I didn’t celebrate

TempleYesterday was an amazing day. I woke early to do some trail running in the beautiful foothills of the Salt Lake Valley. I planned the run to be early enough in the morning so I could avoid the heat that was forecast to approach close to 100 degrees for the day; I don’t handle heat very well.

After the run, I made a planned stop at the gym to soak my legs and feet in the hot tub before I showered and put on fresh clothes before I headed to the air-conditioned movie theater next door. Summer is my time to catch up on the movies I don’t see the rest of the year, and I don’t mind going to matinees alone.

I then spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon browsing home improvement stores as I made a mental wish list of features I would like to add to my home. As I looked at the different design ideas, my heart longed for a day when I would have somebody with whom I could share my home. Unfortunately, I feel like that day will never come.

As I got into the car to come home, I heard the radio announcers talk about the day’s Supreme Court announcements. I experienced a brief sense of joy, but deep down in my soul was some aching. My aching, you see, is because I knew too well what the reactions of many friends and family members would be.

I was tempted to get on Facebook and Twitter when I got home to read the reactions of others, but something inside me–I will say it could be that still, small voice we are taught about in Primary–that something told me that reading the posts of others would not be good for me on that day. I had the deep impression that I should wait at least a day.

So, June 26 became a social-media-free day for me. I missed out on a few local celebrations, but I spent the remainder of Friday taking care of some home maintenance, reading and planning some future writing projects. I was tempted several times to check up on how others were responding to the day’s news, but I resisted.

Believe what you believe

I waited until after I took a morning walk to open my computer this morning. When I first checked in on Facebook, there were a few jokes about rainbow explosions all over social media, but the lighthearted tone didn’t last very long.

I started seeing post after post from my LDS friends. Very few had comments from the individual who posted, but they were links to articles. Post after post were like needles in my heart, as I read headlines telling me that the people from my church, the kids I knew in school, and even family members truly believe that I don’t deserve the same happiness they take for granted.

Now, I am not going to ask my LDS friends to change their beliefs, but I want to ask them what bombardment of links and quotes posted on social media is meant to accomplish. Perhaps it’s an attempt to reaffirm one’s faith, but isn’t that best done in your home and not on a social media site?

I am sure I am not the only one who has been hurt by the passive-aggressive disapproval of who I am that has been shared so many times in the past 24 hours. I have other friends who have posted on their social media outlets at how disappointed by the angry reactions of friends and family members. I didn’t celebrate because even though the government now recognizes me as a full citizen I now know that too many of the people I love don’t think I should be treated with fairness.

I long for the day when true believers will accept that Jesus atoned for me just as he did for each of them.

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A hit of reality

jogger in parkTwo weeks ago I decided to go for an early morning run in the park near my home. It was a beautiful morning. I stopped to watch the bright red sun rising above the mountain peaks as I stepped into the park. I pulled out my phone and took a picture of the gorgeous scene. A man then stepped out of a gray hatchback car that was parked on the street by the park. I thought it was a little strange that he came right up to me as I was enjoying the sunrise, but I tried not to look concerned.

“Sup?” he said.

“Just enjoying the sunrise before I go for a run in the park,” I said without looking at him.

“Is that all?” he asked.

“That’s all.”

I put my phone in my shorts’ pocket, turned away from the man, and began my morning run a little earlier than I wanted. When I got to the edge of the park and turned to go east, I glanced back at the car, and I noticed the man was still watching me. I told myself he was far enough away that I would be safe, and continued on with my run.

I passed a few other people out for a jog or walking their dogs. Everyone was friendly, and we all seemed to be enjoying the cool summer morning in the park. Returning to my starting point, I saw that the gray hatchback was gone, so I felt safe returning there. I climbed the hill to a long, white vinyl fence that created a blockade between the neighborhood houses and the park. I pulled out my phone to see how far I ran for the morning.

As I was about to step around the corner into my neighborhood, the same man stepped from behind to fence to greet me. He had moved the car to a different spot, and his black curly hair was pulled back into a small ponytail.

