Chapter Eight – Angels and Cub Scouts

Publicity photo of the cast of the television ...
Publicity photo of the cast of the television program Charlie’s Angels. From left: Jaclyn Smith, Farrah Fawcett-Majors, and Kate Jackson. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Danny, Peter, and I discovered different interests as school progressed. What little time we could spend together during recess was cut when we each decided to spend that time participating in different activities.

Peter discovered his natural athletic skills. As long as the weather cooperated, he would join the other boys in a game of baseball, basketball, or soccer. Occasionally, enough boys would get together to play kick ball, and they would often argue about how the rules for tagging somebody out at a base.

I chose to play Charlies Angels with some of the girls in my class. The girls always argued over who got to be Jill and Kelley—until Jenny would finally give in and agree to be Sabrina. Sometimes I got to play the criminal they would arrest, but I was usually stuck playing Bosley, the pudgy, middle-aged office manager that spoke with a slight lisp.

Danny, on the other hand, chose to spend a lot of time alone during recess. He seemed pretty content playing on the swings or monkey bars. On the days I was a criminal running away from the private detectives, I would often see my friend digging in the dirt like he was searching for a treasure.

I had my first real encounters with a bully during those early first years of school. For some reason, Justin decided that I was an easy target for his taunting. Whenever he teased me about being one of the girls, one of the tough Angels I played with would come to my rescue and arrest him for being ugly. I never considered his taunting as a problem at the time, but it seemed more like a fun part of the game.

English: Cub Scout in uniform
English: Cub Scout in uniform (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Danny, Peter, and I still enjoyed getting together for Cub Scouts every Tuesday after school. Danny’s mother was our den mother, and she always had fun activities for us. We did wood carvings, leather engraving, basket weaving, and many other crafts. We also had a bucket the boys would pass around each week to determine who brought treats to share after every scouting session.

While I enjoyed the small weekly sessions I spent with my scout den each week, I rarely enjoyed the large pack meetings. The wheels fell of my car in the Pinewood Derby, and the rocket I built got stuck on the racing wires. The older boys seemed to enjoy watching me fail at each of the competitions.

We had a pack meeting in October that was a little different than most. The leaders decided we would have a cake decorating contest. My father and I piled several carefully carved pieces of cake on top of each other and then covered it with a delicious black frosting to build the best design of the evening—a Darth Vader. Finally, I had won first place at a Cub Scout competition.

The crowd was impressed with my cake decorating skills. Many of the  mothers asked to take pictures of me with my cake, and the boys my age thought it was cool. Many of the older boys, however, didn’t act very impressed.

“Of course he would win a contest meant for girls,” one of them said just before leaving the room.

Father’s Day as a Gay LDS Man

I always dreamed of being a father. This time of year, when we celebrate fatherhood, I feel the emptiness that comes from that unfulfilled dream.

I remember getting together with a cousin and friends when we were young. We would usually play outside, but when the weather was bad, we would pull out the board game Life and play for hours. If I remember correctly, the player who ended with the best career and the most money wins, but our challenge was to see who could end up with the most children.

We enhanced the games by giving the children names, personalities, talents, and future careers. I still remember the family of traveling acrobats I created. The twins Bridget and Bart were a little bit rebellious and became attorneys. That, however, didn’t match my cousin’s family of fourteen that ran a resort hotel on their own private island.

I recall writing a paper in high school about where I expected to be in twenty years. I wrote about being a successful advertising executive and father of three children. My twin boys, Zachary and Ian, and daughter, Dahlia, were all very successful in school. Zachary and Ian were state-champion swimmers, and Dahlia excelled in music.

The one component missing in all of those dreams was always a wife. I guess I knew that marriage to a woman was never meant to be a part of my future, yet somehow I thought that I could still be a father. I never dreamed that being a father with another man would ever be a possibility.

Father’s Day was especially difficult as a single man in the LDS church. Sure, I enjoyed the stories people told honoring their own fathers, and I appreciated the sacrifices and love I have felt from my dad. Unfortunately, it was also one of the many days that our church services made me feel lonelier than ever, and I always felt like I was doomed to decades more of this life of loneliness.

