents a failure of sorts for me as it relates to my relationship with my parents and my image of myself before them. Being gay has now denied me the perfect family I was raising. It has thrust me into a long-distance relationship of my own with my children. It has repudiated so many of the things I professed to stand for when I presented myself to them.
Now, the truth is that I really do feel that being openly gay has vastly improved my life and most of my relationships, particularly with my kids and, ironically, with KK. I feel like I am more open and honest and authentic and that has produced more good fruit than bad. I am still a father, still committed to the well being of my family. I know that I am a better parent to my children than my parents were to me. So the "failure" I feel with my parents is purely emotional. I don't believe I have failed in their eyes. I just feel that way when I talk to them. And no one else inspires those feelings in me anymore in such a strong way--just my parents.
Being gay in a straight world forces many of us to make compromises with ourselves even before we are old enough to realize what we are doing. And once we begin to emerge from the closet and the fear of ourselves--our own homophobia--that the closet breeds so aggressively, we often find that it has sunk roots deep into our souls in ways we never anticipated and certainly never realized. I'm not a big New Year's resolution guy, but in 2007, I resolve to shake as much of this lingering internalized homophobia as I can so that I can live my life openly and share it happily and fearlessly with all the people I love and who love me in return.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Monday, December 11, 2006
Sunday, November 26, 2006
On Thanksgiving day, our table included Keri's cousin Joel, Jed's friend Ben (and now my friend too!), Keri, L, Jed, and E.
Friday I had to work, but the girls joined me. We took the ferry across the Hudson to Lower Manhattan from the train station in Hoboken. It was a gorgeous day. L can never keep her finger out of her nose for pictures.
The weekend was capped with a birthday party and a baptismal service for E. On the almost eve of her eighth birthday, she was baptized at Union Congregational Church in Montclair, surrounded by family and friends.
Friday, November 24, 2006
you are making an impact--not by writing about what you think--but by writing about what you do, proving that your path can lead to a productive, happy, healthy live.
As I have comtemplated where to go with this blog, I keep coming back to this comment from santorio, left on my "Frustration" thread. I want to continue writing about my coming out experiences, and I'd like to extend my writing back to include earlier times in my life as well.
HURRICANE will now be a debate-free zone. I still welcome comments and discussion about the issues that emerge in discussion of my life experiences, but I won't be using this blog to debate about homosexuality. My position is as clear as it could be: I am not conflicted about the morality of homosexuality or homosexual relationships, and I reject the suggestion that homosexuality is inherently defective or that homosexual relationships are inherently sinful. We've had those discussions, and this will no longer be the place for them.
I am not, however, abandoning active debate about gay issues. At some point between now and the end of 2006, I intend to start a new blog that will focus on gay rights, activism, politics and the many and varied social issues that impact gay people. Stay tuned.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
So that's my first frustration. HURRICANE needs a new voice and I'm struggling to find it.
My second frustration is what I feel is the failure of my ongoing dialogue about gay Mormon issues with many Mormons, including the gay married Mormons that I share space with here in the gay Mormon bloggosphere. I'm certain that I bear some of the responsibility for that failure. I feel a great deal of frustration that so many who look at the world through the LDS prism see homosexuality and homosexual relationships as monolithic. Committed partnerships, truck stop trists on the New Jersey Turnpike, an honest divorce, a long-term secret love affair. From the LDS perspective, all seem to be the same because they are homosexual in nature. It seems obvious to me that they are not.
I'm generalizing my interactions here. In fact, I have made a lot of progress toward mutual respect and understanding with many of the LDS people who are most important to me in my life--family, including my dear former in-laws whom I still love like my own parents, and many longtime friends. It seems to be online where I encounter most of my frustration.
I'm aware of my own bias. I acknowledge that when I see men living through situations similar to my own I want to encourage them to follow a similar path, for their own sake and for the sake of their wives. I want to tell struggling young gay Mormons to accept their sexuality, embrace themselves and the blessing of being gay, and see what life outside the confines of Mormonism might offer them. I see the struggles of so many and think that so much of the pain and loneliness felt by those in and out of marriages could be alleviated if they could just accept that homosexuality is normal and homosexuals can live happy, healthy, well-adjusted lives as homosexuals.
John Galt suggested to me that I've forgotten what it's like to be Mormon. I suppose he's right. As odd as this is coming from a former LDS bishop, I can no longer understand why we are willing to endure so much pain for religious beliefs which utterly fail to explain human reality. This is not just a criticism of LDS Mormonism and homosexuality. I read in this morning's paper about the recent decision of Conference of Catholic Bishops in the U.S. to reiterate the church's prohibition on articifical contraception. I find myself scratching my head when I encounter moments when religious dogma is more important than the daily realities of people's lives. Too often it seems that tradition is exalted above actual people. That frustrates me.
I'm picking on religion here, but dogmas are found in many varieties. I know that some of my critics here in gay Mormondom think I'm dogmatic in my embrace of gay pride. I'm willing to admit that I might be at times. I try very hard not to be, but I know that I fail. I try to understand my own truth and recognize that it applies to me and no one else. But sometimes the evangelical zeal grabs hold.
The holidays are soon upon us. My children and KK (and the dog!) arrive tonight for a two week visit. I think it's time to stop convincing for awhile. We often try to convince others primarily as a way to convice ourselves. I don't want to do that anymore. I'm happy with where I am in life. I don't need to convince myself or anyone else of that. I think the best convincing I can do now will come through the example of a life lived fully and honestly.
Bear with me will I try to find a new voice.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
I marked my ballot as follows:
U.S. Senate: ("Boss") Bob Menendez (D)
U.S. House, 8th District-NJ: Bill Pascrell (D)
Essex County Executive: Joseph D. Vincenzo (D)
Property Tax Reform: YES
Preserved Open Space Amendment to State Constitution: YES
Gasoline Tax Reallocation Amendment to State Constitution: YES
In many years, I might have considered voting for Sen. Menendez's Republican challenger, Tom Kean, Jr. But not this year with control of the Senate hanging in the balance.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
Friday, November 03, 2006
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
It's no secret that I'm a Democrat. That wasn't always the case. As recently as 2004 I was a registered Republican in New York state (though I've been moving steadily to the left in my politics since about 2001). But I am a Democrat now, and next Tuesday I'll be casting my vote for Bob Menendez in the hopes that he will be a part of a Democratic majority in the United States Senate. On issues ranging from tax policy to immigration to homeland security to the war in Iraq, my views are better represented by the Democrats than the GOP. Plus, I'm sick to death of hearing Republicans demonize those who oppose the Bush Administration's strategy (or lack thereof) in Iraq and the fight against global terrorism as unpatriotic cowards at best, traitors at worst.
But one issue makes my blood boil: GOP hypocrisy on gay rights. As others have pointed out of late, demonizing gays and fighting same-sex marriage is a tried-and-true Republican campaign tactic. And with the recent court ruling in New Jersey granting gay couples the same rights as heterosexual couples, Republican anti-gay rhetoric has been turned up several notches. President Bush has been leading the way in fighting to "protect" "traditional" marriage.
