I 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.
Two 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.
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.
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.
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.
As the state celebrates its pioneer heritage this month, many of Utah’s citizens are still treated as outsiders in our communities. We can’t help but think of the strong divisions that we have created within the state, and we want to do something to help break down those walls. These divisions—or walls—exist because of religious differences, race, gender and sexual identity, liquor laws, education, and politics. We have allowed these differences divide us for far too long.
On Friday, July 26, we would like to invite anyone who is tired to these cultural conflicts to come together and Share the Spark. Join us somewhere along the Jordan River Parkway at dusk, bring a package of sparklers, and enjoy the summer evening with others in your community who believe everyone should be treated with dignity.
This is a simple idea that a few of us hope will spread throughout the community. Share the Spark isn’t organized by any official group—just a few friends who are conducting an experiment in tolerance. There won’t be any speeches or political demonstrations. We hope to see you there.
**please be respectful of Utah fire codes and keep all sparklers on the paved trails. We want to Share the Spark, but we don’t want to start any dangerous fires.
I came across this video on Facebook today, and I was very impressed. I am not sure people fully understand the loneliness and rejection that gay men and women fear when we come to terms with our sexuality. This portrays those emotions beautifully.
Warning: the video depicts characters drinking liquor and a brief shot of a bare backside skinny dipping scene.
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.
“You can run as fast as Corey.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.
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.
The Deseret News had three articles that caught my eye today. I couldn’t help but share my thoughts on the various topics.
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?
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.
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.