I accept your thoughts and prayers

prayer-13-04-3We’ve seen the posts and heard the words. “Thoughts and prayers for Orlando.” The same sentiments were shared after the tragic events in Sandy Hook, Aurora, Wisconsin, Oregon and elsewhere. While the words are meant to comfort, too often they anger the people who need the comfort the most.

Why do they create so much division? I have often wondered; I always considered prayer a gesture of empathy. If somebody says they are praying for me, it’s proof that they care. Others, however, don’t see it that way. Prayer, to them, is just and empty gesture that won’t do anything to solve the problem. It comes across as a hollow gesture when many feel that religion has played a role in creating the problem. I get that, and I don’t want to downplay those feelings; being let down too often can lead to those real, raw emotions of abandonment.

Prayer for me, however, has always been more than just words. I was taught to pray for understanding. When I see a person offering prayers for the people of Orlando, I believe they will be searching for understanding. They want answers of how something so horrible could happen and what more they can do to help. Those are tough questions to answer without some sort of prayer or meditation.

When I was taught to pray, I was told to pray for guidance–to discover what I should do next. It was up to me, however, to search for ideas and meditate on which of the proposed solutions would be best.

Whatever the answer, prayer requires me to follow up with action.

quote-prayer-and-action-can-never-be-seen-as-contradictory-or-mutually-exclusive-prayer-without-henri-nouwen-88-13-65

So, when people offer prayers after tragedies like Orlando, I have hope. I have hope that people who don’t understand the pain and anxiety this has created in the LGBTQ community seek to for empathy. I hope that they pray to find out what they can do to help the victims of this horrible crime. I hope they search for what they can do to avoid more tragedies.

f845e5ee35c7538eaafda0e2c0685532

Their prayers give me hope that there will be at least one more ally joining our fight for acceptance and equality.

When others get angry because of your offers of prayer, don’t despair, just pray to understand their hearts. Yes, prayer does have a way of softening hearts, but it usually changes the person who prays first. As we pray, we will learn how to better reach out to those who are in pain, and that is what we all need.

 

 

Too Late

tumblr_m3v53amaxj1rsziamo1_500

I had some strong impressions last week to do some writing for this blog. Over the past year, I had witnessed an increasing number of rants against LGBT people posted in my social media feeds. Whether I saw hateful memes or links to other angry blog posts about public restrooms, boycotting businesses or how confused and sick we are, I remained quiet. I fooled myself into believing that those authors of hate would stop if I choose not to join in the argument.

My urge to write again began last week when I saw several people repost a rant about our local Pride Festival. The author of the rant was upset about the rainbow flag flying higher than the U.S. flag at city hall. Although he was correct that this should not have happened, his rant was really a chance for him to go off on how we as LGBT people are ruining the nation. Every friend who passed on that verbal tirade silently confirmed that they do not consider me an equal.

I wanted to write something to respond, but I couldn’t find the right words. I wanted to let them know that every time they pass on an angry rant against any group of people, they are in an indirect way giving support to the lunatics who intentionally hurt those same people. When we say that we agree with somebody’s hateful ideas by posting them in our social media feeds, shouldn’t we think that we are also giving permission to somebody who sees those messages permission to physically harm others?

We suffered a national tragedy yesterday. My heart aches for the lives that have been lost and the many families who now mourn. I am not sure I can do much about this growing problem, but I know that I can influence my little part of the world. From now on, I will speak up whenever I see hateful messaged passed amongst my friends. I will stand up to the hate when I can. My silence didn’t help.

This is what we experience

To all of my religious friends, I would like to enlist your help. I was browsing through the comments of an online article trying to gauge the feelings a few days since the Supreme Court rulings about marriage. Of course, there were a lot of hateful messages that I just tried to ignore. I realize most of them are just people attempting to troll and create contention, and they aren’t worth any sort of response. Unfortunately, my heart sunk when I read the following post:

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 1.49.04 PM

This sort of comment frightens me, and we need to band together and let everyone know we will not tolerate such threats. How can we combat such hate? I don’t consider this comment where somebody suggest all gay people be rounded up and sent to ISIS to be funny, but how do we show the country–the Christians who want their freedom to disagree–to see that these sorts of ideas are still very real and a threat to people’s safety?

