Monday, September 29, 2008

Cecret Lake

Yesterday, we took the boys up for a hike to Cecret Lake (nope, that's not my typically bad spelling making it past spell-check again; that's the bad spelling of the 19th century miners of Alta, Utah).

As anyone in Salt Lake would know, yesterday was a beautiful day, and we started out our hike under blue skies. But about 100 yards from the lake the only dark cloud in the state of Utah parked over the trail and began a refreshing little drizzle... then rain, then sleet, and then a blizzard of hail.

I turned my shirt into a makeshift umbrella and we all ran down the mountain in a snow storm. When we got to the car, we were all freezing cold and a disheveled mess of ice and mud. My arm was just frustratingly away from numb with the pain of holding an icy shirt over Alan as we stumble down a mountain. Brian even declared it to be the worst hike ever (well, the "most terriblest" hike). But we were all laughing, and did so the way down; Brian couldn't wait to tell grandpa about it, with a big smile on his face.

Isn't it odd how that can happen? Something miserable can happen and all it takes is context and company to make it a fun, fond memory? Even at the time, you know you should be miserable, but misery is far from what you get. Such a hike kind of has a way of showing you why you're going on a hike with your family in the first place. I mean, we go on many hikes, but the boys will remember this one, and with that odd mix of fun and "I hope that never happens again".

Maybe that's near how we'll look back on the politics of today. When the day comes that our family is treated with equality, we may just look back on these days of struggling for our rights and dealing with bigots with a certain humor.

Not that I'd say we're nearly having fun with the attacks on our home that come with items like Proposition 8. We get hurt; some nights I have stayed up too late worrying about what the our legislature will try next, and each threat and belittlement of my home as sub-par or non-ideal or whatever euphemism they'll use may as well be one of those icy pellets hitting me from nowhere. Nevertheless a little hail and struggle in a family has a way of illustrating what is great about a family, and, depending upon who you're with in life, threatening clouds can seem ridiculous in the face of what you know and what you have, even as you wince at each seed of ice down your neck.

(umm... and the warm car is legal equality. Yes, I must find a metaphor in everything.)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

It Has Come to This

"Remember: Lift the toilet seat"

You'd think, in our home, of all homes, there would be none of that stereotypical contention over the position of the toilet seat.

You'd think that if you have never had to clean the bathroom of twin 6-year-olds.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Reincarnation in the Classroom

[driving home from school]

Brian: "Papa, do some people think they were alive before they were born?"

Me: [curious as to where this is going, given that we have a bunch of little missionaries in his class] "Yes, they do. They think they lived in heaven."

Brian: "No, do they think they were, like, bugs and elephants?"

Me: [Okay, the little missionary's parents are New Age? And when did Brian start using "like"?] "Oh, yes. That's called reincarnation. Yes, some people believe that."

Brian: "[Namey Redactedson] said she was a cat" [a moment passes] "But that's not true."

Me: [Now my agnostic/skeptic chord is plucked; I don't want him to dismiss supernatural claims out of hand, and don't want him to do like a couple kids in his class and push his parent's religion on others, so I ask:] "How do you know that's not true, bub?"

Brian: "Because I don't remember I was a cat. Cats don't talk."

Me: "They don't, do they? But maybe [Namey] thinks she remembers being a cat. Maybe she just believes it. What if you remembered being a cat?"

Brian: "I think I would be dreaming. [with that adorable exaggerated incredulousness seen only in kids] How would my brain be in a cat?"

Me: [Thinking but never saying "That's my boy." I try my best to get them to think for answers in this area rather than give them a package of answers, which, in a way, is passing on my Agnosticism, I suppose :-).] "That is a puzzle. Did she give you any testable evidence? Maybe we could think about it."

Brian: "What is testable evidence?"

Me: [somehow not realizing I've overreached, and slipping way out of the boundary of appropriate 1st grade complexity] "Sometimes our brains can trick us into feeling some things are true when they are not, like when some kids think there are monsters. Did she tell you something everyone could do or observe to evaluate whether or not people can be cats before they are people? " [silent thought] "I mean, did she give you a fact that any person could objectively and reasonably defer to as a reason to think a person was reincarnated? If she did, then we could evaluate that evidence, and better decide how likely reincarnation is."

[Silence, as Brian tries to figure out the mess in what his Papa just said, and as we pull into the garage.]

Alan: [having been quiet all this time, and ready to put a period on this boring conversation] "I'm going to be a bird!.. Can I have a snack?"

Oh well :-). Not every day can have a profound message, and not every day can anyone get parenting right on key.

I am curious, though, New Age parents aside (as they're rare here), do LDS parents tell their children to talk to other children about their religion at school or does that just happen? It seems once a week we hear about their classmates talking about the "invisible face in the sky" and all the great things they're promised in heaven.

While, in general, I don't want my kids questioning another kid's faith at school, and I want them to be judicious about doing so if that kid pushed his/her faith first, I could see talk of reincarnation, heaven and invisible faces in the sky as great learning opportunities (as long as I don't blow it in getting too complex :-)). I don't mind that, even if the kids are told to proselytize in 1st grade. But when such talk of eventual rewards and invisible benefactors begins being tied to the faith that our family is supernaturally lacking, or non-ideal, or even evil or should never have been... I do worry about that. I'll have to bring my A-game that day.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Prop 8 Excommunication

This post falls in that between ground, as is not a a gay site as focused on LDS issues as I necessarily am here. But I caught this story last night on the news:

Man faces possible excommunication from LDS Church for supporting same sex marriage

It says, “ are reported to have participated in conduct unbecoming a member of the church and have been in apostasy."

Andrew Callahan responds by saying, "I am a member of a church that is oppressing people and that just seems wrong to me and I am trying to stop them."
The LDS church certainly has a right to do this along with a right to the consequences and atmosphere within the congregation following such a move. It seems Mr. Callahan began the site signing for something to fight Prop 8. I'm not sure what it took to cause the church to act against him above that, or if there is anything above that (can anyone enlighten me?).

