Square Pegs, Procrustes & Perfection

One of the few things I remember from Apollo 13 that has stuck with me all these years is the following scene.
It always stuck with me because I remember thinking “How preposterous to fit a square peg into a round hole, the parts just don’t fit.”

I don’t remember much else from that movie, but needless to say, it has stuck with me and recently I thought about that more and realized… I am the square peg. Some people try to convince me that I am round, some people have tried to force me to be round, and some think I should find a square hole. Each of these views comes from a person who has found something that works for them, but I recognize that I am unique and there may not be “one” answer for every square peg.

Ok I am rambling, but indulge me a bit further on another tangent, I swear I will pull it together at the end … I always do.

While reading C.S. Lewis the other day I recalled the myth of Procrustes. He was the smith who would put travelers in his bed and make them fit it. If they were too small he would hammer them out to fit. If they were too big, then he might chop them down a size. In a way, he was making square pegs round.
I have thought about our sexuality and what happens to it after we die a lot lately because nothing seemed to fit for me (imagine that!) When I looked at all these pieces though it came together for me and I want to share that with you here. You see, some people say that our sexuality is a mortal imperfection that will be made perfect in the life to come, in opposition to that, many have said “To Hell with that, I will keep who I am, thank-you very much.”

We are told that in the next life we will be made perfect, if perfection is an eternal absolute, then wouldn’t we all become the same? Wouldn’t we become someone completely different from who we are? Doesn’t the Christian concept of a “Body of Christ” make more sense in that light? Is Christ, our eternal judge, truly holding us to the standard of a Procrustean bed and using this life to refine us into this model of perfection? Even if it means completely changing us from who we are and what makes us, as his brothers and sisters whom He knows by name, who we are? Or is He the one who fits us to the right place where we were built to be a organs in the gospel of Christ?

I have always had trouble with this notion, but have now found my personal answer. I firmly believe that we may have our own personal answers and so I will wait to disclose mine until I hear from you about yours.
Are you are going to be hammered into a round hole, become round or find the square hole meant for you? Let me know.

Time Out for Extremism

This week we saw the 20th Anniversary of a united Germany due to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Previously I discussed how that was a symbolic need for spirituality and sexuality to tear down the wall that separates them and to unite together in our similarities rather than live divided. This week we also saw the church throw its support behind the SLC Anti-discrimination ordinance. In the past few days I have heard several arguments about how this would have passed otherwise, that this reflects no change in Church Policy, that it is a PR stunt. Frankly I don’t care why so long as this milestone is the trailhead to a broader path of acceptance.

However I look at the messages about this and I see two distinct groups offering messages that I honestly am repulsed by. I have kept my peace about it for a few days and even wrote this 2 days ago before revisiting and tempering myself. As I examined the messages and the motives behind them it struck me why the views were abhorrent to me. They have been blinded and no longer care about the issue at hand, the issue that they had been previously fighting for, but instead, now they are fighting against the other side even to the detriment of their original cause. They are using hateful rhetoric to embolden their side and are galvanizing their opposition.

On one side you have a group who started out tying to maintain a traditional view of marriage who now appear so disgusted with homosexuals that they are becoming much like the Westboro Baptist Church who are just shy of wanting to round up the Gays and have them shot.
On the other hand you have a group who started out fighting for equal rights including marriage who now appear so embittered at the church that they are sounding like a Missouri Mob and are calling for the end of the Mormon Church as it presently stands.

These mindsets enrage me because they are spewing propaganda, hate, and malice into the public arena much like a few children throwing a temper tantrum. Except this tantrum doesn’t just get on my nerves, it is actively endangering my ability to gain rights and happiness. This tantrum needs have a time out because this form of extremism will never lead to either side getting anything done except by bloodshed and I feel the need to bring some common sense and reality to both sides.

It wasn’t extremists that United Germany, it wasn’t out of hate that the Civil Rights movement succeeded, it wasn’t out of anger or disgust that the Lamanites were defeated by Captain Moroni, and it wasn’t extremism that founded a pluralistic nation designed for Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness with freedoms of Religion and Speech. It was compromise that forged America, the defense of Liberty that repelled the Lamanites, passionate non-violence that saw the Dream fulfilled and moderation that tore down the wall.