Occasionally, a well-meaning ward member would come to me and tell me that I needed to get on the ball and find a young woman so that I could start a family of my own. Others were not as kind. I have heard more than one person say that single men my age have nobody but themselves to blame for not being married, and we are not being obedient to the counsel of our leaders by remaining single.

Secretly, I knew I was honoring the guidance of my leaders by remaining single. You see, I had already been counseled not to marry to try and cure my sexual orientation. My leaders also asked me not to let others know of my same-sex attraction, because they thought it would be too much of a distraction in the ward. Of course, I was also expected not to date or have any sort of romantic or sexual relationship with another man. I couldn’t help but think that staying an active member of the LDS church guaranteed me a life on my own; a life without the companionship of a partner and children.

My dreams have changed a little now. I still want to be a father, but the way I become one may be different than I had imagined in the past. I look at some of my gay friends who are fathers, and I see the joy their children bring them. I still want that. Perhaps I will eventually find a partner who has children, and I will get to share that experience with him. Until then, I will be the best uncle I can be to my wonderful nieces and nephews.

Chapter Seven – I Want to Dance

I continued playing basketball for several weeks. Every Saturday morning we would practice as a team for about 30 minutes, and then we would play a game against one of the other teams in the gymnasium. I would spend most of the game sitting on the bench. Whenever I asked the coach when I got to play, he would tell me that he’s saving me as his secret weapon. .

By secret weapon, Coach Packer meant the only thing I was good for was to foul our opponents. Our last game arrived, and we were definitely outmatched. The boys on the other team all seemed at least one year older and six inches taller. They were more coordinated and were able to run and dribble the ball at the same time without any trouble. My teammates couldn’t.

Of course, for most of the game I was sitting on the bench watching my team getting humiliated by the more talented crew. Yet, for some reason I didn’t really care. I let my short, bare legs swing under the bench as I sang a song I heard my sisters play over and over. I may have had the lyrics wrong, but I didn’t care about that, either.

“Don’t go breaking my heart. Don’t, don’t, go breaking your heart!”

Finally, Coach Packer had heard enough of my singing and interrupted.

“I need you to do me a favor, buddy,” he said. “You see that boy over there? Number 12?”

He pointed to the tall, tan boy with dark brown hair dribbling the ball. Number 12 ran past three of the boys on my team, stopped, and shot the ball. He scored two points. His light brown eyes seemed to smile when he slapped hands with his teammate.

“He’s good,” I said.

“He’s too good,” my coach replied. “I need you to take him out. Next time he gets the ball, you foul him. Got it?”

I nodded my head. I couldn’t believe it. I was going to finally play in one of our games, and I was supposed to stop that cool player on the other team from scoring another basket. I replaced Danny in the lineup—he wasn’t much better a ball player, but at least he knew how to pass the ball—and the game resumed.

Nick received the ball and started dribbling to our basket. A blond boy with freckles on his arms almost stole the ball, so Nick tried to pass it to Brock. The tan boy with dark hair stepped forward and grabbed the ball. It was my turn; coach had told me to take him out.

I ran to the boy, but he moved fast and stepped around me. If I didn’t do something fast, he would make another basket. I did the only thing I could think of to stop him. I ran as fast as I could, lowered my shoulders, wrapped my arms around his waist, and knocked him to the floor.

Boys circled around us, and started encouraging us to fight. I didn’t want to fight, and it didn’t look like the other boy did either. We just stood up and looked at each other. Our coaches came onto the floor, and they both looked a little bit disappointed that they didn’t have a fight to break up.

“We can’t have that happening,” a referee yelled at my coach. “He’s out of the game.”

“He’s right, buddy,” Coach Packer said. He turned away from the referee, winked, and whispered, “but good job.”

We returned to the bench to watch the remaining 11 of the game. I started singing again, but that didn’t hold my interest for very long.

“Can I go wait for my dad with my sisters?” I asked my coach.

“Yeah, go ahead.”

The dancers were lined up in front of a long mirror in the back of the room. There were eleven dancers total—ten girls and one boy. The dance teacher was bent over a record player. She carefully placed the needle on the rotating turntable, stood up, counted backwards from five, and then faced the dancers.

