20 May 2007

Some Choices Suck But Are Mine to Make

I actually wrote this in response to another blogger's post, after also reading a related post, and considering conversations with friends. As I was writing a response to iwonder, it just got ridiculously long for a comment, so I decided to post it rather than use someone else's comments as my soap box.

I'm not going to try to repeat the questions posed by them. I'd encourage you to read the blogs to let them speak for themselves, but these are some of my thoughts to some of these more difficult questions most of us have at some point.

While I don't currently feel the heaviness of these thoughts much, they are thoughts I think any intelligent, honest, searching moho is bound to have. How could anyone deny the significance of these questions?

Yet I don't currently feel burdened by their weight though I went through a torturous time when I did. That's not to say I'm done and fixed and life is all peaches and cream from now on--wow, what a gay expression--but I've found empowerment in remembering that whatever happens, I am making an ACTIVE choice.

Yeah, it sucks that I feel like I have to choose between half of my ideals and the other half, but I don't think there's a person on earth who hasn't had to do that to a great extent at some point, at least nobody with principles.

I think the biggest difference between most people making these choices and me is that I spent more time dwelling on the feeling that I was being FORCED to make that choice, when in reality, everyone is. Life forces these choices. And I can either choose to not choose and remain in a state of torn victimhood, or I can take the reins, face the frightening unknown, and choose which of my ideals matter MOST to me, and follow those.

Don't get me wrong--I'm not claiming that anyone paralyzed by these decisions is a wimp and needs to buck up and get over it. Not at all. I'm one of them. We all go through this, I think. I'm just saying I hope we can all go through this, not live out our lives in it. That's an active thing. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming... (yay for overly-simplistic wisdom from scatter-brained fish)

I also submit that choosing which ideals to follow should not be a matter of "what will make me happiest?" but of "what do I believe most strongly in?" combined with "what do I value most?". I'm not sure we can ever make ourselves happy by setting aside the things we most believe in and deeply value.

I guess for myself, the question I try to focus on is not "what makes me happy?" as much as "what is really true?" Then, when you follow that which you most believe to be true, you gain a sense of completion and fulfillment (dare I say 'happiness'?) that only the integrity of following what you believe can bring. But then I'm just a "rational", so that's the kind of no-fun anti-hedonic pragmatism expected of my kind. *wink*

Sorry for the novel. I'm a long-winded cuss sometimes. And please don't take this as "wisdom from the self-proclaimed oracle O-Mo". Just my thoughts on what I think has gotten me through some rough spots, take them or leave them (and I mean that).

Maybe I should've blogged about this instead of writing a comment.

There. I blogged it.

19 May 2007

He Might Be a Moho If...

OK, if you've ever looked at your "soft male" co-worker and thought, "He's either gay or mormon," this is for you. I expect a little group participation here, because I am only one man with a limited perspective. I also am not adept, yet, at singling out female mohos, so I must speak from a male perspective. Now, you've got the stereotypes everyone already knows that indicate a fair degree of homoness (e.g. he has every Christina Aguilera album, or he is far too well dressed to even pass it off as "metrosexual", or he seems undaunted by ample cleavage bursting from a V-cut but loses all power of speech when the ripped, scantily-clad stud approaches at the pool party...yeah),...

Oh, sorry, I just lost all power of speech at the very thought. What I'm hoping is to make a list of some lesser-known, perhaps more subtle signs you may start noticing once made aware. This is to help family and friends "get a clue" to soften the blow when they are finally confronted with the fact that their good mormon boy thinks guys are sexy and would probably date and marry one if it were allowed:

1) A lot of nice girls want his attention because he's such a "nice guy" and "respects girls" and is "such a good priesthood holder", but they can't seem to turn his head no matter how they try.

2) He introduced you to the magic of musicals way back in junior high.

3) He's in his late twenties, fairly good-looking, good personality, has steadily dated only three or fewer girls, and you can't figure out why he's not married or even dating.

4) You're one of the few girls who have dated him, and he breaks it off with some vague reference about not knowing if he'll ever find a girl he's attracted to the way he "should be"...you may try to come up with various explanations for that, but come on.

5) He gives cute, creative, crafty gifts to all of his friends each holiday.

6) He is the fastest, most meticulously artful little gift-wrapper Deseret Book has ever hired.

7) He starred in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in middle school and loved every minute of it.

8) When he refers to the type of "person" he's attracted to, pay attention to whether he EVER indicates a gender. Just a thought.

9) He does a double-take when an attractive male enters the room. SERIOUSLY, folks, we do this ALL THE TIME, and nobody seems willing to realize it.

10) He idolizes Emma Smith. ...and the BYU Men's Chorus. ...and Mindy Gledhill. *wink*

11) He wears women's jeans. COME ON, people! (Note to friends who wear women's jeans: I hope you can forgive me for this one)

12) He randomly bursts out exuberantly into "You're gonna be popular", particularly the "La La" part.

13) Banana Republic, Diesel, 2(x)ist...these are all warning signs.

14) He owns International Male and Abercrombie catalogs, yet he never buys anything from them...He owns copies of Exercise (for Men Only) and GQ, yet you never see him reading them...or exercising...

15) Watch his eyes during a kissing or love scene--is he even noticing there's a woman there?

16) When introduced to people, he always connects with the good-looking guy first.

I could keep going and may revise it later, but I think I'll stop here and leave the rest to anyone who may wish to add to the list, including our female counterparts out there who can enlighten us.

17 May 2007

A Letter to a Friend
(no, not THAT "Letter to a Friend")

Another blast from the past: an e-mail I sent about two years ago to a friend of mine in response to some advice she sent me.

