Sunday, November 29, 2015

When a hug isn't enough

Today after sacrament meeting, one of the ward members hailed me as she was leaving the building. She came over to me, and we started talking. She is in a terrible situation. Her husband is dying of cancer. He is on an experimental drug that may be helping, but the drug is very expensive, and not covered by insurance. I asked her if there was anything that I could do. She told me that things are pretty much under control. I asked her, "How are you doing?" At that, she broke into tears, and we ended up in a hard embrace, and her crying into my shoulder. We stood for a couple of minutes, then said goodbye.

A hug really isn't enough. She told me how hard this is for her, and that is something I do understand. I do know what it is like to lose a loved one. I know that being on that path can mean loss, loneliness, despair, a truly broken heart. I think that most of us will experience that loss sometime in our life: a bad breakup, a death, a divorce, a broken friendship. We have relationships with people we love, then the day comes when a person is no longer with us. Contemplating that loss is a little like gazing down at the Grand Canyon. It's an abyss. It's a daunting distance and journey to the other side, and it doesn't seem to come with any promise of actually being able to get there.

I feel helpless in situations like this. About the only thing I can do is offer my shoulder, offer a hug. It's a raw and human place to be. And that hug seems so very small.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Palm Springs, the LDS Church, and Paris Is Burning

The last two weeks have been a doozy. I really don't have a handle on it. A couple of weeks ago, the LDS church came out with an evil policy denying the children in gay households the rituals and ordinances of childhood and adolescence in the church. Oh sure, kids can get all that stuff done when they are eighteen, so the LDS church isn't REALLY really denying those children anything at all except the chance to grow up in the traditions of the church family: no name and blessing, no priesthood ordinations. While it affects girls, it really targets the boys. The church's handbook policy seems like a Christlike act to me. I really wish that HTML had an <irony> tag. For those of you who don't know me, I'm rolling my eyes so far back in my head that I'm afraid that they are stuck.

So, I'm sitting poolside in Palm Springs at a clothing optional gay resort while typing this. Yes, dear readers, the gay lifestyle is quite different than the straight lifestyle. Just saying'. I'm in the semi-shade so that I can actually look at the screen as I type, and imagine that I can see what I type. All the guys who are sunning themselves think I'm an important business exec, and that I'm busy doing office work. But I'm not. I'm retired, and I'm writing this blog entry, because it seems like it's an important thing to do. I have things other than a shirt to get off my chest. And oh, BTW, I only take my pants off when I go swimming. I don't want to appear unseemly. Well, actually, I do want to appear unseemly, but that would be unseemly, wouldn't it?

A few comments about the gay lifestyle:

  • Many people (including straight people and quite a few lesbians) would consider the gay lifestyle privileged.

    The statement above is only true as in how it applies to lesbians. Generally, Gay men are more privileged than lesbians. So the gay lifestyle (which most people think is gay male, anyway,) is thought to be more fabulous than the lesbian lifestyle. In my own experience that only applies to women who choose not to wear lipstick.

  • The gay lifestyle is pretty fabulous, except when it isn't.

    Several not-so-fabulous events have happened within my gay lifestyle: I got fired from a job because I was gay. I was severely beaten up because I was gay. I got kicked out of the LDS church because I was gay. So bad things can happen in the gay lifestyle, <irony> but we'd rather have sex and consume vast quantities of alcohol</irony> rather than talk about the unpleasant facts of being gay in a society that despises us.

  • I suppose at some level, the values that gay men have may be different than other people.

    Sex has a prominent place in our values. Yes, many gay men value sex. It's important to us. Some of you may regard this as promiscuity on the part of gay men, but we tend to think that we are simply having sex with a lot of men. Now I wish that HTML had a <nuance> tag. That would be useful in this discussion.

    So let me set the record <irony>straight</irony>. I like sex. I enjoy having sex with other men, and with men who are not my husband, although I certainly enjoy having wonderful sex with my husband, too. The sex is consensual. I'm not hitting on straight guys. I don't want sex with any guy who doesn't want sex with me. I care about the guys with whom I have sex. They are men who are working out their own paths, finding their own truth. They are often wounded, too. I care about them, and I have sex with some of them.

  • Which brings me to the LDS church and the Law of Chastity, and the Plan of Happiness. The current handbook policy of the LDS church contains perverse incentives that could encourage gay men and lesbians to have promiscuous relationships on the one hand, or to live a life of loneliness, of celibacy, or a life in a mixed-orientation marriage rather than encourage lesbians and gay men to form committed, monogamous relationships with a person of the same gender.
  • For those of my brothers and sisters who can live the Law of Chastity as gay men or lesbians, I salute you. I cannot. For those of you in mixed-orientation marriages, I hope that your marriage doesn't end disastrously as mine did. I am so sorry for the harm and pain I caused my family. My family was completely torn apart, and in the thirty years since, I don't believe that we are any closer to healing the wound that was inflicted so deeply on my former wife, my children, or on me.

    The Law of Chastity is a figment. It exists on the lips of our LDS church leaders, and I do believe they are sincere when they talk about it. It seems to me that the best way to promote the Law of Chastity is to promote faithfulness, fidelity, and love. The LDS church's current policies about homosexuality and homosexual behavior do not do that. Instead, the policies punish same-sex couples in committed relationships with mandatory church discipline. While the church may punish promiscuous same-sex behavior, it doesn't force the issue. It appears to me, that these values are inverted. They are screwed up.

  • I have to ask these questions: Why is homosexuality so stigmatized? Why did a straight guy pound the crap out of me for being gay? Why did my employer think it was okay to fire a gay person? Why did my church, which claims to be Christ's true church on earth, feel it had to kick me out? What is it about homosexuality that is so awful? Do you really believe that Fred Phelps is on to something?

On Friday, my friend Bob and I were in Los Angeles. We came home from a wonderful Mexican meal, only to see on the television and read in our Facebook newsfeeds the terrible events unfolding in Paris. What happened there truly is something I cannot wrap my head around, and it just breaks my heart. Within hours my newsfeed began to fill up with emotional responses about getting "them" and full of some pretty hateful stuff. I don't like to think that my Facebook friends are haters, so I just have to decide that the emotions of the moment are short-circuiting some rational thought.

Guys, we really have to think about this. Why is ISIS doing this? What does ISIS expect to gain from this. In the meantime, across Europe and America, mosques are being defaced. Muslims are being assaulted, and the hate that started with ISIS is being repeated by haters who look an awful lot like me. Have we lost our minds? Yes, by all means we need to put a stop to ISIS terror. But Muslims are not the problem. The problem is a terror ideology that is nurtured by poverty, war, discrimination, and religious intolerance on all sides of the conflagration in Syria and Iraq. When France or the U.S. or any coalition of willing strikes a hammer against ISIS, it should not be a hammer against Muslims. I fear for the reaction in the West. It isn't going to be pretty. I'm trying to figure out how to personally work for reason and for peace. I think I'll begin with a donation to Mercy Corps to help Syrian refugees.

I'm sorry to unload this on you. It's not your fault that I wrote this.

So I should probably write a few words about my outfit. I'm wearing some lime-green trunks decorated with half-eaten ice-cream popsicles. This kind of fashion is the real fruit of the gay lifestyle. And, believe me, I'm thankful and grateful for that!