Friday, August 18, 2017

Imagine

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865686947/Q-and-A-Imagine-Dragons-lead-singer-Dan-Reynolds-talks-music-Mormons-and-more.html
Always happy to hear what those with ties
to gay Mormons have to say.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Chapter Two of the Big Gay Mormon Book

Picking teams  
or Are gay people the good guys or the bad guys? 

This is chapter two of  "They That Be With Us - Understanding the link between Gay and Mormon"  Please leave any notes or questions or write me at calvinthompson.cal@gmail.com

Calvin: King Benjamin, the sons of Mosiah, and Ammon and his many, many arms have become a huge source of inspiration for me. In fact, I was the one who wrote the very first “Book of Mormon Musical” when I was ten, and I played Nephi, Zorom and the all the Laman-knights.

Not indecently, King Benjamin’s talk is where I learned that as a gay young man I was an enemy to God.

There were other things I learned in my teen-aged years that were not nearly as painful as being considered God’s enemy. For example, I learned any one of my sisters would not hesitate to sell me out for a Charleston Chew. I learned that Lady Blakney, our cow, turned out to be the answer to that age old question “what’s for dinner” and that dad had a good reason when he told us not to flush Tupperware lids down the toilet. 

As horrible as it was for me to learn during my thirtieth summer that mothers didn’t last forever, even that was more palatable to me than having been put in the same ugly category with those who lived counter to Heavenly Father and his purpose.

“For Calvin Thompson, who is only a sort-of-man (being gay and not as clever or cool as he doth think in his heart to be), is an enemy to God, and has been ever since he found gay pornography in a rest room and hid it in his violin case.” -The Book of Cal

When I looked in the mirror I didn’t see an enemy of God. I saw myself as one who was “On the Lord's Side, Who…”.  I went to Church, I was really good at scripture chase, I could lead the singing and use the words “thee” and “thine” correctly in prayer. I memorized all the routes for passing the sacrament, wore a white shirt fresh from the dryer and tied a brilliant full Windsor knot. Surely those considered “On the Lords Side, Who...” were guys like me that combed their hair and tried not to watch TV on Sundays. 

“For the natural man is an enemy to God,” Mosiah 3:19

Was Benjamin talking about my inclination towards men?  The opinions I heard expressed at church was that there was nothing more unnatural than desiring ones same gender. I heard that scripture supported sentiment in Sunday school class, in priesthood and again in the foyer from people who didn’t know anyone was listening -- a terrific way to check any groups practical pulse. 

However my feelings toward men seemed as natural and effortless as rearranging the living room furniture or color coordinating my sock drawer. I didn’t go out and hunt for these feelings; I didn’t raise my hand, volunteer or pick gay from a catalog.

And suddenly there was some ridiculous and arbitrary line drawn in the sand and it was right at my feet. Those on the other side were straight and could choose to go to heaven. Those on my side of the line were not going anywhere near heaven and apparently there was no choice involved -- no agency whatsoever. The whole thing sounded so… Old Testament

This was not the Heavenly Father that I knew, who I had learned about in primary and who I considered my loving and caring Heavenly Father. This was a fire and brimstone, B-movie Zeus with bad effects.

The whole thing freaked me out. I was now the bad guy - the guy in the black hat. 

The iron rod had somehow split in two. It had to have. I was off in a different direction and I had never let go of the dang thing. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. In my natural form with God given talents, abilities and inclinations I was God’s enemy.
  
Well, I didn’t want to be his enemy. I wanted to be his son. I wanted his love and admiration. I wanted his trust. I wanted to be on His side and to be counted among His. I wanted the white hat, the girl everyone said I should I should want, the sunset and all else that went with it.

Maybe I was so freaked out by what I first read at age thirteen that I was too worked up to hear anything else. I should have kept reading.

“…and will be (an enemy), forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a  saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a  child submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” (The rest of the Mosiah 3:19)

Directly from the Guide to the Scriptures on LDS.org, the natural man is "A person who chooses to be influenced by the passions, desires, appetites, and senses of the flesh rather than by the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Such a person can comprehend physical things but not spiritual things. All people are carnal, or mortal, because of the fall of Adam and Eve. Each person must be born again through the atonement of Jesus Christ to cease being a natural man."

Combining our collective wisdom - King Benjamin’s and mine - to remain “On The Lords Side, Who…” meant to follow His commandments, submit to His will and trust that I would never be tempted past my ability to withstand or overcome.

