Friday, November 27, 2015

Leaving in droves?

Gay Mormons and those who support gay Mormons are not leaving the church in droves as is being posted on Facebook.  At a recent rally in SLC fewer than 1,000 signed a petition to have their name removed from the church records of the LDS faith.  

Now, I look at those 1,000 people and I feel horrible for the hurt feelings, pain and suffering these - and others - have gone through and are continuing to go through. I have been in a few of those pairs of shoes, and I am currently dealing with my own issues inside and outside of the church.

While these thousand people are humans worth more than casual consideration, 1,000 people from various states of membership and church activity does not constitute a mass exodus. So, add those 3,000 from the lawyer we read about and then double that. That's 8,000 ish. There are still plenty of gay Mormons not leaving  the church. 

I am one of them.

The scriptures predict -- or prophesy, that there will be those who choose to leave Christ's church. If it isn't over this, then what tasty tidbit will cause more than thousands to leave?

I will not be leaving the church, and I can bet you there are more difficult times coming. The distinction between those who believe and those who do not will become even more cavernous.

Those who have had a problem with the church will see this as an opportunity to take action. There will be those currently on church records who have not seen the inside of the local LDS meetinghouse in years.  They will use this as their reason to leave -- and I understand where they are coming from.  Many of them will be belters. Facebook will be full of them. 

While I don't agree with them, I have family and friends who are belters, and they are still my friends. They make fun of me for following blindly and I make fun of them for finding the reason they have been looking for all along. We are still family and friends. 

Is this a test of faith?  No, I do not believe that this was created to be a test. It will have that effect to be sure. Or, maybe everything is to test our faith and our ability to be kind even through extreme differences. I don't know.

Here is an excerpt from a blog with an interesting POV:

"Todd Richardson, 31, an out gay man who belongs to a ward in New York City, said the policy, “broke my heart,” adding, “this hit me harder than any other one thing.” Richardson said his community is accepting, but that “the church has never been affirming by any means.” The current situation has proven difficult for him: He plans to get married and start a family, and the church’s decision has made it clear how hard that will be. He told me that this is the first time he’s ever really questioned leaving the church."

"But Richardson is choosing to see the church’s decision as a hurdle, rather than an exit point. He prayed on what to do, he told me, and said he “got this profound feeling that this is a hard thing, and for whatever reason that it’s happened it’s been allowed to happen. And the savior is asking me if I’m going to walk way… and I decided that I’m not going to.”"

"Christian Harrison, who lives in Salt Lake City, also described a deep connection with his faith. Harrison told me that he grew up within the church, and that it’s been far from easy. “I was called an abomination growing up,” he told me over the phone. “I’m used to having people that I revere as men of God hurt my feelings.” But these interactions with clergy didn’t prevent him from having “a lifetime worth of spiritual experiences that are too sacred to share.” These experiences, he said, have “knit my soul to this church.”"

"For Harrison, the misguided opinions of LDS leaders aren’t reason enough to stop doing the spiritual—and charitable—work of the Mormon church. That work includes fighting for change from within the LDS. He’s concerned that if people abandon the church in protest at this time, only its most callous members will remain. “When the tender hearted all leave, where does that leave us? Where are we as a faith if we scare off everyone that is sensitive to the needs of our minority groups and those that are vulnerable?”"

Here's another quote:

"Einbender fears that he and Mickelson, despite their ward’s sympathetic bishop, will be excommunicated. There’s “a lot of local leadership that have no desire to excommunicate anyone,” he told me. The Handbook gives local leaders enough autonomy to allow them to look the other way from gay marriages if they choose. But, he said, it’s not that easy to find a gay-friendly bishop. Bishops aren’t permanently placed within a ward; they swap after five years. So finding someone who won’t excommunicate you is a gamble—as Einbender says, “bishop roulette.”"

It’s possible to practice as an excommunicated Mormon. John Gustav-Wrathal, a senior vice president (along with Richardson) at Affirmation, a group for LGBT Mormons and their allies, was excommunicated in 1986. He’s participated in the church as best he can: He attends prayers, participates in charitable missions, sings in his ward’s choir, and describes himself as a “believing Mormon.” Like the others, he feels accepted within his congregation.