Regardless of the reasons, the press has spread the message. I personally fear how this will weigh on the minds of my siblings and LDS friends who have supported my family in the past. Will they be there the next time we ask?

[sigh] November can't come and go fast enough for me. I need a break.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tying Up Loose Ends

1. Monsters:

A while ago I mentioned our monster infestation and got some advice. Fortunately, they seem to have migrated south for the winter. Thanks for the advice, those who gave it. We tried the smelly monster spray and keeping dog in Allan's room and that helped but he just soon stopped worrying about it altogether and suddenly I get to sleep without a small foot sticking in my ribs, now every night. I still lay with him for about a half hour each night as he goes to sleep, but it's more out of habit now than his fear of the dark. Last night he even told me to leave his night light off. Brave boy.

Now if I could just get Senator Buttars out from under my bed.

2. Implicit Association Tests:

Remember those? These are the tests put together by a Harvard researcher where, supposedly, your subconscious reaction to people and groups can be measured. I think I said I'd plot all those graphs to see where the subconscious biases rank.

Seems gays, the overweight, and those with dark skin all rank about the same, showing a significant bias against them in these tests. There is slightly less bias found towards Arabs and the disabled, and, interestingly, there's some slightly positive association with Judaism (but that was comparing Judaism to a couple other religions. I'm sure the majority in the US, being Christian, are more comfortable with the Old Testament than the 6-armed Dancing Shiva).

I took one more test there today for the Obama/McCain category. It didn't have a graph of the bulk results., but my result:

"You show a slight automatic preference for Obama..."

At least my subconscious is voting the same way my consciousness will most likely be voting. If only they each got a ballot.

3. Going to Jail.

Well, this has been more complicated than it seemed and it seemed complicated. I can't get too much into it; on the up side we were able to help the sheriff's office with their training program, but mainly regarding the Muslim community, and that is nothing to shake a stick at (is that the saying, shake a stick?).

Monday, September 22, 2008

Parting the Sea Change

When I quiz myself, I find I'm a ridiculously, almost embarrassingly simple creature.

It's basically a bunch of plain drives about our kids, my marriage, my family, food, friends, shelter, health, and a bit of media entertainment thrown in. I hope to help our children become healthy, happy and ethical adults, and to, say, build Lego homes with them. I want a strong marriage and, when I kiss my husband goodbye in the morning, to know that I'll lay next to him to watch TV at night. I want nice meals in a comfortable home, and to count on Sunday dinner with my parents. I hope and want to treat others how I want to be treated and I want to be treated fairly. I want to have a long dinner with a good friend once in a while, and a stimulating chat with colleges. I want to conduct research that finds a use in another's life. Finally, I want our garden to produce a carvable pumpkin next year, damn it.

And I'm doing well at meeting all that; it really doesn't take much to punch my happy buttons. Pumpkins and some aspects of parenting aside, getting what I want out of life is not a complicated matter, and I'm grateful for the simplicity in my build. I think it saves me a lot of the grief I see in some of my extended family.

Even for the big questions, I'm nearly never put in a knot. I'm comfortable with the price of admission, with death, as long as it comes after seeing our boys into adult hood and, I hope, parenthood. I'm comfortable having any echo of any effect from my life swallowed up by infinity; I still fell in love, I still crumbled at first sight of our boys, and I still tucked them in all these many night. To me, life means what it says, and I'm more than happy to live with what my life has 'said', mistakes included, while I can.

But there's this other, complicated world of considerations, one that does make me uncomfortable and does cause stress. It is in fact the sole cause of stress in my life. I imagine, if I were to flesh out this metaphor, this world would kind of look like Tina Turner's Barter Town, though gayer, if possible. This place is haunted by politicians, preachers, magic, demons, angels, Elton John and such. There, friends become enemies, people can hardly see each other, and cats sleep with dogs but then feel really really bad about it.

People there want to mess with the simple world; they can't help it. People there want to demean my family, legally degrade us and limit our rights in a way they would not tolerate, all for very complicated reasons most of which have nothing to do with them being bad people; some even want me dead and have told me so. I've watched gay men go insane and to their graves living fully in that world. Gallows humor aside, that has left a mark and an urgency in me. So, no matter how much I want to (and I've tried to) keep in the simpler world, I've both a practical, personal purpose in the defense of my home and a larger obligation to keep a foot in the other gay world, regardless of the fact that battle fields aren't known for their safe or sanitary conditions.

On the other hand--and here's my problem--I don't want to get too entangled.

In short, as I've long ago expressed and put off, I really hope to separate the two worlds as much as possible. So from here on out, I really am hijacking my own blog, honest this time. This blog is now for me to go on about what I love to go on about, my family. The other blog, the blog at (a site in seemingly perpetual state of almost readiness), is now for me (and others) to go on about what I feel like I should go on about, the issues surrounding the GLB and T, and maybe even Q... or some other, heretofore undiscovered letter in the gay community. I hope to see familiar faces there, but absolutely understand if a person prefers the simpler world to the other.

Sure, it will be impossible to keep the worlds from mingling--there will be times when the politics are too local and the effects too close to home---but I'm giving it a shot.

Ordinary People Support Proposition 8

Most people have probably ran across the Milgram Experiment, no?

Simply, Milgram brought into his lab subjects ostensibly for a test on learning. He also hired actors to play the subjects of the leaning experiment; they were ostensibly the "learner". The subjects were told by the experimenter their job was to be the teacher and to give the learner, held in the next room, a shock for poor performance. As the experiment progressed the simulated shocks were to be turned up by the teacher and went from mild to, eventually, deadly. In short, the majority of "teachers" were willing to subject the "learners" to enough voltage to cause apparent agony, and eventually death, while under the supervision of a trusted authority figure.

These are regular people off the street, willing to torture and murder their fellow human beings. What's worse is that most people could not resist authority.

Migram concludes:

"Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority."

65% of the subjects went all the way to the end of the experiment.

When the experiment was repeated with the "learner" being a puppy instead of an actor, 77% of the subject went all the way to the end.

