Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Matchmaking Advice

We’ve this friend, a great guy. He’s adopted a couple children, biological siblings, out from an abusive home and he is amazing with them; his parenting skills make me envious. He has gotten them past some horrible trauma, and into being a couple of great, loving, and well mannered children, not to mention adorable. Even on the superficial scale, he’s quite a catch, very handsome.

But he’s single; he can’t find the right guy. I guess single dads have a tough time finding eligible and interested partners in the gay community. Seems many gay men have assumed they couldn’t have family and have stopped thinking about it or making their life conducive for it. If his idea of a date is a $200 dinner followed by clubbing, and would never step into a Jungle Jim’s, he’s not much of a catch.

Then when you find, of that 50% men, 5% gay population, a guy willing to make a family, you still have to weed out which ones you couldn’t see bringing into your children’s lives, even if you do like them… Well, you get the idea, if people like R and I don’t start early we end up with a pretty small pool.

In thinking of who I’d play matchmaker with, or what advice to give him, it hit me. Gay men of the world, listen up. I have some important advice. :-)

Find yourself a Mormon man, if you can.

[Blatant but positive prejudice based on my experience mode]

1. They come conditioned, experienced, and willing to build families. They’ve changed their infant sibling’s diapers. They’ve often dealt with more than five kids at a time, and have strong parental ethics. Throw those baby books away; while I was the last of my siblings and not as experienced, R (and our “practice baby”) taught me all I needed to know.

2. They are principled guys. Of course there are exceptions, but most have had ethics drilled into them from early on and they’d never think of cheating on you.

3. This may be seen as a negative; I don’t see it that way, but they aren’t much for partying. For goodness sake, don’t give them any liquor before they know how to manage it ;-). But, if you don’t like clubs, and would rather go to a movie or for a hike, they’re your guy.

4. If they’ve been on a mission, great. Last week I got bo po gee (sp? :-)), one of my favorites, and I often come home to a shabu shabu the likes of which you cannot get in any Utah restaurant. My man speaks Korean, does yours?

5. Sure, you may have a rough road with their family at the get go, but once that’s done, (and it will end) you’ve got some great in-laws and a strong extended family, people you’ll come to love.

[/Blatant but positive prejudice based on my experience mode]

Now, please, don’t steal another’s husband, be that another a woman or man, and certainly don’t find a guy in the closet or still thinking being in a gay relationship is a sin; that’ll be nothing but trouble.

But find yourself a Mormon man, if you can. They’re great.

Monday, January 29, 2007


An attempt to get rid of Gay-Straight Alliance clubs is up again in the Utah legislature.

As a general rule, I think these clubs are important. More than that, I think they can save sanity and lives, and not only from immediate self destruction of so many teen suicides, but from that slow indirect self destruction of drugs and sex some gay kids come to when treating their orientation like an illness. But it looks like this bill, one would hope at least with Biskupski’s compromise, will pass.

Some choice quotes (from here and here):

The legislation is the brainchild of Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, who believes so-called gay-straight alliances are "conditioning" clubs aiming to recruit students to a gay lifestyle.

Yes, the gays are out to recruit… No, they don’t care about kids going though these tough times; just need to reach our quota, as to get those free Cher concert tickets that come from the head office for each dozen converts.

It never ceases to amaze me how those who can’t stand homosexuality think it’s so very alluring. All it takes is some weekly meetings, like some real-estate scam, and kids throw away years and years of “conditioning”? Do such political opponents think it’d be so much fun that straight life couldn’t compete? Do they not imagine the words they say, laws they pass, and ideas they promote are more than enough to stop any kid from signing up, if he had a choice about his orientation?

I shook senator Buttars’ hand once. Sometimes I think all that’s needed is to let go of some defense and animosity; he immediately went on to say things far more inflammatory than the above about our families. So sure, I’m kind of biased ;-).

Buttars’ had been the focus and so it seems he asked another senator to take the helm this time, Tilton.

Tilton's view differs from Buttars'. He says he isn't trying to eliminate gay-straight alliances but he wants parents to be aware their children are members and have a chance to review any material presented to the club.”

This certainly sounds more reasonable. The parent in me wants to know what my kids are doing; I’ve a responsibility to know. But I’m split here. I know there are parents out there who’d put their children to the streets if they were asked to sign the required permission slip in this case; I’ve known their kids.

But saying “Tilton’s view differs” doesn’t seem to mean much; the aim of the bill is the same:

Principals could reject clubs that violate the "moral well-being" of students, cross "boundaries of socially appropriate behavior" or "involve human sexuality," according to the legislation.

Which bring me to this (my emphasis):

Although he has never attended an alliance meeting, Tilton believes alliance members sometimes inappropriately discuss sexuality.”

“Committee chairman Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, hopes the bill will allow schools to request a change in the name of the gay-straight alliances, which he feels is inherently sexual in nature. "I don't know how you can have a term that describes someone's sexuality and say it is not in that realm," he said. “

Sure, the word “sex” is in the word “sexuality” and gay people are different from straight by their orientation and their sexual anatomy. But the thing these legislators may never understand, particularly if they never try to become better informed on the target of this legislation, is that you can be gay and not want sex. You can be gay and never have gay sex or talk about sex. You may just need to talk but end up marrying a woman ;-). You can be affected by gay issues, labeled as gay, and never even have any sexual orientation.

It’s legislation like this and the ideas behind it that have made being "gay" or "straight" a political realm, a social realm, a religious realm, a familial realm, and so on, with all the accompanying issues. If those issues weren’t there, I’d also not want these clubs, and if you want to get rid of other such clubs equally, fine, but all such topics are now discussed in various school clubs.

While they are ironically focused on sex, such legislators and many hostile high school kids give these groups a great deal more to talk about than any sort of sex (maybe that’s the real fear ;-)). In fact, in the stonewall center’s youth group, a private organization run by gays where any topic was game, after about two years, sex was only a topic twice and both times as a rather tame cautionary tale about avoiding STDs.

Simply, the homecoming committee and prom are far more about sexuality than any GSA, and it’s unfortunate that it will probably take a bunch of grief and hundreds of thousands of public dollars in lawsuits to realize a GSA is an organization that is there to help troubled kids and discuss human politics, family, faith, and cruelty, not sex.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Short Version

Those two posts on my religious background (1 and 2) were very long and so I just want to write the short version and what I got out of it.

--I’ve had a range of religious experiences. Some may say wide? Well, wider than average.

--In this order :-): Conservative Bible-Literal Bible-Only Christian, to LDS, back to Conservative Bible-Literal Bible-Only Christian, to a more Liberal Christian, to a wide range of Religions, to Atheist, to Agnostic, to Christian-y Agnostic (An agnostic who likes and is most comfortable with Christianity but can’t feel right believing in it or any other religion he’s yet met).

--There’s a little conservative Bible Thumper still in me. Sometime, I know, I am unfair to more liberal religious ideas, both those who are inclusive and those who downplay the fire and brimstone. Not that I like it, but there’s a part of me that respects the stricter folks, even those nearing He Who Shouldn’t Be Named. I know I may focus on such theology to the detriment of those mainly wanting the pleasure of loving a being such as a God, or who just want a lens through which to focus their charity. I'll work on it.

--Similarly, I relate to more traditional Protestantism, even today. If it sometimes seems I’m too casual with the LDS faith or misunderstanding, it’s probably partly because of this. Though my first chosen religion, the LDS faith, is not really the faith of my youth and there’s still a part of me (again, one I need to get rid of) that reflexively sees its more liberal ideas as.. well, you know what the Baptists say. Odd for my position, I know :-), but I’m talking about reflex.

