Too Late

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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.

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.

Fathers’ Day 2013

Happy Fathers Day to my Dad. I have learned so much from this man, and I love him for all that he has done and sacrificed for his family. As he gets on in years, I worry about how much time I will have left with him, but I hope to make the most of the days, weeks, and years we have left.

Three articles on Father’s Day

The Deseret News had three articles that caught my eye today. I couldn’t help but share my thoughts on the various topics.

Does anyone really not believe in the importance of fathers?

The first article, In our opinion: Why fathers matter, reminds us of how important fathers are in our lives. I agree with the basic ideas that were mentioned in this article, but I couldn’t help but think about the hidden agenda of the editorial board‘s words. As SCOTUS is coming close to declaring their opinions on Proposition 8 and DOMA, this article is one more reminder that the editorial board and the owners of the newspaper are against the legalization of gay marriage.

Their real message comes in the opening sentence; “As parts of our society attempt to redefine what a family is, the concept of Father’s Day may appear to some as a quaint holdover from a simpler time.” It’s insulting to claim that proponents of gay marriage don’t care or recognize the importance to fathers. I agree that stable fathers and mothers in the home are important to a child’s emotional, spiritual, and physical development. What I wonder about is if one father in the home can be so good for a child’s healthy growth, couldn’t two fathers be even better? What if those two fathers made sure the children had a regular female, motherly figure in their children’s lives? That would be an even stronger benefit to the children, wouldn’t it?

News Flash! Most Men Aspire to be fathers.

I have always wanted to be a father, but the reality is that opportunity has probably passed me by. It’s a loss that I feel every day of my life. I am reminded of what I do not have every day at work and every weekend at church. It almost feels like I am mourning for the family that I never had a real chance of having.

Are gays and lesbians really less religious?

I couldn’t help but question this article, which shows how much less religious the lgbtq population is. I still consider myself quite religious, and I still attend church every Sunday. I know other gay and lesbian friends who do the same thing. The truth is, we aren’t as open about our orientation, so our numbers weren’t likely counted in the poll.

I know there have been many times when I have been tempted to just give up and leave my church. Every Sunday I hear somebody make an uninformed and somewhat hateful comments about those radical gays who want to ruin families. I haven’t given up yet, but I can understand why so many others have. What this poll did not cover was how many of those who claim to not be religious came from a religious background. I think the numbers would be alarming, and churches need to know what their congregations are doing to lose such an important number of members.

Revisiting my thoughts on Fathers’ Day

Perhaps you noticed my differing use or absence of he apostrophe when mentioning today’s holiday. It was a conscious effort on my part. I used the plural possessive some times because the day belongs to all fathers across the nation. I used the singular possessive, because I think the day can be extremely personal for each father enjoying his day with his children. Finally, I used the plural Fathers Day because it is a day for us all to honor the great fathers in our lives. Thoughts?

Visit last year’s blog post to see my thoughts about the day. I think I feel an even stronger yearning to be a father this year. I can’t mourn what I don’t have, and I will enjoy my day with my own father, mother, brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews. I will cherish that time with them, but a little bit of me will feel alone while there.

A Seat at the Table

Mormon Family Dinner
Mormon Family Dinner (Photo credit: More Good Foundation)

Perhaps you have heard the story in church somewhere. It’s about an eternal family in the afterlife. They are at a dinner table with all of the fancy furnishings, the best decorations, and the most delicious food imaginable. Unfortunately, there is an empty seat at the table—a reminder of that family member that did not persevere to the end and earn the same eternal reward the rest of the family enjoys.

I don’t know about you, but I have overheard loved ones discussing this story quietly, and it hurts deeply knowing they consider me the family member that would be missing from that dinner-table seat. I may be kind, generous, and charitable, but I am not worthy of the highest of eternal prizes.

I am a single man, and as church policy currently stands, I will remain a single man until I die. To most casual observers, I am disobeying a big commandment to marry and start a family. It’s a requirement for the highest eternal glory. Many wonder about my “misplaced priorities” and urge me to hurry up and find a nice woman to marry. I tried that for nearly twenty years. I dated, I served faithfully in many leadership callings, and I prayed day and night to find a woman that would fix me. Any emotional connection I was able to make with a woman, however, was similar to how I love my sisters, and I felt my attraction to men grow more intense

I am not allowed at the table because I am a single man.

You see, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that it is my own fault that I am still single. Many well-meaning people have pointed out the wonderful single women who would be an amazing wife and mother. I agree that most of them would, but I also believe they deserve husbands that would love them in a way I am incapable of loving. I gave up on the singles wards several years ago because the intent is to lead every single woman and man in the congregations into the eternal bonds of matrimony. That wasn’t going to happen for me, so I switched to a traditional family ward, where I sit alone in the back of the chapel.

Even though I try to obey all of the commandments to the best of my ability, there is no place for a single gay man at the dinner table.

I want to find an eternal companion just like most members of the church. My wishes, however, would be to find a loving, kind man with whom I could share my life. These desires are selfish according to many faithful saints; such choices will only lead to a life of suffering and unhappiness. A life with a man I love, though, sounds more fulfilling than the life I currently lead coming home to an empty house.

f I choose the path of spending my life with a man I love, I will not be welcome at the table, because I am a sinner and turned away from God.

I don’t know the answers to this dilemma that thousands of men and women in our faith face. It seems as though, according to current teachings, that any of the choices we have to make all lead to dead ends. Do I sacrifice happiness now for an eternal happiness that I can’t possibly earn? Does the atonement of Jesus Christ make up for the requirements that I lack in this life? Where are the answers?

 

I would love to know what others think. Please feel free to respond and share how you have reconciled these conflicting issues. I will open up the comments for others to read.