I originally posted this (almost exactly two years ago) to an online group as an example of how I tried to help a friend understand I'm doing my best despite my non-dating status without fully explaining my situation (I didn't think she was ready to hear it and/or I didn't have the energy to go there with her at that time). I have since gone there.

The 'doctrinal foray' refers to life in general, but I think it's applicable to same-gender attraction and the disagreements often found among those of us who experience it in our various ways.

Her response was positive, and I'm grateful for such good friends who can dish out advice and a take some in return. :-)

The e-mail:
As for dating, I don't regret anything I've done or not done. I just hope people will trust I'm doing my best, but if not, I'll try to respect that and continue accepting all the counsel people 'feel' they need to give me. That said, most of what you said to me is true and applicable, even if not exactly in the way you intended it or _immediately_ applicable. Even when people feel inspired to say things, I believe they often do not know why, though they may think they do. Revelation is usually pretty specific, so we must take care when assuming anything extra, no matter how much sense it makes to do so.

About marriage, I understand some people think my happiness would be greatly increased by grabbing an eternal companion ASAP or at least shopping more aggressively, but I wish people would trust others a bit more in their decisions or apparent indecisions. Elder Oaks gave great counsel related to that at the last CES Fireside.

The funny thing is, I'm beginning to think all this time spent 'going nowhere' was more going 'somewhere' than I've thought, in many ways. Sure, there's been wasted time. Sure, I might've figured some things out faster. But who knows what would have been different or what I _wouldn't_ have figured out? Looking back and playing 'what if' seem ungrateful.

A doctrinal foray:
I don't think all people are meant to be baptized right away or married by twenty-five or blessed by their patriarch by age 18 or to determine a major in the first years of college. Now you're probably thinking, "Come on, you're several years into college and still floundering to nail down a career path, and you're (in your mid-twenties) and apparently not dating." Fine. Be that way. :-) But hear me out nonetheless. You may already know all of this, but I think it's important to remember:

People do put off right decisions. They may miss blessings. They may be wasting away in indecision or idleness. They may be giving in to fear or faithlessness. But I don't believe _every_ person who takes three years to be baptized is 'guilty' of such. Are most? Maybe. But is it my job to decide who is and who is not? Can I really, truly know how hard someone is trying (excluding, perhaps, revelation regarding someone under my stewardship)? No. Can I offer counsel? Sure, but I ought to remember that I don't know everything about that person's life or motivations, no matter how much I think I do know. I can hope or trust they'll do what's right, and then I may need to let it go. To doubt someone is doing what's right because they don't do it when I think it's obvious they should is, in my opinion, a form of pride, one of which I have often been guilty.

There may be purpose in some delays. Many people may look back and wish they had decided or acted sooner. They may believe they missed blessings. They may very well have. But in some instances, they may have experienced a delay according to the Lord's own due time. There may be blessings they could have had and didn't, but by waiting, other blessings may have been in store that otherwise wouldn't have been, like family members coming to terms with their loved one's baptism and getting baptized, themselves, maybe even sooner than _they_ might have had the first person been baptized immediately. Couldn't the Lord orchestrate things to play out that way? You could say, "Just do it now, and the Lord will bless you and your family." But what if that's not the way the LORD plans it? Repentance is always better today than tomorrow. But is marriage? Is baptism? Always? What about wisdom and order? What about unseen obstacles or the Lord's unforeseeable plans? Potentially dangerous philosophy in the wrong mind, but isn't most truth?

So we work things out, each one with the Lord's help. And I thank God he doesn't work with each one of us the same way. No, he's a thoroughly personal God. So each person has a different track even having been given the same commandments. Each person has different roads to follow and different challenges to meet and different times to make different decisions. The important part is that we never abandon our direction or ignore bits and pieces of the gospel we may not be comfortable with. We don't give up. We continue on as well as we can, not faster than we have strength but with all diligence and an eye single, in wisdom and in order. We understand we can't do everything at once yet don't assume ourselves to be an exception to the commandments. The atonement covers all human frailty and changes us into celestial beings, but it doesn't necessarily change everything now, or in the way we might hope. Those rare occasions when it does are called 'translation.' :-)

So line upon line, day by day... Wouldn't it be nice if life were just neat and simple, and following the commandments were something we could just decide to do one day and have it done, going on to help countless others change in the twinkling of an eye? Wouldn't it be nice if decisions were simple and outcomes clearly defined? Some things are sure and some consequences predictable, but I've found little in life is simple. On the other hand, fewer decisions than some of us may think are terribly complex or require years of humming and hawing, committee meetings, discussion, and analysis...

We are given a clearly marked set of commandments and guidance...and some guidance that's not so cut and dry but is helpful in making decisions. We are given a path to follow that will lead to peace and joy, and each one of us has different branches in that path, different potholes, different bridges out. It's the very fact that we desire to follow the path but run into various obstacles, sometimes nearly or entirely insuperable, that turns us to our living Father in Heaven for _personal_ understanding and guidance. He gives commandments through scripture and prophets, we all try to follow them, we realize we can't do it all, we realize we lack drive or ability, we turn to the atonement, we try again, and sometimes, he says, "Let's come back to that one later." And sometimes he says, "Ah, you made it to this crossing but found the bridge out. I'm glad you came to me; there's something we need to talk about before you can go further in that direction. You need to take a journey first. It may be a long road, but you need to take it, and when the time is right, the road will lead you back here, your bridge will be prepared, and I will help you cross."

We all have different bridges out. We all have our side journeys to take. Most of these are extremely subtle and fairly personal. They may be brief and simple, or they may be life-long and too complex for our feeble minds. Many times, we don't even know our OWN journeys or why we're on them, but when we look back, we see where we have been and how we have progressed. Most of us have no idea exactly what journeys others around us, even those closest to us, are taking. We take some journeys alone, and we take some with friends, and we take some together with spouses and family. But hopefully we all have some form of support and encouragement, as well as friendly counsel, along those journeys.