Gustav-Wrathal told me that he left the church when he was excommunicated, but returned nearly two decades later. “I am very compelling, very powerful personal spiritual experience.” Gustav-Wrathal told me. “I felt God telling me that it was time to go back.”

At the end of the day, the gay men who are sticking with Mormonism don’t believe that the church leaders have the authority to dictate their relationships with God. As Harrison told me, “This is my church."*

*Excerpts from: "Meet four gay Mormons standing by the church that wants them out" by Danielle Wiener-Bronner on FUSION

Friday, November 20, 2015

Gay Frankenstein

I saw a bad movie last week that was part horror, part mystery, part thriller, lot's of action and reeeeaally bad. It ends with a voice-over by Frankenstein's monster about why he is what he is. There he stands on a rooftop in a Gothem-like setting and he slowly articulates: "...I, Frankenstein."  Very dramatic. 

I thought I would use his technique here to nail down what I am and how I feel about it. Here goes:

I... gay Mormon dude.  

I have always been a homosexual Mormon man, though the specific age has varied – man child, young man, college man, taxpayer man, and now sorta old ma... never mind. 

The nails... please watch the nails.

By the same token, I have always been a Mormon of the “dyed in the wool, true blue, through and through” variety. I was born into an LDS family and through pain, pride and prayer I have always come back to my Church - sometimes from a great distance, sometimes not. 

I am so proud of my religion that I don’t care what others call it, Mormon, LDS, or Latter-day Saint, nor do I care about the popular misconceptions. I was once asked on my mission if I was embarrassed that the Spanish definition of Mormon in the dictionary was “a polygamous sect”. 

No I wasn’t embarrassed. I was a Mormon, and I knew what it truly meant to be a Mormon.  I was proud of my heritage – regardless of what others thought. With that foundation established it was easier to handle being asked about my wives, responding in a friendly way to "hey you J-dub", or “Hola CIA.”  I even had local ruffians who asked me to put 100 bucks on Honduras in the World Cup with my bookie back in the states.

I have even responded to "that F-ing Mormon" or "F-ing fag" Call me anything these days – as long as you call, and I will tell you how vital to me my membership is in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

By the same token, my homosexuality – like my religious beliefs, has never been a question for me. I am tall, I am a Mormon, I am slightly arrogant, I like tangy taffy and I am homosexual. My sexual attraction -- regardless of whatever popular semantic has been assigned to it -- has been such from the beginning.

I am proud of who I am. However, you may have noticed that I am writing this blog, and an upcoming book, anonymously. Why do I go by Calvin Thompson and not my real name?  

Frankly, I haven't gone to great lengths to keep my identity private, and anyone who wants to put forth the effort could figure it out in a hurry. Several have figured it out and they keep it to themselves. 

The reason I keep my pseudonym active is because of my family. Family is the reason I don't come out and say that I am gay. I am married to a woman and I have kids and I am faithful to my wife and the covenants I made in the LDS temple.

And yet, I am gay and proud to be what I am -- what god made me. 

I have not always been proud. When I was in college, after serving an honorable mission, I started acting on my urges. For those new to the blog, this means that I had gay sex. I had a lot of gay sex. I could not come to grips with being gay and a Mormon. I thought I had to be one or the other.  

There was no one to advise me and I did my best with what I had. I slept around. I quickly found the underground gay scene at BYU and I became the homecoming queen. I say that with a little laugh, but it almost did me in. 

It's taken me 20 years to function as an adult male in the world. I write this blog so that others in my position -- those who are gay and Mormon and want to keep ties to the LDS church and their religious beliefs -- can do so without the duplicity that would have killed me.

My wife is OK with me writing this blog.  She doesn't read it, and I don't ask her to. Once I have put my book out I will back out of the gay Mormon writing scene altogether. My job will be finished - as far as letting those in my position know that there are options available.

There are, by the way, options available.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Answer the dang phone, people

I feel compelled to find a way to explain the recent adjustment to LDS church policy. I don't represent the church, but I am a believing member, and I have family and friends who are as well.  

I also have family and friends who do not in any way believe like I do. In fact, it always blows me away when I think about just how different our belief systems are - and we are still familiar and friendly. I hope to continue that.