So what kind of chance does a guy, a "learner" who's truly hooked up to the voltage, have? Particularly when he's trying to get equal treatment for his family and keep his marriage from being debased and annulled, not anything as extreme as to keep from dying (and I'm not as cute as a puppy)?

What are the odds of changing another person's mind, a teacher's mind, and keep them from pushing that button on the voting machine, particularly when the authority figure in their head speaks for God? That's right, God! What chance does a regular guy have?

Sure, I have some sympathy for the teacher's predicament, and how can you judge a human quality most of us own? Most people are susceptible to this.

Nevertheless, they know they're hurting us in ways they'd never want their family hurt, that their actions are "incompatible with fundamental standards of morality". Some of them will excuse their conscience to do it and, as the subjects in this experiment did, some will do it with great regret and hesitation. But most will be damned sure to do it, and regret means little when the shocks are real. The worst part is that our families are not actors behind a wall, undergoing simulated harm. No matter how much they try to talk themselves into thinking domestic partnerships hold the same rights as marriage, we are trapped at their whim and the harm is still real and here.

Closer to home, it seems over a third of the money for Proposition 8 has come from the LDS. I'm simultaneously heartened and sad to think most all of them probably feel they are doing what they should here. I'm sure most think they are doing what's right and by their own free will (if an experimenter just told a teacher to kill a man, or puppy they surely would not choose to; he must see himself as having chosen to be a part of something first).

It's just unique that, in this case, the experimenter is found more in an actual person, than the books or disembodied memes acting as experimenter for other protestants and Muslims and so on. All it'd take is a change of heart in the "experimenter". If one man, the leader of that church, tomorrow told his followers they should fight against Proposition 8, we all know what's right and what's felt to be done on free will would change for most of those activists. Still, the odds of that happening aren't large enough to guess at. Though, I've been surprised with the LDS change from the election 4 years ago to this year, a religion can't change on a dime without hurting its authority.

Eh, some days, not having a leader can be difficult; life is complicated and there are big questions on which most everyone would like guidance. But I think of the Milgram Experiment and many lessons taught to us through history and I'm glad to be unable to say I'm following orders (unless they're from my husband... or, if I'm really tired and off my guard, from my kids).

Friday, September 19, 2008

Evergreen Supports Proposition 8

It seems Evergreen, a conversion therapy group for LDS gays who "want to diminish their attractions and overcome homosexual behavior", has come out in support of Proposition 8, article here.

For some reason, this is a more difficult attack on my family and union to absorb than the others.

I suppose it's because, sure, I feel like there should be some camaraderie, or at least the practice of the golden rule between people put into the same social categories if even by chance. My gut tells me they should feel like my brother in that societal way. Even if their religious education tells them there's something wrong with them, even if what brought me the indescribable joy of family is something that torments them, that they need to "diminish" and "overcome", even then my reflex is that they should feel, more than most, it's wrong to try to legally harm my family. It is, after all, the same thing that motivates us.

Or is it? Or are we aliens to each other and this gets to me uniquely for no reason?

I don't know.

They are SSA and I'm gay. They are trying to "overcome" what I cherish in the impetus of my family and my children. To them I am sinning, and to me, now, with this action, they are sinning. Why do I expect it to be different?

Really, neither of us means the same thing when we say we are gay or SSA. When I read some of their accounts of illicit affairs, living their past "gay lifestyle" and so on, they may as well be writing about their life as a 1st century Native American. It's not my lifestyle. It's been a long while since I've been in the closet; I can hardly remember even the thought I should have that particular self-overcoming struggle. No wonder when I, not too long ago, used the word gay a moho told me he found the mere term "cheap"; I truly am not what they are or were.

And, though they will be assumed to know, they have no idea what it's like to be gay for me, to be a father defending his family against such a goliath in my civil life as the LDS church. For me being gay, alone, doesn't mean a thing. It's not about troubling desires or sex or supernatural fears; it's a bland fact, along with my handedness and hair color. But being gay in Utah has another aspect, one we almost forgot when we lived in Ca and didn't have children. Being gay, to me, is an issue of health insurance, zoning ordinances, being treated as a family by law, protecting my kids from the kids being taught by the LDS church our family is "non-ideal" (all this stuff).

Maybe we're really not nearly the same creatures at all, and my reflex towards camaraderie is 100% misplaced, irrational.

I do know Evergreen's advocacy here will be used with special effect to argue for Prop 8, because we share that same something in the public's eyes. They will be misused as experts, and they know it. They know a gay man speaking out against our families is particularly effective. Simply, no one can be used against you more effectively than "one of your own".

Before I end, let me just weight in on a couple things said, executive director of Evergreen, David Pruden (because I know you'll read and care about what a random gay guy with a blog thinks).

marriage between a man and a woman "is central to the gospel plan of salvation" because "the sacred nature of marriage" is closely linked to the ability to conceive children."

Fine, make it so in your faith and in your churches and in your home, but not my home. That's no excuse to treat us and our children with inequality in the government we must share.

"Those who favor homosexual marriage contend that 'tolerance' demands that they be given the same right to marry as heterosexual couples. But this appeal for 'tolerance' has a very different meaning and outcome than that word has meant throughout most of American history and a different meaning than is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ,"... Tolerance as a gospel principle means love and forgiveness of one another. In today's secular world, the idea of tolerance has come to mean condoning or accepting something - even if it is contrary to your values or beliefs." "

I'm sorry but BS. I don't care about your tolerance or 'tolerance'.

You and your leaders seem to keep using this argument to conceal the fact that it is your morality on the line here. I care that we get equal treatment from our shared government, that we aren't punished for others' faith about supernatural laws, that we are treated the way most all people and families want to be treated. Keep your acceptance, tolerance, condoning, and forgiveness as it is. Let me be clear: you are a stranger. I do not care how you feel about my family or any other; I care about how you act, how you hurt other people in your political actions.

I mean, I don't agree with or condone your religion, but just imagine what happens in a world where the majority imposes that belief on you. It's happened before and can happen again; we should be working to be sure it doesn't happen to anyone, regardless of our faith or lack thereof.