You may wonder at my ability to attempt to make indecision and faithlessness seem grand and doctrinal. Well, you have to call them as you see them, I suppose. :-)

As for your assertions that I'm 'not trying,' 'not looking,' and 'not making enough of an effort,' many people agree with you. That's OK, I guess. I'm used to it. Again, most of what you wrote is great counsel, and it sums up some thoughts I haven't yet recorded in my journal, so you've saved me some trouble. :-)

14 May 2007

Secret Combination of Mohos

Purple shirts with black ties? Bear your testimony in fast and testimony meeting using the word "struggle" very deliberately at least three times? The time has come for the moho establishment to arise, united, and band together. I had this epiphany today that we in the blog world may have a beautiful opportunity to determine the signs and signals to firmly declare, to those in mohodom, our strange and unusual state of being both LDS and unusually strongly attracted to members of the same sex and/or gender.

So this is a call for ideas. I personally enjoy the thought of all mohos wearing certain colors or clothes on every second Sunday. Maybe there will be signals, or code words, or anything remarkably secret combinationish. It should be distinctive but subtle enough to not scream "flaming queer". Mohos-in-the-know will recognize the signals, while the typical Joe Schmoe member will continue to be as oblivious as always.

Enough with the wondering, the second-guessing, the being convinced the person next to you in Sunday School is just in denial and will one day know, as you know, that they do, in fact, share a "special" affinity for members of the same gender. We will revolutionize the moho world by removing these barriers of suspicion and ambiguity. A new moho world order may then form.

Please, submit ideas now, and we shall subsequently vote...maybe.

13 May 2007

From Desperation To a Brighter Peace

Next in my series of old journal entries (see Darker Times and Strange Peace and My First Essay on SGA for closely related entries). I'll preface it by saying a lot has happened since this was written. Perspectives have adjusted. The experience has grown dim. I admit to not feeling the faith like I did just then. But again, this was part of my 'journey', so I want to share it.

April 2005

Great fireside tonight. The speaker spoke about his experiences at war in Afghanistan. The stories were amazing, and he seemed to have had an overall positive experience there.

I also had a powerful experience in Ward Prayer. But it began after the fireside. The fireside gave a fresh perspective, and I thought what good this fireside was doing for perceptions of many people towards Afghanis, towards Muslims, and towards our soldiers. I thought, "If we only held more firesides like this on specific topics in addition to the usual `first discussion' firesides or `talk-about-as-many-topics-as-we-can-in-one-fireside' firesides, then the gospel might really come more alive in people's hearts and minds." I thought what good a fireside about SGA might do here.

I told a good friend at the fireside that the speaker had almost made me want to join the military, and he replied, "I don't mean to belittle you, but I don't think you'd make it. I don't think you could do it." He bore a condescending grin, and I wanted to hit him. Now, I'm sure he had no clue what his comment triggered, but I was thoroughly irritated. I know myself, and though I deplore violence and dislike many tactics the army uses to train troops, I also understand their purpose, and if something is worth it to me, and if it's right, I can put reservations aside and do what must be done, perhaps with the Lord's help if needed. I hate being told what I can't do, especially when it's something I respect.

But more than that was severe aggravation that I am seen as `weak' or `unmanly', as has been hinted in other conversations recently. I've been struggling a lot lately with issues related to SGA and sorting it all out, and that slap in the face (which may not be how it was meant at all) was the last straw. I was visibly irritated, and I was struggling with church culture, society's molds, and people's inability to see beyond the basic exterior appearance and realize the potential of people within. I wondered what life was going to be like to live the gospel as the church teaches it if I was never attracted to a girl. Many of my friends had expressed their distaste for anything related to homosexuality in the past couple of weeks. I felt completely alienated, frustrated, and detached. I had felt like I was on a spiritual upswing, but now I was in a tailspin into a very dark place.

At Ward prayer, a friend asked what was wrong, and I said I didn't want to talk about it, so she offered simply to scratch my back. It was soothing, and I was feeling calmed down, at least. SGA desires intensified then and there; I longed for tender intimacy with another guy. Fingers through hair, gentle back scratching, warm embrace. All that damned SGA temptation I'm never allowed to entertain. I knew I couldn't talk to my friends about it. They're too set on the male mold. I was irritated that the very people I wished I could be frank with were the ones regularly making the comments that made me feel more `homo' than ever. After all, normal guys don't wear scarves. Those who do must need a label, like `metro.' How ridiculous can tradition be?

And the only people I do talk to are mostly anonymous people online whom I have appreciated very much but don't know personally. I was sitting with my face in my hands, weeping quietly and desperately trying to bring myself together and get a proper perspective on it all. I said a prayer. I sincerely apologized for my wasted time in inappropriate thoughts and activities. Even in this darkness, I realized I felt a flicker of faith that felt like a dim knowledge which seemed to spark, and I prayed simply and possibly more sincerely than ever before, "Help. I need help." And I meant "need" more deeply and completely than I previously knew possible. As soon as I had done so, I was taken aback, as intense comfort and peace flowed through me like a blast of warm wind from head to toe. I wasn't expecting such a powerful response, and I nearly felt I'd lose my breath. It's been a long time since I've felt anything like that. For the first time in a long time, I felt I was connecting, communing. Then the closing hymn for ward prayer began, my face still in my hands. It was hymn 117, Come Unto Jesus:

Come unto Jesus, ye heavy laden,
Care-worn and fainting, by sin oppressed.
He'll safely guide you unto that haven
Where all who trust him may rest.

