May 2008


I feel like I should be writing more, but I’ve had a hard time thinking of things to say. Not that I don’t have a lot to say on certain topics, but I’ve talked the marriage issue to death lately. I think it’s lame that Utah today joined some other states to ask the CA Supreme Court to wait until people vote on the constitutional amendment in November. Why is that necessary? The rationale was that other states need time to decide if they’ll have to recognize CA marriages…but the Defense of Marriage Act already says no state has to recognize marriages from other states. And we have a state constitutional amendment already. So…what’s to decide? We’re not going to recognize them here, no matter what CA does, so why even bother weighing in? Except as a reminder that we hate gay people here, and we’d like them all to remember that.

No kidding.

But ranting about that just makes me tired. There must be something better to talk about.

I’ve been meaning to continue some of the story of coming out, some more specifics about why I left the church, etc. Just to clarify, I haven’t removed my name from the records, though I’ve thought about it. But emotionally, I’ve removed myself from the church as much as possible. The problem with living here is that you are constantly reminded of it, in good and bad ways. And also, for those of us whose families are still very active, you can never really entirely leave, because it’s still a part of your family culture. I know my family would be very sad to know that I have even considered removing my name from the records. I think I have valid reasons – the biggest one being that for me it’s hard to be a part of something that teaches you you are innately bad. I know there are gay people who remain active, in varying degrees of compliance with church rules and guidelines. But for me, it just felt dishonest. I know that what they teach about gay people is wrong. And from there, especially when that wrong teaching is such a personal part of my own existence, it was impossible not to start to question other things as well.

I do want to go more specifically into some of those experiences, though others in the blogosphere have eloquently described similar experiences to mine. I know many people for whom coming out was a deeply spiritual experience.

Sometime I will get back to all that. It’s been a crazy week at work, and the longer I sit here the less I feel I have to say. Somehow that doesn’t seem like a good blogging tactic.

Okay, as promised, something optimistic. 🙂

I can’t embed the video…but click on the link and watch it. You won’t be able to watch the whole thing without smiling…

Dave Matthews Band on YouTube

I read something today on Republic of T’s blog about the CA Supreme Court decision that I think really illustrates why the marriage discussion is important and why, even though the CA decision is momentous, with the Defense of Marriage act in place, there can never be true equality.

Here’s a “for instance.” Let’s say that David and Jonathan, a same-sex couple legally married in the state where they live, go on vacation with Mary and Joseph, a legally married heterosexual couple who live down the street from David and Jonathan. They decide on a road trip to see some historic sites in the next state over.

After they cross the state line, they check into a hotel and decide to head out for dinner. On the way to dinner, the two couples are in an automobile accident. David and Joseph are both seriously injured, and both are rushed to the same hospital. Jonathan and Mary both make their way to the hospital. Mary tells the paramedics, “I’m his wife” and she rides along in the ambulance. Jonathan, unsure of how he’ll be treated — whether, as a partner in a civil union or domestic partnership from another state, he will be allowed to ride in the ambulance with David — asks a police officer for a ride to the hospital behind his “friend’s” ambulance. Well, at least they both make it to the hospital.

At the hospital, Mary tells the emergency room personnel, “I’m his wife,” and is ushered into an area with her husband, and later to a waiting area where she receives regular updates on his condition until she’s able to see him.

Jonathan, upon seeing David being removed from the ambulance, forgets his earlier caution, jumps out of the police car, and runs along behind David’s gurney as he’s wheeled to an examination area. At some point, a hospital employee notices Jonathan, stops him, and asks who he is. Upon saying “I’m his partner,” Jonathan is told that unless he can produce proof of their relationship, he will not be allowed to see David or get any information about his condition, because he is “not next of kin.”

Fortunately, David and Jonathan never travel without their legal documents — advanced directives, medical powers of attorney, etc. But Jonathan realizes the documents are in their luggage, back at the hotel. After looking up the number of a taxi service, a seemingly endless wait, and a equally long taxi ride back to the hotel, Jonathan finds the luggage, locates their documents, takes the taxi (which has been waiting) back to the hospital, shows them to hospital staff, and is finally admitted to see David.