“Do The Hustle,” the dancers all shouted as the music started.

The dancers moved to the right and left in unison. They stepped forward and then back, and they spun all at the right time. I could tell they were all having fun—especially the boy in the middle because I could see his big smile reflected in the mirror.

I wanted to do that. I wanted to dance. Until I saw the boy in that \class, I thought dancing was just for girls. When my dad came to pick us up, I told him I wanted to take a class like my sisters. He frowned a little but told me he would see what he could do.

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about my experience in dance classes, but let me say I was a little bit disappointed. Dad found the most masculine dance class there was and enrolled me. I think it was actually a martial arts class disguised as dance. We had three clumsy boys, and we learned a few moves and poses choreographed to the “Kung Fu” theme song.

It wasn’t nearly as fun as the dance class my sisters were in, and I soon lost interest.

Random Ramblings

Bryton Catlett, left, wipes a tear off the cheek of his partner Patrick McAtee as they listen to the speakers. Members of the community stand Tuesday, May 1, 2012 in solidarity with (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) LGBT youth, at the Ogden Amphitheater to speak out and express grief and outrage at yet another loss of life in Northern Utah and to witness for the need for immediate change in schools, churches and society.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

A lot has been said in the week since news about 300 Mormons marching in Salt Lake City’s Pride Parade spread across the internet and around the world. I was surprised to see how many members of the church questioned the motives of those who participated in the parade. Many doubted the activity level of the participants, and they condemned them for not being in church. I know LDS members are stereotypically a judgmental group. I used to think that was an unfair generalization, but the words and actions of many this week proved me wrong; and I am disappointed.

A strange phenomenon among a certain segment of the LDS population, however, is the roundabout way they pass judgment on others. You see, they would never come right out and say they dislike homosexuals, but they will share stories or thoughts that subtly hint at the idea.

One Facebook friend, for example, spent the past week posting quotes from LDS President Joseph F. Smith. One quote focused on putting away the natural man and nurturing our spiritual beings. Another one was about being a good example, staying true to the faith, and associating only with those who share similar standards. Now, my question is why is he suddenly posting these quotes? I had never seen him do this before. I decided to check out his Facebook time line/wall, and I saw a post he made in response to the pride march; he thought those members should have been in church instead of participating in an event that celebrates immoral behavior. I couldn’t help but feel that these quotes have all been subtle follow ups to that comment. It’s a roundabout way to call those of us who are sinning to repentance.

Next, I saw many, many former ward members post a link to a blog post that has made the rounds quite a bit over the past week. Blogger Josh Weed and his wife made a public announcement of their mixed-orientation marriage. He’s gay, and she’s straight. They claim to have a healthy, strong marriage. He admits to being sexually attracted to men and not women, yet they have made their marriage work and have three beautiful daughters.

I do not want to question their sincerity and happiness, but I wonder what the true motivation is for what they wrote. The church leadership over the past 10 years has discouraged gay members from marrying someone of the opposite gender. They realize that past mix-oriented marriages have led to broken homes and bad feelings. Why, then, would this marriage and family therapist willingly enter into a marriage that will not offer him the complete fulfillment that all couples deserve? Isn’t it a little cruel to the wife to admit that he isn’t even remotely sexually attracted to her, yet he will marry her anyway?

Now, many of the people who posted on Facebook thought he was wonderful. After all, his general message was that love is what’s most important. I think many of my friends—mostly single women in their 30’s and early 40’s—thought that this was a strong message to the single men in their lives. Are they at a point that they would be willing to settle for a gay man like Joshua Weed? Maybe they are, but I still don’t think that’s fair to them.

The Deseret News posted an editorial about stopping the abuse of GLBT youth today. I was impressed that the editorial board of the newspaper owned by the LDS church would finally say something about this major problem. Many of the readers comments, however, show that we still have a long way to go, but I appreciate another baby step.

I regularly visit a website called Cor Invictus. The website was set up to provide gay LDS members a place to meet and feel the support of each other. I have corresponded with a few people, and I have attended a couple of social gatherings. I think it will be a great place for those of us with similar religious backgrounds and convictions to come together and share our burdens.