Anyway, another day, another piece moves in this sad game. Eh, I can't wait for Christmas. I certainly know what I'm asking as an early present to the family: to keep our legal marriage license and the possibility of moving back to the Golden State. If only Santa was a resident of California.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Something Fishy

In the Tribune today is an article about Bruce Bastian donating in the fight against Proposition 8, here.

Get this: Mr. Bastian made this donation back in June! The tribune did a story on it way back then, so why pull it up and print it again? Why make this old donation seem like new news? Why print "Ex-Mormon donates $1M to kill LDS-backed California marriage proposition"? And why would Mr. Bastian want to murder a proposition?

I fear the motivation here is not good. The new article basically points out how little LDS Utahns have given to Prop 8, while the church told them to do all they can. It describes Bastian as a rich "upset" openly gay ex-Mormon, negating the giving of Utah Mormons "in one fell swoop." That's scary. In some LDS families, the kids believe openly gay ex-Mormons live in their closets as domestic partners of bogymen.

Also, the article uses probably one of the worst quotes they could have taken from Bastian (if you ever talk to the press, though, expect that).

In the article a site to which readers can go and donate to help annul our marriages is given multiple times. Not once is a url given for a pro-marriage site. The author of the article has the owner of (That's describe it as "informational and neutral on Prop 8". Sure, they don't openly take sides, but if it's used to track which LDS are following the church's directions, they should know for which side is best used.

The story ends like a church talk with the last paragraph being the quote:

"Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and the formation of families is central to the creator's plan for his children."

As if such a religious belief can reasonably be imposed on your neighbor's family, a family that does not share your faith. The people who are working to keep entrenched such a precedence should be aware that times change and different faiths take hold. From personal experience I can tell you that you do not want to be on the business end of this weapon decades later, as the LDS were many years ago.

Sadly, this article seems to basically be a pro-prop 8 commercial, using a months old story to prod Utah LDS into donating more. If I'm right, shame on the author, Rosemary Winters, and whoever went along with it up there at the Trib.

As always I hope to be told I'm wrong here, though. Maybe political season is giving me Acute Voter Dimentia, but this looks like something fishy is going on, no?

Regardless, we sent him a letter months ago, but I'll say it again: thank you Bruce, my family, for one of many, very much appreciates your help.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Allies Dinner 2008

Last night was Equality Utah's Allies Dinner. It's a dinner to recognize those in Utah who have made a positive difference for LGBT individuals, info here.

We've only been going for about 6 year, but one of the more amazing things about the dinner is how it has grown even in that time. It's about doubled from the 800 people attending three years ago. It's moved from a ballroom in the Marriott to the large conference hall in the Salt Palace. It was an event at which few politician would want to be seen, and now the halls are packed with campaign signs and political glad-handing. In short, we've come a long ways, and a lot of credit should be given to Equality Utah. As some of the speakers mentioned, I guess ironically some of that credit goes to Senator Buttars and Gayle Ruzicka, who woke up a great number of people, gay and straight, to see why we need to stand up and be counted for what's right, yours truly included.

I asked for it and I hope it comes about, but I wish the video of the speakers was on the internet. Kevin Jennings, Executive Director of the Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network and the creator of the first GSA, gave an amazing, uplifting, and emotional speech. The award recipients were great speakers and example as well:

--Mayor Becker, his work gave us the mutual commitment registry in Salt Lake City to help in hospital visitation and such. We'd be nowhere without straight allies and politicians such as the good mayor.

--Laura Milliken Gray. She has been an ardent advocate for many years and the lawyer for most of the gay families in Utah, attempting to shore up our rights and the rights of our children all the while the Legislature has been hacking them down. Ironically, she has to move out of the country because her wife couldn't get the citizenship a married couple would have, but Laura can get it in her wife's country. Sad and infuriating; such a strong voice and wonderful person will be sorely missed in Utah's gay community.

--Boyer & Pat Jarvis. What to say about them? These straight allies, in their senior years, were very touching speakers as well. It's not every day where you see a great-grandfather and his wife admonish straight people from not "comming out" as being friendly to their gay friends, brothers and sisters.

Anyway, it was a wonderful and motivating evening, and I'm refreshed for the elections. Bring it on, Gayle.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pearly Gates

For most religions, I'd say the afterlife for their sinners, heretics, and skeptics is almost as unimaginative as it is horrifying. There's not much to eternity for souls on, say, a Baptist's naughty list. It's just a mass of people--Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, Catholics, gays--all writhing right along with the murderers and rapists. People gnash teeth at each other in regret impossible to fathom, and in pitch black hell fire.

Motivating, sure, but really? You can only take Pascal's wager so far in manipulating people before the extreme threats make its faulty logic apparent.

Of course, the earliest versions of a human afterlife were even more mundane, if not more humane. Hades' underworld, for example, wasn't as much tortuous as it was boring and gloomy and it took all comers. Similarly early Judaism just had the one, Sheol. But, when aiming for believers, the value of splitting up an afterlife into eternal punishment or reward was irresistible and now most successful religions use it. Everyone from Buddhist to Scientologists offer escape from torment.

To the LDS faith's credit, they've done a good deal of work to make their afterlife more humane for it's sinners and skeptics. Though the supernatural claims don't mean much to me, I am grateful. It's easier for some other religions to devalue the life and rights of their beloved sinners in this life when an eternity in hell fire is what they have coming, and, hey, they'll never see them again.

Nevertheless, the LDS afterlife can have some funny quirks. We were having dinner with my parents, and started talking about my mom's history for some reason and we got on the topic of her first husband. It was a marriage arranged by my grandmother to an older man, a friend of the family well regarded and a leader in their church. My mom did what she was told was her duty back then and they were married in the temple. Anyway, long story short, my mom's first husband quickly became abusive and she, going through medical problems, almost going blind, didn't feel she could leave him. Fortunately, for her (and my existence, a couple decades later) my dad saved her from that marriage long ago. Funny, I owe my existence to divorce, I guess, but it wasn't much of a marriage.

