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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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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:

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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 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.

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.

Do I look gay?

 

Yesterday I posted about being assaulted in the park recently. I’m still not sure why it happened. The police officer who took my report suggested that it could be that I was wearing blue shorts. There has been some gang activity across the valley recently, and gang members have been challenged to randomly attack someone wearing the rival gang’s colors. That’s just a theory, but I don’t think that’s the reason.

I believe that something fishy was going on with the people in the parked car. I’ve seen them parked in the same spot early in the mornings more than once. Perhaps they are living in the car, and they don’t want police officers telling them to move the car somewhere else. It could also be that they are meeting people to sell drugs or stolen items. Those are just theories, however.

I didn’t even consider the incident to be a hate crime, but I have received a few emails asking me what I was wearing while running. While not coming out and saying it, I think they were asking me if I looked gay. Could I have been attacked because I look gay? I hope not. I would rather it have been just a random incident that had nothing to do with my sexuality.

Looking back at my running attire for the day, I have to admit that I was wearing a white v-neck t-shirt. I wear them as undershirts most of the time. They are less constricting than crew-neck shirts, and they are great to go under a button-down shirt at work. Unfortunately, they have become stereotypically the style of shirt a gay man would wear.

A quick search on the internet brought some interesting results. I expected to find a lot of posts, but a lot of websites identified men who wear that style shirt as hipsters or another name I choose not to use in my blog. The first entry on my search brought up a Bodybuilding.com forum post where somebody asked “are v necks gay?” I was surprised by the responses. According to another website, an entire nation has declared that any young man wearing a V-neck t-shirt must be gay.

The funniest trend I found, however, is that most people more readily identified the men who wore the deeper v-neck t-shirts as more likely to be gay. My gay friends, however, shy away from the deep V-necks and tend to go for the styles commonly sold at Target or H&M.

 

So, whether I was assaulted because I looked gay or because I was wearing some rival gang’s colors doesn’t really matter as a bigger problem we face in our communities. We are too quick to divide people based on the way we dress or act. It’s long past due for us to honor and celebrate the diversity that we bring to our communities.  I wish I knew what to do to get people get along, and I won’t stop searching for answers.

Ender’s Game Boycott is Misguided

News is spreading about a group calling for a boycott of Ender’s Game when it released in the theaters this November. The proposed boycott is in response to author Orson Scott Card‘s anti-gay comments and his participation on the board of the National Organization for Marriage. This boycott is misguided because it is not going to impact the target of their fury.

While I agree that a boycott is a great way to voice disapproval of comments or actions of an individual, this particular time it is misguided. This is an attempt to hit Mr. Card in his pocket book, but the author has already been paid for this film. If they had thought this out clearly before they made their announcement, the boycott organizers would have realized that film studios purchase the rights from the story’s author before they can even begin adapting the script and producing the film. Orson Scott Card was likely paid years ago.

Who, exactly, is this boycott going to harm, if it were successful? It’s not Mr. Card—unless he is concerned about the possible sequels to come from the other novels in his series. The studio backers—the people who have invested money into this film production—are the ones who would be affected by a successful boycott. Since we don’t have any public declarations about gay rights from any of them, this boycott is pretty pointless.

Some claim this proposed boycott is a message to the studios—don’t do business with a bigot. Well, it’s too late to send that message. They paid for the film rights to Ender’s Game, they have paid the actors, the filming is complete, and a release date has been set for November. I, for one, look forward to seeing the movie. The trailer looks amazing.

I already see a backlash starting because of this proposed boycott. Within the week, I foresee Mike Huckabee establishing a national “Let’s Go See Ender’s Game Day.” I am sure he will pull in Chik-fil-a as a sponsor, and they will sell popcorn chicken as refreshments. This proposed boycott has caused early interest in the film among people who weren’t previously aware of it.

I hope Mr. Card’s feelings about homosexuality are evolving, just like they are for many people as we come to better understand one another. One day he will hopefully realize that he has displayed intolerance similar to what his character DeAnne Fletcher in The Lost Boys despised. I have to paraphrase now, because I do not have a copy of the novel, but DeAnne recounts the intolerance many of her former neighbors displayed towards an African-American girl in her Utah community. She moves away with her family and hopes to never again live among people who could dislike somebody just because they were different in some way. For some reason, that little insignificant passage from the novel has lasted with me since the time I read it nearly 12 years ago.

Share the Spark

sparklersAs 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.