I call for rational minds to recognize the Church’s involvement in the SLC ordinance for what it is. It is a change of course and pace for the Church. It is a step closer towards Equality for LGBT people. Finally it is one brick less in the wall that divides us, that divides spirituality and sexuality. Let us band together to take another step, remove another brick, form another compromise and put the extremists in a well deserved “Time Out!”

Balance and Freedom Without Walls

As I walk around DC I am bombarded with ads telling me to “Act Now” and “Stop Wasteful Government Spending.” In each metro car there are about 20 ads, on each bus about 12, and in each metro station at least 30 if not more. For the most part I simply ignore them, or correct their grammatical errors. But since I got here one has consistently stood out to me. Sadly I don’t have a picture of it, but it is the ad for “Freedom Without Walls.” This ad isn’t pushing an agenda, or selling me coffee, it is a day of celebratory remembrance.

The ad has struck me because almost my entire life has been spent with a unified Germany. Most people wouldn’t think about Germany when they are raised in the United States as much as I do, but I grew up learning the difference between Right and Links, not Right and Left and that an airplane was called das Flugzeug. My mother served her mission in Germany and still peaks a little German to us. So needless to say this ad stuck with me, but not until now did I have a reason to talk about it.

The fall of the Berlin wall was a very real and symbolic representation of tearing down the barriers that separate us. The fall of the wall was felt in economics and politics; it changed the very culture of Germany and the spreading of information. For decades the people of Germany were divided and on November 9th 1989 they were finally reunited. Why am I talking about Germany? What does this have to do with finding your path you ask?Well this week I read about a group of pastors who are coming to Washington to preach about the evils of homosexuality right outside the Justice Department in a protest of the Hate Crime Law that was just passed. Their goal is to incite an arrest by preaching what they believe as truth and some perceive as Hate Crimes and failing an arrest, illuminate the failings of the Justice Department to enforce the law. In counter-protest a group is will be spreading a message of Love and countering their arguments. Again, what does this have to do with finding your path?

Well, I see a lot of parallels between these two events. I look at the Protest/Counter-Protest and I weep. It saddens me because it represents a fractured society, a separated culture and a divided nation. While it is sad that this is happening on a national level, what is worse is the tempest that so many members of the Gay Mormon (or any religious) community feel within themselves. When I was first researching Gay Mormons and trying to figure out my spirituality and sexuality, it seemed like I had two choices, both involved nearly destroying a part of who I was.

This choice that confronts us is devastating. It is an inner tempest that rages and beats us down until we either choose one (and feel a void) or we choose to give up the struggle. I felt that way nearly a year ago and I wrote down in my journal that I had to prepare myself to sacrifice my entire being for the Lord and then the next day inquired as to if I had breached the limit of the atonement and was beyond saving. Far too many people choose to give up because they see it as a choice between which half of you do you save. That is the lesson being taught by the Protest/Counter-Protest, that you have to choose.I challenge that assumption. I challenge the belief that we have to choose which side of the wall to live on. I challenge the basis that there cannot be balance between your spirituality and your sexuality. I believe that if we tear down that assumption within ourselves and search for balance that we will find it. I believe that if we, amidst the tempest of our heart, cry out unto the Lord, that He will still our troubled hearts as he commands, “Peace, be still.”

Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of a unified nation. When will the 1st anniversary of a unified you be? When will we all stop trying to prove that we are right and instead start helping others realize the right path for them? When will you begin to help another unify their soul?

Supporting the Future of Equality

Hello Blogger Friends,

If you notice there is a new widget on my blog.

It is a chance for you to support a film that can and will make a huge dent in the lies spread by NOM and help educate those who need to know about the truth of the marriage equality fight. Please take a moment to donate using the the Chipin widget. If you can’t donate, please add this widget to your blog by clicking here and following simple instructions, and share this address with your readers so they can do the same. http://bit.ly/1L9C1s
Please doante to the cause so that this movie can drip gold from the silver screen. The film is great already, but with your help, we can promote the hell out of it, blast it from every mountain top in the world, and make it look world-class with digital mastering, sound mixing, animation and color work that is top notch.

Check back here for more updates as I find more ways to send this viral.

