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.

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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.

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.

Sending Russia a message

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
―     Edmund Burke

I have been alarmed by the recent reports about the increased abuses that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Russians are experiencing. Because of recent political actions in the country, citizens are acting as if they have unrestricted permission to abuse their neighbors in humiliating and violent manners.  While some may say that this is happening so far away in Russia, and we can’t do anything, I can’t help but think of the laws different U.S. states are proposing and passing could lead to similar things happening here in our own country.

While some states and countries are finally granting more freedoms and providing safer communities for our LGBT friends and neighbors, other places are becoming more dangerous. What can we do to help?

  • Speak up. Yes, some laws in various places are making it a little scary to speak up, but we need to be brave. I am proud to say I knew a man who risked his own security and spoke out against the atrocities being committed in Nazi-occupied Europe. He didn’t have to because the Nazi’s weren’t targeting his people, but he stood up for what was right. He also paid the price–losing friends and being sent to a prison camp. Too bad more people didn’t do the same. He is one of my heroes.
  • Sign this petition. I am amazed at the power behind online petitions. More than ever, we are able to send a message that we will not tolerate certain actions and attitudes. It’s unfortunate, but the strongest message we can send anyone is that we will not support you financially if you continue doing what you are doing. The threat of an Olympic boycott could lead to change here.
  • Get your friends involved. Mormons Building Bridges, PFLAG, and other organizations are reaching out to people. Let’s use our collective resources to send messages to our friends across the globe. Perhaps our Mormon’s Building Bridges friends could send a message out to their LDS friends in Russia to take action. Perhaps we all could reach out to our friends in places where our rights are being abused to provide encouragement and build a safety network.

As I write this, I can’t help but think of the many comments I have read and heard from good LDS people about gay rights. Too often they fear doing or saying anything because they don’t want others to think they condone “the gay lifestyle.”  Well, stop worrying about that and start thinking about the lives you could save. Lives are being lost, and our inability to stand up isn’t helping the situation.

Chapter 10 – Outed at Eleven

As we progressed to the upper grades of elementary school, recess increasingly became the time for boys to show off their athletic skills while the girls watched and gossiped on the sidelines. Occasionally, the girls would organize their own games, and a few would work their way into the boys’ competitions. I was never fortunate enough to be picked to play on any of the teams, so I spent most of my recess time with the sideline girls.

Late March meant that we were soon going to participate in the Presidential Physical Fitness Challenge. I wanted so badly to reach the top level this year–something that had never happened in the past. I did pretty well on most challenges, but it was the 40-yard dash that had always held me back. No matter how hard I tried, I was always about two seconds slower than the requirements.

I was sitting with Kathy and Tiffany; we were talking and watching a softball game. Corey Wood hit a fly ball far over the reach of the boys playing in the outfield. He casually tossed the bat behind him and started with a slight jog to first base. As he turned past each base, he picked up speed until he was sprinting towards home.

“He’s so fast,” Kathy said.

“I wish I could run like that,” I said, not thinking the others were listening.

“You can,” Kathy replied.

“What?”

“You can run as fast as Corey.”

“Nah.”

“Sure you can,” she gave me a small punch in the shoulder. “You just need to practice.”

We argued for a little while. Kathy insisted that if I practiced enough, I could get faster; I told her I didn’t believe her. She told me I need to believe in myself; I told her I believe that I am too slow. The truth is, I enjoyed her encouragement, and I kept arguing to keep her going.

“I can’t even do the 40-yard dash in less than 20 seconds.”

“Sure you can,” Kathy said. “It just takes practice.”

“But…”

“Why don’t you two go practice right now,” Tiffany interrupted our banter.

Kathy and I looked at each other and laughed.

“The start and finish lines are right over there,” Tiffany said, pointing to the blacktop area behind us. “You can race each other.”

line divider

“But we don’t have a stopwatch,” I yelled at Tiffany, as she turned around and faced us from the finish line.

“Doesn’t matter. You’re just practicing, right?”

“That’s right,” Kathy punched my shoulder again. “Just a practice. Let’s go.”

Kathy pulled her dark, black hair into a ponytail, placed her hands on the starting line in front of her, and put her feet in a racing start position. I awkwardly did the same.

“Ready!” Kathy yelled to Tiffany.

Tiffany raised both hands and yelled “Ready… set… go!”

She dropped her hands, Kathy started running, and I followed a split second behind her. I ran as fast as I could, but every time I thought I would catch up with Kathy, she would pick up speed just a little. I think she crossed the finish line a full two seconds before me.

“Nice race,” she said. “Let’s do it again.”

The look I gave her was meant to say no, but she just smiled and skipped back to the starting line. I felt obligated to follow. We assumed our starting positions, and Tiffany started our next race. Kathy was even faster this time, and Nick was waiting with Tiffany at the finish line. How did he get there so fast?

“Way to go, chump,” Nick said in between laughs. “Get beat by a girl often?”

“Shut up, Nick!” Kathy said.

“I’m not surprised, though. After all, you are just one of the girls.”

“Let’s go,” I said to Tiffany and Kathy. I hated confrontations, and it was easier for me to just walk away.