One of them reminded me that "Friendship that insists upon agreement on all matters is not worthy of the name".
I once wrote a mother's story about when she had been a bit abrupt with her small child after she found him playing in the road in front of the home. The theme was that this mothers actions may have appeared to an outsider to be mean and un-provoked. How dare she swat that kid on the behind and scold him. It sure didn't seem like a Christian thing to do. However, the mother was trying to teach the child to stay out of the road for obvious reasons. She was looking at the big picture. 
It’s a lovely story, but it doesn’t quite work in this case. There is a better one.
"What would Jesus do?"
There is a biblical account of our Savior and how he treated different ethnic groups... well, differently. He personally spoke to, taught, and ministered to all groups. However, He very clearly included only the Israelite people as members of His church, the Church of Jesus Christ. 
The policy to baptize only Israelites was not a new policy, but one that had been around for years before Christ’s birth. He continued the policy. Several people have tried to make sense of the policy that excluded non-Israelite's from being members of Christ's church, but there is no information that clarifies or explains. Later, it was revealed to the prophet, Peter, that the then current policy of exclusion should be discontinued. If he knew the reason why, he did not explain it to anyone who wrote it down - not that I know of.
This current policy adjustment at first look (even a second look) appears to exclude children of same-sex couples just as the policy in Christ's time excluded non-Israelites. It looks like that because it does exclude them. This could be due to custody issues or harmony-in-the-family issues --as has been explained on-line by several Mormon apologists that are smarter than I am. 

If you look at the policy -- and you may need to wipe away a few tears to do so -- it allows these children to be baptized with intervention from the priesthood leaders, who will look at each case individually to insure safety for the child. It’s a big picture scenario. It is also a scenario that includes the distinct possibility that god knows more than we do. No decent man would have thought this up on their own. I believe the General Authorities of the LDS church are, at very least, decent men.
It boils down to this. This policy was adjusted under the direction of the prophet. Does the prophet speak for God, or not? Is the Savior leading this church or not? If he is, as I believe, there is faith and compassion involved -- faith that He leads his church and has everyone’s best interest at heart; and compassion to all everywhere regardless of their belief, political involvement, religion, age, sex, nationality, race, or --fortunately for me, IQ.
Are children being punished for the sins of the fathers? 
Suffer the little children to come unto me, and keep them safe from all danger.
First, it is not my place to identify same sex partners as sinners. There are judges in Zion and I am not one of them. 
Second, no. Children are not being punished. But it appeared like it when I first read the news. It seemed like someone was saying "Go ahead and get married to whoever you want.  Now take this...!"  I am sure that is not the case.  But there is a consequence for actions in and out of the church -- clearly -- for same-sex marriage as far as family is concerned. Creating personal conflict between a child who wishes to be baptized a member of the LDS church (which is crystal in its support of family and man/woman marriage) and parents in a same-sex marriage is not prudent for anyone – mostly the children.
Additionally, there may be custody issues as well. All that is needed is for one parent to agree to baptism, as has been the case for years. If there is a disagreement concerning the baptism and one parent agrees over the wishes of the other parent, that parent may sue over custodial interference and change the custodial status.
Bringing it home
I received a letter from someone who had been invited to a child's baptism this weekend. My friend does not want to support the LDS church because of this policy. Regardless of my own belief, I support my friend and his decision. I believe that he is taking a stance because he cares. I would encourage him to support the child regardless of his personal belief concerning the child's religious affiliation. Would he support a child being baptized into the Seventh Day Adventists or Catholic church -- whose policies he does not agree with either? Sure he would. 
One last thought:  
A saying on a church bill board said, "Don't care how tough you think you are.  When a two year old hands you a toy phone, you answer it." 
Regardless of policy perception, answer the dang phone, people.

Monday, November 9, 2015

For those who want to know more - Concerning the LDS Policy Adjustment

Here is some feedback I read concerning the policy adjustment released last week. This response was on my Facebook feed and I permission to re-post. I believe this shows the heart of both of these members. This excerpt if from a person who had set an appointment recently with her bishop:

"First of all, the policy is true to the wording that was reported. (My) bishop opened up the email from headquarters and we read parts of the attachment together... 