When I follow the commandments I move past what the normal, natural guy does regardless of his sexual orientation. At that point I am “On the Lords Side, Who…”, and heir to His glory  - willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon (me).

Calvin’s Quick Tangent Alert (Thus the tangerine-orange color). My dictionary says “inflict” means to exact, impose, or cause. Could that mean that homosexuality, then; is something caused by the Lord? That it has been exacted, or measured out and given to me?
I am not learned enough to know. But I do believe that any actions we take or behaviors we choose are our own. Does Heavenly Father place a few roadblocks in our path for us to overcome? Could His question for me be, “Will you obey me even if you are gay?”

In my observation, the natural “heterosexual” man doesn’t seem to any closer to God than the natural “homosexual” man. Perhaps ones sexual inclination is truly personal and individual as each human being is. Perhaps both are men who have been asked by the Lord to obey the commandments He set out for us, and in doing so we overcome “the natural man”. The commandments are for all men, and God, to my understanding, has made no distinction between peoples.

Julie: I’m not sure I get what you are saying. Are you telling me that because I have the natural temptation to lie, that it’s somehow because God made me that way?

Calvin: No. And when you put it that way, something seems wrong. I would never equate feelings of same gender attraction with sin. I do not believe they are sinful. Acting in a way contrary to laws of morality for any gender regardless of sexual attraction is the problem. If we use lying as a simile, then we would have to state it like this: The act of lying is a wrong.  However, the feelings behind the lie may not be.
Do you feel vulnerable? That’s not wrong. 
Do you feel the need to protect? Not wrong.
Is your untruth-telling filling a need to be better, or an attempt to build up a fragile ego? Those feelings are not wrong, and they may lead to great self-discovery. The lie itself is the wrong part.

Julie: I get that. We are talking about the motivations and feelings versus our choices and actions. I completely agree with that.

Calvin:  It doesn’t seem like the difference is all that critical.  Unless you are the one assigned a black hat.

Again with the good guy or bad guy thing

Julie:  So, in this story here, does being gay make you the good guy or the bad guy?

Calvin:  Neither. I am neither the good guy nor the bad guy based on my sexuality. Innate, enhanced or acquired sexuality is not the deciding factor for hero or villain status.
Here is the issue described plainly:

Simply being attracted to someone of the same gender is not a sin. There are many members of the Church who may have some manifestation of that attraction. They honor their covenants, they keep the commandments, they are worthy. They can receive the blessings of the temple and they can serve in the Church. It is when we act on the inclination or the attraction—that's when it becomes a sin. -  Elder David A. Bednar


God is no respecter of persons and sexual preference does not, in and of itself, connote spirituality or lack thereof. Homosexual feelings are simply feelings. Regardless of my sexuality, I can be the guy who’s on the Lords side. I can be the one the Lord can count on when He calls for men and women to stand for Him. Good people, regardless of sexual designation or orientation will stand for what the Savior stands for. Consider this scripture from Moroni.

11 For behold, a bitter fountain cannot bring forth good water; neither can a good fountain bring forth bitter water; wherefore, a man being a servant of the devil cannot follow Christ; and if he follow Christ he cannot be a servant of the devil.  
16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for everything which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. 
17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.
Understanding what the Lord asks of us and then making a choice to do that very thing is good. A choice to be disobedient is bad. Enough bad choices and that’s where the black hat comes in. The consequences are inherent.  Whether or not I am an enemy to God depends on my actions and the efforts I make.  I do have a say in the matter.
I like having a say.

Those who are “on the Lord’s side, who?” are those who follow His commandments, who invite others to do good, and who persuade others to believe in Christ. Those not on His side are those who persuade others to disallow the commandments - those who have had a clear understanding of Him and have believed in Him and then deny Him (one must believe in a thing to deny it).

Julie: I don’t want my son, or anyone’s child thinking they are the bad guys because of their sexuality. We all have challenges at one time or another. Heavenly Father loves us, and struggling with temptations is par for the course he has created for us. I want to help our children understand that they can be gay and still wear the white hat.  I want my gay son to know that.

Calvin: Then this chapter was a good thing.




Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Chapter One: On-line book preview

This is the first chapter of "They that be with us -- Understanding the connection between being gay and being Mormon"


Chapter One: At least I was paying attention  or  What made me different?

Julie:  I’ve heard it said by those who are homosexual that they knew there was something different about them at an early age. I mean to ask as many personal questions as I can be because I think it will help others. How did it all happen to you, Calvin?  What was different, and when did you notice that difference?

