Chapter 11 – I walk alone

I wasn’t the most popular kid in school. In fact, I knew early on that I would be the type of child that most had to tolerate instead of choosing to include me in their activities. I wasn’t the last one picked for teams, but I was usually near the end of the selections. The way we divided teams during sports activities always caused anxiety; I hated the rejection. By the time sixth grade arrived, however, I had gotten used to the process. I quietly accepted the rejection.

It was also in sixth grade when one of my classmates, Nick, had decided to increase my misery levels during school hours. I didn’t realize it then, but my reactions to his teasing during recess were exactly what he wanted. He knew I hid in the bathroom and cried after our recent recess incident, and he liked it. I was to become the targeted victim in a plan to increase his popularity at school.

It started subtly. Nick made sure I could hear him whispering to other boys in class. Here’s how it usually went:

“Hey, did you know that Colin is gay?” he would say.

“What?”

“Colin, he’s a homosexual.”

“What’s that?”

“It means he likes boys.”

“Huh?”

“He doesn’t like girls; he likes boys!”

“Oh… you mean he’s a faggot?”

At that point there would be some snickering, and then I would get hit by a ball of crumpled paper. Of course, this was all done while Mrs. Frandsen wasn’t watching.

Nick never mentioned my secret—so secret that I still didn’t know it was true—to any of the girls in class. His gossip-mongering, however, lasted an entire week until all 17 boys in my class were informed of my deviant sexual preferences. As far as I knew, none of them bothered to stand up for me, but the worst part was I let it all happen. Some part of my upbringing—I’m not blaming anyone, mind you—something had told me that if I ignored the bullies, it would all stop.

Boy, was I wrong! Finally, the day that Nick had been hoping for arrived. Mrs. Frandsen was called out of the classroom, so we were all there without adult supervision. Nick had just what he wanted—a captive audience of 35 kids and the opportunity to say whatever he wanted. He motioned for his friend Brock to stand at the door and watch for Mrs. Frandsen, walked to the chalkboard, and began pacing the width of the room.

“Attention class, I have a very important matter to discuss with you today,” he said in his best attempt to sound like an adult.

Most of the boys laughed, and so did some of the girls.

“Settle down, kids. This is serious.”

“Sit down, Nick,” Kathy said.

“This concerns you, Kathy, so you better listen carefully.”

“Shut up, and sit down, Nick,” Kathy insisted. She stood up.

“Oh you’d want me to do that because you don’t want everybody to hear what I have to say. We all know you have a big crush on Colin, don’t we?”

Boys and girls laughed and whispered to each other. Kathy looked around for some support, but there wasn’t any. She looked at me with her sad, brown eyes and sunk back into her chair.

“Well,” Nick continued, “there’s a problem with you having a crush on Colin. He’ll never love you back And you know why, don’t you?”

I felt the blood rushing to my face, looked back at Kathy, and watched her sink lower into her seat. Some of the girls were whispering questions, and the boys were laughing.

“You know Colin’s secret, don’t you, Kathy. Well, it’s time everybody knew. You see, class, Colin will never love any girls because he’s a ho-mo-sex-u-al.”

He really let that last word last for an uncomfortably long time. The boys started laughing more, and girls started whispering amongst each other. “Is that true?” “Poor Kathy.” “That’s gross.”

“Let me tell you about homosexuals,” Nick continued. He was getting confident in his public speaking abilities. “Homo means the same, and sexual, well–”

“Cool it, Nick,” Brock said from the classroom door. “Mrs. Frandsen is coming back.”

The two boys returned to their desks and everybody did their best to look like they were busy working on their school work. I could feel people staring at me, and even though they tried hard to stifle them, an occasional boy or girl would let a giggle escape from deep within their gut. I didn’t dare turn and look and see if Kathy was suffering a similar level of discomfort.

Nobody spoke to me for the rest of the day, and they all made sure there was plenty of empty space around me at the lunch table. There’s usually a lot of movement in my class, but the students made sure to go out of their way to avoid my desk. Finally, when 3:15 arrived, all students rushed out the door. I pretended to search for something in my desk while everyone left. Is was easier than seeing their disapproving looks and mean laughter.

Kathy would probably be waiting for me in the hall. I looked at the hook where she usually hung her jacket in the hall, but she wasn’t there. I waited for ten minutes outside the girls’ restroom, but she never came out. For the first time since kindergarten, I walked home alone. I walked alone the rest of the school year.

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All-American Boy

All-American Boy

I came across this video on Facebook today, and I was very impressed.  I am not sure people fully understand the loneliness and rejection that gay men and women fear when we come to terms with our sexuality. This portrays those emotions beautifully.

 

Warning: the video depicts characters drinking liquor and a brief shot of a bare backside skinny dipping scene.