"A little background: He said that he got the email about the policy this week which said basically, here is the updated policy for the Handbook, there will be training on it later. The Church did not have time to train its leaders before someone leaked it...  As of Sunday, they still have NOT BEEN TRAINED on the reasons, motives, and nuances of the policy, so it has been left up to local leaders to interpret this new policy according to their limited understanding.

"So, here's what my bishop thought the policy said: 

"He thought that the policy to restrict baptism would only apply to children of gay parents who are living with them full time and have full custody. I let him understand that it does NOT say that and the lack of clarification from headquarters is extremely painful to mixed-orientation divorced and separated families like mine. 

"We talked about my son, who is 8, but is not ready for baptism yet. Even though he would qualify for baptism today under current policy because he lives with me most of the time and his gay dad is not married/living with a same-sex partner, I told him that in the future, it is a distinct possibility that he will live with his father who at that time may be married or have a partner he lives with. Would my child be able to be baptized if that were the case? He had no answer.... He said he would inquire about it. 

"I told him the pain that I had about not allowing a child to participate in passing the sacrament, attending temple trips, and participating in the priesthood as a youth in the church if he were not to be baptized. I told him that my son, who already will feel singled out because his father is gay and his parents are divorced, will be subject to even more isolation if he isn't able to be baptized and participate in his religion as his peers do THROUGH NO FAULT OF HIS OWN. 

"The bishop emphasized that under the new policy, there IS a pathway to baptism available to children of gay parents through the First Presidency. I told him I felt is wrong that in order to be baptized, my child would have to have "special exception" when almost every other child does not. 

"He THOUGHT that the requirements for baptism for a child of a gay parent was an either/or situation, not BOTH, namely that a child of a gay parent would have to: 

1) Accepts and commits to live the teachings and doctrine of the Church, and specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage... 

2) The child is of legal age and does not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage. 

"He didn't think that my son would have to be 18 to be baptized. We read the sentence preceding that paragraph and I could tell he was confused that I was right. 

"We also talked about my concern about gay marriage. He knows that I support gay marriage and he had specifically asked in previous bishop's training whether or not someone who was seeking a temple recommend should be denied that if they feel that way. The answer he received was, no, that person should not be denied a temple recommend. 

"So, here's the question. Why would a child (well, an adult at that point) be required to disavow that practice if a temple-recommend-holding member is not held to the same requirement?  

He said that Elder Christofferson's video to the press (which I corrected him on and told him it was to the church's PR dept.), clarified many of the questions, but I when we reviewed some of them, it didn't. 

"For example, why is having a child who grows up in a gay household unable to choose to be baptized even if his parents fully support that child? In our case, my son's dad would fully support him if he chose to be baptized. I would too. 

"Why does the church assume that those gay parent(s) would be antagonistic to the church and wouldn't be open to receiving home teachers and visiting teachers if the child were to receive a name and a blessing? Once again, the church is assuming an us vs. them mentality about LGBT families. That simply is not the truth. 

He mentioned that this policy is not new, that Elder Christofferson compared it to the way we treat children of polygamists, at which point I burst into tears. We treat polygamists even more harshly than LGBT people. Our policy towards them is equally as painful, if not more so because polygamy was officially sanctioned by the church in our history and is still such in our scripture. 

"The Bishop had great compassion for me and I felt loved and listened to. That is a true gift in a time of panic. Once the panic subsides, I have every hope that these policies will be clarified. "I love my Mormon community AND my mixed-orientation family."

I published this because it is from a Mormon who believes in the church who is actively trying to get more information and understand. And because her bishop is working with her in every way. I will continue to post from sources that seem to be accurate, truthful and pro-active.

Regardless of opinion or stance - Love to all.

Click for churches official response

Friday, November 6, 2015

Posting the heck out of the day: The LDS Policy Adjustments

The recent policy adjustments from my church (Mormon) have had me in tears. So I took it upon myself to research the issue and drown my sadness in Diet Coke. 

I pretty much drown everything in Diet Coke.

Here are a few points I would like to make that I have recently learned, or reminded myself that I learned long ago based on information readily available.

The LDS church does not seek to drive wedges between family members. I would not remain a member of an organization that did.

No child can get baptized without the approval of their parents. This has been the case in the Mormon church for some time, at least since the mid 80's when I was a missionary in Central America. By the same token, nor can a married adult be baptized without the consent of their spouse. A child from a polygamous family cannot either.