Calvin:  I tell people I had a normal childhood because for me it was normal. Singing to musicals and creating fashion shows and magic acts was normal. Pretending to be a nun from the Sound of Music with the fireplace hearth as a stage was normal. I didn’t know anyone else had it any other way.

I only realized that life in my home was a bit atypical when I associated with other boys at school, who, by the way, did not dress up like nuns in their free time. I was raised in south eastern Idaho where boys snowmobiled. They planted potatoes. They smacked each other around. They did not re-decorate their bedroom and gold leaf old furniture.

There was another difference between them as a group and me.  I was a Mormon. The LDS conservative culture felt completely intrinsic - even instinctual for me. I did what Mormons did. I knew all the well-loved and well used priesthood hymns and could list them in order of their popularity. I prayed, I read scriptures, I went to church
.
I believed that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was true. I hadn’t had a startling or earth shattering chapel raising event that gave me that knowledge. My testimony came quietly day by day. (Way too quietly for my taste if I may add). I asked questions when I wanted to know something, but I never questioned. There was no need. My understanding of the Church was sound. The Church was true, the sky was blue, and Judy Garland was the greatest singer that ever lived. 

I was smarter then. It became way more complicated after puberty.

I knew about the practical function of the Church as well, probably more than many of my siblings or peers. Mine was not just an understanding of the church taken from books or filmstrips. I knew how it worked day to day - in the chapel and in the kitchen - because I payed attention to what people did, how they acted and what they said. 

Additionally, even though I was only nine and had yet to graduate from primary’s CTR class, I was hanging with the older righteous dudes in priesthood meeting - which kept me in tune and in sync with the culture and traditions of the priesthood and must have affected me for relative good. I was attending general priesthood meeting as a pre-priesthood-holder, tethered to my father’s side because (I have since found out) I could not be left at home due to the fact that I was a hellion.
.
If I had had my druthers, I would have stayed at the home, watch Bewitched and painted my "I Dream of Jennie" bottle. But I had established a reputation as a trouble inducer/maker/reveler. My mother begged my father to take me anywhere for two hours to give her time to glue her hair back in.

It was while I was squished between guys twice my size in white shirts and black nylon socks who smelled of Brut -- or later on, Elisha -- (you will want to Google those) that I had my formal introduction to the “thou shalt not’s” as presented by LDS general authorities over the radio airwaves. In one of the first meetings, I remember the speakers asking us to respect women and girls. I nodded my head like the older guys around me and I vowed to do better. I had no idea what they were talking about.

Several priesthood meetings later I realized that the G.A.s weren’t talking about hitting girls, but about hitting on girls. The revered men from Crossroads of the West, in their subtle and genteel way, were talking about sex.

As I reflect back, the G.A.s didn’t really say the word “sex” right-out like they do today. They implied and we inferred, and some immature fool in the back that no one could identify giggled nervously. The effect was exactly what I imagine would have resulted from a gallon of chloroform being poured into the church’s swamp cooler.  I inhaled and then stopped breathing.
 
“Sex is for marriage” combined with “Respect woman and girls” was the sage advice I heard over the pulpit -- officially. Unofficially, sex seemed to be a whole different plate of potatoes.
 
Here is where it gets more complicated. My mother - the one pasting her hair back in - died, and my father remarried. This woman had also been married before and she brought with her a new family with new challenges - just as you would expect. However, stepmom’s ex-husband was a man who’d been excommunicated from the church for being homosexual. He lost his membership in the Church and was no longer with his family as a direct result of his being gay.

I, being semi-intelligent and having a library card, was quick to both do the research and put two and two together.  So, in my first real-life-math-story-problem, to be “homosexual” meant that a guy liked other guys, not girls. And the feelings that I had were for guys, not girls. I was, then, a homosexual. The LDS church - my church - excommunicated homosexuals.
 
No wonder I don’t like math.

Julie:  How could you realize your orientation so young? It must have been more than a sexual thing, because at nine most children aren’t thinking much about that stuff. I know I wasn’t.

Calvin:  It’s true that my body was not responding to sexual impulses at that point, which should have been my first clue that there are many layers to SGAttraction – not just sex.  At nine years of age my feeling’s and yearning’s had not sexualized. The feelings only became sexual when my body did at about age twelve or slightly before.