What I think we need to do is show people the kind of hate that is really still out there. While I usually don’t ask this with my posts, please help this one go viral. We need to find ways to put an end to such horrible attitudes.

I’m Not a Service Project

You invited me
To sit with you on Sunday.
That’s nice.
But why would I want to sit
In a place where most don’t even care if I am there?
Neighbors fill the pews on Sunday
To learn about love and kindness
And then leave the building
Only to ignore me throughout the week
They avert their eyes when I wave during my morning jog
Or look straight ahead as they pass in their cars.

I’m the stranger in a familiar land
The prodigal who has yet to return
A gentile raised as a saint
Shunned for my selfish sins.

It’s hard living on a street where nobody knows your name
They only know me as the gay guy.

I will sit with you
If only I could be fully included.

But I would rather have my neighbors smile when I say hello
Thank me when I shovel snow from their sidewalks
Inquire about my life
And sit with me in the shade of my front porch.

I will sit with you when it isn’t written on your agenda
Part of a special event
Or an assignment from your priesthood leader;
I would rather be loved
Than be your service project.

I’m still standing

Maximum Change Inc surmounting obstacles
It has been quite some time since I have written anything for this blog. A lot has happened in the months since I last posted–to much to go into here, but I would like to catch up a little bit. Instead of focusing on the big news, I would like to focus on some more personal details of my life. Quite frankly, I have been conditioned to believe that nobody really cares about my struggles, so I have kept them to myself; that is not good for my emotional, spiritual, or physical health.

The burden of debt

Just a few short years ago, I felt like I was invincible. I had just completed my masters degree and started a new career. At the same time, I was finally seeing the fruits of my efforts in starting a side business with a partner start to pay off. My mortgage refinance was approved, and I would be paying a lower rate.  I was even ready to start dating again, and the thoughts of being in a relationship were exciting.

Well, things came crashing down around me within a few short months. My business partner decided he no longer wanted me to be a part of our company, I soon discovered that I was a victim of identity theft, and to top it all off, I was involved in a car accident that totaled my car. Oh yeah, I was still trying to pay off my students loans when all of this happened. I was ruined. To make matters worse, a friend joked that God must be punishing me for some bad choices that I have made, and I believed her.

I will go into the details of my soured business relationship in another post, but it left me with some financial obligations that I have worked hard to resolve. Unfortunately, the identity theft ruined my credit, and I have been spending the past few years trying to fix a problem that will most likely take several more to clear up. The debt and car accident sent me into a downward spiral that resulted in fatigue and other physical problems.

The good news, however, is that I am finally finding ways to combat my health issues, and I have cleared up many of the debt obligations. Unfortunately, my credit rating is still suffering from some poor businesses choices I made and the dishonest actions of somebody else I have still not been able to identify.

Mourning alone

Mid-March I got the news that a long-time friend had passed away as the result of cancer. She was actually more than just a friend, but she was the woman with whom I had shared some of the most heart-wrenching details of our lives. We instantly clicked when we first met, and at one point we thought we could wind up getting married. Of course, I eventually came to admit that that was not meant to be, and we even survived that difficult breakup and still remained best friends.

I wound up morning her death on my own because of several reasons–the main being that she was able to move on in life, marry, and have that family that would never have been possible with me. I didn’t know who to turn to; many people who knew the both of us still blame me for the heartache caused her, but I know in my heart our choices were for the best.

Just short weeks into the mourning process, I went on a road trip with a friend. I thought it would be a good chance to get out, stop pitying myself, and enjoy exploring a city with somebody else. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a miserable time with two people in a car who wanted to do different things the entire time.

I’m still standing

In the past ten or so months since I last wrote, I have had plenty of time to reflect on my life and my interactions with others.  I now realize that through all my struggles, I have tried to get through them all on my own. Yes, I have shared the most intimate details of my life with a few select people, but when they exit your life, it can be devastating. As I struggle to be more open with people, I am finding that so many people are willing to love and offer hugs and encouragement, wipe away my tears, and cheer with me through my successes.

