Monday, October 27, 2008

At This Kitchen's Table

I've got a dentist appointment today and so I'm working from the home office this morning. Rob just got back from a walk, came in here looking serious and asked, "What are we doing here?"

He had been listening to the "Mormon's and Proposition 8" program done by Radio West. I recommend it, if only to hear the Evergreen International representative use this easily debunked argument against marriage equality (you can listen here).

We went to the kitchen and talked about it.

What are we doing here?

My initial response: Well, we were born here. That's not as flippant as it sounds. Utah is in our blood, damn it, from our regional accents to our culture. We're the product of polygamists, handcart pushers, Bishops, and teetotalers. We love our funeral potatoes, our broad Brigham Young streets, and our amazing landscapes. We are carriers of the gene for Utahn, for better or worse.

Of course, seriously, we are here also because all our family and friends are here. We have a lot of support here, concentrated in a shell around us in a sea of passive-aggressive and outright aggressive hostility. I'm glad to say my parents, now retired, have said they'd move where we move as they are very important people to our boys and to us, but there's much more in family and friends to consider.

Our home is paying a great deal in health insurance, as we have to have two different policies; we could fix that if we moved. Eh, there's a lot of things a move could fix (though only on a state level, unless we became, say, Canadians). It'd be nice to not have to worry as much about dying in, say, a car crash, before I can transfer enough money to my spouse (we are limited to a minimum by a "gift" tax each year). Rob could feel more secure knowing he'd be treated as my family in a tragedy; I could relax too.

I know I'd like to live out my life where I was born, but I don't want to die here, in Utah, not without legal marriage for my family. It's funny, when you're young you fear death; now you fear what death means for your family, and we could soften the possible blow if we moved.

Rob thinks we may be obligated to our children to move. Maybe we are. There are benefits for them in both choices as well though. From family interaction to cultural hostility to inheritance law. It's complicated and, while we understand the legal problems, we don't really know if they will have social trouble here or not; so far so good.

We're also obligated to strangers here, aren't we? There are gay kids coming out every day here and what happens if the gay families move out? We keep losing leaders and activists here to friendlier jurisdictions. Do we owe it to those who couldn't take it and couldn't see any options and took their lives here to stay and fight? Of course, I should outright admit I'm still eager to fix this unfixable demon. Maybe it's time to surrender the old fight. Can we justify a cut and run by saying we have to think of ours first? It feels like an excuse, but is it?

I think of our boys and I know Utah is seeping into them too. Maybe we should move before they feel their roots are down here, before they are Utahns. Maybe now's the time if there is a time, before they have a huge social network of friends. We can become strangers in a strange land and they can learn to be Californians, or Canadians, or, heck, even Spaniards in their heart.

These things are just too difficult to measure. I think of harms we (they) may face and the emotion of it is tough to hold back, but know I can't feel it right now. Measure twice and cut once and then get all emotional, right :-)?

We left it with a long and much needed hug and a "we'll see what California does," but in all it may not matter. The reality is that my husband is fed up with our home state and the LDS church, he's worried about our family here, and he has reason for both. In the end, when it all comes down to it, we'll each be all the measurement the other needs. We'll see.


Peter said...

You need to watch the Harvey Milk video that's been going around, Got Hope? He references the two new options that young gay people have. 1. Go to California. 2. Stay where you are and fight. That was in 1978, and I wonder how far our options have come.

I would support you no matter what you do. As for me and my house, we're getting the hell out of Utah the first opportunity that arises!

Queers United said...

It must be hard and its a decision your family needs to make. I have to say though its people like you in these states that truly make a difference, just by living and being yourselves you force others to re-adjust their thoughts and perceptions. Change will come in due time my friend, even in Utah.

Scott said...

I served a mission in Philadelphia, and I spent a lot of time in the city, where there were no wards or stakes--just a bunch of branches combined into a district and presided over by the mission president.

I was there long enough to see a cycle: A person (with or without a family) who, for various reasons, lived in fairly poor circumstances (financially-speaking) would listen to the missionaries, gain a testimony and join the Church. Those who were truly "converted" would more often than not make significant changes in their lives, and either as a direct result of these changes or in the way of blessings from God they would find their financial situation improved.

Within a relatively short time--a few years at most--they had reached a point where they no longer felt like they "belonged" in the neighborhood they lived in, because they had different values. What's more, they found that they could now afford to do something about it, so they would flee to the suburbs.

As a result, there was a constant shortage of strong, active members to fill leadership positions in the branches.

Should these people have stayed and "built Zion" within the city? "What-ifs" are always tricky things, but I wonder if the recently-announced Philadelphia temple might have happened years ago if more members had stuck around to help build the Church in the city? The question is, would staying have been good for them?