Nevermind that I have yet to hear a coherent and convincing argument about how homosexuals wanting to make a commitment to each other is anti-family or threatens the marriages of heterosexual couples. (Indeed, given that many gay men and women are parents, I think opposition to gay marriage is the true anti-family position.) President Bush has perfected the art of demonizing his political opponents, so it's pretty easy to dismiss his rhetoric as a simple manifestation of his propensity to adopt immoral and dishonest campaign tactics.
What infuriates is that the GOP does this while relying on the talents and skills of gays and lesbians to, among other things, run the House of Representatives, implement global health policy, advise members of Congress and manage their staffs, and manage its political campaigns. I'm tempted to condemn those gays and lesbians who work for politicians and policymakers who demonize them and stand in opposition to granting them equality in their relationships. But my scorn is reserved instead for the GOP leaders, from President Bush to Senator Rick Santorum (whose chief spokesman is gay) to Karl Rove (whose adoptive father was gay), who so callously use these people for political gain while stomping on their dignity and humanity.
When I was living life in the closet, passing as a straight man, it was easy for me to not care much about all of this. Now that I am acutely aware that I as a gay man am a target of such hateful politics, I find it much harder to swallow. I see activism in my future.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
We now return you to birthday programming.
Happy Birthday, Chris. I know I'm not the only one who is honored to be a part of your life today. You truly have a positive effect on everyone around you and you will be toasted in many cities for many years to come. And to J, who should be reading this, the thoughtfulness you put into helping Chris have a great day touched me deeply. Celebrate like only the gays can!
To everyone reading this, post a little something here about how Chris has been a part of your journey, whatever it is. Sometimes I think he forgets how many people have felt the ripple effect of the Hurricane.
With love, truly,
Monday, October 23, 2006
Last year, about the time I came out to KK, I started running. I wanted to get into shape, and it was also a welcome distraction from the emotional upheaval that I was going through.
Somewhere along the way, I decided to run a marathon. I thought I'd train to do a race in 2007, but KK encouraged me to do it this year. So I signed up for the Chicago Marathon, which ran yesterday. Chicago was a meaningful choice. I lived there for two years with KK after we got married, and my family is nearby in Wisconsin.
Yesterday with the temperature reading a nippy 38 at race time and with drizzle in the air, I ran. Ran like I've never run before. I hoped to finish in four hours, but a tweaked knee at mile 15 slowed me down. I crossed the finish line at 4:45:21. I cried through much of the last five miles of the race and was in a full weep as I hit the finish. I was filled with a sense of accomplishment, but also felt that I had finally reached a point of closure on a difficult period in my life. My marathon was very closely tied up in the coming out process for me. I spent many solitary hours in training, listening to my iPod, and thinking about my life. The old Chris would have never run a marathon. The new Chris did, and enjoyed every moment of it, even the painful ones.
I had my own personal cheering section: KK, E, L, my mom, her boyfriend, my sister and her boyfriend. My boyfriend, J, wanted to be there and was in both spirit and in the music on my iPod that took me across the finish line. And today I can hardly walk and have some nasty blisters to show for my effort. Hard work can be painful.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Thursday, October 12, 2006
I have seen this woman on the subway in the city several times, and she always tells the same story. Needless to say, I wasn't buying what she was selling. But little E was completely captivated and as the story became more compelling, she looked at me with pleading blue eyes and implored me to give this woman some money. I just shook my head "no" as the woman walked past us and then off the train.
E immediately turned and looked at me disapprovingly. "Daddy! Why didn't we help her?"
"Sweetie," I said, "I've seen that lady in the subway and on the train before and she always tells the same story. She's not telling the truth."
"Oh," said E knowingly. "Alcohol?"
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Coming out is a process, not a single event. I've learned this over and over again over the past 18 months. Even now, I am out to nearly everyone in my life but I still find myself often facing situations where I ask myself the question, "Should I tell?" Without a doubt, coming out was one of the best things I've ever done, for myself and, I believe, for those I love. If you're gay, no matter where you are in the process of coming out, to yourself or to others, let today be a day of reflection--and celebration!
Monday, October 09, 2006
Fundamentalism is not the only valid form of faith, and to say it is, is the great lie of our time. There is also the faith that is once born and never experiences a catharsis or born-again conversion. There is the faith that treats the Bible as a moral fable as well as history and tries to live its truths in the light of comtemporary knowledge, history, science and insight. There is a faith that draws important distinctions between core beliefs and less vital ones...
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
I will be casting my ballot in one of the tightest races for the Senate this year, the New Jersey battle between Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez and Republican Tom Kean, Jr., a state senator and son of a popular former governor. I keep tabs on the Jersey race and other races across the country at Electoral Vote, a website that highlights daily and weekly polls from races around the country and keeps a running tally of the likely outcome of the race for control of Congress.
I've never been a party-line or one issue voter. I've voted for Republicans and Democrats. I voted for George W. Bush in 2000 (a source of ongoing shame for me) and John Kerry in 2004. But this year, I'm rooting hard for every Democrat on the ballot. I'll be voting for Sen. Menendez. I'll be rooting for Sheldon Whitehouse in Rhode Island, even though he's running against my favorite Republican Senator, Lincoln Chaffee. The fallout from the Mark Foley scandal has convinced me that the national GOP has become thoroughly corrupt. That, together with the Bush Administration's failures in Iraq and fiscal policy and the ongoing pandering of the Republicans to the anti-gay right, makes it clear for me. We need change of direction. Vote Democratic.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
"At a point in every person's life one has to look deeply into the mirror of one's soul and decide one's unique truth in the world. Not as we may want to see it or hope to see it, but as it is."
Jim McGreevey spoke these words in August 2004, when he faced the news media and the public to announce that he was gay, had engaged in an adulterous affair with another man, and was resigning his office because of it.
When he came out, I was deeply ambivalent. On the one hand, I thought to myself that but for the grace of God, I might have gone where he had. On the other, I was jealous that he had declared his sexuality to the world and no longer had to hide his truth.
The governor has been all over the news again the last few weeks with the release of his new book, The Confession. I have seen several of his interviews, and have consistently been impressed with his forthrightness and his acknowledgement of his mistakes, his horrible errors of judgement and his moral failings. I have also been struck by how deeply his experience of struggling to understand himself mirrors my own. He has spoken about how being gay was something he did not want to "own" because it did not fit with the dreams he had for himself and his life. For years, I felt the same way. And while I was not the powerful governor of a populous state when my world began to collapse, I was in a postion of standing in my little Mormon community in Brooklyn. I undertand when he talks about the heavy burden of duality.
I heard him speak last night at the New School in Manhattan. I was again impressed. At one point, he said that when he speaks to people around the country he tells them "don't do what I did." In one sense, he's absolutely right. If you're gay, don't hide. And if you're gay and married, don't betray your spouse with an affair. But I think Governor McGreevey underestimates the power of his example. We should all do what he did--look into the mirror of our soul and accept our unique truth as it is. We should live and love as whole and integrated beings.