Come unto Jesus; He'll ever heed you,
Though in the darkness you've gone astray.
His love will find you and gently lead you
From darkest night into day.

Come unto Jesus; He'll surely hear you,
If you in meekness plead for his love.
Oh, know you not that angels are near you
From brightest mansions above?

Come unto Jesus from every nation,
From every land and isle of the sea.
Unto the high and lowly in station,
Ever he calls, "Come to me."

I just listened to the voices singing the hymn. Half of them probably gave little thought to the meaning of the words. But as I listened, I couldn't contain the tears. I felt surrounded by angelic voices, strength and support. The words suddenly took on far more meaning than they ever had before. I realized something: I have spent a lot of time seeking help, strength, ideas, and support from various people, but I had knowingly excluded the one truest friend and confidant, for fear he may not actually be there. Might be just a philosophical notion more than a being. I had found myself truly alone, but now I finally felt a way back. It was much like my mission when, for different reasons, I realized that even if I have no `friends' and no person who thinks like me in this world, there is one who knows it all and still loves and cares for me and will listen whenever I need it. There is one friendship I had not been cultivating, and it's the one that had mattered to me more than all the world.

A lot came rushing, flooding, back to me. I was reawakened to the idea that that relationship is where all the best of me comes from. That's how I found the love for the people in my mission so strong while nobody seemed to love me back. That's how I cared about and detected the subtle needs and emptiness in people's eyes even when they didn't know who I was. That's when I never gave a thought to what I was going to get out of a relationship. That's when I felt most tender yet stronger than ever, confident against the world yet always seeking new lessons to learn. I remembered many subtleties of the gospel which had long been buried underneath my turmoil. I saw light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. I was buoyed up. Testimony was rekindled. The reality of the gospel and frailty of the world and its philosophies became clear again. The tears which had been tears of pain and anguish became tears of sorrow for what I had forgotten and for time lost, and then turned into tears of deep humility and gratitude that the Lord had answered me so powerfully as I had been hoping would happen someday soon.

I had prayed for help many times before, in different ways and at different times. But something was different about this time. I felt more longing, more need, and more intense hope for faith. I also believe it's no coincidence that it happened on a day when I had done a lot I didn't feel excited about doing but knew was prescribed for gospel living: reading scriptures, going to church on time (or close to it), listening attentively in class (to lessons which seemed designed for me), trying to more productively keep the Sabbath, doing more in my calling than I had been doing, attending a fireside, and still going to ward prayer and trying to make the best of it despite my bitter feelings and obvious depression. Would I have received such a powerful answer had I not been trying so hard to do what I knew, in my mind, I should, even if I didn't feel a great desire to do it? Would I have received the answer had I not been in deepest need? Would I have received it had a loving friend not softened my heart with a gentle touch?

Well, my back-scratching friend walked me to my car, offered some encouraging words, said "We're probably struggling with the same things" (to which I thought—oh, I bet we're not, sister), mentioned the stress heaped on us students at the end of the year, and simply said I could call her whenever I wanted, and gave me a hug and said she loved me. I really needed that kindness. She's a great girl. And she reminded me of the importance of simple, tender kindness. Even if she was `only saying those words to comfort me,' the very fact that she took the time to do it meant that she did care and love.

I drove away feeling cleansed and at peace, and that's when I really broke down. All of the pent-up emotions, the doubts, the insecurities, the pain, the loneliness, the sympathy for other people who struggle with this worse than I do, the sympathy for my friends who are wondering what's wrong but who I won't be able to fully explain it to…it all came gushing out my eyes. It wasn't a pretty picture. But it felt different. It felt like I was letting it all out, letting it go. I laughed at myself between the almost uncontrollable sobs. I felt stronger than I have in a long time. I laughed at the wretched display I was making but knew it needed to come out. I had been re-broken. I was coming down to a greater depth of humility. I realized how callused my heart had become in my effort to 'deal' with everything. And now, that theoretical friend I had longed to find, with whom I could share everything, was reminding me he's always been there. And he reminded me of who I really was and what heights I could again attain with him at my side.

My first impulse was to share all of this with the guys on the online groups. I was going to log right in when I got home. But when I pulled in the driveway, I remembered the impact the words of the hymn had on me, and I realized who I should talk to first if I was to make it real.

When I came home and thought about C.S. Lewis' writings (I finished Mere Christianity a couple of weeks ago) about being our best only when we ask Christ to gift to us a part of his spirit, I said, "I get it. I get it. I remember." I felt sorrow at the time I've wasted in doubt, false strength, and pride, but I looked forward to rebuilding that true strength and, meanwhile, finally resuming a more outward focus towards those in need around me.

And I must say, this feeling of peace and comfort far surpassed that night when I felt I was truly alone and had accepted the possibility that there is no God. That was a dark peace, like the peace that comes from having no energy to despair longer, or the peace surely felt when imminent doom is approaching, and you realize it will do no good to scream, or to run, or to fight, so all that is left is to resign yourself peacefully. It was a peace, but it was a strange peace. Now that I have the contrasting experiences so close together, I think that is the peace I felt that night and the next morning. The peace I felt Sunday is an active peace. It flowed through me and brought clarity and life to my thoughts. I felt more alive than I have in a long, long time. It began with gut-wrenching pain of soul but ended in reassuring, strengthening, invigorating love. I fell into the darkest pit and was lifted out into a warm brightness like the sun. Whew—enough with the corny imagery. It just seems the only way I can convey it with any justice. Is everything neat and tidy now? No, it's not. But it is clearer, and I feel more in control than I have in a long time. And my resolution is renewed.

