Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Question...

My brother, my father-in-law, and my uncle are all bishops, but in Utah. Does anyone know if they were asked to read that letter today about the marriage amendment, or was that just leadership in California? If you are in Utah, did your bishop read it?

Thanks, and don't worry. I'll not start a fight. I just feel like I need to know.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Generational changes have been on my mind of late. Being a Utah (ex-)Mormon boy, of course, one cannot go too far back, on all sides of my family, before running into pioneers and polygamists. I see my last name comes from a Jacob, baptized into the LDS church in 1833. By his daughter's account he was married to 4 wives, the last 3 marriages performed by the president of his church. He was arrested for polygamy, "went through the persecution of the saints, and knew the pioneer life in its raw."

But it’s not more than a generation after those pioneering progenitors that hints of homosexuals start popping up—The man who never married and is photographed next to his mother looking much too dapper for his time and place, or the woman with no children but a number of sister wives. All that, of course, is speculation; gays were very well hidden back then. There were no gay people in the good old pioneer days, just as there are none currently residing in Iran.

The first gay man I can indirectly verify in my family has to be my great uncle Jack. Sad story, that. I’m sure I benefited for his tragedy in the way it softened my now departed grandfather, the man who baptized me; still, it’s very sad to think of the life of gay men back then. From Jack I can pick out a bunch. There are a handful of gay aunts, uncles, and cousins. Some are out and open and others are quietly gay. One still feels the need to call his partner his “business” partner in their small town. He still lives under some of the pressures that my great uncle faced, but has found a compromise that works for him. They are almost all, in that generation before me, still somewhat skittish about talking of their orientation, even though they’ve made it apparent.

And no worries, I’m not outing anyone. I’ve enough family that to say some are gay is next to saying there’s a gay man somewhere in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (not that I'm saying I know one of those too... [cue ominous minor organ chord]).

When I came out, I knew none of this, of course. I thought I was the homosexual in state of Utah. It was about a couple years after I came out to everyone when family began coming up to me to express our similarity. Some would come out somberly, with a hand on my arm, and a difficult paragraph about their experiences. Something like, “I know what you’re going through. I have cancer too.” Others just let it blurt out with a joke. One just laughed and said after dropping vague, confusing hints all day, “You didn’t think you were the only one in the family, did you?” as if I would have been egotistical enough to imagine that (Err… I did imagine that I was, though).

To the point, I'm glad they're their, as family, in my genealogy. But, as gay family, I was never given the opportunity to learn from them, until after I had my coming out trials settled and didn't need help, particularly from those still, sadly, much more closeted and scarred than I was.

Now, regarding the next generation, I am an uncle more than 30 times over and have many younger family members of other sorts. They all know I'm gay; they all know Rob and I are married, and that their cousins have two dads. And I know some of them are gay too, even if they don't, yet. Some of them are just now old enough to head off to missions, get married, and, it turns out, come to terms with their orientation.

I'll leave even gender out of this, just in case, but the first relative of that next generation has recently come out to our family. I think I imagined helping them through those tough times in a way I wasn't helped, but it didn't work out that way. They struggled on their own, and then came out to my parents, and eventually us. I was heartened to be told we were a big help, just by us being here and paving the way in the family, but still I was a bit sad they didn't think they could come to me sooner.

When I think on it more, though, I don't think I would have either, even if I knew of my gay relatives. Some fights really have to be your own, and in that state you don't really want influence as you don't really know where you should end up. At least I could be there at the finish line. They asked to join us for their first Pride festival a couple weeks ago, and they did with our whole group, which included other family, friends and some mohos. I hope it wasn't intimidating.

Anyway, where was this going? I'm not sure. Something about generations?...

Eh, I'm tired having been kept up most of last night with one of my kid's foot stubbornly pressing on my ribs... Anyway, it will be interesting how the rest of that next generation handle their orientation; the fact that they are now entering gay adulthood gives new urgency for me in my [gulp] activism. Also, I'd pay big bucks to read the genealogical accounts of my generation 200 years from now, from the perspective of our great great grandkids. I wonder if Jacob and his four wives ever imagined I, their progeny, would be thumbing through his life story... and posting about it on my blog, with my husband at home taking care of our two children?

Probably not...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Why it got to me.

Yesterday's announcement by the LDS church that members should "do all they can" to make sure our families are kept from equal rights in the California constitution upset me more than I've been upset by such in a long time. I stayed up late last night upset (Utah does need a MSDS; I wonder how much shorter my life will be for such stress :-), or maybe :-\).

