Tuesday, August 21, 2007

It's over

The hurricane, I mean. My hurricane, that is. There'll be other storms. Just ask the people on the Yucatan Peninsula this week. But my hurricane is over.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

New Blog

Jed and I have started a new blog: Family Blend. Join us!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Something I've learned recently

Coming out doesn't solve all your problems.

You're thinking, "duh, Chris!" But it's taken me 18 months and some recent rocky times in my relationship to figure that out.

It's hard to shake a lifetime of fighting your nature and building closets for yourself. I'm not like some of the (once) married gay men I've known in that I wasn't out to my wife during our marriage. I learned how to hide from her--and myself--pretty effectively. Once out, I thought the compulsion to hide would naturally dissipate. And it did for awhile.

But it turns out I have some issues--and closets--that might not have anything to do with being gay. Imagine that! Some of the things that I thought would resolve themselves because I am now openly gay actually got worse before I was able to recognize them as issues that need to be addressed. The good news is that I am now working on my issues and I'm learning a lot about myself and addressing things that I have been actively avoiding. And I'm blessed to have a man in my life who is standing with me through this because he loves all of me--the good, the bad and the ugly.

Last summer, our marriage at an end, I told KK that I didn't need anyone. I was trying to tell her that I was emotionally independent and capable of taking care of myself and moving on. She told me that she thought what I said was sad. It's only very recently that I have been able to see that she was right. We all need to be loved, and we all need to give love. It's part of what makes us human. I have always battled the thought that I have to be "good" in order to be loved. I'm not sure where that comes from. It might be the dynamics in my family; it might be the way I internalized Mormon and Christian teaching and theology; it might be my psychology; it might be all of the above and more. KK has shown me that unconditional love over the years we have known each other, and has continued to show it even after marriage. Jed now shows it to me every day. I'm finally ready to not only admit that I need it, but to accept it and offer it to myself as well. I hope this will make me a better person, partner, friend, father, brother, son, confidant, and former spouse. I aspire to be loving and honest in all of these roles in my life.

I'm taking a break from blogging and interneting for awhile. HURRICANE has been dying a slow death anyway, so this break might finally be the end of it. Or maybe not. But I'm going to go take care of myself for awhile, re-commit to my wonderful partner (even though we don't call each other that!), prepare for a wonderful summer with my children, and do what I can to nurture, repair and improve the relationships that have brought so many good things into my life.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Out of the mouths of babes...

Driving through the Lincoln Tunnel to New Jersey from Manhattan on a bus, my four-year-old daughter, who had been gazing out the window, turned to me and, wide-eyed, exclaimed: "Daddy, I think this bus is going as fast as the government will allow!"

Friday, April 06, 2007

Benediction, Part II: Covering

In his important new book Covering, Yale Law School professor Kenji Yoshino uses the prism of his experience as a gay Asian American and his training as a legal scholar to examine the subtle ways that women and ethnic, religuous and sexual minorities are often forced to compromise their civil rights, their identity and their dignity in order to blend into the mainstream.

At first glance, covering appears less insidious than other societal demands made of minorities. In the past many have been forced to try to convert. Others respond to such demands by quietly passing. Covering is more subtle, as it often involves simply trying to "tone down" undesirable or stigmatized identities.

In my own evolution as a gay man, I have been through each of the stages Yoshino describes in his book. I sought to convert myself away from homosexuality, going so far as to convert to a religion that held the promise that I didn't have to be gay if I didn't want to be. When I failed in my efforts to convert, I continued to pass. I was married, fathered two children, and actively engaged in activities and a lifestyle that was easily identifiable as heterosexual. When passing became too much of a burden, I was still content to cover. I came out to my wife and a small circle of family members, but I chose not to engage in any way in a lifestyle that was identifiable as gay.

My covering stage was the shortest in its duration. Once I was finally able to accept that I was gay and that it wasn't wrong for me to be gay, I quickly decided that I had no desire to cover my identity. In fact, for a period I was uncomfortable letting stand the assumption that I was straight. I came out in ways that were probably unnecessary. But I would rather have people know I was gay unnecessarily than let them assume that I was straight.