Highlights From FHE at the Matises'

It's been a week or so, but I just wanted to mention the thoughts that struck me from Bro. Millet's lesson at FHE last week, and the ideas sparked by what he said:

1) The kingdom is for everyone. EVERYONE. If you can help people recognize the claim they have on the blessings of eternity, they will have hope in the gospel. There's something about knowing that the promises and blessings in the scriptures are actually for YOU that motivates you to become a part of it. Knowing that though you may feel like someone who does not fit in the church's mold, there is indeed a Father in Heaven who wants, with all his heart, to bring you home, no matter what, and all that's left is for you to open the door...it seems motivational to me.

2) Wayward children: There comes a time when you must recognize that your love that makes it so painful to watch someone make decisions you can only construe as damaging is but a small sample of the love felt for your own child by a Heavenly Father who has known and loved that child far longer than you. He will reclaim his sheep and send help in their path to guide them along the way should they choose to respond. At some point, you must "back off" and let them learn and have the opportunity to come back. You're not the only one watching out for them, and keeping that in mind can alleviate the anxiety. It's not about ignoring the problems or pretending everything is fine; it's about accepting that in the end, we each need the opportunity to choose for ourselves, and you can find peace in knowing that your child's fate is not just up to you and whether YOU can save them. There is one mightier to save.

3) Marriage: What of those of us who don't see marriage as a possibility? In a church that teaches marriage is essential for exaltation, what of those of us who hold little hope for it? There is hope in understanding the importance of what is in the heart, the desires of the heart. The Lord will not give you circumstances and then condemn you because of them. What's important is to hold on to the commitment and faith that "if I could, I would". The questioner asked, "But what about when it's been so long that the desire for marriage, the desire to make it work with a woman is just not there?" Bro. Millet responded with something like, "whether in this life or the next, all the blessings of exaltation will be yours, and the things which stand in your way in this life will be removed, if not in this life then in the next. You will not be condemned for that which you can't control." Now, whether or not you believe your sexual orientation will change in the life to come, I think there's comfort in the concept that you will not be condemned for that which you cannot control. I'd not heard anyone say that in this context before, and I'm glad he said it.

4) After all of this discussion, singing "Redeemer of Israel" was particularly powerful for me. Beautiful. Israel will shortly be free. I felt this notion that most of those present were not singing the hymn with a sort of distant feeling of marginalized observation (as I think is often the case among people who feel like they don't quite fit into the church) but truly feeling they WERE, in fact, "Israel" who would be redeemed and given the blessings of eternity, however that is to happen. Now maybe I was just overly hopeful or projecting my own emotions, but I was almost moved to tears thinking there might be people in the audience who were feeling, perhaps for the first time, or for the first time in a while, that they were, indeed, a part of the plan and that they would be alright in the end, come what may. I thought it was powerful.

12 May 2007

Don't Feel Like Dancin'...Except Maybe Now

OK, I don't dance, but this came about as close as anything has to getting me to do it. I mean, this kid is just too friggin' adorable not to be contagious.

11 May 2007

Will you forgive a political foray?

Due to the rampant onslaught of Romney propaganda on the blogs of certain high-profile mohos whom I do love dearly, as well as the strangely fawning reporting I see on Utah broadcast journalism, I feel it is my civic duty to stand amidst the incessant banner-waving by posting an excerpt from the Larry King Live interview in which I fell in love with Giuliani, who has my vote for the Republican candidacy until someone can convince me otherwise. I think a strong leadership style comes across in the interview (though less-so in the transcript, I'll concede). From the blame game to abortion to gay rights, I've included some of my favorite comments:


Deciding to Run

KING: So you're running?

GIULIANI: Yes, I'm running.

KING: Final -- what led to the decision?

GIULIANI: I think I can make a difference. I believe that the country needs leadership. I think that we're going through a war on terror -- or a terrorist war against us, which maybe is a better way to describe it. We've got lots of problems that we have to tackle and resolve. We need fiscal discipline. We need better education. We need energy independence. There's so many things that we haven't sort of tackled.

I mean one of the things I do is...

KING: Tackle things.

GIULIANI: Tackle things, yes. Lead. Try to get things done. Try to improve...

KING: It takes a lot of chutzpah, though, doesn't it, to say...


KING: ... I'm the best? That's what you're saying.

GIULIANI: Yes, it does. And very humbling. And it takes a long time to come to a conclusion that with all your imperfections and all the things, you know, that we all are, none of us -- none of us do everything well and none of us are perfect. You have to say to yourself is this something that I can do?

And for a kid from Brooklyn, sometimes you wake up in the morning and say gee...

KING: Is this really --

GIULIANI: ... is this really happening?

And then sometimes you wake up and say I can do this.
My Thoughts: This was the beginning of the seduction. The frank approachability and the lack of pomp was remarkable. He was simply a man who felt he was positioned and skilled enough to make a difference, and I believed him. I may just be an impressionable sap, but I believed him.

The War in Iraq

KING: Let's get to some issues.

A leading industrialist, a friend of mine, said if the United States were a corporation, based on the Iraq War, everyone at the top would be fired.

How would you comment on that? And that -- in other words meaning it ain't going right.

GIULIANI: Yes, but that would have been true -- he would have said the same thing about the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln would have been fired. And he might have said the same thing at the Battle of the Bulge and Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Marshall -- all would have been fired. And...

KING: So you're confident this is all going to turn around?

GIULIANI: Oh, no. No.

KING: Because those -- they turned around.

GIULIANI: No, no. I'm not confident it's all going to turn around.

Who knows that?

I mean, you never know that in the middle of a war. I'm confident that we have to try to make a turnaround, and we just can't walk out and that it is critical to us that things get to the point in Iraq that we have some degree of stability and not the way they are now. Because if we leave it the way it is now and we run out, then we're going to face further difficulties in the future. Then we're going to lose more lives in the future.