“‘Sup?” he says. He steps to the left to keep me from walking past him.

I look at the car and notice three other people watching our activities.

“Just finishing my run,” I said.

I try to step to the right, but he blocks me.

“What are you doing with your phone?” the man asks.

“Just seeing how far I ran.”

I try to maneuver around the man, but he chest bumps me. I am stunned, nobody has ever done this to me. Even the bullying I experienced as a child never involved a real threat of violence. What was going to happen to me?

“Hey,” I yell.

I try to be as loud as I can so that others can hear. The man then clenches his fists, and I am hit twice in the right jaw and once in the left shoulder. I look back at the car, and I imagine the others are waiting for me to fight back. I refuse, because I don’t want them joining in on the attack.

“Sup?” the man says again, as he throws two more punches.

“What’s your problem?” I yell as loud as I can.

“You better not call the police,” my attacker warns me.

Lights turn on in the two houses bordering the park, and my attacker notices. My yelling has drawn some additional attention, and he paused for a moment. I run past him onto the street of my neighborhood. I make it twenty yards from my attacker and the car, and turn back. I lift up my phone as I face my attacker at a safe distance.

“I was just checking how far I ran,” I yelled back as I took a picture of the man and his car.

My house was visible from the park, but I wasn’t about to let those people in the car know where I live. I walked around the street just in case they were going to try and follow me home. When I saw that they weren’t following me, I called the police. I tried to stay calm as I explained what happened; the adrenaline release after an attack or fight can often cause people to cry.

How the attack has affected me

The police have investigated what happened, but they haven’t located the guy who attacked me. We’re not sure why he did it, but I have heard of two other acquaintances being assaulted while exercising recently. I hate to admit it, but the attack has shaken me up enough that I haven’t been back to the park that is just yards from my house since that day. I drove past several times, and I saw the same car parked at the same spot last Saturday morning. I called the police officer investigating my case, and told him the car was parked there again. I wasn’t brave enough to get close enough to identify the license plate numbers, and the car was gone by the time a police officer was able to go by the spot and check it out.

What has bothered me the most, however, is how alone I felt after I was attacked. I live alone, and I didn’t have anyone there to comfort me. The friends I used to go to regularly have gradually distanced themselves from me. We used to get together weekly, then I started getting calls from them about once a month, and now it’s only on birthdays when we get together. Why would they care that I was attacked?

I am fortunate that this attack did not turn out to be worse. How many hours or days could I have been injured without anyone I care about knowing about my condition? That has frightened me. I think my yelling and not fighting back kept me from being seriously injured, but I no longer feel safe in my own neighborhood. And the number one reason I don’t feel safe is because I am alone.

“It is not good that man should be alone.”

I’ve heard that saying my whole life, and I believe that. Yet, here I am having spent my entire adult life alone. I tried dating women. I hoped to find the right woman to marry and raise children, yet deep in my heart I knew that marrying a woman was not the right thing for me to do. I have endured the judgments that come from being a single man in my Mormon community, and it has been hard to stay cheerful about my situation.

I am grateful that church leaders no longer encourage men to get married to a woman to cure their homosexuality. It showing that they are taking baby steps in understanding who we are. I gives me hope that even more changes in attitudes can come in the future. Unfortunately, the same church leaders who tell us not to marry also subtly counsel us to live a life of loneliness. We are not to marry a woman, but we are also commanded to not seek companionship of someone we could truly love.

Up until about two weeks ago, I was relatively comfortable being alone in life. Sure, I envied those around me who had life partners and families, but I told myself that I was happy where I was. I was resigned to the fact that I was meant to be alone.

I am not comfortable being alone any more. I don’t want to be alone. I want the companionship and friendships of people who love me for who I am. The attack in the park has awakened me, and I realize that the line “it is not good that man should be alone” is also meant for me. It’s time to be happy, and it’s time to share that happiness with a man that I love.