Now we still see this guy today off and on. He's remarried. The woman he married, just so you get the picture, told everyone her son died in the World Trade Center on 9/11, when he was actually in prison (guess she never considered the fact that he would be let out and resurrected, in effect). She also, after she met my family at some function, went on and on at her table about how horrible it was that we had children, telling her table that they should be taken away before we teach them to sleep with each other. Yeah, a repugnant human being, one not many people can stand for an hour, let along eternity.

So we're talking, joking about my mom's ex and his wife--to be clear, my mom finds the humor in it too nowadays--and I realized she never got her temple marriage dissolved and my parents were never sealed in the temple. "Mom, do you realize that if the LDS church is right, you'll be spending eternity with that man as one of his two wives?" Now, I'm not sure if the LDS leaders would back that position today, but it got a good laugh. There's been a running joke competition in my family over who is closest to me, and so we spent the rest of the evening, my dad and I, planning out our days in the terrestrial kingdom while my mom was stuck helping her nauseating sister-wife attend to her husband in the celestial.

Seems one person's heaven can be another's hell :-).

Monday, September 15, 2008


1. Our boys won their soccer game, 3 to 0. Do you know the difference between a soccer dad and a bulldog? The list includes many more items than (and doesn't include) lipstick. We're pretty tame at the games.

2. We met and had a nice lunch with the Biddles family, even though I went to the wrong park. (Very nice to meet you in person, Kengo and clan :-))

3. We had dinner with a friend I've had since 8th grade. With kids we all get so busy that we hadn't just sat and shot the s*beep*t, as they say, for a long while. It's funny, I was so worried he'd end our friendship when I came out, but 19 years later we're joking about getting old and our kids are in the back yard running each other over with a jeep (Don't call DCFS yet; it's one of those plastic, electric cars for kids).

4. We met, as we always do, my parents for breakfast on Sunday. I don't know what my life would be like without their love and support. Nowadays I'm more grateful for what they show our boys, but how many parents of gay sons and daughters have HRC stickers on the back of their cars and don't miss a chance to help out same-sex headed families in politics?

5. To top it off, our gay and lesbian parenting group is back up and running! It had been fractured by a person who, when she took the leadership position, excluded gay men, even from the email list (I blogged on it here). That person is gone and the new leadership searched out all of us who were uninvited last year; I'm quite impressed with her and glad she took control.

Yesterday we had our first event as a group after the trouble, a picnic at Wheeler Farm. And we had a great turn out, over 50. I'm not sure if our boys benefit from it--they do just fine with their friend from school--but, just in case they want it in the future, I'm grateful to have a place where they can befriend children in families like ours. Brian spent most of the day following around a little girl his age, and Alan was directing the smaller kids at "fishing" in the little stream with rope and weeds. The fish, sadly, weren't biting, but that didn't seem to be the point anyway.
Anyway, good weekend.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Yesterday I pick the boys up from school and Alan's teacher had a smile on her face she was clearly trying to mute. All she explained was that she had mistakenly referred to me as his daddy and Alan had just told her how to tell apart his daddy and his papa. As we walked away, I asked him what made his teacher laugh.

He told me, with his characteristic smirk, that he explained his "daddy is hairy and papa is bald". Very funny, Alan, just like your brother.

Exhibit A:

A picture of us from our California marriage last month. Clearly, I'm not bald; I've distinguished-gentleman thinning, but not bald, right?

Anyway, such distinctions were kind of the theme of yesterday. It's also kind of fitting my last post was on genetic differences in the abilities of humans.

With twins it seems people, us included, can't help but compare no matter how hard we try. They really are very different kids, and I'd actually say, at this point in our family's life, being the parents of twins has added far more complication into the average parenting job than being gay parents.

Our boys were academically evaluated by their teachers yesterday. They are in separate classes just to minimize on their self and peer comparisons; no one wants to be defined by their brother. I have to say putting them in separate classes has been one of the best decisions we've made as parents of twins (thanks to those parents of twins who informed us on this one).

Anyway, they are both the youngest in their classes. We could have held them back, but, when tested, they were ready for kindergarten last year. Trouble is, well, it's probably best explained by the teacher's evaluation from yesterday.

Brian is "at the tippy-top of the class." He's "reading at an 8th grade level" and his reading comprehension is at "a 4th grade level." In short, he's an abnormally smart 6-year-old, especially for being the youngest in his class. He has asked for and keeps a calculator and a dictionary by his bedside. He's a self-motivated reader (not to mention piano practice). He's been corresponding via email with his adult relatives in Moab and his kindergarten teacher all summer. He says he wants to start a blog ("write on the internet") but that's where I've drawn the line.

Alan, he needed tutoring over the summer, but he's keeping up. I don't want to give the impression he's doing poorly; there are older kids lagging behind him. He's at his grade level and, if not for his brother, he'd not notice anything, but the contrast with his brother is apparent to Alan. He gets mad at Brian when he tries to help him with homework. Last month my cousin asked him if he was the "smart one" and Alan answered "No, but I'm more funny" (Note to people who aren't parents of twins: never ask such questions). In truth, he may have fared better if he was the oldest in his grade, but they're both qualified by minimum age and ability to be in 1st grade, and, really, we couldn't split them up in different grades of course; that'd be humiliating.

It probably doesn't help either that humans have been so enthralled with competitive twin stories: Jacob and Esau, Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu, Spock and Spock with a goatee. People seem to like such twin narratives so much that asking stuff like "are you the smart one" seems okay.

I guess I'm soliciting parents of twins (or twins) to tell me it'll be okay :-). They're both such special people in their own way, and if they were carbon copies of each other I know our family would miss out on a lot. I know having your abilities come to you easily is not always a blessing either; so what if Alan has to work more? I just fear, being a twin, Alan will never regard himself himself as "the smart one" despite the fact that he is very smart, despite his undeniably quick wit.

(and extra special kudos to anyone who knows why I picked such a silly title)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Genetic Threat to Marriage

About a year ago I posted on some research regarding the sex lives of voles, here. In short a genetic characteristic was found in them that made them either promiscuous or faithful. On top of that, researchers were able to create a virus that made the promiscuous more faithful by increasing the population of a receptor in the brain for vasopressin.