I started walking to the outside drinking fountain with my friends, and Nick followed. He continued laughing.

“Where you going?” he asked. “To paint your fingernails? That’s what girls do together.”

“Shut up,” Kathy said. She turned and stepped between my persecutor and me.

“He’ll never be your boyfriend, Kathy. You know why?”

“I don’t want him as a boyfriend!”

“Well, that’s good, because it will never happen because he likes boys.”

I froze. Did Nick really just say that? How did he know? I wasn’t really sure if I knew. I mean, I had noticed some strange habits when I watched a football or basketball game. In the past I paid attention to the games, but recently, I had started thinking about how muscular and handsome the athletes were. I told myself I was just admiring the types of physiques I would like for myself.

“I told you to shut up, Nick!” Kathy said. This time she slugged him in the shoulder.

“Let’s go,” I said. “It’s not worth it.”

“Just like a faggot to run away!” Nick shouted as we went through the doors to the school.

The three of us walked in silence until we reached the restrooms. We stopped. Tiffany and Kathy looked at each other, hoping to come up with something to say. I looked down, held out my hands, and pretended to inspect them.

“I need to wash my hands,” I said.

“Okay,” the two girls said in unison.

I surveyed the room once I entered to make sure I was alone, entered one of the three empty stalls, shut the door, and cried until recess ended.

 

Chapter Nine – God Doesn’t Love Gays

Cub Scouts was created to test my tenacity, perseverance, and courage. Whoever chose our leaders seemed to always look at who happened to be my biggest nemesis at the time and then select his mother to be our den mother. I was always doomed to spend one afternoon each week at the home of the biggest bully that delighted in endlessly tormenting me.

If I didn’t have to go to Nick’s home after spending all day listening to him mock my girl-like athletic abilities, I would have to go to TJ’s house. TJ was more of a physical than a verbal bully. He couldn’t get through a day without pushing, pinching, or punching somebody, and his mother didn’t know how to control his compulsions.

I am not sure why I endured attending cub scout meetings at those homes, but I did so silently. I never once complained to my parents about the abuse I had to endure. To tell you the truth, I just assumed that most of the boys had to put up with the same abuse, so I tolerated it as well. I figured that most boys that age were naturally mean to each other.

During my third year of cub scouts, we got a new den mother. A new boy, Wes, had moved into the neighborhood and ward, and his mother was called to be our new den mother. I was excited, because the new boy seemed nice—and cute—and it felt like we would finally attend our den meetings in a bully-free home.

Sister Hawkins, Wes’s mother, was a wonderful leader. She was aware of the bullying problems within our group of boys, and she knew how to put a stop to the problems in a stern but loving manner. Those afternoons in her home became a break from the verbal and physical abuse we had learned to endure during the school day.

One of the highlights of den meeting was always the treats at the end of our activities. We normally had a bucket that we would pass around and take turns bringing a refreshment. They were usually cookies, Rice Krispy squares, or candy bars. Our den mother would fill us up with sugar and then send us home.

I still remember that day we piled into the Hawkins’ car to get ice cream at Dan’s grocery store. This was a real treat because Dan’s always put a large scoop of ice cream in their cones. Somehow we managed to fit all twelve boys into the suburban and made our way to the market.

We all looked at the variety of ice cream choices as we waited for our turn to order. Once we got our cone, we browsed the magazine covers on display next to the ice cream counter. I was the last to get my ice cream, rainbow sherbet (how’s that for some symbolic foreshadowing?), and we piled back into the car.

There was some extra elbowing and pushing of shoulders as we rode back to the Hawkins’ home. Before we knew it, we were all teasing and calling each other names. The names seemed pretty innocent until Wes spoke.

“Stop touching me, fag!” he shouted.

Sister Hawkins pulled to the side of the road and slammed on the breaks.

“What did you just say?” She asked. Her eyes were narrow, and she did not have the normal, calm tone in her voice.

“Please stop touching me,” Wes corrected himself.

“No, Wesley James Hawkins. What was that ugly word you used?”

“Fag.” He looked down as he said it under his breath.

“I don’t want you to use that word ever again. Do you even know what that means?”

Homo,” he said in a little more than a whisper.

Nick had been trying to be quiet, but at that point, he let out a big laugh, and a few of the other boys joined him.

“I don’t ever want any of you using those words. Do you hear me? None of you boys are fags, homosexuals, or gay.”

“But God loves gays” Wes said a little bit louder.

“Where did you hear that?” Sister Hawkins asked.

“It said so on one of the magazines at the store.”

 “That’s nonsense,” she explained. The frustration levels in her voice were rising. “God does not love gays. They are immoral, degenerate, and are not worthy of his love.”

“But, why?” Wes asked.

“They just are, and I will not talk about it any more.”

We remained silent the rest of the way back. I think we were all thinking the same thing on the way home. Why doesn’t God love gays? I didn’t even know what gays were, but I wanted to make sure I never became one. After all, I admired everything Sister Hawkins stood for, and if she told us that God doesn’t love gays, it must be true.

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.