Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Counterintuitive Statistic

A break from history (stalling as I’m not quite sure how or if I want to talk about becoming parents).

The following are the top 3 states in the percentage of self-identified same-sex headed households raising minor children in the US (from the 2000 census, source):

Lesbian headed families:
1. Mississippi, at 44 percent
2. Utah and South Dakota, both at 42 percent
3. Texas, at 41 percent

Gay male headed families:
1. South Dakota, at 33 percent
2. Mississippi, at 31 percent
3. Utah and Idaho, both at 30 percent

On the surface, isn’t that odd? Look at conservative, LDS Utah there, #3 and #2 in the nation for my family type. (It shows at our monthly family get-togethers too.)

These are some of the states with the most strict laws and cultures aimed at stopping gay couples from raising children, but they are the states with the highest rates of gay couples doing just that.

Why? Is it that these states have cultures that encourage gays to marry heterosexuals, leading to marriages with children that don’t last? Seems plausible, but such a state would also likely limit custody being awarded to a home containing a “gay lover”.

For me, I knew I was going to be a father from as far back as I can remember, and, despite being gay and unable to procreate with my spouse, it came to be. We both grew up knowing that was our destiny. We were both, thankfully, taught that by our culture.

In the end I have to wonder if Utah isn’t #3 in the nation despite the LDS church, but because of the LDS church.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Escaping the “Gay Lifestyle” a Very Happy Man

History, Part 4 of 8

Now I was a gay kid on a mission ;-). I started going to Quaker meetings that were only meant to find ways to keep gay kids from suicide. I stopped looking for a partner, and started going to the youth group hoping to fix this pervasive looming problem with gay sociology. That’s not egotistical, right? :-)

Didn’t work out too well. I was already getting guff for being “straight acting”. I couldn’t muster a lisp, and it took constant vigilance to keep a wrist limp. Ironically, my innate mannerisms caused some to discriminate :-). Those familiar with bigotry can be too quick to take it up (and can’t say I never have).

Anyway, once I started advocating abstinence until lifelong monogamy, I made a good number of enemies. Being anti-sex, in any way, can come across as being anti-homosexual, especially to those gay kids who’ve bought into their culture’s bias against homosexuality as being only about sex, and have treated it as though it was an addiction to sex.

I was about to give up the Stonewall Center for the Quakers, but it was friends and family night there and my parents wanted to go and I wanted them to speak (they’d be 1 of 2 sets of parents there, out of about 60 greatly dejected kids). One of my close friends came with us as well.

There, that night, a very handsome stranger caught my eye. I couldn’t pay attention to much but him at first until I realized he must be someone’s straight friend. I put him out of my mind and went on with the meeting.

But he wasn’t anyone’s straight friend. He had just heard of the youth group that morning. He was another gay man on the verge of doing something drastic, and he’d come to the Stonewall Center as a last resort. He was back from his mission, had just broke off an engagement, his father was an LDS Bishop, and he was gay.

Turns out he noticed me too, but thought I was the straight friend, and my friend was the gay child of my parents. Anyway, we, two gay men at a group for gays, were immediately attracted to each other but both sure the other was as straight as an arrow :-).

Thank goodness he figured it out. Fortunately, my mom had mentioned my high school, which it just so happened his cousin had attended also. He found my last name in her yearbook, and called through all those sharing it in the Salt Lake valley (I was flattered :-)). He finally reached and talked to my mom, actually, for about an hour.

Once I got home, she wouldn’t stop talking about this kid, that “straight” guy (to this day she very proudly tells everyone she brought us together). I hesitated a couple hours, and called him back. Once I got a feel for his wonderful personality, I, in one of the rare impulsive acts of my life, invited him out.

I told myself I was simply trying to reach him before my perceived gay menace did. But I think I knew even then, if anything was meant to be, this was it.

And it was. We hit it right off. Our morals matched, and personalities, though very different, clearly complimented each other. We’ve never been separated since, and never have we been with anyone else, and I dare say we never will. It was love at second sight :-).

That was about 14 years ago, and each day makes me more and more grateful for that night, the night that led to our union and our family, to everything on which happiness hangs. Not many couples are as fortunate as we’ve been in being able to build what we’ve built, gay or straight, and I feel that blessing keenly each day I return home from work.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Repairing the past:

History, Part 3 of 8

Slowly I began to notice something was wrong with the youth group; I had been phenomenally fortunate. Many were there secretly. Their parents had no idea, and, when some found out, the kids would often just disappear, sometimes moved to relatives in rural areas. Some were homeless, runaways or kicked out. In short, most all of them were hurt deeply by the people they loved most and it showed, whereas my primary antagonist was myself.