I would -- I would have us not disband the army. You wouldn't de-Baathify. See, de-Baathify sounds like the right thing to do because you're getting rid of all the old Saddam guys. But that meant getting rid of the entire civil service. The country had no infrastructure.
My Thoughts: I love the perspective he brings to the issue by adding a historical context and not being afraid to be a balanced voice, basically say, "Listen, I can't look into a crystal ball and predict the outcome of the war, but I can certainly analyze what's going on and figure out how to best approach the situation as it is rather than running from it and leaving a mess."

The Blame Game

KING: So are you -- are you -- who do you blame?

GIULIANI: So you learn from these things.

KING: Do you blame Rumsfeld?

GIULIANI: No, I don't blame anybody.

KING: You don't blame any -- somebody's got to...

GIULIANI: No, no, no. You don't do it that way.

KING: Nobody's to blame?

GIULIANI: You don't do it that way. That's why you don't make progress. Just like I don't blame people for not figuring out September 11 before it happened. What I do is, I kind of look at what happened, so you learn for the future.

KING: But there were mistakes.

GIULIANI: Of course there were mistakes. Lincoln made mistakes. Roosevelt made mistakes. Eisenhower made mistakes. The Battle of the Bulge was the biggest intelligence failure in American military history, much bigger than any in Vietnam or now. We didn't know that the Soviets were moving 400,000 or 500,000 troops. We missed it.

KING: Shouldn't they be blamed for not explaining it well enough?

GIULIANI: Learn from it. Learn from it. Don't blame them.


GIULIANI: Just as the mistakes I made when I was mayor, I tried to learn from them. If I get to be president of the United States, I probably won't make the same mistakes, because I will have learned from them. I'll probably make different ones.


KING: The House is apparently about to vote -- and will vote, apparently -- to say that this 20,000 troops is a mistake.

Now, an important question, do you hold those who vote for that as helping the enemy?

GIULIANI: No, I hold them as...

KING: Because some say that.

GIULIANI: OK. There's a...

KING: You don't?

GIULIANI: I mean, there's -- you can look at the practical and common sense conclusion of it anyway you want. But there's something more important than that.

We have a right of free speech in this country and we elect people to make decisions.
My Thoughts: THANK YOU! Someone who is willing to stop playing the juvenile finger-pointing game thinking he'll save face by making someone else look bad. In elementary school, we call that bullying. He is the first I heard stand up and say, "Listen, blame or no blame, that's not the important question. The question is what we'll do with what we have and what we can learn from the past." Seems like kind of a "duh" thing, but how many candidates are willing to step away from political jousting long enough to give some real perspective? I loved this.


Here's what I would prefer to see them do, though, if you ask me what's my view on that. The non-binding resolution thing gets me more than are you for it or against it. I have tremendous respect for the people who feel that we either made a mistake going to war, who voted against the war, who now have come to the conclusion, changed their minds -- they have every right to that -- that it's wrong. You should, in a dynamic situation, keep questioning.

What I don't like is the idea of a non-binding resolution.

KING: Because?

GIULIANI: Because there's no decision.

KING: But it's a -- making a -- it's a statement.

GIULIANI: Yes, but that's what you do. That's what Tim Russert does. That's what Rush Limbaugh does. That's what you guys do, you make comments. We pay them to make decisions, not just to make comments. We pay them to decide. The United States Congress does declarations, the war, that's the...

KING: So are you telling them if you feel that way, withhold funds, if that's the way you feel?

GIULIANI: Well, the ones I -- the ones that I think have a better understanding of what their responsibility is and are willing to take a risk are the ones who are saying we've got to hold back the funds, we've got to vote against the war or we're for the war.

KING: So...

GIULIANI: And maybe it's because I, you know, I ran a government and I tend to be a decisive person. I like decisions. And I think one of the things wrong with Washington is they don't want to make tough decisions anymore.

KING: You know, if you're...

GIULIANI: Non-binding resolution about Iraq; no decision on immigration; no decision on Social Security reform; no decision on what to do about energy independence; no decision. No decision.

You know why that happens?

Because it's unpopular.
My Thoughts: I really loved how he brought us back to remembering what the government's role really is, not getting roped into bickering over whether this or that was "good" or "bad" but seeing the big picture enough to step back and say, "Hey, that's not even what they're hired to do--who cares what congress 'asserts' if they're not even enacting anything concrete?"


GIULIANI: I am pro-choice, yes. But I -- I'm also, as you know -- always have been -- against abortion, hate abortion, don't like it, wouldn't personally advise anyone to have an abortion and -- but I believe a woman has a right to choose. And you can't have criminal penalties and I think that would be wrong.

I would select judges who try to interpret the Constitution rather than invent it, from my views as a lawyer. And I don't want to sound presumptuous, I'm not a constitutional lawyer, but I have argued in the Supreme Court and I have argued in many of the circuit courts.

I've spent more time in court than I have in politics.

And I just think it's very, very important that a judge have a judicial philosophy that says I am going to try to figure out what the framers of the Constitution meant when they wrote this or what the people who amended it meant when they put it in, not what I'd like it to mean, not what I feel it means.
My Thoughts: I love that he is not afraid to make people wrap their minds around the fact that he can, indeed, be personally opposed to something in principle and still uphold people's right to choose by disallowing government interference even when he would just as soon see a practice stop. I, personally, think the law should be defined much like the church's stance on abortion, that it be a careful decision made in extreme circumstances but wholly proscribed as a simple way of escaping consequences of choices. So I would say I'm semi-pro-choice and don't see the subject as a "woman's right to choose" as much as a "baby's right to live," but I still respect Giuliani's commitment to principle enough that I would respect him in the office.