Isaac & Ishmael / Oaks & Choi

So I know this post will be slightly dated but I figured I should hold my tongue before I spoke about Elder Oaks’ talk on religious freedom. I was originally going to address how the difference between religious belief and practice are akin to John Stuart Mills’ Harm Principle and Isaac Asimov’s Laws of Robotics and if there is desire for me to connect the three I will in a later post. I decided last night that I would change tactics though and I hope you will agree with the shift in balance here.

Elder Oaks states

The greatest infringements of religious freedom occur when the exercise of religion collides with other powerful forces in society. Among the most threatening collisions in the United States today are… perceived conflicts between religious freedom and the popular appeal of newly alleged civil rights.

Now Alan has already discussed how Elder Oaks should know that these rights are not ‘alleged’ and I recommend that you give that post a read. I want to discuss what I believe this quote reveals about Elder Oaks’ mindset.

We know that Elder Oaks wrote this with the intent of being read worldwide, and thus he does a very good job at explaining the political need to defend the freedom of religion that he (and most Mormons, myself included) believes was divinely inspired by God. Religious freedom that is of utmost importance and it is needed “for the rights and protection of all flesh.”I think that Elder Oaks’ has some great points in this talk but that there is something lacking. What is lacking is a nationwide(and arguably worldwide) view of our society and the variant sides of this issue.

From what is argued, it appears that Oaks, while stating the primacy of religious freedoms is noting that they and civil rights are going to be head to head & unresolved for a long time and that the church needs to be on the defensive when it shouldn’t have to be. Last night I was reading an interview with Dan Choi and noticed a particularly potent phrase and so I decided to compare the two.

Oaks is asserting the need for religious freedoms above all others and Dan Choi recognizes the need for the religious and spiritual aspect of GLBT people’s lives. When asked if it was difficult to be a born-again Christian and gay he responded:

There have been a lot of people were a little bit taken aback; not only, ”How is this possible?” but almost like, ”How dare you?” A lot of people are so injured, so hurt by the religious establishment that they just go to atheism. They find their ethics and their values in different ways, because they see the damage that some people cause [using religion] as a weapon to strip away the rights of those people. Forgive me if I use it in a military context, but just because the weapon is used against you doesn’t mean the weapon is not viable for you to use — it’s something that’s important, it’s something that we can be empowered by.

When you look at some of the things that have been used against us, it doesn’t diminish the fact that we are a very spiritual people. I think the gay and lesbian community is deeply spiritual. It has a lot to do with us being oppressed, being different, and also having this innate ability, I think, to understand other people a little bit more. It’s really damaging, then, that people are essentially robbed of not just spirituality but religion. For some people that title in itself is very spiritually healing and uplifting — it is a part of the religious tradition to say you’re a born-again Christian. I don’t think we should be denied that, and I don’t think we should deny ourselves that.

The difference of opinion is striking and I will let you draw your own conclusion about it, but I want you to watch this clip from “The West Wing” that was played just after September 11th 2001 in an effort to use the show to discuss what was really going on. If you replace everything Islamic with Homosexual I think that this is what needs to be preached and that Elder Oaks is (ever so) slowly approaching.

As Josh Lyman said, we live in a plural society and as such we need to learn to live together without fighting and without repression. So what will you do to help live together with either the Gay rights or Church community?

Equality March Fallout and a Contest

So Sunday was the National Equality March and the Rally afterwords. Cleve Jones and Others wanted those of us there to continue the fight for “Equality Across America.” I have a few ideas brewing in my head about this and want to find an image or a logo that can serve as the union of the Church and Equal Rights before I really take off. So I know several of my readers are much better skilled at art than I am. I also know that there are those of you who think your art is not so great or non-existent, you can help to.
Essentially I have created a couple of logos this afternoon that represent equality within the LDS Church. They are roughly the same except one is more of a shield while the other is more of a heart(they are rough drafts okay).
So I wanted to challenge the readers of my blog to get other images that illustrate the same thing. Those of you with art talent, create something that represents Equality within the Church. For those of you who feel like you have little art talent, you can spread this blog and this “contest” on your blog, on your facebook, on your twitter. What ever you have, you can take part in creating a logo that we, as Gay Mormons and their Allies, can rally around.
The best image may even get a prize. I am not saying that in a lame way, I would have to scrounge around for some funds for a legitimately good prize. Best of luck and I hope to see something soon!