Playing victim

Yesterday and today I have viewed hundreds of posts from Facebook friends and others complaining about yesterday’s Supreme Court decisions. They are all crying that they are losing their rights. They are playing the victims in this fight for equality. While I do believe that most of them deep down believe that they are being persecuted, I would like them to try practicing a little bit of empathy for a day. Imagine being harassed your whole life for being queer. How would you feel if you were reminded on a daily basis in your local newspapers that you are a genetic mistake? What would life be like for you if you were told that you would never be allowed to spend your life with the person you love?

I am disappointed that the Deseret News is leading the charge of playing the victim in this historic time of human rights. Here’s a sample of some editorials that the newspaper published today:

DN1

I can’t help but cringe at the title of the first article. It’s disingenuous to cry about stereotypes when a lot of the rhetoric against “the gay lifestyle” is saturated with stereotypes. I was hoping that the LDS church and it’s media outlets would take the higher road after yesterday’s announcements. Unfortunately, my expectations of a call for more civil dialogue and better treatment of all of our neighbors has been absent from the comments.

Being passive aggressive on Facebook

If there’s one characteristic many LDS faithful share in common, is their ability to share an idea in a passive aggressive manner. So many of my LDS friends posted links to the church’s Proclamation to the World on their wall. All of those posts made me chuckle, but the comments that accompanied many of them made were like secret punches in my gut. The comments like “… so there,” “‘Enough said,” “They’ll get there’s on judgment day,” and “I’ll live by the higher law!”   Those comments have a subtle, prideful tone and convey a disdain for their homosexual neighbors who are doing their best to live good lives and wish to be treated with the God-given dignity they deserve.

So much good being spoken

On the flip side, there have been so many comments of support to match or even outnumber the negative that I have seen. So many people are coming to the realization that homosexuality is not a choice, and it’s time we start doing what we can to get rid of the stigma of being gay. The winds are changing direction, and it’s an exciting time to live.

Time for renewal

LDS General Conference Crowd Photography
LDS General Conference Crowd Photography (Photo credit: JeremyHall)

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”

It has been several months since I have posted on here. In the time that I have been away, a few interesting developments have happened within the various LDS church organizations and people within the church. Here are some of my favorites.

Time for healing within the LDS church

Last fall the LDS church made a new website available to the public. The purpose was to share their views on gays within the church organization. Many people complained that it was not enough. Personally, I feel that it is a great first step in the official organization building bridges that have been damaged over the years.

Unfortunately, too many people who consider themselves faithful members of the church still have unkind and unfair views toward their gay family and friends. I see the website as an important move to help people realize that we have the same dreams and spiritual needs that everyone else has.

Time for the Boy Scouts of America

I posted a little bit about some of my experiences in the Cub Scouts, and I will post some stories about my time with the Boy Scouts. It’s exciting to see that the BSA is considering a change in its policy about gay scouts and scout leaders. The opinions I read on various articles about the topic are pretty divisive, but it’s a discussion that we need to have.

Time for gay Mormons to let people know who we are

A few months ago Jimmy posted a video coming out to his friends and family. I first discovered it from a Facebook post his sister Jolie posted. I have known Jolie for years through the small LDS film circuit, and I am impressed with her work and love shown towards her brother.

Within weeks, Jimmy’s video went viral, and I saw it mentioned on different news programs. Overall, I think the public response has been positive and supportive. I wish him the best.

Time for General Conference

Believe it or not, I look forward to General Conference every six months. I happen to know a lot of other gay and lesbian members and former members of the church who also pay attention to this weekend. We want to know what the leaders are going to say. We hope and pray that our issues of being bullied and feeling excluded will finally be addressed. We feel left out.

I am not sure what will be taught at this conference, but I know it will be a time of spiritual renewal for millions of people across the globe. Please remember many of those seeking spiritual renewal are your gay brothers and sisters.

Free Speech vs. Human Dignity

Dozens and dozens of posts are coming through my Facebook account regarding yesterday’s Chick-fil-a Appreciation Day. I’ve read comments from “friends” stating things like “Another good reason to eat at Chick-fil-a,” “Yummy waffle fries,” “I’m not going to let anyone tell me where I can’t eat,” and “Take that you liberal idiots!”

It has been a very discouraging couple of days. I don’t think a lot of my friends can really imagine how it feels to know that they are supporting a cause that keeps me and thousands–actually millions–of brothers and sisters second class citizens. They say this isn’t about same-sex marriage, and I agree. Many of them said the issue was about free speech, and I believe in that American value just as much as anyone else. They say they are angry that a few–yes just a few–government officials said that the restaurant was no longer welcome in their jurisdictions, so they decided take a stand and eat at the restaurant in the name of free speech.

Well, I want everyone to think about the thousands of gay and lesbian brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, and friends that you threw under the bus yesterday in your support of free speech.  What about the young boys and girls who are terrified to go to school because they are bullied for being a “defect of nature?” What about the women and men who are brutally attacked for being different? Is free speech more important that treating people with dignity?