There are groups of people and areas of population where the LDS church treads very carefully so as not to put the safety of the native people in jeopardy. Take, for example, the proselyting in communist countries, or of Muslims. There are cultural differences that make it deadly for those in some cultures to convert to Mormonism/Christianity. Policy's that have been in place for some time are an issue of safety. 

The LDS church has a responsibility to all those who choose to be baptized. Those who are considering becoming a member of the LDS church should not have to choose between their membership and having a place to live or food to eat. They should not have to make a choice between their religious beliefs and their family. 

The only way same sex married couples would be able to live as their son or daughter believes as new members their parents should live would be for the couple to split up, and that is not what the LDS church wants. No prophet of god would ask that any child, or anyone in a culture that would harm them,  to have to choose between their family and their religious beliefs -- though some have made that choice.

Regarding the referring to same-sex married couples as apostates. Apostate is a strong word that we associate with anti-Mormons who cause pain to members of the church both in modern and ancient times. The current, accepted definition is thus: A person who renounces a religious or political belief or principle.

Same sex marriage is at odds with the purpose of the church. It is possible to be gay without being considered an apostate. I am generally not considered an apostate – at least not by my bishop or stake president. But for a Mormon to marry one of the same sex would be considered generaly to be a renunciation of belief, an act of defiance – for lack of a better word. Dissenter, maybe? A subversion? That action would buck key issues of LDS belief and would be a step toward apostasy.

Second is the issue of judging and being judged. Judgment is not mine. Judgment is not yours. Judgment is His. And sometimes he delegates judgment to his servants. No one else.

A point I would like to make: People are being treated individually. This is not a blanket that covers anyone to shield them from the light. Bishops and stake presidents/mission presidents have been instructed to handle any exception themselves. Personally. This requires meeting with those involved who wish to be represented.

Are there extras that have to happen for any child who is in a home where the heads of that home are considered to have apostatized from the church? Yes. There may be extra steps they would need to take for other reasons as well. I myself had extras I had to do in order to marry my wife because I am a gay man. 

We are treated like individuals.

I must tell you that I am feeling much better about the recent events after I studied a bit and kept an attitude of prayer. While I grieve for those who are hurt by this action, I rejoice in the fact that God is just, and that His judgment will be fair and will be made out of love for us – with our best interest in a mind that is infinitely more complex than ours.

Day after quarterbacking - a silly sports metaphor for something very serious

Yesterday afternoon I quickly posted the breaking news as soon as I could type. It was not because of any journalistic responsibility but because I was shocked, hurt, anxious, angry, aggravated -- a lot of other 'A' words -- and so full of differing emotions I thought I would explode.

Usually I seek out a few people on these type of issues who I trust before I publish my opinion --  just to make sure that I am not expressing a moronic opinion or at least that that I have my facts straight. I did check my facts but I didn't get a chance to speak with many last night. I just blew it all out in print.

Today I feel much the same way as I did yesterday when I first saw the report. The only difference is that I am breathing now.

I am sad for our children. I don’t know how I am going to explain this to my adult kids if the case should present itself. I don’t know how to speak of this to fellow members, or non-members, or in-active members – or even ex-members who have been hurt by LDS policies/procedures in the past. I have written this religious/gay Mormon blog under a pseudonym for years, and this topic is so hot that I am thinking about taking the week of work to research and inform.

(Like I am not sitting at work writing this now)

In trying to make sense of this: I understand that the policy on those who are vocal against the church has always been to treat their children with care – assuming that those children are interested in being part of the church. I didn’t think they were required to move out of the home -- as the adult children of gay married parents are being asked to do now. I haven’t wrapped my head around this yet.

I have read that those children of 8 years of age would have to get permission from their parents to be baptized. Yes, that could be painful. But is it any more painful than requiring that adult children of same-sex parents only be baptized if they have moved out of their home and renounced their parenting?

In trying to step back and be objective -- I generally feel that everything happens for a reason. I also believe that there are reasons for things that we can’t see, or understand or even imagine.

My friend, John Gustav-Wrathal -- one of the people I try to connect with before I make an idiot of myself -- reminded me that things got better for everyone including the LDS church after the mess that was California's Prop. 8. And I see that this is true.