Accept the gift of your creation. Do what Jim McGreevey did.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
The bartender approaches him and says, “You know Paddy, I can bring you a fresh pint after you drink one. You don’t have to sip all three like that.”
Paddy looks up and says, “Oh no, this is how I always drink me pints. You see, many years ago, me two brothers left Ireland, one for America, and the other for Australia. We promised each other then that we’d continue to have a pint together every night despite the great distance between us. So I order one pint for me, and one for each of me brothers. And I drink with them!”
The bartender smiles and says, “Ah, Paddy, that’s a fine tradition you have there.”
For the next several weeks, Paddy continued to come into the pub each evening to “share” a few pints with his brothers.
Then one night he walks in, looks at the bartender and says, “I’ll have just two pints tonight.” The bartender is confused, then saddened. A hush falls over the bar as the patrons realize that Paddy surely had lost one of his brothers.
The bartender brings the two pints to Paddy’s usual table and says to him, “Paddy, we just want you to know that we are all deeply sorry for your loss.”
Paddy looks up, puzzled. Then he smiles and says, “Oh no, you’ve got it all wrong. Neither of me brothers died. It’s just that I’ve gone and joined the Mormon Church and I can’t drink anymore!”
Sunday, September 17, 2006
September 17 is my outiversary. One year ago, I came out to Keri. I told her after 10 years of marriage and several months of quiet agony for us both that I am gay.
In so many ways, it seems like that day was a very long time ago—much longer than a year. It feels like I have lived a lifetime since then. I didn’t know what was going to happen after that moment of truth. Though I trusted that I knew Keri well, I imagined the worst possible reactions to my revelation: rejection, bitterness, anger. I was ashamed, so full of guilt and self loathing when I finally told Keri the truth. I couldn’t imagine that I would ever feel comfortable with myself as an openly gay man and I certainly didn’t think I’d feel that way in just a year’s time. But today, one year after I began the process of coming out, I am openly and comfortably gay.
It is ironic that Keri has been my indispensable guide on the journey to self acceptance. Ironic, of course, because her unconditional love and support ultimately hastened the end of our marriage. My emotions one year later are mixed. I feel loss and sadness, and I miss much about the life I had until a year ago. But I also feel freedom and relief, optimistic that my life as a gay man will be better than I ever imagined it could be, and better than what my life had become before I came out. Keri can share in my optimism (and she does) and feel happiness for me as her closest friend (and she does), but I think today is a day when her own loss feels particularly sharp and her burden particularly heavy. I'm grateful, though, that her sacrifice—one she didn’t want to make—has deepened and broadened our friendship, something that will ultimately serve us well as we work together in the coming years to raise our beautiful daughters. Keri has proven true the old adage, “if you love something, set it free.” I am grateful for her love, her bravery, her continued friendship, and her willingness to let me be the cheetah God made me.
Many of my fears about coming out have not come to pass. I have found love and support and acceptance not just from Keri, but from my young children, my extended family, and many of my friends. My loss of faith in the LDS Church has been tempered by the discovery of a new spirituality and the embrace of an open and affirming church community. My loss of proximity to my children has been tempered by the certain faith I have in their mother and her extended family to keep me close and engaged with them. I speak to my girls every day. We do homework over the phone. We’ve planned several trips to see each other already. And Keri works hard every day to make sure my girls feel my presence and know that I am still intimately involved in the details of their lives. I feared losing my family. I fear that no more.
Many of my hopes for the future have begun to be realized as well. I have found a new community and network of friends, gay and straight, and many of my new gay friends have become outstanding role models for me. I have found acceptance and love from my colleagues at work. I have found the love and affection of another man—and offered it in return. I have found wonderful normalcy.
Closets are dark, confining places that damage psyches and relationships. I have learned that there is no substitute for transparency and openness in relationships, even about some of the most difficult and sensitive issues we face in our personal and family lives. Dogma is seductive for the easy answers it provides but dangerous for the very same reasons and the corrosive effect in can have on relationships and our ability to love others and empathize with them as they navigate their way through life. Love—being willing to walk in another’s shoes—is always the better way.
I have over the past year considered from time to time whether I would change myself if I were presented with a “cure” for my homosexuality, if for no other reason than to save my marriage. I’m glad I don’t have to make that choice, but I am more certain than ever that were it a real choice, I would decline it. Sacrificing my homosexuality would require me to sacrifice something essentially me. I know that more than ever. I am normal. I am complete. My sense of self is increasingly whole and integrated. I am a father, a friend, a brother, a son, a companion, a boyfriend, a professional. And I am gay.
Rebuilding is never easy work. A year after Katrina, the storm that I adopted as a metaphor for the turmoil of my own life, New Orleans is still a city in crisis. And one year after my personal crisis came to its climax, there is still much work to do for me too—as a father, as a former husband, as a friend, as a gay man. But life marches on, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let it pass me by.
Friday, September 15, 2006
A few posts ago, in response to my friend Ariane (a very wise person...) John Galt wrote:
To me, either the church is true or the church is not true. To say that it is still true, that the plan of salvation is REAL, but perhaps its doctrine concerning gay relationships is wrong... that two men CAN be together... well, to me that just doesn't fit.
Sadly, that is also the reality for me. I had always realized that there were "cultural" things about the church that I was able to dismiss as inventions of men, but that the doctrine the church leaders put forward as revelations they had received from God was all true. So when there was something hard to swallow, I could build on my belief in the SYSTEM, the idea of revelation, and convince myself that even difficult doctrines were true.
In the weeks after Chris came out to me, we spent hours and hours pouring over his experience as a gay child, adolescent and man. In Mormon terms, I received witnesses as powerful as I've ever had that his experience was "true," that his soul and spirit are gay and that has always been and will always be. When I lined that witness up against the church's doctrine, I knew which one was not true. After that realization, that something the church said came from God was in fact an invention of men (well-intentioned, caring men, but men nonetheless) I could no longer rely on the SYSTEM and many of my other beliefs in Mormon doctrine unraveled as a result.
I have friends and family who seem to be able to let this kind of thing roll off their backs, to believe what they are able to believe, and judge for themselves what is revelation and what's not, and therefore remain actively Mormon even though some of the doctrines don't ring true to them. I am not able to do this. To quote John Galt again, it's either true or it's not, as a package. There isn't a half-way Mormon for me.
That said, my experience is a result of extremely personal revelation, and one of the things I think I've learned over the past year is that truth may be relative, even for God. I believe in a God that would manifest the absolute truthfulness of one idea or path to someone for whom that is the best way, and the opposite to someone else. I believe in a God whose wisdom is so infinite that he is able to see countless individuals' complex situations, help them find their way, and confirm that way as truth. I think we get ourselves into trouble when we compare one person's truth to another's and attempt to judge one as "correct" and anything else as "false."