I was attracted to one kid, got to know him a bit and he asked me out. I consider him my first real date (the rest being luckless girls, who could never figure out why I’d no interest in them). Over the course of a couple conversations I came to find he’d been living alone in the city for a couple years, kicked out of his small-town home when his LDS parents found he was gay--tough “love”.

He was, of course, damaged.

To my great surprise, by about the 3rd official date, he started pushing me for sex, and I kept resisting. People had sex with those they were just dating? 3 dates?!

When I came out, my parents accepted me, but still expected me to be sexually chaste, as did I. But I didn’t get it. He was a kid starved of affection and he’d settle for its easy imitation if he could get it. And why not? He was a damned perverted addict anyway, right? He was ejected from his family, from his culture. He took his LDS morals as a package deal and if that package said he couldn’t follow his attraction, he’d let it all go.

Finally, one night I went to pick him up from his tiny apartment, and he was clearly drunk. He made another advance. At the very second he could tell I was rejecting it once more he flipped out; started crying. He began telling me how he hated his parents and his life; he told me about all the men he’d been with. He resented his church, blaming them for his parent’s actions. He went out at night looking for closeted LDS “family” men, even bishops, for quick sex. He told me how it never satisfied him, and what some of those “family” men did to him, seemingly enjoying my shock.

And I was shocked; I’d no idea the world had such a side.

Just as I started to ask why was he telling me this, he turned on me. He told me he’d “wasted” so much time on me when all he wanted now was sex; he knew men couldn’t love each other. He’d apologize and lash out in the same breath. He basically said he wanted to do to me, the naive kid from a loving home, what had been done to him. He never said “AIDS” but I thought it was pretty clear that was part of it.

His life had become an act of revenge.

I quickly went from sympathy to fear and tried to leave. He tried to stop me. Even though I was more than able to overpower him, there is little like feeling that someone wants to rape you. As I squeezed by him in his cramped apartment, he grabbed my neck and gave me a full kiss on the mouth. I cringed; my first ‘real’ kiss. He smiled a drunken smile, and I swear I could see a bit of blood on his teeth.

I ran, and never talked to him again; I lost my nerve. Is that what being gay means? Do I have AIDS now? From a kiss (Yes, I was young and stupid)?! Did all my new gay friends live like that?

I didn’t return to the Stonewall Center or interact with another gay person that entire summer and into the fall. About 6 months later I gathered the courage to return. I was isolated again and thought I could put this episode behind me. But I quickly learned I could not.

I entered the Youth Group meeting much the same way I did when I first found it, meek and nervous. In came the kids. Gratefully, my “friend” was not among them. I found some familiar faces and asked about him. I was told he slit his wrists and ankles about a week after that night. I never told any of them what had happened.

I was floored; I hadn’t considered that being a possibility. But, to my shame, I wasn’t really surprised.

I knew he was the most psychologically damaged person I’d ever met. He did all but say “I want to die.” Today I know I should have known, and there were steps I could have taken to ensure he’d be okay. But I didn’t take them. I instead went home and felt scared, insulted, hurt, and sorry for myself for being gay, once more.

I have tried to think, “I was just a kid. He was trying to hurt me. He was sick. His parents and religion did it to him.” Still, none of that really matters. One group may have made the first horrible choice by tossing a kid, alone into a city, but then another group, my group, made the horrible choice of not catching him. To this day this event causes me make enemies in both groups.

That is the most significant failing of my life. Over the years I’ve tried to make up for it, with my involvement in the gay community and helping others going through that tough time, but it’s never enough to make me feel better about it, because I will never help that kid and it will never change what I did (or didn’t do) that night.

At the least, the obsession to repair the past can motivate you into helping others, even if your deeds will never do what you reflexively hope them to do, and actually repair the past.

It's sadly ironic that my friend was trying to do the same futile thing, along with so many other gays akin to him out there.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Finding birds of a feather

History, Part 2 of 8

I knew I was gay at 14. I’d told most everyone I cared about at the age of 16. Now, I was 17 and hadn’t yet even met another gay kid (knowingly). I can analyze to the point of doing nothing :-).

