"When There's Hate At Home"

It's a dramatic moment in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Helm's Deep is being overtaken by orcs and 'super-orcs', all is gore and chaos, and King Theoden, in a moment of despair, wonders, "What can men do against such reckless hate?"
Sometimes I ask the same question. How do we respond to people who seem to be possessed by an irrational prejudice...especially when "these people" are our people--members of our family?
Moreover, where does this "reckless hate" come from? I once read somewhere that there is homosexuality in every species, but Homo sapiens is the only animal that scourges its homosexual members. But why? I suppose homophobia is passed down from generation to generation like most forms of bigotry. But where does it really originate? Some might point to religion, but where did religious leaders get their homophobia? An unease with anal sex? Ultimately, the answer is probably ignorance. But how to educate when the lesson appears to contradict the dogma accepted (and used) by the haters?
I am reminded by Sting's "Englishman in New York" lyrics: "It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile / Be yourself no matter what they say".
Here are some insights I found on the subject of hatred, which I present as answers to some of my troubling questions of late. Indeed, some of these quotes are sadly applicable.
Q: How is it that so many good Christian people--ordinarily full of love and goodwill--can suddenly fill with hate and venom (e.g., when it comes to homosexuals)?
A: "We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love
one another." ~Jonathan Swift
Q: So is religion to blame for this intolerance?
A: "Ultimately, America's answer to intolerance is diversity, the very diversity which our heritage of religious freedom has inspired." ~Robert F. Kennedy
Q: Why do some of my family members stick to their prejudices so aggressively?
A: "I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain." ~James Baldwin
Q: Then is there no hope that these hard feelings will soften?
A: "It is to the credit of human nature that...it loves more readily than it hates. Hatred, by a gradual and quiet process, will even be transformed to love..." ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (an apt book to be quoted on this blog)
Q: What, then, must we do as people who sometimes find ourselves on the receiving end of hatred?
A: "We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies." ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
And one of personal favorites, an anonymous quote:
"It is better to be hated for who you are, than to be loved for someone you are not."


Still Troubled

Now that I have written not one but two blog posts bemoaning how woefully wrong my dad was a few days ago, the conversation still disturbs me--and this time, it's not the wrongness of it that bothers me, but the nagging possibility of its rightness.

What if he's right, I wonder, and I really would be ruining myself by pursuing a gay relationship and (for lack of a better word) lifestyle? What if I would be handing in my ticket of eternal progression, effectively getting off at this sorry stop as the rest of the Church rolls on toward the Celestial Kingdom and beyond?

"I had a cousin," my dad said Monday, "who went on a mission, came home, and decided to...follow this lifestyle. Long story short? He got AIDS, and in his dying moments he basically said 'I screwed up.' Near the end he was trying to crawl back to the Church, but it was too little, too late." (Dad did admit that he wasn't actually present at the time, but maintained that this is what happened.)

This concerned parent's warning continues to haunt me. I see myself on my deathbed--either as a young man with AIDS or as an old man with the crippling ailment of regret--confessing that 'I screwed up', but also knowing that the chance for change is past.

By the way--on a happier note: three cheers for the success of the Matthew Shepard Act! A great step forward.


Frustration (and Resolve), Part II

Thanks for your comments and support on my last post. They have helped me a lot--thank you! Regarding Seminary, I should again point out that luckily the teacher is just a substitute, so it's not a long-term problem. I hope. (My real Seminary teacher is sick right now; he kindly avoids the homosexuality issue because I politely let him know that homophobic teaching nearly drove me from Seminary last year.) What really got me is that the man was more or less in line with Church teachings: Regarding the degeneration of society, "Satan has many tricks...In the nineties, his big tool was homosexuality..." "The world says it's okay for two boys to like each other..." (Classmates grimace and whisper, "...so disgusting!") "...While we have the Proclamation to the World..." (Gestures to giant poster of The Family: A Proclamation to the World hanging on wall.) You could tell that the guy owned a dog-eared, highlighted and underlined copy of The Miracle of Forgiveness. Had there been a General Authority in the room, I strongly doubt the teacher would have been called on his remarks.

Beyond that: A while ago I read a nice piece of psycho-babble about writers and "the ruminating personality". Apparently, many creative types who have ruminating personalities tend to be good writers, but depressed ones as well. I thought it applied to me in some ways because I am a cyclothymic writer who does tend to dwell on things. Today has been no different: any time my mind hasn't been occupied, it has been filled with frustration and arguments and anger about what went down yesterday. Writing these ruminations down has been very therapeutic, so here goes, once more.