John Galt, I hope you receive inspiriation and revelation for you and your family, that your truth is made manifest to you, and that all of us can continue to support and love one another despite our differences of belief.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
KK and the girls are living with KK's parents for the time being, and E, my older daughter, often plays with a little girl whose grandparents live next door. Yesterday, L, my younger girl, said something to KK about this friend living next door. KK corrected her and told her that she actually lived somewhere else but visited her grandma and grandpa often. KK also mentioned that the friend's parents are divorced and that she sometimes lives with her dad.
Referring to the friend's father's divorced status, L said, "Because he's gay." KK told her no, actually, he's getting married again. "To a girl?" The thought seemed bewildering to her! Alas, dear child, straight people sometimes get divorced too.
Monday, September 11, 2006
I was not downtown that day in 2001. I worked in midtown then, and the closest I came to the towers that day was 34th Street. I did not lose any friends, though several were in harm’s way. My primary memory of 9/11 is of the eerie silence that descended over the city as I walked by myself north to the Upper West Side, where I was living temporarily.
Then, as now, I was living apart from my family. It was a temporary arrangement while we transitioned from our rental to our condo. My younger daughter was still just an idea. My older daughter—then my only child—was far away with her mom in Utah, awaiting the move to our new home. I shared the trauma of September 11 with Uncle D.
I was reunited with KK and E about a week later, when I finally was able to get on an almost entirely empty flight to Utah. When I arrived I cried as I hugged them with relief.
It seems strangely appropriate that I remember 9/11 today with my family far away, as they were five years ago. Today I feel the loneliness of that day five years ago. I offer nothing profound as I remember 9/11. It was a tragic, traumatic day. I remember the lives lost and the sacrifices made. Though the tragedy and trauma of my own life over the past year is of a very different kind than what we are remembering on this fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, I am nonetheless feeling my own very personal loss today.
But I'm grateful that I also feel hope today, just as I did then. I've always been an optimist.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
First, the sucks.
KK and the girls went to Utah in early August. They planned to stay for the month, then return to New Jersey so the girls--all three of them--could start school. E is in second grade this year. L starts Pre-K. And KK was to start her second semester of graduate school studies in social work. I was also going to establish my own residence rather than continuing to live in the attic and in the city with friends as I had been doing for the past few months.
But if I've learned nothing over the past year of my life, I've learned that things change. Life happens. And after spending a week or so in Salt Lake, KK made an important decision. She looked at her situation, considered her need to start over and the emotional support that a new beginning requires, and told me that she thought it might be better for her to stay in Utah and start the next phase of her life there. I was devastated. I imagine I feel very much the way KK felt last fall when I first came out to her and then told her I wanted to end our marriage. She didn't want that, but she accepted it and supported me as I emerged from the closet and began living as an openly gay man. And now she has made a decision that I don't really want, but which I accept because I love her and support her and trust that she is making the best decision for herself, which is ultimately best for our children and our family.
As I have struggled to accept this new reality over the past couple of weeks, I have battled feelings of guilt. The guilt exists on at least two levels. I feel guilty about starting the chain of events that has led us to this point of separation. And I feel guilty that my children will have to grow up in a way that, at least on the surface, looks like the way I grew up--divorced parents living in different states. I am still dealing with the fallout from that experience and at times it is unbearable to think that my children will have to deal with that as well. In my good moments, I am able to remind myself that I am not my father and Keri is not my mother and we do not feel the mutual animosity and ill will that my parents felt. In my bad moments, Keri is able to remind me of this.
Is this ideal? No. But it is our reality. And Keri and I have decided that we need not let the ideal be an enemy of the good. We'll make the best of it. And I am looking forward to this weekend, which I will spend in Salt Lake with Keri and the girls. I miss them. All three of them.
Second, the wonderful.
I feel more myself and more comfortable with the life I am living than I ever have before. I don't feel gay--and I certainly don't feel straight!--I simply feel... normal. Who knew that normal could feel so good?
In the midst of this wonderful normalcy, I have met someone. I have been reluctant to talk about him on my blog because the relationship is still new and I'm not always sure how to "come out" to people about it. I also don't want to expose this relationship to scorn and judgment from people who disapprove for whatever reason. But he is a source of joy for me, and I want to acknowledge that here where I have written so much about my changing life.
He has a Mormon background, so he understands that part of my experience. He is kind, caring, compassionate, funny, smart and terribly good looking. He shares my values and is respectful of my family and our unusual and evolving family structure. In short, he has become an important part of my life and I feel blessed to have him.
As my friend Leonard once wrote to me, life is wonderful even when it sucks.
Monday, August 28, 2006
But more than that, as I read his blog I started to feel for the first time that though I share so much in common with this man, and the many others who share the experience of being gay and married and Mormon, there is almost nothing I can write or say that will be of any help to him--or me, as I move on in my life. Indeed, I've started to feel that there is nothing I can say on any of the blogs of gay married LDS men who want to stay in the Church that will be helpful to those on the "other" side. -L- and I went a couple of rounds on this blog a couple of weeks ago, but I was able to convince myself that it was a beneficial discussion. That I understood him better and he understood me better after the discussion was through. But now, after reading this new blog and posts on some of the others that have shown up lately, I don't think I have anything to offer--or, perhaps more accurately, nothing I have to offer is wanted by those who still believe that Mormonism and marriage are the only paths that lead to real and lasting happiness.
So, brethren, I will be taking a break from commenting on your blogs. I welcome your continued readership here, and even your comments. In time, perhaps I'll return to your blogs as well. Regardless, I wish you all the best of luck.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Today I came across this quote on the website of the National Review. It resonates with me as I examine my life, my choices, my faith and my doubts.
I bow before — and therefore “respect” — the aesthetic legacy of Christianity. My life would be immeasurably poorer without Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion, B Minor Mass, and cantatas, or Mozart’s great choral works; it would not be life as I know it but a sad hollow thing. I also recognize that countless men of intellect light years superior to mine have been drawn to the great philosophical enterprise of Christian theology. But I will treat the truth claims of Christianity just as I would any other proposition about the world. The claim that we are overseen by an omniscient, omnipotent God who also loves every human being and treats every human being with justice does not square with the slaughter of the innocents that I see every day. I do not understand why religion should get a pass from the empirical and logical demands that we make towards other factual proposition. Nor do I think that serious believers exempt other religions from such demands. Do Catholics, for example, believe that the angel Moroni gave Joseph Smith a pair of magic spectacles in 1827 with which to read the mysterious golden tablets from God? And if not, why not? Doesn’t it matter whether it is true or not, or is it OK to live in error as long as one is happy?
Monday, August 21, 2006
I came out at work for the same reason I have come out to others in my life--to be authentic and honest. But according to Time magazine, this also may have been a smart career move on my part.
Come Out. Move Up?