I finally felt I was ready, and so I think I actually looked in the phone book under “gay”, of all things. I found the Stonewall Center, a GLBT community center in downtown Salt Lake City. They had a meeting for gay youth to socialize and talk through their problems each Wednesday.

I’ve never been more anxious for a Wednesday.

When it finally came, I found the place a half-hour early, walked in, and sat down in an empty room filled with tacky pro-gay posters. As I sat fidgeting, kids began trickling in. Then a group of kids from my own high school wandered in and sat opposite me in our circle of chairs.

I didn’t really know them; we traveled in very different circles. Still, I had visions of them outing me to everyone. Of course, they had the same fear registering on their faces.

I could relax. In this case, if we were both afraid, we both had nothing to fear.

After whispering for about 5 minutes, one of them came over and nervously asked if I knew what this place was. Wasn’t it obvious? (I’ve got some gaydar stealth coating or something.) I wasn’t ready to say “I’m gay” to strangers, and so joked I was there for a hiking club, I think. Anyway, they were visibly troubled by my answer; began stammering :-). They were trying to think of how to get this wayward student body officer, who oddly couldn’t read the pro-gay posters around him, to leave before the meeting began.

Definitely not my best attempt at jocular breaking of ice, but it worked; they laughed after I came clean, and suddenly I had more friends in my life. I’d soon become comfortable around these folks, though they were as queer as Cher’s duvet cover, just as I’d become comfortable with being gay myself, which can be two very different things.

That group was a great help in my life. Just to sit in that room each week was a blessing. Just to talk to others like me and have others understand exactly where I was coming from was invaluable.

I now knew gay people, and things were going great, but I was soon to be violently blindsided by gay politics, and sociology, about which I knew next to nothing.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The long melodramatic tale gays tells:

History, Part 1 of 8
I knew I was gay by about age 14. More accurately, I knew I came out of puberty attracted only to males. For months I convinced myself that didn’t mean I was gay because I wasn’t an effeminate kid. Turns out that’s not a necessary qualification.

This fact nauseated and frightened me. I, like most of my peers, had used “gay” as a pejorative and thought the orientation alone a substantial sin. I was also pretty sure I was the only gay person within a quarter of a continent. Still, even if I did know another gay person (turns out I did, but had no idea) I’d not have approached them. I was the sort of kid who’d never have actively come out in any way to anyone without telling my parents first.

For about a year I tried on my own to change. I didn’t ask for anyone’s help, but in prayer. This was, thankfully, the worst year of my life.

I did the average thing. I worried myself physically ill (my parents kept taking me to doctors who could find nothing wrong, and I’d admit to nothing). I had bouts of euphoria thinking I felt even an atom of attraction diminish. I then felt confusion and self-disgust, when it always returned like a tide.

Why did all my friends escape puberty attracted to girls and I got what most girls end up with? What did I do wrong, and so on… I thought fondly of suicide, but never attempted it. I prayed and prayed for it to pass. It didn’t pass.

Then one summer day my parents told me they were going on vacation, and I told myself I’d not let them go without confessing. I’d never kept such a secret from them before, and felt guilty for that alone, and was afraid, with them gone, I may not merely think of suicide.

What would happen once they knew the ugly secret about their boy? I suspected I’d either become homeless or they’d let me stay on the condition I get treatment. I’d have welcomed the treatment.

In retrospect, I’ve never been more disrespectful to my parents than in my assuming only those two options. We never had really talked about what being gay would mean to my parents, and I was quite anti-gay myself and assumed they were too. But I was very wrong, and am still very sorry to this day (At least I paid for the insult in a wasted year).

Anyway, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t say it; I could hardly think it. I excused my backing out by thinking I didn’t want to ruin their trip, and so I let my dad leave, saying nothing. When it was time for my mom to join him, a day later, I stayed in my room.

She came in and said she wouldn’t leave unless I told her what was wrong. I tried to make something up but she wouldn’t believe me. I broke. I started to weep, and she, understandably, panicked. “What is it?” “Whatever it is we can fix it.” “Tell me, please!”

I said nothing. But after a couple guesses that were way off, she finally came to, “Are you gay?” Thank goodness she could say it, because I was simply not able. I, instead, forced out a yes.

She calmed me down; assured me all was okay with her, that she loved and supported me regardless. I'd never felt such gratitude, and disbelief at the same time. But I felt that fear rise again, as she went to call my dad. I tried to listen in but couldn’t tell what he was saying.