--I left the LDS church at a young age for another form of Christianity. I did not go on a mission, and have never been in a temple (That’s R and near all my family :-)). I’m LDS by culture, but I fear being in a group of LDS bloggers assumptions may be made that give my background more weight than it deserves on LDS topics. Simply, I’d trust Chris’ or L’s take on the LDS faith more than mine :-). The LDS church, for me, ended up being one of many, and I’m really more used to debating Catholics and Baptists (at least those are the source of two of my three favorite online debating buddies ;-)).

Oddly though, I wonder if this also lets me be beneficially detached too, to have not had a long emotional and historical investment? I mean, with regards to the LDS church in our home, I’m always the one trying to temper R’s reaction (not to mention my dad’s) to the actions of LDS leadership, telling them they mean to do what’s best and so on. I don’t know.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Search Grid, West of Enoch

Personal Religious History (2 of 2)
Continuation from here.

I was a strict Protestant again, but my base faith would not last either. Once anyone leaves a religion, it’s worlds less complicated and traumatic to undo another, be you Muslim to LDS or Catholic to Scientologist. You’ve already stopped believing in something that pleased you, helped you, gave order to your world, and that you thought you needed for the very sake of life and goodness. You have already floated panicked through the void, and replanted your feet, and you know you can pick yourself back up, if you think you made a mistake, and are offending God or truth or morality. In fact, I wonder, if I never became LDS and kept with a more traditional protestant faith, if I’d not still be a Bible-Literal Christian, arguing on and on in apologetics about how a certain Hebrew word, at a certain angle, proves my point ;-).

It’s not a simple thing to know you’ll be okay; in fact, some people, for this fear alone, stay in and make reasonable, to their mind, religions 99% of us would consider completely ridiculous. But, with this new knowledge, I was safe enough and I found the cognitive dissonance that ate at me in the LDS faith was nothing new to the world of religion. At reading more and more, I saw the problems were still there, and I eventually gave up defending literal interpretations. It was scary to be set adrift again, but not near as scary as the first time.

Still, I’d cycle. I’d go through weeks of resignation to there being problems with such Christianity, trying to figure out where to go from there, followed by weeks of thinking the weeks before I’d again been blinded by the devil. Not only was I impressed with the promises, comfort, threats, and real goodness I’d found in the faith of my youth, there was this near-failsafe defender against notice of and action on errors or evils in the same faith, embedded deep within it’s structure. Simply, thinking I was wrong about my faith, in my mind, had been strongly associated with being under the pull of evil. If it didn’t give me so much grief, I’d respect such a defense mechanism as clever, but it’s not near unique; I’d later come to realize such exists in many modes of thinking, even some forms of atheism.

In the end, I cycled slowly away from that more conservative, literal Christianity. I was still a Christian, in the sense that I believed Jesus Christ died for my sins and was my savior, but not one that took the Bible to be 100% fact. I now had to give doctrine much more room.

It’s a bit fuzzy, but, looking at my journal, around here is where I began noticing I was different from my friends. Not that I can’t look back as far as 12 and see (or imagine) some hints, but nothing really sexual, and nothing to make me think I was gay. Here, though, intimate feelings began coming up and they were only towards men. But I still took the part of the Bible declaring homosexuality an abominable sin seriously. Why could I ditch literality--a talking donkey, a 7,000-year-old earth, actual wizards in pharos’ court, near all the OT sins, and so on and on--[inhale] and still want to think the prohibitions on homosexuality true? I desperately didn’t want it to be okay to be a homosexual, for the fact that I thought it meant ruin for my life, for the reasons we all know too well, particularly at this point, about 15 years ago, in the suburbs of Salt Lake City.

From here I came out to my parents. I needed help and felt I needed to confess. Once they, to my surprise, accepted me either way, I was left again to work it out for myself. I’ve a track record of underestimating them that I certainly regret. Fortunately, morality, at this point in my religious journey, wasn’t just something given to me in a package deal, or someone else’s responsibility, or taken on faith alone anymore; it became a real world entity, one that required study. Why did I think what I did about homosexuality?

It would be three years between coming out and ever having any “homosexual experience”, but here, one could still certainly point a finger and say I was biased, and working towards the “easy” conclusion. I could and have pointed right back ;-). I’d not know how to convince otherwise, though. I didn't want sex of any kind, I wanted to be right (still do :-)) and if I thought a substantial chance of a supernatural solution or answer existed I’d have eagerly kept searching for it instead of coming to peace with it.

I went into long thought on the nature of what makes an action, any action right or wrong, and came out the other end with the Golden Rule (as a much simplified, eloquent version). Being attracted to and having a romantic relationship with a man was finally realized as no more immoral or moral than heterosexuality, or, say, bowling :-). It’s not right for many, but, for me, for the way I was built, it was right for me; it’s my path to family. In fact, in fighting to keep a “normal” life, I could clearly see how I’d been hurting those around me, from friends to family. In the end, I found I could and should pay that feared social price, and integrate that part of my nature.

I suppose I could have remained a believer, at this point, and become, say, an Episcopal, as a number of friends are. I was still Christian by some definitions for a time after coming out. But from the end of my faith in the LDS church to this point was really one long trajectory. My interest in science had been growing at the same time, which I'd say was the largest, if not subtle, contributing factor to the journey. I deeply appreciated the moral and metaphysical order I had in religion, but questions repeatedly got in the way, and, ironically, what I appreciated then got in the way. Furthermore, the intricacy and wonder of our universe is addicting stuff, and science gave the tools to bring that beauty into focus. But those tools do also obligate you to question and attempt to justify your beliefs in a rather strict and dispassionate fashion, and always test. Certainty becomes a dangerous drug, and belief is always provisional and controlled by new observations.

During this endgame, I'd read some particular parts of the Bible, get inspired, and consider myself a Christian for a week or two. I'd even say that I still do, get inspired by the Bible, that is. Nevertheless, at some point I asked myself why I believed, in the same way I'd ask why I believed any other fact. I had no answer but my hope, some anecdotes I’d, in retrospect, manipulated into seeming like evidence, and, substantially, habit and hope. My beliefs simply could not be justified, they didn't jive with the world around me, and I couldn't ignore or “interpret” out of the scriptural, philosophical, and scientific problems I saw anymore and feel right about it.

Even still, once I couldn't justify that faith anymore, I was not ready to give up religious faith altogether. Maybe, I'd just been born in the wrong hemisphere ;-)? So I looked at a number of other religions, from those effectively dead to the newborns. I read many religious books and still do; one should really never stop browsing. I’ve meditated on the Buddha, considered the judgment of Allah, and even went embarrassingly new-age-y. I'd say that during each reading of a particular religious text I often did feel a partiality to that religion, a spark of truth, but once I reached the end and let it simmer for a while I remained without a good reason to believe, above wanting to believe in and be a part of some religion.

In fact, I'd say exposing myself to other religions did more to develop a triplet sense of respect, fear, and skepticism for all religions than belief in them. There is great beauty, similarity, and familiar humanity in all the world religions, great potential for good too, much of it realized. There are also glinting strands of truth running through them all. But failings apparent in all, as well, and that’s where the fear comes in.

It’s the curse in the very nature of every faith, theist or no. When you believe something without robust evidence, it will conflict with other views of the reality we (presumably ;-)) share. When you believe in something for which there’s no repeatable, near-objective experiment, then there is no arbiter found in the workings of the universe; two people ask God and God tells them the other is wrong, simple. Often then in creeps the insistence that one has that Truth, or the best Truth and the other is seen as damned to some punishment for their error, in one way or another. Organizations grow up around each Truth and they do defend themselves from the others in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Most do inarguably cause people to do great things, but few keep from sacrificing some of their neighbors along the way, to protect a worldview taken as supernaturally known.