I know most of my friends would never outright say they hate homosexuals. Unfortunately, their actions yesterday say they side with those who do hate. Here are some comments on different websites to show who many of my friends and relatives sided with yesterday [note, I am not editing their comments in any way]:

“When I turn on the TV to watch the news and I see two men kissing my stomach turns.”

“The faggots just don’t get it. They are going to lose this one!”

“You want to be different, but at the same time you want to be treated the same.  PUT on your big person panties and lets get on with our lifes.”

“It seems GAYS want special rights..not Equal Rights. Don’t you remember that childhood song… Stick and Stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me. Quit being so thin skinned.”

“It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. They make me sick!”

How can we not take those words personally? I’ve heard similar and worse comments my whole life, and they tear at the soul. My LDS and friends get offended when their faith is attacked, so I guess I was hoping for more from them yesterday.

I want my good Christian and Mormon friends to think about what they thought about and discussed while waiting in line for your chicken sandwich and waffle fries. Did you say or laugh at any derogatory comments about “the gays.” Did you put a stop to hateful comments you may have heard?

Video campaigns were started to help gay and lesbian teens overcome depression and suicidal tendencies. They are told that it will get better, and that people will be kinder and more accepting as they get to know them. Unfortunately, I fear that many will not believe that after yesterday’s events. I fear that attacks against gays and lesbians could increase because of the crowds at Chick-fil-A yesterday.

I am grateful for a wise brother who invited me to have dinner with his family last night. His family bought a bucket of chicken from KFC, we watched the Olympics together, and we played a few board games with the kids. Nothing was mentioned about the Chick-fil-A controversy, but everyone there let me know that I am loved.

Go ahead and continue standing up for free speech, that’s your right. I, however, will choose to stand up for kindness, compassion, empathy, and love.  After all, isn’t love the greater commandment?

Chicken, Cookies, and Mike Huckabee

Oreo cookies
Oreo cookies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a battle brewing in our country. The battle lines have been drawn. It’s red against blue. Republicans versus Democrats. Some claim it’s good versus evil. Whatever it is, things have become very heated—maybe it’s partly due to the record-breaking heat and dry weather—and things are about to explode. The amazing thing to me is the symbols of this summer’s battle are a snack cookie and a chicken sandwich.

It all started earlier this summer when an advertisement featuring a rainbow-cream-filled Oreo was posted on Facebook. The picture created an instant controversy. People called for a boycott of the popular treat, while others applauded the gesture and promised to buy more cookies. Some devoutly religious people resented the fact that Kraft Foods would promote a lifestyle they cannot tolerate, but others applauded the company’s attempt to celebrate diversity, equality, and love.

Suddenly, a cookie became the symbol of a war of wills. On one side people were crying about the loss of religious freedom. On the other side were people passionate about tolerance and equality for all citizens of this great country. Somewhere stuck in the middle was a larger, quieter group of people who long for a reasoned, balanced resolution to both problems.

Just when things were about to cool off, Chick-fil-A‘s CEO Dan Cathy reaffirmed his stance on gay marriage, and the battle was out in the open again. News reports pointed out the millions of dollars Cathy had donated to anti-gay organizations, and another boycott was called. This time around, the people who originally called for an Oreo boycott called foul for those calling for a Chick-fil-A boycott—oh, how soon we forget. The arguing about morality, love, and equality started once again on Facebook, The Huffington Post, and dozens of other websites.

Eatmorchikn
Eatmorchikn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It seemed like every five minutes, another new story was published online. Jim Henson Company announced they would discontinue their partnership with the fast food restaurant. Chick-fil-A fabricates a story as to why their toys are no longer available in kids’ meals. A suspicious character appears on Facebook to defend Chick-fil-A. Civic leaders send letters to the restaurant chain telling them they are not welcome to open business in their communities.

I am pretty skeptical of a lot of what I read on the internet, but this past week has been ridiculous. I am not sure which of these dozens of stories are true. Most, however, seem to be clever works of fiction written to destroy the enemy.

The few stories that I take at face value, however, lead me to what I think would be the best solution to this war we are experiencing. Mike Huckabee has declared August 1 Chick-fil-A day. He has called all good Christians to eat at the restaurant that day in a demonstration of solidarity and support. The only problem is that I know many Christians who don’t support Mr. Cathy’s—nor Mr. Huckabee’s—views. On the other side of the battle is this solution that I find to be quite clever.

As I was pondering how in the world we let a cookie and chicken nuggets expose this huge divide we have in our country, I had an epiphany. If there’s one thing we’re more passionate about than current politics, it’s food. We love our food—just look at the alarming obesity rates in this country. It appears to me, the only way to build bridges that are currently being blown to bits is for us all to sit down together for a nice dinner. Just imagine what we could accomplish with a national sit-down dinner provided by Chick-fil-A and Kraft. The only thing that would make it better is if JC Penney and Target were to provide the table settings for the meal.

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.