A strange thing, however, happened this week. I received a message from a woman who said she enjoyed my Cor Invictus profile and some of the comments I have made on the message boards. She said she would like to meet and go out to dinner. She is interested in finding someone that she could eventually marry, and for some reason she thinks I could be that someone. Well, I haven’t responded yet because I am a little bewildered about the whole thing. Perhaps she also read Joshua Weed’s blog post and thought she would start using gay websites to find possible dates and potential husband.

Finally, I was pleased to read this little comment on another blog:

“And I found this post rather touching.  Stuff like that makes it all worth it to me.”

I haven’t done much to publicize my blog yet. I was planning on getting enough material on here before I start that, but I am happy to see that people are finding me anyway. It’s also heartwarming to read that somebody has appreciated something that I have written. Thank you Gay LDS Actor.

Mormon Pride March – I Dreamed a Dream

Yesterday, a small army of Latter-day Saints made the news when they marched in the Salt Lake City Pride parade. The group called Mormons Building Bridges wore their best Sunday attire, carried banners and signs, and expressed love for their LGBT brothers and sisters.

As I read the newspaper article about the event, I got all choked up. You see, I have had the nagging feeling to come out to a larger group of people for a long time. The people closest to me know that I am gay, but there are so many others I still keep in contact with through Facebook that do not. Of course, I don’t see many of those people any more, but we get to see into a little bit of each others’ lives through the updates we post on the social media website.

I thought I would start by posting a link to one of the newspaper articles, but I saw that a couple of friends had already done that. Instead, I let their post do that part of the job for me, and then I left to watch a matinee with a friend.

Before the movie started, I was brought to tears by the movie trailer for Les Miserable. I will admit, great music does touch me deeply, and I have heard the song I Dreamed a Dream numerous times. I cried when I first heard that song performed on the stage many years ago, but why was I crying today? I think it’s because I could relate to the following lyrics:

I dreamed a dream in times gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving…

But the tigers come at night

With their voices soft as thunder…

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed
The dream I dreamed.

This song speaks so eloquently about my life, and I am sure many other gay or lesbian members of the church feel the same way. The truth is, members of my faith have been the ones who have made my life seem unbearable at times. They are the tigers that come at night. I realize that much of what they have said was not intentionally directed toward me, and most of the time when they were condemning homosexuals, they didn’t realize they were actually talking about me. Yet, I have let their “voices soft as thunder” kill some of my dreams.

So, this one small act of participating in the Pride parade by some Latter-day Saints made me feel like there was hope. I could almost feel a sweeping change of heart in the near future, but then I got home and read some new comments others have posted on Facebook.

The most painful words came from somebody I haven’t seen in years, but I remember him being a relationship expert who loved to provoke people. In his first comment he asked “What does it mean to build bridges?” Somebody responded quite well about how the group is about treating each other with compassion and respect.

This brother responded by saying that he has never persecuted nor hated any homosexuals, but that they hate the Mormon Church because “we don’t accept their lifestyle.” I tried to let what he said go, but I also felt the urge to click on his profile to see if he had said anything else. Sure enough, there was an earlier post that said he couldn’t wait until the Mormons start marching to show unity with the nudists and the swingers.

That comment hurt even more. It was a reminder of how I had been made to feel about myself so often in my LDS congregations. Because I was wired to love a little differently than most, I was somehow less worthy of God’s love than the heterosexual members. The inferences I got from comments that I would often hear in priesthood meeting and Sunday School were that I was partly responsible for the moral decline of our generation.

It’s hard to see people who I cared about at one time in my life make the comments that I have read today. I am also sad to see that others liked the hurtful words written by others. Yes, a simple click of the like button sometimes hurts.

It is so difficult to stay faithful when so many “good, upstanding members of the church” compare us to pedophiles, rapists, or pornography addicts. I marvel that these people can say such mean-spirited things and yet then say that they don’t hate me. I also wonder how many other people who are secretly dealing with their homosexuality see and hear these comments and feel beaten down and lose hope.