Anyway, after about a year of being one of those spiritual-but-not-religious folks, I had my personal life settled and had come to terms with my orientation, but needed to do some theological house cleaning of sorts. My first step was to ditch the clutter and become an atheist, but that, in the end, is not honestly ditching everything on which one feels certain but has no evidence. There very well could be a God, or Gods even, and I’ll not rule that out. I’ll keep my inquiry.

I realized there was a price I was not willing to pay to simply feel I had a strong grip on the nature of reality, be it in atheism or theism. I really didn’t and don’t know. Though I, as any human, instinctually want some certainty here, desperately, I don’t need it, and to hold it means to sacrifice a part of my ethics. With the tools I had, I could work to chip away at my vast human ignorance, admit it's there, and not pretend I knew something with certainty. That, to me, seems more respectful of my creator, of that thing that is larger than us all, be it the workings of the mind of a God or the working of the “mind” of physics, or something I’ll never near be able to put to text. Regardless of not knowing (or more accurately feeling like I knew), I could still create a wonderful, purposeful, and moral life.

And that’s where I’m working from, and what I hope I’m working at today, as a Christian-y Agnostic.

BUT, if faith is allowed, and we can believe things about our shared reality on still small voices, or intuition, then fine. Fine too, if we can go on winks from the universe, benevolent coincidences that seem to tell us where we should go and what we should do. In fact, the main case for God, with R, is the odd set of coincidences needed to bring our family together, and when I look at them all it can seem near impossible and preordained; that, to him, tells him God is out there. But if we can use such to inform us (or inform us as to which humans, institutions, or books have the authority to inform us :-)) I then would have to say I too know what God would want, not that I near meet such measure, but at least that the speck most see in our eyes would be a blessing in His.

Opinions, again, may differ… They could…. possibly.

[I do want to add that I do know many people in many faiths do not respond in a hostile way to those outside their faith, even when their faith tells them to; I see Chris has kind of posted on that and it is a great point. One of the reasons I wanted to highlight my strict literal Biblical faith in the last post what to show where I come from on this topics. There’s a part of me that anticipates and understands (and [sigh] respects) the unflinching, unquestioning, conservative wings of various religions, as that’s where I come from; I reflexively like the absolutes, the rules, and the certainty. But I do more so admire the ethics behind the more liberal wings.]

Thursday, January 25, 2007

My Faith's Foundation

Personal Religious History (1 of 2)

[These will be very long posts and I’ll post quickly to just get them out of the way]

When writing my coming out story I skimmed quite a bit; it was long enough as is. I wrote some on my religious history a while back, and it now seems an appropriate time to explain (I’ll try to keep away from arguing the truth of any faith, but I will explain from where I’m coming and my experiences and that may cross the line again).

All through elementary school, I had Bible study taught right along with history and mathematics (in the same building even :-)). I’d no more question the number of elephants on Noah’s ark than I would the sum of one and one. Furthermore, we’d never eat a lunch or start a day without prayer. It was a great environment, and I loved it and still have great respect for the school.

Once I got old enough that anyone could say I’d chosen, I knew I was and wanted to be a Christian. In addition, I wanted to be a LDS Christian. While the majority of my family was LDS, I was raised only on the Bible, inside LDS culture in my family and neighborhood, but outside the supplemental aspects of LDS doctrine. The LDS church seemed like the next right step.

I read the first couple chapters of the Book of Mormon, as instructed, and prayed and felt the still small voice tell me that’s where truth lay, as expected. From my schooling I was already abnormally versed on Christianity for a boy of my age, so I began being taught by my neighbor about LDS doctrine in particular, and went to church with them.

Each Sunday, I’d leave my parents at home. They understood; they had been there. While they had had their testimony, their callings, their temple experiences, ‘miracles’, and eventually left the church, both sure it was not truth, they didn’t try to tell me any of that back then. I hope I was never patronizing, spiritually, but I kind of thought I was discovering something they couldn’t see, and I was sad to think they’d not reach the full blessings of the church. But they supported my conversion without questioning, and never challenged my beliefs, or claims of the supernatural. I think they knew I had to have my own experiences, realizations and work it through myself. You really can’t argue faith, it’s a personal journey, and they knew that.

After a couple months (I think. It was a long time ago) of being prepared by my neighbor, I was baptized by my grandfather, with near all my family there in witness (little did those in attendance know, least of all me, they’d all be at my union to R in the same capacity :-)). This was a very moving moment for me. I’ve been known to be brought to tears easily by strong emotion, and this was no exception. It’s one of the most memorable experiences of my young life, with all it’s solemnity and symbolism and spirituality, and family.

I attended Sunday services, religiously (ug…). Eventually I became a Deacon (I hope I’m remembering the titles correctly). I believe this took an interview or two (?). I’m remembering a couple interviews with the bishop, where, in that slow lilting voice that he’d only use for solemn chats, I was asked many questions that, frankly, shocked me. I was naive and my upbringing was abnormally sheltered.

“Have you ever stolen?” No!

“Cheated at school?” Never!

“Lied?” Honestly, couldn’t remember. Does smiling when you’re upset count? “Yes”, just in case.

“Have you had any income on which you’ve not tithed?” I’ll ask my dad…

“Have you had impure thoughts?” Not yet :-). I remember this being asked but not the particular interview; may have been later. But I really had no idea what he had meant, as, thoughts of sex didn’t hit me until puberty was in full gear.

Anyway, I passed, and began my duties conveying the sacrament and collecting fast offerings.

I was well into my place in the church; I bet I was the most enthusiastic, maybe even faithful LDS kid my age in my ward. Sometimes I’d be the only Deacon who’d remain after sacrament meeting, the rest out goofing off in the snow or something. Most were there because their parents made them, and they’d try to talk me into playing hooky, but I was there because I wanted to be and it was my faith, not my parent’s. I had a testimony and I gave it, and not just the wrote script some would give to make the parents happy; you know the one :-). Eventually, I felt I’d experienced miracles, answers to prayers in my life as well. All was going great.

Oddly enough though, it was my staying and listening to the teachings that eventually dissolved my testimony. I’ll not go into it all--it would be provocative--but the history, both actual and proposed, and the theology ate at my sense of consistency. I was months away from becoming a Teacher, and in response to my prayers the still small voice began telling me the LDS church was absolutely not true. My testimony crumbled and I began thinking I’d been deceived by old scratch away from “True Christianity”tm.

I left the church, stopped attending services abruptly, seeing them as a corrupting influence and began reading the Bible fervently and exclusively again (Yes, I was abnormally serious). Please note, that was the state of my young mind at the time. I’m sure such belief was wrong and there’s no devil behind the LDS church; huh Chick? :-) But, at the time, I had to undo it, repent. Rid myself of the habits, and get back to what I saw as real Christianity. When you have the voice of the Spirit tell you two contradictory things, you get suspicious, and I finally came to realize that my still small voice, for me, was an echo of my voice, my subconscious, my culture’s voice, my hopes, my conscience made supernatural and spiritualized. The mind really can be compartmentalized, as evidence now shows. No, I needed the certainty of the literal Bible, proofread, approved, and compiled by God Himself, undefiled by the hand of any imperfect man ;-).

Here, I think I’d best be described as Baptist by those with whom I identified, where Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit were all we should rely upon, guided by the literal word of the Bible. Thinking back, I suppose this is my religious base, there from my elementary school. By that I mean the religious reflex in me, to this day, was made by this sort of Christianity, not any of the other religions I’ve believed. It predated my LDS faith, and I think that’s an important way in which religions take priority in many people (unless you’re more of a rebellious type ;-)). In this way, I feel quite different from many around these LDS blogs. The LDS church, oddly, as my first chosen organized church and the creator of my most familiar culture, doesn’t resonate with me, as it does with most of those in the LDS church from birth, even after they leave the faith. Instead, I’m kind of split; that with which I resonate religiously is a more restrictive form of Christianity, but, culturally, it’s primarily the LDS culture.

