Monday, August 22, 2011

Vanessa Willams and the Firsts

First and second which was later first
I don’t have to fact-check this article.  I saw it happen from the comfort of my parents living room.

I watched the Miss America Pageant when Vanessa Williams won.  I remember the lavender dress and the tulle.  I remember her singing happy days are here again – the old Barbra Streisand version.  There was a big hubbub when she won because she was black and there had never been a black Miss America before.  It ended up that year produced two black Miss Americas when Suzette Charles took her place. 

The next year was another first.  Sharlene Wells was a Mormon - Light blue dress with crystals on the shoulder.  She sang in Spanish while she played the harp. The fist Mormon Miss Amercia.

I remember thinking that there were a whole lot of firsts going on. In my head I made up a few  firsts of my own.

First Miss Congeniality that was half Filipino, half Eskimo, half Jehovah Witness, from Bozeman Montana.

First time that Miss America was crowned in a complete black-out.

First time that back to back, blond, singing Miss Oklahoma’s won.  Okay, that was real.
So, what do we do when we run out of firsts?  When we realize that a black Miss America is just as good as a tan one, or that the Mormon girl can do the job just as well as a Protestant or a Catholic?

The creating of the "firsts" list  is our attempt to acknowledge, encourage and support the breaking down of barriers - like the first catholic president, or the first non BCS bowl national champions.

Recently, a man who is openly SGAttracted was called to a position of leadership in his ward bishopric.  Another first.

What do we do when we find out that a gay priesthood holder can be just as worthy to hold the priesthood as a straight one? When we discover that you are just as good/important/worthy as I am of love and blessings?

The  "firsts" are coming faster and faster.  When we realize that many limitations are self imposed, old standards - silly ones that tell us that we can’t -  are falling off like paper-mache shackles in a Frankenstein movie. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Gay Friendly Mormons?

I am going to say yes.  There are some unfortunate exceptions, but yes.

A general question was asked on face book if anyone knew of any gay-friendly LDS wards.

Frankly, I hoped that we were passed this.  Should we be asking if there are black friendly wards, or Hispanic friendly wards as well? 

...And you can as well, 
but those over there will have to leave.

First, what is a gay friendly ward?  Mormons that are friendly to gays?  I hope they all would be - as I hope everyone would be welcome anywhere in the LDS Church they go.

I have been in some "cold" wards before - ones whose members were not very open to newcomers, or wards that are slow to warm up to new comers, but I have never seen a ward that had a list of people who were welcome and people who weren't.

Okay, I take that back.  When I was doing summer theater in Jackson Hole Wyoming, the ward there was wary of young Mormons moving in for the summer, wearing out the bishop with appointments to confess sins and then leaving for their home-land like geese in the fall. Since they didn't know who was setting weekly appointments with the bishop and who wasn't, we all got the evil eye.

Other than that episode (which I hear is still happening to summer stock college kids) I haven't heard of a ward that is either friendly or unfriendly to gays.  I have someone in my ward now who thinks that they (we?) should all pick-up and move to Quebec, but that is one fool amongst many other kinder fools.

The thought that Mormons - or any other group - would have organized naughty and nice lists makes me queasy.  If this behavior was to rear it's ugly head, hopefully the foolishness would be attributed to the rather foolish person or persons - if there were somehow more than two of them in one neighborhood - not the whole organization. At least, that is how I would wish it to be.  Do I look at all republicans with disdain because Rick Perry is delusional?  I would hope not.

I am not saying that all of us Mormons are politically correct, or that we are enlightened.  I am saying that everyone is welcome - even if there are some hold-outs.

Since the whole idea of "specialty group intolerance" seems ludicrous to me in this day and age, I am going to assume that the guy on face book was asking if there are wards that allow their gay members to hold offices or have temple recommends.  The answer is that they all do.  It is church policy to allow all worthy members church callings and temple recommends.

Of course, all are welcome to church, including those who do not have a temple recommend, or a church calling, or who wear a white shirt.  The no show socks bugs me, but I will get over it or convince you to wear socks. But none of these things really matter in the long run.

What matters is that everyone that comes through that door knows he is welcome in a real, candid and sincere way - including those of us that are doing the inviting. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What A Difference 15 Years Makes

I heard someone say today that there is no such thing as a gay Mormon.

Fifteen years ago that kind of remark would have made me freak-out. And right in the middle of me "freaking-out" I would realize that I was giving myself away - a "me thinks thou doth protest too much"  kind of thing.  To keep from exploding, I would have had to bite something - hard - and re-paint a wall.

Fifteen years ago "The Book of Mormon” musical would have thrown me for a loop. Half of me would be in fits laughing, and the other half would be burning in hell, and another half would be concerned that missionaries were pictured wearing white socks. Another half would have thought I should have used my math money on something more productive, like diet-coke.

This would have taken place in some air-conditioned giganto-closet somewhere because I once avoided anything gay – at least in public.

After having memorized the show, which would have taken me two, maybe three hours, I would have prayed for forgiveness because I would have felt guilty for finding humor and joy in something so frivolous and light hearted. Then I would have burnt the CD at midnight along with a spandex shirt and an issue of "Mens Fitness" in a reassessment ritual.  Weeks later I would have bought a new one to keep in my underwear drawer - a CD, that is.

Today, the thought of a spandex shirt makes me suck in my gut and snort a little. Thank heaven for those fifteen years. I can say now without laughing, that I have matured somewhat. Those little things no longer throw me. People and their opinion of Mormons, or opinions of gay Mormons, or gay opinions of Mormons (did I cover it all?) just don’t seem to matter to me anymore.

And in writing this, I just realized that I haven’t seen my bishop for SGA related issues for years. I barely know the guy! Honestly, in the previous fifteen years I could never have imagined living in the LDS church without having to be guided every step of the way – being a gay man who wanted to maintain priesthood rights and responsibilities. In past life, I made the pilgrimage at least once a month to the bishops office when I was deeply involved in what I refer to as the gay life.

But here I am.

I wonder what life would have looked like for me if I had been born into another religion or into religion at all. Would I have gravitated to something that kept me somewhat in tune to the spirit? Would I have found something that filled me spiritually somewhat in the way priesthood does?

I would like to be able to say that Same Gendered Attraction issues (Gay, homosexuality – what have you) are not in the picture for me anymore, but they are to some degree. I would like to say that I am no longer tempted by pornography. I don’t know how realistic that would be. Yes, I am still tempted. But I don’t feel the pull towards it like I used to. And I can say no.
I still identify myself, in this blog at least as a gay Mormon man. I don’t know how much of that will change in this life.
How I used to spend half my days
I am confident that I will have all wishes of my heart (the ones I am missing here) in the next life. I will be complete in a way I don’t feel I am here.

Is it that I am more mature with the passage of time (I won't mention age,) or is it that my sexual drive has diminished somewhat as I have gotten older?  Would I have been this calm fifteen years ago adding today's wisdom?  Would I be this calm as wise ol' me today with the sexual drive I had in 1995?

Should I be congratulating myself on self control and maturity, or lamenting youth?