Maybe -- possibly -- the reason for this is something like this: Mormons will have to take a stand.
  • Luke-warm will no longer cut it. 
  • Will I stay true to what I know? 
  • If I don’t know what I have pretended to know, am I going to do what it takes to have a knowledge? 
  • Will I choose to forgo what I know for what I think I know? 
  • Can I voice an opinion to something I believe as an attempt to instigate change and maintain my belief in the Gospel/church/divinity of Jesus Christ? Can I do this without creating personal or public derision that is at least as bad as what I oppose at the moment?
  • Do I believe that the prophet speaks for the Lord?
  • Will I ask for personal revelation?
  • Will I still treat all people with respect, and love them for who they are regardless?
This is a quote from Eliza Partridge Lyman resonates with me. Her husband was on a mission in California and had left her with "no flour nor any way to get it". She wrote, "Jane James, the colored woman, brought me two pounds of flour, it being about half she had."

Another friend I try to read before I post said this: 

"Our God is a God of miracles. Expect them and learn to see them. Love everyone, for each of us is intended to heal and to bless each other, to be the miracle in another's life. Don't assume that the present moment of hunger is permanent."

I believe this with all my heart.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

No married gays or their children. Why?

Before I freak out on the topic at hand, let me reaffirm my stance, in a brief rant, that the Deseret News is stuck in the mud. Once again there was a story to be published in a way that an unsavory moment or series of moments for the LDS church could have been avoided or at least tamed -- and they let other news agencies not do their job for them. Sad. Shame on the DNews.

Now the story. KUTV news reported about two hours ago that the LDS church has clarified to its leaders in the official Handbook (Number 1) for leaders to use in administering in the church, that being in a same-sex 

marriage is considered a form of apostasy.

Usually, this handbook is available only to bishops and stake presidents and other leaders of the church in higher positions, and I respect that. However, this is 2015 and info is readily available to all -- and we all know this. Where is the PR department of the church when it is needed, and why can't pro-activity be the new norm?  I digress.

Screen shots posted this afternoon were confirmed to be an accurate representation of the document by a spokesperson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

"Church handbooks are policy and procedural guides for lay leaders who must administer the Church in many varied circumstances throughout the world. The Church has long been on record as opposing same-sex marriages," wrote LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins on Thursday - about two hours ago -- and I quote from the KUTV news article listed below.
"While it respects the law of the land, and acknowledges the right of others to think and act differently, (the church) does not perform or accept same-sex marriage within its membership."

In a related major policy announcement, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says that children who are living in a same-sex household may not be blessed as babies or be baptized as members. 

"A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may not receive a name and a blessing," the recent (an hour ago) policy reads.

"Natural or adopted children living in a same-sex household will only be allowed to be baptized once they are 18, disavow the practice of same-sex cohabitation or marriage, and stop living within the household, according to the policy. Such baptism would still require the approval of the church's governing First Presidency."

So what is the big deal? Nothing if you are not gay, I suppose. Or if you do not love anyone who is gay. Or you are not a father or a mother. But if you are or if you do, this looks and feels ... I can't even find the words. 

This latest version of the handbook declares that members who "are in a same-gender marriage" should be considered apostates. And church leaders are expected to pursue church discipline for anyone who is determined to be an apostate.

So much for my saying that gay people are welcome into the church.
As you know, dear reader, our countries legalization of same-sex marriage gave many the idea that the church would allow gays of all sorts to be part of the church in some way. After all, there are monogamous, legal, gay couples who attend church as believing members. I know several. Are they going to affiliate with the church with their new status as apostates? Yes, we know that they can't use church facilities for their weddings or receptions. How many more doors need to be shut to them?

I still welcome gay people into the church -- and their children. And I am still a TB Mormon. I am a gay welcoming, TB Mormon who is trying to figure this one out. There is a reason for this -- like there is a reason for every challenge placed before us, and I will find out what it is.  

My faith is not shaken. Not even stirred. And yet, I have some homework to do. I am thinking of stepping stones.  Things got better for and in the church after what I call the disaster of Prop. 8. Maybe this is a step toward better things.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Remembering Matthew

I read “The Meaning of Matthew” several years ago -- a biography concerning the life and death of Matthew Shepard written by his mother. To say that it was troubling would be a gross understatement. If I may, let me briefly recount.