Here's a good point to split as well. Continued in the next post [Hint: I don't remain a bible thumper ;-)]…

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


“clark was handsome, no he was pretty. with that porcelain skin and kind nature and a flair for gourmet cooking; well, we all said a silent prayer for marlene.”

This card gave me a laugh yesterday. I can easily imagine some of my aunts saying the same of some sweet couple decades ago.

Anyway, I hope all us pretty, kind, porcelain skinned, gourmet chefs have a good day.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Okay Then

So R tried to get rid of the nap again yesterday. They are so close, but by 8 it was clearly too soon, and they easily went off to bed. Of course this meant at 4 this morning B was nudging me awake. We went back to his room, as to not wake R, and he went back to sleep. All I had to do was lay there, keep my arm still, listen to his small breaths, and think.

I get too wrapped up. These are important topics with important consequences, and I’ve certainly got a lot of motivation to act, from my home to the fate of friends… But here I am again, at the end slope of this cycle of defense-offence-resignation-repeat. Though I do, I don’t want to have a stake in what other’s believe as matters of faith, or how that makes them act. I don’t want to look back on my counterattacks, flavored by some stranger, and then regret how it'd probably hit people I know, friends.

I guess I just wish this were a less complicated and dodgy world all around :-), and, though I think I should, that I didn’t need to do my part in conflicts. I’ll be glad, I think, to be able to soon better segregate the phases into separate online worlds; they don’t work well together.

To put the cherry on top of my “ah shucks, why get worked up?” feeling, I was given a couple gifts this morning too. Turns out R has been secretly taking the kids to make me a gift on the nights we take the boys out separately. Below is a picture of B’s (A’s had his name on it, but it was a similarly striking plate entitled, as he tells me, “Wild Jungle”):

Isn’t it beautiful? Well, even though the design may make it look like eating my morning cereal was a matter over which PETA should get up in arms, a crime scene for cheerios, I think it’s beautiful.

Consider me blissfully resigned again; the reset button has been pressed. Give me a couple days to start back up ;-).

Monday, January 22, 2007


You ever say you’ll do something but then realize you’ve obligated yourself to not the best idea? Well, I said I’d make a post of a too long comment in L’s blog last week, and I did. As I’ve said before, I hope to stay away from arguing the truth of anyone’s religion here. From much experience with numerous faiths and some very good people, I know that goes nowhere and upsets many. I’ll not do that here either, but I will be discussing religious motivation and I’m sure I’ll hit many of the same nerves. That said, fair warning and all: (yes, this was written before my last post and resulting comments, and now I don’t feel so hesitant ;-))

Numerous times now I’ve heard the notion that remaining in the LDS church (or any church really) as a gay believer constitutes a denial of a desire. That part is true; if you’re gay and deny yourself coupling with a person matching your orientation, you’re sacrificing something.

Often though that something is debased, as a merely a corrupt physical pleasure. This is very understandable, as it helps keep resolve, but I does set me off. Our opponents do it all the time, only look at gays and think sex, sexual desire, physical pleasure, and so on. To a gay guy who sometimes forgets the physical aspects and yet is absolutely head-over-heals in love, I find this ignoring of the mental aspects of orientation both factually wrong and demeaning. But, eh, what you gonna do? It’s often not meant and, sure, I know it.

It’s the second part of this reasoning that really gets to me: that to be an active gay man a person would be sacrificing less or no desires, even those often considered corrupt physical desires. In truth, there’d be far more motivation, physical or otherwise, in obeying, in not being actively gay, if I believed such dictates actually came from God. I mean, for most Protestants, to avoid burning in Hell and an eternity in an unimaginably pleasurable heaven are both very simple and potent motivations for humans, and inflated into infinity. For faithful LDS, being with God, and becoming a God with families still around isn’t bad either. People don’t want pain, they want to live forever, they want their families, they want power, meaning, questions answered… These are all basic human desires satisfied by ideas of Heaven and threatened by ideas of Hell, and most far more potent and visceral than the desire for any sort of sex or coupling.

In fact, if I truly believe that I’d be made heterosexual in an afterlife, then even the hope to best fulfill such mental and sexual desire is moved to the other side of the equation, save for a sliver of this time in a hoped-for eternity. There’s no contest, and for good reason.

I mean, how would a religion’s faith and love of its God fare if, to keep it as God wants in this hypothetical, you’d be placed in Hell (not LDS Hell, Baptist Hell :-)), and all the doubters go to heaven with their family and become Gods? It would fail. Of course all organizations using these tools both downplay and put such up front, as it’s more respectable, dependable, and right to do right without coercion, but the coercion and motivation is undeniably there and used.

Maybe the LDS faith is true, maybe the Zoroastrians, but at least all but one of such organizations, those claiming to have the best path to truth, are using such to control people without such a path behind their promises, knowing people act on and are motivated by what they’re convinced to believe will happen, not on actual future rewards or punishments. And it’s clear many people, once they believe and submit to each Gods’ will with these motivations, will defend that to no end. It works. Many are loyal to their different faiths and build belief in them strong with supposed miracles and unassailable personal experiences, sometimes even to the point of giving their lives (or their neighbors’ lives…). Harsh, sure, but either the AUM in the Japanese subway attack or Eric Rudolph, blowing up gay clubs and Olympic parties, are in the wrong when acting on such strong faith. Though they show more dedication and personal sacrifice to their particular idea of the supernatural than most, at least one set of thinking is wrong and won't be rewarded as expected. But they both have strong and very real motivations there that we all--religious, agnostic, or atheist--must take seriously. It’s simply not only a problem for gay people with regards to the far more cultivated and safe religious ideas.

Certainly, though, I must give the disclaimer that, more often than not, religious leaders use such motivations believing it themselves and for the betterment of humanity. It’s certainly not all Jonestowns. For instance, they give the believing amoral thief, who’d otherwise steal, something to consider above being caught. It’s just, when you’re playing with such strong human motivations, it can and does go wrong, and otherwise good people do end up doing evil, as demonstrated in many historical examples.

Finally on this topic, it’s true people such as myself don’t believe we’re sacrificing such supernaturally; we ain’t stupid either ;-). But there are other this-world sacrifices that need consideration. They may even keep an amoral atheist unwilling to sacrifice such for innate human coupling. I went over some of them here, but they can range from physical threats, to health insurance, to simple added complexity. On the other hand, there are gains certainly above meeting your orientation, such as giving your partner the knowledge that you are attracted to them in that way, making it easier for gay kids generations later, and to be able to share the comfort that comes with not fighting yourself with those who love you. In short, there are base and high-minded pleasures and pains on both sides. Can we meet at that point?

In the end, I really don’t want to turn this argument back around and demean the other side for wanting pleasures. What use is that? But it’s not something one can hide; such motivations are there and are very compelling. I do read the hopes of believers in many different religions and the promises of their texts, you know :-). The rewards are at least anticipated, wanted, and a strong motivation, and it should be known to claim otherwise trips the mental alarms. I just want to stop the weapon’s use by the other camp.


Now, to my pointing of this out, my favorite pro/an-tagonist ;-), reacted with “The idea that following God is always fundamentally selfish is a narrow one. ”, here.

I’d not say following a God, or any other human action is always selfish, as most think of the word.

Forget all the above, and say the motivation is love of a God alone. If He wanted, you could honestly tell me you’d lose your family and writhe in an eternal Hell for that love, just because you think it would please Him and thus be good by a mystery you don’t understand by your limited mortal mind. I’m sure there are people in all religions who have come to feel they'd do that. Off the top of my head comes to mind the famous picture of the Buddhist monk, setting himself on fire (Though sure, Buddhism’s “God” is a bit complicated ;-)). So let’s just say the 100% only motivation people feel is the love for this omnipotent being. They’ve chosen to love this particular being for no other reason than to love Him, regardless of what He does, not for Heaven, not Hell, not by appreciation for supposed prior rewards, not because they think he gave them life or anything else. They just love Him.