Good luck in whatever decision you make, and know that if you do decide that your family is safer elsewhere, you'll be missed. (If you do decide to move, my wife and I would very much like to meet you in person at least once before it happens).

Evan said...

I thought of the Harvey Milk video as well... right now I think I am going to stay in TX and fight :)

I don't know if there is necessarily a wrong answer as to what you should do. I know the issue is complex, especially when you put your kids into the equation. It's a crazy situation... maybe staying would be good for your kids in some aspects. I know I would be proud of my Dad knowing he was a fighter in the most conservative state in the country.

[kɹeɪ̯ɡ̊] said...

On paper, both your desire to stay and fight, and Rob's are equal valid to me.

I hope that won't sway you in any direction, but I just wanted to say what my opinion would probably be were I in that situation. As a single gay man, I see a lot of merit in my staying and fighting, but I've not got nearly as much to lose, (nor as much to gain). I am very active in fighting for our rights, but I know that once I have a family, I will do so in a very different manner, and I've always thought it prudent for me to raise my family in Canada.

Whatever way you two decide, I know how hard (and unfair) it is to make that decision, and either way there are good arguments.

So, as much as it would pain me to see you go, I hesitatingly say, I think that I would say that the safety and well-being of your children and your family outweighs any responsibility you have to the gay community in Utah.

Ophidimancer said...

I know I've seriously considered immigrating to Canada. I still might.

I don't actually feel the obligation to stay and fight, since I think I can fight from anywhere and I've got my family (two person families are still families) to think about.

What's making me want to stay is the roots thing. I'm a Chicagoan. As much as we bitch about our weather, our roads, and our politicians, we still wouldn't have it over any other place on Earth.

Still . . it sure would be nice to be able to get my husband a greencard.

MoHoHawaii said...

I think emotions are running high right now with elections coming up. (I know I am a nervous wreck.)

My advice is to wait a few months after the election and see how you guys feel. Some of the anxiety may have dissipated.

In any case, I think you do have real reasons to be concerned. You may not be able to fully protect your children in the future from all hostile forces. It's something to think about.

May I suggest the great cities of the Pacific Northwest? The city where I live is home to many biotech companies and is unbelievably gay friendly. There has been a gay baby boom in the last few years and you see lots of gay couples (male and female) with their kids out and about.

Scot said...

Peter: "You need to watch the Harvey Milk video that's been going around, Got Hope?"

I saw that, inspiring. It's comforting to know, even while San Francisco isn't Utah, that others have made it through a similar path.

Q.U.: I hear ya, and we see change at work here in our little sphere of influence every month. It's just, well, you know... complicated to balance with the kids.

And Scott makes a great point. I know I've felt disappointed when we lost people. I know if we left I'd feel some inevitable guilt.

Evan "It's a crazy situation... maybe staying would be good for your kids in some aspects."

That's a possibility, too (more than the family here). I know there have been lessons learned being in a minority category in Utah that I consider very valuable today. But again complicated. Good luck in Tx though; I don't think that's too much of a simpler puzzle :-).

Craig: I understand and I'd be in a totally different frame of mind if there was a problem experienced by our children. The thing is, as of now, they couldn't tell if we were in Berkly or Provo. We just haven't had a problem. As I've said, their school even read books that show our families without our prodding or parent's getting upset. There's so much benefit to having family around here too.

And I know we could wait too long, thinking we're just going to be able to hold back an inevitable tide. In 3 years things could change at their school and we'd wished we'd moved. In one year we may be back in San Diego for fear of just that. I just don't know right now. MoHoHawaii is right; we need to take more time to let things settle.

We are waiting at least until Nov 5 :-).

Ophidimancer: Chicago to Canada; that's not much of a change in climate at least. We've considered Vancouver, not wanting to opt for much more winter than we have here.

I'd hope, though, Illinois is significantly closer to equal rights than we are.

MoHoHawaii: "May I suggest the great cities of the Pacific Northwest?"

If you get legal marriage equality on the books, we're there :-). If we're going to retreat we're going to retreat to a place where we can relax.

[kɹeɪ̯ɡ̊] said...

I understand and I'd be in a totally different frame of mind if there was a problem experienced by our children. The thing is, as of now, they couldn't tell if we were in Berkly or Provo. We just haven't had a problem. As I've said, their school even read books that show our families without our prodding or parent's getting upset. There's so much benefit to having family around here too.

Yeah, that's a really good point. Good luck deciding.

qweirdutah said...

I am so here with you today. Why do we do this to ourselves? Do we, on some level, think we deserve this? Why else do I stay?

Scot said...

Ah qweirdutah, I guess we're here with these problems because we should be able to be here without such problems ;-).

Happy Halloween to your adorable family! I hope we can both forget politics for a night.