Back then I opined that such research probably wouldn't be done on humans and that the effects in humans would likely be much more complicated. Seems I was wrong, in part, but I love being surprised by the path of science in such things.

In this issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Walum et al. report finding a very similar effect in humans (though no, no one has tested the promiscuity cure on humans yet :-), as they did on the voles). They looked at 552 pairs of male twins and their spouses and made measures of relationship quality with spouses and children, personality and mental health. They found a certain allele in the gene encoding for this vasopressin receptor was associated strongly with human relationship quality and likeliness to enter marriage.

Of the men who had no copies of this allele, only 17% were unmarried, while over 30% of men with least one copy of the allele were unmarried. Furthermore, the married men with two copies were twice as likely to report marital crisis within the last year (34%).

Wow, right? If you want to promote marriage, Proposition 8 proponents, you don't need to demean and harm my family (in love and respect, of course)--that'll do nothing but hurt people. You need to get rid of this allele.

Really, you'll hear people attack my family all the time, telling us we're not ideal or not the ideal environment for children because of our sexual anatomy, all the while ignoring or misrepresented the science. But how many of them would pay attention to actual science and advocate to keep people with this allele from creating demonstrably non-ideal marriages? They'd be wrong if they did, to my mind--it's important to give marriage to even non-ideal couples--but the self deception in the ideal family argument used against same-sex couples is all too clear.

Anyway, in the bigger picture, we live in an exciting time with science moving at an unprecedented pace. As we turn those tools in on ourselves, old superstitions about who and what we are are burning off like a fog, and the breathing room for the ghost in the machinery of our minds is getting more and more cramped.

It'll be interesting to see how our many old philosophies survive, those that built themselves on a cornerstone of libertarian free will, where there are these impossible actions somehow neither caused nor un-caused. Personal agency is clear enough, but this sort of free will is not even a passable illusion, and many people use it for the basis of their morality and theology. The odd fact is we have morality and a justice system because there is no such thing as libertarian free will. We use moral and civil law to get one part of the human brain to override another with deterministic expectations (though imperfect expectations). We make people promise to marriage and add negative consequences for breaking the promise because we always knew, somewhere, that some had a marriage-threatening area of the brain abnormally low on a vasopressin receptor :-).

I'm just lucky, being a man without legal threat to keep my promises to my husband and children, to have a brain more like a prairie vole.

In seriousness, though, I'm afraid we'll wake up from our dreams to a world without truly free agency a bit grumpy, and the possibility for misuse of such research is great, especially on gay people. Ironically, I think such research will show us dangerous leaders will be dangerous leaders whether they hold the reins of mysticism or science. Here's to hoping reason, compassion, empathy, and an abundance of vasopressin receptors wins out.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Disconnecting the Buttons

A couple days ago at our kid's soccer practice I saw one of their friends run up to his dad screaming and kicking at him. The kid was yelling "I hate you! I hate you!" I'm not sure what the dad did in the child's mind--something about soccer practice--but the father just calmly subdued his son until the kid was ready to talk.

We've never heard those words from our sons, but I've seen enough kids yell in a moment of frustration "I hate you" or "You hate me" or so on to their parent. I have to expect our boys may try the tactic out some day between here and when they wake up from their teens. Kids, they are great scientists at times and will test many hypotheses in order to learn how their parents work, how socialization works (and doesn't).

The odd thing to me is I don't imagine it bothering me much today, and yet I think 7 years ago I'd have said hearing my child say such things would bring me to my knees. Maybe they will at some point feel even that seething rage for us, the sort I saw on the soccer field the other day. But just as that parent seemingly felt, so what? You can't let it get to you, let their experiment work, right?

I know where we stand as parents, and know, at times, they won't like us. Cliche, but it really is not my job to be liked; it's my job to create a healthy happy and ethical adult out of a diaper-wearing, spit-up-spewing, babbling helpless baby. That's a lot of road to work through on its own. We can hope to be loved in return as a side effect, but it's not what a parent should aim for, and so far that's working out great, occasional complaint aside because "we never got any new toys in a long time" (said with a straight face in the midst of their toy-packed room).

Simply, we all know kids sometimes look to push their parent's buttons in hopes of getting what they shouldn't. With us in particular though--and I think this is the reason seeing one of their peers act in such a way stuck in my mind--I also know we, as gay parents, have more potential buttons for them to test than some other couples.

I wonder if the day will come when my sweet little boys will test out such potential verbal nuclear options. Like the stereotype of adoptive families, we may be hit with a "You're not my real father". Or, maybe they'll pull out a "I wish we were a normal family" as you'll hear recounted from some Jewish parents in these parts. Maybe they'll even shoot off a "I wish I had a mother" or a "I never asked to be born" or a "I hate my family". Maybe they'll rebel in their teens and shave a mohawk on top of their tattooed skulls, or, worse, rebel and go to BYU ;-).

Or maybe we'll never hear such words. I never used them as a kid myself and of all the same-sex headed families we know here, we've not got wind of such and we do talk a lot about our particular issues. I don't know--no parent does--but these are the sort of things some kids might try to use to manipulate their parents.

I guess the point I'm winding myself to with this rambling is that we, as parents and gay parents, should expect this possibility. We should be prepared for it, and be certain those buttons are disconnected from the explosives before they're ever tested, even if they'll never be tested.

It may be easy to say, never having faced it, but, as I imagine how I'd feel if I were that father being kicked and told my son hated me on the soccer field, I'm unexpectedly comfortable with our kids testing those buttons. I know I love them; I know what a real father does; I know who they are better than most anyone they'll ever know. When they fall, I know and they know who'll be there for them.

That's not to say I'm comfortable without qualification. They could hurt me like no other person in all existence, but that's what you pay for parenthood, and it really is one hell of a bargain.