On much smaller scales, people do this all the time; it's a common motivation, and we’d never call it selfishness. It is in fact a saving grace of humanity, but it can still be misused and it’s still based on pretty common and understandable human desires. A person simply cannot act unless they first experience a desire to act.

It’s just, in this case, what you want is a function of the pleasure of another. Though, as with any choice, there may be pain associated with it, it pleases you when they are pleased. This is part of the state of being in love, and if I were to complicate it by claiming I’m somehow selflessly doing what I don’t want, what I’m not most compelled to do, when feeling love, to me, that denies the obvious, etherealizes my will, and undermines the love.

Can you imagine telling your child you don’t want to be up at night rubbing his fevered back, but you still do it for some sort of brave self-denial? No, besides upsetting to the child that’d not be true. I do it because that’s who I am; it’s what I do, what I’m built to do by very basic insistent and ingrained rules of behavior and he should not doubt that. It’s not some mystery of will, of an action that’s somehow neither caused nor uncaused; it’s how I, his father, work, dependable like clockwork. As long as I exist, I’ll want to rub his fevered back, to comfort him, even if that comes with pain. I’d literally give them my life, if it somehow came to that, and I’d want to do it, and it would please me most, and I’d want them to be assured of that.

It’s can be a boost to our self impression and a tool of manipulating the will of those not so inclined to pose ourselves as self-sacrificing, a master of will doing what we don’t want, and so on, when we act for motivations such as love (odd though how often the same people describe the very real pleasures of giving and loving). But there is also real strength in what I see as the actuality, in admitting that you really want to suffer a loss, for love, for someone else; it’s a reward in itself. People go to jobs they hate, parents stay up all night with sick children, friends move heavy furniture and drive friends to the airport :-), and some devout followers of various gods will even subject themselves to the sort of physical and mental pain most humans will never know, for love of their God, even if you or I don’t believe in their God or Gods, and even if we’re right. People suffer pains all the time for the incomparable joys of love. Crazy human behavior, huh? ;-)

Saturday, January 20, 2007

At Sundance

I’m putting off a post on faith and gays and so I’ll just post on a film about faith and gays conveniently highlighted in today’s paper.

This may be something those ‘round here may want to see:

For the Bible Tells Me So

Documentary shows how the Bible's verses have been used to justify discrimination - and how modern conservatives use the Good Book to lambaste gays

Tribune article about it: Here

Sundance Screening:
Sunday, 8:30 p.m., Holiday Village Cinema II, Park City
Monday, 12:15 p.m., Holiday Village Cinema III, Park City
Tuesday, 6:45 p.m., Broadway Centre Cinemas V, Salt Lake City
Thursday, 2:30 p.m., Library Center Theatre, Park City
Friday, 11:30 p.m., Holiday Village Cinema II, Park City

It’s funded by Bruce Bastian, a man, from the slim interactions we’ve had, I respect. I do worry though, and this is just my nature, about a film like this. I worry I’d come away upset at those on my side (though, not as much as at the other side if the film’s point were to show why we should kill gays ;-)). I mean, there’s nothing shocking in the article. Leviticus is easy; why no mention of Romans?

I just hope it’s a thorough piece, as an argument that makes a straw man of an opponent’s only temporarily changes the minds of fence sitters and entrenches the rest. Hard to do though, I know, as it’s too easy to underestimate the sophistication of those who’d do you harm. No, it’s much more comforting to think of them as ignorant barbarians, right? ;-)

FYI, not in the online version of the article is the email to which it refers. I’ll retype it as it’s confusing other wise and it is moving.

"Last week I bought a gun. Yesterday I wrote the note. But last night I happened to turn on your show and just knowing that someday I might be able to go back into my church, I threw the gun in the river. My mom never has to know.”

Motivation enough, to be sure; I’d just like to see the end result.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Getting Out, Meeting People

If the television can be trusted, meeting people met first online ends, without fail, in your 15 minuets of fame being a 2 minuets cautionary tale on the 10 o’clock news. Just ask my family; they’ll tell you the same. And I can’t say I’m not very leery of it as well and I do think for some good reasons.

When I came out as a teen, I had not one of the internets (;-)), but we did have creepy strangers, who’d hang around where we hung, with whom you’d not want to find yourself alone. We had closeted gay men, married men posing as out gay men just to live a fantasy. We had people posing as an understanding ear for the vulnerable, either out to “save” us from or “help” us live with our orientation, but who were only out to take advantage. And none of them could conceal their nature as easily as they can now, online. I’d absolutely say to watch out for such; I and the TV are sure they’re out there still.

Through my life I’ve never really found myself thinking I’d actually meet any of the people I’d met online, save for one other time, for the above reasons. Oddly, looking back, most the people I’d like to have met have been those I’ve debated most :-). But now, here, with much of this blogography associated with my same geography, it’s come up. I think also it’s come up because there are some really good folks here. I’ve come to respect, and internet-ly know some to the point that it feels natural to want to drive a bit and chat in person, as I would with any other person I’ve come to appreciate in my every day activities. I simply did not anticipate feeling such would be okay when I entered these blogs with my first comment, but, in short, it can and has (in a public place at first, of course, always with R, and not until after we’ve interacted for a while, and… :-)).

Fortunately, I can say it’s been well worth it. I’m as glad to have met offline as on, and more. It really is nice to put a face to the avatars, and to the personality coming through in text. It’s nice to let down a bit of my guard, talk comfortably person-to-person, and get past some of the unwieldy but purposeful cloak and dagger of this area of the gay world. But it’s been particularly appreciated to find a better way to involve R. If you’ve not noticed by now, R barely gets his email and has little interest in anything computer-y (too many made-up words per post?); I deal with the electrical, and he deals with the rest ;-). To be able to give him a better idea, in a way that he can better interact, about the whos and whats of these blogs has been appreciated. And at least now some of you out there could vouch for our real-world existence ;-).

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

If You Need Someone To Pity…

…pity our grandchildren.

For about a year now our B has been planning his children. I know, too soon :-). But it’s adorable. We have DVDs I’ve put together of each 6 months of their lives, and they love them, and one of B’s favorite parts is the part where we give them their names and I suppose that’s where his interest originates. Anyway, while I’d not post my kids’ names online, I feel pretty safe giving my eventual grandkids’ names:

B’s 1st iteration (from about a year ago):
Three children with the names:
1. Ivanhoe
2. Shaday
and, finally:
3. Lumpy.

Poor, poor, Lumpy... You think you’d be grateful to not be named Ivanhoe or even Shaday, but then you get hit with Lumpy (is that a girl’s or a boy’s name?). And I'm still stumped at where he could have heard Ivanhoe.

2nd Iteration (from about 6 months ago):
Two children:
1. Shawday
2. Treehoe

Treehoe... better than Lumpy?

Finally he’s come to:
Two children:
1. A (His brother’s name, and, yes, that made me all warm and happy but…)
2. Mace Windu

Certainly, he’s improving in his baby naming skills, but will he improve to a tolerable level soon enough?! These are my grandkids!

But I’m in the land of quirky names here in Utah; maybe a Treehoe or a Mace would go over relatively smoothly.

Then there’s A who doesn’t give this stuff much thought, but last night he informed us that he was going to make his children wear clothes made of wolf fur. He concedes that may be uncomfortable but tells us if the children ask to wear chicken ‘fur’ instead (presumably he feels that would be more comfortable?), he’d not let them. Why only the two choices? Beats me.