I'm used to groups attacking us with that false shallow veneer of concern for my children. I'm used to them doing it with no veneer. I'm used to the LDS church doing it. True, I was hoping, based on rumor, that there would be more just treatment outside the church, or at least political hands off our families with the new leadership, and I'm sad that's not the case. Also substantially, we are about to get married there in California, after 16 years as a couple and 13 married. We've waited a long time. To have that giddy joy of feeling like you're so close and then have it mixed with what feels like a punch in the gut from an organization you once trusted and that strongly influences the minds of much of your family, well, the punch in the gut stings all the more, even if you were once used to it.

Mainly, it was the fact that we just got back from Rob's family reunion. We just spent a wonderful weekend with my in-laws in Park City. I love his family and I know the feeling is mutual, and they have come to know we belong together. They've told Rob, that they don't understand how, but through prayer they've no problem with us as a couple, even if that is contrary to what church leadership is teaching, and I'm fine with that truce.

But now we get home and find the leaders of the LDS church (the church of my in-laws and much of my family) are asking them to do all they can to legally diminish my family, to hurt us, their son, me, and their grandchildren. Their leaders are asking that of Rob's siblings too. The cousins our boys were laughing and playing with all weekend, they are also now being asked to "do all you can" to annul our upcoming legal union, to in effect harm our whole family. They are being told to view our children as somehow defective or deficient.

I hope I never learn of any of them donating financially or physically to that cause, though I know the church they give money to already has and will. They, many of our loved ones, are already funding this. It's sick, undermining to families (and demonstratively, in the real world, not merely mystically), and it is why this upset me as much as it did. I was feeling good about the people in the LDS church in my life, now I have to watch and see once again where they go from here.

It's just tough not being in your culture's predominant faith. I'm sure it always has been hard, and far worse than we have it today, from the gentile killed by Moses for collecting sticks on the sabbath to the youth from another tribe headed up the side of a volcano to "appease" a force of nature. You're told you have to be hurt or hurt another. Why? For the good of everyone else, of course. You're not selfish, right? You want the tribe to have a good crop, you don't want your city to be destroyed, or, in this case, you want to do right by some proposed supernatural fertility law. But when a person is unwilling to do such harm on faith, even when it feels good, they have a problem. What's worse for them is that faith has never meant to be verifiable anyway; it has done a lot of work over centuries to not be verifiable outside our all too potent tools of self assurance. There are centuries of effective tools of confidence in place, social proofs and so on. There are even many failsafes: "Your faith in Allah is wanning? Well you must be under the temptation of a demon then. That proves demons exist and thus faith in Allah is true." But there is no real test by which two people can surrender in equal deference to evidence.

In the end, the guy at the side of the volcano arguing that "Hey, the last ten virgins you threw in had no effect on our crop yield" isn't going to stop those with the strongest faith. That only means you need more virgins. Heck, he'd be lucky to not end up being a little extra bit of "appeasement" in the more brutal days of humanity. At least things are far from that bad. But the situation is sadly similar for the guy who doesn't hold the faith of those around him, when that faith asks that one neighbor harm another.

Nevertheless, here's to hoping my in-laws aren't or don't become as ardent of followers as to attack the family with which they just spent a wonderful weekend. I just have to hope they can somehow keep their faith and just treatment of our family too.

Monday, June 23, 2008

"Do All You Can",5143,700237300,00.html

I know by my pulse rate right now that I shouldn't type much. I just don't get it. I know it's an all too common way in which groups treat each other in human history and we don't have it as bad as others who've been on the business end of such "defense of family" and "concern for children".

But it stings, to an unhealthy degree, when it's your home and your marriage in the ostensibly benevolent cross hairs, when they hope to coerce your family out of existence. There is little like that feeling that your home is being targeted, your marriage and children insulted as defective, and by an organization so close to you and entangled in so many people around you. And that couched, deceptive, double-speak language of love is near too much to take without letting my resentment for its misuse to spill oven into my siblings and so on.

But I know, I know. I'll calm down soon and start moving on again. I always do.

At least I've a couple more articles about ready. What good does that do? Probably none outside myself. It helps me feel like I've done something, even if it's on a site far from ready. Anyway, thanks for the edits on the last couple, and I'd appreciate more.

I'm headed out to play on the tramp with the boys or something similarly therapeutic.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Doing it all over again again, again

Today will occur the first legal marriages for same sex couples in California (story).

My trepidation aside, Rob, the twins, and I will be headed west in a month to join the masses hoping for a lasting chance at equal treatment. We will, in fact, be married on our 13th anniversary; the reservations are set.

I know, it makes little sense when it'll all be void once we land back in our home state of Utah. But I need to feel like I have all the legal protection I can get for my family; besides, who knows, maybe we will have to move away someday. I'll just sleep a bit better.