Waiting

I will tell you the truth, I expected to come home from work today and hear about a monumental decision declared by the United Supreme Court. It didn’t happen, so I guess I will have to wait until Thursday. I am tired of waiting.

While I want a decision made now, I am still mixed on what I want their ruling to be. I am torn between what the the LDS leaders say about the issue of gay marriage and having a ruling that will eventually lead to an end of the bigotry and hatred that I and millions of other men and women have endured because of our sexual orientation. Laws obviously won’t put an end to all of the hate, but it can accelerate people toward better understanding and healing.

 

I want to find someone who want to spend the rest of his life with me. I am at that point in life when I have accepted that that person should be a man. Right now in the United States, that cannot legally happen and allow me to follow my moral conviction of having such a relationship outside of marriage. I am ready for the nation, my community, and my church to allow me to enjoy that highest and holiest of relationships. It’s time.

Chapter Three – Boys Being Boys

Danny, Peter, and I got into a lot of trouble together the next eighteen months. One of our favorite activities was to play in the creek at the edge of the neighborhood. There we would search for frogs, snakes, or other wild creatures we could bring home as new pets. Our mothers didn’t like it when we brought home the animals, and we would be sent back to the creek to release them back into the wild.

That summer was a special one. It was the year that our nation was celebrating the Bicentennial. We had large parades and amazing fireworks displays in the park. We learned about the Revolutionary war and patriotism. We were told how much of a privilege it was to live in a country with so much freedom.

We also loved participating in the huge neighborhood games such as capture the flag, flag football, or baseball that would fill two or three front lawns with children playing together. When it got hot outside our games would turn into massive water fights—and nobody was safe from those battles.

A cool summer morning about a dozen boys had already gathered at my house to decide what we were going to play for the day. We argued for a while, but finally Peter’s older brother, Rick, suggested we play a new game that he learned about in school.

“Let’s play Smear the Queer,” he said.

The older kids all agreed, but Peter, Danny, and I had never heard of the game. It sounded a little dangerous.

“What we do,” Rob said, “is throw around the ball. If the ball is thrown to you, you have to catch it. If you drop it, you are queer, and we tackle you.”

“But if you are holding the ball, you are queer, too,” he added. “You have to pass the ball to somebody else before you get tackled.”

We threw the ball around for about thirty minutes. I would immediately pass the ball to somebody else before I got called a queer and tackled. The older boys enjoyed beating each other up and laughing about them being queer. It was sort of fun, as long as I wasn’t the one being beaten in the game.

The week before we all started Kindergarten, we decided that we wanted to build a clubhouse where the three of us could just get away. Danny said he had the perfect place behind his house, and so we gathered our tools and trekked to his place.

“Here’s where it will be,” he said as we looked over a big patch of dirt behind his garage.

“There aren’t any trees,” I said. “I want a tree house.”

“I have a better idea,” Danny said. “We can live underground. We can dig tunnels.”

That sounded like a great idea. We found what we could to start digging—one shovel, a hoe, and a rake. The ground was especially hard, and we weren’t making very much progress.

“We need a jackhammer,” Peter said.

“I have an idea,” Danny said.

He left and returned with a garden hose that was spraying water. The ground was getting softer as the dirt turned into mud. Our digging became more productive as our holes filled with water and became larger.

“We should all live here together when we are old,” Danny said.

“That would be so neat,” Peter agreed.

We decided we could make three big underground bedrooms connected by tunnels. It would be so great to live together forever with my best friends, but I thought there could be a problem.

“What happens when we get married?” I asked.

“I’m never going to marry a stupid girl,” Danny said. “I want to marry a boy. Boys are more fun.”

“Me, too,” Peter agreed.

That idea seemed a little strange to me at the time. After all, all of the married couples I knew about consisted of a man and a woman. My mom and dad. My grandparents. My aunts and uncles. Even my cousin who just got married.

“Can two boys get married?” I asked.

“Why not?” Peter said. “If they like each other, they should.”

“Yeah,” Danny added. “It’s a free country, isn’t it?”