Friday, August 18, 2006
Suffice it to say that as a gay man who feels alienated from the Church in part because of this issue, this interview has done nothing to draw me closer. Just the opposite.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Once upon a time, I was an active participant at a little discussion site called Nauvoo.com. The site is owned by Mormon science fiction writer Orson Scott Card and has a little agreement called the Nauvoo Charter by which all participants must abide. Basically, you have to be a faithful, believing Latter-day Saint to participate on the site. In the day, it was a great place, particularly from my still faithful but liberal and unorthodox perspective. The discussions there shaped my evolving religious beliefs and were a nice balance to some of the more critical discussions I got into on other sites.
Nauvoo has changed. They've pretty much run the liberal Mormons out of town. For obvious reasons, I can't participate there anymore. (Turns out I've changed too!) But I still lurk. This discussion recently caught my attention. From my current vantage point, it is a fairly astonishing look at what average Mormons think about homosexuals and homosexuality. If you faithful gays want to change some attitudes (because I think we all agree that some attitudes need a'chagin'), this could be one place to start. And as Latter-day Saints in good standing, you'll be a lot more credible than this ol' ex-bishop apostate homo.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Also, I will not post anonymous comments, supportive or critical, anymore, period. If you have something to say use your name or blogger profile (which is acceptable to me--I have friends here in cyberspace who do not use their real names but have an accountable and responsible identity). If you don't want your comment to be public, then e-mail me.
If you are going to hide behind the cloak of anonymity, we have nothing to discuss.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
I'm sure you all have guessed my intention in posting this story here. At the end of the movie, I told my daughter that was kind of how I feel about her dad. Of course I'm sad to set him free, but I know he's meant to be a cheetah, and because I love him, I want him to be the happiest he can be. She liked that.
Chris is running with another cheetah now, and though he looks back at me, I know he's happier in the savannah than on the plantation.
The problem is that the movie ends there. How does the boy move on from his relationship with the cheetah? Does he get another pet that is meant to be domesticated? How can that pet ever hope to compare to the beauty, grace, speed of Duma, and how can the boy possibly love another animal? I love my cheetah, but I feel like I am at the edge of the savannah, watching him run and hunt and play and be happy, while I just watch. I don't feel the capacity to move away from the savannah, and I can't imagine what that cheetah will need from me now. It's a sad realization for me, that I know he needed me to get him to this point, to help him realize his potential, but I don't see how I fit into the wild now.
I'm probably going to take a break from posting here for awhile. It's Chris's blog, and it should be about him and his life, which is increasingly separated from mine. Maybe I'll take up residence on another blog, or maybe keep quiet for now (I'm a lot more introverted than Chris...). Thank you for listening and responding. Have fun with my cheetah.
Monday, August 07, 2006
Salt Lake Tribune: A daughter steps into the light
Emily's website for women currently or formerly married to gay men is We Are Wildflowers.
Friday, August 04, 2006
Thursday, August 03, 2006
And I regret that I did not tell KK sooner that I am gay.
Here's what that does NOT mean. It does not mean that I regret the life that I have lived with her. It does not mean that I regret having children with her. I have no regrets about the life I chose then or the life I am choosing now. But I do regret that I didn't have the courage to let her in sooner and share with her what I was struggling to understand.
Ideally, I would have told her before we got married. I loved her. She was the only woman I had ever fallen in love with, the only woman I was ever able to have a physical relationship with. So I wish I had done her the service of putting more trust in her. She gave me a few opportunities to do just that. She shared some very personal things about herself before we got married that she felt I should know. I remember thinking then, "Should I tell her?" But I couldn't. I really couldn't. And the closer I got to her the more convinced I became that I really wasn't gay. But still, I regret that I didn't say anything.
I also regret that I didn't tell her at some point sooner in the ten years of our marriage. Again, that regret arises not from a sense of guilt or because I wish I had lived a different life, but because I didn't trust her--the person to whom I was closest--with my most painful struggle. I shared everything else with her, but not that.
KK has pointed out to me that, with hindsight, it's easy to regret not telling her. It's easy because I know now how she reacted--lovingly, compassionately, empathetically. None of those things surprised me then or now, because Keri is loving, compassionate and empathetic. Her greatest happiness comes from seeing the people around her do well. And I have to admit that perhaps she is right, at least partly. I can look at how she handled this and say, "Ugh! Why didn't I tell her sooner!" But it goes deeper than that. I feel sometimes as thought I dishonored Keri by not telling her sooner and by not trusting what I knew about her character. I dishonored her by not empowering her sooner. That is my true regret. I regret that I didn't give her the choice of marrying a gay man, even recognizing that knowing something is not the same as understanding what it means--and I don't think either one of us would have understood what undertaking a mixed orientation marriage would entail. So even as I move past my shame of being gay and my guilt about divorce, I think I will always regret that I denied KK the power of choice.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Thursday night I left my daughters with my mother in Appleton, Wisconsin, got in my rental car, and drove three hours north to my dad's house on Vandercook Lake in the woods of northern Wisconsin. The locals refer to this part of the state as, simply, Up North.
Up North has special meaning for me. I've spent part of nearly every summer of my life here. For many years, my dad had a small piece of land with nothing built on it on Broken Bow Lake, several miles east of here. When I was a kid we would camp there. I would fish with my dad every day, swim in the lake, catch turtles and frogs, play in the woods, and sit by the campfire each night. I lived in Salt Lake City with my mother for most of my growing up years and saw my dad only during the summer and on holidays. I cherish the memories of the time I spent with him at Broken Bow. Even in my teenage years, when I often did not want to spend an entire summer away from my friends in Utah, I enjoyed the time I spent fishing with my dad Up North.
A few years ago, he bought a house on Vandercook Lake and the Up North tradition has continued uninterrupted. I still come to northern Wisconsin each summer, now with my family. This part of the world is a touchstone for me. A place where I can renew myself and share the experience of being here among the lakes and the trees and the wildlife with my family. It is a place where I can strengthen the father-child bond with my dad and with my own daughters. I wrote about an experience I had with my dad out on the lake on my old blog. I go back to it and read it every once in awhile, especially when I am feeling the need to connect with my dad or to remember what a summer night on the lake can feel like. This is sacred ground.
I am here for a few days, on this sacred ground, by myself. This is the first time I have ever been alone in northern Wisconsin. A year ago when I was here, I was in full crisis mode. I could feel my grip on my life slipping and my relationship with Keri deteriorating. Now, I am here to rest and renew myself after the most difficult 12-month period of my life. It has been quiet. It has been energizing. It has been relaxing. It has been what I hoped it would be. The promise of Up North has been fulfilled yet again.
It has also been difficult to be here without Keri. I have never been on vacation to this house without her. Next week, I will go back to Appleton, retrieve the girls and bring them here. We will do what we always do when we come--we will fish, we will swim, we will make a campfire and roast marshmallows and make smores. But we will do this all without our Mommy here with us. And I would be lying if I said that it doesn't make me sad to be here without her. She had become a part of the touchstone experience for me. And it is hard to imagine spending time with my kids in this very special place without her. But that is what we will do next week.