It’s been at least three hours since they first arrived at the hospital, and longer since the accident itself. Mary, during this time, has been with her husband. All she needed was three words. Jonathan, on the other hand, had to retrieve legal documents to prove his relationship to David, and had to do so all the while not knowing David’s condition, or whether David would be alive when he got back to the hospital. Fortunately, Jonathan made it back in time. But sometimes we don’t.

He then links to a story from a Denver TV station:

John Crisci and Michael Tartaglia, his partner of 33 years, thought they had done everything right. They had wills and other paperwork drawn up giving each other the right to make medical and financial decisions for each other, and specifying which relatives should inherit their assets when they die.

They packed the papers for long trips Crisci didn’t have the documents with him when Tartaglia collapsed at a gym on the morning on his 70th birthday nearly two years ago. An EMT suggested he run home to get the paperwork rather than risk getting into a dispute with hospital officials over medical decisions.

Crisci knew he was too late when a doctor and chaplain were waiting to talk to him at the hospital. To him, the story shows why same-sex couples should be able to register as domestic partners and get many of the same rights as married couples under Colorado law.

“You don’t lose that extra 30 or 40 minutes which may be the last time you can hold on to each other,” Crisci said.

That’s one of my greatest fears. Not being allowed in, or getting there to late with the paperwork. And the thing is, I know there are other problems, arguably more important problems, facing our country right now. The economy is tanking, the mess in Iraq doesn’t get any better, rumors abound that Bush will instigate something in Iran before he’s out of office. There’s plenty to be angry about. And that makes me even angrier that these basic rights, these basic ways people care for each other, are not afforded to me and my partner, and so I have to spend energy working on those issues too. I didn’t intend so many of my posts here to be about gay rights, but honestly, it’s hard to feel secure enough to get involved in other political causes when, as a couple, we really aren’t allowed to care for our most basic needs.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been sick for about 10 days now, but I feel very discouraged about the whole thing, despite the “progress” of the CA decision. I’ve blown about 25 pounds of snot out of my nose in the past 2 days, and would really just like to feel better now.

Okay…something more optimistic next time, I promise…

Sorry for a bit of inactivity here – we were on vacation last week and this week I’ve been fighting a cold that has left me too tired to think about much beyond getting through the workday.

But my blog stats are showing quite a lot of visits today and I’m guessing some of you are looking for commentary on the CA Supreme Court decision yesterday. I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I think it’s great progress and about time. On the other hand, I worry about the timing. Just when it was looking like gay marriage *wouldn’t* be a major wedge issue in this year’s presidential election…this is sure to energize the right and the consequences of that could very well continue 8 disastrous years of Bush policy by helping to elect John McCain.

Despite a promise to myself that I wouldn’t ever read them again, I found myself reading comments on the local newspaper websites about the CA decision. It’s always shocking to me, even though it shouldn’t be.

Here’s an example from the Deseret News story from someone calling himself “Phantom Panther”:

The gays have the California Supreme Court on their side. It is highly unlikely the Court is going to listen to pro-traditional family activists. Like the gays they are carrying water for, the Supreme Court is determined to force Californians to accept homosexuality as a “right.” Considering their liberal mindset, it would not surprise me if the California Supreme Court ruled that homosexuality was superior to traditional marriage and outlawed traditional marriage. All in the name of “tolerance” and stopping “hate speech.” We live in perilous times.

My reaction to this is: Really?? I don’t understand how ignorant you have to be to believe that gay marriage threatens straight marriage. And the idea that the courts will somehow rule that gay marriages are “superior” and say that straight people can’t get married – well, there’s not even a response to that unless you are crazy. Do people really believe that?? Honestly?? Is this a contest where only one kind of couple can be the winner?? It boggles my mind. Plus, the ruling isn’t that people have to accept homosexuality as a right, as this very intellegent Phantom Panther (seriously dude, you need pick a less gay online name) postulates. If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get one! Unless you are a closeted gay yourself, something that affirms gay marriage or gay people in general is not going to suddenly make you gay! And if you believe being gay is immoral, then go to church and pray for us! But the last time I checked, religion wasn’t mandated in this country and the idea that we are denying rights to people based on religious beliefs doesn’t get any less shocking to me the more I think about it. I wish more people were offended by THAT.