Then my mom said, “Your dad wants to talk to you.” I hesitated, then took the phone and that horrible year was over. He told me he loved me, that it didn’t matter to him if his son was gay.

After about a month I could finally form the words, “I’m gay”. So? Now what?

To my surprise, my parents didn’t want me to change. They asked when and how I’d find other gay kids. I didn’t know, but really didn’t want to. I still had some personal issues to work through as to the morality of homosexuality. I was still grieving the loss I incorrectly assumed in my future, as a husband and father. Did I still want to change?

This was not easy, but it was not traumatic. I worked through it at my own pace, and got to the end and felt satisfied with the results. I could live with how I am; I could follow my nature.

But before I could do that, I needed to tell my family, my largely devout LDS family. I didn’t want an awkward surprise for them, to hear of it by rumor. When told, some reactions were clearly negatively, others gratefully ambivalent, and no negative reaction lasted. One sister, when told I had something important to tell her, assumed I had gotten a girl pregnant and was relieved that I was “only” gay :-).

Then there were my friends. I had a strong circle of friends, and wasn’t too worried about them, but it was still tough. Though we were all very close, they had no idea. How would they treat me differently? The worst I got was an “As long as you don’t hit on me”. No worries there :-).

Now I was out, and, in retrospect, the worst part, for myself, was all the time I wasted in worry and procrastination. But I was not near out of the woods yet...


I was born and raised in a suburb of Salt Lake City Utah into a wonderful, large, and largely LDS family, the youngest of 8 children. We tried to live in California, but the renowned appeal of Utah was too strong; here we are again, a 20 minute walk from where I was raised. Turns out politically friendly is worth less than family friendly.

We'll get to that...

I grew up in a strict private school. It claimed to be nondenominational, but was near 100% LDS in children and faculty. It was a very different environment than most experienced, with prayer, Bible study, corporal punishment, and a strictly enforced moral code, but I very much loved the experience and appreciate it to this day (probably because I never stepped out of line and got the paddle :-)).

I’ve a BS, a MS, and will soon receive my PhD. I have been thinking I will soon receive my PhD for merely 3 years now.

I am the president, lead researcher, secretary, mail boy, and janitor of a small medical technologies company.

Though my parents had become inactive by the time I could understand religion to any extent, I joined the LDS faith on my own (with, of course, encouragement from my siblings and other extended family). I was quite happy, but the more I learned of the details of the religion, the less I could maintain a testimony. I mean no offence to my LDS friends or family (or anyone LDS) by that; it was my personal experience and God knows I want to keep away from the largely pointless practice of debating faith.

From there I turned to more traditional Protestant Christianity, but eventually couldn’t maintain faith there either. Then I had a period of embarrassing experimentation with bastardized eastern religions. I ended up reading all sorts of religious texts, from the Bhagavad Gita to the Quaran to Atlas Shrugged, only to end up atheist; some may say a militant atheist. But that too did not last.

Today, I’ve greatly given up the fight. I’ve had to admit I’m a Christian by culture. I enjoy Christianity. The Bible, its imagery, and ideas have a comfortable familiarity that go all the way back to kindergarten for me. I also very much appreciate the ethics presented by Christianity, not that we don’t have our disagreements here and there. So, perhaps, I’ve settled on being a Christian-y Agnostic.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Back online again [nervous sigh].

I’ve had two sites in my life exploring topics of religion, politics, homosexuality, and so on. I got rid of the first when I couldn’t agree with myself anymore, and got rid of the second when I started getting death threats.

In short, I’ve yet to do anything online more personal than buy a book that didn’t end in regret a year or so down the line (and I’ve regretted some of the books too). So, of course, another go at it then, with full knowledge I’ll regret it :-)…

I’ve been inspired to blog by, of all groups, the LDS gays married to straight women, featured here. I’ve very much appreciated their stories, and have learned a lot from them.

There are other reasons, of course, the old reasons. I hope to encourage young gays to look beyond the stereotype of the “gay lifestyle” presented to them by the left and the right. I also want those who can’t understand our family to have the opportunity to do so. Finally, I want to keep this as a bit of a record and place to collect my thoughts.

I’m certainly nowhere near a writer; I’m a scientist, and promise no skillful language, spelling, or grammar. I’m also a bit longwinded. To indulge this (and allay it in future posts), I’ll start by posting my relevant background.