Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Chapter three of the Big Gay Mormon Book

This is chapter three of the book I wrote about being gay and Mormon. I am gay.  
And I am Mormon.  Neither one is going to change.


A word to the wise 
or Defining common terms

We are not defined by sexual attraction. We are not defined by sexual behavior. We are sons and daughters of God and all of us have different challenges in the flesh. There are many different types of challenges.”
- Elder David A. Bednar


Calvin: My child ran into the house the other day screaming that the neighbor dog was eating our beloved chicken, Peggy. Peggy has been in the family for some time and we have grown protective of her. She has one leg – as you may have inferred from the name Peggy. I ran out the door dropping whatever thing I was painting and yelled for the other children to join me in a group effort to hunt down the neighbor dog, Marcelle.
 
Marcelle is an acknowledged chicken molester in our neck of the woods and his human owners let him run around unfettered. We all hurried to save Peggy from being fast food. Well, not really fast food -- sort a slow food (slow, therefore food).
 
The mini-mob gathered and we quickly found Marcelle, who was laying in the shade licking Peggy like she was the sucker that I apparently am. I turned to my child and said to accompany a look of death, “Eating?”

My daughter grimaced, shrugged her little shoulders shrank two inches and muttered “I guess what I meant to say was... “Is bonding with.”

This leads me directly to the point of this chapter; Words are more important than most people realize. With Peggy the wet chicken properly perched in her place, let us do what we can to facilitate better communication.

Julie:  It’s always hard to understand one another if you think blue is periwinkle and we think blue is turquoise. The differences between periwinkle and turquoise may not stop traffic, but if we are talking about cummerbunds and flowers for my daughter’s wedding someone’s life may be at stake.  So we need to be clear about the definitions we will be using.

Calvin:  The LDS Church has been quite specific with their word choices in regards to homosexuality, and it is important to know why.  As a frame of reference, the Church supports the usage of the words homosexual, lesbian, and gay as adjectives to describe particular thoughts, feelings, or behaviors.  Use of these words to denote a condition (or noun) is discouraged because they feel it attaches yet another label.  But they are lightening up with that.

As authors we strive to follow this guideline as much as possible in general depictions.
In action it looks something like this:

I’m an alcoholic – vs. – I am addicted to alcohol
I’m a perfectionist – vs. – I like everything to be just-so
I’m homosexual – vs. – I have homosexual feelings

And we are lightening up with that as well. The difference is not a big issue to me, because I am gay and I am not offended at the label. The terms “Faggot”, “Queer”, and a slew of others I’m sure you can name don’t thrill me.  I am also a man, a painter, a BYU fan, a decent singer and the ward choir director. I do not define myself by any one of these labels – and there are many more: Master of the hot glue gun; Sacrament meeting sleeper; best neighborhood daddy; thrift shop shopper extraordinaire; man of many chins.
  
Julie: To this day I don’t like to use the word gay when referring to my son. It seems too permanent and decided. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but if he doesn’t become consigned permanently into the meaning of that word, perhaps he won’t always be doing the things he’s doing.

Calvin:  Julie, concerning your son; I think that the only thing to do in your case is to let the spirit guide you. The spirit can help you be supportive and respectful of your son, while still hopeful that he will choose to follow the prophet
.
A line from the Alexander Pope essay comes to mind …”Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, we first endure, then pity, then embrace.”
 
There was a time when I was told by several in leadership positions that if I didn’t say I was gay and didn’t think about it then it wouldn’t be true. Can you imagine?
 
Today I am going to pretend that I am British and, suddenly, it will be so!
It’s not going to happen. No amount of positive thinking is going to make that glass slipper fit. So look for another shoe that can be just as valuable to you.

Things are what they are. I am the son of my heavenly father. He has put me here on Earth.  And here on Earth, I am from Idaho and I am gay.  Where I choose to go from here is the issue I should be concerned with.