Like many members of the LDS church who grew up feeling like we have secrets that we need to hide deep within our souls, I allowed those secrets to damage me for too long. Dialogue is finally happening among congregations throughout the worldwide church that are finally allowing us to be open and heal the wounds created by our own insecurities. It’s time I start healing; it’s taken to long to get started.

Every Six Months

Latter-day Saints believe in the resurrected J...
Latter-day Saints believe in the resurrected Jesus Christ, as depicted in the Christus Statue in the North Visitors’ Center on Temple Square in Salt Lake City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s LDS General Conference this weekend. Growing up, these two weekends each year were my favorite. I looked forward to them because it meant that I didn’t have to go to church; I could escape the quiet tormenting some of the boys around my age caused. Later in life, it became a time to take a break from the busy weekends I had serving in church callings.

The past several years, however, I have entered this weekend with the hope that church would make a major announcement that would shift the way my LDS neighbors treat anyone who doesn’t fit into their tidy definition of worthiness. I have wanted somebody to talk about our homosexual brothers and sisters and call members to repentance for the way we have been maligned, but that hasn’t happen.

It hasn’t happened, and, as a matter of fact, Boyd K. Packer has been allowed to continue sharing his misunderstandings of homosexuality. Church members continue praising him for standing firm, and they make sweeping comments that they don’t realize are so hurtful. In many ways, I dread this weekend now because I hate to see what controversial and hurtful comments will be made.

I have heard rumors that the church is waiting to make a policy change about homosexual members, but we know how reliable rumors can be. The people in the know claim that leaders are just waiting for Boyd K. Packer to pass away, and then announce that they have received more enlightenment about the matter. They claim that the leaders don’t want to offend the long-term leader and announce that he has been wrong for so many years; they would rather alienate thousands of church members and millions of men and women to appease this one man. I am not sure I believe this, but I have heard the same ideas from several different sources.

I have often wondered why Boyd K. Packer has taken such a strong stance on homosexuality. Sure, faithful members will say that it isn’t Packer who has declared his disapproval, but he is speaking for God. In my mind, if that were the case, wouldn’t comments from other leaders support him? Would the church make an effort to edit his comments from a previous conference when they printed his talk? President Gordon B. Hinckley and others have now admitted that they believe that homosexuality could be an inborn trait that one cannot change, yet Boyd K. Packer sticks to the old ideas that it’s a choice that can be fixed.

I really hope that the church leaders are sincerely praying for a solution to this conflict. I hope they take bigger steps to heal the wounds and bridge the gap that has been created. I so wish that my LDS neighbors will soften their hearts and see that their misunderstandings about us do hurt and make us feel like outcasts within our own communities. Will this happen this weekend? Of course not, but I can always hope.

The adult bully

Iworkplace-bullying-autism don’t know what has changed recently, but I have had another uncomfortable incident this past week. Another adult confronted me in a hostile manner, but this time I know it was because of my sexual orientation.

I was waiting outside a county rec center after swimming with my local team. A man approached me and asked where the nearest bar was. I told him the closest ones I knew of were downtown–approximately 20 blocks away. He then asked how to get there, and I suggested he take a bus. He left.

His demeanor was a little bit strange, but I felt safe because there was a large crowd finishing a company dinner in a park pavilion near the pool. The sun was setting, and people were busy cleaning and packing their picnic supplies and families into their cars. The man wouldn’t try anything stupid with so many people around.

Soon other friends were gathering in the parking lot. We talked about meeting somewhere for dinner and decided to go to a new restaurant just down the street. The picnic crowd was gone, and just a few swimmers from my team remained. I was talking with a friend, Mike, and we were planning to walk to the restaurant when the intoxicated man approached us again.

“Is this the library?” he asked.

“No, it’s a pool,” Mike answered.

The man started walking to the building’s front doors, which were now locked. I thought he must be looking for a public restroom.