Chapter Five – The Difference Between Romantic and Brotherly Love

Dad led our family conversations at the dinner table that evening. He asked all three of my sisters in order of age what happened at school. He then asked what they had learned in Primary. Finally, being the youngest, he asked me if anything interesting happened during the day.

“Colin got in trouble in Primary,” Stephanie said.

I began to push my green peas around the plate with my fork so I didn’t have to look my dad in the eyes.

“Is that true?” he asked.

I nodded and put a scoop of vegetables in my mouth.

“What happened?”

I shoved some tuna casserole into my mouth. If I kept it full, maybe I wouldn’t have to answer.

“He and Danny were kissing during singing time,” Stephanie explained. “And it made the chorus leader mad.”

Dad coughed up a little bit of the milk he was drinking. He wiped liquid off his chin and shirt and looked at each one of his children sitting at the dinner table. His eyes looked sad, and I focused my eyes more on the mess of vegetables and casserole on my plate.

“What ha–,” Dad began to ask, but something in his throat stopped him from finishing the question.

He looked at me again, but I wouldn’t lift my eyes up from my plate. His eyes moved across the table and until they met my mother. They looked at each other, and I thought I could see my father struggling to hold back some tears. My mom gave him a small smile, winked, and nodded her head.

“Let’s talk after dinner, Colin,” Dad finally said. He placed his folded napkin onto his empty plate. “But help your mother clean the table first.”

 

 

Dad was reading a book when I entered his bedroom. I couldn’t read the title, but it was very thick, and I could see that he had written some notes into a notebook he had placed on the small table next to him. He pulled the additional chair he had brought into the room in front of him so that we could have a face-to-face conversation.

“You and Danny are pretty good friends, aren’t you,” he said as I sat in my chair.

I nodded.

“Peter, too,” I said.

“Peter, too,” he repeated. “It’s nice to have such good friends, isn’t it.”

I nodded again.

“I understand that Danny was kissing you and telling you that he loves you today.”

I smiled and laughed a little. It was good to know that somebody loved me. It made me feel happy. I looked at my father and he seemed upset. Why?

“Boys don’t do that with other boys,” my dad said. There was a tightness in his voice.

“Why?” I asked. “We talk about love a lot in Primary.”

My dad placed his elbows on the small table, clasped his hands together, and rested his forehead between his thumbs and index fingers. It looked to me like he was saying a silent prayer. After a couple of minutes, he lifted his head and was ready to speak again.

“You see, there are different kinds of love. There’s a romantic kind of love—the kind of love your mother and I have for each other. That is a strong love that leads to marriage and starting a family.”

“Peter, Danny, and I want to get married when we are older,” I said.

“When you get older and meet a girl that you feel that romantic love for, then you can get married,” my father replied. Dad knew I meant something else, but he wasn’t about to let that ruin the great lesson he had planned.

“You and your friends share a different kind of love—a brotherly love.”

“Ya,” I said.

“That sort of love isn’t expressed through kissing and hugging. Boys shake hands or pat each other on the back, but they don’t kiss. Do you understand?”

I wasn’t sure what was wrong with boys kissing each other, but I shook my head in agreement. If my dad said it, it must be true.

We sat quietly for a couple of minutes when my father finally pulled a brochure from the back cover of the book he was reading. He opened it and scanned the page until he found the information he wanted.

“I think it’s time we get you started in some sports,” he said.

“Okay.”

“They are signing boys up for the city basketball league right now, and the games are every Saturday at the junior high school. The same times your sisters have dance classes. This should be fun for you.”

I wasn’t even sure what basketball was, but I was excited to go with my sisters when they have their dance classes. They seemed to have a lot of fun doing that.

Chapter Four – I Love Him

We started Kindergarten that fall, and our schedules separated the threesome for most of the day. Danny was assigned to a morning class, and Peter and I attended in the afternoon. Thankfully, we still had time to be with each other during our Wednesday afternoon Primary sessions.

As the children entered the chapel on the first Wednesday after school started, Danny greeted me with a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. I smiled and blushed as we found some empty seats on the third row.

“I miss you,” he whispered.

Our leaders welcomed us, a girl prayed, and then singing time started. First, we sang “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” At the conclusion of the song, Danny gave me another quick kiss on the cheek. Somebody behind us laughed. The next song was “Do As I’m Doing,” and we all followed the movements of the leader in the front of the room. Danny kissed my cheek again, but this one lasted a little longer.

“We should do something about that,” a woman whispered.

“They’re just kids,” another woman responded, “it doesn’t mean anything.”

We started another song, “Little Purple Pansies,” and I tried to sing the best I could in between giggles. Before the song ended, Danny turned, puckered his lips, and gave me the wettest, loudest kiss I had ever experience up to that point in my life. The singing stopped.

“Do we need to separate you two boys?” the woman leading the music asked.

Both of us giggled some more, and other children in the room joined us.

“Nick,” the woman said. “I need you to trade places with Colin.”

Nick stood up, and I slid into the spot where he was sitting.

“And you, young man,” the chorus leader said to Danny. “I don’t want to see you kissing any more boys.”

“I’m sorry,” Danny replied. “But I love that boy. I just love him!”

Most of the children in the room laughed.

“That’s fine,” the chorus leader said. “But boys don’t express their love by kissing each other. A firm handshake will do.”

She concluded the singing time, and we were dismissed to go to our different classes. Some of the older kids pointed and laughed as Danny and I walked out of the room.

“Can you believe those two?” I heard one of the Primary teachers whisper. “Their behavior is absolutely unacceptable.”

“You worry too much,” another woman replied. “They are just kids. Besides, I think it’s adorable to see a boy so open about his feelings for his friend.”