When I came out to Keri on September 17, 2005, our lives changed for ever. Since then, almost no part of my life or hers has been untouched by change. Most of the time, I think that's just good. We needed things to change. I needed things to change. As I wrote in my last blog, I think we are and will be better off. But that doesn't mean that I don't mourn the loss of the life I had. It doesn't mean that I don't miss some of the things we did together as a family--like come "Up North" to Vandercook Lake.
Friday, July 14, 2006
If you want to get divorced and lead a gay lifestyle, go for it. But you need to think through to the outcome of your decision. I'll leave you with a modified version of what President Reagan said in 1984: "Are you better off (gay and divorced) than you were (married)?
Better off. It seems like that ought to be fairly easy to figure out, right? But what does it mean? Better off.
I have considered this at length, and I think I will be better off gay and divorced than married. (And really, Restored Vows should have left "gay" out of it. I can stay married. I can get divorced. I can't change being gay.) Here's why...
KK and I had eight or nine really great years together. The last bit of our marriage before I came out was not a happy time for either one of us. Most people we know didn't see that. Really, in some ways we didn't see it either. But I was deeply unhappy and unsatisfied with my life. From about the time my younger daughter was born, I developed a death wish. I wasn't suicidal in that I wasn't planning my own death. But I was hoping for it. I imagined a plane crash on a business trip. Getting pushed in front of an oncoming subway car. A heart attack. Cancer. I was deeply unhealthy. I was overweight and out of shape. I had acid reflux disease that I hoped would become something much more serious.
I wanted out of my life. I figured it would be better if I were to go to my grave at an early age with my secret still mine than shame my family with my homosexuality. I figured my children would be better off with a dead father than a gay one. I knew KK would be better off with a dead husband than a gay one.
Better off. Better off dead.
Surely, part of my emotional pain came from keeping a deep, dark secret from the people I loved the most--especially KK. It could be argued that once I came out to her, I should have been able to press forward together with her. We could share the burden. We could make it work, despite our mixed orientations. Many couples try to do this, and some find a measure of success. We could be like them.
KK wanted this, at least on some level. She wanted the security and love that a husband would provide her. And she loved me. And to this day, I feel sorrow for the pain that this has caused her. I love her. She is my closest friend. But once I came out to her, I found myself driven to feel self acceptance and happiness about being gay. I didn't want it to be a cross I had to bear. I didn't want it to be a challenge we would struggle through together. With her love and encouragement, I began to embrace my gay self, and that set me on a path that leads out of the marriage.
I'm 34. KK is 33. There is a lot of life left ahead for both of us. She has gotten a grip on her depression and begun the process of realizing professional ambitions she didn't know she harbored. I am openly and happily gay. I'm meeting new people and feeling no shame for this simple fact of who I am.
Better off? I think so. There is pain in the short term, and there will be challenges in both the short and long term. But this is the best chance for both of us to find lasting happiness. And that's better off.
Monday, July 03, 2006
Do I have to change my name?
Will it get me far?
Should I lose some weight?
Am I gonna be a star?
I tried to be a boy,
I tried to be a girl
I tried to be a mess,
I tried to be the best
I guess I did it wrong,
That's why I wrote this song
This type of modern life.. is it for me?
This type of modern life... is it for free?
So, I went into a bar looking for sympathy
A little company
I tried to find a friend
It's more easily said it's always been the same
This type of modern life.. is not for me?
This type of modern life... is not for free?
I live the American dream
You are the best thing I've seen,
You are not just a dream
I tried to stay ahead,
I tried to stay on top
I tried to play the part,
But somehow I forgot
Just what I did it for
And why I wanted more
This type of modern life... is it for me?
This type of modern life... is it for free?
Do I have to change my name?
Will it get me far?
Should I lose some weight?
Am I gonna be a star?
I live the American dream
You are the best thing I've seen,
You are not just a dream
I tried to be a boy,
I tried to be a girl
I tried to be a mess,
I tried to be the best
I tried to find a friend,
I tried to stay ahead
I tried to stay on top...
Do I have to change my name?
Will it get me far?
Should I lose some weight?
Am I gonna be a star?
I'm drinking a Soy latte
I get a double shoty
It goes right through my body
And you know
I drive my mini cooper
And I'm feeling super-dooper
Yo they tell I'm a trooper
And you know I'm satisfied
I do yoga and pilates
And the room is full of hotties
So I'm checking out the bodies
And you know I'm satisfied
I'm digging on the isotopes
This metaphysic's shit is dope
And if all this can give me hope
You know I'm satisfied
I got a lawyer and a manager
An agent and a chef
Three nannies, an assistant
And a driver and a jet
A trainer and a butler
And a bodyguard or five
A gardener and a stylist
Do you think I'm satisfied?
I'd like to express my extreme point of view
I'm not Christian and I'm not a Jew
I'm just living out the American dream
And I just realized that nothing is what it seems
Happy Independence Day.
Friday, June 23, 2006
I am perplexed by the tenor of the blogger's comments re his account of informing his wife that he is homosexual. He seems to suggest that he has started on a path that irrevocably leads him away from any notion of a hetersexual lifestyle. Therapist Floyd Godfrey of Mesa, AZ and Evergreen have successfully counseled many a struggler to understand the genesis of his homosexual feelings, address the relevant factors and revive his heterosexual feelings. If that is the path that Hurricane wants to explore, he should vigorously investigate. Signed, a fellow struggler.
Other gay Mormon bloggers have spent far more time on the question of changing one's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual than I have. The reason for this is pretty simple: I don't believe it's possible.
Our anonymous friend here suggests that the work of Evergreen International and a therapist in Arizona have helped many understand their homosexuality and begin to change it or, at least, cultivate some heterosexual feeling. Though I myself have never been through reparative therapy, I know many who have, and I am familiar with the work of Joseph Nicolosi and NARTH, and I assume the aforementioned Arizona therapist subscribes to the same essential theories about male homosexuality and its origins.
The biggest issue I have with the approach of Evergreen, Nicolosi, NARTH and the broader "ex-gay" movement is that their theories about the origins of homosexuality have never resonated with me. Nicolosi points to an overbearing mother, an absent or distant father and the resulting early eroticization of male relationships. He describes how this precludes some men from forming close non-sexual relationships with other men; all of the male relationships become sexualized. Moroever, Nicolosi, et al, theorize that such men are uncomfortable in the world of men--they are more effeminate and sensitive; they are more artistic and less athletic. In other words, they are more stereotypically gay.
I am not stereotypically gay. I have, over the years, had close relationships with heterosexual men that I felt very comfortable with. I don't paint, sing, dance or act. I played sports willingly in my youth and on most days can tell you the score from last night's Red Sox game. Though my parents were divorced and my family dysfunctional on many levels, my mother was not particularly overbearing. I am not effeminate. (But I will plead guilty to being sensitive.)