The problem we have in the LDS community is that we say things among our “brothers and sisters” that we would never dare say in public. It’s our way of making us feel like we “love the sinner but hate the sin.” Too often we don’t realize that somebody who is listening or reading one of our comments is “one of them,” and our comments are tearing at their hearts. That, however, doesn’t matter. Those comments reinforce an unfair attitude that is unfortunately still too prevalent in our society.

As I write this, a Primary song comes to mind:

I want to be kind to ev’ryone,
For that is right, you see.
So I say to myself, “Remember this:
Kindness begins with me.”

I am grateful to those wonderful people who marched with Mormons Building Bridges. They are living those simple principals that are taught as early as Primary. I hope that those Facebook friends will be able to take a look at their words and understand how they affect other people. I think that overall they are loving and caring people, but we still have some hearts that need to be softened. I know I will be more careful about what I say about others, because kindness does begin with me.

So, I am hoping this gesture from 300 or so members of the church spreads and softens the hearts of many others who are still unintentionally hurting others. I pray that they will help my brothers and sisters who are struggling with their faith stay strong and hold on to hope. Perhaps it’s time my “Facebook friends” know that those comments they made are about me. Hopefully that will change a few hearts. Even if it doesn’t, I think it will bring a little bit more peace into my own life.

Chapter Six – Playing Ball

Saturday arrived, and dad drove the kids to the junior high school. As we approached the old building that housed the gym and dance rooms, I got a little nervous about my first basketball practice. Dad had showed me a few tips about dribbling, passing, and shooting, but I was awkward, and I couldn’t get the ball to go in the direction I intended.

My sisters said goodbye and left for their dance class rooms, and my dad escorted me into the large gym. The room was huge, and it seemed like there were hundreds of boys chasing balls and tossing them at the hoops that were beyond their reach.

My team was sitting around a man who was giving them instructions. Danny was with the group, and he waved when he saw me approach. I also knew Nick from Primary. The coach’s son, Brock Packer, was in my kindergarten class, but I didn’t know any of the other boys.

Coach Packer had us run through a number of drills. We started with dribbling the ball. I did okay until he asked us to dribble and run at the same time, I wound up kicking the ball each time I tried, and I felt stupid chasing the ball after that happened.

When it came time to shoot a basket, none of us did very well where the coach had us start. Nick was the first boy to make a basket, but the rest of us continued inching closer to the basket. My shots got plenty of distance, but I had trouble aiming the ball in the direction of the hoop.

Everybody else had make at least one basket, and Coach Packer was getting a little frustrated with me. He lined right in front of the hoop about four feet out and handed me the ball.

“Let’s practice on your aim,” he said.

He stood next to me and spread his legs shoulder length apart. Holding the ball with both hands, he started between his knees and straight-armed the ball up to about his shoulders and repeated the same movement three times. The fourth time, he released the ball and it sailed up, hit the backboard perfectly in the center of the red square and then fell through the hoop.

“It’s called a granny shot,” the coach said. “It’s your turn.”

He handed me the ball and helped me get into starting position. I pumped the ball up and down several times before I released it from my hands. I watched it sail up into the air and to the far left of the basket. The ball hit Nick in the side of the head. Most of the boys laughed.

“Let’s try it again. Remember to keep your arms straight, and point them to that square just above the basket when you shoot.”

He stood behind me and guided my arms the first time and then let me shoot the basket. This time, it did just what it should—it hit the backboard, bounced on the rim a few times, and fell through the center of the hoop.

I clapped and jumped up and down. I was so excited. Danny was, too. He wrapped his arms around my torso as we began continued jumping up and down. Before the coach could separate us, he gave me a small peck on the cheek.

“Good job, Colin,” coach said. “Keep working on your aim, and you might just become a good ball player. About the celebration, though—teammates don’t ever hug and kiss each other.”

He held up his hand and turned to face his son. Brock lift his hand, jumped, and slapped his fathers’ hand.

“It’s a high five. Everybody, give your teammates a high five.”

We all clapped hands with each other, and the coach informed us that practice was over for the day. I wanted to give Danny another hug, but we settled for the high five.