“The building’s locked,” I told him, and I pointed east past the building. “The closest library is that way.”

“I don’t want the library.”

“What are you looking for?” Mike asked.

“Is this where the fags meet?” he then asked.

“What do you mean?”

“The fags. Is this where the fags meet?”

“Why?” Mike asked. “Do you want to meet some fags.”

I laughed, but tried not to let the drunk man see it.

The man was looking in the rec center’s front door, and he then turned and started walking towards us. I experienced a brief flashback to my mid-August altercation; this couldn’t be happening again.

“Let’s get in my car,” Mike whispered. “We can drive to the restaurant.”

“I don’t want to meet fags,” the man yelled. “You guys disgust me.”

Thankfully, my friend’s car was close, and we avoided any more problems. We didn’t say anything else about the situation on our short ride to the restaurant, and we didn’t tell anyone else about it during dinner.

Now I wonder if we should have done more. Should we have stood up for ourselves, or would we have put ourselves in danger for speaking up? Was it our responsibility to let others know what happened so that they can be more cautious at the pool? I am ashamed I didn’t do anything.

What bothers me the most is that I still haven’t told anyone outside of this blog and the police officers about what happened to me during my Saturday morning jog last month. Mike doesn’t know, and I don’t know if he saw how much this brief incident frightened me; he left the restaurant early, and I remained there as other people finished their meals.

I wound up walking back to the rec center alone. I am not going to lie–I was terrified of running into that man again and getting beaten up in an empty parking lot. My car was one of three when I returned, and it was in a darker section away from the light posts. I made it into my care safely, and my heartbeat decreased as I got onto the freeway to my home. I couldn’t get the thought of what could have happened out of my mind, however.

We read so much in the news now about childhood and teenage bullies, but we don’t do much about the adult bullies in our lives. The problem is that much of what an adult bully does is protected under our constitutional free-speech rights. I believe in protecting those rights, but too often such hateful speech eventually leads to crimes. How can we allow for complete freedom of speech and cut down on hate crimes in our communities? If anyone has the answers, I would like to know.

My favorite season is football season

English: School band performing prior to a BYU...

It’s confession time. I love football season. I love the smell of hotdogs and popcorn in a crowded stadium. The echoes of a drum line and announcer make my heart skip. I love sitting in a large arena jammed with thousands of screaming fans. I enjoy the cheers and jeers amidst the crunching of helmets and shoulder pads. I love college football, and my favorite team is BYU.

I think my love of the game began when my family first got season tickets when I was twelve. I reluctantly got into our station wagon for our first trek to Provo for a game led by Jim McMahon. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was instantly awed when we entered the stadium. I hadn’t really watched a football game up to that point–my family didn’t really watch much TV, and if the tube was on, we weren’t watching sports. I didn’t understand what was happening during the first game, but I enjoyed what I saw. The offensive and defensive battle on the field enthralled me, the marching band entertained me, and the cheerleaders managed to draw me into the loud audience participation.

I have fond memories of attending every game of BYU’s national championship season, storming the field after the Cougars upset number one ranked Miami, and getting drenched during Lavell Edward’s last game as a head coach. The games were an escape from the brutal realities of life.

Can a gay man be a BYU Football fan?

It’s been several years since I have been a season ticket holder. I guess I stopped buying tickets about the same time I came to terms with being gay. I told myself I stopped for financial reasons, but I think part of me felt like BYU was no longer a place I would feel at home. I still watch every game I can on TV, but I miss the magic of the stadium.

I feel the game tugging at my heart. I want to return. I want to be a part of the crowd. Part of me wonders what it would be like to take a boyfriend–in my dreams he’s also a BYU fan–to Lavell Edwards Stadium and cheer on our mighty cougars. Would we stand out? Would anyone even know we were a couple? Would we be invited to leave? Should our sexual identities even matter?

While I am getting ready to watch the Cougars take on Texas in a little over 30 minutes, I am setting a goal to get financially and emotionally ready to once again become a BYU Football season ticket owner. I miss it.

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.

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.