It also seems to me that many of the things that those in the Nicolosi camp describe as the social and environmental causes of homosexuality are in fact the effects of a biologically-determined sexuality and the social distress that results from it. Do young boys who are alienated from their fathers become gay because of that? Or are they alientated from their fathers because they are gay and different from other "normal" boys? The latter is a more plausible explanation for me.
The general lack of success that reparative therapy has in changing one's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual cannot be overlooked. All discussions of politics in science and political correctness aside, there is just no solid evidence that it happens in anything but the rarest of circumstances--and even then, definitions cloud the picture enough for me to be skeptical. The many men I know who have been through such therapy are as gay now as the day they began any systematic and therapeutic efforts to change. That's not to say that such men are not out there. They may well be. I, however, have never met one. Moreover, many of the men I do know who have been through reparative or change therapy come out of it feeling damaged. (Though, to be fair, many have also described the experience of bonding with other men like them and of learning how to be more comfortable in the "world of men," as healing. Still gay though.)
And, finally, after all these years, I simply don't want to pursue reparative or change therapy because I don't want to change. I hated myself for being gay for so long. I desperately wanted to change for many years. Not anymore. I'm comfortable with myself. I accept that I am gay and always will be (and always was). More than accept it. I am happy that I am gay. I feel complete now in a way that I never did when I was in the closet and struggling against my sexual orientation. I am more myself than I ever have been, and I think that is overwhelmingly a good thing--for me and the people I love.
I can understand why the anonymous commenter is perplexed by the tenor of my comments on this blog if he still believes that his own homosexuality is something to be overcome. But I don't look at it that way. It's not something to be overcome. It's something to be accepted and embraced.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
First, sharq, though I don't know you, I feel confident in saying after this brief interaction that I'd like to know you. You seem to be a person of compassion and commitment. A long lost friend of mine wrote recently to say that good friends are hard to find, so we have to hang on to them when we do. He's right. I imagine that you are a good friend to many.
Second, I want to thank you for reminding me of some of the things I love about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I hadn't forgotten those things, but the focus of discussion in recent weeks has not been on the things I love. I'm glad you brought them back.
Third, you have done what I hoped someone would do. You have given me things to consider that I hadn't previously. I value that.
Let me address each of your suggestions.
1. Don't remove your names from the records of the church. It will make things easier for your family members and friends, and you can still choose to consider yourself "Mormon" with whatever definition you want to give that term.
I have pondered the status of my church membership over the past couple of months and have felt unsettled. I appreciate your perspective here, particuarly as to the impact on family and friends.
2. If you follow #1, there will be some ramifications you'll have to accept. Accept home teachers. Let active members of the church into your home, and both you and they will be blessed. Most likely, they will bend over backwards to be non-offensive, but in the event somebody starts in on the condemnation track, you can cut them off and let them know it's not appreciated. Sure, it would be awkward, but I think those odds are slim and you will benefit far more than you stand to lose.
We have had active members of the Church into our home on numerous occasions over the past several months. We have not had home teachers. Honestly, I can't imagine that having them over would be beneficial for any involved at this point, but I'm willing to keep the door unlocked.
3. Occasionally accept invitations to attend church functions. My ward recently made a serious effort to invite a gay member and his partner to the annual high priests' barbecue, and we were thrilled when they showed up. They seemed to enjoy themselves as well. If it seems like these sorts of things would be too painful, you've got to make the call, but I think eventually you'd be able to enjoy something like that.
In time, this might be something I could do. KK would have to decide for herself.
4. Chris, when you find a partner, expose him to the positive aspects of the church. You'd probably have to do this no matter what, or else he'd never understand you. Have the missionaries teach him the lessons (clueing them in to the situation beforehand). Take him to church at least once, and introduce yourselves to the bishop. He'll certainly have to understand the negatives as well, in order to fathom what you've gone through. But never deny that the Church influenced you in a number of positive ways, and don't be shy about owning up to that.
Wow. If I end up with another Mormon, I can skip some of this. If I don't, I'm not so sure about the missionary discussions. That said, the essence of this suggestion--that I share the positives of my church experience with a future partner--is something I absolutely can and will do.
5. KK, when you remarry, see #4.
KK gets to respond to this one on her own.
6. Live within walking distance of each other. That may be quite a challenge, but there is nothing to compare with being able to visit your mom or dad whenever you want, unfettered by custody schedules, distance, etc. Divorce brings real negative consequences for kids, and it's your duty as parents to ameliorate those as much as possible.
This suggestion brought tears to my eyes, and is something that we've already talked about at length. I have every intention of staying close to my family (and that includes KK) and we have talked about me finding a place very near to the house--something walkable.
I am a child of divorce, and one of the things I have lamented about my experience is that my parents were never close to each other. Not emotionally and not geographically. I never could approach my parents as a unit--a "Mom and Dad." I had to deal with Mom, and then I had to deal with Dad. It sucked. Keri and I want our children to know that they still have a "Mom and Dad" that they can look to and that will be guiding them along and cheering them on. Future partners for each of us could complicate things, to be sure. But if you've learned nothing about us from reading this blog, I hope you've learned that we've come to embrace life's complexities.
So thank you especially for this suggestion.
7. Accept that by retaining a connection to the Church, people will occasionally set out to reclaim you. Be patient with these folks. Virtually all of them have the best of intentions. Don't worry about giving them false hope or leading them on--if you are upfront with them about your situation you will be fine. You may win some friends, open some minds, and feel the true love of Christ.
I love too many Mormons to not keep some connection to the church, so I think this is very good advice regardless of how involved I/we might be with the actual ward we live in.
8. Likewise, never worry that you're somehow mooching off the church by accepting the benefits of membership without actively contributing. You've done your time. Let the home teachers move your piano up the stairs. Go to the high priests' barbecue. Read those tear-jerking stories in the back of the Ensign about people who feel the hand of God blessing and protecting them, and allow your tears to be jerked. Anybody who is allowed to serve you in any capacity will enjoy the blessings of God, and your sincere thanks will mean the world to them.
I have to confess to you that with the exception of my mission I've never been a faithful Ensign reader, but for the First Presidency message when I was home teaching (which I did with irregularity) and a bishop. But I will keep my subscription to Sunstone current. Does that count?
9. Find your own ways to serve. If you're not actively involved in the Church, you need to find a way to get outside yourself and make a contribution. Volunteer at your kids' school. Tutor an immigrant. Better yet, ask your home teachers if they need any help, and give them a hand with their piano. I imagine that if you think back on your best experiences in the Church (especially as bishop), you'll see that nothing is quite as rewarding as service. If will keep you spiritually healthy.
Here you have brought forward one of the things I loved the most--and now miss the most--about the LDS Church. KK and I are each wading into new communities. As a family, we have waded into a new faith community. As individuals, we are entering new communities as well. It will take some time for us to find our places in these new communities, but I think I can speak for KK when I say that we are both actively looking for opportunities to serve.