To that end, I've began putting up some reasons for marriage equality at (I know, the site is taking way too long to launch, but I just keep on thinking of new stuff I want to add in). If anyone cares to take a look, I'd appreciate an editing and I'd love additional suggestions to add to my lists.

Here's a page of reasons for same-sex marriage


Here's a page on statistical evidence from jurisdictions that have given such marriage rights.

Anyway, here's to hope, and wish us luck (That the law will stick, not for our marriage. I'm pretty sure I've picked the right guy after all these years :-)).

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Imagine you are a police officer. You're a stout intimidating guy, who works with violent criminals in a place most folks don't like to even imagine. You are as manly as all get out. Now imagine the county, la-de-da, wants you to take "cultural sensitivity training." Why? Maybe they think you're an ignorant cretin, right? You're not coddling the criminals enough? You're an evil white guy holding down everyone else, and you need "training"...

To be honest, I might think "f*beep*k that!", and show up with a chip on my shoulder, in no mood to become "sensitive."

I attended such training a couple days ago for my county's Sheriff's Department as a representative of the broader county government. There were about 50 officers and administration personnel in the session.

I entered and sat down next to three men, and broke in with some small talk. I could tell there was some resentment to having to be there, as one should anticipate. Thankfully, only the people in charge knew why I was there, and the training offered by the sheriff's office was conducted in a very diplomatic and respectful manner right from the start; no finger pointing.

Of course, the very first exercise, I was outed by my friend. She comes in her headscarf and it's clear which minority group she represents, but I, admittedly, was kind of hoping to be as unnoticeable as possible, just observe. That's why I left my hot pants at home, after all. Eh, but I love her for her openness.

It didn't seem to be an issue, though. You know how when you're outed in a crowd you'll always get a couple people who'll immediately come up to you and just say something, any little bit of small talk, to convey they are still okay with you? I do very much appreciate that friendly gesture, straight people of the world, and a couple officers did so.

I'll not go into the whole 4 hours of it. One funny thing though. In one part of the training we split into groups and were given a paper with a group name on it (e.g. Hispanics, Asians, etc.) and we were to list all the positive and negative traits of that group, stereotype or no. I was in the "Females" group with about 8 male officers. On our list, women were good because of, well, a slang word for mammary glands, and bad for often faking headaches... It was clear, I assume after being outed :-), that those weren't my contributions to the list. The whole session was conducted with light mood and focussed on building camaraderie between different groups, and I think those conducting it (who were also officer) did a great job.

A little lesson I've learned from the last couple years of politicking: the most important stuff happens after the event; never leave early. If you, say, catch your representative in the elevator after the convention, you can get more done than you would with hours at their booth during. Same goes with this event. Afterward we stayed and talked to a bunch of officers and got some good contacts and useful information.

Importantly we cleared up some misconceptions. It seems we were viewed with some suspicion when we got permission to attend. You know, we were the ultra-liberal culturally sensitive representatives of the county, there to judge their programs. And I can see why they'd think that and why that would be far from productive; I think this arena is best for those out of their element and more politically neutral. A lot more can get done when you're there to humbly help, to be a resource for them, not a bureaucratic annoyance. I made clear our purpose. They made clear that a gay inmate is just as dangerous as any other, and I agreed. I wasn't there to get special treatment for my clan; I'm aiming here for equal treatment and beyond that to help the officers better deal with inmates and their families, when those inmates fall into categories on which I may have some insight.

I did, though, find out the county is not where the problem first relayed to me is the greatest. I guess the average stay in their jail is about a month; the long terms being lived out in the state prison. So, in the county, there's not much time for relationships and pecking orders to develop. (Never thought I'd ever be learning about incarcerated culture...) It seems the state prison is where I most need to go.

Nevertheless, we will be getting more involved with the county on this issue. Though it's not a huge area for the glbt community, there are still things to be tackled. What's more, there's a lot to be done to improve relations with other groups, such as the Muslim and refugee communities. There should be a comfortable line between community leaders and the sheriff's office, to the benefit of both sides, and this administration is thankfully open to do what it can to make those connections.

I should soon take a tour of the county jail and we'll go from there. Now though, the state... Politics being what they are here, I've not a lot of pull in the state, but I'll find a way :-).

Anyway, a couple other miscellaneous things I learned:

-In Utah, state or counties, there are no conjugal visits allowed for anyone, married or no. And I thought that was standard in any prison. Curse your misinformation, television.

