Monday, January 31, 2011

My Three Words

I am fascinated, repulsed and intrigued by stereotypes. Part of what repulses me is that I see a use for them. I suppose I find that intriguing because I don’t consider myself to be completely un-learned, and I am fascinated by the fact that I have still perpetuated their use.

I used to employ the excuse that stereotypes were a type of contraction that permitted us to quickly get to the point; an abbreviation that allowed us to be on the same page which would then allow us to delve into the intellectual heart of a matter. I considered them to be an easy way to get ideas across - used to simplify communication and support the occasion quick comebacks/ lame retort.

Stereotypes may very well be a short cut.  However, I think we should be taking the long way.  Discovering what a person is without simplifying or eliminating personality should be what the heart of the matter is regardless of the subject at hand.

I myself have been easily typecast, and honestly, I fit into many of the pigeon holes I have been crammed into. Some of them fit me comfortably I am slightly chagrined to say. Pushy football dad, stage mom, conservative (for the liberals), liberal (for the conservatives). I am a self centered blogger, coupon clipper, price haggler, artistic genius with no spelling skills.  I am a mood swinger the like of which as been little seen,  and a westerner/capitalist (if being poor is capitalistic). I am the guy who can fix everything except plumbing and automotive.  I am middle aged and good with hair dye and a paint brush.

I discovered another type I appear to fit into this last week. It came from a former co-worker I saw at a church I was visiting. He mentioned that he didn’t think I was the churchy type. Of course I asked him what the churchy type was. He back peddled and made a joke and changed the subject. Smart move.

So does he consider the churchy type as one holier-than-though? Or is the churchy type for him a zealot. Bigoted? Conforming? For me, the quickest image I get for the churchy type is someone who goes to church for any other reason but for self betterment; for social statues, or for reputation. Expectation. Obligation. Someone who has the need to demonstrate to others his level of “spirituality”.

While that may be somewhat true for me, I am also a repentant soul in need of guidance and affirmation from the spirit that I find at church. Take that you stereotype's.

Here is something I did in the front of a recent class I lead that, I’m afraid, polished the crown we have placed on stereotypes.  I asked everyone in the class to come up with three words that best described themselves.  It was a simple ice breaker I have seen done in many classrooms situations. But the last time I used it I was halfway through the exercise when I was floored by what I was doing. I was asking them to come up with the stereotypes that we would then use as tools to categorize them, to place into little neat squares.  The exorcise in and of itself is not necessarily horrifying if we are planning to get to know someone for who they are and delve a bit. The problem is that most of us are content to make take note of the three words and then slide along, pretending like we are personally involved.

Do you know Calvin?
Yeah, he sings, paints and likes Swiss cheese.

It’s true that I sing and like Swiss cheese. I’d like to think that there is more to me than that. And while I am complaining that people don’t really know me and that they peg me into little holes that are limiting, I spend no time whatsoever getting to know anyone else past their three words. Stereotypes are handy for quickly categorizing. For those who need to effectively place people in a cubical and move on to something better, stereotypes work wonders. Efficient. Final. And now that I’ve put you in your proper place, I can move on to what is important to me.

But what if you are the one important to me? If I am going to initiate anything more that the equivalent of an emotional drive by, then I am going to have to let you out of the box I placed you in. Once I do that, however, you will never fit in that box again.

That makes life a bit messier for me. I will have to make more space for people, or be comfortable with the overlap.

The use of the stereotypes was once briefly useful. However, they no longer contain us or those we love like a garage built in the 1950’s just can’t handle today’s minivans or SUV’s. So,we re-think and remodel and bust out a wall for new ideas. Maybe the only real use for the old stereotypes is as a tool to understand our own propensity to judge foolishly. Like a sledge hammer or a crow bar,  it is effective at busting down a wall that confines us.

And when we have busted down a wall we smile at the thought of the quaint and ineffective stereotype.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cal Thompson and the Pseudonym - The Sequel

The responses to my essay on being SGA Mormon (homo to you, thank you) and incognito were heartfelt, wonderful and frightening, and I thank you for stepping out of your respective comfort zones - even if you didn't step far from the closet.

Many of reasons to stay "in" were based in fear.  Not unexpected.  A memorable comment was " I am afraid that there is more to fear than fear itself" a timely twist on Churchill. 

Many of us do not know exactly what we are afraid of, but generally it seems to be in not being accepted. We are living in fear that stemmed back to our grandfathers but for rare exceptions. We do not live in an age where we have not choice but to fear.  We live in a time when modern Davids in pasty skin brandishing rocks can stand up to  Goliath.  We live in a time when the corporate whistle gets blown when abuse hits the fan, when the little guy can get the house, the car, and the lovely companion.
As a SGAttracted man, I just may be the trophy husband my wife always wanted.

Am I afraid of my neighbors finding out my big gay secret?  Is that why I am in the closet?  No.  I generally have an arrogance problem and I tend to think I am better than everyone anyway which would work in my favor here in my "hood."  Would I have a problem coming out at work?  Again, no.  Frankly,  it may work to my advantage as everyone is trying to be so politically correct that they would error in my favor - no one wants to be liable for a law suit.  Family not accepting of my preference?  I do have a huge family, and those who know, know and those who don't know know, and those who really don't know really don't really care.  I am bold enough that I can hold my own. 

I understand the church policy, so I am not in fear of what any repercussions would be social/political/religious.  I have run upon a rogue bishop or two who doesn't understand, or who was not secure enough to step outside of himself- but I am wise enough to understand the difference between bishop-the He man and Bishop-the He calling. 

Is it a surprise when the voice of the BYU cougars comes out as a fan?  No surprise there. We understand that - even at his best he may be slightly biased.  Would I loose some political clout if I, a somewhat pro-gay Mormon were to come out as a actual gay Mormon?  Maybe, but I would live with it and make it work.

So why the heck am I in the closet? (if blogging and writing a Mormon/Gay book is considered closeted)

My wife.

She says it may be alright if I were to come out as SGAttracted.  She doesn't say it very convincingly, and I don't believe her when she says it.  Something tells me to keep my preference somewhat under wraps as far as my personal life goes.  Would there be added pressure for her and for my kids?  Without a doubt.  Could I handle the added pressure?  Yes.  But when I married I promised to look after her.  Marriage is also about committed mutual well being and I am committed to hers.

Maybe someday the spirit will say that it is right to be personally vocal about my SGAttraction while I am inhabiting a body.  I need to be at peace with the fact that it may always be something I guard. 

Whether I am "in" or "out", whether my neighbor is in or out, homosexuals deserve and demand the same respect as any other Mormon, as any other human.  There is no need to create a special post for them in the church.  The same posts and offices held by any other worthy member will do just fine.  My ability to assist, offer opinions, or teach a class is not affected by my sexual preference.

And on a personal note, the only thing different about my marriage may or may not be as different as you would think.  And on an even more personal note, I think she likes being
married to me.

Regardless, I am proud to be what I am, and to know that I am learning and growing and that I may yet become what father wants me to be.  I am becoming, hopefully, the man my wife would want to lead our family.  Oddly enough, it seems that we all want the same thing.