I’m making it sound like this all took place over one conference weekend, but it didn’t. Some of these realizations were years in coming, and others I’m only just beginning to understand.
Nevertheless, before I ever had an image or a face to associate with sexual preference - before I understood what sexual leanings and inclinations were - I somehow knew that I preferred males. I’d had strong feelings of what I know now was homosexuality before I ever heard the word presented or defined.
 
I can’t say my life changed in those few days of discovery, though those days ended up being years long. Life continued as it always had. I went to school, I came home. I mowed the lawn on Saturdays and church was on Sunday and Tuesday.

“So kid, are there any cute girls in your class?”  a friend of my dad’s at church asked me.   No.
“I bet you are a real ladies man and have to beat them off with a stick!”  Not really.
“A tall kid like you!  Are you on the basketball team?  You like to shoot hoops, right?”   Nope.
“You like the Jazz?”  Vocal, yes, but instrumental drives me a little crazy..
“What are you, a fag?”  You’re not very compassionate but at least you’re paying attention.

What I do know is this. Femininity was my default; it was my home page. I had femininity in spades. In stereotypical personality traits, in obvious talents and abilities there was no question.  It was the masculine that I yearned for. I craved manliness. I wanted to emulate it. I wanted to be it.  I wanted to be touched in affection by another guy. I was even willing to get beat up or made fun of, or wrongfully used in order to have that attention.

Julie: Because of that you realized that you were gay?

Calvin: Good choice of words. Many would say that it was at this point that I decided to be gay, but being gay wasn’t a decision to make or not make (as those not-in-my-shoes often suggest).  It was an awareness, a discovery. There wasn’t a moment where I was presented with the option and made a choice - guys over girls.  There was no “today I am going to be gay” moment - the kind I have heard told by men wearing ties and holding degrees. If that were the case then there would have been an equal “today I am not going to be gay” moment.

Girls, as kind and well-meaning as they were, were never in the running.

Julie: Was it a relief then to understand what you were feeling?

Calvin:  You would think so, that being able to put a name to it would have helped. I suppose in a way it did. However I realized immediately what the label meant. I went from the apparent sexually ambiguous frying pan to a giant gay furnace fire that bellowed black toxic fumes.

Have you read any psychology articles from the eighties? I did. I actually read them in the eighties as a matter of fact. There was no Internet. There was the library. I was armed with a library card and I knew how to use it. Everything I read confirmed what I had heard. To be homosexual, as per a very thick book, was to be depraved and deviant.  I went from considering myself as a nice though somewhat unmanageable young man to someone who was deviant, derelict and a few other “d” words.
 
After that revelation there were moments of incredible panic. I was on the wrong road. I had always thought I was on the straight and narrow, but no.  Straight was the “straight and narrow”, and gay was not “the way”.
   
Julie:  It sounds like you were dealing with huge issues all by yourself. Couldn’t you have talked to someone like your bishop, your parents, or even a school counselor? Surely the late seventies and eighties weren’t all that pre-historic.

Calvin: You’d be surprised. The thought to talk to someone didn’t enter my mind. Counselors were people paid by other people to get to your secrets. I once had a counselor call me into his office at school (which had more to do with me falling asleep in the choir practice room every day for two weeks than it did trying to peg me down on my sexual preference). But the meeting was as clinical as it was brief. My problems were attributed to fallout from my mother’s death. He flippantly warned me not to masturbate, to stop sleeping in the practice room and then he dismissed me in order to take a personal call. I suppose I was then checked off of his list of things to do.

Church leaders as far as confidants were concerned were out as well.  I saw how the homosexual ex-husband I mentioned earlier had been treated by the Church, and heard how he was being spoken about in the circles of members of the Church. I met him on a few family occasions and thought he was a nice guy. I liked his shoes. What I knew of his experience taught me that I was going to have to work my way through being a homosexual Mormon all by myself because anyone finding out that I was gay was not an alternative. 
Gay was “not clean”. Gay was way-out in the deep end. Gay was the hands in the muddy water that pulled you away from the iron rod.

Julie: There are a lot of theories about why some people develop homosexual feelings and others don’t. I’ve heard it blamed on sexual abuse or being too connected to mom instead of dad. What do you think caused you to have these feelings?