Monday, September 08, 2008

I'm Not an Unteachable Curmudgeon, Yet

I can learn new things. See, I just learned how to use the you tubes. Who knows what I'll use such for, but it's popular enough that there must be something to it, right? I put my first test video up:

I picked it for a test because it was the first favorite home video I recognized, no offense meant to the rest of my family that it only features Brian. It's from about 4 years ago, hard to believe. Brian was both in love with and in fear of that jack in the box. I love how he keeps making excuses to delay the jolt: "you do it" "I'm playing with my choo-choo", "I'm doing it slow... Slooooow." Not to mention my little squeal at the end there :-). And, what's best, when that long trek is over he wants to go again.

Yesterday we were at Wheeler Farm and they usually have a haunted house there each Fall. This video makes me wish the boys were old enough for such fear/fun mixing this year. Eh, what is the age kids start going to haunted houses?

Anyway, good for me for not yet being left behind in technology :-).

Sunday, September 07, 2008


I bet most of you have seen the commercials for the game Spore. It looks like an entertaining game, if only there were more hours in the day.

I downloaded the free creature creator for the boys; such things are right down Brian's alley and I think they're a good exercise of creativity. It wasn't long before he reproduce our family:

I'm the gawky purple thing, and Alan has the crab pincers. You should see us dance.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Ensign Peak

When I was a teenager, I broke curfew only once.

My parents never technically gave me a curfew, because I was never out past midnight by choice. When I started dating (girls), I approached my dad and asked him for a 10 PM curfew, so as to keep from those later hours, when a date's parents would go to bed and she would hope to make out. I was pretty sure kissing was the most absurd human action on record (until I figured out I was kissing the wrong humans :-)), and I wanted to be able to honestly say "Sorry, but I've got to get home". One girl (the same girl whose mom rented a hotel room for our prom date, causing me to pretend the stomach flu with all of my limited acting skills), she even told me I'd never amount to anything if I didn't start standing up to my parents :-).... Poor girl, I'd break her heart in a matter of weeks without the courage to tell her why; if she only knew, she'd laugh, I'd hope.

But I'm rambling and off my aim already.

I came home to my mother crying because I was up at Ensign Peak.

Kids used to hang out there quite a bit in my day and it seems they still do. You get that full overlooking view of the city lights that plays so well with teen angst and possibility.

On to the point, I read in the paper today that a gay kid and his friends were beaten up there early last month, article here. A group of kids asked the gay kid to take their picture and eventually realized and asked if he was indeed gay. In the end, reconstructive surgery was required. There are really no extenuating circumstances to cause me to second guess this one (as I regrettably did with the case last month). This was, by all accounts, a genuine and tragic bias crime, and I hope someone recognizes the picture of that little f*beep*r who did such a thing and turns him in.

Over the years I've noticed people around here, OSA and SSA, prefer to think their anti-gay bias and anti-gay rights work harms no one. They'll think that even regarding the families they legally diminish in clear ways. But every time you tell your children our relationships, our feelings, and our families are sub-ideal, immoral, or unworthy of legal respect you make such violence more likely, no matter how much love for us you think you hold. Your children get the message, and their peers get the message, and your children will meet gay children. Your children will meet children of gay parents.

Your children will meet my children.

To be frank, I'm afraid of what your children will do, Mr. and Mrs. average Utahn; moreso today than yesterday. Events like this make Utah, our home by reflex, seem like something we should run from. Maybe Utah is as troubled as it seems in our abnormally high rates of suicide, depression, divorce and so on and it just hasn't hit us yet; it, at times, seems to have a diseased inside with a faithful and confident shining veneer.

Forgive me if I ramble a bit more. I'm just remembering, the second or third date Rob and I went on after our boys were born was at the place where we went on our first date. We sat there and ate and talked, exhausted from 6 month-old twins. I didn't notice, but a table next to us was paying attention to us and referred to us as "fags." Rob only told me after we left, knowing I can be irrationally willing to enter an argument, even though Rob would be the better of us to enter a physical fight. What if I did say something? Would something worse than a ruined date have happened? Would I have been put in the hospital, away from our babies in those important months?

EDIT: Man, I just remembered another. We had just been on the news speaking out against Utah's marriage amendment and we were walking through the mall with our boys toddling by our side. Some man, an adult man, apparently recognized us and said to his wife loud enough for us to hear "They should kill those fags." There was no fight that time; we hurried the kids down the mall and away from him.

This kid got beat up for being known to be gay, and I'm certainly known for that at times. Our boys out us all the time. I'm wondering now if I feel too safe here; have I an unreasonable bias favoring Utah? Maybe I too easily forget cruelty here, for the wholesome image of Utah I have from my youth.

Anyway, I guess I should tie up the first anecdote, as to why I broke curfew.

I was up at Ensign Peak with my friend (no, not gay). He had a very troubled youth and told us he was going to kill himself. He had the gun there, but I'm not sure how serious he was as he had no bullets (which seems kind of funny now, but back then it was one of the most stressful nights of my life). We stayed up there well past midnight, talking, until I was sure he'd be okay. I came home to very worried parents, and this friend, years later, eventually ended our friendship when he converted to the LDS church and took issue with my family (I wrote about that event a long while ago here). Eh, history...

Maybe it's near time to move my family to where I've no connection to the area, no personal memories in the tragic locations of local news stories, where it's safer for us all, legally and physically. Or maybe I'm just frustrated and it will pass; that's more likely. We'll see what happens with Proposition 8 in November; California may start to look really good again...

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Finishing up the Tool Belt

Before I file away that talk by Elder Petersen about race issues within the LDS church, I just noticed and want to add to that post a couple other tools used back then, which are now being put to work in the marriage/Proposition 8 fight.

Towards the end Elder Petersen writes (my emphasis):
"If a boy or girl comes to me claiming to be in love with a Chinese or Japanese or..."
In both cases of couples of unconventional race and sex, it's important to question and cast doubt on the love. It can't be real human love; it's claimed love or "love" in quotes (for example). Often I've seen modern anti-gay rights activists say something like "gay men don't really love each other" or compare gays to co-dependent sexual or substance addicts, even if they praise the same orientation towards men or women when found in another sex. Ironically, it's very important for them to deny love, and they will do a lot of work to make sure gays, even if they are their children, treat their path to love as more of an addiction, or a sad condition with which they're inflicted, than what it is for every other human: the source of some of the best and most selfless human feeling we can experience. Love, sadly, is made the enemy.