Someone else (I don’t have the stomach to weed through them again to find the person’s name) posted about how gay people shouldn’t get to take advantage of her tax money by getting married. Wait…excuse me? How does that happen? How is my marrying my partner going to filch her out of her tax money? What it WILL do is make OUR tax money come back to us in the form of collecting on each other’s social security if one of us dies (and social security isn’t bankrupt in the meantime). But we are both paying INTO social security, so I think we’re the ones being cheated by NOT being able to get married. Maybe that’s what she meant – she should be able to collect on MY social security instead of my partner because she’s morally superior to us? That’s the only conclusion I can draw.

*sigh*

One last rant and then on to the brighter side of things. I love how the rightwing loves to talk about judicial activism when judges rule on something that they don’t agree with. This part frightens me a lot, actually. The idea that we might seriously consider some measure that would limit the courts’ power and so completely alter the make up of this country, should be frightening for more people. Aren’t the conservatives always the ones talking about original intent of the founding fathers? I think they intended for there to be a balance of power! Why isn’t that talked about more? The intent when the 3 branches of government were created was to keep one branch from having too much power and thus corrupting the government as a whole. The courts have always protected the rights of the minority against the tyranny of the majority. And I’m sorry if you don’t agree with a court ruling, this one in particular – but isn’t that the basis of our democracy?

I’m not going to go into the LDS church’s response. Of course they will say that. It doesn’t make me angry. In fact, I felt that the way it was worded was much more thoughtful and compassionate than it might have been even a few years ago. So…for whatever that’s worth, that’s really all I have to say about that.

One of the best comments I’ve read in the coverage of the CA ruling comes from Mildred Loving, who was the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case in 1967 that overturned laws banning inter-racial marriage:

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, and how much it meant to me to have the freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the ‘wrong kind of person’ for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry.”

She was a black woman who wanted to marry a white man in the era when that was a punishable crime, and she fought for her right to be with the person she loved. (The quote actually comes from a speech last summer, but was mentioned in an article about the CA decision. You can read the rest of her speech here.) I think most people would agree, 40 years later, that there is no question a person should be allowed to marry a person of a different race. It’s interesting to realize that similar arguments used against inter-racial marriage at the time are being used against gay marriage now. I can only hope that eventually we will see the same outcome, from courts or legislative bodies or courageous individual politicans (or a combination of all those things, which is more likely) – and even if it takes a while I think that most people will come to see that there is no threat at all to them or their “traditional” marriages by permitting gay people to marry and care for each other.

Anyone who is scared of gay marriage should consider the case of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon who have been together for over 50 years. How many straight couples can say that? Why shouldn’t these two be allowed to leave their house, which they have lived in together for most of their lives, to each other??

And lastly, if you haven’t seen Ellen’s announcement, you should watch it here. I hope they are very happy!

I haven’t had much time to write this week. We are getting ready to go on vacation on Saturday, so work is busy and after work almost busier. But I had a moment tonight and thought I’d continue the story.

So after my experience at United Church of Christ, I started to feel a bit more hopeful. I started studying more about the doctrinal basis for church-based anti-gay rhetoric and found that it’s really basically three passages in the Bible that people fixate on when declaring that God condemns gay people. I won’t go into those in this post, though maybe I will later. But I did find that there are many religious scholars who interpret those passages differently. I also found religious writings that show some evidence of homosexuality in the Bible (the story of David and Jonathan is one example), though of course that is disputed. But more and more I found that this wasn’t as black and white as I’d believed.