Gay Rights

KING: You're pro -- basically, the gay movement, right, that gays have equal rights to heteros, that they be treated the same way in society…in hospitals... insurance benefits and all of that?

GIULIANI: Gays should be protected. I signed The Domestic Partnership Law in New York. But the way I'm portrayed by my opponents -- and I guess to drive people away from me -- is that I'm in favor of gay marriage. I am not. I did 220 weddings. They were all between a man and a woman. I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman. At least, I hope they were all between a man and a woman. It looked that way at the time.

But, yes, I believe that marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman and that the way to handle this, and the way to handle respect and everything else is to have something like domestic partnership, which I support.
My Thoughts: His position here is not much different from Romney's, but again what I loved about this response compared with everyone else's is that he didn't fall into defending his belief in marriage. He simply stated it, then focused on a need for human respect and opportunity to choose within certain bounds and made it clear that whether or not he agrees, he will respect. Other candidates give token expressions about tolerance, but they then go right back to rhetoric that will ensure that their right-wing constituency couldn't possibly construe their tolerance as overlooking sin. I just don't feel the simple, human respect come across as deeply and as genuinely as it did from Giuliani. He's not LDS and isn't as good-looking as his currently front-running competitor, so call me kooky, but I like the guy, and if the vote were today, he'd have my vote.

The full text of the transcript is available at http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0702/14/lkl.01.html.

10 May 2007

No offense to any Downers

I love this skit. Cracks me up.

At times, I've felt like a downer, like everything in life has a terrible twist. Others, I feel like the person who's "supposed" to be a miserable wretch but just can't seem to keep a straight face about it...

06 May 2007

Darker Times and Strange Peace

I wrote this on 13 April 2005, two weeks after my First Essay on SGA. I feel it's a significant enough aspect of my "journey" that I wanted to throw it out there:

13 April 2005

It may seem like my first essay on SGA seemed a bit dark and confused. I'm not sure how it comes across. I feel OK now, and upbeat, but when I wrote that journal entry a couple of weeks ago, I _was_ feeling dark and confused.

It's just that there are those dark times where I have wondered what is truly real: the God I have known and loved my whole life or the idea that I'm spending so much time worrying what a potentially imaginary deity wants of my thoughts and actions that I'm not actually doing any good in the world around me...in a sense, that I'm obsessing about what's 'wrong' with me when there may not actually be _anything_ wrong with me. I can logically argue that the latter is a flawed approach, but it sure is hard to do that _during_ the hard times.

I've questioned the truth of everything. It's been unusual for me. I've never doubted like that or felt so detached from the church before. I even woke up one morning ready to leave it all behind and sort of push 'reset' on my life. I even thought of how I was going to interact with all of my friends (all LDS) when I ran into them as a newly 'inactive member.'

My journal entry from that day:
6 April 2005

Last night, as I was laying in bed, I thought I should not neglect my nighttime prayer and kneel by my bed. I did and prayed for a couple of minutes, then had a distinct feeling that I was…well, kneeling on the floor, thinking to myself, and trying to talk to someone who wasn't real except in my imagination, like talking to myself. I thought, "Hm. I'm alone in a pitch-black room on my knees, pretending someone is listening. I'm alone. Completely alone." The strange thing was that it felt peaceful. I felt calm. I woke up this morning, and for some reason, my first thought was, "What if I give up the charade and stop going to church when I don't feel it…when I don't believe it. Why be a hypocrite? Maybe I need to change my habits and become who I want to be without trying to use the church and its doctrines as a motivating factor.

Sure, family won't like it. They'll feel sad. They'll worry for my eternal welfare. But if none of it's true, there's no reason to pretend it is to save their feelings. And again, I felt a strangely serene peace. I felt free and at peace with the idea of making that decision, to not attend as long as I don't believe it, to bow out of
the church and its culture but be friendly with everyone in it. I wouldn't feel malice. I wouldn't feel a need to shout my story from the rooftops. I would respect their beliefs for what they are and live as I felt I should. I wouldn't start doing anything against the word of wisdom, and I would live a temple-worthy life, really, just without the church. I think it possible.

I don't know. It's resurfaced in my mind a few times today. I have many friends in the church, but I know so many interesting and good people outside it, too. And I have contemplated not going…it would be hard on people. I think it might even shake some people up. But in the long run, I have to do what's right, not what would avoid rocking any boats.

Though I doubted the existence of God, our relationships with family and friends are extremely meaningful, and I didn't feel like I'd be 'alone.' I felt no animosity towards the church...just a sort of bland acceptance that it would no longer be part of my life. I had to stop going if I was this unsure of its veracity, to avoid hypocrisy.

I felt more like my usual self later but still doubtful. The next day, it was pretty much behind me, but I can't shake the feeling of 'strange peace' I felt, sort of like standing in a silent field at night...it's hard to describe. But I think I caught a glimpse of what people who don't believe in religion feel like and how they approach life, or how people who stop going to church feel and what motivations some of them may feel. I do believe that experience served a purpose.

Talking about it now, it seems like a dream, which may not be far from the truth because it took place while getting out of bed.

But I feel like I've 'snapped out of it.' And it feels like I've regained perspective. There's just that occasional question: am I simply falling into a sort of spiritual auto-pilot mode for now? Am I just reverting back to what's comfortable now that I know others who are like me? Is it real change? Or did I even really ever change FROM the gospel-loving, testimony-holding me? Maybe not, deep down. Maybe I was just tired of being constantly torn and felt a sense of relief at 'ending' the conflict in SOME way, even if not the "right way"? I never pictured myself deciding I could be done with the church...and yet I always felt I had the potential to get(or decline, as you might say) to that point someday...does that make sense?