The demand that I cover, however, remains a constant, particularly in circles where acceptance of homosexuality is tenuous. A few months ago I was involved in a discussion on an LDS blog called By Common Consent. It was a discussion of Carol Lynn Pearson's No More Goodbyes, and when I wondered aloud (as it were) what I should do to build bridges of reconciliation with my former faith community, one of the discussion participants told me rather pointedly that I should "get over" myself and recognize that my sexuality was just a "small part" of who I am. Why, he wondered, couldn't I ever talk about anything else on LDS blogs besides homosexuality?

The unfairness of his charge was apparent to me (and others), as I know that my interests are wide ranging. But more than being personally unfair, he was doing what if often demanded of gay people--asking that I cover my sexuality. It's okay for me to be gay, but, please, stop talking about it! As I have become more comfortable being out, I have seen this dynamic play out over and over again. "Straight acting" homosexual men are somehow more acceptable than obviously or more flamboyantly gay men. We see the demand to cover in a very pointed way in the LDS Church and other conservative religious traditions. LDS authorities have taken a page from the Catholic playbook in declaring that to feel homosexual attraction is not sinful, but acting on it of course is. In other words, it's okay to be gay as long one doesn't ever actually do any of the things that define one as gay--namely, have an intimate relationship with someone of the same sex. The covering demand of homosexuals in Mormon culture is further played out when homosexual Mormons themselves respond to the covering demand by downplaying the significance of their orientation, dismissing it as an annoying fact that in no way defines them or how they will live their lives. Just because they are gay doesn't mean that can't live their lives just as any other Mormon might, hoping for marriage and family or quietly soldiering on in celibacy, depending on the circumstances.

This is not unique to the LDS experience, of course. Such demands that gays "keep it to themselves" are commonplace in other religious tradtions, in the workplace, and on the athletic field (see John Amaechi). Quiet, apparently asexual homosexuals are far less threatening to the status quo and the moral order than those who live openly. And there are reverse covering demands imposed by the gay community as well--we passionately ask all homosexuals to come out, to live life as openly and defiantly as they can, and to reject any suggestion that to do so is in anyway problematic. Alas, life is not so simple.

As much as I want to be finished covering, I still do it. I hate it, but it happens. Maybe I don't mention Jed in certain situations when I easily could, or I withdraw from conversations about family and marriage because I don't want to have to explain my own personal transformation and circumstances. These things don't happen often anymore, but they happen. Sometimes I'm responding to an external demand that I cover, but other times I'm still fighting my own internal battles. But I firmly believe that recognizing the demand to cover is an important final step in coming out.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Benediction, Part I: Integration and Reconciliation

HURRICANE is winding down. This blog was an invaluable part of my coming out process. But its moment is passing as I find myself on ever more solid ground as a out gay man. It occupies a space in the blogosphere that corresponds with a space where I no longer live: gay, married and Mormon.

But before I go, I am going to write a series of posts on themes that are important to me at this stage of life: integrating and reconciling the past, covering, and belonging.

I have written on this blog about integration in the way that many gay people talk about it after coming out. Bringing my identity and my sexuality into alignment lifted a dark fog from my mind. Integration is an essential part of the coming out process. But that's not the integration I have in mind now. Over the past few weeks I have intensified a different type of integration process. This one involves reconciling my current self to my past self. Part of that has been forgiving, myself and others, and essential to forgiving is recognizing and celebrating the good things about my old life. With my immediate family, that is easy. My love for my children knows no bounds. My friendship with KK remains strong and an important part of my life, and I value the good things that came as a result of our marriage. Other relationships, such as those with parents and old friends, are also worth holding on to and strenthening, and I am striving to do that. I have struggled more with forgiving other presences from my past. In particular, I have felt anger and bitterness toward the LDS Church. But lately I've found myself forgiving there as well, and remembering the good things that came from my Mormon experience.