Specific verbiage

The verbiage regarding SGAttraction is becoming much more specific, right along with our awareness. With all the focus on selecting the right words I would encourage all to focus on the people rather than the specific phrases -- to choose words that help individuals on an individual basis.

Generally, the world community doesn’t have much need for the specificity between homosexual feelings and actions. But to those in the LDS community the semantics that surround gender issues and what they mean can be very important in understanding one another. If you’re not sure what words to use, rather than remain unspoken, it may be helpful to simply ask. This can generally be applied across the board in respect to most labels.

Case in point: My Gramma Ruby had twenty seven grandchildren and a very poor memory. We all lived several states away and weren’t able to visit often, and because of this she often forgot our names and our faces. To help her remember, she gave us all little nicknames. My nickname was Pale Green Pants. I don’t remember why.
 
One visit I remember her asking me, “So which one are you?”

“I’m Cal” I said, trying to help jog her memory. “You know, the one with a decent GPA, the one who’s not in jail, the one who spends most of his visit weeding the garden with you, the one who has a distinct personality and purpose in life.”

She just stared at me and jostled her false teeth.

I sighed and relented, “I’m Pale Green Pants.”

“Oh yes,” she smiled. “I’ve missed you. Come give me some love!”

Her manner of remembering her grandchildren was not an enlightened ideology, but it was somewhat effective and she meant no harm.  Because I loved her it was up to me to softly surrender my sense of semantics for the summer.

Julie: I have a good friend who’s African American and for a long time I avoided using any specific words when talking about his nationality. Eventually he noticed my hesitance, and we were able to have an open conversation about what terms he wanted me to use. I felt a lot better understanding his feelings.

Calvin:  Excellent point. With that in mind, let’s run over a few teams.


List of common terms which we may agree or agree to agree on for the sake of discussion

Acronyms, Gender Based:  SGA, SGB, SGI

SGA: Same Gender (sexual) Attraction

SGB: Same Gender (sexual) Behavior
   
SGI: Same Gender (gay) Identity
 
OGA, OGB, OGI

OGA: Opposite Gender (sexual) attraction
 
OGB: Opposite Gender (sexual) behavior
   
OGI: Opposite Gender (heterosexual) identity.

Affirmation: 1) A positive assertion. 2) An organization for LDS homosexuals and the people that love them, but not affiliated or supported by the LDS Church.
  
Air Quotes, Air Quotation Marks: Tool used to set apart a word or phrase in conversation. For our purposes here - generally speaking-- using quotation marks to denote words such as “gay” or “homosexual” sets these people apart as ”the others not like us”. In this book Julie and I would like to include all people in our discussion.  

Bisexual:  A sexual behavior or an orientation involving physical, mental or romantic attraction to both males and females.

Choice:  A decision between two or more option often referred to as agency, personal rights and freedom.

Closet: 1) Upright storage space for often used for storage of clothing; 2) Slang reference to the status of an individual wishing to remain private about his/her sex life and who hasn’t acknowledged their SGA feelings yet to friends and family members.

Coming Out:  1) The act of leaving a building or structure; 2) The process of informing others about an issue that is often considered private. Publicly acknowledging one’s homosexuality is often referred to as coming out.

Conversion therapy, or Reparation therapy or Reorientation therapy: An attempt at remediation of a mental or physical problem -- in this case an endeavor to change sexual orientation of a person from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual. In the past techniques have included psychoanalytic group therapy involving averse conditioning, electric shock, nausea-inducing drugs and may have included forms of sex therapy. Today this type of therapy takes a more subtle and genteel approach.  Regardless, there has been no documented supportable success. 

Down Low or DL: 1) Connotes keeping a fact hidden or camouflaged.  2) A term for men who discreetly have sex with other men while in marital relationships with women. Often these men do not consider themselves homosexual or bisexual, and their female partners are generally not aware of these infidelities.