The frustration, for me and for many of us, is that frankly we are ahead of our time. To be brutally honest, talking to my dad about being gay was like trying to talk to someone from the Middle Ages about quantum physics. In order to really accept me--not just deny or 'forget' about "the issue"--my dad (and my family, for that matter) would have to learn so much... He would have to understand homosexuality, the Church's various positions and actions regarding homosexuality, both personal and prophetic revelation, the teachings of the Bible, and so many other things.

But he is so stuck in his thinking, so fixated on what he thinks is right, that we can't get past even the most fundamental things. I would try to talk to him about metaphorical black holes and parallel universes, but he is convinced that the Sun rotates around the Earth. In his mind, there is no room for negotiation or reconsideration: he is extremely obstinate, and seems to have both common sense ('Come on, do you really think the Earth is moving? You're standing on it, and you see the Sun move across the sky!') and the religious establishment (which persecuted many legendary early scientists and astronomers for their progressive 'celestial' thinking) on his side. I am clearly the heretic who violates the laws of nature, common sense, and God; he is unmovable in his surety--completely closed to other possibilities--so how could we possibly move forward?

That is the root of the frustration that I--and no doubt many of you--feel. Alan, I will make a point of reading Scrum Central to see how things go with your dad. Maybe I'll be able to borrow some of the techniques you use. Abe, thanks for sharing about your parents--that does give me hope. I can only imagine how your parents felt about your adopting such an alien faith and life, but as you suggested, I bet it's similar to how my parents feel. And David, thanks for your encouragement. I think you're quite right: giving people a personal connection--someone they love is gay--helps make an abstract concept a very real, tangible part of their lives. Thanks all!

Anyway, the bottom line is this:

Ultimately, I cannot live my life by the ignorance and prejudice of other people or groups.

In other words, what I've really been wanting to say to narrow-minded people is this: Your stupidity does not determine my reality!



...so intense it would bring me to tears if I weren't furious.

A lot has been going on lately. The day started off in first hour Seminary. A substitute teacher gave an off-the-cuff lesson on how the swine flu epidemic was designed by conspiring men and facilitated by caffeinated soda, and how airplane exhaust causes other outbreaks of sickness ('How do I know these things? My wife is in health and wellness.' Talk to me after class about how you can buy our amazing health smoothies, or sign yourselves up for our pyramid scheme today!...). He then proceeded to somehow launch into homosexuality. It was like, "Running out of things to say? Fill the extra time with a perennial favorite: ripping on the gays!" A wonderful way to begin the day: music and the spoken venom.

After school, my dad (he's not my bio-dad, and I don't usually live with him, but he's like a dad) was waiting to take my sister. Before they left, though, he sat down with my mother and I to talk about "you-know-what". Apparently my sister told him; I expected as much.

Ignorance does not feel like a strong enough word--I would sooner describe his state as a dogged, almost fanatical commitment to irrationality. The man was in a frenzy: he refused to even consider that sexuality might not be a choice, and when I asked him why someone would choose to be hated and despised, his answer was, "Why do people kill people? Look at serial killers..."

Then there was a heated theological debate that touched on Biblical references to homosexuality, sin, modern revelation through prophets, personal revelation, and the Church's position(s). Facts, logic, common sense...these meant nothing in the face of such vehement bigotry (which, in his defense, he was raised with). Desperate, I tried a different route--telling Dad that I had prayed and fasted myself and had had to find my own answers--but it was equally futile. I was told in very plain language that if I "chose this lifestyle", I would destroy myself, physically, through AIDS, and/or spiritually, through sin. I would be giving up happiness in this life and the next. I could not go to heaven--much less the Celestial Kingdom--and would ultimately burn in hell. "Sin against nature" was a frequently-used term, as were "abomination", "off-the-wall thoughts", and "temptations". The issue was not even homosexual actions--it was just being gay. The thoughts alone, I was told, would ruin every aspect of my life and being.

In the end, I was told that I was loved no matter what. For this, at least, I am extremely grateful. Bless him for that. As for the rest, well... I have to go on "a few" dates with girls, go at things with an open mind, this sort of thing. In short, my parents think that my dating a few cute girls will turn me straight. (Actually, my mom more or less accepts me as I am, but she is at the same time hopeful that I am just...confused.)