Honestly, a good measure of the joy of parenting is in the detective work of trying to find out how such ideas form in those little heads.

And sure, I’ll soon get back to somewhat serious topics, but I needed a break :-).

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Important Announcement

After long, serious discussion with my family and thoughtful consideration, I’ve decided to make an announcement, and I am humbled and honored to be given this forum to do so. That said, I am hereby announcing my candidacy for the presidency of the United States of America.

I know, so unexpected, but I think the time is right; the country is ready.

Please, please put down your pens; put away those checkbooks; I’ll not be asking for your donations. No doubt I’ll win on my grassroots appeal alone. But I do hope I can count on some of you to be in my cabinet; heck, I don’t even yet have a vice president. Sure I’ve got some folks in mind for particular positions, but I’d rather not say. With something this important I’d certainly start a struggle for power…

But don’t you dare try to run against me. I’m already working on attack ads… Just one example:

Scary deep-voiced announcer guy:
“L says he’s pro family. Why then does he go online and write about sexual orientation?”

Random woman on the street:
“I thought I could trust L, but is that even his real name? If I don’t know his real name how can I know he’ll protect our children?”

Random man on the street:
“I thought L would care about the baby proboscis monkeys going hungry in the zoos of Bulgaria. But why hasn’t he come out opposed to baby proboscis monkeys going hungry in the zoos of Bulgaria? No, I’m sticking with Scot, at least we know where he stands on proboscis monkeys.”

[Cue black-and-white skewed image of L’s avatar; music in minor chord]

Scary deep-voiced announcer guy:
“L, wrong on protecting children, wrong on hungry baby proboscis monkeys, wrong for America. Vote Scot (um, yeah, just Scot); Scot puts America first

Scot [in front of fireplace with children by side; no R though (that didn’t test well)]:
“Hi, I’m Scot, and I endorse this message”

Quick-talking deep-voiced announcer guy:
“Paid for by The People for a Great, Moral, and Great America, the Sinister Cabal of Queer Agenda Pushers, and Ordinary Citizens United For President Scot

And that’s just one example; I’ve them working on all my potential opponents.

Simply, join my presidency of benevolent bipartisanship cooperation or suffer the dire consequences, the consequences of, I suppose, homopartisanship. And, of course: [maniacal laughter]

And I hope I can count on you support.

(Clearly I'm in no mood for intricate topics this weekend :-))

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Poorly Directed Marketing

On a postcard in our mail today:

You’ve been selected to receive
a special student discount on
PLAYBOY for under $1 an issue,
Plus a FREE DVD!

Well, I’ve no chance of taking advantage of this very special offer; does anyone else around here want it?…

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Boy's State

When coming home from visiting family in Logan we passed by those grain elevators (I think that’s what they are…) just there around Ogden. Odd how landmarks like that trigger memories, but it brought back a distinct memory of coming out; one that I must assume has moved me into being a [gulp] activist (and there’s nothing wrong with that! ;-)).

I remembered being right there, on I-15, coming home from Weber State College. I was coming home from Boy’s State. For those not familiar with it, you can read on it, here. Basically, each High School in a state picks and sends a couple students to participate in a mock state government. They are chosen by the faculty, if I remember correctly, and are supposed to be the students most likely to be future leaders in government.

I was not out to anyone when I was told I’d been selected to represent my high school; I was struggling, thinking I might still overcome my orientation. It’s a bit vague to the memory, but by the time I had to head off for this college-application-inflating “honor” I think I had came out only to my parents, just a bit earlier. But I didn’t see Boys State as an honor, by then.

I mean, how ironic? It seemed like a cosmic joke. I’d just came out, still distressed at being gay, and I’m off for a week with nothing but guys my age. And that’s not the worst of it, they were some of the most respectable kid’s I’d met, near all of them intelligent, competent, and handsome. Seemingly all of them 100% mainstream too. They confirmed my certainty that I was the only gay kid in Utah ;-).

And that’s not the worst of it, again! Though I can’t remember if it passed or no, one of the pieces of legislation being debated by my peers was to decide if gay kids should be allowed at Boy’s State. There was my very first chance. They were talking about “what if” gays eventually come there, what if the fairies demand to be let it. They had no idea; there I was, liked and accepted as one of them. And I said nothing; I withdrew.

Today I wonder how many kids there were in my shoes, who could have benefited if someone spoke up. As any reader may be able to tell ;-), my nature is to speak up, to do something, even sometimes recklessly, but not then. I kept quiet. They hit me and I pretended it was okay, that it wasn’t even me feeling the jabs. I let my self-doubt and fear in being gay do the other half of the job of demeaning and debasing myself.

I look back on that as a failure that, gratefully, changed me. I’ll not let that happen again, and now, with my home, I can’t let it happen again, and not only for my sake.

Coming home, in the back of my parent’s car, I was so disappointed in my self, in oddly both my lack of action to defend myself and in myself for being myself. No wonder, odd as it is, that grain elevator moment is etched in memory. I wanted my life back, to have the problem just go away, to not be faced with such an “opportunity” again. I sat there quietly, sullen, angry, and so very wrong.

Just now, as I’m finishing this up and thinking back as a father, I think I should probably apologize to my parents for, at such times, not letting them know what I was thinking, for “stoically” trying to take it on all on my own and not allowing their help, when they’d already made it clear they’d help and support me no matter what. Today, I’m more than through with that teen’s angst, in the back seat of that car… No, it’s being in the front seat of that car, with my sullen quiet child in the back, that’s what I’d fear most.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Fear Of Becoming Big Gay Al

Cas, here, brought up the fear that being out would mean being the gay and nothing but the gay, and it got me thinking back on what the issues are/were in comming out.

Such is a reasonable fear. It certainly happens to some gay men, who, once out are all about who’s gay, gay events, gay bars, gay culture… They want only gay friends, to live in the gay area of town, and so on. I’ve no problem with them or that. It’s a practical response to the culture’s treatment, to the rejection of friends and family. Or it simply may be people’s common tendency to surround themselves with what’s similar. All groups, when singled out by the majority, seem to do this and build a defining identity, mannerisms, culture, and so on, to build unity.

Still, while it’s not choice to be gay or no, being GAY is totally up to what the individual wants. Being gay need mean nothing else than being attracted to a particular sex. My culture, my lifestyle, for example, the one in which I’m most comfortable, is the one in which I grew up; it’s a suburban LDS culture. That is our choice, and, as I’ve said, we’ve gone years hardly realizing we were gay. Today, in our private life (yes, even in Utah :-)), it’s still not an overt issue. At home and work, with family, friends, and neighbors, it’s barely mentioned and almost never a problem.

Close acquaintances, sure, are generally shocked when a loved one first comes out, and that becomes near all that interests them with regards to the gay man. How does it change things, what does that mean to the relationship, and so on. If the choice of path seems in flux, that can last, but once a decision is made and stated that’s all temporary, in my experience. Bear it for a while and it’s done, measured in months. People get over it, see it doesn’t really change much, become bored of it, and soon being gay is just another fact about you, akin to many others.

Still, strangers will sometimes, if they come by the information, think of a gay man as “the gay guy”. It will happen through out your life and you can’t help it. It’s not your problem; it’s theirs, and I’d not change my life for that. “He’s gay” is simply a sensational fact to many, though less and less so as the years tick by. But it’s not a limitation. In fact gays do quite well professionally, on average, and, once people know you, that generally slips away.

Still, there is some reason to worry, and that should be made clear to any gay man coming out. These more constant issues with being gay come on two fronts, at least for me.