Lastly, I noticed the attempt to pretend to be the victim of your victim was used back then too.
"If they were to achieve complete absorption with the white race, think what that would do. With 50 million negroes inter-married with us, where would the priesthood be? Who could hold it, in all America? Think what that would do to the work of the Church!"
In this unfortunate PR game, if you're on top, you must try to take the authentic and right human sympathy from the families being harmed in real ways for yourself. You're the one being harmed, not the guy you're trying keep from better protecting and providing for his family, not the family you won't even condescend to call a family.

According to this member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the LDS church would collapse if they allowed integration with blacks. The church is in threat and at stake here. Similarly, the LDS church says today their religious freedom is at stake by the laws treating same-sex headed families with equal rights and responsibilities. They even used misrepresentation of the Catholic Charities of Boston case to try to take on the role as victim, in their latest press release on the topic. LDS author Orson Scott Card, for another example, makes this method into an art form; I almost feel sorry for his loss of ability to treat my family like second class citizens... almost ;-).

It'd odd that you could hit a man, fight to legally hobble his family in a way you'd never want your family to be treated, and then complain about the threat to you and your rights when someone tries to stop you. Nevertheless, this is one more tool that seems to be effectively used, or at least popularly used in history to justify discrimination.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

I'm Qualified

A long while ago I announced my bid to be the next President of the United States of America.

I know. Many of you were thinking I was out of the running by now, and, sure, my campaign staff stopped returning my calls months ago. Nevertheless, I've been watching this election carefully and I think the time is ripe for me to make my move. It seems, by the media coverage and blogs, I may actually be the best man or woman for the job. Let me tell you why:
  • I always wear a flag lapel pin, even on my tee-shirts, and I keep my hand over my heart, always; it's very difficult to type.
  • I've never hugged President Bush; have never even wanted to.
  • I don't bowl like a sissy.
  • Even though it's so obviously your business, my teenage child is not pregnant or even extant.
  • Rob has never given me a "Terrorist Fist Bump". Gay people aren't allowed to do "knuckles"; it's in our charter.
  • The rumors that Wolfey, my grandson and our son Brian's favorite stuffed animal son, mauled a teddy bear in 1964 are totally exaggerated. The bear was asking for it.
  • There's no bombastic preacher in my past; no religious leader in my life at all. That's not a problem in the US of A, is it? We don't have religious tests here; a gay agnostic can be president, right?
  • My upper lip moves when I speak. Really, it doesn't just lay there like a flap of leather.
  • I'm not a Muslim, not even a secret Muslim (as far as you know).
  • The New Yorker has never done a cartoon of me and Rob in leather-men getup while groping each other in the White House, with a portrait of a cone-bra wearing Madonna over the fireplace, in which the Proclamation on the Family burns. At least not yet.
See, I'm perfect for the job. And here I thought I'd have to think about some of the hard problems facing our country, like health care and wars and silly stuff like that.

So vote for Scot in 2008. Rob has already picked out the new White House drapes and china pattern.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

It Happened in Sun Valley...

We just got home from our big family reunion. We've gone to Sun Valley, Idaho for every year of my remembered life for this reunion. It's a great place for a family vacation.

Number one on the list of most kids (and parents wanting to occupy their children and have no filth-phobias) has to be the streams. Little streams cross the grounds making for hours of boat races and mud cultivation:

That picture of a muddy Allen was taken literally 5 minutes after arriving; he can be very efficient.

Number two is the bike riding. There are miles of bike paths and we all bring our bikes:

Okay, that's not my bike. We use the tag-alongs with the boys:

We typically bike half way between Hailey and Ketchum and then stop on the way back to play in the Wood River:
Now you may think the dads do all the work, but our boys can be little motors. They were exhausted by the time we got back to town:
There's also the ice skating. Though, Brian spent most of his time like this:
On Labor Day weekend there's also Wagon Days:
Eh, it's more fun than that parade picture makes it look.

Finally, My parents put on a big competition for all their 32 grandkids (and now, let me count.... about 6 great grandkids). We have relay races:
And a written test on how well you know your family, the first prize being a trip with the grandparents.
Our boys, being among the youngest, didn't stand a chance this year--at least they got their questions right :-)--but they see their grandparents almost every day anyway.

Finally, we do a family picture:

How LDS are we? As we were crowding in to take the picture one of my brother-in-laws quipped that he was glad he didn't bring his other wives.

And yeah, I'm sad to say there was that Proposition 8 issue looming over the whole thing. During the family quiz, one of the questions was which of your family there was married. I heard debate, and some asked their parents about my family. When the topic of the election came up Rob expressed his dislike for McCain for his support for Proposition 8 and the room turned from jovial to cold to another topic. In the midst of idle chit chat we were talking to one of my sisters about our August month of many trips and our San Diego trip came up along with our reasons for going there. There was a surprised and quiet moment of mental processing between us then where I'm sure she was feeling the same thing I was: how sad it is that I, her brother, didn't feel I should tell her we got married, even if again. It had to come up in a round about way, because I, right or wrong, thought it'd just cause trouble between us. And I may have been right. I mean, how sad is it that she couldn't say congratulations? To her brother, who's marriage she and many others in our family are paying their church to fight to annul.

I don't want to end on that note.

It was a great trip. I love my family, from the sinners, to the saints, to the sinning saints, and the sainted sinners. We enjoy all their company, when the walls of faith and politics are down. It can just be bitter sweet, at times.

[Commercial] When you're headed to Sun Valley from Salt Lake, take the Burley/Paul exit and head north. Not only is it my favorite exit, you'll take 20 minuets off your trip headed to Shoshone that way. Best of all you can stop right there at Connor's Cafe. Great home style cooking, and superb pie. We used to go there all the time during the pheasant hunt and it holds a lot of good memories for my family. It's Utahcog approved.