Plus, I had my own experience and feelings to consider. I’ve always felt like I was close to the Spirit or the Holy Ghost, and felt guided into making certain decisions. On my mission, we often taught people the words of Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” I’d felt those feelings in the past, and I was feeling them more and more as I came to accept myself, and to accept the idea that God made me this way. I knew I was still a good person, and that’s part of what had been so hard about this journey, because what I knew about myself didn’t seem to match up with what I’d been told about people who leave the church for any reason, let alone for such a “big sin” as being gay.

Towards the end of that summer, my nephew came home from a mission. I was on my way to his homecoming and I was feeling very conflicted. I tend to be a very emotional person, and I knew as my nephew recounted his experiences, which is often very emotional, I would probably feel such strong feelings that I would cry. This isn’t unusual for me (those who know me well will be nodding their heads as they read this). So I was driving up to the church and I was thinking about how my whole family knew I was struggling with something, though I don’t think I’d told anyone at this point what was actually going on. But I hadn’t attended my older nephew’s wedding in the temple several months earlier, so it wasn’t a secret that I wasn’t exactly active in the church. And I was worried that I would give my family false hope, by possibly feeling emotional, which often indicates “feeling the Spirit”, and they would think that I would start coming to church again. I didn’t necessarily want to have any conversations about it at that point, but I also was feeling more and more sure that my path didn’t lead that way – I wouldn’t be going back.

I was feeling anxious and worried about that, and also thinking ahead to the inevitable moment when I would have to start telling people the real truth behind what had been going on with me. I decided to turn on some music, so I turned on the Lion King soundtrack (yes, I’m a showtune junkie) and forwarded to a song that I hadn’t listened to in a while. It is the song where Simba prays to the spirit of his father to know what he should do, and wonders why he hasn’t gotten an answer. It was a song that I’d really identified with at an earlier time in my life.

Where has the starlight gone?
Dark is the day
How can I find my way home?

Home is an empty dream
Lost to the night
Father, I feel so alone

You promised you’d be there
Whenever I needed you
Whenever I call your name
You’re not anywhere

I’m trying to hold on
Just waiting to hear your voice
One word, just a word will do
To end this nightmare

When will the dawning break
Oh endless night
Sleepless I dream of the day

When you were by my side
Guiding my path
Father, I can’t find the way

You promised you’d be there
Whenever I needed you
Whenever I call your name
You’re not anywhere

I’m trying to hold on
Just waiting to hear your voice
One word, just a word will do
To end this nightmare

I know that the night must end
And that the sun will rise
And that the sun will rise

I know that the clouds must clear
And that the sun will shine
And that the sun will shine

In the past, when I’d listened to that song, it was always that final chorus that made me feel hopeful – someday the sun will rise and things will get better. But this time, it was the earlier chorus – you promised you’d be there, one word just a word will do to end this nightmare – that really spoke so strongly to my heart. I realized that I HAD heard his voice. I wasn’t waiting for my answer. I had it.

At that same moment, I recalled a verse from the Doctrine & Covenants (LDS Scripture, for those who might not know) that I’d always really liked. It is from Section 6, verses 22 and 23: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things. Did I not speak a peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?”

The feeling came so strongly into my heart and mind that I had already heard my answer, and that during the past year or so, whenever I felt conflicted and worried was when I was trying to fit back into the mold or worrying about what other people thought of me, and whenever I felt at peace was when I was accepting this part of myself and working to move forward in my life. It was kind of like the final piece in that part of the puzzle, the final confirmation I needed to know that, even if others wouldn’t understand it, I was on the path God wanted me to be on. I was able to go to church with my family, feel the strong emotions from my nephew’s homecoming, maybe even cry a little with happiness about his experiences and my own.

Between those two experiences (the first being the one at UCC from part 5), and many smaller ones in between, I was able to finally starting finding joy and happiness in my life again. I say this is the semi-final chapter because in may ways it’s the culmination of my personal journey. It’s not really the end of the story, of course, and I’ll write more later about coming out to friends and family, and then meeting the love of my life. But any happiness I have now stems from that particular summer, and of course all the struggle that came before it.