HURRICANE is not my first blog. I had another one that I called Outer Boroughs in a nod to my place of residence at the time I was writing on it: Brooklyn. I used it to write about politics and culture and religion and the Mormon experience. After my faith fell apart, I took the blog down. But a few months ago I went back and read some of the posts. I still like many of them. They don't reflect my current reality or my current faith for the most part, but I think they reflect the kind of Mormon I was and they honor the good that Mormonism brought into my life.

So in this, the first part of my HURRICANE benediction, I share a handful of my blog posts from Outer Boroughs that I think capture who I was then, and who I hope in many respects I still am now:


Civil Breakdown
Convert Soul
Is God a Muskie?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

To my Valentines...

Happy Valentine's Day to my daughters. I love you girlies like crazy. And sometimes I miss you so much my heart hurts.

Monday, February 12, 2007

New York Times on Change Therapy

A Mormon man and a BYU-trained therapist are among those featured in "Reining in Desires Proves Complex, at Best," a story on the front page of the Metro section of today's New York Times.

(Free registration with the New York Times is required to read the article.)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

For the Bible Tells Me So

This film is about faith, homosexuality, family, and the difference between what the Bible says and what it means. It was screened at Sundance this year, and though I haven't seen it, I did listen to this Radio West interview with the director. Have a listen.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

New Perspectives

Last Saturday night, J and I were out with a couple of his friends, one of whom is a faithful and believing Catholic. Talk turned to religion and J, who was raised Mormon, asked her, "So, you believe that the Catholic Church is the one true church?" She looked at him as if he had asked her the question in Lithuanian. Then she looked as though the question had never crossed her mind.

Having spent the last year attending a church where no one is invested in whether or not it's the one and only true one, the question seemed odd to me as well. But I also understood that it made perfect sense, as I have sat through many testimony meetings in my life (not to mention Sunday School lessons, priesthood lessons, and sacrament meetings). Belief that the LDS Church is the only true church is integral for Mormons, and for many of us who were Mormon it is hard not to think about religion in other terms. So it is often surprising to realize that many people of faith and spirituality do not think in those terms at all. For our Catholic friend, her faith was not in a church that she considers to be the only true one or the guardian of ultimate truth. Rather it is a vehicle for cultivating spirituality and compassion.

I know many Mormons who are like this as well, to be sure. Indeed, I think the Mormons with whom I always have always felt most comfortable, both when I was a Mormon and since leaving the church, were those who don't seem particularly invested in the idea of a single true church at all. They practice their faith as though the Mormon Church is a right way rather than the only way. But J wasn't like that and even now in the post-Mormon phase of his life he couldn't really understand why anyone would be committed to a church they didn't think was God's True Church. For him it had always been the Mormon Church or no church. Always, that is, until our friend gave him that puzzled look and talked about her faith with us.

The next morning, J and I went with a group from my church in New Jersey to Sunday services at Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan. J had been to services with me in New Jersey before (reluctantly, though he has since admitted that he liked it more than he wanted to), but he seemed to approach this experience with a new found openness. As he let go of the idea that there is or should be a single way or that churches themselves should proclaim such a thing, he seemed to discover that perhaps there were ways for him to connect to his spirituality that he thought he had rejected--that is, sitting at church on Sunday morning. I think it was a remarkable experience for him.

It reminded me of my first visit to Union Congregational, where I felt a sense of divine love and acceptance and connection that had been sorely lacking in my life to that point. I don't want to toss the baby out with the bath water as I move forward with my life. I'm still much more of a Christian-y agnostic than any kind of true believer, but that does not preclude me from embracing the support and meaning I find in church community and the sprituality I find in the beauty of Christian worship. I also am still deeply moved by the compassion and concern for the downtrodden that I find in the teachings of Jesus. The United Church of Christ, to which my congregation belongs, proclaims that God accepts us all where we are. I can't believe in things I don't believe in--and I am grateful to have found a reason and a place to to worship God in a setting where I'm not expected to.

Friday, January 12, 2007


What is conscience?