Calvin:  I’ve read the theories, too. I find them both enlightening and confusing.  I myself fit snugly into many homosexual stereotypes and don’t come anywhere close to others. The latest theory is that if I was preceded by several boys having gone before me through the womb, then chances are that I would be a homosexual.  But I was the first boy, so…  

On top of it all, I didn’t know then and don’t know now which of my many problems were caused by a wacko adolescence and which of my many other problems were a direct result of homosexuality. I may never know. But that doesn’t mean I am powerless or picked on nor does it make me a second class Latter-day Saint either.

Julie: How did you balance your homosexual feelings with your belief in the teachings of the church?

Calvin:  I don’t know that I did until my late thirties. There was no balance or equilibrium.  Sometimes I leaned one way, and the next month I leaned another. I didn’t know how to balance, or if I should even try to. When I was involved with one, the only way to survive was to ignore the existence of the other, and I got really good at flipping back and forth.
Let me be clearer. I put my baptismal document, my primary awards for memorizing the Articles of Faith, my ordination to the priesthood certificate and many other records in a scrap book so I could later appreciate that I had done things the Church way and that I had indeed chosen right. I went to my meetings and attended seminary during the week. I went on a mission and worked as hard as tall skinny guys can. I came home and dated some really nice Ricks College girls without a thought to marry any of them. I hung out with theatre people. I went to BYU, worked professionally as an actor and singer, and started getting a name in the arts. Then suddenly I went directly off the deep end.

The deep end, incidentally, can be exactly as muddy, filthy and… well, deep, as the implication in 1st Nephi.  “…and the depths thereof are the depths of hell… that they perish and are lost.” It was not where I wanted to be.

Julie:  What brought you back to the church?

Calvin:  My decision was ultimately between living as an actively gay man (homosexualy-active, male partner, no church), or as an actively Mormon man (Church, not homosexualy  active). When it came time to do or die, I didn’t want to die the way I had been living. I ultimately went with my heart, and my heart was firmly planted not only in the gospel of Jesus Christ, but in His church - even when my body was off being promiscuous.

I left Church activity briefly because of the priesthood. Being gay and not having the priesthood was painful to consider, and I knew I could not have pre-marital sex and hold the priesthood. Living a gay life meant that the priesthood would be something I couldn’t touch. When I came back to church activity it was because I wanted the blessings of the priesthood and to know that I was obeying my Father in Heaven more than I wanted to live a gay lifestyle.

I wanted the Melchizedek priesthood more than I wanted to have sex.

Today I am still as much a part of Mormon-land as I ever was back in south eastern Idaho in the 80’s - even with a documented past that is not ready for the Ensign. While I may not be the best to articulate the plots or plight of either LDS men or homosexuals, I know my way around the proverbial block. I know both sides of the street.

Julie:  You’re married and have a family now, right?

Calvin:  Yes, both. I made the decision to marry, and I found someone who was more forgiving than I could have ever imagined.  As a husband and a father there are some things I do well, and other things I don’t do so well. I have strengths and weakness like anyone else I suppose.  Of course my wife knows about my sojourn, and so have my previous bishops. Our new bishop doesn’t have any reason to know thanks to the question “Is there anything you need to clear up that you haven’t already taken care of?” Marriage has been good to me and we will touch on that later.

Julie:  I’ve got my parent hat on for this question. What could your parent’s have done to make the road easier? Short of tying my son Sean up in the basement for the duration of his life, I’m constantly trying to think of ways to help him without infringing on his agency.

Calvin:  A good half of this book is my response to that question - what could those in positions of authority have done to make it easier - bishops, parents, friends, etc.  Frankly, good parenting is good parenting.  One should do all the things that one knows how to do and has been doing for years; Talking, loving, praying, teaching kids how to be responsible, being proud of who you are and who they are. I didn't get that.  Looking back at what I want through, I see that I just wanted to scream for help, and when I didn't get it I ended up screaming at everything.

Part of Heavenly Fathers answer to me, as I see now, was that I needed to gain strength by helping myself. Could I have made the changes I made if I hadn’t figured a few things out on my own? I don’t think so. There were things I had to discover for myself.

Had my parents or any youth leader pulled me aside and spoken to me about homosexuality I may have just died on the spot, and I definitely would have slunk out of the building and cried in shame or disappeared into denial. But after the drama was over I may have thrived.
 
I will say this to parents; Regardless of your situation, please watch what you say. I became aware of my parents distaste for homosexuals at the same time I became aware that I was one. It’s very tough to come back to your child after years of distaste and disapproval and have any credibility as a parent.

Julie:  Thank you for being so open.

Calvin:  Thanks for asking.


Next: Chapter 2