Based on re-creations and eye witnesses, shortly after midnight on October 7, 1998, Matthew Shepard met A. McKinney and R. Henderson at the Fireside Lounge in Laramie, Wyoming who offered Shepard a ride in their car. After admitting he was gay, Shepard was robbed, pistol whipped, then tortured, tied to a fence in a remote area and was left to die.
McKinney and Henderson had also discovered his address and intended to rob his apartment. Still tied to the fence, Shepard was discovered 18 hours later by a jogger who initially mistook Shepard for a scarecrow. At the time of his discovery, Matthew was still alive but comatose.

Matthew suffered numerous fractures to the back of his head and in front of his right ear. He had severe damage to his brain stem which affected his body's ability to regulate vital functions. Also, there were approximately a dozen smaller lacerations around his head, face and neck.

His injuries were decidedly too severe for specialists to operate. Matthew did not regained consciousness, remaining on full life support for his time in intensive care. He was pronounced dead at 12:53 a.m. on October 12, 1998.

Matthews father describes him as "an optimistic and accepting young man who had a special gift of relating to almost everyone ... very approachable and always looked to new challenges ... a great passion for equality and always stood up for the acceptance of people's differences."

In February 1995, during a high school trip abroad. According to his mother, Matthew was beaten and raped causing him to withdraw and experience bouts of depression and panic attacks. One of Shepard's friends feared his depression caused him to become involved with drugs during his time in college. A few days prior to his death, Shepard had also admitted to one of his friends that he was HIV positive.

Optimistic, accepting, special gifts, beaten, raped, depression, panic attacks, drug use, HIV, robbed, tortured, pistol whipped, tied to a post, left for dead, killed. 

I can't imagine. I don't want to. And this happened just the next state over only 15 years ago.

For me, the real “Meaning of Matthew”-- all deference to him and his family -- is that there was no meaning in any of it.  None of it makes any sense at all.

I am determined to find meaning. I want better for all of us. While his perpetrators are in jail tying to atone for their mistakes, let us look at ours.

How many jabs do we make to the person who is different? How many punches does someone else get to take at our friends and brothers while we try to decide the appropriateness of stepping in? When do we suddenly decide that enough is enough?

How many more Matthews will it take to screw in a collective light bulb?

Follow this link to the Matthew Shepard Foundation

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Gay and Grateful

I made a decision some time ago that I was not going to pursue a further relationship with the gay lifestyle/way of life.  Gay and Grateful

Read: no gay sex. 

This doesn't seem to be the kind of thing one would make public and I get that. However, I started this blog years ago to deal with a subject that seemed to be pulling Mormons under and spewing them out.  In 2009 I decided to speak plainly.

Part of that decision was that I would not pursue sexual relationships with men, nor would I remain tied in more than a cursory fashion to those of my friends who did. I say "hi" and I am here for them if they need help, but we do not hang out. Part of that promise, sadly, became easier to follow through-with as several of my closest friends died of AIDS related illnesses.  

Most of the rest of those friends from the "gay-side" thought that, A) either I would be back after a quick conservative sabbatical, or B) that I was a weak minded freak that actually could be lead away on any silly whim and they cut ties with me. 

While I am sorry to say that I have lost friends I have to add that this has been an 18 year old whim.

It was like jumping of a plane with a parachute I hadn't packed myself and wasn't sure would deploy and save me from flatness -- a lovely way of saying that I didn't really know what I was doing nor was I certain what the result would be.

Since I made my commitment my life has taken turns - many frightening, many lovely.  I am not where I saw myself to be in 18 years, but neither am I in a wrong or bad place.  I believe that I am better off for the choices I made.  I hope my family feels the same.

Having "gay" as a part of me has given me a lot that I would never have developed had I bean born straight.  I believe that I am what I am today because of the challenges God gave me - all of them.  I believe that we grow from facing challenges head on -- when we own them, when we embrace them. 

I annotate this today because I am cleaning up Halloween decor from my front years and I am thankful for being able to hang a yellow florescent full moon and  a hundred or so plastic light-able jack-o-lanterns. I am grateful for to be able to take the grand children out and load them up with sugar. 

The month of November reminds me how much God has given me.  I am thankful for all of it.