First, as a gay man, with the experiences I’ve had, I’ll always identify with the gay man, just coming out. Every story I hear, blog entry I read, will affect me in a personal way, as a repeated reminder that I was similarly there. It will remind me of the joy of getting by that past, and it will remind me of the anxiety, and the failures. Both those emotions will always be there, compelling, and moving me to some sort of action in this arena. In that way, I’ll never be in the straight world, but, as I’ve said, I’m not ungrateful for that difference, and I guess a gay man can’t escape it, being out or no.

Secondly and most importantly, when you come out, the politics will make being gay important whether you want it to be or not, whether you care about being gay or no. I’m as into and proud of personally being gay as I am about my handedness, but that fact, nevertheless, causes others to affect my spouse and my kids, and therefore the anti-gay movement has become a significant part of my life and, by extension, being gay, from the genetics to the faith around it, has as well. If they did it by handedness, I’d be equally as interested in that ;-).

All those coming out should know these political and cultural issues will affect them, though less and less each year (you gay kids these days, you have it easy ;-)). Sometimes, you will have a fight on your hands, and you will have to be forceful and take on extra burdens. To defend yourself and those you love, you may have to be the lone voice at times, or you may have to take the helm or band together at others. Sure, it’s a pain, but it’s the right thing to do and it’s easily worth it… to me (your mileage may vary).

Finally, like many bothers, I have to say being an out gay man can be a significant blessing. I sometimes think on how my life would have been if I were not out or gay, not placed into the associated ordeals. Unbearably, I’d not be my boys’ father. On top of that I’d not have known what it’s like to have my culture single me out. I’d likely not have had any significant difficulty in my life, and likely not much reason to question anything. Would I have had enough reason to think of the less fortunate, or to consider a minority’s point? Would I still volunteer time and money to people who aren’t in “my group”? Would I be as good of a father, husband? I’d like to think so, but I fear being out and treated like a gay man has changed me, taught me some valuable lesions in life I’d not otherwise have learned as a straight man on my personality alone. And that’s nothings I’d give back, admittedly, even to stop the legislature, the voting public, and various strangers from sometimes treating us as cartoonish 2-D gays.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Non-identical and Identical Identicals

In preparing our new site I got sidetracked looking at twin data. As a gay man and a father of fraternal twins, it interests me (and some of the numbers are just funny). The following data, if a single percentile, are hereditability figures. Thus 100% would mean the trait is completely genetically hereditable. Some other data below comes in concordance form and so the identical twin concordance (siblings with the same genes ) is first and the fraternal twin (siblings with different genes) is second. Thus, if the identical twin’s concordance is 100% and the fraternal is 0% one could near safely say genetics is the cause of the trait.

Eye color: 87% (1)
It surprised me this isn’t nearer 100%. I mean, I was under the impression, if it's not genetic, then it's a choice... ;-) Why are people choosing their eye color to be different from their twin?
Crypts in eye: 75% (1)
Those are specks in your brother’s eye…

Height: 88% (2)
Weight: 88% (2)

Left Handedness: 15% vs. 9% (3) (concordance)
See this post for more on handedness , or about my disdain for those who practice such a lifestyle here.

Onset of Puberty: 50-80% (4)
The important trigger to most of our realizations and experiences of our sexual orientations, gay or straight.

Depression: 39% (5)

Chance of Stroke: 32% (6)
Stroke Hospitalization: 17% (6)
Prostate Cancer: 19% vs 4% (7) (concordance)

I’m surprised that last one is so low.

Opinion and Personality:
All the following are from reference 8, and all are concordance numbers for identical vs fraternal twins. Also, I’ve just picked the interesting ones out and there are more if if you’d like to look at the paper.

Death Penalty Opinion: 45% vs 33%
Open-door immigration: 47% vs 20%
Separate Roles For Men and Women: 27% vs. 26%

Odd, seems little genetic involvement in gender role opinion...
Voluntary euthanasia: 45% vs 21%
Making racial discrimination illegal 37% vs. 1%
(Big difference here)
Capitalism 41% vs. 19%
Abortion on demand 53% vs. 28%
Easy access to birth control 24% vs. 27%
(Now why would that be?)
Organized religion 43% vs. 21%
Castration as punishment for sex crimes 39% vs. 29%

Doing Crossword puzzles: 46% vs 11% (Hey, that’s near the numbers for homosexuality :-))

Being the leader of groups 40% vs. 8%
Being assertive 28% vs. 27%
Humble 60% vs. 27%
Ambitious 46% vs. 24%
Aggressive 27% vs. 09%
Dominant 24% vs. 12%
Exhibitionistic 44% vs. 23%
Fearful 26 % vs. 01%
(seems there’s a big genetic effect in anxiety?)
Obliging 11 % vs. 18%
Inquiring 22% vs. 13%

Athletic 60% vs. 27%
Physically Strong 52% vs. 21%

GPA: 61% vs 25%
Level of Education: 82% vs 57%

Political and Social attitude in all: 36% (8) hereditability when all opinions are averaged.
Political and Social attitude in all from a different, repeat study: 18-41% (9) (depending on the particular issue from abortion to immigration)
Being a Republican: 36% :-) (9)
A Socialist: 36%

Isn’t that a pretty big hereditability for something we take as stridently as politics :-)?

And finally:
Gay Rights: 28% genetic hereditability in opinion on gay rights. LOL, Some just can’t help being queer lovers or homophobes; they’re born that way :-).

1. Larsson, M., N. L. Pedersen, et al. (2003). "Importance of genetic effects for characteristics of the human iris." Twin Research 6(3): 192-200.
2. Carmichael, C. M. and M. McGue (1995). "A cross-sectional examination of height, weight, and body mass index in adult twins." Journal of Gerontology Series A: Biological and Medical Sciences 50(4): B237-B244.
3. Sicotte, N., R. Woods, et al. (1999). "Handedness in Twins: A Meta-analysis." Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain, and Cognition 4(3): 265-286.
4. Palmert, M. R. and P. A. Boepple (2001). "Variation in the Timing of Puberty: Clinical Spectrum and Genetic Investigation." The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 86(6): 2365-2368.
5. Kendler, K. S. and C. A. Prescott (1999). "A Population-Based Twin Study of Lifetime Major Depression in Men and Women." Archives of General Psychiatry 56: 39-44.
6. Bak, S., D. Gaist, et al. (2002). "Genetic liability in stroke: a long-term follow-up study of Danish twins." Stroke 33(3): 769-774.
7. Gronberg, H., L. Damber, et al. (1994). "Studies of genetic factors in prostate cancer in a twin population." Journal or Urology 152(5): 1484-1489.
8. Olson, J. M., P. A. Vernon, et al. (2001). "The Heritability of Attitudes: A Study of Twins." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 80(6): 845-860.
9. Alford, J. R., C. L. Funk, et al. (2005). "Are Political Orientations Genetically Transmitted?" American Political Science Review 99(2): 153-167.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Apocalypto, Fear

No, I do not condone drunken anti-Semitic rampages, and yes, I do feel somewhat hypocritical for giving him my money; so sue me, I was curious. When the New Year rolled in we were in a theater watching Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto. To even be up at such an hour we should be commended; I don’t think R’s been awake for a New Year for near a decade and I typically find myself struggling to welcome it in, out of tradition.

Anyway, the following contains a couple spoilers; read at your own risk (But it is R, so none of you will be going anyway right? ;-)).

The film started out well; I was fascinated with a look into a culture rarely seen in popular media. One would hope it was somewhat accurate, but seems that may not be the case, in looking into archaeologist opinion. Still, I sometimes appreciate even a look I don’t trust.

But by the 10th act of blood spurting gore, it just began to feel silly (not that it would to most people, but I’ve a hard time maintaining movie magic). I found myself chuckling at the carnage, at how over the top, excessive, and hopefully manipulative it felt.

In all I left the film feeling let down, but I want to go over the good stuff, what got to me, hit a chord emotionally, as art should.