10. Allow your kids to be Mormon if they want to. I bet they love Primary, and they'll probably be invited to attends all sorts of events during their growing-up years. They may get exposed to some anti-gay rhetoric that will be hurtful, but you'll be in the best position to defuse those sorts of crises. Be willing have friends take them to church, and be willing to drop them off when a ride falls through. Attend their baptisms (if they get to that point), and show up when they're going to give a talk or a musical number in sacrament meeting. With any luck, somebody will recognize you from the barbecue and you'll have a pleasant chat before the meeting starts.
This one is harder. My children will, no doubt, be exposed to anti-gay rhetoric as they grow up. My oldest daughter, E, is already a champion of sorts of gay rights, so I don't have a lot of concern that they won't be able to handle that. Of course, I wish they didn't have to confront pain and unpleasantness, but having a gay dad is their reality. People will be unkind. So KK and I have no intention of regularly putting them in an environment where they not only might hear such rhetoric but where the things they would be taught about homosexuality run counter to what we believe.
That said, my children are the great-great-great-grandaughters of a Church president. They have ancestors who crossed the plains to get to the Great Salt Lake Valley. I want them to be proud of their pioneer heritage. I want them to know their own Mormon history. We will teach it to them. Their grandparents and aunts and uncles will teach it to them. If, in time, they decide on their own that they want to be Mormons, I will honor their choice. But it will have to be something they come to on their own, born of their own desire. They will have to become Mormons much as I became a Mormon if they decide that is what they want.
Well, that's a lot of advice from a perfect stranger, but you can't say it's unsolicited advice. It comes from a faithful, heterosexual Mormon who will never have to stand in your shoes, so you're certainly within your rights to disregard it entirely. But it also comes from somebody who has stood on countless doorsteps with a membership record in hand, looking to determine whether a new move-in will or will not accept visits. I am always thrilled when the response is positive, and the person is willing to interact with the Church on his or her own terms.
This touched me. I've been that Mormon, too, standing on a doorstep or stoop, looking for the lost. When I was bishop, we tried our best to track people down and hear their stories so we would know, and so we could take care of them--even if that meant simply honoring their wishes to remain unengaged. This is the best part of the Church. It's not dogma or doctrine. It's just good faithful people looking after one another--and the others who struggle with faith or commitment or testimony. This is the Church I loved and still love.
sharq, thank you again for your kind words of advice.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
It's easy to have compassion for someone who is in a difficult situation that you've been in before, or that you can easily relate to-- rejection while dating, losing a job, becoming ill, etc. It's also relatively easy to have compassion for someone who experiences a loss that you can't imagine, but is common within human experience, such as the death of a child or spouse.
It's one of the hardest things in this life to have real compassion for those you don't understand, and I wanted to thank all of you who have expressed that for us. I have felt so much love over the past few weeks, and though I feel the need to explain my choices so that you might gain greater understanding, I did not want it to go unsaid that I am incredibly grateful for the outpouring of love we've received. I am proud to have surrounded myself with such a generous group of people, and know that I can expect to receive love and support from you in the future, no matter what.
Friday, June 09, 2006
Yesterday I had lunch with someone I consider a dear friend and one of the very best Mormons I know. He is kind, caring, compassionate, and tolerant. He is faithful, but not dogmatic. As we have talked about difficult issues over the years, I have always felt that he has carefully examined all sides. He seeks understanding for its own sake. He acknowledges that sometimes there are gaps in our understanding or that teaching and reality don't always seem to line up as nicely as we would like.
So it was no surprise to me when he told me yesterday that though he is sad to see me leave the Church and thinks that it is in a very real way the wrong thing for me to do, he also understands as well as he thinks a faithful straight Mormon guy can why I have made the decision to no longer associate with the Church. He then told me that what has been really hard about my coming out is not that I'm gay (which he seems genuinely okay with), or even that KK and I are spliltting up (though he seems less okay with that), but that I have decided to leave the Church.
This puzzles me.
I have heard this from others in comments here on the blog. I have heard it in e-mails from friends and family ("I hope that in time you will return to the fullness of the gospel.") . I have heard it in phone calls ("I know that you have a testimony that the Church is true and I hope you'll return to it one day."). Anonymous Jerk and others have been pointed in telling me that I have broken my covenants and that the path I am on now leads only to unhappiness. "I hope you find what you are looking for, " I hear. "But you won't," seems to be the unspoken conclusion from many.
On one level, I understand this. These are expressions of faith and testimony offered in love and conviction. These comments come from people that I know genuinely believe that the best--and often only--path to true happiness is found within the teachings of the LDS Church, which includes marriage and commitment to covenants.
But mostly I'm puzzled.
To those who think the choices I am making now are wrong and lead nowhere but unhappiness, I ask this, in all sincerity: What should I do?
Each time I ask this question, I get no answer. I'm told what I shouldn't do, but no one seems willing or able to tell me what I should do.
First, marriage. I don't know how KK and I could stay married. We had reached a very unhappy place in our marriage before I came out. And while coming out opened up new (and old) lines of communication between us that restored much of our relationship, I came to realize that I could never feel as though I was free of the self loathing I felt for so long unless I was able to live a gay life (life--not lifestyle). What could we go back to?
I know other mixed orientation couples that are trying to make it work. Those I know most intimately have had tremendous challenges and I think the jury is still very much out on whether or not they can--or even should--continue to try to make it work. I'm acquainted with other gay married Mormon men here in the gay bloggernacle, some of whom seem to be having greater success. Yet even there, there seems to be so much angst.
The research KK and I have done into mixed orientation marriages suggests that most of those that last do so because a) their is openness in the marriage and b) the gay spouse at some point is permitted to pursue same-sex relationships on the side. Are there exceptions here? Absolutely. Is this the life I want? Absolutely not. Is it the life KK wants? Absolutely not.
Next, faith and testimony. I simply don't know how to stay in the Church. The underlying assumption in LDS thinking about homosexuality is that it is aberrant and wrong and must never be acted on. Could I live life as a celibate gay LDS man? No, I don't think I could. And it's not because of the sex. It's because it would require me to think of myself as somehow defective (even if it's not my fault). I feel as though I could only stay Mormon if were willing to accept that my homosexuality is a pathology, akin to alcoholism, compulsive gambling or some other affliction that draws one into sinful behavior. Plus, my faith shattered last year. And as I have put it back together, it is something new, something more symbolic and metaphoric and less literal. Something not quite Mormon anymore.
I've been accused of constructing a new belief system to justify my new identity and (again, largely unspoken, but implied) my sinful behavior. Why then do I feel a sense of integrity I've never had before? Why do I feel fundamentally honest in a way that I never have before? Why do I feel God's love in a way that I never have before? How can what I feel now fit with what the Church teaches and expects of me?
Someone take up the challenge here, because I really want to know. If you think what I am doing is wrong and will lead only to sadness, offer me something better. Share a possibility I haven't considered. Tell me how you think I can be happy (and gay--because that's not going to change).
Let's bring this back to choice. I have choices. Being gay isn't one of them, but what I do with it certainly is. I am making what I believe to be the best choices I can for myself and my family. Are there better choices here?
I await your responses.