I am lucky to have the knowledge that I do. I am lucky to have the support of people not blinded by insane bigotry. I am lucky to know myself. I am lucky to still be accepted by my family.

The concept of re-orientation is alluring (not the least to the parents and loved ones of gay people), but the failure of re-orientation is obvious.

People wonder why gay Mormons are killing themselves off? People wonder why LGBT teens are four times more likely to commit suicide than straight teens?

The only thing I wonder about is how people can still be so ignorant. It is frightening, and to me it is a strong case for coming out. The only way to educate and hopefully change the prejudiced, as I see it, is to show them that someone they know and love is gay. At this point--and this is more or less my answer to Abe's question "Where are you in your journey?"--I am a few straight dates away from coming out. Unless the sparks fly during this, "the Great, Straight Experiment", I am finished. I am finished living a lie. I am finished being afraid to be myself. I am finished with Seminary. I am finished with being a pathetically spineless people-pleaser, losing myself in my efforts to placate others. I am finished trying to sit on a fence that is painfully sharp--jagged, even.

If I were someone reading this blog, going through the archives, my response would probably be, "Poop or get off the pot, you wretch." And my answer to such an imperative, if it were posed to me today, would simply be, I am finished. I am almost finished. I'm just now washing my hands, in fact.


Thoughts from the Blogging Break

As most MoHo bloggers can attest, it is sometimes therapeutic--even, perhaps, vitally important--to take a step back, forget about one's inner-conflict and moral dilemmas, and let the MoHosphere carry on without the addition of one's thoughtful, though undeniably frivolous, insights. This has, at least, been the case for me, and I have enjoyed a several week-long blogging hiatus facilitated by computer problems and my own need for solitary reflection. Unfortunately, I had far more of the former than the latter.

During my virtual absence, some of my thoughts have crystallized while others have only become more muddied. Some of the newer developments:
  • Abe invited us to blog about "the M word", and although September is long past, better late than never. As I have grown up my only real instruction on the subject has been the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, which states: "Before marriage, do not do anything to arouse the powerful emotions that must be expressed only in marriage...Do not arouse those emotions in your own body." To me, this is a polite yet straightforward way of forbidding self-stimulation, and throughout adolescence I have more or less heeded this counsel. There was only one period when I was relatively young and innocent when I made a sort of experimental attempt, but that was far from seminal--and it was the last time I tried anything of that nature. That's right, I don't self-stimulate. Maybe that's why I'm so 'crotch'ety. Maybe that's why I'm a prudish 'jack'@$$. I dunno, but really, I don't feel the need to do it (perhaps because I've never really done it). Is this normal, I sometimes wonder? I maintain that I am not asexual.
  • I recently--and somewhat reluctantly--submitted my story to the Foundation for Reconciliation. If you are interested, it can be read at http://ldsapology.org/Teenager.htm . (Some of the formatting didn't come through, but you get the general idea at least.) Perhaps it was foolish of me to get involved with this effort, but my hope is that the sharing of my story on a broader stage will have a positive impact on someone, somewhere.
  • Via Facebook, I have been talking with a fellow MoHo blogger over the past few weeks, and he has shared some good advice with me. We talked about missions, marriage, and patriarchal blessings, and I found our thinking to be in some areas rather similar. Anyway, in communicating my thoughts to someone else, I had a couple of realizations about them. A mission, for me, is still a possibility, but I hesitate because 1) it seems a little hypocritical to try to convert people to a church I may soon leave, and 2) the Temple. As I said to my friend, if I go to the Temple, I want to know I'll be able to return. Any thoughts on this feeling?
  • Speaking of Facebook, I was surprised to see, one day, that my FLeeS Facebook account had been shut down! I suppose they don't like people creating accounts under pseudonyms...oops. But get this: there are now three other people going by the name of "Frank Lee Scarlet" on Facebook. What's going on? I don't know, but check out this page: one fine fall afternoon, I'm nonchalantly reading this article--that happens to be about gays and the LDS Church--on Deseret News online when I see a commenter calling himself 'Frank Lee Scarlet'! It's a bit too much for coincidence, if you ask me. (Just to clarify, it was not this Frank Lee Scarlet.)
  • My sister now knows. As in, she knows. More on that front later.