-Policy is, in fact, no sex should occur in prison at all. I can certainly see the reason behind that and have no problem supporting that policy. Nevertheless, sex does happen while incarcerated and I've yet to find out how far they go to try to make it as safe as possible.

-A step that is taken in the county, though, is a rape prevention task force. It's unfortunate that it's a problem in need of a task force, but I'm glad to know it's being taken very seriously. I hope to get in touch with them to learn more on the measures being implemented.

-Finally, police officers are much less intimidating when they aren't pulling you over for speeding (for the record, last time I got a ticket, I was a teen). They were a nice group to spend a morning with.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Pride 2008 Recap

Another great pride event.

We walked with Equality Utah:
Alan distributed necklaces:
Once out of necklaces (those he was willing to part with) and the parade was over, we met up with my parents, some friends, sister, a niece and nephew, and walked the booths a bit.

Finally at the arranged secret time and secret place, we met up with some of the local blogging mohos:
I should admit that I altered this group photo of our meeting slightly, to conceal our identities a bit (BYU morality police being what they are...). FYI, I'm the guy with the chaps and handlebar mustache.

Seriously, it was a pleasure to meet you, and spend the day with those already met. (Edgy, Wha happened?)

Apparently, there were many many gay LDS (or ex-LDS) there:

That's to be followed with an "on your mission" of course. Rob's flag is stuck there in South Korea.

Finally, all prided out, Brian attained enlightenment
and we went home to take a nap, before our weekly Sunday family dinner at my parent's. Good day.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

I'm Going to Prision

You ever find yourself in a situation where you realize the smallest accidental push on a domino of conversation has set you on a course to something large and complicated, something you're not sure you want to, or have time to start in on? That's often me in my volunteer life.

I've become involved in minority issues in Utah over the last four years by such happy, if not intimidating, accidents. Near all of my work in this area has nothing to do with the GLBT community, but I'm sure what pulls me to it comes from my experiences as a gay man, an outsider in my community. In all, through there's been some difficulty and sadness for it, it's been a wonderful experience with people from everything from our refugee to our Latino community.

What has me feeling some trepidation is now focusing on my community. In a meeting with a representative from the state department of human services regarding primarily ethnic diversity issues, the guy just casually mentioned they are having trouble figuring out how to deal with gays and lesbians in prison. He said they are seeing an increase in out gays in prison, and there are issues of harassment, abuse, and, well, sex. Both the state and county are looking for help in finding ways to better deal with incarcerated gays.

So, I'm no expert in any of that, but here I am, in a unqualified place and at an unqualified time, and I'm taking up the issue. Next week I'll be taking the diversity training they give each year in the sheriff's department. I'll be doing this with a lesbian and a Muslim friend, along with a large group of your traditional Utah police officers... sit-com hilarity may ensue.

This part of the consequences of that conversation is fine by me. I want to make sure that, say, if officers come to a home like ours, after one parent is killed or made unconscious by an intruder, they know not to take the kids from their remaining dad because "children can't have two dads." I'm happy to help officers know we're out there and am glad to have the opportunity to make suggestions on their training in that regard. Still, it'll certainly be an interesting day.

Where I pause is prison. What do I say on this topic, when we give our recommendations? I'll admit I've a hard time caring about the rights of some people, particularly after some crimes. Maybe I even feel harsher for "my people" who act criminally, because I know how they hurt, along with their victims, my family in the minds of others by association.

Still, I think I've come to some conclusions, but I'm wondering what you all think.

What should be the treatment of gay people in prison? Straight inmates get conjugal visits from spouses. What should gay couples get, when one is incarcerated and the other not? Do they get to couple up with other inmates? Select their lover as a cell mate? Are they allowed to have sex at all? Even if they are disallowed, and rightly, the most basic freedoms of self-determination?

If they can have sex, how do STD's factor in? I mean, these are already men who've prooven themselves to be selfish and amoral in some blatant manner; what does the state do to be sure they are responsible with sex?

Finally, what about harassment? Gay men are being beaten in prison for being gay. Oddly, some gay men will even get raped by the straight inmates. Go figure. How to combat that? I doubt many people would near suggest a gay guy in for tax evasion should have something like rape or beatings added to their punishment, right? If this is such a large problem, should there be, say, a separate gay cell block? (And will Ang Lee have rights to the script?).

Friday, June 06, 2008


This message has been brought to you by the Moab City Utah Tourism Department that is The kids just got out of school and it's so nice to just get away, spur of the moment, recharge and such.

Out of curiosity, anyone know where this secret hiking spot may be?

It's one of the boys' favorites.

(Also, if you'll be getting together with a bunch of us on Sunday, you should have received an email by now. If I missed anyone, let me know.)