Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Jim McGreevey

"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

A man walks into a bar...

A man walks into a pub in Dublin, orders three pints, and takes them off to a quiet corner table. He sets the pints in front of himself and proceeds to take a drink from each one. He repeats this until all three pints are finished.

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

One year later

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

Response to John Galt

For the first time I read John Galt's blog tonight, and originally wrote the following as a comment. The longer it became, the more I felt it should be here, and not there.

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

"Because he's gay"

The mood has been heavy in these parts of late. So, in the interest in bringing a little humor to this blog, I share a story about my four-year-old, as told to me by her mother.

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

Remembering 9/11

This morning I rode into Manhattan from New Jersey and took the PATH train from Hoboken across to the World Trade Center. As the train pulled into the station, which looks out over the hole in the ground where the towers once were, I caught glimpse of the memorial service going on there to mark the five year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York City.

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.