National Coming Out Day 2009-2010

Today is National Coming Out day and I spent it at the National Equality March. I got there thinking I would join with Affirmation and march with the rest of the gay mormons. I came up out of the metro and walked towards the crowds and thought to see a group of guys dressed in shirts and ties. When I got there all I saw was a massive crowd of gays ready to march. I got there late and couldn’t see the Mormons so I decided to talk with the religious fanatics waving signs with dead fetus’ Then the march was about to start so I jumped in behind the first group I was. As it turns out they were the head of the march and they were the Queer Youth marching for Social Justice. I helped lead the march of about 150,000-250,000 people for 2 miles. I helped lead this group in chants calling for equality. The March was amazing, but what was better was the training I learned this past weekend about Faith and Sexuality and about the Trevor Project that I shared yesterday.

This weekend gave me a good idea.

The biggest struggle for people coming out is that they feel alone, or that they feel like they are going to be abandoned. So I had an idea to establish a petition of support for fellow members of the Church to sign in support of their friends and family members. A petition that would go around BYU and be put up online for students to see and for students to sign. This would be an avadavat of support for those wanting to come out. This would be the precursor for members of the Church to come out en masse, for BYU students to come out en masse, and to feel supported by their fellow classmates.

It has been said that the power of the Youth is what will change the tide within this Nation. I witnessed that this was true today during the march. By the time I reached the rally, there were about 11 blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue filled with youth. I am working on creating said petition, perhaps in line with LDS Apology that would have an entire year with the goal to get IDK, 1138 signatures (for the 1138 unrecognized civil rights) or perhaps more like 10,000 signatures for LDS (preferably Church School System) Students who would support a friend or family member if they came out. I am writing this to bounce the idea out there and get some feed back.

The ultimate culmination of this would be a separate pledge and petition of members who would be willing to come out next October 11th. A group that would put to test the signatures and pledges of their friends, their family members and bring to light once again the issue of religious intolerance. What are your thoughts on this?

The Project

I want you to do something for me. See that button over there? –> The One that says “Get a Color!” Click on it for me…. Did you do it or are you reading this on a feed reader? This is an interactive post, but well worth it… trust me! So clicking that button should have given you a color. Remember your Color!

Now you see this star here? Take out a sheet of paper… or if you have to use a mental picture, but paper is better. Draw a picture of a star and write your name in the center. Now in each point you are going to write something different.
1st point: Name of a Best Friend
2nd point: Name of a Trusted Family Member
3rd point: Name of a community you are part of
4th point: Your Dream Job
5th point: Your Hopes and Dreams.
It should look something like this:

Now that you have built out your star and know your color follow along with the scenario. For the purpose of this project, you are all GBLT about to come out.

As you start to feel ready to tell someone about your peculiarity, you decide to confide in your best friend. If you are a Blue, your friend responds great, they accept you and treat you exactly the same. If you are Orange or Purple, your friend takes some time to come around, but eventually things will work out, fold that point of your star back. If you are Red, your friend rejects you. They tell you that you are an abomination, that they can’t be your friend if you insist on being a pervert. Tear off that point of your star.

After the first foray of coming out you decide to tell a family member. If you are Blue, your family member embraces you as their blood relative and as a part of the family. If you are Purple your family takes their time in accepting you but eventually come around, fold the point back to signify this. If you are Red or Orange your family rejects you. They might disown you, or kick you out of the house, to them you are lost. Tear off that point of your star.

Next you decide to tell those in your community organization. If you are a Blue, they are accepting and inclusive. If you are a Purple or Orange they take time to realize that you are the same person that you were before. Fold back this point of your star. If you are a Red, tear off the point of your star because this community is harmful towards you. They see you as a threat that must be removed and so they exclude you from everything.

As things progress people at work begin to suspect. If you are a Blue of Purple you find allies around the water cooler and you do well. If you are an Orange your co-workers feel alienated until they see that your work is well done and start to socialize with you more, fold back this point of your star. If you are a Red, you arrive at work one day to see your desk has a box with all your stuff in it and you are pulled into your boss’ office and fired for “poor performance,” This black-lists you from your dream job… tear off this point of your star.