Ex-Gay:  Term for those who have experienced SGAttraction and who, for religious or other reasons, have chosen not to embrace a gay identity or to engage in SGA behavior.

Folk Doctrine:  A pretend at doctrines that develop from prevailing rumor. 

Gay: 1) A happy and joyful mode or method of celebrating often sung about in English carols and Fred Astaire films; 2) A common term for an individual attracted to their same gender. Gay has been a widely used synonym of "male homosexual." It’s meaning is rapidly evolving to refer to both male and female homosexuals. Some people differentiate between homosexual and gay - the term homosexual referring to sexual orientation and the term gay as a political identity, i.e.; an advocate for equal rights for persons of all sexual orientations.  However, the terms are often interchangeable.  

Gender:  The set of characteristics that distinguish between female and male members of a species. The word gender is often used interchangeably with the word "sex" to denote the condition of being male or female.  

Heterosexual: 1) People whose emotional, sexual and romantic feelings are primarily for those of the opposite sex; 2) Having to do with opposite sex attraction.

Homophobia:  An irrational fear, prejudice or discrimination towards homosexuals. 
Homophobia can take many forms, from name-calling and teasing to serious crimes like assault and murder. Homophobia like other irrational fears is most often based on ignorance.

Homosexual: People who have emotional, sexual and romantic feelings primarily for those of the same sex, or having to do with same sex attraction.
In: See out.

Lesbian: Term to describe sexual and romantic desire between females.

Lifestyle: The term lifestyle (as in gay lifestyle) has become a polarizing term though it is used by gay and lesbian people as well. “Those in the lifestyle” usually means “those who identify as gay", though it may refer to behavior as well as identity - much as LDS lifestyle would mean those living the teachings or those in the LDS culture, or rural lifestyle may suggest animal husbandry or farming.

Mixed Marriage: For our purposes here, a union between one of “heterosexual” orientation and one who identifies as SGAttracted.

Out:  See in.

Prophet:  One called of God who holds the keys to direct the Church and to speak for Jesus Christ. The President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a chosen prophet, seer and revelator.

Sexting:  Porn on the phone either in photos or text communications.

SSA: Acronym for Same Sex Attraction. The LDS Church prefers this term.  SGA. SSA and SGA are terms not highly favored among the gay community. Neither, for that matter, is the phrase “gay community”.

Sin: To behave in a manner that is contrary to the revealed commandments of God.

Straight: A direction which veers neither to the left or the right;  2) A slang term used in the place of heterosexual.

Transgendered:  A designation of person whose identity does not conform to conventional notions of male or female gender roles.
_____________________________________

It is important to note that the words homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality can refer either to feelings of sexual attraction to another person, or to the actual sexual practice or behavior between people.  This is one of the reasons the LDS church prefers certain words over others. Julie and I don’t much care for arguments over terminology.


Words as weapons

Most terminologies dealing with homosexuality are assigned different meanings from different political or religious organizations. Historically, meanings and terms have often been chosen to promote specific belief systems, and this is certainly the case for this writing. We wanted to choose wording that assisted the greatest amount of people reading. By doing so we hope to empower people to treat people like people… who need people... who are the luckiest people...

Superficial arguments preceding most religious/moral discussions exist, in our estimation, for the same reason beautiful plumage is used in nature: to show off and draw attention. Add sexuality to the mix and feathers often fly. Families are torn and are left to follow the wind of public opinion. People we love are being squandered. It is a war of words, but a war none-the-less. Where relationships are at stake, where families are threatened, where people feel unaccepted or unloved, there will be war. Some of us are no longer content to lose those we love. Some of us are gearing for a fight - a reclamation of sorts - to gather our loved ones.

At its core it is a fight to the finish.

May we all take a page from the Savior teachings methods and choose to use verbiage understood by those we wish to communicate with. Hopefully with common terms and better understanding of the vernacular we can keep from strangling an innocent Marcelle and protect slow and soggy Peggy (slow, therefore soggy).


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.