The story follows a “Mayan” (or Lamanite if you prefer ;-)). He’s a good man, a husband and father in a small village. One early morning warriors come from the city, burn their peaceful village and take near all of them captive after a bloody battle. The warriors try not to kill the village men, but subdue them, as they need them to eventually sacrifice in ceremony. It’s what they believe their god wants, for the greater good, to save the crops and so on. The women are taken also, but to be sold. Having no need for the children, they are left alone, if that can be said. Some watch their parents killed and stand in frozen horror. Some cling to and are consoled by their parents who are themselves tied tightly to other villagers by the neck.

It’s difficult to watch and it doesn’t stop there. The parents are then forced off and the children timidly follow through the jungle. Teary-eyed they call to their helpless beaten parents, at a safe distance for miles. I’d imagine the grief in the adults is insurmountable but greatly contained for their children’s sake. They do not want to call the children in closer, but can’t stand leaving them. Eventually they reach a river the children could not cross and one of the older girls, in what would bring tears to my eyes, tries to assure the adults their children will be okay, “Don’t worry; I’ll take care of them. They are mine now.” It really got to me, for the obvious reasons, and one personal reason.

As a general rule, I don’t have nightmares; they are very rare. But I’ve had the same nightmare about 3 times within the last year. I guess it’s now my only nightmare, and I had it again last night, probably because of this movie. Though, it’s not as dramatic or dire as the depiction in Apocalypto--I can’t afford Mel Gibson for my dreams.

Simply, US politics have turned drastically against us and I’m convicted of being gay and sentenced to prison. It always contains the point where I have to say goodbye to our boys. It’s in some concrete building, I’m in restraints, and in front of strangers, emotionless, faceless, uniformed government people; you know, just doing their jobs, the will of the people... They are holding our frightened children, and I’m helpless. They are taking them off to live in another home. You know, they know what’s right for our kids, what our kids “deserve”… Once it was that they were taking the children to live in the women’s prison, with some random inmate, which sounds kind of funny now but the symbolism is clear and not near funny at the time.

Right now, thinking of it, I emotionally know, absolutely, I could move mountains with the passion I feel at the idea. I could will the earth out of orbit, lay waste to battalions of men with a gesture. But that, of course, is not true; I just feel it. That rage and will, no matter how potent, will only go as far as the body can take it. I can be subdued like any man; I can be beaten; I can be made helpless for my children; I can watch, struggle against the metal, and be able to do nothing but seethe.

And such is nothing new or rare enough; I count my blessings. Families have been violently split enough times throughout history, for money, for power, and, as in my dream and in Apocalypto, for a faith. The parents and children can only watch and take it, as the guy with the bigger stick or more coins or more backers does whatever he wants. It doesn’t much matter if he does it for power or to otherwise feel good, as though he’s doing what’s best by the supernatural; the results are the same.

No, in the dream, I have to keep calm for them. Try to look comforting. I have to tell them what I think will make their new life the best it can be without their Dad and me, and it kills me, but I don’t have the physical power of my emotions and so I do it, and they’re taken from their family, confused, hurt, and distraught. The look on their face as I’m taken out of the room is the most vivid part. Here’s where I wake up, with great relief.

I should have known better than to type this in my lab.

Though, in reality, an irrational fear, it’s a tough idea for me, of course, maybe the toughest I regularly encounter, which is probably why it’s a dream. I was still upset far into the morning by this last one. But once I came into work, and went to get some papers out of the trunk, I saw there A had written his name in the salt coating of my car. It’s amazing how they can fix something like that so quickly and inadvertently.

But this brings me to a second fear dredged up by this movie. A continuing theme was fear itself. That it’s ruinous, dangerous; it rots people and societies. But more importantly here, it’s infectious.

Of course, my worry is clear. I don’t want them, my boys, to inherit the fear of the oncoming legislative actions, the legal debasing of our families, the orders of those hostile religions, or the physical threats. I don’t want them to see my face after waking up from such a dream and wonder what it is I’m feeling and why and if they should too. Soon our local lawmakers will be taking aim at us again; last year only a veto saved many of our fellow parents from loosing their parental rights and it can keep me up wondering what’s next and what’s coming back. I do fear that fear can be infectious.

Maybe, off the cuff, working it through right here (don’t hold me to this), I’ve no better choice than to just go with the emotion, the gut response at home. Though I know I’m just as conquerable as the next guy and society can certainly do what it wants with us, maybe my sons should only see that I feel I could move mountains, that I could put the earth off it’s orbit, to protect them, us. Maybe that’s all they should see in me, until they’re adults. I don’t like the idea--it is sort of a lie of omission--and I don’t really know, but it sounds right today. I do know I best be cautious with the outside world; people aren’t afraid to break up families when they can define them out of family or humanity.

Anyway, for a movie that left me feeling “let down” it sure has me thinking. Couldn’t have been all bad ;-), but I’m sure I, a gay non-catholic father, am not taking Mel’s film the way he intended. It begins with the quote “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.” And I could agree, but I don’t think Mel and I would exactly agree on what values of this civilization are great and which, if lost, would allow our ruin.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy Holidayed

I hope everyone had a good holiday. Odd, though I had the time to post, I just felt a blogging lull was in order. Instead I spent the week playing LEGO Star Wars with the kids :-).

Christmas was wonderful; the kids are at a great age for it. Oddly enough they slept in till 7, while we were up anxious at 5. They had even closed their doors, which is unique. I suspect the prospect of a strange, big, and judgmental man entering our home through the fireplace and wondering the house if off-putting, no matter the gifts.

I mean: “Kids, you know that guy who’s lap you hate to sit on? The one who makes you, B, cry? Well, he’ll be coming into our home tonight… Through the fireplace to check on you, judge you, and give toys accordingly… I know I told you how no one could get in our house and that Papa put in a security system that keeps out monsters as well as burglars and coyotes, but I neglected to secure the home from magic fireplace ingress. Deal with it.” Yep, I'm glad to make R explain it :-).

Still, I’m sure they’d tell you it was worth the harrowing night ;-). Favorite gifts for A: A two headed dragon from B, and, despite his requests and the variety, that’s about all he latched onto. For B: The Xbox (Papa’s favorite too), a paintable wood lizard from A, and a baby whale Santa brought for the ever-present Whaley. I’m heartened that among there favorites are the gifts they chose for each other.

We had about 6 or 7 Christmas parties to attend from family to friends, but one stands out as mentionable. I’m on a local government council. I’m there kind of as a gay representative, but the focus is on meeting all constituent’s needs and I’m grateful to say we’ve done a lot to that end (odd with such activities I still have a hard time thinking of myself as an activist :-)).

Anyway, we’re made up of all sorts of minority group representatives. Our holiday party was held at the home of one of our Muslim members. It was potluck and, in short, I’ve never had better food for the variety. Where else could I have perfect spring roles with perfect lintels and tamales?

We offered to bring chili (that’s our culture right? ;-)), but the host, a wonderful person I highly respect, called back and asked if we could bring quiche instead… Quiche… I guess, even with the most inclusive crowd, one cannot escape the stereotypes. Though R has little quiche experience, he made them anyway, and they were delicious, d*beep*n it.

Other than that I realized how much I’ve missed and perhaps have neglected our old friendships, friends from my early teens. Of them we, strangely enough, were among the first to have kids and that put us apart in interests and schedules, and we kind of lost the habit of getting together as often. From there we made many friends in the gay community, and, sure, their Christmas parties are fun too and, in politics and society, we’ve more in common, but there’s nothing like being around all those who stuck by you and who you stuck by through teen years. If I’ve a resolution it’s to keep better in touch. We almost all have kids now and they have a great time together; I therefore resolve to make time for a monthly card game of something :-).

Anyway, happy New Year! Now back to work, and blogging…