As I understand it, conscience is the inner sense of what is right or wrong in one's conduct or motives, which also impels one toward right. I remember telling investigators on my mission that conscience was the influence of the Holy Spirit, guiding them to do what is right. I know that's not doctrinal, but it was a useful way to explain to people how they could be guided to do the right and moral thing in their lives. And it was effective in showing people how something within them could enable them to align their lives with God's will.

This has been on my mind a lot of late. Over on L's blog, Scot and L are having a discussion about it that was sparked by L's post on Idolatry. Scot has also written recently about his struggle with conscience as a gay teen at Boys State. And in another online forum where I am a regular participant, there was a discussion that began with the question of how we would respond if forced to choose between our religion or our country. One of the participants said that he'd choose neither. He would instead choose his conscience.

Scot's story in particular reminded me of when I was new to New York City and had just been called to serve on the high council of our LDS stake in Brooklyn. I've written this story there, but I'd like to revisit it here as well.

The stake presidency knew I worked in public relations, so they gave me the stake public affairs portfolio as well as a ward assignment not long after I was called. This was in 1999, and there was talk in conservative circles here in New York of organizing a campaign against same-sex marriage, which was assumed to be on its way. The church had become active in this, and there was an unofficial coordinator who worked with all of the stake public affairs representatives in the area. I was handed a thick file documenting what action had been taken and what action was under consideration. I was encouraged to draft e-mails and letters to members of the state legislature, and to cultivate support for action against gay marriage in the wards in my stake.

I dragged my feet on it. I did not want to do it. At the time I convinced myself that I just didn't know where I stood on these issues for gay people (since I wasn't one!) and I even voiced some of my discomfort to a member of the stake presidency in a very private, very cautious way. He encouraged me to do my best, but the implication that I should do my best in support of the church's position was clear.

A few months later, before I had a chance to do anything, I was release from the High Council and called as bishop. I was relieved that I wouldn't have to deal with the same-sex marriage politics, because I was so conflicted about it. But then, in the last two years of my tenure as bishop, same-sex marriage politics REALLY began to heat up and I started to worry about the Church asking me to do something that would deepen my inner conflict, which had begun to intensify. But they never did.

Fast forward to earlier this year. The LDS Church did, finally, ask its bishops and branch presidents to read a letter to their congregations affirming the Church's support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and asked its members to write to their elected representatives in Washington to express their support for such an amendment.

I wonder what I would have done if I had been the one presiding over the ward in Brooklyn earlier this year. Would I have read that letter? I don't know. It's hard for me now to think that I would, but I suspect I would have felt duty bound. Perhaps I would have excused myself from conducting the meeting that day so that one of my counselors would have been the one to give voice to the letter. I certainly can't imagine that I would have flatly refused to do it, and never mind making my reasons for not doing it public. In an interesting twist, though, the letter was read in my old ward in Brooklyn, which my family and I left in the summer of 2005, the same Sunday that most people in the ward found out that I was gay and that KK and I were getting divorced. I guess I ended up taking a stand against the Church's political statement after all. But it was not an act of conscience. It was a convergence of events that can be seen as a public statement of sorts.

Acts of conscience require some sort of action, often in opposition to or in support of someone or something else. My conscience -- my inner sense of what is right and wrong -- has been the guiding force that has moved me away from the LDS Church, and it is my conscience that consistently tells me that it is the right thing for me. Some might look at that and, because it conflicts with their faith or their world view, conclude that I am misguided, or that in choosing conscience I am rejecting God's plan for me and following a path that is false or harmful or immoral. Ultimately I think that says more about the person making that conclusion than it does about me. (Though I live with a certain amount of discomfort knowing that some friends and family likely think this about me. We all want to be validated.)

Whatever we think of other people's choices, I think most of us would agree that choosing not to follow one's conscience often leads to feelings of regret and unhappiness. My Mormon experience taught me to listen to the still small voice. I'm grateful for that learning.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Charlotte's Web

Halfway through the movie, which my girls had already seen once, E leans over to me and whispers loudly, "Dad, it's even better the second time!"

I had a very nice holiday. Hope you did, too. Happy New Year!