I'm inclined to think that this new, fresh, upbeat feeling is, indeed, an authentic re-awakening, but that I need to remember that there's a sort of honeymoon stage with these things, and I need to have the strength to keep it up when the newness wears off. That's the hard part...the whole 'enduring' thing, eh?

03 May 2007

Oh $#!& this is so tragic...

This blog world is fascinating. I'm totally new to it, so the fact that I get hits from unexpected places is interesting, but more intriguing was discovering that my post ("Now I get it...") had become the (brief) discussion of someone else's blog/forum, from which I borrowed the title for this post.

I really appreciate the concern of those who bothered to read it, and I love that they apparently bothered to express some sympathy for my plight. In truth, I've been through hellish times coming to terms with it all. But what was fascinating to me was how "tragic" my post seemed to them. It seemed pretty matter-of-fact to me. Just another quirk of life, mostly. But to them, it seemed almost painful. Go fig.

I also realize that part of their sympathy is most likely for my poor, suppressed soul who can't accept his true sexuality without the restraints of religious or other traditions or structure.

So are they misreading me, ascribing their own frames of reference to my situation, or are they actually seeing past my facade of nonchalance into the deeply torn psyche that haunts me every day? The world may never know! But whatever the answer, I thought it would be fun to make a little foray into narcissism by showing what was said. After all, it's my first brush with international fame.

Comment (from, I think, the person who found my post):
Oh god... thats so sad, he, it just... awww people who can't accept their sexuality ...just... awwwww.... poor bloke....

but see, i bring this up:
all those girls that knew this guy - when they find out that he is with a guy, it makes u wonder if those "girl" friends of his wonder, if they did something wrong.

maybe they felt that he could not find a girl to be with.
what would they think of that???

That's sad. I just get the feeling he was down when he wrote that.
Despairing almost, in some parts.

That is really sad.

wow that is weird but i have heard of this before

You know what I remembered? It really is pretty weird. We blokes who find ourselves attracted to members of our own gender but deny ourselves the joys of homosexual bliss are queer folk.

So I've learned a valuable lesson from this: trying to make a somewhat light-hearted post about a potentially heavy subject is a delicate endeavor. Try to sound fairly light-hearted about it, and it almost sounds more pathetic. *grin*

In another ineresting collision, this random kid I met at a fireside--and whom I mentioned in a post as being one of an awkward group--ended up running across my blog himself and posting a response. Ha, such a tiny little world. Thanks for stopping by, Greg. How unsettling...

02 May 2007

Messages Heard Which You Didn't Say

What I say to the friend I recently 'came out' to: "I was sort of interested in a girl I saw the other day. I actually had a desire to ask her out."

What the mormon, heterosexual friend hears: "I found her attractive the same way I find guys attractive."

The truth: I can tell she's attractive, but I'm not drawn to her the way I'm drawn to a nice-seeming, attractive guy. I don't feel the same drive to get close to her that I do sometimes with guys. I almost never feel it the same way with girls. And I say "almost" only because I generally avoid absolutes, but I can't think of the last time I felt the way towards any girl that I have felt towards several guys I've been attracted to. It's just different. I did, however, want to get to know her and see if some of that drive would develop along with the emotional/mental connection.

We all interpret what we hear and fill in gaps according to our frames of reference, and it can be frustrating when those closest to you have been hearing, for years, according to their paradigm, into which you don't fit. I was reminded today that I need to be very clear and help people understand what has become commonplace in my world: that something as simple as the word 'attracted' has, until recently, not meant to me what it meant to other people.

01 May 2007

Weird vs. Uncommon

I originally wrote this in August 2005 but thought it was somewhat pertinent to some other thoughts I've seen floating around out there, so here it is:

I don't know...it was a thought today in the car. I was thinking about families and how family members are sometimes the most effective at making each other feel most 'normal' or 'abnormal.'

And I thought I want to be careful about that with those around me and with myself. I am a fairly uncommon person. I have a fairly uncommon mix of interests and tastes.

Growing up, there were times I just felt 'weird,' like a bit of a freak because of what I was and was not interested in. Most guys are just 'normal' guys, and they like it that way. They worry if they like or do something that's not 'normal'. But I didn't want to be 'normal'--I wanted to be, well, me.

And I guess that's the crux of the thing: being 'abnormal' is really just being 'uncommon'. Don't get me wrong--there are bad abnormalities, in my opinion. But if there's nothing contrary to gospel principles in someone's traits, why should anyone harp on them to be more 'normal'? We're only insisting they be 'common'.

And that led to the possibly more important part of my thought: I've accepted things about me that are uncommon or abnormal. And I have realized that most of those things are really not THAT weird and unusual, after all, even if I am a very unusual critter when the mish mash that is me is put together. And it's great in a lot of ways.

There's just one danger in it: complacency.

And I'm not just talking about SGA here, but it applies.

When does accepting normality become a stumbling block to becoming more? When does embracing your normality and your 'real' human ordinary...-ness become a stumbling block to becoming EXTRAordinary? To be extraordinary is where huge rewards are found, right?

When I've accepted my normality and seen it for what it is, shouldn't that then motivate me to build on it rather than let it become stagnant?

These thoughts may not be completely coherent, but I guess reading it reminded me of some things: while trying to learn to function comfortably in the society of others, which I believe to be a worthwhile goal if done for good reasons, don't lose touch with 'you'. Don't confuse 'uncommon' with 'freakish' or 'inadequate'. And don't stress over being 'uncommon' because if everyone was 'common', this world would not be worth experiencing. There are some traits we develop for no good reason and which can be let go, and there are others which are unusual but part of the more beautiful and uniquely precious parts of you, and those should probably not be sacrificed to becoming 'normal'. Strive to become more, to broaden your abilities and personality, but don't let go of yourself in the process.