If you are a Blue you have an immense amount of support from those around you leaving you free to pursue your hopes and dreams.
If you are Purple your work has supported you where your friends, family and community have taken longer to understand and see the real you. Your dreams are within reach!
If you are an Orange, you have struggled without a friend, or community and in a hostile work environment for a while but that has changed through perseverance, unfortunately your family never came around, but because of the eventual support around you your dreams are open to you still.
If you are a Red, you represent 35% of all Queer Youth and 50% of Trans Youth who have become abandoned by all those they hold dear. You feel alone and realize that your hopes and dreams are beyond reach, that you have little will to live. One day you decide to end your life because you feel completely alone and isolated. Rip up the rest of your star.

Unfortunately too many end up with a red star. They are left all alone by those who they need the most support from. They end up taking their life because they felt alone. Each day we have the power to either be a strong point of support, or a sheared part of someones life. Whether they are struggling with GBLT issues, simple depression, conversion to a new church, trauma, social injustice or any form of prejudice, we have the power each day to offer support to those in need. Can we really, in good conscience, turn away those who are different from us? So next time a friend comes out to you, tells you they are having issues at home, or simply needs someone to talk to, be there to listen, to offer support, and to prevent the lose of life.

iQreport heads Up

Hey Blogger friends, So this Weekend is the National Equality March here in DC and I am helping to liveblog some events on faith and the GBLT Community. I will be using the “iQreport” label so just giving you a heads up so you aren’t thinking that this blog has been taken over.

Finding Faith in Christ and in the Members

Membership – What does this word mean to you? What do you think of when you hear it? Church membership? Membership in the Democratic Party? Membership in the NRA? Recently I have heard the terminology used and described as being a “card carrying” member. Does a recommend, a credit card, a checkbook, a Masonic ring really make you a member? It seems that more and more if you are a member of this group or that, then you are defined solely by that membership. The concept is that you are a homogeneous member of the basic guidelines of the group, that you are one solid core or thought.

Even if this isn’t the actual case, the manner in which we act would lead us to believe that this is so. How often in church do we see other members as “fitting the mold.” When you meet a Mormon from Utah County do you not think of 1 key type, a member of a particular set of homogeneous guidelines?

I ruminate upon this because a while back I discovered that the word “member” as used in the ancient Greek by Paul, means an “organ;” An essential part of the whole. Today we see membership as belonging to a “unit” like membership as a storm trooper or of a member of the Borg. (picture) We see membership and each member as one replaceable cog in the collective machine.

I feel that this is how membership in the Church on a Ward, Stake and worldwide level, how most people see “membership” in the church. How uninspiring is it to be a replaceable cog in the machine of the Church when Paul produced such beautiful imagery to describe how we are all organs int eh body of Christ, and in the body of the Church. We each have our own vital role that is no less important than any other organ’s job. We might be a tiny Nephron, filtering out waste, or a Nueron transmitting essential commands of higher thought. Regardless of our role in the body of His Church, we are vastly important to Christ.

How sad is it that in our modern world of machinery we grow up learning that to question is wrong; that those whose opinions within the Church were wavering or off from our own were succinctly bad or evil. This happens all around us, if you doubt it just bring a sunstone magazine to Sunday School or speak up in priesthood with a viewpoint that is different from the status quo.

If we looked and saw someone doing something different from us we assume that our model, our way is right, that it is the best way to do it. If a Nueron saw a Nephron filtering waste, wouldn’t it wonder and think (after living only with other Nuerons) that that Nephron was a foreign entity, that it was wrong, or evil and that it was not doing things correctly. And yet, when looked at from a distance, with an all-encompassing view, are they not both equally important and necessary for the maintaining of the body? If we are all members in the organization of the Church then should there not be the diversity of thought and opinion and of people as seen by Paul?
As a Gay Mormon I now know and feel that there is a place for me in Christ’s love and I while I know that there is a position for me in membership of his Church organization I hope that others begin to notice it and realize that even though I might be a nose hair follicle, a stem cell, or a pituitary gland it doesn’t matter. Each individual cell has a place; each organ is essential and each member essential to the Body of the Church. I know that the Lord sees me, as he made me, as an integral part of the overall body of the Gospel.

Regardless of what others say, I believe that MoHo’s have a place int eh organization of the church. Whether our place is to cleans the system of the waste of prejudice and inequality, to help the church grow out of stagnancy, or to serve as a line of defense against the outside world we have a place. I do not know what or where it is, but I have faith in the Lord, the Master that he is. He has placed us precisely in the position where I need to be and at the end of the day he will tell us “well done my good and faithful servant”